Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Death of Environmentalism & the Politics of Possibility

As alluded to in an earlier post, the Republicans quite obviously have little offer in the way of constructive environmental policy, and with regards to the issue of AGW, at best perhaps they may promise a bit of tinkering around the margins with cap-and-trade programs, carbon taxation schemes and such (although don’t hold your breath for these to materialize as they would be deeply unpopular with the all-important suburban voters). Unfortunately, the Democrats aren’t really all that much better in this respect. Oh sure, they’ll undoubtedly pay some obligatory lip service to the issue of climate-change, perhaps announce some superficially pleasing “feel good” initiatives replete with "aspirational targets" and they’ll most certainly be less inclined to deliberately undermine and corrupt scientific research about the matter, but don’t expect hard-hitting policies of any real substance or naively imagine for a moment that things will likely change in any significant way even should they be elected later this year.

Maybe however what the political parties think right now about this or that particular measure to mediate or incrementally restrict CO2 emissions, doesn’t really matter, because they’re all just working with a hopelessly outmoded paradigm that needs to be scrapped altogether…

This provocative (although, fair warning – lengthy) discussion with authors Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger who wrote an inflammatory essay called “The Death of Environmentalism” back in 2004 and more recently the book “Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility,” advance the argument that the present conceptual and political model of “environmentalism” that’s “pollution-based” and focused largely on protecting and preserving nature from the activities of mankind is singularly incapable of dealing with the massive challenges presented by global climate change.

Instead of regulatory tinkering and punitive taxation, they call massive public investments of capital (about one trillion from North America and Europe) to develop and build infrastructures of the new technologies required to move beyond the fossil fuel based economy. It is, as they put it an “expansive” vision of innovation and economic growth as opposed to the quite unimaginative and “limiting” one that characterizes much of the present thinking coming from the environment movement. The goal, they suggest should not simply to be one of making “dirty technology” more expensive, but of making alternative, sustainable “clean technology” cheaper.

Real Time: "Overtime" - 02/08/2008

The Banality of Evil: Hitler’s Private Life

A short documentary film that examines Hitler's silent home movies taken at his Berghoff retreat and applies new ALR software technology developed by German speech recognition expert Dr. Frank Hubnet to "re-voice" the films. Based on a clip taken from a private conversation with the Finnish marshal Karl Mannheim in 1942 discussing the war in Russia – believed to be the only such recording in existence of Hitler speaking in private – the dubbed results (subtitled) provide a fascinating, if disturbingly banal, glimpse of the Nazi dictator’s private world.

“People often dismiss the trivia of history and they look on the major dates of battles and the major generals and this kind of thing, but history essentially I think is largely about trivia. Our lives are about triva… and if you understand the trivia, maybe it helps you to understand the bigger issues, the larger issues, and how they emerge from the trivia.” — Dr. David Lewis.

Robert Reich : Where is America Going?

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and now Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, looks ahead at US economic trends, the impact of globalization, the “demographic shift” and other domestic policy issues in this often quite funny and thoroughly engaging speech from late 2006.

Ross Kemp in Afghanistan: Episode 1 - Parts 5-7

Ross Kemp in Afghanistan: Episode 1 - Part 3 & 4

Climate Change: The Republican Position

Take your pick, I guess.

Sign of the Times: Fanatics Picket Huckabee

Welcom Huckabee

More at Crooks & Liars with pictures here and here. You have to laugh at, as Logan Murphy put it: "the sight of homophobic religious fanatics protesting another homophobic religious fanatic."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ross Kemp in Afghanistan: Episode 1 - Part 1 & 2

Who the Hell is Jeffrey Sacks?

Well, nobody actually asked that question, but this should answer it nonetheless. If you listen to his lecture in the preceding post (and I really do encourage you to wade through it) and ponder the implications of what he’s saying, it speaks to some fairly significant and quite profound “meta” problems that we’re facing at the moment — all of which are interrelated…the concept of economic improvement and the exponential growth of global population; the shift in worldwide demographics; the relentless depletion of finite natural resources; and, the inexorable environmental consequences of all of the foregoing.

