Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm in

I've been sitting on a fair amount of cash and just today put a large chunk on a socially responsible index fund (DSEFX), that tracks the S&P 500 pretty closely. We'll soon see if now was the right time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

They're baaack - more credit card scammers with nonexistent global warming conferences

Inel has the goods on these credit card scammers/potential identity thieves. Same thing as before: a fake conference on global warming ("Working Group on Global Warming and Climate Change") that isn't going to happen in November in London. Presumably the same goal as before: get personal information off the registration forms, and try to get credit card numbers from a fake website pretending to be that of a real hotel.

I hope both skeptics and believers in climate change learn about and stay away from these guys. Wherever you stand on the issue, they're looking for a way to reach into your pocket.

I submitted a complaint to IC3 last time, by the way, and heard nothing. I don't think Inel did any better with the London police. I'd guess they're waiting for the problem to get bigger first.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Casablanca/Palin mashup needed

News item:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has made a crackdown on gift-giving to state
officials a centerpiece of her ethics reform agenda, has accepted gifts valued
at $25,367 from industry executives, municipalities and a cultural center whose
board includes officials from some of the largest mining interests....

About a quarter of the entities bestowing gifts on the governor are
represented by one of Alaska's most influential mining lobbyists....

On forms disclosing the gifts, Palin, who is the Republican vice
presidential nominee, routinely checked "no" when asked whether she was in a
position to "take official action that may affect the person who gave me the

Records show that 23 of the gifts were offered during Palin's
early months in office, when she was pushing the legislature to address a state
corruption scandal by passing a package of ethics reforms....

Palin has come under fire for speaking out against a statewide
initiative, Proposition 4, that would have imposed costly environmental
regulations on mining operations....

So someone with more video editing skillz than me just needs to float Palin's head on top of Claude Raine's. Maybe even blank out the last part of the audio and substitute this dialogue:

I'm shocked - shocked! - that there's corrupt gift-taking in here.

Your gifts, Governor Palin.

(Crossposted to the Obama website.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Oreskes-Nierenberg thingy

This is very inside-baseball climate blogging, so normal humans might not be interested in reading it. I don't even reach a final conclusion, so even more reason not to bother with this. Still, I've tried to understand the Oreskes-Nierenberg controversy with some difficulty, and here's what I've got so far:

Naomi Oreskes is a respected science historian, hated by climate denialists for her work charting a lack of scientific controversy over climate change.

William Nierenberg was a respected physicist who, very late in his career, became an extreme climate change skeptic and helped found the George Marshall Institute, a worthless denialist spin machine. His son, Nicolas Nierenberg, understandably attempts to defend his reputation.

This fight, unlike others, isn't a standard Oreskes-versus-denialists.

Oreskes traces the beginnings of climate denialism to a National Academy of Sciences report published in 1983, saying the science in the report was fine and appropriately frightened, but Nierenberg's synthesis of the report ignored the science (she makes a similar version of this argument here and I believe in a forthcoming book, but I haven't focused on those). This presaged even more emphatic moves by the George Marshall Institute and countless other ideologues to deny the science.

There's much Sturming and Dranging over other stuff, but the question of ignoring the science is the key - so is Oreskes right? To my knowledge, she's done more work on the historical issues than anyone, so her fairness is an important issue. And unfortunately, the report that's the basis of all the argument isn't online. The Executive Summary is online though, and it clearly doesn't ignore the science. To the extent Oreskes can support her argument from the summary, I think it really comes down to this excerpt:

(b) We do not believe, however, that the evidence at hand about CO2-induced climate change would support steps to change current fuel use patterns away from fossil fuels. Such steps may be necessary or desirable some time in the future, and we should certainly think carefully about the costs and benefits of such steps; but the very near future would be better spent improving our knowledge (including knowledge of energy and other processes leading to creation of greenhouse gases) than in changing fuel mix or use. (Chapters 1, 2, 9)

So the question is whether Chapters 2 and 9 support Nierenberg's point (not Chapter 1, though - see below). If they don't, there's not much left of Oreskes' argument (maybe the full synthesis has more science-twisting, but the Executive Summary is what everyone reads). William's posted some pages from the report here, maybe he'll do more. Or maybe I'll finally get down to the Stanford library and look it up myself.

One last note - I know from experience that newspaper editors will sometimes edit Op-Eds without notice to authors, so problems with Oreskes' Op-Ed might not be all her fault.

