Look Out Below

The western drought isn’t really getting any better.

Update: A couple scientists at UCSD say there’s a 50 percent chance of Lake Mead running dry by 2021. Yes, this dates from February.

UC, Judge Slap Creationists

Well, this will make for an interesting Ninth Circuit case:

U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC’s review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts – not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.

Keep Out

Russia quietly ups the ante:

In recent days, several Bear-H bombers have carried out training missions over the Black Sea, according to American officials familiar with intelligence reports. The training flights represent the first time that a Bear bomber has flown over the Black Sea in at least two years, according to American military experts. The Russian bombers are capable of carrying non-nuclear cruise missiles, and government intelligence analysts have told the Pentagon that a recent Bear training flight appeared to simulate a cruise-missile attack against Georgia.

It’s also a not-subtle message to the US Navy that as far as the Russians are concerned, the Black Sea is their lake.

Icebreakers Wanted

America’s infrastructure deficit shows up in some strange places. Among them, the Arctic. What gets me, though, is the comment that it’d take “8 or 10 years to build even one icebreaker.” I don’t buy that. We build aircraft carriers in less time.

1980 Redux

More evidence that the Obama campaign is seeing this election as 1980 in reverse:

“Democrats should take a deep breath and realize that there are a group of voters who won’t make up their mind about a candidate until deep in the fall,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager. “And there are 18 states that are battlegrounds for a reason, and they’ll be decided by 2 to 4 points. I don’t care about national polls.”

Others, though, have the whiff of panic about them.

In Space, No One Can Hear You Sweat

Mr. X at Chair Force Engineer thinks the fallout of Russia’s Georgian adventure will create more business opportunities for SpaceX. Maybe so, but I’d rather keep the Shuttle going too. On-orbit repair and capture-and-return are capabilities we’re going to miss when they’re gone.

China Speedbumps

Matt Yglesias sees no need to fret about China’s rise. It’s more the fall he’s worried about:

It doesn’t seem especially likely to me that China will go on and on and on without experiencing a substantial economic crisis or a serious foreign policy blunder forever. And any such crisis is likely to lead to a political crisis. What that would lead to, I couldn’t say. People sometimes seem to assume that the alternative to China’s current course is democratization, but it could just as easily be clampdown and insularity or chaos and destruction. But for things to just keep on keeping on would be genuinely odd and require a not-especially-likely combination of competence and good luck for Chinese officials.

Shades of the ’70s

The Misery Index is making a comeback. You have to go back to the Gulf War to find the last time the combination of inflation and unemployment was this high. Deficits and soft money, people. They’re no good.

McCain/Obama Tax Comparisons

Let’s see … Obama wants to give me a tax cut, and eliminate taxes for seniors making under $50K a year. The latter would be good for my 80-year-old mom, who is under the threshold, lives totally on Social Security and investments, and is getting socked with big tax bills every year. 

McCain likely would cut the tax rate on my income too, but also wants to take away the tax break that now allows me to buy employer-provided health insurance without counting the benefit as income, even as my salary remains flat thanks to the state of the industry I work in.

What would a rational voter do here?

The real question, though, is how much of a stink will Obama make about McCain’s health-care tax proposal. The negative ads write themselves.

High Speed Rail Referendum

Robert Cruickshank runs an advocacy blog in support of the California High Speed Rail initiative that’ll be on the ballot this fall in my home state. In his latest post, countering anti-rail/anti-initiative comments from the Howard Jarvis/Prop 13 group, he makes an excellent point:

What prosperity California still has today is the product of past public spending – the bay bridges, the freeways, the aqueducts, the universities. All of those were paid for by taxes, and Californians reaped the rewards. But those investments need to be renewed, in a way that suits the new conditions of the 21st century, specifically energy, environment, and climate.

What he neglects to mention is that investment in all those things basically dried up by the end of the 1960s. Since then, opposition on one side by anti-tax forces and on the other by environmentalists has all but stopped new infrastructure projects in the state. And California is but a microcosm of the entire country in this regard. We’re living off the achievements of our grandparents.