We are the 99%

July 27, 2014

Walking With Dinosaurs - And Its Implications

I saw this on the TV a day or so ago:
There’s a fascination with what life was like when dinosaurs, not humans, ruled the land.

And for a short time, you can get a better idea of what that was like, when the arena is transported 10 million years back in time.
And then:
In “Walking with Dinosaurs’” live show, 20 dinosaurs interact with each other on the arena floor in a theatrical production that cost $20 million to create.

“We take you through the three periods dinosaurs ruled the Earth in their massiveness, the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous period,” said Walking with Dinosaurs spokesperson Terey Summers, “And it’s hosted by a character that is a paleontologist, Huxley.”
We need to fill in a few blanks.  From the "Walking With Dinosaurs" website:
IN 1999 the Walking with Dinosaurs TV series changed the way we saw dinosaurs forever. This revolutionary show took viewers right into the dinosaurs' world, showing them as if they were alive and filmed in the wild. It covered an amazing 155 million years of prehistory with the most cutting-edge technology ever seen on television.

Since then, the series has been seen by over 700 million people around the world. The Live Show was created in 2007 and has sold over 7m tickets in over 200 cities worldwide.
So that would be this BBC series from 1999:
Note: When the series was broadcast in the US, it was narrated by Avery Brooks.

The Triassic (252 to 201 million years ago), Jurassic (201 to 145 million years ago) and Cretaceous (145 to 60 million years ago) periods make up, as far as I know, the Mesozoic Era in Earth history.  The Mesozoic is the middle of the three eras of the Phanerozoic Eon; The Paleozoic (541 to 252 million years ago), The Mesozoic (252 to 60 million years ago) and The Cenozoic (60 million to the present).

Note to Kristine Sorensen: If "Walking With Dinosaurs" is a recreation, of sorts, of the Mesozoic, then you're off by between 242 and 50 million years when you used "10 million" years as a time frame.  You might wanna check something like that the next time you report a scientific fact.

But let's get back to the science.  The Phanerozoic is one of four eons;
  • Hadean (4.5 billion to 4 billion years ago)
  • Archaen (4 to 2.5 billion years ago)
  • Proterozoic (2.5 billion to 541 million years ago)
  • Phanerozoic (541 million years ago to the present time)
According to science, the Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago and, again according to science, human beings have been present on the Earth for only about 200,000 thousand of those years.

And how do we know the ages of things?  From the data accumulated via radiometric dating.  And that in itself is based on the science of radioactive decay discovered in the very late 19th century.  The general notion is that:
A chemical element consists of atoms with a specific number of protons in their nuclei but different atomic weights owing to variations in the number of neutrons. Atoms of the same element with differing atomic weights are called isotopes. Radioactive decay is a spontaneous process in which an isotope (the parent) loses particles from its nucleus to form an isotope of a new element (the daughter). The rate of decay is conveniently expressed in terms of an isotope's half-life, or the time it takes for one-half of a particular radioactive isotope in a sample to decay.
So if you know the ratio of the parent stuff and the daughter stuff you can work out the mathematics to determine how long it took one to turn into the other.

Of course back then our friends in the evolution science denier crowd had a problem with all the science found in the BBC series.  But then again they have a problem with all that non-biblical sciency stuff.

And that's a problem for all of us.  Consider how wrong Americans are on evolution.  From a recent Gallop Poll, when asked this question:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings -- 1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, 2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process, 3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?
42% of those polled said 3) that God created human beings within the last 10,000 years ago, that we did not in any way evolve - despite all the science to the contrary.

In 2010 the National Center for Science Education issued a report that has some similarly frightening numbers.  For example, when asked whether this statement was true or fales:
Dinosaurs lived at the same time as people.
40% said it was true - despite all the science to the contrary.  I'll put it this way, if all those dinosaurs died out about 60 million years ago and human beings came into being only about 200 thousand years ago, then the time between now and the former is 300 times longer than all the time humans were on Earth.

300 times.  That's the same ratio as one foot is to an entire NFL football field (endzones not included, of course.)

And yet, 4 out of 10 Americans believe otherwise.  That's bad.  Very very bad.

Why is all this the case?  Perhaps this question gives us a clue.  According to the NCSE, when asked whether this statement is true:
The Bible describes the creation of life exactly as it occurred in six days.
Half said yes, it was.