So one has to ask… why aren’t we hearing about any of this from our political elite? (Except, arguably from the late, lamented John Edwards, but that was a bit different...) Yes, we are getting tiresome platitudes about the need for some kind of vague “change” together with the old familiar nostrums about family values, tax cuts, terrorism and the sort of thinking that barely extends beyond the tips of their noses (or the next electoral term), but where is the "big picture" in all of this?

Jeffrey Sachs: The Future of Globalization

In addition to the complicated challenge of balancing economic improvement with environmental sustainability presented by Sachs' analysis, allow me to draw your attention back to our seeming inability to understand the exponential function.

"Our politics are very poorly conceived for this."

David Cameron: Toff at the Top - Part 6 & 7

Feel free to draw your on obvious parallels to our own homegrown hypocrites that masquerade as “conservatives” while governing as remarkably like Liberals. That's all well and fine by me because I don’t generally sympathize with the moral and cultural conservatism expressed, at least in form, by the STEPHEN HARPER Party, but please spare me the fraudulent pretense.

David Cameron: Toff at the Top - Part 4 & 5

David Cameron: Toff at the Top - Part 2 & 3

David Cameron: Toff at the Top - Part 1

Great documentary film by political commentator Peter Hitchens that, to quote the intro to the Google video (which is no longer available for some mysterious reason) "casts a critical eye over the meteoric rise to prominence of Conservative Party leader David Cameron,tracing his aristocratic roots and Eton education, from his exploits with Oxford University's raucous Bullingdon Club to his astonishingly swift rise through Tory ranks."

Hitchens condems Cameron's opportunistic move to the center/left since becoming leader and decries the lack of any genuinely conservative choice in British poltiics (the BNP notwithstanding). Hitchens views Cameron's social, educational, and foreign policies as being indistinguishable from Blair's. To further emphasize this point, he often refers to the two men in tandem as "Mr. Clair and Mr. Blameron". Gee, kind of like our own Liberal and Conservative Parties...

Note that most of the sections of this YouTube film have a somewhat annoying watermark from the software used to create them, so you have to kind of just look past that.Oh and yes, in case you didn't already know and were wondering, he is the younger brother of Christopher Hitchens.

The "Conservative" Alternative to McCain

Why is this guy still in the race? It's statistically impossible for him to win. Not that I'm complaining, of course. The division in the GOP is fun to watch, but it sure doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Viguerie and that crowd, along with the establishment and right-wing noise machine hate Huckabee only slightly less than they do McCain.

Jesus Camp: Postscript

Jesus Camp: Part 8 & 9

Jesus Camp: Part 6 & 7

Jesus Camp: Part 5

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Jesus Camp: Part 4

Jesus Camp: Part 3

Bowling for absolution...

"No microphone problems — in the name of Jesus!"

Jesus Camp: Part 2

New Media Douchebags Explained

Speaking of which, check out this bit of douchebaggery in which a purported "centrist" poses the intriguing question: "Has Anthropogenic Global Warming Skepticism Hit Mainstream Acceptance?" The substance of this query is an article in the British newspaper "The New Statesman" (the "centrist" in question likes availing himself of the British press because... well, you know... it kind of flies under the radar of more intense scrutiny here on this side of the pond) penned by science writer David Whitehouse contending that recent data suggests global warming has stopped. This was adamantly rebutted several weeks later by another columnist Mark Lynas who pointed out that "Whitehouse got it wrong – completely wrong. The article is based on a very elementary error: a confusion between year-on-year variability and the long-term average."

Isn't that sweet? Now we've got conflicting opinions in a mainstream newspaper about the issue of AGW — a vertitable "he said, she said... on the one hand this, but on the other that" type of scenario. And there's Mr. Centrist on the job presenting the fray in his objectively dispassionate way. "Look, I've provided a lovely graphic that means... something... to somebody, but looks real "scientific" and I've offered up two sides of an argument that's sure to be controversial... not that I'm interested in hits or generating traffic or anything of the sort." And after skimming over the arguments back and forth, what does Mr. Centrist have to say about the matter? "I
f science is based on an objective gathering of information, then even dissenting opinion should be considered material worthy of publishing in the mainstream media."