UPDATE: See Nicolas Nierenberg's (NN) comment to this post. He points out that Chapter 1 is the synthesis chapter written by William Nierenberg (WN). Since that chapter is only supposed to synthesize the work of others, Summary Point 20(b) has to accurately reflect Chapters 2 and 9. I've edited this post to reflect that.

Also, at least one of the chapter authors was mad at WN:
As far as the summary statement of the Report was concerned, as the Preface states: there were "no major dissents". That means no one chose to fight with the chairman. It was poor, sickly job, deliberately made so for political reasons characteristic of the corruption of governmental purpose in the Reagan regime. Naomi Oreskes has it right.

UPDATE 2: Nicolas adds that Ausubel, not WN, is the primary author of the synthesis.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Start-up problems

My wife's friend operates a start-up business in Karachi. It was 100 feet from ground zero of the attack. It's totalled. Fortunately for them, though, no employees were in the office. Many others were in far worse shape.

Not the usual hazard you expect in trying to start a business.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Even McCain's fig leaf on torture is a lie

I knew that McCain betrayed his anti-torture principles by allowing CIA to torture while prohibiting the military from doing it. I didn't know that military interrogators could be temporarily designated as CIA officers. There is nothing left of McCain's anti-torture stance.

UPDATE: Somewhat tangential issue regarding Troopergate. Palin's use of her official power to fight her ex-brother in law is unquestionably corrupt, but I had thought it had a modest level of justification in him being a rogue cop. Turns out though that many of the allegations aren't as bad as she says.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shorter Michael Scherer: what idiot said "by their fruit ye shall know them"?

The headline above paraphrases Time Magazine's Michael Scherer, criticizing the Obama campaign for pointing out McCain's long record of opposition to alternative energy. Scherer points to promises McCain is now making and says these outweigh his record, even if the promises are vague.

Some historical figures may disagree with that analysis. See Gristmill for a different view. I'll just add one additional point, that one can look to a candidate's record for an assessment of his judgment. Even if every promise McCain now makes is sincere, his record of past mistakes is an appropriate argument for voting against him because he has bad judgment.

UPDATE: Scherer admits that examining the record is a legitimate technique, so some credit where some credit is due.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A question for Bob Woodward

If this new, supersecret counterinsurgency technique is so game-changing in Iraq, why hasn't it been used in Afghanistan, where things have been deteriorating for over a year?

Maybe I'm too hard on Woodward, but he seems to be the David Broder of confidential sources. Broder takes the conventional wisdom on any subject and pronounces it like an amazing revelation, or possibly something he claims to have heard from a local yokel somewhere. Woodward's books on the Iraq war does the same thing with confidential sources whose information just mirrors conventional perception of whether the war's going well or badly, whether Bush is a good or bad leader, etc.

The utility of either journalist is limited. Maybe a slight edge for Woodward in providing sources for historical analysis, long after the fact.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Brinley Evans, 1967-2008

Brinley Evans was a good friend of mine from high school. She died last week after a long battle with breast cancer. Brinley was a family and immigration lawyer in Toronto, survived by a great husband and two young children. The obituary's here.

I have nothing original to say about what a shame it is to lose touch with great friends. My main knowledge of her is as a teenager and a little bit older. She was fiercely protective and nurturing of children even when she was only a little older than a child herself. We did have occasional contact over the years, though, and I know she created a happy life for herself and her family.

Anyway, I'm thinking that when her kids are older they'll use whatever the Internet's become to learn more about their mother. Maybe they'll come across this and see how she touched people even when she was young, made them laugh, and shared the occasional feeling that high school was a parochial trap, but one that you could also escape (or outlast) with the help of your friends.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hope versus belief in holy war

I will agree there's been a slightly unfair attack on Sarah Palin regarding the "holy war" issue. The full quote:

“Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”

People from a non-religious background might miss that praying that the war is God's plan is different from announcing that it's God's plan. What the full-throated Palin defenders then miss, though, is that the gap between hoping something is God's plan and believing it to be God's plan is likely pretty small. A believer who thinks God's approval or disapproval is discernable and extends to virtually every action would presumably believe that the Iraq war has God's support, or the believer would oppose the war. So Palin might not be making the assertion as a matter of faith, but to the best of her judgment it is a holy war.

