Friday, December 18, 2009

From the Humanist - Uncertainty in Science: It’s a Feature, Not a Bug

Here's a great article from The Humanist - a magazine of critical inquiry and social concern about why climate change deniers have such an easy time doing their dirty work. As I've noted time and again (and again, and again), those who seek to deny the existence of, and impacts from Anthropogenic Global Warming are not actually debating from a scientific perspective. They're doing it from an emotional and political perspective, which is why we have such a hard time as scientists defeating them.

H/T to Mike for the Humanist link
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IN the comments section, jg notes:

As seen in spectator sports, there are a lot of people who want to be on a winning side and pick accordingly. For them, choosing the other side it too scary.

He, or rather he, interpreting his wife, is spot on. That so many in the scientific community fail to see this fundamental truth is why they deal with deniers so poorly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The REAL danger of Sexting - and it's not naked pictures

You need to read this, especially if you have teen age daughters, as I do.

Why are they doing that, those good girls? Why are they killing themselves? Parents, teachers, administrators, pastors, bullies, slut-shamers, fools, woman-haters, hypocrites, tell me why YOU think they are killing themselves. Do you know? Do you know why Hope Witsell hanged herself? Do you know why she thought she had no future?

It wasn’t because she made a momentary, impulsive expression of her barely-adolescent sexuality (or gave in to peer pressure from boys who felt that her body was public domain; if the latter, that is just another horrible thing to add to this horrible thing, but either way it was not because she took a picture of her boobs). It wasn’t because of a media-manufactured techno-trend. It wasn’t the internet. It was not that, as this putrid “news” article disgustingly asserts, “The downward spiral of Hope’s life was unstoppable.”

If everyone I know who had a picture of their boobs on the internet before their 18th birthday killed themselves, I’d have a lot of dead friends. I wouldn’t be around to remember them, though, since I’d be dead too.

It wasn’t SEXTING.

It was you, adults, all the adults in her life. The high school assholes too, but they’re in high school. You’re adults. She was thirteen years old and she was driven to her grave for nothing and there was nothing inevitable about this. And you should understand that.

You should go to her grave as a penitent every day of your lives, all of you, like Leontes and Claudio, and make of yourselves a lesson for others. This is the real world, so you won’t get the kind of results that Leontes and Claudio did. She’s never coming back.

You should just do it because it’s the right thing to do. Because it is, honestly, the least you can do. Because she wasn’t killed by this year’s sexy scary cyber-youth-trend. You could have saved her if you hadn’t ALL been so busy reinforcing values that are killing our daughters.

Stop killing our daughters. Stop killing our daughters. Stop killing our daughters. Stop killing our daughters. Stop killing our daughters.


H/T Stephanie Z at Almost Diamonds.

The bailouts and healthcare reform - one quote says it all

While ruminating on what the loss of the public option means to so-called "healthcare reform," and trying to draw useful links and lessons to the payback of TARP funds (apparently hastened by huge additional tax breaks); I read this in a comment at The Intersection. Marion's comment was in a post about the death of science journalism, but it rings true for so many things these days:

Markets don’t give you what you want OR need – they trade whatever you can scrape up by way of labor or money for what, crudely expressed, the owners of resources and physical plant and the providers of finance and credit want to offer, and you then try to cobble together what you want and need from the menu you’re given.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The latest Refutation of Climate Crisis Deniers - Finally the WaPo gets it right.

On 9 December, the Washington Post published yet another in a string of climate crisis denying editorials, this one by Sarah Palin. It follows on the heels of the many lies and half-truths cooked up by George Will to try and derail sensible policy changes to confront a slow rolling, but all too real set of changes in the Earth's climate system.

Well today, a mere 24 hours later, and without any serious campaign by scientists, the media, or grade school kids, the WaPo publishes the rebuttal. Alan Lesher, who is the publisher for the prestigious journal Science, writes this:

Climate-change science is clear: The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide -- derived mostly from the human activities of fossil-fuel burning and deforestation -- stands at 389 parts per million (ppm). We know from studying ancient Antarctic ice cores that this concentration is higher than it has been for at least the past 650,000 years. Exhaustive measurements tell us that atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising by 2 ppm every year and that the global temperature has increased by about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. Multiple lines of other evidence, including reliable thermometer readings since the 1880s, reveal a clear warming trend. The broader impacts of climate change range from rapidly melting glaciers and rising sea levels to shifts in species ranges.

Pretty clear stuff. I'm sure some deniers will try to spin this, but it is tough to do when you add in this:

None of these tactics changes the clear consensus of a vast majority of scientists, who agree that the Earth is warming as greenhouse gas levels rise. The public and policymakers should not be confused by a few private e-mails that are being selectively publicized and, in any case, remain irrelevant to the broad body of diverse evidence on climate change. Selected language in the messages has been interpreted by some to suggest unethical actions such as data manipulation or suppression. To be sure, investigations are appropriate whenever questions are raised regarding the transparency and rigor of the scientific process or the integrity of individual scientists. We applaud that the responsible authorities are conducting those investigations. But it is wrong to suggest that apparently stolen emails, deployed on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit, somehow refute a century of evidence based on thousands of studies.

