Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Time to shake off the dust and get blogging again!

Okay, it's time to dust off Dan's Political Corner in light of our new ... er ... cough cough ... President. I really feel the need to express some complex thoughts on the direction the country is headed and Facebook and Twitter just don't provide the right forum.

So watch this space!  Grand thoughts coming soon!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Okay, I got it wrong...

So I guess Herman Cain is not going to win Iowa as I predicted.  But his brief rise came just as I predicted it would, he just peaked too early to make a dent in the Iowa caucus.  So I still consider this a win for my predictive powers.  The real question in this crazy GOP primary is what's next? 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I'm going to go ahead and call it right now...

...Herman Cain will win the Republican Caucus in Iowa in 2012 and suddenly jump to front-runner status going into the New Hampshire primary. I'm not ready to predict that he'll win in New Hampshire, but he will at least be one of the top three vote getters in that primary.

This will be driven by a combination of Tea Party dissatisfaction with other Republican nominees and an assassination of the character of Michelle Bachmann by liberals and her party rivals. Herman Cain will be seen as neutralizing the "racial shield" of Obama as well as being a hell-fire conservative that the Tea Party can support.

It's going to get interesting after that!

Friday, April 23, 2010

NOconsensus.org gives IPCC Scientific Basis an "A"

The good folks at NOconsensus.org have put together a "report card" on The IPCC Fourth Assessment reports (AR4) where they have graded each Working Group on how many of the references in the reports cite peer-review studies. And they've created a wonderful graphic that summarizes their findings:

40 Citizen Auditors
12 Countries
5 Weeks Work
5600 Grey References
1 Discredited IPCC report.

I won't begin to address whether these "Citizen Auditors" were correct in their determination of what was "peer-reviewed" and what was not (since that would be immensely time consuming and therefore entirely impractical, which is what the good folks at NOconsensus.org are counting on). Nor will I address the fact that whether or not something is peer-reviewed does not directly mean the information cited is correct or incorrect (merely that it is sourced from a peer-reviewed journal). But just for sake of argument, what I will do is take their report at face value - that it is an accurate count of peer-reviewed vs. non-peer-reviewed references in the IPCC reports and that having less than 60% peer-reviewed constitutes an "F", etc.

NOconsensus.org was nice enough to sort their finding by ascending grade - starting with the F's and moving up to the A's. It is worth mentioning that the IPCC reports are published by three different Working Groups (WGs) that each address a different area of study - WG 1 covers the Scientific Basis, WG 2 covers Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability and WG 3 covers Mitigation. All of the hard science is in the WG 1 reports - this is where the Scientific Basis is established and all the science that shows that global warming is real and that it is primarily caused by human activities is presented.

I was able to take the data provided by NOconsensus.org and sort it by the associated working group. I was also able to calculate the number of peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed studies associated with each chapter using the percentages provided by NOLconsensus.org. Based on this, I was able to calculate that, according to Noconsensus.org, there are over 5,800 peer-reviewed studies that support the consensus view that global warming is real and that human activities are largely to blame. That's over 93% of the 6,226 studies referenced by WG 1, which is a solid "A" according to NOconsensus.org's grading scale. It is also significantly more than the dubious claims that some 450 peer-reviewed studies are supposedly skeptical of the consensus. That's over 12 times as many clearly in support vs. dubiously opposed. NOconsensus.org has done well in showing the strong consensus behind scientific basis of the theory of man-made global warming.

So congratulations IPCC on a job well done. And the next time anyone you talk to claims that there is no consensus on the scientific basis of climate change, just point them to this blog entry and tell them to send their congratulations on to the good folks at NOconsensus.org for helping to prove the overwhelming soundness of the science behind AGW theory.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The foundation of the Tea Party Movement is Pro-Wall Street, Anti-Main Street

The so-called Tea Party Movement claims to be "A community committed to standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to protect our country and the Constitution upon which we were founded!" It is at once a loose coalition of like-minded individuals and a highly organized, centrally financed political action committee. It continues to garner media attention that is greatly disproportionate to its numbers and political influence. And it is the darling of the right-wing media from Glen Beck to Sean Hannity to Rush Limbaugh.

But just where did it come from and what is it really all about? The Tea Party Movement started from the promotion of a "rant" by CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli (you can view that rant here). What's interesting about this rant is that it introduces several of the core ideas of the Tea Party Movement - protesting of perceived "unfair taxation" (harking back to the Boston Tea Party of 1773), returning to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, etc.

What appears to me to be the first and most glaring of the paradoxes of the Tea Party Movement is that it professes to be a populist, "grass roots" movement of "regular Americans" that are fed up with the tyranny of oppressive government. But if you listen to Rick Santelli's rant carefully, he is angry over the February 18th "Help for Home Owners" proposal by the Obama Administration to extend government help to "regular Americans" who are in danger of foreclosure. Santelli is representing the interests of Wall Street traders, investors and brokers who cheer him from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor in the background. He is angry over using tax money to bail out the "losers" and you can see him call to the floor traders to ask if they want to help pay for their neighbor's house with an "extra bathroom" that they "cannot afford".