Snooze-worthy indeed. But here's where the "douchebaggery" and intellectual dishonesty creeps into the equation. Mr. Centrist, ever so keen to present a lively "he said/she said" controversy concerning the issue for our edification and commentary, while at the same time coming across sounding all fair-minded and balanced about the issue, somehow or other failed utterly to make note of this rather obvious disclaimer from the editors of The New Statesman outlining their position on climate change:

Every qualified scientific body in the world, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the Royal Society, agrees unequivocally that global warming is both a reality, and caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. But this doesn’t make them right, of course. Science, in the best Popperian definition, is only tentatively correct, until someone comes along who can disprove the prevailing theory. This leads to a frequent source of confusion, one which is repeated in the Whitehouse article – that because we don’t know everything, therefore we know nothing, and therefore we should do nothing. Using that logic we would close down every hospital in the land. Yes, every scientific fact is falsifiable – but that doesn’t make it wrong. On the contrary, the fact that it can be challenged (and hasn’t been successfully) is what makes it right.

Bearing all this in mind, what should a magazine like the New Statesman do in its coverage of the climate change issue? Newspapers and magazines have a difficult job of trying, often with limited time and information, to sort out truth from fiction on a daily basis, and communicating this to the public – quite an awesome responsibility when you think about it. Sometimes even a viewpoint which is highly likely to be wrong gets published anyway, because it sparks a lively debate and is therefore interesting. A publication that kept to a monotonous party line on all of the day’s most controversial issues would be very boring indeed.

However, readers of my column will know that I give contrarians, or sceptics, or deniers (call them what you will) short shrift, and as a close follower of the scientific debate on this subject I can state without doubt that there is no dispute whatsoever within the expert community as to the reality or causes of manmade global warming. But even then, just because all the experts agree doesn’t make them right – it just makes them extremely unlikely to be wrong. That in turn means that if someone begs to disagree, they need to have some very strong grounds for doing so – not misreading a basic graph or advancing silly conspiracy theories about IPCC scientists receiving paycheques from the New World Order, as some of Whitehouse’s respondents do.

So, a mistaken article reached a flawed conclusion. Intentionally or not, readers were misled, and the good name of the New Statesman has been used all over the internet by climate contrarians seeking to support their entrenched positions. This is regrettable. Good journalism should never exclude legitimate voices from a debate of public interest, but it also needs to distinguish between carefully-checked fact and distorted misrepresentations in complex and divisive areas like this. The magazine’s editorial policy is unchanged: we want to see aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions, and support global calls for planetary temperatures to be stabilised at under two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Yes, scientific uncertainties remain in every area of the debate. But consider how high the stakes are here. If the 99% of experts who support the mainstream position are right, then we have to take urgent action to reduce emissions or face some pretty catastrophic consequences. If the 99% are wrong, and the 1% right, we will be making some unnecessary efforts to shift away from fossil fuels, which in any case have lots of other drawbacks and will soon run out. I’d hate to offend anyone here, but that’s what I’d call a no-brainer.

So I ask you... Why did Mr. Centrist throw up an article that the paper in which it was published now admits was "mistaken" and that "reached a flawed conclusion" as a valid point of view? And why did he neglect to bring this disclaimer to his readers' attention? Was that just an "oversight" or was it deliberate manipulation for effect? Or perhaps just outright intellectual dishonesty and douchebaggery?

Update: Mr. Centrist has since added the full text of "the New Statesman's position on climate change" to his post. What a douchebag. Now he's moved on to more of his Muslim rustling and is busy asserting that “the correlation between socioeconomic inequality and terrorism appears to be one which is largely absent of evidentiary support” because, get this, “insurgency statistics” that have been “collected of captured insurgents display that demographics indicate the largest number [44%] come from the country of Saudi Arabia, a nation with a very high GDP.” Too funny for words. Gee, what’s the per capita GDP of Gaza, I wonder? Oh wait, I know… it’s $600. Yep, no correlation there at all.

