Sunday, January 31, 2010
The effort to try and take him down has little to do with whether he's done a good job, which in reality is a bit of an open question. I actually think his aggressive reaction to criticism has been mistaken, resulting in a climbdown on the-minor-but-embarrassing mistake over the rate of Himalayan glacier melt (and some more dodgy citation is alleged for the IPCC Working Group II report on impacts here, which would also be embarrassing if true). As for Pachauri's main job of running the IPCC, however, I have no idea if it's run well or not.
Instead of focusing on something real, the inactivists first blamed him for the partial mistake about Himalayan glaciers and demanded he resign, which is just stupid. Slightly more realistic is pointing to his paid positions with some business and research institute organizations, and to contracts between those organizations and a nonprofit energy institute (TERI) that Pachauri runs, saying that constituted a conflict of interest. Pachauri responds that all money goes to his non-profit and not to him (he does get paid by TERI, however).
There's a lot of heat but little light. Roger Pielke Jr. waves some UN and WMO conflict policies for employees (Pachauri isn't an employee, he's unpaid) and says "Since we do not have details on Dr. Pachauri's activities or compensation from these various organizations and businesses, it is impossible to tell what, if any, conflicts actually may exist." Roger tried again later, arguing "IPCC Chairman Pachauri was making public comments on a dispute involving factual claims by the IPCC at the same time that he was negotiating for funding to his home institution justified by those very same claims."
Worth mentioning that the dispute, responding to criticism by the Indian government of the IPCC, only partially concerned the rate of Himalayan glacier melt. Also that the funding grant for TERI (no indication given that Pachauri was involved in negotiation, although he did make a favorable statement after it was given) was not principally about the mistaken claim that glaciers would melt by 2035. And that no one disputes that the reason for the grant - responding to melting Himalayan glaciers - is still valid despite the false 2035 claim. So Roger's overstating things, but what else is new.
This isn't nothing, though. I would say first, Pachauri would have a conflict of interest at the various boards he serves on if he doesn't recuse himself from decisions between that board and his nonprofit. I haven't seen this alleged, though, and even if it were, the conflict is at the board level and not at the IPCC.
At the IPCC, there's little question that its work can affect the future of the energy research institute that pays Pachauri a salary. This is the real issue that Roger seems to stumble around. The problem is that virtually every high level player in the IPCC will have a similar issue of having fingers in multiple pots that could be affected by their volunteer work at the IPCC. That problem can't be totally fixed for everyone, but it should be fixable at the highest level. The IPCC Chair and maybe a few other top officials should be generously-paid executive officers, and that should be their exclusive job, with the same conflict of interest rules that apply to top UN officials.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I guess he felt he hadn't comprehensively addressed the evidence for evolution. You can't - Darwin had compiled too much evidence to do the comprehensive job he had planned, and it's increased exponentially ever since. If you're trying to provide a tool useful for arguments with creationists, though, I wouldn't write a narrative book at all - I'd create a manual, something that allows easy referencing and searching for various arguments, maybe based on Panda's Thumb or the countless other resources out there. Dawkins kept recommending Jerry Coyne's book, Why Evolution Is True, and maybe that's a better book for the evolution champions.
The book would be an excellent read for someone who actually takes creationism seriously, but I doubt they'll read it (or this blog post). It might also be good for Dawkins fans who've read everything else from him and want something new - he's said his next book will be a children's book on myths, so the good science will be a while before we see it again. Everyone else should find more interesting content in Ancestor's Tale.
UPDATE: maybe worth adding that Greatest Show has received pretty good reviews, so most people disagree with me.
Bonus blogging: why in heck did John Kerry have to hire a conservative that was spreading, in a stupid or deceptive fashion, extensive pro-torture propaganda? If he wanted to reach out with an affirmative action hire of a conservative, there are plenty out there still who don't believe in torture.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Apologies from the management:
We have three bet periods -10, 15, and 20 years - and two bets for each period - an even-odds bet and a 2:1 bet in David's favor. The even-odds bet centers around a temperature increase rate of 0.15C/decade with a 0.02 void margin on either side (bet voids if temps increase between .13 and .17C/decade). The 2:1 bet centers on 0.1C/decade with a .01 void margin. Even-odds bets are for $1,000 each, and the 2:1 bets increase over time, with me betting $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000, and David betting half that. My exposure is $9,000; his is $6,000.
