Archive for April, 2010

Weekend Linkorama

Sunday, April 25th, 2010
  • Sullivan runs down the accomplishments of the Obama Administration so far. I disagree with a lot of what’s been done. But the meme circulating in the Right Wing Echosphere that this is a “failed Administration” is bullshit. And, what’s more, the meme peddlers know it’s bullshit. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be turning around claiming that Obama is destroying America.
  • More pictures that combine past and present. I love it.
  • This cracked me up.
  • Piano tuning is more complicated than you’d think.
  • An interesting article on the pending phosphorous shortage. I’m not as pessimistic as they are; we usually find clever ways to solve these problems … if we have a free market. Phosphorous shortage create high prices create increased demand create entrepreneurs creating ways to obtain more phosphorous. The only real danger is that the government will try to fix phosphorous prices too low. A big business of the 21st century is going to be recovering materials from waste and landfills.
  • The War on Salt ramps up. Salt in our food is now a “crisis” — a word that has become so used and abused as to be meaningless.
  • Watch a stadium get blowed up. I think its Texas Stadium. If only they could have blown it up while the Cowboys were still in it.
  • The dollar redesign project. Some of these are quite good. However, Americans tends to be very conservative about our money and I’m glad the treasury has taken the more gradual approach to modernizing the currency.
  • I have got to see this documentary. As for this movie … why, God, why?
  • It begins. An American citizen is forced to “show his papers” in response to Arizona’s new immigration law.
  • DC Cab

    Saturday, April 24th, 2010

    DC statehood is up again.

    My views on this are clear and comport quite well with those expressed here. The district already gets enormous amounts of money from the federal government and that will only get worse if they have three votes in Congress. Indeed, this was precisely the reason that it was not granted statehood in the first place. It also make no sense for DC to have senators since they are supposed to be representatives of the states, not the people.

    There’s also the thorny issue of the 22nd amendment, which grants three electoral votes to DC. If we grant them statehood, does that not mean three more?

    To be honest, I think people are thinking with their parties. The senators and representative from DC would certainly be Democrats. That potential shift in the balance of power is the primary informer of people’s opinions on the subject — pro or con.

    I am, however, uncomfortable with the idea of people not having representation. What I would prefer is a compromise. Have the people of DC declare residency in either Virginia or Maryland. Allow them to vote accordingly. Or split the city geographically. That way they get representation, but not outsized representation.

    Of course, that would still mean changing the 22nd amendment. What are the chance of that happening?

    Birthers Reloaded

    Friday, April 23rd, 2010

    I’ve discovered a new argument the “birthers” are using to argue that Obama is an illegitimate President. I mean, besides denying the reality of the certified birth certificate that has been released. They’re arguing that Obama is not a “natural born citizen” because his father was not a US citizen.

    Problem: Charles Evans Hughes was allowed to run for President, even though his father was a British subject (as Obama’s father was and, in reality, as all our early Presidents were).

    Further problem. By this logic my Texas-born daughter can no run because her mother is Australian.

    Just a reminder of what these people really believe.

    Manzi on Climate

    Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

    Jim Manzi is one of the best conservative critics of global warming solutions. This is typical of his work. He argues that carbon capping is such a massive all-encompassing and expensive “solution” that it would leave us helpless if a more pressing crisis erupted like an asteroid strike or an epidemic.

    Yesterday, he wrote a nice post on the epistemic closure on the Right — what I call the Right Wing Echosphere. It’s the tendency of conservatives to only listen to each other. In particular, he talks about the chapter on global warming from Mark Levin’s book in which he: cites global cooling; cites the bogus “30,000 scientist” petition and cites three people who do not work in climatology as a springboard to saying it’s a all Left Wing Plot.

    On one side of the scale of Levin’s argument from authority, then, we have three scientists speaking outside their areas of central expertise, plus a dodgy petition. What’s on the other side of the scale that Levin doesn’t mention to his readers?

    Among the organizations that don’t reject the notion of man-made global warming are: the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; The Royal Society; the national science academies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand. Russia, South Africa, and Sweden; the U.S. National Research Council; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Chemical Society; the American Physical Society; the American Geophysical Union; and the World Meteorological Organization. That is, Levin’s argument from authority is empty.

    Of course, this roll call could be arbitrarily long and illustrious, and that does not make them right. Groupthink or corruption is always possible, and maybe the entire global scientific establishment is wrong. Does he think that these various scientists are somehow unaware that Newsweek had an article on global cooling in the 1970s? Or are they aware of the evidence in his book, but are too trapped by their assumptions to be able to incorporate this data rationally? Or does he believe that the whole thing is a con in which thousands of scientists have colluded across decades and continents to fool such gullible naifs as the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, numerous White House science advisors, Margaret Thatcher, and so on? Are the Queen of England and the Trilateral Commission in on it too?

