Grassroots grumbles about a primary challenge to Obama

Secretary Robert Gates heading home from Afghanistan, once again
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

President Obama’s compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts for the wealthy, which his self-described progressive critics see as a profound betrayal, is bound to intensify a debate that has been bubbling up on liberal blogs and e-mail lists in recent weeks — whether or not the president who embodied “hope and change” in 2008 should face a primary challenge in 2012…

Just last weekend, three liberal writers made the case for taking on Mr. Obama in 2012. Michael Lerner, longtime editor of Tikkun magazine, argued in The Washington Post that a primary represented a “real way to save the Obama presidency,” by forcing Mr. Obama to move leftward. Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect and one of the party’s most scathing populist voices, issued a similar call on The Huffington Post, suggesting Iowa as the ideal incubator.

On the same site, Clarence B. Jones, a one-time confidant of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., suggested that liberals should break with Mr. Obama now, just as Dr. King and others did with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. “It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected president of the United States,” Mr. Jones wrote. “But, regrettably, I believe the time has come to do this.”

Meanwhile, in Iowa, a group known as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, originally founded to aid Democratic Congressional candidates in 2010, has started broadcasting an advertisement that shows Mr. Obama, in 2008, promising to reverse the tax cuts for the most affluent Americans. The group isn’t advocating a primary challenge just yet — but then, the choice of Iowa as a market seems intended to send a pretty clear warning to the White House.

On issue after issue, when the public is on his side, this president just refuses to fight,” says Adam Green, the group’s co-founder. “At this point, the strategy is to shame him into fighting.”

All of this would have seemed unthinkable in 2008, when Mr. Obama’s red-white-and-blue visage seemed omnipresent on campuses and along city streets, a symbol to many of liberalism reborn. That, of course, was before the abandonment of “card-check” legislation for unions and of the so-called public option in health care, the escalation in Afghanistan and the formation of the deficit-reduction commission…

Draft Hillary!

And how did someone at the TIMES manage to write a piece like this without mentioning Hillary?

Lightfoil idea shows light can provide lift

Just as air causes lift on the wings of an aeroplane, light can do the same trick, researchers have said. The effect, first shown in simulations, was proven by showing it in action on tiny glass rods.

Like the aerofoil concept of wings, the approach, published in Nature Photonics, works by making use of the radiation pressure of light.

The results are of interest for steering “solar sails”, a spacecraft propulsion based on the same force.

Each photon – or packet of light – carries its own momentum, and this “lightfoil” works by gathering the momentum of light as it passes through a material…

But until now, no one thought to use the pressure in an analogue of an aerofoil, said Grover Swarzlander of the Rochester Institute of Technology…

The team ran computer simulations based on a semi-cylindrical glass rod to see what would happen when a beam of unfocused light was shone on it.

They discovered not only that the rods experienced “lift”, but that there were several angles that the rod tended to align itself to.

“The surprising thing from our model shows it has different positions of rotational equilibrium, so it will roll to a given position, stay there, and continue to undergo lift,” Dr Swarzlander said…

Dr Swarzlander said his group will continue to optimise the shape of their lightfoils, and then “try to go in the microscopic regime, to see if we can tether small particles – biological tissue for example – to these light foils and drag them along”.

RTFA. Reflect upon the power of light.

Dumb IT department of the day

Daylife/Reuters pictures used by permission

NASA failed to delete sensitive data on computers and hard drives before selling the equipment as part of its plan to end the Space Shuttle program, an audit released on Tuesday shows…

Our review found serious breaches in NASA’s IT security practices that could lead to the improper release of sensitive information related to the Space Shuttle and other NASA programs,” NASA Inspector General Paul Martin said in a statement…

The report cites 14 computers from the Kennedy Space Center that failed tests to determine if they were sanitized of sensitive information, 10 of which already had been released to the public. It also found that hard drives were missing from Kennedy and from the Langley Research Center in Virginia. Some of the Kennedy hard drives were later found inside a dumpster, where they were being stored before sale, that was accessible to the public, the audit says.