UPDATE: Crandles points out in the comments that he won $1300 betting on 2009 being one of the five warmest years at Intrade. Some other interesting bet options there, maybe.....
Sunday, January 24, 2010
One can critique the film's plot as not being especially deep, but that doesn't make it wrong. If it's at all helpful to the wingers, this kind of thing happened and is happening all the time. Instead of white Europeans and Native Americans, I saw a similar process in Burma between the ethnic Burmese military junta and the minority/hill tribe Karen people where the junta wanted to run a natural gas pipeline to Thailand, (with French and American oil company help). Jared Diamond's book Collapse discussed how gun-wielding Maori decimated the hunters of Chatham Island.*
I'll make these critiques of the Avatar story line in terms of accurately depicting our world:
- The natives remained completely united. That never happens. The colonizer always finds allies among the natives, exploiting existing rivalries and tensions.
- The natives don't want anything the moderns have. That's not true, although they might be better off without much of it - alcohol, opium, shiny beads, guns, and saggy pants.
- The natives are completely good. Also untrue - instead of bad guys versus good guys, the real world is more like bad guys versus less-bad guys. The distant or maybe not-so-distant ancestors of the natives almost always did what's being done to them, taking the land from someone who was there first. I doubt there's any human society that didn't do bad things on a regular basis to themselves or their neighbors.
None of the above excuses the worse sins of the invaders, of course.
We could say these aren't flaws in Avatar because the natives aren't human, but then it's also not much of an allegory for this world.
*Wiki does claim the Chatham Islanders were nonviolent, which strikes me as complete bull.
Readers will be relieved to learn that the violent action sequences in Avatar do not need to be repeated in the two sequels that Cameron's been talking about.
It seems pretty obvious that as Cameron plans it, the humans will still want the unobtainium, and won't be caught by surprise as was the case this time with a small human expeditionary force facing the globally-united Na'vi. So the sequel will be a massive human attack on Pandora - call it, say, The Humans Strike Back. It will end somewhat inconclusively, until the third movie where the Na'vi leave their world, get into an outer space battle, unexpectedly convert one of the bad guys to their side and then win. Call that one the Return of the Na'vi.
That sequence is all unnecessary. The key issue is that Hometree, which formerly blocked human access to the largest amount of unobtainium in hundreds of miles, is now gone. Obviously it would be better to have been saved - riches of Pandora are at the surface and all that -but I've learned in my environmental career that once you've lost, you move on.
So rather than fight each other, I can provide a completely different plot for the two sequels. In the first sequel, we have a Star Trek Next Generation-style plot, where everyone sits around a table and conducts dramatic negotiations that if they break down, could lead to violence. Fortunately, Pi'kart of the Na'vi realizes that they can let the humans mine the unobtainium where Hometree used to be, without further harm to the moon's environment. They also allow mining at other already-disturbed sites, and they offer cooperation on learning about the planet's biological wealth. Everybody wins!!
In the last movie, the Na'vi return to their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. We've already seen the hunting side, so this movie should focus on gathering. I suggest two-and-a-half hours of watching the Na'vi dig out blueish tubers from the ground. The climax would be a fifteen-minute struggle to pull out an especially-tough tuber, with a team effort victoriously resulting in a slow-mo explosion of dirt as the tuber is finally wrenched out.
No need for Cameron or the fans to thank me for the plot fixes.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
A single paragraph in the 3,000 page International Panel on Climate Change report has been shown to be wrong, correctly stating that the Himalayan glaciers are melting but incorrectly stating that they will be gone by 2035. This claim was never highlighted or given much importance by the IPCC. Google News returns 1,789 hits on this mistake. Feel free to draw your own conclusions about the comparison of news report numbers.