I actually agree with Rick that there has to be some adherence to the contracts that people signed (i.e. if you really can't afford your home, you shouldn't be in it), but that actually isn't what the Help For Home Owners plan said - it was about providing incentives to borrowers and lenders to come to payment terms that the borrower could afford in an attempt to avoid foreclosures. Compared to the bank bailout plan of 2008, this was not only a cheaper plan, but it was a more free-market friendly plan.

So how did this anti-Main Street rant turn into a grass roots movement against "tyranny"? Simple - a coordinated campaign of misinformation designed to stoke the anger of the right-wing of the Republican party at losing the 2008 election and mix that anger with the broader angst about the economy, the deficit and the mounting national debt (anger being a far more potent motivation than hope). And that misinformation campaign was designed by and disseminated by the right-wing media, including the pundits at Fox News and within conservative talk radio (the left-wing has nothing that compares to the misinformation machine of these conservative media outlets). More on this later.

The Tea Party Movement claims to be "non partisan" and recent polls show that as much as a third of them do not self-identify as Republicans. But this is because among this right-wing faction there is a fair amount of anger at Republicans (who are largely to blame for the current economic crisis as well as the staggering deficits and debt), even though the clear target og their anger is the Democrats and the Obama Administration. Make no mistake that the Tea Party Movement is about creating a Republican renaissance in the 2010 elections and setting the country back on the track it was on under the Bush Administration - a direction soundly rejected by voters in 2008.

So does the Tea Party Movement have legs? Absolutely! It promises to be exploited by the interests behind the conservative movement (industrialists, high income investors, corporatists and international financiers) and promoted vigorously by the conservative media until it appears to be the most powerful political force in the country. The truth will eventually be learned, but by then we will probably have taken many painful steps backward to where we were when the Republicans dominated Washington from 2000 to 2006. I can only wonder at what seeds might be planted then and what kind of economic crisis will we face when those seeds come to fruition.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I've discovered a fantastic new source for global warming denial debunking. See all the videos posted at Greenman3610's Youtube page. These are factually accurate as well as clever and entertaining. If you ever run into a global warming denier, you can unlikely debunk their position quickly and easily with one of these videos.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The So-Called Global Warming "Debate"

The so-called "Global Warming Debate" is in fact a misinformation campaign designed to confuse the public and defocus our resolve to do something about climate change. That isn't to say that there isn't any debate about global warming and what we should do about it, but the primary thrust of the theory - namely that global temperatures are rising due mostly to human activities - is scarcely debated among serious scientists. Those who believe we should do nothing (including those who have a vested interest in us doing nothing) have undergone a concerted effort to make it appear that there is much more controversy over the science than there actually is.

The theory behind human-caused, or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is really pretty straightforward. It is based on the following undisputed facts:

1) CO2 is a greenhouse gas
2) CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere
3) most of the recent rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is from human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels
4) global temperatures are rising.

Most "skeptics" will argue that this series of facts do not directly "prove" that humans are causing the current warming and they are absolutely correct. The above four facts are not "proof" of anything. But they lay out a very obvious path to concern - could human activities be causing global warming and, if so, what should we do about it?

So the theory of AGW is a rational theory based on sound scientific principles and observations of the global climate, not some "hoax" or "swindle". As with all theories, the scientific study of AGW tries to better understand the above facts and also tries to disprove the theory through exploring alternate explanations (such as solar radiation) and focusing on observations that cannot be explained by the theory (such as satellite data that fail to show expected warming in the lower atmosphere). For the most part, newer research has increased the understanding of these four basic facts and has shown a greater correlation between them and the AGW theory. And the study of alternate explanations have been disproved and unexplained observations have been explained. This admittedly does not "prove" the theory, but it strengthens it to the point that is is "very likely" to be true, which is all the scientific consensus has claimed.

This lack of certainty is easily exploited by those who favor inaction, especially given a population in the U.S. that is woefully ignorant and easily confused about science in general. As recently as March 2003, political consultants for conservatives were encouraging their clients to exploit the uncertainties in global warming science and focus on how "unsettled" the science is. One such consultant, Frank Luntz, wrote a memo specifically outlining how to deal with the topic in the 2003-2004 election season.

Starting on page 137 (page 7 of the scanned copy of the Luntz Memo), Luntz states:
1. The scientific debate remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate and defer to scientists and other experts in the field. (emphasis in the original)

and on page 138 (8 of the scanned document)
The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science. Americans believe that all the strange weather that was associated with El Nino had something to do with global warming, and there is little you can do to convince them otherwise. However, only a handful of people believes [sic] the science of global warming is a closed question. Most Americans want more information so they can make an informed decision. It is our job to provide that information.(emphasis in the original)

And more recently, it has been reported that while vigorously promoting the uncertainties of global warming throughout the 1990's, the Global Climate Coalition's own scientists were saying that “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied".

By now, only the most ardent skeptic clings to the idea that AGW is some sort of hoax or swindle, but that doesn't stop conservatives from continuing to promote the idea that it is all some sort of liberal conspiracy. My firm belief is that more rational minds will prevail.