    Levin doesn’t answer this question. Manzi, however, could. He would point out that all of these societies are accepting the results of an IPCC report that is, at the very least, poorly sourced. He would point out that there are only four direct temperature lines, at least one of which is suspect. He would point out that the models predicting doom and gloom are sketchy to say the least.

    But that would be Good Skepticism. Levin is peddling Bad Skepticism. And his fellow conservatives have predictably circled the wagons.

    Update: I would be remiss if I failed to note that the Left has a lot of epistemic closure, particularly on the issue of the climate.

    Criticism of climate policy, including legitimate criticism, is frequently blasted as denial. Good Skeptics like Bjorn Lomborg and Ron Bailey are unfairly blasted as “tools of industry”. Algore has been saying “the debate is over” for twenty years, including on issues like overpopulation that turned out to be overblown. And the response to Climategate on the Left has been to dismiss it as though, at the very least, failure to comply with FOI requests and poorly written and documented climate code are acceptable scientific practices. And we are told that doomsday AGW scenarios are the most likely and should be the basis of policy.

    It doesn’t help the epistemic closure on the Right when the response of the Left to any criticism is to circle their own wagons.

    Update: Levin responds by calling Manzi a liberal and a “global warming zealout”, which is both ridiculous and totally expected.

    Midweek Linkorama

    Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
  • As expected, the “temporary” stimulus spending is becoming permanent as states become dependent on the Feds.
  • The Philly school spying case gets creepier.
  • George Washington — desperado.
  • Probably the most depressing thing about politics is how rapidly people’s attitudes change depending on who is in power. Here’s one example: people who used “regime” to describe the Bush Administration expressing alarm when that word is used for the Obama Administration. I hated the word both times; I can’t listen to Limbaugh because he uses it. But some consistency from anyone but libertarians would be nice.
  • A cosmic thought on free trade.
  • Just when you thought the GOP couldn’t get stupider; the Arizona wing sponsors a birther bill.
  • The food grabbers strike again. And again. And now the military is getting in on the act.
  • A Climate Summary

    Monday, April 19th, 2010

    Spiegel has one of the fairest and most complete analyses of Climategate I’ve seen out there. It’s a long article but worth the read because it details exactly what has happened, what is going on and what the status of the science is.

    As usual, I find myself between warring camps. I think AGW is real and a problem but I’m concerned about the quality of the science going into it and am extremely skeptical of the proposed solutions. I think much of the climate controversy of the last few months is overblown and over hyped by people who have a religious/political belief that AGW is a myth. At the same time, I think AGW supporters are far too glib in dismissing the controversy.

    So whenever the subject comes out, I get bashed on one side by “It’s a conspiracy” bad skeptics and bashed on the other by “you’re a tool of industry” believers. But if I wanted everyone to agree with me, why would I bother with blogging?

    Weekend Linkorama

    Sunday, April 18th, 2010
  • Stunning pictures of the Icelandic eruption. Hat tip to Astropixie.
  • Part Two of the debunking of Lord Monckton. Again, notice how fundamentally dishonest he in the debate. He is one of the principle sources for much of conservative opposition to AGW. And he’s a complete crackpot.
  • Sometimes, I’m so happy I live in a country that takes the First Amendment so seriously.
  • Irony. The EPA has dangerous levels of lead in their building.
  • Color my unimpressed that NYC is planning to close their rubber rooms. They are not firing anyone or expediting the hearing process. They’re just giving them make-work jobs. Typical of the “conservative” Bloomberg.
  • A small triumph over the absurdly generous British libel laws. And pseudo-science.
  • Some sensible talk on IT security.
  • Coolness. Saving lives at $3 a pop. I love innovation.
  • An open letter to the Catholic bishops that reads more like the Declaration of Independence than anything else.
  • Cool windows.
  • Midweek Linkorama

    Friday, April 16th, 2010

    All politics this week I’m afraid.