Regarding the IPCC mistake, Tim Lambert, John Nielsen-Gannon, and William Connolley have written the most interesting stuff. I think Tim shows this was an unusual mistake that was almost caught in the draft review process - I find that somewhat reassuring as just a screwup instead of an accepted procedure. From William's comments though, the section of the IPCC dealing with impacts needs to improve its game.
My unsupported speculation is that the mistake is tied into some internal, office-politics conflict among Indian climate scientists, and that has something to do with the sloppy work in this particular instance.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
While the Republicans had terrible policies with horrible results that earned them their current, out-of-power position, they were good at getting those policies enacted. So how did the Bush Administration react when the entire national electorate kicked Republican butts out? They offered one sacrifice - Rumsfeld - and then doubled down on their policies with the surge in 2007. And while the surge was a worse policy choice than initiating a drawdown as Bush agreed to in 2008, it was better than the status quo and somewhat improved Republican electoral outcomes in 2008.
Now we have one Democratic state rejecting one Democratic candidate who ran a lousy campaign, where the only clear fact is that the electorate supports the in-state version of health care that's planned nationally, and the Ds can't decide what to do.
The policy choices seem to me to be either pass the Senate bill unchanged combined with a possibility of improvements in separate legislation, or alternatively to work for a slight possibility of a few piecemeal reforms instead. How anyone can hesitate in light of those choices is beyond me.
The politics seem clear too - the Democrats need this achievement to have something to run on in November.
I'm not the political expert - maybe I'm missing something. But the Obama Administration, the Democratic party leadership, and any Democratic congressional member who doesn't push for it, all seem to me to be screwing it up.
There's some quote about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory that Lincoln might have said (I couldn't confirm). I think the Democrats are half way to doing it now. I still hope and think they can fix it.
I could care less about him, but the story's relevant to our political discourse and our role of trying to identify and support the best possible candidates. Ezra Klein says gossipy campaign books like Game Change are useless because the incentives are to suck up to winning candidates and kick the losers - standard Village journalism practice.
Understood, but when I read the chapter on Edwards, I felt like even more of a fool for being a supporter than I had previously. On the other hand, the chapter seems likely to be mostly correct, and quite a contrast to the political reporting during the campaign. All you heard during the campaign was how emotionally dependent John was on Elizabeth, and worries that her potential death from cancer might leave him emotionally dysfunctional in office. I'm not sure what should have tipped me off during the campaign and kept me from being a supporter, aside from the fact that establishment Democrats didn't like him (but I didn't trust them), and not-very-concrete arguments that he was superficial.
The book is useful in telling us how useless the campaign reporting was. What to do about that information isn't clear, though.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
With Democrats now having lost their 60th seat in the Senate, we can assess how likely it is that left-wing hopes will come true in 2010 for better bills on climate change and health care. The political left isn't strong enough to be solely responsible for the slow work on legislation, but they played their role.
The right wing view is that the electoral defeats for Democrats are a repudiation of the Democratic platform. The real world view is that the Democratic platform hasn't been tried, and the electorate is repudiating inaction.
Democrats can complete the repeat of 1994 by not passing health care, or they make use of their more limited options they have now, like the House passing the Senate bill without alteration, and moving forward. Similarly, there are a few Republican Senators who don't want to be on the wrong side of history regarding climate change, so there's still a chance there, but on their terms.
Anyone on the left who thinks the 2010 elections will allow for better legislation in 2011 needs to have their head examined. The only semi-logical reason for opposing existing climate and health care legislation is to believe they make things worse than the status quo. It's a completely wrong belief, but that's how far you'd have to go to make any sense out of the opposition from the left.
Finally, for any half-way significant bloggers who wanted the Democrat to win the seat and who felt like getting in recriminations and negative public perceptions in the hours and days before the election finished: you're part of the problem. You should fight for victory when it's possible rather than exude a sense of defeat. Now, on the other hand, is the time for recriminations.
