Archive for July, 2009

Revealing slips of the tongue

Last week it was about the ‘stupid cops’ as racists by nature. This week it is about an editorial in the American Chemical Society. Watts up with that? carries a good, lengthy, rundown. At issue in Baum’s editorial:

William E. Keller wrote: “However bitter you (Baum) personally may feel about CCDs (climate change deniers), it is not your place as editor to accuse them—falsely—of nonscientific behavior by using insultingly inappropriate language. […] The growing body of scientists, whom you abuse as sowing doubt, making up statistics, and claiming to be ignored by the media, are, in the main, highly competent professionals, experts in their fields, completely honorable, and highly versed in the scientific method—characteristics that apparently do not apply to you.”

Perhaps also telling is that the outrage surprises and confounds and startles Baum. This is interpreted by some as evidence of the hubris and arrogance of those who have near religious belief in anthropogenic global warming. The response – blowback – isn’t just about differences of opinion. Rather it is in how an opinion is expressed. Many of the letters to the editor were about basic scientific values and processes and manners. Anyone who tries to rationalize this brouhaha as simple differences of opinion is completely missing the point.

Besides trying to ignore the integrity of scientific debate by the moral equivalencing attempts at “it’s just an opinion” there is also the effort to demean those who responded because some of the letters were abusive. As with the ‘stupid cop’ arresting an abusive citizen, the abuse is a problem with the individual and not with the point they are trying to make. To try to use such individual abusive behavior to ‘prove’ racism or global warming is nonsense but slips of the tongue reveal that it happens nonetheless.

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Climate Money

The Science and Public Policy Institute has published a paper by Joanne Nova titled Climate Money. The assertion is that something like $79 billion has been spent by the government on climate change related issues and it has not received a proper audit.

Monopolistic funding creates a ratchet effect where even the most insignificant pro‐AGW* findings are reported, repeated, trumpeted and asserted, while any anti‐AGW results lie unstudied, ignored and delayed. Auditing AGW research is so underfunded that for the most part it is left to unpaid bloggers who collect donations from concerned citizens online. These auditors, often retired scientists, are providing a valuable free service to society, and yet, in return they are attacked, abused, and insulted.

In other words, there is a lot of politics in this area of research and that means that there are a lot of folks who are making a living at keeping it going. That needs a proper balance.

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The problem with the police

It seems that the police chiefs tend to forget their customers and think it is the criminals. A recent example was where the police chief opposition was cited as a major factor against interstate concealed carry. The reason stated was that the police wouldn’t know who in their community was carrying weapons. Another way to see this is that the police were against self defense. Supporting this latter view is the fact that licensed concealed carry is not a factor of any significance in gun crimes that involve the police. That leads to the conclusion that the police are looking only at themselves and the criminals they seek as their customers and not the broader community of citizens.

This only supports the view of police short sightedness that is encourage by speed traps and other community revenue generation activity foisted on the police. As the police get dragged away from the idea of serving the community as a whole, the need for rationalizations for these distractions creates a dishonesty that serves no one.

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Terrified in spite of reality

It seems many do not realize it but it is a luxury to worry. Sometimes the worry gets out of hand. Hey, parents, leave those kids alone! is a review of the book Free Range Kids : Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy, “America’s Worst Mom” (Jossey-Bass, 256 pages, $24.95)

Her central thesis is this: life is good, people are mostly good, and kids are both hardy and more capable than we think. In fact, she explains, we’re living in what is “factually, statistically, and luckily for us, one of the safest periods for children in the history of the world.” The problem is that everywhere we look, we’re told otherwise. Which is why, perversely, in the safest of times, we’ve become the most neurotic parenting generation in history. We’re afraid of everything, with no filters, no sense of scale, and in no particular order: food allergies, strangers, poisonous plants, bumped heads, open toilets, rogue toys, Halloween candy, abduction, germs. We’re afraid we might not be perfect. We’re afraid our kids might fail. Skenazy gets it. Then she breaks it down. Her goal is twofold: take away the fear, then let the kids outside again, without the helicoptering parents hovering in the background.