Already I can hear the groans - release the data. Scientists already did. Don't be fooled - this is just a conspiracy to take away your rights - as if that hasn't been done under other rubrics already (such as security from terrorists). The bottom line is that, while the nature of the impacts and their duration is still a subject ripe for study - the fact that impacts are already occurring is not open for debate. No should we waste time laying blame, or looking the other way. The time is now for the U.S. to summon her collective national will and tackle this problem head on. We need more innovation in green energy, not less. We need to hold the patents on Carbon Capture technology, not the Chinese. We need to lead, not just spout platitudes. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren will richly deserve the chance to heap scorn on us for our lazy, self-centered response to clear and present danger.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Making Detainee Policy Behind our Backs - How the Senate burried a controversial directive to the President on Guantanimo Bay

Most of you probably don't read press releases from the Senate Appropriations Committee. I do, and this one, on the Fiscal Year 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation is a humdinger.

Why? Well on the last page, the Senate and House Conferees have added language as a rider to the bill that restrains the President in how he can close the prison at Guantanimo Bay:

Guantanamo Detainees: Language is included that 1) Prohibits current detainees from being released into the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, D.C., or any U.S. territory; 2) Prohibits current detainees from being transferred to the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, D.C., or any U.S. territory, except to be prosecuted and only 45 days after Congress receives a plan detailing: risks involved and a plan for mitigating such risk; cost of the transfer; legal rationale and court demands; and a copy of the notification provided to the Governor of the receiving State 14 days before a transfer with a certification by the Attorney General that the individual poses little or no security risk; 3) Current detainees cannot be transferred or released to another country (including freely associated states) unless the President submits to Congress 15 days prior to such transfer: the name of the individual and the country the individual will be transferred to; an assessment of risks posed and actions taken to mitigate such risks; and the terms of the transfer agreement with the other country, including any financial assistance; 4) Requires the President to submit a report to Congress describing the disposition of each current detainee before the facility can be closed.

So, in essence, the House and Senate, while deciding how to fund some fairly important agencies in the federal government have also decided to drag out a process that is already too long in the making, and which represents a real threat to the U.S. because Guantanimo is known to be used as a terrorist recruiting tool. And all done as a rider on an Appropriations Bill which doesn't even fund Guantanimo activities.

Is this common? yes, Congress authorizes in appropriations bills all the time, and vice versa. Is it good policy? No, because by adding this direction as a rider to an appropriations bill, the Conferees have made sure it sees little debate, evades most media scrutiny, and will likely be signed by the President, no matter how much it hamstrings him.

Change We Can Believe In? I think not.

President Obama signed this Appropriations Bill into law on 17 December 2009, so these restrictions are now binding on the Executive Branch. One has to wonder if this language has anything to do with today's announcement that 6 Yemini detainees are being repatriated from Guantanimo.

Blogs to read daily - my top 6 sources of information

The lovely red-headed wife once asked me how I manage to keep up with all the blogs, and my own blogging, without getting sucked into wasted hours on a daily basis. She has, as she freely admits, a highly addictive personality, and so she resists blogs primarily to keep this from happening to her.

My answer is really quite simple – while there are about two dozen blogs I monitor regularly, I only read six blogs daily. See, my ritual is to listen to NPR’s Morning Edition on the Metro in to work each morning, scan the on-line Washington Post while reading my morning email and having the first cup of coffee, and then take 20 minutes or so to read these authors:

Glenn Greenwald

Mike at the Big Stick

Ames at Submitted to a Candid World (where I often run into Mike as well)

Simon and James at the Baseline Scenario

Sheril and Chris at The Intersection

And secularist 10 at 100 Treatises

Granted, some of them update their blogs several times a day, but I find a good morning read is about all I need from the six sources (and the WaPo and NPR) to get a pretty good handle on the issues of the day. I may not always agree with them – I think there are days Mike would rather throttle me then dialogue with me – but all are immanently accessible, and all will provide you a great insight that can help you sort the B.S. flying around in the blog-o-sphere.

Now, of the others I read less frequently,

Stephanie Z at Almost Diamonds

Is ALWAYS worth my time as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Climategate & the CRU Hack - Where's the data?

Turns out (much to the consternation of climate crisis deniers) that the data is here. Hard to say anyone is hiding anything when its all out in the open.

And while we are at it, the folks at RealClimate provide us a vivid example of how bad science is fueling the deniers side of the argument. I'd like to know if all of those roaming the internet, calling for "honest" study are going to call these guys out as well - thouhg i suspect I know the answer.


Check out this post by my colleague jg - his whole series looks like great reading, and it illustrates how most deniers are just a few short steps removed from reality simply because they won't read two magazines.