So Long Mittens!

Your hilarious pandering will be missed... Now for the other phony-baloney...

But wait... Do you think that "in this time of war" when electing a Democrat would be, as Mittens put it, equivalent to a "surrender to terror" (what a douchebag), that it might be possible that Romney could be looking at position of Veep?

"I Don't Need No Stinkin' Evidence"

Hmmmm. Sound familiar at all? It sure does to me.

Hillary's Inner Tracy Flick

Poor Hillary... And now she has money problems too! Her existing contributors are all maxed out, but Obama's are barely tapped. Well, who knows... the "written off for dead" underdog tack played quite well for McCain — maybe it will work for Clinton as well. The "Comeback Kid" and all that.

Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?

Bush on Sept. 13, 2001: "The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our No. 1 priority and we will not rest until we find him."

Bush on March 3, 2002: "And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of this mission."

Bush on March 13, 2002: "I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."

John McCain: Endless Wars

And he's the "moderate" candidate. Way to go Republicans!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Missing Kurt

"These people don't know anything about anything..."

El Bravo Sir Robin

Apropos of nothing in particular.

BTW: How come they didn't use THIS to teach Spanish when I was in school?

Animal Farm: Episode 3 - Part 1 & 2

Tales of the Obvious: Siss-Boom-Bah!

Too funny. Here's that nasty curr, Canadian Cynic predicting the reaction of Joanne (she, of the utterly pointless "Journey" to some insufferably dismal intellectual terminus) earlier today:

"Now that commenter Ti Christophe over at JoJo's has pointed out that there is no abortion-breast cancer connection and even left a link for substantiation, it should be entertaining to watch how whimsically the airheads over there dismiss it. And they will dismiss it, of course -- God forbid that one of them actually responds with, "Hmmm ... I wasn't aware of that, I'll look into it."

And, c'est voila! Here's JoJo responding to scientific evidence provided that her specious claims about a link between breast cancer and abortion are completely unfounded: "Of course that doesn't mean that abortion is totally without risks. The Pro-choice camp seems to minimize it in my opinion - especially emotional issues... I promise to check everything out carefully afterwards when I get a chance."

The Blogging Tories: ultra-fucking-maroons, ladies and gentlemen. Almost without exception, each and every one of them.

War and Globalization

Strap on your foil hat and enjoy the following highly provocative lecture from Michel Chossudovsky, as he blows away the smokescreen advanced by the powers that be through the media, that 9/11 was an attack on America by a group of nefarious "islamic terrorists". Is the guy a crackpot? He most certainly doesn't seem so to me, but you can decide for yourself.

Religion Explained

No? Well, perhaps you have some better theory to offer...

Understanding Trolls

It's quite simple really.

Us & Them

Gee, that looks familiar. Oh, yeah...

Inner Life of a Cell: Leukocyte

Previously posted on an old blog, I know, but well worth repeating. Oh, and feel free to remind me again what's so freakin' "amazing" about the burning bush...

Super Tuesday: The Morning After

Hmmmm. Well, super-duper, tsunami Tuesday wasn't really so thrilling, was it? Bit of a snore, in fact. As expected, nothing was resolved between Clinton and Obama who split the contests fairly evenly. Clinton won primaries in New York and New Jersey and captured the biggest prize of all, California, while Obama strung together nearly a dozen victories. Meanwhile... on the dark side of the universe, McCain pulled far ahead of Mittens and the Huckster — again, an entirely predictable outcome. We now return to normal programming...

Update: Heh. Wolcott voted for Hillary. Again, no surprise, but I kind of liked his rationalization: "
Perhaps it's my atheism at work but I found myself increasingly wary of and resistant to the salvational fervor of the Obama campaign, the idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria. I can picture President Hillary in the White House dealing with a recalcitrant Republican faction; I can't picture President Obama in the same role because his summons to history and call to hope seems to transcend legislative maneuvers and horse-trading; his charisma is on a more ethereal plane, and I don't look to politics for transcendence and self-certification." Ever the cynic.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mittens: Portrait of a Douchebag

LOL. Compare the above to anything Mittens is spouting today. What a douche.