I've written this before but I have to say it again: If we are a nation or a culture in decline, this has to be one of the reasons for it - our stubborn faith-based rejection of reason and science.

July 24, 2014

Now THAT'S A Switch!

This weekend, in its "Whispers" column, the Tribune-Review reported some embarrassing divorce news about a prominent Pittsburgher - Attorney Edgar Snyder.

For the record, I've never met Attorney Snyder (though his commercials are on TV often enough that I feel as though I do!) and I have no interest in the outcome of whatever divorce proceedings may or may not be taking place.  I just wish the two of them well whatever happens.

On the other hand, he's a public figure and so it's at the very least borderline as to whether news of his private life is newsworthy.

The Trib has decided that it is.

And that's the switch for the Scaife camp, isn't it?  A HUGE switch.

From Dietch at the City Paper in 2007:
Thanks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, you no longer have to wonder why Pittsburgh Tribune-Review publisher Richard Mellon Scaife worked so hard to have his ongoing divorce proceedings sealed.

Earnings of $3.9 million per month; annual loses at his downtown paper totaling $20 million to $30 million a year; an alleged affair; and a whopping, record-setting temporary alimony payment of $725,000 per month.

Despite his best efforts, some of the most sensitive documents filed in the case of pre-nupless, billionaire Scaife's divorce are now a matter of public record. But Scaife is fighting to have those documents hidden again -- with a legal petition that is itself sealed.

On Sept. 16, the Tribune-Review's rival, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, published a story by reporter Dennis Roddy revealing some of the allegations contained in legal filings. The papers alleged that Scaife was underwriting his wife's living expenses, and the Tribune-Review's business losses, to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

On Friday Sept. 21, Roddy and the paper were served with summons to appear at 4 p.m. Sept. 26 in front of Judge Alan Hertzberg: Scaife was demanding that the paper return published documents to the court.
Ah...so the details of a divorce of a prominent Pittsburgh were to be sealed and hidden away from the public.

So I have to I wonder why the Scaife's Trib decided to out Snyder's divorce but his lawyers fought to keep his own embarrassing secrets hidden.

I guess I have an answer - and now you do, too.

July 23, 2014

CIS In The News

Yesterday, my good friends on the Tribune-Review braintrust published this on their op-ed page:
Blaming the surge in unaccompanied Central American minors illegally entering the United States on a 2008 anti-trafficking law that gave such children additional protections, the Obama White House and Democrats misapply that law, ignore sex trafficking's distinction from human smuggling and deflect attention from administration failures.

A new Center for Immigration Studies (cis.org) report points out...
And so on. Pretty standard stuff from our friends at the Trib.

That would be the same CIS that we've written about before.

But that's not the point of this blog post.  No no, this is the point of this blog post:
A senior policy analyst from an immigration-restrictionist think tank wants to see President Barack Obama not just impeached, but publicly executed, he told a sympathetic audience last week. During a talk at a Tea Party organization in Sebring, Florida, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) analyst Stephen Steinlight said that Obama’s supposed executive overreach couldn’t be reined in by a lawsuit and that “being hung, drawn, and quartered is probably too good for him,” Imagine 2050 first reported. He then joked that Obama’s head should be on a skewer.
Do you know what sort of execution Steinlight is calling for?  Here's a description from Britannica.  It's:
...part of the grisly penalty anciently ordained in England (1283) for the crime of treason. Until 1867, when it was abolished, the full punishment for a traitor could include several steps. First he was drawn, that is, tied to a horse and dragged to the gallows. A so-called hurdle, or sledge, is sometimes mentioned in this context. Although such a device may have been a means of mercy, The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I (2nd ed., 1898; reissued 1996) states that it was more likely a way to deliver a live body to the hangman. The remainder of the punishment might include hanging (usually not to the death), usually live disemboweling, burning of the entrails, beheading, and quartering. This last step was sometimes accomplished by tying each of the four limbs to a different horse and spurring them in different directions.
Then there's the head on a skewer part - that's what Steinlight wants to see happen.

Did you know that it's a felony to threaten the life of the president of the United States?

When will the Secret Service be visiting the offices of the Center for Immigration Studies to investigate this threat on the life of the President of the United States of America?