On the other hand, her Lincoln quote-mining appears to be one of the many fake Lincoln quotes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More McCain campaign backing away from cap-and-trade

More retreating from McCain's promise of a weak version of cap-and-trade, by McCain surrogate Tim Pawlenty:

First of all, anything that adds cost to energy prices right now is going to be viewed with a great amount of concern. And so, you notice the cap and trade debate has kind of faded into the background and it’s unclear what that would look like when and if it reemerges. I would also state Sen. McCain supports that approach, but how you do it is really important....you can argue that the world, the globe is warming as it always has for natural reasons. But I think the weight of the science indicates that at least some of it — you know you could argue it’s half a percent or something more substantial, you know — is caused by human behavior. So there are some things that we can reasonably and voluntarily do to reduce the human impact.... in the wake of this energy crisis, where people are, you know, struggling to pay the bills, that debate on cap and trade has fallen to the background for understandable reasons.

Bush waited until after the election to backtrack, but we're seeing it beforehand.

UPDATE: Some good news though - Palin is now waffling about anthropogenic climate change instead of outright denying it, and denying that she previously denied it. Progress through lying! (Though her statement that you need to do something about it regardless of whether it's natural or artificial hardly lends confidence in her ability to analyze.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Full remarks of Republican National Convention speakers on climate change

Think Progress says the words "climate change" and "global warming" were mentioned all of one time each at last week's Republican National Convention. Neither mentions were by McCain, let alone by his denialist running mate.

I dug up the two references. Here's the first:

In a world of hostile and unstable suppliers of oil, this nation will achieve strategic independence by 2025....By expanding domestic oil and natural gas exploration and production; by changing the way we power our cars; by investing in clean, alternative sources of energy ... and under President McCain's leadership we will become a leader in the new global green economy; by protecting our environment and addressing climate change; by promoting energy efficiency; and, finally, by cracking down on the speculative pricing of oil.
That grammatically-suspect reference is from the remarks of Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno.

The other reference:
If John McCain was just another go-along partisan politician, he never would have led the fight to fix our broken immigration system or to do something about global warming.

But he did!
From Joe Lieberman, who apparently failed to notice McCain not leading the fight on Lieberman-Warner, the less-than-adequate climate-change legislation from this year.

That's the extent of attention this issue received, which should give some idea of what priority it would get in a McCain-Palin Administration.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Refuting the lying McCain-Obama comparison email that's going around

Maybe this response will help other folks that have received similar emails from their relatives or friends.

Note that the "sources" the email uses are general info about each candidates, not specific cites. They're counting on people not bothering to click the links and instead just seeing a reputable website and thinking it must be true. In other words, including a few reputable links does nothing to verify the lies.

Finally, I'm including these refutations not because I necessarily agree with the policy positions (I wish Obama supported gay marriage) but because I want to counter deliberate lies meant to elect a far worse candidate.

The text of the email I'm responding to is at the bottom of the post.

1. New offshore drilling: Obama said he would support it as part of a comprehensive plan:


2. Judicial activism: conservative judges are more likely to strike down laws and regulations than liberal judges


One can go back and forth on judicial activism forever, but basically one person's judicial activist is another person's constitutionalist.

3. Military service: they got this one right! A+!

4. Time served in US Senate: 173 days is not the number of days the US Senate has been in session since Jan. 2005 when Obama joined it, not to mention all the days of Senate Committee work. It's simply wrong. McCain's been there for 21+ years, Obama for 3+ years.

5. Socialized health care: is Medicare socialized health care? If so, then both McCain and Obama count as "yes" here. Obama's program involves insurance subsidies, mandatory responsibility of parents to get insurance coverage for children, and a Medicare-like option, not a mandate, for those under 65.

good info here:


6. Supports abortion throughout pregnancy: a lie.


7. Troops out of Iraq immediately: another lie - Obama said one or two combat brigades a month, roughly equivalent to what the Iraqi Prime Minister has also called for. Obama's left unclear whether and how many non-combat troops would stay. Obama has wanted to increase troops in Afghanistand, which is impossible unless we draw down troop levels in Iraq:


McCain, by the way, tends to always support more US military involvement - for example calling for US ground troops to intervene in Kosovo in 1999:


8. Gun rights: Obama has for years stated he believed the 2d Amendment created an individual right to gun ownership, although like McCain he supports regulation. The difference between the two is how much regulation.


A big gun nut should support McCain, but this chart shouldn't lie about the difference.

9. Gay marriage: lying liars. Obama opposes gay marriage, supports civil unions.


Granted, he opposes the Cal. Prop. 8 initiative too (the initiative would amend the California Constitution to ban gay marriage). Hard to square that position except by Obama's believing that banning gay marriage should be flexible and therefore part of state law but not part of state constitution.

10. Tax increases: see Factcheck cited below, but I'll add that both McCain and Obama would increase deficits, with McCain increasing them far more. McCain's proposed repeal of business health insurance tax deduction is a huge tax increase as Republicans usually define it.

11. Official English: mostly correct! More info here, along with info on McCain's Spanish-language website pandering:

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/05/05/giuliani-spanish-2/ (unsure what Giuliani has to do with it)

12. Social Security for illegals: both McCain and Obama supported an amnesty program that would let illegal aliens join Social Security


This is related to one of McCain's many flip flop issues, though, so hard to say where he stands now. If someone he believes to be illegal makes fun of his hair, I'm sure he'll be against it.

Okay, taxes. This nonsense has been refuted by Factcheck.org, a non-partisan organization that Cheney referred to in the 2004 debates. I'm not going to go into specifics, but they're all here:


It's all wrong, and Factcheck concludes it's a deliberate lie.

Feel free to forward this to anyone you'd like!

Backseat Driving: http://backseatdriving.blogspot.com/

lying email that's being forwarded


Favors new drilling offshore US
Will appoint judges who interpret the law not make it

Served in the US Armed Forces
Amount of time served in the US Senate
173 DAYS
Will institute a socialized national health care plan
Supports abortion throughout the pregnancy
Would pull troops out of Iraq immediately
Supports gun ownership rights
Supports homosexual marriage
Proposed programs will mean a huge tax increase
Voted against making English the official language
Voted to give Social Security benefits to illegals
0% on home sales up to $500,000 per home (couples). McCain does not propose any change in existing home sales income tax.
28% on profit from ALL home sales. (How does this affect you? If you sell your home and make a profit, you will pay 28% of your gain on taxes. If you are heading toward retirement and would like to down-size your home or move into a retirement community, 28% of the money you make from your home will go to taxes. This proposal will adversely affect the elderly who are counting on the income from their homes as part of their retirement income.)
15% (no change)
39.6% - (How will this affect you? If you have any money invested in stock market, IRA, mutual funds, college funds, life insurance, retirement accounts, or anything that pays or reinvests dividends, you will now be paying nearly 40% of the money earned on taxes if Obama becomes president. The experts predict that 'Higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains would crash the stock market, yet do absolutely nothing to cut the deficit.')
(no changes)
Single making 30K - tax $4,500
Single making 50K - tax $12,500
Single making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 60K- tax $9,000
Married making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 125K - tax $31,250
OBAMA (reversion to pre-Bush tax cuts)
Single making 30K - tax $8,400
Single making 50K - tax $14,000
Single making 75K - tax $23,250
Married making 60K - tax $16,800
Married making 75K - tax $21,000
Married making 125K - tax $38,750
Under Obama, your taxes could almost double!
- 0% (No change, Bush repealed this tax)
Restore the inheritance tax
Many families have lost businesses, farms, ranches, and homes that have been in their families for generations because they could not afford the inheritance tax. Those willing their assets to loved ones will only lose them to these taxes.
New government taxes proposed on homes that are more than 2400 square feet. New gasoline taxes (as if gas weren't high enough already) New taxes on natural resources consumption (heating gas, water, electricity) New taxes on retirement accounts, and last but not least....New taxes to pay for socialized medicine so we can receive the same level of medical care as other third-world countries!!!

You can verify the above at the following web sites:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Obama's role in McCain's veep stumbles

With months to prepare, why did McCain find out politically-relevant information about Palin only two days before the election and had met her only once face-to-face? The Post buried a nugget in the last lines of this article:

But another official said the "process almost by definition is going to be back-end-loaded."

"We expected the last two weeks after Senator Obama made his selection to be pretty frantic," the official said.

In other words, they wanted to do their vetting based in part on finding the best person to match against whoever Obama selected, and waited for the selection. Except that Obama didn't give them two weeks, delaying the announcement so that McCain only had half the time. I think it's possible that the Obama campaign had figured this out and that it played a role in the decision to delay an announcement.

It's questionable judgment on McCain's part to cut down to two weeks what should have been a much more thorough process. Still more alarming is that they apparently failed to react to the unexpected contingency of Obama's delayed announcement when they should've kicked into high gear two weeks before the announcement, regardless of what Obama did.

A little like Edward's infidelity - regardless of whether the controversy should be part of the political process, it's the underlying judgment that's at issue.

And since I don't think it's been emphasized enough, Palin is a climate change denialist who thinks Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. As Mark Kleiman points out, she has a 21% chance of temporarily or permanently acting as President due to McCain's potential for disability or death at his age.

UPDATE: I've since read that the McCains met Palin in early 2008 too, but that hardly improves the vetting process.