It’s not an easy task.

There is so little to worry about that parents have to invent new things to fill their needs for worrying. It seems that this sort of creativity is a group effort that feeds on itself. Getting back to reality will indeed not be an easy task.

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The straw man, reduced

It is hard to say whether it is an example of building a straw man to gain research dollars, parlaying controversy for notoriety, or what. Nature? Nurture? Scientists say neither is about a report that claims to solve the debate about whether nature or nurture is responsible for people’s behavior.

“People have tried for centuries to shift the debate one way or the other, and it’s just been a pendulum swinging back and forth. We’re taking the radical position that the smarter thing is to just say ‘neither’ — to throw out the debate as it has been historically framed and embrace the alternative perspective provided by developmental systems theory.”

The straw man in this case is the proposition that responsible scientists have claimed it is an either-or situation. The big discovery in this research is that life isn’t so simple. The biggest deception is the pretense that someone with integrity thinks it is. The rationale for the straw man also smells.

“Language is so complex that people can’t imagine how kids could do it so well without it somehow being innate,” Samuelson said. “But if we steer clear of the nature-nurture debate and consider it from a developmental systems perspective, we can see how pieces of knowledge — which may not even seem related to language — build over time. It gets us closer to understanding the full complexity of language learning.”

This is reducing the nature versus nurture debate to the absurd and then using that to build a need for something else.

A good example of bad science: debating the arguments and not the issue.

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Grit your teeth: told ya’ so isn’t enough

Boomers to This Year’s Grads: We Are Really, Really Sorry (WSJ 10 June 2009).

In 1969, baby boomers took podiums at college graduations around the country and pledged to redefine the world in their image.

Forty years later, they have, and now they are apologizing for it. Their collective advice for the class of 2009: Don’t be like us.

Awareness is always a first step. The problem is that, despite these commencement speeches, awareness for many is still a long ways off. The mea culpa may have a motive more in line with the source of the apologies themselves

But Neil Howe, an author and historian who has studied the cultural impact of different generations on society, said the raft of apologies sounded like a ploy to absolve a generation of its mistakes. “You think about what an apology does, it allows you to maintain the moral high ground.”

It seems that some just can’t get away from it. Dissolving hubris is not an easy task.

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Palin, regrets

Redstate has a rather lengthy rundown on Sarah Palin and the Scum of the Earth that is worth reading. The first part of the post deals with the attacks on the family and the second the bogus ethics lawfare.

Palin has been a deep disappointment politically – she could have accomplished a lot more. Those of us who saw in her toughness, combativeness and joyful presence on the campaign trail a possible President are inevitably disappointed, as we’ve been disappointed again and again by Republicans – Sanford, Rudy, Fred, McCain, Romney – who one way or another always seemed to lack the fire to take the battle to the other side day in and day out for the cause. But as a human being, she walks away a success in a way that few people in Washington can contemplate, and few of her detractors could ever relate to. The salmon are biting, the sun is shining, the kids are playing, and the road is rising before her, and she’s going where she’s needed. If that’s the epitaph for good, decent mothers in politics, well, we’re a smaller, meaner nation for it.

The post is lengthy because it gets into specifics. It provides a good overview of how political battles are being fought these days and why the tactics and strategies might not be good for the long term.

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Lawfare: drawing the line

Scott at Powerline, A Philosophical Divide, says Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the committee, laid out clearly and eloquently the difference in judicial philosophy between Republicans and Democrats. Sessions draws the line and cites several examples to illustrate his point of view.

Down one path is the traditional American system, so admired around the world, where judges impartially apply the law to the facts without regard to personal views. This is the compassionate system, because it’s the fair system.

In the American legal system, courts do not make law or set policy, because allowing unelected officials to make law would strike at the heart of our democracy. Here, judges take an oath to administer justice impartially. That oath reads, “I do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and to equal right to the rich and the poor, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me under the Constitution and laws of the United States, so help me God.”