Investigators also found several pallets of computers being prepared for sale that were marked with NASA Internet Protocol addresses, which the report said could help hackers gain access to the NASA internal computer network.

As hard as some departments in our government work at increasing security, it feels like this sort of incompetence surfaces weekly.

I have casual friends who ask me about cleaning up and sanitizing hard drives in computers they’re selling. They have no mandate to be as sharp as a federal agency – yet they’re aware of basic security essentials.

Is NASA leaving these tasks to building maintenance or what?

Tony Blair is recalled to give more evidence in Iraq Inquiry

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is to be recalled to give evidence a second time to the Iraq Inquiry.

He is one of a number of key figures, including former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, asked to appear before the Chilcot committee again…

The inquiry said it wanted “more detail” in some key areas…

The BBC’s Diplomatic Correspondent Nicholas Witchell said it was not clear why Mr Blair had been asked to appear once more, but there must be significant details that the inquiry wished to clarify following its analysis of documentary evidence and a number of private hearings over the summer…

The committee has been holding hearings since November, in which it has questioned a host of former Labour Cabinet ministers, senior military commanders, civil servants and diplomats.

A number of former government lawyers have argued that the invasion was unlawful…

Sir John has stressed the final report, not expected to be published before March, will be “full, thorough, evidence-based and frank”.

“We are independent of government and will not shy away from criticising if we find fault or if we conclude that errors have been made. We are determined to produce a report that will be useful to future governments,” he added.

Anyone ever going to depose George W. Bush under oath? Not that he wouldn’t offer the same lies, half-truths and rationales that continue to be the heart of American foreign policy.

Do you think the United States Congress or the White House – now or in the future – would have sufficient integrity, courage, to peer behind the barbed-wire closet door at the former emperor’s collection of patent leather lies?

World’s 10 best engines

VW Jetta TDI, 2.0L 140-hp turbodiesel, 3rd consecutive award winner

The auto industry is embracing the age of electrification, and so too is the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list.

Both the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle and Chevrolet Volt extended-range EV earn their way onto the 2011 list, as selected by Ward’s editors after evaluating 38 vehicles with new or significantly improved engines for the ’11 model year.

But fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness are not the most important criteria for eligibility this year, as seen by recognition of the new 5.0L V-8 in the Ford Mustang GT, 5.0L V-8 in the Hyundai Genesis and the 3.0L supercharged V-6 in the Audi S4.

“We have something for everybody on this year’s Ward’s 10 Best Engines list,” says Drew Winter, editor-in-chief of Ward’s AutoWorld magazine. “It’s the most diverse mix we’ve ever had, as well as the most technologically advanced.”

This year’s winners and the applications tested:

3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S4)
3.0L N55 Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (BMW 335i)
1.6L Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Mini Cooper S)
3.6L Pentastar DOHC V-6 (Dodge Avenger)
5.0L DOHC V-8 (Ford Mustang GT)
1.4L DOHC I-4/111kW Drive Motor (Chevrolet Volt)
5.0L Tau DOHC V-8 (Hyundai Genesis)
80kW AC Synchronous Electric Motor (Nissan Leaf)
2.0L DOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Volkswagen Jetta TDI)
3.0L Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (Volvo S60)

Now in its 17th year, the Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition is designed to recognize powertrains that set new benchmarks in their respective vehicle segments.

The one thing they have in common is they all are stand-out performers in their own way and sell the value proposition of the vehicles they power,” Winter says.

RTFA. The editors delve into each award and why. Just a paragraph or two; but, gives you a taste of the breadth of modern prize-winning design coming from auto engineers around the world.

Detailed analysis of each is in the upcoming issue of Ward’s Autoworld magazine and will be online, next week.

