Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, December 27, 2013 12:57 pm

And you thought the bursting of the housing bubble was bad …

From the Nov. 11 New Yorker (paywall) on a company called Climate Corporation that uses big data to project crop sizes for every field in the country and insures crops on the basis of that data:

(CEO David) Friedberg is convinced that climate change has the potential to alter land values dramatically, and soon. “We had this economic bubble because of a major housing crisis,” he said. [Strictly speaking, that's backward -- we had an economic crisis because of a (burst) housing bubble -- but forget it; he's rolling. -- Lex] “Residential real-estate values dropped, and the debt-equity ratio was so high that there were massive economic consequences for the nation. There is almost certainly a much more significant devaluation that needs to occur with land affected by climate change.” In Kansas, he noted, real estate trades at prices that make sense only if a farmer gets the kind of yield on an acre of corn that is now rare. “In parts of Kansas, farmers should simply not be growing corn,” Friedberg said. “Historically, you would have a heat wave every 20 years there. Now it happens every three years or so, and in those years the crops die.”

The Climate Corporation charges roughly forty dollars an acre to insure crops, and its customers farm more than ten million acres. Many of them give little credence to terms like “climate change” and “global warming.” That doesn’t bother Friedberg. “You don’t need to talk about climate change per se,” he told me. “Statistically, you are looking at a series of numbers. If it were a roulette wheel, you could say, ‘It’s coming up black more and more frequently.’ Can I attribute that to black being overweighted by the croupier? Or to the pit boss, or to the machine being broken? It doesn’t matter. Some people will argue that ice ages have waxed and waned for tens of millennia and that this is part of a natural cycle. That doesn’t change the fact that black is coming up more frequently and you will get less out of an acre of corn than you used to. The price for that land simply cannot be justified by the income it can generate.”

He went on, “It’s going to take a few climatic events in a row, I guess, and then everyone will say, ‘I’m not going to keep buying Kansas real estate at this price,’ or, ‘I’m not going to keep developing in this harbor zone in Florida.’ If you mark down all the stuff to what the discounted value should be — holy shit.” He practically shouted, “It is bad. I am convinced it is going to happen because, the math says it has to happen in at least one or two or three parts of the world. And if it happens at any of them at any point in the next ten years, it will make the housing crisis look small.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013 9:26 pm

What the next generation of maps is telling us that we don’t want to hear

As I think I’ve mentioned a time or three, I’m a map geek. Old, new, paper, digital, real, fictional, silent or talkative, I love ‘em. (I do mute the talkative ones sometimes, but still.)

So I was tickled that James Fallows at The Atlantic did a Q&A with Michael Jones of Google, one of the people who helped create Google Earth (now installed on a billion computers worldwide). And he talked about how mapping apps on smartphones are becoming even more personal because they can use info the phone already has gathered about your locations, likes, and so on to craft maps that not only show how to get from here to there but also tell you potentially interesting things about some of the places you’ll pass along the way, or the places around where you are right now. (One manifestation is Google’s new Android app, Field Trip, coming soon for iOS as well.

Then Fallows asks what I think is both a creative and perceptive question. He points out that some of the first photos of the Earth from space, such as the iconic Christmas Eve 1968 photo shot by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, “created a different kind of environmental consciousness.” (The American nature photographer Galen Rowell has described this image as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” I was in the third grade at the time, and even now I can recall what that “different kind of environmental consciousness” meant: We — all of us — share one single planet, a planet that amounts to a speck in the vastness of space, and it’s the only planet we’re going to get. I think the first Earth Day and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, among other developments, are attributable in significant part to that photo.)

Could the current mapping revolution, Fallows asks Jones, have the same effect? Jones’s answer was both hopeful and heartbreaking:

My father is in his 80s. He wanted to know more about what I do, so I recently showed him Google’s underwater Street View. [This is an aspect of Google Earth that shows reefs, seamounts, and other underwater features in the oceans.] We dove in the water and we were basically swimming along. We stopped and zoomed in, looked at turtles, looked at fish. We went down under a big reef and we could see a tunnel in there, and there were fish resting in the tunnel.

After a while he said, “Son, this is so beautiful.” He’s never been scuba diving, but he said, “This is so beautiful. I just can’t believe how beautiful this is.” And I said, “Well, Dad, we chose beautiful places because most of the corals near islands around the world are already dead. They look like old concrete. No fish, just dead.”

He almost cried. He stared at me with a “What has the world come to?” kind of look, and we talked for a while about that. And so he was brought to an awareness of the grotesque damage that’s happening worldwide due to the ocean acidification that follows from the externalities of the way we live as a human race right now. It was powerful for him because he could personally experience the ocean in a way that, with his mobility challenges, he’s never going to see by scuba diving. Yet he felt what people who have experienced the sea know to be true and care about.

I believe that only this kind of understanding leads to activism, whether it’s a passive activism of a vote or an active activism of changing your lifestyle to protect the world.

The problem is that although this kind of activism is, as Jones observes, necessary, it is not sufficient. At current prices, there is something like $27 trillion worth of combustible carbon — coal, oil, gas and fuel wood — still in the ground. The industries that extract those resources will not willingly relinquish the opportunity to do so, and they have largely achieved a stranglehold on any other force that could force them to do so.