UPDATE: what I should've mentioned is that the moderate-to-conservative Dems are the most at fault, and they're the ones who will lose their seats if the public judges the Democrats to be failures. From their incorrect perspective, there's a risk if Congress passes something too strong, but I think there's even more of a risk if Congress does nothing. They're being idiots.
There are people who have been trying to save Haiti, just as we're trying to save Africa. You just can't keep throwing money at it cause the dictatorships there just take it all.
Then there's Pat Robertson, who thinks a pact with Satan is how Haitian slaves overthrew French slave owners. Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice nails it:
Forget the religious disagreement—the “Curse of the Revolution” fantasy has been passed down from bigot to bigot for two hundred years and counting because it’s simply impossible for them to believe that a bunch of African savages and half-breeds could win an actual war against the majesty, however tattered, of the extremely white French nobility.Only Satan can explain how blacks can win a war against whites, apparently. And btw, God supports Christian slaveowners when non-Christian slaves fight for freedom.
These blatant examples of bias aren't the end of the story. I should start by repeating what I've said before that racial bias is so widespread in society/the planet, that saying X statement is prejudiced doesn't mean the maker of X statement is any more biased than anyone else, just that the maker ought to consider the implications.
Anyway, here is the "We didn't break it, but we might own it" Haiti post coming from Talking Points Memo:
As of today, for all practical purposes, Haiti is an American Protectorate. Its own government, to the extent it ever functioned, has now collapsed....Other states and international institutions will contribute aid and resources. Perhaps the UN will expand its current mission in the nation, and assume formal responsibility. But the only nation capable of keeping Haiti from absolute collapse is the United States. Irrespective of the bodies through which we choose to work, the responsibility is ultimately ours.(Emphasis added.)
How this response unfolds, how we structure our responsibilities, whether we choose to assume them alone or through international institutions, what sort of future we design for Haiti - these are vital questions. Ultimately, they are also political questions that will be decided by political actors. And the answers they provide will shape and constrain a wide array of seemingly unrelated policies.
Haiti is not Iraq - it had and it continues to have an elected government, and it's up to Haitians to design their future. We have a responsibility as fellow human beings to help, but we're not in charge.
I recognize that the government, fragile even before the quake and even more so now, can't provide the normal level of direction. But thinking we can or even should control things is the wrong approach.
More broadly, the sense that "these people weren't running things and need us to run it for them" that I get from the argument has some disturbing implications. I'm sure they're unintentional, but they need to be examined.
Bonus unrelated blogging: Ed Yong might be my favorite general science blogger for combining quality and quantity (with libertarian/conservative/atheist science blogger Razib Khan a close second). Yong's piece on metabolic rates of social insect colonies as superorganisms is a great example of his stuff. I'd known the general idea that bigger animals have slower metabolism, which I ascribed to surface to volume ratios. I can throw out that idea now - it must have something to do with ecological efficiency, and not just simple physiology. That's pretty interesting.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Too short a timeline give noisy results. Too long a timeline, say from 55 million years ago to today will show a cooling trend, but miss the fact what's happening in the last century. Finding something at a realistic time frame is what counts, and cherry picking short timelines whose results change in a single year isn't a realistic frame.
UPDATE: Tamino provides a sophisticated version of the same argument here.
Bonus blogging: This statement, "“tundra as we imagine it today will largely be gone throughout the Arctic. It may take longer than 50 or even 100 years, but the inevitable direction is toward boreal forest or something like it,” strikes me as unlikely (I was proud of myself for recognizing the picture of tundra in the middle of the post is from Denali Park, though). Much of the tundra is many hundreds of miles north of boreal forest, or up at elevation, or both. It's not going away.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
There are nine members of my wife's family in the Bay Area, and when I found out no one had the 72-hour emergency kits we're supposed to have, I put them together as presents (in-laws loved the kits, too). My emphases were making them easy for me to put together, easy for people with no camping experience to use, and ones that would last as many years as possible without needing replacement or maintenance. In return I was willing to pay more, be more bulky than the minimum possible, and have limited control over food selection.