Iceland recession ends – economy returns to growth

Demonstrators gathered outside Parliament in Reykjavik

Iceland emerged from recession in the third quarter, official data showed Tuesday, returning to growth for the first time since its financial system collapsed at the height of the crisis in 2008.

Iceland’s real gross domestic product grew by 1.2 percent in the July-September period from the previous quarter, the first quarterly increase since the same period in 2008. Iceland entered a slump after its overleveraged financial sector collapsed in the wake of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy.

Like Ireland and Greece, Iceland has taken a large dose of austerity measures to rebuild its economy. Unlike Ireland and Greece, however, Iceland allowed private banks to fail, and its currency, the krona, has declined by about 46 percent against the dollar since the start of 2008.

“Excluding the financial system, the real economy is doing well,” Arsaell Valfells, a professor of business and finance at the University of Iceland, said in telephone interview. Retail spending was still shrinking, he said, but the export sector, consisting mainly of fish, aluminum and tourism, was improving.

“We’ve basically gone back to 2003 in terms of the level of standard of living,” he said. The worst has been felt by younger people who borrowed at the height of the bubble and are now having to reduce their debt, he said. “But they’ll come through this,” he added…

The three biggest Icelandic banks, which had expanded aggressively during the credit bubble, all failed and were nationalized in October 2008. Cleaning up the mess left by one of those, the Icesave unit of Landsbanki, has soured relations with Britain and the Netherlands and delayed international aid…

Mr. Valfells said that within a few years Iceland should be able to exit the I.M.F. agreement, and that because of the determination of the Icelandic people, the Icesave problem would be “only a minor issue for the long-term outlook.”

We will grow out of this,” he said, “and could start now to finance our way out of it.”

Nice to see that sort of pride and determination. I think if there was a government in Eire with more backbone than our own – here in the United States – they could do much the same as Iceland.

I doubt if the EU would have the cojones to start kicking folks out the door because of failure to obey the demands of their beancounters. And if they did, a new government in Eire might mirror the new government in Iceland and take care of themselves.

Regardless – I know that economists calculating the end of a recession still doesn’t feel like the end. We’re sneaking up on holiday feasts and I for one will be certain to buy some Iceland lamb and Iceland hake.

Macy’s Santa Claus fired over joke

Santa Claus has been canned from Macy’s, and he’s anything but jolly about it. His fans aren’t happy, either. And there are many.

John Toomey, known for 20 years at the Union Square Macy’s in San Francisco as “Santa John,” was told Saturday he’ll have to take his “ho, ho, hos” elsewhere because an adult couple complained about a joke he cracked.

The joke has been in his Santa bag for decades. But after thousands of tellings, the 68-year-old retired caretaker for the elderly finally hit the wrong recipients – apparently an older woman and her husband, who considered it inappropriate…

The kids who sit on his lap, he said, get only his trademark laugh and questions about what toys they want…

But several workers used words including “devastated” and “overreaction” to describe their take on Santa John being booted from his throne at Santaland on the seventh floor. They all asked not be named because store policy forbids them from speaking publicly about such matters, but their un-yule-ish gloom was palpable…

There’s no doubt Toomey takes seriously the responsibility that comes with the red hat.

With the children, it’s important to listen carefully to them and make sure they’re doing things properly, like brushing their teeth, helping Mom around the house, things like that,” Toomey said. “Then when they tell you what they want, repeat it loudly enough so the parents can hear, and tell the child you’ll talk it over with Mrs. Santa and the elves. That way you leave it up to the parents…

“I’ve got my Social Security and some savings, so I’ll be OK,” he said. “But I sure do miss being Santa.”

You expect to run into a certain percentage of stiffs in this land. Rightwingers hate to admit it’s their kith and kin who work hardest at cluttering up our liberties with nanny-state ideology. But, here we go again – trying to get a job back for a Santa with a sense of humor. RTFA for his mild humor.

Next week, someone will probably accuse him of being the AntiChrist – even though holiday theft worked the other way round.