These principles give the traditional system its moral authority, which is why Americans respect and accept the ruling of courts, even when they disagree. Indeed, our legal system is based on a firm belief in an ordered universe and objective truth. The trial is a process by which the impartial and wise judge guides us to truth.

The talking point is the assertion that the SCOTUS nominee is worthwhile because of empathy. It is about whether words, like those in the laws, mean what they say or can be ‘interpreted’ to fit the needs of the moment.

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Nast politics infection spreading to worrisome levels

Drummond takes a look at the history of Nasty Politics and observes

To some degree, such artists of malice are an evil we must endure; the same protection of freedom which allows one idiot to dress up as Hitler and stomp down a street on the one hand, allows David Letterman to prove himself a moronic misogynist and thug on a nightly basis on the other. But a line has been crossed when elected officials act in such manner. Without naming names, it is sadly obvious that the political world has degenerated to such a condition. We now have the closest thing to one-party rule with deliberate public disparagement of all disagreement for the first time in two generations. And as long as the public puts up with such behavior, it will remain the new standard, or become even fouler.

If the public cannot discriminate between appropriate and improper or if it, as a whole, chooses not to make such a distinction, the time will come when small steps to rise above it will be insufficient. That is how revolutions come to be.

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Lawfare, ag, and managing the land

Carolyn Lochhead of the Chronicle Washington Burea posts a report about Crops, ponds destroyed in quest for food safety. It is about what large agriculture is doing in response to the episode of E.Coli in salad greens.

Invisible to a public that sees only the headlines of the latest food-safety scare – spinach, peppers and now cookie dough – ponds are being poisoned and bulldozed. Vegetation harboring pollinators and filtering storm runoff is being cleared. Fences and poison baits line wildlife corridors.

Some thing the ‘reduce to the absurd’, if this isn’t already absurd, is indoor hydroponic gardening. But there is another agenda that is evident in the report.

In pending legislation and in proposed federal regulations, the push for food safety butts up against the movement toward biologically diverse farming methods, while evidence suggests that industrial agriculture may be the bigger culprit.

It is also worthy of note that the draconian efforts by “industrial agriculture” are not predicted to be sufficient to cure their ills.

the industry rules won’t stop lawsuits or eliminate the risk of processed greens cut in fields, mingled in large baths, put in bags that must be chilled from packing plant to kitchen, and shipped thousands of miles away.

And, again, a source is quoted with the theme of the report.

“the big problem has been the mass-produced product. What you’re seeing is this rub between trying to make it as clean as possible so they don’t poison anybody, but still not wanting to come to the reality that it may be the industrialized process that’s making it all so risky.”

One the one hand you have the fear mongering about disease and tainted produce that is turned into massive lawsuits. That then generates an effort to sanitize the product which has environmental impact which can then be attacked. What is missing is the stimulus for the “industrial agriculture” in the first place and a proper comparison and contrast to its alternative.

Meanwhile, the target is put under the magnifying glass and, like the kid frying ants in the sun, there are some trying the technique on an idea the oppose to see much damage they can do and how long it takes to do it in.

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Politicizing defense: CIA or CYA

There are those who think the renewed speculation about prosecution of the previous administration is intended to distract attention from lagging approval. The recent brouhaha about another ‘secret CIA’ program is a part of that with the bonus of attempting to support the Speaker of the House in her assertions about being mislead.

Ace of Spades describes the situation: Big Scary CIA Program Democrats Are Freaked Out About? It Involved Plans To Kill Or Capture Al Qaeda Members In Wake Of 9/11

Here’s the odd thing, according to the article Bush and Cheney opposed the idea of issuing a ‘kill on sight’ order against certain al Qaeda leaders (though they did authorize it if captured proved too difficult or dangerous). Given our use of CIA owned and operated Predator drones that everyone knows about, what exactly is the big deal here?

Black Five takes a look at the CIA Assassination program in context of the problem with putting any national security brainstorming on the public table.