  • I’m starting to warm to Marco Rubio. Anyone who takes the Social Security issue seriously has a good mark in my book. And Crist is worthless.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates destroys the idea that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery while commenting on the worship of Robert E. Lee. In response to his question of whether you can admire someone who fought for a bad cause, I’d say yes. Many of our WW 2 veterans had great admiration for the German and Japanese soldiers.
  • How on Earth is Marc Thiessen taken seriously? His entire existence is based around dishonestly vindicating the shitty record of the Bush Administration.
  • Reason dig in to figure out why Texas was immune from the worst of the housing bubble. My theory? In Texas, houses are for livin’, not money makin’.
  • Is another McMartin case going on in Georgia? As a parent, I want children protected. But sometimes, it seems to go ridiculous extremes. Meanwhile, the Pope is vigorously defended by religion conservatives despite his complicity in serious repeated abuse.
  • Conservatives, once defenders of liberty, are apparently thrilled that Arizona cops can now approach anyone and demand their papers.
  • I’m just so happy that baseball is back.
  • Moms Alive

    Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

    Yet another subject for the We Hate It When Things Get Better file.

    Whenever anyone tells me that things are getting worse in the world, that we’ve fallen away from some great glorious golden age, I have many responses. But one of those has to be “childbirth”. In the natural unsullied state, one in fifty women dies giving birth. And it’s not a fun way to go. Were it not for modern medicine, I might very well have lost both my wife and daughter that way.

    Thanks to modern technology, that rate has plunged to less than one in ten thousand in the industrialized world. And rates are plunging in the undeveloped world.

    But advocates for better maternity care are unhappy about this, or at least unhappy about letting people know about it. They fear that the issue will lose its urgency (which, if it’s getting better, it sort of should, no?)

    Happy B-Day To McCormick

    Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

    The observatory at my old graduate school stomping grounds turned 125 yesterday. The 26″ refractor is a fantastic telescope and I have many great memories of night spent up at McCormick.

    Here’s to another 125 years!

    Pixels

    Monday, April 12th, 2010

    Trippy.

    PIXELS by Patrick Jean from ONE MORE PRODUCTION on Vimeo.

    Monday Linkorama

    Monday, April 12th, 2010
  • The Volokh guys have a point. Where should accused criminals live?
  • It’s only one guy claiming that Bush knew hundreds of Gitmo occupants were innocent. But given what we’ve found out in just that last two years, does it really sound implausible? Just one more reason I don’t mind the GOP being out of office.
  • Two more notes from the global warming front. First, a new report on glaciers disappearing from Glacier National Park. And then a nice, if snarky, debunking of Lord Monckton. Monckton is probably the worst of what I call “Bad Skeptics” on AGW. He is not interested in accurately assessing whether AGW is real or dangerous. He’s interested in using whatever tricks he can to claim it’s a hoax. The video mentions a “Good Skeptic” — the team analyzing satellite data at Alabama-Huntsville. They disagree with consensus — but do with real science and real data.
  • Lenore Skenazy has another great idea. Do we really want another generation of kids who need their parents to negotiate job benefits?
  • A wonderful article from Reason disputes the notion — now mantra among supposed conservatives — that we once had a golden age of liberty from which we’ve declined. In the words of Clarence Thomas, it doesn’t seem that way to black people.
  • Thursday Linkorama

    Thursday, April 8th, 2010
  • Wow. That’s a long way to go for a cup of tea.
  • Well. At least the Boomer are coming clean on how badly they’ve screwed us.
  • Rush Limbaugh: not an elitist. No sir.
  • When Tom Coburn is the voice of reason, we’re in trouble.
  • A preview of what lies ahead for the nation? Massachusetts healthcare plan is producing early fights over insurance rates and people gaming the system.
  • This is just plain mean. Shame on them.
  • Philly takes some smart steps in ramping down the war on drugs.
  • Ten years later, Fidel Casto is still milking Elian Gonzalez for propaganda.
  • Green Kids

    Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

    In the middle of an article defending the child-free lifestyle, Lisa Hymas notes:

    If you consider not just the carbon impact of your own kids but of your kids’ kids and so on, the numbers get even starker. According to a 2009 study in Global Environmental Change [PDF] that took into account the long-term impact of Americans’ descendants, each child adds an estimated 9,441 metric tons of CO2 to a parent’s carbon legacy—that’s about 5.7 times his or her direct lifetime emissions.

    I don’t begrudge anyone the child-free lifestyle. I like the kid thing but it’s not for everyone.

    But this particular child-free argument falls flat for me. I’ve pointed out before that we need future generations of smart people to solve our ecological problems. And smart people, while not guaranteed to have smart kids, are more likely to.

    But what brought this post up was that ridiculously precise figure on how much CO2 your kids are going to produce. It’s utterly ridiculous to speculate on things that will not happen for many decades. If nuclear fusion becomes viable by 2050, the carbon footprint of my kids and grandkids will be far lower than mine. It’s the return of he Fallacy of the Unbroken Trend. Since carbon emissions per capita have followed trend X, we can extrapolate trend X a century into the future and draw conclusions appropriately.

    Garbage.