72-Hour Home kits:
- Water in plastic jugs, 3 gallons/person
- Iodine water-purification pills in case water goes bad (after 6 months, assume it's bad), in case it's leaked away, or in case you need more water (UPDATE: chlorine tabs have been suggested as lasting longer in storage than iodine)
- Mountain House 72-Hour Emergency Meal Kit, 1 per person
- Mountain Oven Flameless Heating Kit: each kit can be used 5 times and can prepare 2 meals at a time. So 2 kits per two people in a household, but also 2 kits in a single-person household.
- Plastic silverware
- Emergency phone numbers/contact list
The above is the absolute minimum. Meals can be eaten in their pouches, so no dishes are needed. Flameless heating kits eliminate the need for cooking stoves (water has to be purified, though). Emergency meals also can be eaten with cold (purified) water although they taste bad. The food and flameless kits should be good for at least 3 or 4 years, and probably more than twice that long.
Your kit should be stored outside your home in case you can't get inside. So in your yard, your car, or somewhere else. The only maintenance this requires is to simply look every six months to see if the water's leaked through the seams of the plastic jugs - it happens fairly often.
Additional useful items:
- Cheap flashlight/headlamp
- Spare batteries in clear plastic bag so you can see if they've become corroded over time
- Plastic tarp and cord as a rain shelter
- Swiss Army knife
- Emergency shelter, 1 per 2 people
- Cheap or expensive first aid kit (I went with cheap kits from the local drugstore)
- Cheap rain gear, spare shoes and clothes
I also made better-than-nothing emergency kits for everyone's car, in case you're stuck on the road:
- Half-liter water bottle (enough to keep you hydrated for a few hours until you can find a water source. Keep more than one if you have kids.)
- Iodine (can disinfect murky water from ditches, and you might need to) (or chlorine tabs)
- Emergency shelter
- Small amount of long-lasting food (I found tins of honey-roasted peanuts that were good for four years)
- Cheap rain poncho (I didn't include this, but should have)
- Emergency contact list
- Shoes you can walk many miles in, if that's not what you normally wear
- Cheap, tiny flashlight
Additional tricks for both kits: put the contact lists in their own ziplock plastic bags to reduce the chance that they'll mold/get wet over the years. I've also found that the metal caps on the iodine bottles tend to rust over a few years, so I bagged them in their own ziplock bags, and poured a little table salt in the bags to absorb humidity.
Hopefully this is all unnecessary.
Comments/suggestions welcome, as always.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
At my most cynical, I think this is a bank shot by the more strategic climate denialists who are worried about the Christian envangelical environmental movement getting out of hand, and see this as a way to slow it down. Only slightly less cynically, it's the creationists trying to glom on to a slightly less discredited form of science denialism than their own dreck, and using climate denialism as a gateway drug to the harder stuff.
I just finished watching Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, the Nova documentary about the lawsuit that blocked using public schools to teach intelligent design as a way to introduce creationism in the classroom. It's a good documentary although it could've gone faster (which is why Netflix is great - I watched most of it at 1.4x speed, and some of it at 2x speed).
The documentary is a useful reminder to realists and a caution to climate skeptics, in that it shows a tiny handful of real scientists, professors even in the relevant fields, who deny evolution. If you're a climate skeptic that just hates it whenever we compare your views to creationism, this is a problem. The view of a few credible scientists who oppose the mainstream view on evolution either negates the existence of a consensus, or alternatively the climate skeptics have to acknowledge having a few aging climate researchers on their side isn't sufficient proof to deny the climate consensus.
I think the most reasonable view is that a small number credible scientists can go off the deep end and believe something unreasonable even in their own field. That's what happened with evolution and happened in the climate field.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Where some of them go off the rails though is in trying to salvage anything from Strom Thurmond's racist legacy. We hear from The American Spectator:
Although Thurmond was born and raised in the segregated south, he eventually renounced his past. In 1970, he became the first Southern senator to hire a black staffer and he was the first to recommend a black man to be a federal judge. He then sent his daughter to a heavily integrated public school.The "first Southern senator to hire a black staffer" is all over the wingnutosphere; many of them are not content with this and expand it to first senator from anywhere to hire an African-American staffer.
