Saturday, May 29, 2010
Bay Area Local: endorsing Teresa Alvardo in Santa Clara County, April Vargas and Dave Pine in San Mateo County
I've known April Vargas and Dave Pine, both running for separate county supervisor seats in San Mateo County, for years as past and present members of my organization's board of directors. You won't find a harder worker than April, in many ways the anti-politician due to her lack of egotism. Dave is also smart and committed, and I think he's running without real opposition.
I'll use this opportunity to get back on my hobbyhorse against candidates loaning money to their campaigns. I don't object to candidates donating to their campaigns, but loaning money creates a situation where a winning candidate receives a direct financial benefit from contributors whose donations to the campaign then gets paid to the candidate to retire the loans. Candidates and contributors might not think of it in those terms (although I'm sure some do), but it's a messed up system that should be changed. A legal prohibition might run into problems from the current Supreme Court that thinks unlimited money is fair because everyone is free to loan millions to their campaigns, but it's worth a shot. Teresa and April haven't loaned money to their campaigns, but each have opponents who have.
Finally, I might as well disclose that I'm personally thinking about running for local office - haven't made any final decisions yet. Could be interesting....
Friday, May 28, 2010
Carnival of Space #155: Short, Medium, and Haiku-long
Backseat Driving: Not your typical SETI conspiracy
Weird Sciences: Extreme Tech: Genetic Engineering and Genetic Programmer [Part-I]
Weird Sciences: Could There Be Life on Every Planets
Arts Nova: The 2010 NASA Moon Art Contest
Cheap Astronomy: Cheap Astronomy in Transit podcast
Centauri Dreams: Burying the Digital Genome
Alice's Astro Info: Ikaros - Japan's Solar Sail
Robot Guy: administering space
Out of the Cradle: 2010 Metroplex Moonday Machinations
21st Century Waves: Obama's New Space Policy: an Encore!
Spread Science: Why Does One Bit Matter to Voyager?
Planetary Blog: The Most Amazing Image of Enceladus Cassini Has Captured Yet
Astroblog: Using the Gimp for Astrophotography (Part 2)
Chandra's Blog: Innovative Exhibit Connects Art and Science Through X-Ray Light
Discovery News: Can a Black Hole Have an 'Aurora'?
Urban Astronomer: What is the Face on Mars?
The Spacewriter's Ramblings: Soaring to the Stars
Next Big Future: Combining MHD Airbreathing and IEC Fusion Rocket Propulsion for Earth-to-Orbit Flight
Next Big Future: Mach Effect Propulsion Experiment May Generate 50 Milli-Newtons in 2010
Cosmic Log: Two faces of a grand galaxy
Cosmic Log: Spaceships get day in the sun
Cumbrian Sky: Gazing across the Gulf of Time...
Medium and bad-haiku long, combined together:
Weird Sciences: Extreme Tech: Genetic Engineering and Genetic Programmer [Part-I] Other elements besides carbon and other solvents besides water can form the basis of alien life, with examples.
Weird Sciences: Could There Be Life on Every Planets Runs through theories of biogenesis, argues that some experimentation shows it's not so unlikely, but that a discovery of life elsewhere in our solar system could help settle the issue.
Arts Nova: The 2010 NASA Moon Art Contest The experience of judging NASA's moon art contest, and how judging criteria was applied.
Cheap Astronomy: Cheap Astronomy in Transit podcast Snippets on lunar spacecraft explosions being different from scifi, and speculating on how to research problems on a strangely earthlike, planetary civilization.
Centauri Dreams: Burying the Digital Genome An article about the need to preserve not just digital documents and multimedia but the formatting used to display them, describing project in Switzerland is now creating a long-term database of these materials in hopes of preserving knowledge that might otherwise be lost.
Ah, the Rosetta Stone!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Cutting down protesters and forests in Madagascar
I don't have a well-defined opinion about the current government and president. He unceremoniously deposed the prior president, but the prior president's democratic credentials were shaky at best, and many people joined the protests that drove him out. So while that's unclear to me, it is clear that the government shouldn't be shooting protesters. And obviously it should be preserving the last bits of Madagascar's irreplaceable nature instead of taking bribes to destroy it. I can't forget the incredible lemurs we saw there, and how few Malagasy ever see them. It would be tragic to lose them.
The church members are asking people to contact the State Department and Congress and asking them to pressure the Madagascar government. I think that's a good idea, and I'll suggest one other: modify the Kerry-Lieberman bill so that countries facing tariffs for their failure to act on climate will face additional tariffs if they're buying illegal wood and aiding climate-harming deforestation. Those monies could then be used to help fix the problem
Sunday, May 23, 2010
In defense of argument from authority, and when it goes too far
I’ve been trying to stay out of this, but this is just hilarious. Brian, Sean’s been working for years deploying capital to reduce CO2. He knows electricity markets better than 99% of people in the world, certainly better than you or Matt. Along with his father Tom, he’s written peer-reviewed papers on the subject.
So when he comes along and suggests that the Economics 101 cliches that substitute for energy policy knowledge among most bloggers might be off-base, their reaction is … to assume he’s making remedial errors about policy?
So let's unpack the appeals to authority. Roberts is arguably an expert on policy, but while he's been cagey about it, I think he quietly disagrees with Casten but doesn't like the criticism that his fellow Grist blogger has received. I'm just guessing that from the several comments he made that defended Casten as an authority but not Casten's particular arguments.
So leaving aside Roberts' expertise, we've got Casten. Had Casten written only, "I don't have time to spell out the problems with cap-and-dividend, but I want people to realize that my renewable energy business that I've put years into will not benefit from cap-and-dividend," then I would've put that into my "this gets some weight" category and moved on. Instead, however, Casten makes arguments that he apparently considers easily understood, but make no sense:
a tax on your competitor does not make you wealthier. This is so obvious it shouldn’t need repeating.and in a comment:
The theory that all power prices will rise giving the CO2-free source a higher margin is predicated on an absolutely perfect transfer of cost through the systemAt the margin, a tax on your competitor and not on you will help you out. Yes, sometimes it won't, but if Casten's going to argue that it never helps in the renewables biz, then he needs to supply a missing argument. And the theory that power prices will rise doesn't depend on 100% perfect pass-through, it just depends on more than 0% pass-through.
I feel competent to judge these arguments, especially the second one, and by making them Casten has decreased my willingness to defer to his authority.
That's the way I'd handle it - climate denialists seem to think "appeal from authority" is a sufficient response to the mountains of science academies screaming bloody murder about AGW, but I think there's more work to be done than simply that. I think they have to rely on conspiracy arguments for why almost all experts could be so wrong, and that's a pretty slender reed.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Whether to join "Offend Every Religion and Non-Religion Day"
Still, I wish I could do something to support free speech while not purposefully seeking offense, especially against any one religion. So here's my drawing:
Those who seek to take offense by seeing it as Mohammed can do so, but I hope the vast majority of Muslims who would never violently attack a cartoonist choose not to see it that way. The same for a Christian or Jew that would choose to view it as a Gay Jesus or Gay Moses. Replace the torso of the stick figure with ( ) and an oversensitive Buddhist could choose to view an insultingly corpulent Buddha.
As for offending the non-religious who choose to go out of their way to be offended, it's a little tougher. For atheists, simply claiming that 100% confirmed atheism is an expression of faith just like religion is generally enough to arouse great offense among such atheists.
My own group, agnostics, might be the hardest to offend, except that all the other groups, religious and atheist alike, are offended at our very existence. The religious tell us to make up our mind so we can be either drawn into their religious debates, or become an atheist so the religious can accuse us of having a faith in the non-existence of God. The atheists think we don't have the guts to go all the way proclaim atheism, and accuse us of being less-brave versions of themselves. Maybe its my own blind spot that keeps me from seeing the best way to be ambiguously offensive to oversensitive agnostics, but maybe someone else can figure that one out.
Well, so much for this exercise. Not sure I'll bother repeating it when the same day rolls around next year.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Volokh Correction #27: open air carbon capture not easier than capture at power plants
Monday, May 17, 2010
Keep the homophobic climate weirdo on the oil spill team
I don't care, as long as he's not involved in anything dealing with homosexuality (or being in charge of anybody, including students) or with climate change. Just let him come up with some ideas to control the oil spill and let other people be in charge of figuring out whether they're any good.
His nonsense on climate hardly needs to be dealt with, except for psychological analyses. I'm guessing he's one of those political conservatives who can't deny physics, so he just accepts what he maximally can accept without having to change his policy positions, and skates over the rest.
On homophobia, he says "The human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts." The guy must be outraged by bonobos, but I don't see much difference between their design and ours that makes promiscuity and homosexuality okay for them and problematic for us. Generally he seems like a cranky old man who's used to saying whatever he wants to say.
I think he very well may not be qualified to grade and mentor students, many of whom are gay, but he should be able to serve on the spill team.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Warmest Jan-April in NASA GISS temp records, this year
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Another good idea that will go nowhere - term limits for Supreme Court and appellate court judges
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I'm supporting Kerry-Lieberman
A price collar consists of two parts: a price floor (or reserve price) and a price ceiling. In this bill, the price floor will be set at $12 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2013. (The price floor rises at the rate of inflation plus 3 percent annually until 2050.) That means that authorities will not sell any permits for less than $12. This implies that not all of the permits available for sale under the cap will necessarily be used—good news for the climate and clean-energy jobs.
On the other hand, the price ceiling will be set at $25 per ton of carbon-dioxide in 2013. (The price ceiling rises at the rate of inflation plus 5 percent annually until 2050.) That means that authorities will sell as many permits for $25 as anyone wants to buy. This means that permits may be sold in excess of the cap’s limits, which is bad for the atmosphere. Fortunately, any permits sold in excess of the cap in any one auction are not actually in excess of the cap in aggregate. That’s because the bill provides for a “strategic reserve” of carbon permits. This stockpile of permits is assembled with a percentage of permits shaved off the annual cap in each year; and then replenished by unsold permits (in the event that the auction hits the price floor), by international offsets (at a discount of 5 offsets per 4 carbon permits added to the reserve), and then by domestic offsets, in that order.
I'm still getting a handle on offsets, but it appears from the above description that control and access to offsets are tightly restricted. More about offsets here. I'm increasingly accepting offsets as being viable. Enviros need to adjust. I'd also guess that something might go wrong with the offsets and need correcting legislation later. So much for perfection, but we weren't going to get perfection anyway.
As for actually adding something to the discussion, I have two original comments: first, there's no abrogation of EPA authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Water Act, as opposed to the Clean Air Act. Don't tell the bad guys about this, but there's AFAIK ongoing consideration of ocean acidification under the CWA.
Second, I have an idea that would "weaken" the legislation: include a provision that sets a floor for US emissions so they don't fall under Indian or Chinese emissions per capita. That should handle the complaints that we're letting those countries get away with murder. Yes, I'm serious.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Science news, my large skull, prominent eyebrows, and hairy arms
Monday, May 10, 2010
Garlic ice cream and Sean Casten's anti-cap-and-dividend rant
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Weekend climbing in Yosemite
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Even skeptics see the VA Atty General as another McCarthy
§ 8.01-216.12. Civil investigative demands; protected material or information.
A civil investigative demand issued under this article shall not require the production of any documentary material, the submission of any answers to written interrogatories, or the giving of any oral testimony if such material, answers, or testimony would be protected from disclosure under (i) the standards applicable to subpoenas or subpoenas duces tecum issued by a court of this Commonwealth to aid in a grand jury investigation or (ii) the standards applicable to discovery requests under the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, to the extent that the application of such standards to any such demand is appropriate and consistent with the provisions and purposes of this article.
I'm thinking this could provide a reason for UVa to stand up to the AG, if they wanted to, just like they could fight any unreasonable subpoena. The AG isn't going after anyone else though, not Mann directly (Roger missed this part) so only the university has a choice. I think.
Would be useful to have lawyers who practice in these fields to weigh in on this stuff.
UPDATE: Ed Darrell of Timpanogos found a better link showing the statute of lims section does apply to the Attorney General. OTOH, my not-super-informed opinion is that the reference for those "responsible to act" means the Attorney General, not the officials supervising Mann, so either that provision applies, or the end of Mann's work in 2004-2005 comes under the six-year limit.