Apparently it is time to discuss another classified CIA program in public for political purposes. The leak comes from one of the two usual suspects, Congress as opposed to the media this time. Outraged Democrats looking to cover Nancy Pelosi’s exposed ass have decided to play games with what ought to remain a secret matter. Pelosi had claimed the CIA lied to her about waterboarding and other matters in direct contradiction to evidence saying it hadn’t. Now a group of Dems on the Intel Committee have decided they can help rehab her rep, score some political points against the evil Bush regime and distract the public from the economy by giving the media some red meat. Strange how the Bush crime family comes back in focus once the cunning plans to save the economy and country fall flat.

Say Anything provides his take in Scandalous CIA Program Democrats Are In An Uproar Over Was Authorization To Capture, Kill Terrorists

Which means that the whole kerfuffle isn’t nearly as scandalous as the self-righteous diatribes from Democrats, coupled with breathless reporting from their allies in the media, have led us to believe.

and in Whoops: Cheney Actually Did Inform Top Congressmen About CIA Program

today the former director of the CIA, Michael Hayden spoke out with no condition of anonymity, stating that he personally briefed top members of congress on the program, despite anonymous grumblings to the contrary. … the facts stand clear. Dick Cheney didn’t prevent the CIA from debreifing top members of Congress, against assertion to the contrary.

The issue at hand here is the propaganda campaign and how important topics like national security are being subjugated to other, personal or political needs to the point that intellectual integrity suffers.

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The ad hominem

John McCormack describes a case of the personal attack in People for the Chicago Way. It seems the recent SCOTUS nominee defense is centering on a case where there were questions about her judgment. The defense is in the process of character assassination against the plaintiffs in the case that the nominee ruled against and the SCOTUS did not agree.

This character assassination is being rationalized with the ‘other side did it, too’ method citing the Anita Hill episode in an earlier nomination. The problem with that is that Anita Hill was brought in as a character witness about the nominee with standing as an employee. That is an entirely different situation from bringing in a wronged plaintiff in a lawsuit to show the impact of jurisprudence and proper decision making.

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Asking questions, gaining consciousness

The Reclusive Leftist wonders about Feminists and the mystery of Sarah Palin. It gets into territory Dr. Santy has examined from a different perspective, that is, the territory of trying to make sense of nonsense. Governor Palin has served as a target for this behavior which puts it on the table for examination.

Which brings me to my first puzzlement: why don’t people bother to find out what Sarah Palin really believes? I don’t mean people as in the usual sexist freaks; I mean feminists.

But even weirder is what happens when you try to replace the myths with the truth.

after you’ve had a few of these myth-dispelling conversations, you start to realize that it doesn’t matter. These people don’t hate Palin because of the lies; the lies exist to justify the hate.

Speaking of slander, that brings me to my next big puzzlement: what is it with the feminists who just freely make shit up about Palin?

Besides, I know for a fact that the feminists spreading the lies about Palin knew they were spreading lies. Not to tell tales out of school, but: they knew. They were supplied with the correct information, and they chose to lie anyway. Why?

There is a presupposition that revelation is a first step to salvation. In matters of behavior driven by emotion, this leads to the rationale for the psychiatrist’s couch. In the lay arena, it is the idea of talking it out. The process allows one to see a bigger picture and that may lead to a better grasp of reality. Let’s hope …

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Implications being acknowledged

Carpe Diem reports on a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report to the point that Global Financial Crisis, Mortgage Tsunami, Housing Bubble Can All Be Traced to Federal Government Intervention to Create Affordable Housing.

The gist of it is that the federal efforts to make housing affordable created incentives that created business structures that bypassed normal safeguards. That was a primary factor resulting in the excessive inflation in the housing market and the unsupportable mortgage phenomenon.

This is a case of the ‘do good by government’ ethos producing tragic results.

The real tragedy of the government’s affordable housing policy is the impact on average Americans, particularly those of modest means. Millions of these borrowers, who were supposed to have been helped by federal affordable housing policy, have now been forced into delinquency and foreclosure, destroying their asset base, their credit, and in some cases their families.

Actions have effects and sometimes they are not what is intended.

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Lawfare and the responsibility of freedom

The WSJ published An Open Letter From Sarah Palin’s Lawyer, Thomas Van Flein that describes how the ‘death from a thousand cuts’ technique was being used in a lawfare campaign.

This is an example of Alinsky’s Rules for power about using one’s rules against them. It is also an example of the need for responsible citizenship and how it can be abused to the detriment of all.

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Dismissing what you don’t like, and getting personal

James Hrynyshyn illustrates the technique in Roger Pielke Sr. wades into the deep end.

It is hubris when you judge others. It is not honest when you make that judgment by selecting your data.

What is a ‘scientific’ approach you’d expect to see from a “freelance science journalist”? The same as from any scientist – an attempt to understand rather than to impugn. In Hrynyshyn’s diatribe he takes as gospel certain climate change alarmist conclusions and measures his opponent by that gospel. The ‘scientific’ point of view would be to consider the uncertainty in the measures, their precision and accuracy, and realize that global measures of such thing as temperature, ice extent, or sea level are not certain measures.

So, dismiss the person and pretend the discomforts do not exist. This is the same thing the NCDC is doing with the survey of surface stations. It is not the kind of thing a scientist does.

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Taxed Enough Already?

We are concerned citizens who have had enough of government waste, corruption, and intrusion into our daily lives. We are non-partisan, directing our angst at the collective failures of our entire Congress, Administration and State Legislature to follow and uphold the U.S. Constitution. We are devoted to making a difference and getting our elected representatives to listen to our voice – as they were “hired” to do. [ Reno Tea Party]

You don’t hear much about these gatherings but they are there, they are big, and they are growing. Perhaps because they don’t fit the major media meme, they are nonviolent, or they are not presented by politically correct ‘oppressed’ groups, their presence does not receive much publicity and their impact is minimized. This can also be seen in the response of the government to the April 15 T.E.A. (Taxed Enough Already) parties.

What was the response of the federal government? Mr. Obama said he had his own things to do and knew nothing about any tea parties. [Candace E. Salima, Washington Times]

These are (not yet, anyway) the typical leftist type violent revolutionists protest marches. Instead, they are family nonpartisan gatherings intended to illustrate discomfort with government policies.

JIM GERAGHTY: “This Fourth of July, a lot of grassroots activists will be holding their second round of tea parties – 612 at last count. If you attend one this weekend, go, enjoy yourself, get fired up, take reassurance and confidence that you’re not alone. But, if I may make a recommendation, try to walk away with something of a plan. . . . Hopefully, Tea Partiers this weekend will come away with plans to attend city council meetings, Congress member’s meet-and-greets, their town-hall meetings with constituents. Don’t be rude, but be firm.” Good advice. Posted at 4:47 pm by Glenn Reynolds

There are some who think everything will be fine and that we can trust the elected leadership. Others look at recent actions and become worried. A TEA party is a good opportunity to discuss the reality of the situation.

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Another soldier in the army of straw men

It is difficult to tell just what point is being made in James Hrynyshyn’s post What science is really all about. He cites Ken Caldera and creates a straw man.

just how silly it is to argue that anthropogenic global warming is bothing but a conspiracy theory propagated by disingenuous researchers (and former vice-presidents) who are only trying to line their own pockets

The assertion is made, appearing to bash the “climate contrarian” –

We’re highly incentivized to show that all our colleagues are wrong. If we could come up with good evidence that they’re wrong, we would be out there publishing it. The evidence just doesn’t exist.

This particular straw man is an elevation or a variant of the reduction to the absurd. In addition to the assertions about no evidence there is the ridicule inherent in “It shouldn’t be necessary for such scientists to make such observations. But it is.” The first comment exposes the issue.

In this era of big science, funding is from the government. That means that salaries are politically driven. It may not be a conscious conspiracy but it is a serious issue of motivation in that, if the scientists doesn’t propose to research what catches the public interest and doesn’t produce results in sympathy with public views, he will find himself short of funding.

It is true that evidence and proper logic should rule science. The fundamental issue with the climate debate really isn’t about climate but rather about the influence of politics in science. To make assertions as Hrynyshyn seems to that the ideal is the reality is to paint over an ugly reality.

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