So how do all these claims play out in the real world? Thurmond never renounced his past, so that's wrong. As for the rest, I got into a discussion at TigerHawk (I hope I was polite, some folks seem a tad offended). I'll save time and recopy it here:
1. Tigerhawk posted something interesting recently about an apology deficit as a failure to take responsibility. Applies in spades to Thurmond. A few affirmative action hires, if they even occurred, hardly makes up for his past.
2. We're agreed the quote about first Southern Senator with black staff is likely wrong. (The South had black senators in the Reconstruction period, and they likely had black staff.)
3. Your NY Times verification on the first staff hire isn't a NY Times report, it's a Maureen Dowd Op-Ed, which get little to no fact-checking and therefore does little to help you. If you're happy to have Thurmond on your side, I suggest you take Dowd as well. She's useless.
4. Your Time and CNN sources on first staff hire are somewhat better, but they're tossed-off half-sentences, not central to the reports so they provide not too much confidence in their accuracy.
5. Time and CNN confirm that American Spectator was wrong about the date of the hire - it was 1971.
6. You have not provided outside support for any of Spectator's other claims.
7. The CNN transcript led me to Thurmond's biographer and her book, "Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change." She discusses racial issues extensively. On page 413 she describes his hiring of Tom Moss, in what looks like an attempt to beat out Fritz Holling from hiring a black aide first. Nowhere that I found did she describe this as the first by a post-Reconstruction Southern Senator.
8. Given South Carolina's racial history, I think it's quite likely that Moss was the first black hire for a post-Reconstruction Senator from that state. That's all that's been established on that issue.
9. Lots of misinformation in the Right blogosphere that Thurmond was the first Senator from anywhere to hire a black aide. (Some misinformation in the mainstream as well.)
10. The biography says on page 486 that Thurmond helped a black man chosen by, wait for it, Jimmy Carter, become the first black federal judge in South Carolina. Again, one state and not the entire South.
11. Looks like Judge James Lopez Watson (appointed by Pres. Johnson) precedes Carter's selection as the first judge to head a federal court in the South:
No evidence of Thurmond's involvement. There may be other judges too. There's a black judge appointed by Carter in Alabama, but I'm not sure if it's earlier or later.
12. I just did a quick check on the integrated public school claim, didn't come up with much info.
I could check on putting his daugher in integrated schools, but I think I've wasted enough time on this relic. It's very good that he's out of the Senate. UPDATE: I overlooked a good link by my debating opponent that seems to establish the school claim, so they got one thing right.
I'll just add again that even more common than the unsuccessful Thurmond redemption claims is the assertion that William F. Buckley renounced racism in the mid-1960s. I've looked all over for this mid-1960s quote, and I can't find it. There's a statement of his in 2004 that "I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong." He's clearly distorting his overtly racist statements in the 1950s. He may be getting credit 40 years earlier than he deserves.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
There are some of my fellow space nuts who think they've proven that it's at least possible for a massive scientific conspiracy to exist, and they point to research about Jupiter's moon Europa as their example. Astronomer Richard Greenberg, member the Galileo space probe team, alleges repression of the view of his team that Europa has a thin ice sheet and not a thick one that separates its oceans from the surface. He's got a book out that I've read, Unmasking Europa, that makes exactly this case.
At first read, it gives some support to an argument that parallels denialists, saying
It seems bizarre that political clout would be used to promote a scientifically weak position...[but] the situation is both familiar and disturbing....Deviation from [the scientific "party line"] is risky business....less secure [researchers] may feel pressure to toe the party line or move on to other fields.
Things go downhill from this point on though, if you're trying to use Europa as a metaphor for the alleged climate conspiracy. It starts with Greenberg's next paragraph:
The political aspects of the story of Europan science play out largely within the scientific community. In this way they are different from the even more ominous attempts at political control of science from the outside, such as the recent efforts to discredit the scientific consensus on climate change.
Yup, Greenberg might agree that there's a conspiracy related to climate science, except that it's about powerful interests trying to obscure the understanding that we are changing the climate.
On a broader level, Greenberg and other thin-ice supporters think science can work through the peer-review process, saying "even the hard-line isolated ocean are starting to hedge their bets" (page 34). He's doing exactly what the reality-based faction are suggesting to climate skeptics, that they prove their case in and through the scientific process.
Greenberg also argues that political power in Europa research was highly centralized in a small team that controlled access to Galileo imagery (current NASA missions allow easier and quicker access to data), and one government agency, NASA, indirectly controls their future careers. Climate change involves thousands of scientists in a broad range of fields - climatology, physics, oceanography, geology - where a small shadowy cabal can't run everything.
Another major distinction between Europa and climate is that Greenberg isn't arguing that his view has been completely excluded from the scientific process. He has even been included on the design team for the next mission to the Jupiter system that will definitively resolve the issue, although not until 2026.
So denialists will have to look elsewhere to show that it's even possible to find an example of a scientific conspiracy at the level they're describing.
Setting this all aside, Greenberg's book is well-written, persuasive, and has gorgeous photographs. He's also quite willing to name names about who's unfairly working against his viewpoint.
I have no idea who's right, and my opinion would be worthless anyway. Reading the wiki article on Europa is a good balance to Greenberg's point of view (the article acknowledges the lack of consensus, of course). I can say, however, that Greenberg's contrarian inclinations are obvious. For example, he claims it's good that the probe's main communication antenna failed, because this kept the researchers from being overwhelmed with data and could concentrate on a small set of images instead. That is simply ridiculous. Being a contrarian isn't ridiculous -they can sometimes make the big leaps - but it's something to keep in mind.
Greenberg and his book will either be considered a visionary or a footnote when the next probe finally gets to Europa. It'll be interesting to find out which.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
I also think the theory, that casual contact increases prejudice, conflicts with the tendency of racial conflicts to eventually resolve over long periods of time of several generations or more. Sometimes they’re resolved through genocide or racial expulsion, but in the modern period it seems like relaxation and eventual merger of the two particular races/ethnicities is more likely.
Maybe the way to make sense of this is that casual contact creates occasional “pockets” of intense interaction, where (for example) intermarriages and business relationships have effects similar to the military effects you describe – maybe not so much on the married couple/business partners who likely are less prejudiced, but in their immediate social circle.
And maybe short-term studies of casual contact miss some of these effects that happen rarely but lead to decreased prejudice.
Just guessing here….
Bonus Yglesias blogging wherein I quote myself: Matt thinks it's no big deal that potential Al Qaeda affiliates tried to contact Latin American drug dealers, because they failed. I think this is wrong, and part of the broader framework of the left wrongly thinking our porous borders are no big deal for national security. I babbled:
I’m going to somewhat disagree with Matt on this. If the African guys truly were Al Qaeda, then the incident shows an attempt, an attempt, by Al Qaeda to link to drug trafficking networks. That’s worrying because drug traffickers and immigrant smugglers have fairly effective systems of getting through US borders. It isn’t something to dismiss as unimportant.
Unfortunately, wingnuts on the right have grossly distorted and exaggerated it to serve their own loony interests on Cuba and Venezuela. It’s really a problem that one of our two political parties has no interest in actual, effective policy.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
I think torture could result in accurate information, but only when there's time to corroborate the tortured person's claims and inflict more severe torture if it turns out he or she lied. Game theory has shown that repeat player games are the ones that establish a level of trust.
That's the main problem with many ticking time bomb scenarios, including the hypothetical one that didn't actually happen last Xmas - the tortured person's best strategy, if he's got useful info for the other side, is just to lie during the few minutes that he needs to lie. Soon he's in the hands of the police.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
In a letter responding to Inhofe and Barrasso, Sutley said the act "cannot be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions," suggesting that the administration would not block projects simply because they would add carbon dioxide to the air.