July 21, 2014

In Case You Missed It, McCullough Trial Delayed. AGAIN

From the Trib:
Five years since a grand jury accused attorney Charles McCullough of taking money from an elderly woman's estate, the former Allegheny County councilman has yet to stand trial.

The case has been delayed at least eight times since September 2009, for various reasons, and appeals tacked on two more years of delays.

At a status conference on Wednesday, Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen stepped down from the case because scheduling conflicts would go beyond his November retirement, causing another delay.

The case goes to the court's administrative judge for reassignment, and it could be a month before a trial date is set.
And from the P-G:
It has been delayed at least nine times.

“This case has been around a long time,” Judge Machen said. “And I've entertained every one of your requests for continuance. I’m sending the case back for reassignment.

“Best of luck to all of you.”

The delays have been for various reasons, including both defendants’ switching counsel repeatedly.
Let's review the timeline here.  On Feburary 19, 2009, I blogged that Chuck McCullough had been arrested.

Some of the things that happened since Chuck McCullough was arrested and today:
  • Jerry Sandusky arrested (November 5, 2011)
  • Jerry Sandusky's trial began (June 11, 2011)
  • Jerry Sandusky was found guilty (June 22,2012)
  • H.R. 3590, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was introduced in the House of Representatives (September 17, 2009)
  • H.R. 3590 was signed into law (March 23, 2010)
  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot by Jared Lee Loughner (January 8, 2011)
  • Jared Lee Loughner pled guilty (August 7, 2012)
The list is endless.  If all these extremely complicated events could occur between February 19, 2009 and today, why can't we get Chuck McCullough in a court room to stand trial?

I'm just asking.

July 20, 2014

Um, I Think The Braintrust Left Something Out. Again.

From today's Tribune-Review:
The Obama administration might be painting a rosy picture of the federal deficit — the lowest thus far under Barack Obama's tenure — but the Congressional Budget Office is ringing the alarm bells. It reminds that the federal debt that today is 74 percent of the economy will explode to 106 percent by 2039. Spending and deficits must be curbed, the CBO warns. But, of course, that's anathema to “progressives,” who can't seem to wrap their brains around the Law of Diminishing Returns. [Bolding in original.]
But take a look at the report.  On page 5 (page 5!!) we read:
The unsustainable nature of the federal tax and spending policies specified in current law presents lawmakers and the public with difficult choices. Unless substantial changes are made to the major health care programs and Social Security, spending for those programs will equal a much larger percentage of GDP in the future than it has in the past. At the same time, under current law, spending for all other federal benefits and services would be on track to make up a smaller percentage of GDP by 2024 than at any point in more than 70 years. Federal revenues would also represent a larger percentage of GDP in the future than they have, on average, in the past few decades. Even so, spending would soon start to outpace revenues by increasing amounts (relative to GDP), generating rising budget deficits. As a result, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow faster than the economy starting a few years from now, and because debt is already unusually high relative to GDP, further increases could be especially harmful.

To put the federal budget on a sustainable path for the long term, lawmakers would have to make significant changes to tax and spending policies: reducing spending for large benefit programs below the projected levels, letting revenues rise more than they would under current law, or adopting some combination of those approaches. [Emphasis added.]
And what do you think "letting revenues rise more than they would under current law" could possibly mean?

The next page offers up an explanation.  In a discussion of two competing scenarios (do we do this sooner or later?) the CBO's authors use other language to describe what "letting revenues rise" means.  First the "sooner" scenario:
The sooner significant deficit reduction was implemented, the smaller the government’s accumulated debt would be, the smaller policy changes would need to be to achieve a particular long-term outcome, and the less uncertainty there would be about what policies would be adopted. However, if lawmakers implemented spending cuts or tax increases quickly, people would have little time to plan and adjust to the policy changes, and those changes would weaken the economic expansion during the next few years. [Emphasis added.]
And then the "later" scenario:
Reductions in federal spending or increases in taxes that were implemented several years from now would have a smaller effect on output and employment in the short term. However, waiting for some time before reducing federal spending or increasing taxes would result in a greater accumulation of debt, which would represent a greater drag on output and income in the long term and would increase the size of the policy changes needed to reach any chosen target for debt. [Emphasis added.]
Isn't it interesting how the braintrust, in informing its loyal readers about the impending budgetary doom described by the CBO, left out the part about the possibility of avoiding said doom by increasing taxes?

