A few odds and ends of media goodness.
MPR's Daily Circuit this morning hosted a discussion with John Nichols of The Nation about the possibilities for President Obama's second term. I didn't hear the whole thing, though I know they at least heard calls from listeners urging action on climate change, clean energy jobs, and financial reform to prevent another banking disaster. I'd like to distill and bottle one Nichols' responses and see if the president can drink a bit every night before he goes to bed:
John Nichols: What we're hearing from people [in the calls to the show] is they want an activist agenda -- they want this president to do big things. It is true that the president does have a great deal of power, if exercised cautiously, both domestically on executive orders and regulatory initiatives, and using the cabinet more boldly. And then internationally through treaty powers or at least powers to work with other countries and try to achieve things.And on a completely different topic, this letter from today's Star Tribune about the recent news that there appear to be many Earth-like planets in the galaxy:
These realities exist, but I do think they have to be linked to something. And that is, the president -- if he's going to go for an activist agenda, which I actually think would be a great idea -- it has to be linked to the reality that Congress is going to object to a lot of it. And it won't necessarily be only Republicans. And so then the president must take that activist agenda on the road to the American people.
He's got to say, I'm doing these things. It's my purpose to achieve a great deal in my second term. I don't want to have a failed second term or a written-off second term. I want to make great accomplishments. And then doing that messaging, and not being just an activist president but an instructive and educational president, he must also frankly link it to the politics of 2014. The fact of the matter is, if this president goes and says, I want to do a bunch of big bold stuff, I'm going to do as much as I can even though Congress is giving me a hard time -- but I need a different Congress.
Then he begins to get into the zone of Franklin Roosevelt. Remember, Roosevelt's New Deal was not achieved fully in his first term. He actually had a highly successful reelect in 1936, carrying all but two states. And was able in those first two years after to do a lot because Congress was with him.
This president doesn't have that, but Barack Obama could try to initiate a bold agenda and then ask the American people to confirm that in the 2014 election.
Kerri Miller: Essentially he'd be going out to say, Do we really have time to waste? If they write me off, you allow them to write off most of this second term -- do we really, on all these issues, have three years to wait? I think most Americans would be pretty impatient.
Nichols: You nailed it.
Earth visitations might face pretty long odds
The Nov. 7 Letter of the Day asked why, if planets like Earth are common, is it so far-fetched to believe that UFOs and aliens may be common occurrences on Earth? Let’s answer that with some numbers.
First, we don’t expect 40 billion Earthlike planets in the Milky Way. Twenty-two percent of sunlike stars (10 percent of the 300 billion in our galaxy) have an Earthlike planet, leaving 6.6 billion Earthlike planets. Let’s say maybe half have the right conditions for life. Assume maybe one in four will develop intelligent life before a life-ending event.
Note that of several intelligent species on Earth, only humans have developed sophisticated technology like rockets. Let’s say one in four survive longer than 100 years with both rockets and nukes. Four hundred million left. A sunlike star lives about 12 billion years before becoming inhospitable. Assume 4 billion years go by before anyone can develop rockets (we took that long). Let’s say a space-faring age lasts, oh, 1 million years. So: 50,000 civilizations currently exploring space in our galaxy.
Our galaxy is 100,000 light years wide. That means on average, the nearest civilization is 500 light years away. Even going 1,000 times faster than Voyager 1, the fastest spacecraft we’ve built, it would take 7,000 years to reach the nearest star, which is only four light years away. So the nearest civilization is 1 million years away.
And these were some very generous numbers. See the problem?
Adiv Paradise, Minneapolis