McCain Collapses!

On Super Tuesday! Go figure...

Exit Polls

Should be interesting to see how these numbers hold up.

A Guy You Won't See on CNN

I have no idea who David A. Fairbanks is, but this not-so-grumpy old man speaking from Union Square yesterday afternoon has possibly the most clear-headed analysis of the prospects of this election and the future ahead for whomever wins the presidency.

Butter For President!

What? Cynical... Moi? Never!

Dueling Top Ten Lists

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Tuesday Status

Exciting, isn't it? Tomorrow feels like Christmas!

Grumpy Old Men

It's hard not to sympathize with the sentiments of these two old cranks.

Great Ads: FedEx® Cup

Thanks Lorie!

God's Next Army

Oh sure, it's easy to blow off "Jesus Camp" as crazy, extremist nonsense promoted by a fringe group of radical, theological extremists, but... what happens when this disturbing sort of religious nuttery insinuates itself into the mainstream of politics and government?

Note: The start of this film is the tail-end of another completely unrelated Channel 4 program about the travails involved in staging a Shakespeare play.

Separated at Birth: 02-04-2008


The goofy "Urban Dictionary" feature (the thingee with George Feyer at the whiteboard) that appears on the sidebar here doesn't usually relate to anything in particular – they're just curious bits of faddish argot that I find amusing – but sometimes serenditipity makes itself felt. Such is the case today, where the word posted yesterday afternoon was "Hackdiggery" (def: "Any action executed half-heartedly, incompetently or without necessary precautions leading to unwanted or undesirable results. It is used as an expletive or descriptive term of actions past.") and lo, this morning, we have a perfect instance of "hackdiggery" at the Ministry of Public Works. Ain't life a constant source of wonder?

WLSU: Retards (Updated)

Well, we certainly wouldn't want anyone promoting “a fulfilling life without religion and superstition," now would we? Complete story here and here.

Update: Wilfred Laurier University gets skewered by PZ Myers. "They've got a Campus Crusade for Christ group; did they send them a rejection telling them that Wilfrid Laurier is a secular institution and therefore cannot be seen as endorsing a sectarian religious club?"

The Fired-Up Meter

"Boring others is a form of aggression, and Hillary attacks her public with the weapon of brutal dullness." — P.J. O'Rourke

Another example of that dreaded "liberal media" we hear so much about... The WP, is part of the axis of liberal evil, is it not? You know, along with the NYT and the LAT. What a marvelous fiction.

Jesus Camp: Part 1

And some counterbalancing measure of sanity:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Animal Farm: Episode 2 - Part 5 & 6

Mark Ryden

Boy Blue

One of the nice things about having a little blog is that it gives me the opportunity to bring really neat stuff to the attention of readers. Allow me to introduce you to the work of Mark Ryden. I’ve stumbled across his stuff a few times, but didn’t know who the artist was. To quote Wikipedia: “Ryden’s work combines a saccharine cartoon-like sensibility – much like the doe-eyed Margaret Keane creatures of the 1960s – with a detailed fullness and a creepy combination of numerology, little girls, meat, Catholic and Buddhist symbolism, and carnivalesque Americana.” It’s marvelously surreal and reminds me more than a little bit of Fergus Hall (hard to come by his stuff these days). The prints and reproductions are surprisingly affordable. Check them out if this little sample tickles your fancy.

Animal Farm: Episode 2 - Part 3 & 4

Global Dimming

Just when you thought you had your head around the issue of AGW... This is a fascinating documentary that further complicates the issue.

Real Time: Latest Show (Opening)

Super Bowl XLII: Bud Light Commercials

I thought these were new ones, but apparently not. The second one is a reject from last year it seems. Oh well, they're still good for a laugh.And speaking of rejected Super Bowl commercials, I love this [expletive deleted] one:

And, by request: