Archive for February 6th, 2011

Confronting climate cranks

| February 6, 2011 | 9 Replies
Confronting climate cranks

Mark Hertsgaard at The Nation is offering some reasons for stepping up and confronting climate denialists:

“You want specifics? By the time she is my age, [my daughter] Chiara may well not have enough water to drink here in California, because much of the Sierra Nevada snowpack will have melted. Children in today’s Washington, DC, are likely to witness in the course of their lifetimes sea level rise combine with stronger storm surges to regularly ring the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials with moats and submerge half of the National Mall. By 2050 the record heat that made the summer of 2010 so wicked will become the new normal in New York City and much of the East Coast. Overseas, the impacts will be punishing as well, especially for the poor. In Bangladesh, sea level rise is already making the soil and water in southern coastal regions too salty to produce decent yields of rice, the staple crop for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, the inexorability of sea level rise ensures that many such low-lying areas worldwide will have to be evacuated, unleashing vast streams of climate change refugees. Military experts warn that this will pose not only humanitarian challenges but recurring threats to peace if the refugees attempt to cross national borders.”

An important step in the process is to avoid referring to climate cranks as “skeptics.”

Don’t rely on our media to rise to the occasion. The protocol of mainstream news coverage leads Washington journalists to refer to these people as climate skeptics. They’re not skeptics. They’re cranks. True skepticism is invaluable to the scientific method, but an honest skeptic can be persuaded by facts, if they are sound. The cranks are impervious to facts, at least facts that contradict their wacky worldview. When virtually every national science academy in the developed world, including our own, and every major scientific organization (e.g., the American Geophysical Union, the American Physics Society) has affirmed that climate change is real and extremely dangerous, only a crank continues to insist that it’s all a left-wing plot.

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Taking back the Constitution

| February 6, 2011 | 2 Replies
Taking back the Constitution

In the February 7, 2011 edition of The Nation, Garrett Epps argues that the political right is trying to steal the United States Constitution “in plain sight,” and that it’s time to take it back because it belongs to all of us. His article is titled “Stealing the Constitution: Inside the right’s campaign to hijack our country’s founding text–and how to fight back.” Epps argues that it’s time to counteract the “poisonous rubbish” that the far right’s self-appointed constitutional “experts” are teaching well-meaning citizens. One of those “experts” of the far right is United States Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scalia, who has just agreed to serve as a faculty member for Michele Bachmann’s new “Constitutional School” for new members of Congress.

How has the political right been able to successfully portray itself to be the only party that can meaningfully define the Constitution? One big reason is that legitimate constitutional scholars are unwilling to step into the fray in a public way. Instead,

Scholars from top schools hold forth with polysyllabic series of hermeneutics that ordinary citizens can’t fathom. Meanwhile, conservatives don’t hesitate to speak directly to the public-and, often, to dumb down the Constitution. They purvey a simple method: anyone who doesn’t support the far right version of the Constitution is at best unpatriotic, at worst a traitor.

[More . . .]

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Bill O’Reilly explains the universe

| February 6, 2011 | 7 Replies
Bill O’Reilly explains the universe

Bill O’Reilly famously “explained” the existence of “God” by pointing out that the tides go in and out. More recently, someone pointed out to Bill that the moon causes the tides. Here’s O’Reilly’s comeback, in classic know-it-all voice. How is it that the Earth has a moon and Mars doesn’t. Except that Mars does have a moon. Two, actually.

It must be fun, invigorating, to argue without evidence. It must feel so freeing, so powerful.

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Media sleeping

| February 6, 2011 | 3 Replies
Media sleeping

Now, in the midst of the popular uprising in Egypt, the mainstream media is educating us that Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, has a well-documented history of being a brutally corrupt man who has been betraying and subjugating the Egyptian people for 30 years. And see here.

But why hasn’t the American media been reporting on this obvious fact until recently? Have they been too busy reporting instead on Michael Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, sexual indiscretions of politicians, sporting events, horserace politics, and bickering pundits? Maybe if the American media had been doing its job reporting, even a little bit, on world politics, Mubarak’s despicable rule would not have gone on this long.  The undeniable fact is that our highly consolidated mega-corporate media has been closing down foreign bureaus at a startling rate:

In closing all their outposts abroad, a number of newspapers — most notably the Boston Globe, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer and some Tribune Co. papers — put an end to long, much heralded traditions of delivering foreign news in their own way to their own readers, of covering patches of the globe that their audiences had a particular, sometimes singular, interest in. They covered breaking news and big stories, to be sure. But, perhaps more often, correspondents from these papers were ahead of the news or off it completely, telling stories about interesting people, places and customs that you just couldn’t read anywhere else. They had passports. They wandered. And they took their readers with them.

Many editors say that kind of reporting was a luxury. Now, with some noteworthy exceptions, it is a relic, gone the way of paper tape and the pica pole. Unlike those artifacts of days past, foreign bureaus were not replaced by new technology. They were not replaced at all.

What else are we missing because the mainstream media would rather not spend the time and money doing real journalism covering important world events?

One further note.  Why are we now, finally getting any coverage on this popular uprising in Egypt?  Is it because our news outlets suddenly care about burgeoning democracies, or is it that they obsess over images of people fighting in the streets.  Think, also, of how the coverage of the popular uprising in Iran faded once the easily photographed violence subsided.  

We aren’t connoisseurs of world politics.  Rather, we are avid consumers of conflict pornography.

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Mirror prank

| February 6, 2011 | Reply
Mirror prank

I had seen this several years ago, and enjoyed seeing it again tonight. Hence, into this blog it goes:

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