The way we live is killing the only planet we’ve got. The process has been proceeding even faster than we thought, so fast that my children, now adolescents, may well live to see global disruption and human suffering on a scale worse than that of World War II, with no country, no matter how geographically isolated or politically nonaligned, left unaffected.

No map, no matter how cool, is going to stop that. In fact, I don’t know that anything will.

Monday, November 5, 2012 10:09 pm

Quote of the Day, One Week After Sandy Edition

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

– Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, a member of the commission that investigated the cause of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, in his appendix to the commission report.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 8:18 pm

Climate change: What’s more likely?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:18 pm
Tags: ,

As regular readers know, I believe that the Earth’s climate is changing in undesirable ways, that this change is being driven primarily by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that human activity (both carbon emissions and logging the rain forests that turn the greatest amount of carbon dioxide into oxygen) is to blame.

Not coincidentally, this is essentially the view of the vast majority of climate scientists, whose work, comprising more than 30,000 studies dating back decades, many of those studies confirming earlier findings, would seem to put this question beyond the range of rational dispute — the key word, of course, being “rational.” I waded into the discussion thread of one of Atlantic economics blogger Megan McArdle’s posts on climate change last week, and lemme tell you, for every halfway cogent criticism of the theory of anthropogenic global warming, there were 20 dittoheads who just wanted to repeat talking points and punch hippies. It was a Sargasso Sea of DERP.

Well, when rationality fails, I fall back on Occam’s (or, as my research textbook spells it, Ockham’s) razor, which sounds painful. But Occam’s razor is actually a principle of logic: In plain English, it means that all other things being equal, the simplest explanation for a problem is most likely correct.

And so it is in the spirit of Occam’s razor that I present the following graphic, created by Brooke Jarvis.

I know which of these I think is more likely, but set that aside for a moment and just answer me this: Which one is simpler?

(h/t: Grist)

Thursday, February 23, 2012 7:49 pm

How the climate-change denial industry, and it IS an industry, works

The same way the tobacco industry promoted a smoking-and-health “controversy” for more than half a century: money and evil:

Not surprisingly, the fossil fuel industry funded many of the initial efforts to prevent adoption of climate change policies. Both individual corporations such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal, as well as industry associations such as American Petroleum Institute, Western Fuels Associations, and Edison Electric Institute provided funding for individual contrarian scientists, conservative think tanks active in climate change denial, and a host of front groups that we will discuss below. (Dunlap and McCright, 2011:148)

Although the initial funding in the campaign may have come from certain corporations. McCright and Dunlap argue that recently conservative, free-market, and anti-regulatory ideology and organizations have been the main forces fueling the denial machine first and foremost. (Dunlap and McCright, 2011:144)

According to Dunlap and McCright the glue that holds the elements of the climate disinformation campaign together is a shared hatred for government regulation of private industry. (Dunlap and McCright, 2011:144) And so, a staunch commitment to free markets and a disdain for government regulation are the ideas that most unite the climate denial community. (Dunlap and McCright, 2011:144)

The mainstream conservative movement, embodied in conservative foundations and think tanks, quickly joined forces with the fossil fuel industry (which recognized very early the threat posed by recognition of global warming and the role of carbon emissions) and wider sectors of corporate America to oppose the threat of global warming not as an ecological problem but as a problem for unbridled economic growth. (Dunlap and McCright, 2011:144) And so the disinformation campaign has been a movement that has been waged both by conservative organizations and some corporations.

To use the word “campaign” is not meant to connote an organized conspiracy led by one or a few entities who coordinate all actors, but rather a social movement that creates widespread, predictable, and strong opposition to climate change policy and that consistently uses scientific uncertainty arguments as the basis of its opposition. This movement is a campaign in the sense that it is a systematic response of aggressive actions to defeat proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions even though no one organization is coordinating all other organizations or individuals that participate in responses. And although some of the actors may be sincere, the tactics discussed in this article are, as we shall see, ethically reprehensible.

I suspected that the rule of law was over in this country when Reagan and the elder Bush were not held legally or constitutionally accountable for their roles in Iran-contra. But I knew it was over when the tobacco company execs trooped before Congress, dutifully placed their hands on the Bible, lied their asses off and were not taken into custody on the spot.

And as Tim F. at Balloon Juice, a scientist with background in this area, points out, next to the denialist industry, the cig makers were punks, adhering to what appears to be David Brooks’s first rule of column-writing: If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit:

However, I have to point out that Wonk Room’s flow chart [at first link above -- Lex] of how the business works, although accurate, also illustrates what makes the doubt business so pernicious. The graph (and the industry) is a forest of organizations, businesses, media outlets, scientists and pseudoscience institutes, political interest groups, thinktanks and so on. It dazzles you in the worst sense: the eyes defocus and your brain (at least my brain) freezes up trying to track what goes where. This is the magic of arbitrary complexity: anyone can bury a ridiculous idea in a maze of apparently credible but irrelevant stuff until it overwhelms the ability of an ordinary person to evaluate it critically. This is how the Big Mortgage Shitpile got so big – nobody would buy a mortgage written on toilet paper, so investment guys put hundreds into a box, wrote ‘mortgage’ on the side of the box with a Sharpie and shuffled around the boxes until nobody had any idea what was in each box except ‘mortgages’ in the vaguest possible sense. (snip)

Cigarette firms held public health science at bay for something like fifty years, and the $380 billion global tobacco trade fits neatly inside the $405 billion market capitalization of a single oil company. …

Anyhow, denying climate has an enormous pile of money at its back. Want an easy $10,000 plus travel perks? Write an editorial that criticizes the IPCC. Campaign cash? Not a problem (there goes the public policy option…). Maybe you want to start a think tank where Ivy League legacy cases can draw six-figure slaries and build a reputation doling out rephrased press releases in conservative journals, on broadcast networks and in discussion panels that need a douchebag for “balance.”. Choose a name that evokes eagles shooting apple pie machine guns and the money’s there.

On the other hand maybe you want to make a serious contribution to climate science. Get ready for years of difficult graduate study while living on ramen and cheap beer. Graduated with your degree? Have a tenure track job? Congratulations! Now you get to compete with some of the smartest people in the world for a shrinking pool of stingy grants, crappy pay, abuse, threats and bad-faith attacks from the most powerful people in the world. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it. Or maybe you want to end a very successful public career by speaking out too aggressively about the STUPID CLIMATE METEOR THAT IS ABOUT TO SCREW UP HUMAN CIVILIZATION, like Al Gore did.

As with tobacco, the glorious moneygasm only works because of the long delay between cause and effect. You would never see a doubt campaign by the punching-guys-in-the-groin industry, for example, because punching dudes in the groin hurts right now. A tobacco habit might kill you later. Epidemiology and climate science are arcane enough that a determined troll can create all kinds of confusion, even while Marlboro Men kept dying of lung cancer. It takes a long time to build up carbon in the atmosphere. Even then the ocean absorbs both heat and carbon for a while longer. Only when that slows down does the bill really start to come due, and feedback effects kick in such as methane and open water absorbing vastly more solar energy than sea ice. Svante Arrhenius figured out how warming will work in 1906, yet my local dog park will only this year become a living mat of deer ticks thanks to the hot rods that his grandkids drove fifty years ago. The worst case scenario keeps getting worse, but it always gets worse twenty or more years in the future and is therefore easy to ignore or deny. Until it isn’t, of course. But by then it is too late.

And that, I semi-seriously hypothesize, is why the very wealthiest among us want to take our homes, our pensions, our Social Security, and get wealthier still: They know what’s coming, and they intend to hide themselves and their progeny behind thick walls built of enormous bricks of U.S. government portraits of Benjamin Franklin. And the rest of us can drown or eat each other. It’s all good to them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010 10:37 pm

Some GOOD news in the climate-change arena

Amazon deforestation is DOWN 51%:

Amazon deforestation dropped 51 percent from August 2009 to February 2010 when compared to the same period from 2008 to 2009, according to figures released this week by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Much of the progress is due to Brazil’s newly established Green Arch, Legal Land Program. See how the program is working and if it can be replicated in other parts of the world.

Ten months ago Brazil began implementing its Green Arch, Legal Land program and this year deforestation in the Amazon has dropped by 51 percent. According to INPE, of the 43 municipalities with the highest Amazon deforestation rates, 12 saw their rates decline more than 80 percent in the period between August 2008 and February 2009, and another 18 experienced rate drops between 54 percent and 80 percent. Only one municipality showed an increase at 34 percent. The goal of the program is to reduce deforestation by 80 percent by 2020. As Jaymi recently wrote, the decreases are also due to increased policing. The Brazilian Minister of the Environment, Carlos Minc claims that over the last year the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources “seized 62 boats, 237 trucks, and 44 tractors, and the federal police initiated 650 probes and arrested 298 people.”

In other words, lawyers, guns and money. Hey, whatever works.

Saturday, May 1, 2010 11:03 pm

“Say goodbye to science in Virginia.”

Virginia’s attorney general, Pat Robertson acolyte Ken Cuccinelli (and although I call him Robertson’s acolyte, I should clarify that I have no evidence suggesting Robertson ever sexually molested Cuccinelli), has gone fishin‘:

Now, it appears, [Cuccinelli] may be preparing a legal assault on an embattled proponent of global warming theory who used to teach at the University of Virginia, Michael Mann.

In papers sent to UVA April 23, Cuccinelli’s office commands the university to produce a sweeping swath of documents relating to Mann’s receipt of nearly half a million dollars in state grant-funded climate research conducted while Mann— now director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State— was at UVA between 1999 and 2005.

If Cuccinelli succeeds in finding a smoking gun like the purloined emails that led to the international scandal dubbed Climategate, Cuccinelli could seek the return of all the research money, legal fees, and trebled damages.

“Since it’s public money, there’s enough controversy to look in to the possible manipulation of data,” says Dr. Charles Battig, president of the nonprofit Piedmont Chapter Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, a group that doubts the underpinnings of climate change theory.

Mann is one of the lead authors of the controversial “hockey stick graph,” which contends that global temperatures have experienced a sudden and unprecedented upward spike (like the shape of a hockey stick).

Translation: Cuccinelli’s going to try to create a whole new East Anglia brouhaha in Charlottesville, and never mind that the East Anglia scientists were cleared of all accusations of wrongdoing. Prediction: He’ll find something that he doesn’t understand, claim that it is a Bad Thing, and laugh up his sleeve as the scientifically illiterate media go along with him.

Even if my prediction is wrong, and even granting that a state AG has a right and even a duty to ensure that state funds are not misused, given the lack of probable cause to believe anyone has done anything wrong*, this strikes me as political harassment, pure and simple.

*”Somebody said some guys at a different university in a completely different country did something wrong (but they really didn’t)” does not constitute probable cause. Just sayin’.

UPDATE: What Cuccinelli is up to when he’s not on fishing expeditions:

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli apparently isn’t fond of wardrobe malfunctions, even when Virginia’s state seal is involved.

The seal depicts the Roman goddess Virtus, or virtue, wearing a blue tunic draped over one shoulder, her left breast exposed. But on the new lapel pins Cuccinelli recently handed out to his staff, Virtus’ bosom is covered by an armored breastplate.

When the new design came up at a staff meeting, workers in attendance said Cuccinelli joked that it converts a risqué image into a PG one.

The joke might be on him, said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

“When you ask to be ridiculed, it usually happens. And it will happen here, nationally,” he said. “This is classical art, for goodness’ sake.”

Apparently just being a screwup at his job wasn’t generating enough persecuted-Christian hormones to warm the cockles of Cuccinelli’s Robertsonian heart, so now he’s pulling an Ashcroft and draping the government’s iconography. Yo, Ken, from one Christian to another, stop making us look bad, bro.

Previously.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 9:57 pm

Fraud

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:57 pm
Tags: , ,

Mother Jones likes to say it does smart, fearless journalism. Here, it talks about how climate change can cause kidney stones (and other health ailments). Which is fine. But do these smart, fearless journalists think to mention the SNAKES? Why, NO! No, they do NOT! Is it because they’re stupid or because they’re afraid?

Smart, fearless journalism? I think not.

Monday, April 26, 2010 8:38 pm

Climate change: Making a decision amid uncertainty

For the record, my views haven’t changed …

… I’m just suggesting there’s a way to proceed that acknowledges the level of uncertainty, even if the real level is lower than the apparent level.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 11:10 pm

Preserving more wilderness …

lets us sequester more carbon. The return on this investment could be among the greatest in human history, and — my favorite part — Goldman Sachs wouldn’t have to be involved.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 10:25 pm

James Inhofe, likely abuser of process

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:25 pm
Tags: ,

Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma thinks not only that global warming is a fraud (despite zero evidence for believing it) but also that scientists supporting the theory should be criminally investigated.

And the thing is, if Republicans retake the Senate, Inhofe will once again be a committee chairman with subpoena power. The fact that he is batsh*t, in the pocket of Big Awl AND dumber than a box of rocks will be no protection.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 12:01 am

Yes, this winter’s snowfest and global warming are compatible

Filed under: More fact-based arguing, please — Lex @ 12:01 am
Tags: ,

And I’m going to let someone who actually understands what in pluperfect hell he’s talking about explain why:

Another interesting result from the Changnon et al. (2006) paper (Figure 2) is the relationship between heavy snowstorms and the average winter temperature. For the contiguous U.S. between 1900 – 2001, the authors found that 61% – 80% of all heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches occurred during winters with above normal temperatures. In other words, the old adage, “it’s too cold to snow”, has some truth to it.

Note his careful caveat that the data are not completely unambiguous on this point, but as a general basis for understanding, it’s pretty strong.

Oh, and more science. Suck it, denialists.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 11:57 pm

Odds and ends for 2/3

Penn State “Climategate” scientist cleared of falsifying data: Three of four charges are dropped, including one claiming he destroyed e-mail; the investigating committee decides it isn’t competent to assess the fourth and punts to a different committee.

Eated: The FDIC closed six banks Friday, bringing the total for the month to 15. Six was the total for the month of January a year ago.

A cautionary note about the strong 4th quarter of GDP: Never, in 50+ years’ worth of data, has a quarter’s GDP growth of 5.7% coincided with a drop in private hours worked (-0.5%). Not sure what that means, but given that we know that productivity growth right now is being driven by layoffs, not capital investment or technological advances, and that 90% of that GDP growth was attributable to stimulus spending only, something’s fishy here.

Lessons from the AIG meltdown from one bureaucrat who sat at the table: I suspect that his conclusions are good because of, not in spite of, the fact that he worked for a state and not the feds.

Contributing factors vs. “but for” factors: Barry Ritholtz divides contributing factors from “but for” factors in deciding how much blame to apportion where for the economic crisis. What’s a “but for” factor? But for X, the crisis wouldn’t have happened. His three major but-for factors? “Ultra-low [interest] rates; unregulated, non-bank subprime lenders; ratings agencies slapping AAA on junk paper.” What about Fannie and Freddie? Contributors, yes, but not but-fors because they arrived so late to the subprime game.

MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan carves the president a well-deserved new one. Perhaps he hasn’t heard what happened to Ashley Bancroft when she did the same to his predecessor. Who’s she, you ask? Indeed.

If the Democrats had the brains God gave a billy goat, this wouldn’t be happening, but Republican pollster Frank Luntz has laid out a strategy for Republicans to use in fighting financial reform, and I’m pretty sure that because of previous Democratic inaction, Luntz’s strategy will work.

David Rosenberg (via Zero Hedge) says this is all far from over: “We ran some simulations to see what would have happened in 2009 without all the massive amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Instead of real GDP contracting 2.4% for all of 2009, it would have been close to a 4.0% decline. And, as for the last two ‘positive quarters’ — well, Q3 would have been -1.0% QoQ [quarter over quarter] at an annual rate and -1.5% for Q4 (as opposed to the +5.7% annualized print). Still no sign of organic private sector growth and here we have the Fed discussing exit strategies and the Obama team about to soak it to the rich (for anyone who makes over $250k). This is what is otherwise known as a ‘low quality’ recovery.” On the bright side, at least he puts paid to all this “The stimulus didn’t help!” nonsense.

James Fallows explains how circumstances now prevent the traditional conception of bipartisanship from functioning in American politics (at least in Congress). I understand all this — quite well, in fact. Indeed, millions and millions of ordinary Americans understand all this probably as well as Fallows does. The question is: Why is it that so many of the people whose job it is to understand this — David Broder, Chris Matthews, Maura Liaason, and I could go on and on and on — do not understand this? Relatedly, because they do not understand this, why do they still have jobs? Digby gets it: “Can anyone argue that the village just sees all electoral losses as a result of the losing party failing to be “centrist” and “bipartisan” enough?  It doesn’t matter what  the real factors are that drove the electorate.”

Way-cool animated model of the solar system: Go here for hours of family fun!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 11:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/29

Gettin’ back at ‘em: Wall Street’s 10 Greatest Lies of 2009 and 10 Ways to Screw Over the Corporate Jackals Who’ve Been Screwing You. For informational purposes only; no endorsement implied. IANAL. Void where prohibited. Etc.

Waykewl pitchers: Time’s “The Year in Pictures 2009,” National Geographic’s “Top Ten Space Pictures of 2009.”

Denzel in the house: Denzel Washington came to the Davidson-Penn game last night to watch his son’s team lose to the Wildcats. (Malcolm Washington converted a 3-point play for the Quakers’ final points of the game.)

Connecting the dots: Fecund Stench does an excellent, if scary, job of it.

I’m sure the Right-Wing Noise Machine will apologize to the Dixie Chicks right after it excoriates Ted Nugent.

Following in the footsteps of the other death merchants: Like the tobacco industry before them, the health-care industry, not satisfied to mess things up at the national level, is now also messing things up at the state level.

Attention, deficit hawks: Despite what you may have learned in Right-Wing Math Class, a $900 billion health-care program that’s paid for is NOT as big a problem as a $9 trillion unfunded liability.

Chase and Citibank are dropping out of the FDIC 4K program. Uh, what does that mean, you ask? Basically, they’ve found a way to do more gambling with your money.

Two Panthers are going to the Pro Bowl, RB DeAngelo Williams and DE Julius Peppers. RB Jonathan Stewart’s final stats may outshine Williams’s. Peppers, on the other hand, is tied for 305th in the league in tackles through Week 16, with 39; ranks tenth overall, and sixth among defensive ends (fifth among DEs in the NFC), in sacks; tied for 177th in passes defended (eighth among DEs), with five. In his defense, he is tied for third in the league with five forced fumbles and is among only four DEs in the league who have returned an interception for a touchdown.

Carbon gap: All the blather about a carbon/environment/clean-energy bill is overshadowing an ominous fact: China is going to eat our lunch in this arena … if we let it.

Quote of the day, from Bruce Schneier: “Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” So let’s 1) stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on equipment and people that don’t do what they’re supposed to do and 2) stop making flying commercial any more of a miserable experience than it absolutely has to be. Thank you.

Another quote of the day, from Osama bin Laden, which we really ought to look at again before rushing off to start new wars in Yemen and Somalia: “All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”

John Dugan owes us trillions, and if he can’t pay, I say we have the Mafia (who pay sales taxes, if nothing else) break his legs.

Pat Buchanan: Still crazy.

Speaking of crazy: It’s time to stop giving Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., air time. He handles it worse than I handled Jell-O shots, which is pretty bad.

I wouldn’t call it a “fix,” but it’d definitely be an improvement: NYU online-journalism guru Jay Rosen suggests the Sunday talk shows start fact-checking their guests. Unlike Jay, however, I wouldn’t wait ’til Wednesday to post the corrections. That ought to be happening in real time, online and with live screen crawls.

Speaking of fixes, if we want to fix the terrorism problem, we have to start with the engineers. They’re dangerous, I tell you. Including my brother.

Mashup du jour: This is genius.

Attention, police: You can’t Taser people just because they don’t do what you want them to do anymore. Not that all that many of you were doing that to begin with, just as almost none of you hit people over the head with your batons just for the hell of it. But those few of you who have been doing this are now on legal notice that you need to stop.

Elections have consequences, and the biggest consequence of the 2008 election so far is that the people who worked hardest to elect Barack Obama president have been serially and collectively screwed.

Reasons to freak out: Number of Americans who’ve died this year for lack of health insurance: about 45,000. Number who’ve died from salmonella: about 600. Number who’ve died from terrorism, including all those at Fort Hood: 16. Let’s keep this in mind before we soil ourselves, shall we?

Parker Griffith didn’t just take a congressional seat with him, he also took some of the Alabama Democratic Party’s voter-registration data. His primary is June 1, so get your popcorn early.

And I’ll bet you thought the story of Orly Taitz and the birthers couldn’t get any weirder: BZZZT! Wrong!

OK, maybe the world really WILL end in 2012, because it sure can’t keep going like this: DougJ at Balloon Juice for the win: “Let’s be frank: at this point, there is no real difference between Michelle Malkin and the Washington Post editorial page, none between Marc Ambinder and Matt Drudge, none between the Republican Congressional delegation and RedState. We have Jim DeMint holding up the confirmation of the head of the TSA while simultaneously acting as the point man for Republican criticism of the TSA … and he’s getting a lot of traction in the very liberal media. Maybe there is no value in saying this over and over again, but our public dialog really, really sucks.”

And, finally, just because it’s cool and you deserve a reward for reading this far:

Monday, December 28, 2009 9:09 pm

Odds and ends for 12/27

Hmm, what else can we screw up in a way that screws poor people worst? Hey, I know! The estate tax!

John Fox can have another year if he wants: So say the Panthers, although they’re not talking any kind of contract extension with him now (he has a year left). I have mixed feelings about this, upon which I’ll elaborate in a separate post.

Utterly un-self-aware: Jonah Goldberg presumes to pass judgment on someone else’s competence.

Utterly un-self-aware, cont.: Before Republicans criticize Democrats on national-security issues, they need to take a few history lessons, starting with the 9/11 commission report.

Related memo to Joe Lieberman, on the off-chance that he can read: How ’bout before we start a third war, let’s take a minute and figure out how this would-be airplane bomber got a visa? (Newsweek offers the strong beginning of an explanation.) Because the purview of the Senate Homeland Security Committee you chair does not extend to foreign policy or strategic (let alone tactical) military planning. You ass.

At least one legitimate criticism can be leveled at the Department of Homeland Security, and John Cole levels it.

One thing liberals applaud Obama on: Tightening restrictions not only on lobbying, but also on when and how ex-industry officials can go to work for the government, so that agencies aren’t “captured” by the companies they’re supposed to regulate. Watch that change get undone the second a Republican retakes the White House.

Which is fine, except that I haven’t heard them come up with an alternative solution to the problem: Blue Dogs Bayh, Landrieu and Conrad say cap ‘n’ trade is DOA. Relatedly, chemicals from power plants in their states are killing trees in the mountains of mine.

Your tax dollars at work: Despite the recent removal of caps on taxpayer assistance to Fannie and Freddie, which already totals $111 billion, they’re resuming foreclosures next week. You’re welcome, guys.

Not just no, but, hell, no: Not content to throw women’s rights under the health-care bus, the evangelistas are now trying to get the failed policy of abstinence-only sex education incorporated into health-care reform. Guys, we tried your flavor of Teh Stoopid once already and got a big jump in unwed pregnancy to show for it. Go. Away.

Tremors: The last time Iran got this shaky, the Shah was ousted. That may or may not mean the current regime will fall. But it almost certainly means blood in the streets, much of it likely innocent. Great.

Antiterrorism 101, which means most current and former government officials probably haven’t read it: Spencer Ackerman: “It’s never sufficient just to observe that a terrorist group has a presence in Country X. We have to ask ourselves: what are the conditions that allowed for said terrorist group to take root? If we don’t, we simply can’t devise an effective strategy against the terrorist group; and we come close to guaranteeing that we’ll flail and make the situation worse.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009 3:19 pm

Odds and ends for 12/19

The GOP’s 2010 narrative, courtesy of non-GOP Eli at Firedoglake: “Look, we were the ones who voted against giving Wall Street hundreds of billions of dollars, who voted against that tool at the Fed who doesn’t care about your job, who voted against forcing you to spend your hard-earned money on junk insurance you can’t afford to use.  Obama and the Democrats are screwing you over to funnel money to corporate fatcats, and we’re trying to stop them.” I bet it works, too.

Global-warming conspiracy theoristsat the Pentagon.

The health of the commercial banking industry, as summarized by Peterr: If you’re the FDIC putting your budget together for 2010, “you don’t double your receivership budget if you think bank failures are slowing down.” Fun fact: The figure being doubled was itself almost doubled in mid-year 2009 from what it was set at at the beginning of the year, because of the growth in bank failures.

Glenn Beck, cracked: When I was a kid, Cracked was the less nuanced competitor to Mad magazine. But in the Internet age, Cracked has found its footing. Consider this unpacking of the Glenn Beck phenomenon, which includes this gem: “The difference between a Glenn Beck conspiracy and the coronation scene in Carrie is Carrie didn’t overreact as hysterically.”

Different standards: Can you imagine the media hissy fit if Democrats were to try to filibuster an Iraq-Afghanistan spending bill just to delay some other legislation that was part of the GOP agenda? But when Republicans do it to try to delay health-care legislation, it’s perfectly OK, or at least unremarkable.

Blech: I started off my Christmas break with sinuses stuffy AND running AND hurting, and a lot of chest congestion. I’ve hit the Neilmed bottle twice, and it has helped a little but not as much as I had hoped.  Rather than playing in the snow with Hooper and Victoria, which is what I wanted to do, I’ve spent most of the day in bed. On the bright side, the streets appear navigable, so I should be able to run to the store tomorrow for the appropriate junk food to consume during Panthers/Vikings.

Speaking of which, I am probably deriving far more amusement than I should from the thought that the teams will be playing tomorrow night on the frozen tundra of Bank of America Stadium because the Vikes are now an indoor team. But I’m not under any illusions about who’s going to win, just as I hope John Fox is not under any illusions that Jerry Richardson is going to keep him on.

Saturday, December 12, 2009 9:13 pm

Odds and ends for 12/12

It ain’t just me: The AARP also apparently has sussed out that this proposed bipartisan deficit-reduction committee is just a stalking horse for gutting Social Security and Medicare without Congress standing in the way.

Jackasses du jour: Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and Summit (Colo.) Daily News Publisher Jim Morgan, Katz for defrauding his customers and Morgan for firing one of his journalists for writing about it (i.e., doing his job). May you both rot in bankruptcy early in the New Year and learn the joys of seeking a job in the Bush-league Depression.

It ain’t the climate they’re worried about: In a vacuum, an Ipsos/McClatchy poll finds, a bare majority (52%) of Americans supports cap-and-trade. But 60% support it, even if it would raise electric bills an average of $25 a month, if it also creates “green” jobs. My takeaway? Jobs are Job 1.

Quote of the day, from commenter “liam” at PlumLine: “If we go to clean renewable energy, and it turns out that the global warming claims were wrong, we still end up with cleaner air and are not dependant on foreign oil. … If we heed the skeptics, and do nothing, and they turn out to be wrong, then our planet will have become a complete disaster, and it would be too late to reverse the damage.”

Quote of the day runner-up, from David Dayen: “This is the worst possible time to put on plastic armor and go into your backyard and yell “Wolverine!” in arguing for cutting the deficit. It’s not a matter of being resolute, it’s a matter of being foolhardy.”

Monday, December 7, 2009 9:57 pm

Odds and ends for 12/7

It’s not a game, but somebody forgot to tell the Labor Department:

The real Climategate. ‘Nuff said.

Remembering Mark Pittman: This guy was the real deal.

And if we follow this line of logic to its painfully obvious conclusion, we learn …: Warren Buffett thinks federally subsidizing a competitor of his Business Wire would be bad. How long before he concludes the same thing about subsidizing another of his key investments, Goldman Sachs?

Fire ‘em. And lock ‘em up: Someone at the FDIC is passing inside information. Mary Schapiro needs to be fired, beaten and driven across the landscape like a mangy bison.

Clarity: This is bizarre, in a good way — Zero Hedge and Google have formed a partnership to, among other things, translate government financial info into plain English.

Your flawed premise. Let me show you it: Two (out of the more than 6,000) members of the Academy of Motion Picture Whozawhatsis call for Al Gore’s Oscar to be rescinded in light of the hacked e-mails about global warming. Which would be fine except that Al Gore never got an Oscar. The Oscar went to the director of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Who was not Al Gore.

Opaque is the new transparent: A government meeting on open records and transparency is closed to the media and public. Write your own punchline.

Bummer: Obama rules out drugs, hookers as economic stimuli. Dang.

Someone remind me again who the terrorists are?: AIG execs threaten to walk out en masse if they don’t get their bonuses. Door. Ass. Quoth Digby: “This could be Obama’s equivalent of Reagan and the air traffic controllers if he wants it to be.” Precisely.

Well, yeah, if, by “narrow, ideological interest group” you mean “three-fourths of voters”: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., says only a few politically motivated people want a public option for health insurance.

How did I miss this?: Slate had a “Write Like Sarah Palin” contest. On the down side, to be competitive I’d’ve had to drink at least a case in one sitting.

Silenced: Former Guantanamo prosecutor Morris Davis, who once resigned rather than run what he thought was a rigged system of justice at Guantanamo, has been fired from the Library of Congress for continuing to criticize the military-commission system publicly and calling former AG Mike Mukasey out for the pants-wetting anti-American baby he is. The ACLU has taken Davis’s case. Good.

Blessings: Former Fox “News” host Eric Burns counts his: “I have several. Among them is that I do not have to face the ethical problem of sharing an employer with Glenn Beck.”

Quote of the day: From Balloon Juice’s John Cole, on “bipartisan” health-care reform: “You know, as much as our national political chattering classes are enamored with the baby Jesus, I find it amazing that none of them ever managed to hear the story of King Solomon. … every Senator apparently [is] eager to rush home to show off their half of the bloody baby.”

Quote of the day runner-up: From Doc at First Draft, on the Dallas Morning News’ plan to have its news editors reporting to advertising execs: “You can say that there’s a line that’s drawn and that we don’t cross it. That’s all fine and good, but when you keep moving the line the way the DMN has now, you are never sure if you’ll cross the line or the line will cross you.”

Uh, dude?: Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., nominated his girlfriend to be a U.S. attorney. That’s not good, but as Marcy points out, Baucus is responsible for an even bigger screwing than that.

So, Bowl Championship Series, how’s that Jenna Jameson-led abstinence campaign going?: Former Bush White House spokesliar Ari Fleischer compares the current college-football bowl system, now despised by a miniscule 85% of Americans, to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as an irreplaceable tradition.

Inevitable headline: Doh!: Cartoon character C. Montgomery Burns outpolls Rudy Giuliani in NYC mayoral race.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 10:21 pm

Odds and ends for 11/24

  • Memo to college football’s Bowl Championship Series: Hiring Ari Fleischer to improve your image is like hiring Jenna Jameson to be the spokesbabe for abstinence.
  • Just a few questions for the global-warming deniers who claim the recent hacked scientist e-mails prove global warming is a hoax: “Which studies were compromised, how? Be specific. Cite papers and data sets. What is the evidence? Where is it? What work is affected? How? Show me the evidence that says so. This supposed scandal involves perhaps a half dozen people; how does it affect the work of the 3,000+ others whose work makes up climate science? How does it affect the work that was done before the alleged culprits graduated from university? The work from before they were born? Of the 30,000(ish) studies that make up climate science, which ones are undone? Where is the evidence? Be specific … show us exactly how and why?”
  • BONUS: Newtongate: the final nail in the coffin of Renaissance and Enlightenment ‘thinking’
  • And relatedly: “The number of Americans who believe global warming is occurring has declined to its lowest since 1997, though at 72 percent, it’s still a broad majority. The drop has steepened in the last year-and-a-half — almost exclusively among conservatives and Republicans.” And this Republican invites you deniers to just go right on fooling yourselves.
  • Did I see that right in the paper this morning — that Detroit’s 80,000-or-so-seat Silverdome was sold for $583,000? Yup. I saw that right. Wow. There are more expensive houses within two miles of mine. The thing cost $55.7 million ($222.7 million in 2008 dollars) to build back in the 1970s. I don’t think Detroit real estate can go much lower.
  • Robert Reich, in a nutshell, on what’s wrong with health-care reform without a real public option: “Our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to … our private, for-profit health care system. Except that now private health insurers and Big Pharma will be getting some 30 million additional customers, paid for by the rest of us.”
  • Your stupid: Let me show you it: A Democratic Senate aide suggests that people who favor a public option are being “stupid” by criticizing Democratic senators who don’t. With support for a public option at 72%, BuggyQ at First Draft explains who’s really being stupid.
  • Your stupid: Let me show you it, The Sequel: Ezra Klein points out a basic flaw in the argument that the health-care reform bill will increase the deficit so we shouldn’t pass it: “I’m confused by the budget hawks who that take the line: ‘This bill needs to cut the deficit, and I don’t believe Democrats will cut the deficit, but since the actual provisions of the bill unambiguously cut the deficit, then I guess Congress won’t stick to it.’ People who want to cut the deficit should support this bill, and support its implementation. The alternative is no bill that cuts the deficit, and thus no hope of cutting the deficit.(Emphasis added for the C students out there.)
  • Asked and answered; or, Your stupid: Let me show you it, Reloaded: Michele Bachmann, the batsh*t insane congresscritter from Minnesota, asked the other day why Democrats didn’t support her. Because she seemed genuinely puzzled, the kids at TPM put together a photo essay.
  • Strange: I don’t know what’s stranger — that Lincoln, Nebraska, is the second-strangest city in the country or that Nawlins didn’t even make the top 75. (Raleigh was #34, not all that far behind LA at #28; Florida was the strangest state, which will surprise no one who has ever read Carl Hiaasen; and N.C. came in 48th out of the 50 states plus D.C.)
  • Stranger: If Santa got drunk and started Twittering, the results might look like this.
  • I’ve got your newspaper war right here. (Photo NSFW) As my friend Jon Lowder, who tipped me to this, said, “Somehow I don’t see this kind of action breaking out in the heated battle between the N&R and the W-S Journal, but we can dream.”

In fact, I think that’s what I’m going to go do right now. I may or may not blog again anytime soon this weekend, so if I don’t, Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Monday, November 9, 2009 8:43 pm

Maybe they really do worship trees

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:43 pm
Tags: ,

Critics of people who believe human behavior is driving climate change have, on occasion, suggested that to these people, anthropogenic climate change is a “religion.” Apparently, at least one judge agrees:

In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that “a belief in man-made climate change … is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations”.

The ruling could open the door for employees to sue their companies for failing to account for their green lifestyles, such as providing recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel.

Let me file a brief amicus brief in this case: Science and religion are not the same thing. You moron.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2009 11:47 pm

Cool

Using temperature data including that relied upon by skeptics of global warming, statisticians consulted by the AP confirmed that, “Superfreakonomics” notwithstanding, the globe is not cooling. (I’d’ve thought the disappearing polar ice cap would’ve been proof enough of that, but I’m an English major.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 8:13 pm

His accuracy record is 100% … wrong.

That’d be Sean Hannity. And ThoughtCrimes offers a good reason why we should be concerned about this. Hint: got a life jacket? Second hint: and a BIG gun?

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