Yea, they want you to know the fullest picture possible of the CBO report.

July 19, 2014

Climate Denier Governor To Meet With Climate Scientists (An Update)

Hey, remember this?

My blog post started with this article in the Tampa Bay Times.  A group of actual scientists offered to meet with Florida Governor (and climate science denier) Rick Scott to explain the science to him.

I was wondering if we couldn't get a few climate scientists from Pennsylvania to meet with our own climate denying Governor.

Anyway, there's an update.  From the Miami Herald:
Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist fueled the climate wars Friday and called Florida State University oceanography professor Jeff Chanton offering to meet with the scientists who asked to meet with Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott said this week that someone in his administration would meet with the 10 climate scientists from universities and colleges across the state, but after Crist agreed to meet, them, the governor also agreed.
Of course, this is all about the upcoming gubernatorial election in Florida.

Hey, we have a gubernatorial election coming up in Pennsylvania, right?  Maybe Democratic challenger Tom Wolf should reach out to meet with some scientists and discuss the issue.  Maybe that would get Corbet to do the same - just like in Florida.

Wolf even has a "climate change" page on his website.  It starts with this:
Tom knows we need to remove the politics from the discussion about climate change and global warming. We need to take action so that future generations have access to fresh air and clean water, and have the opportunity to explore and enjoy Pennsylvania's natural beauty.

As governor, Tom will promote policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy alternatives, and invest in green energy technology and infrastructure. Additionally, Tom will appoint qualified individuals to lead the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources who will be responsible for proactively addressing climate change and promoting policies that are in the best interest of current and future residents -- not special interests.
Not a heck of a lot of room in there to say that climate change is "subject to debate" so it should be a rather easy conversation for Wolf to have with some climate scientists on climate change.

How long until we get a serious discussion about it from Governor Corbett?

July 17, 2014

Hey, Can We Get Something Like This In Pennsylvania??

From the Tampa Bay Times:
In an effort to push Gov. Rick Scott into the debate on climate change, 10 prominent Florida scientists on Tuesday asked for an opportunity to explain to him the impact human-induced global warming will have on Florida.

"We note you have been asked several times about how, as governor, you will handle the issue of climate change," the scientists wrote in a two-page letter to Scott. "You responded that you are 'not a scientist.' We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state."
I mean we have a Governor who's denied the science and we have some very important climate scientists in this state as well.  Why can't something like this happen in our state?

As a reminder this is exactly what Governor Corbett said:
I think everybody is taking a look at this. I think some people believe that it is clearly evident and it’s coming very, very quickly. I think there are others who are equally qualified that disagree with that. It’s a subject of debate.
And that's exactly untrue - especially since we know that 97% of climate scientists endorsed the position that climate science is real and that human beings are causing it.

Weather.com has a copy of the letter sent to Florida's governor.  Here's the text:
Dear Governor Scott:

We respectfully request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the current and future impact of human-induced global warming on Florida. As scientists, we believe such information is vital given the threat posed by climate change. There is a clear need to develop a state plan to both mitigate and adapt to the threats to Florida's communities, businesses, tourism industry and protect the state's economic well being.

We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change. You responded that you were "not a scientist." We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.

We welcome the chance to present you with the latest climate science. Our hope is this will inform you as you consider Florida's plan for meeting the recently announced carbon pollution standards from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each state will be called on to implement reductions with Florida's carbon intensity rate reduction target of 38 percent by 2030, from 2012 levels.

When asked about climate change, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's stock response is: I'm not a scientist. Florida scientists say: Let's talk.

We will also respond to any questions you might have regarding the recent National Climate Assessment (NCA) and any adaptation planning decisions you may be considering. That report, as you may be aware, concluded that climate change "is already affecting the American people in far-reaching ways." This includes more frequent and/or intense extreme weather events, more acidic oceans, and rising sea levels. The report further found "unambiguous" evidence that human activities — the burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of forests — are the cause. The NCA also found we are "exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, and decreased water availability" caused by climate change, with "residents in some areas such as Miami Beach [already] experiencing seawater flooding their streets."

In short, Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change, with southeastern Florida of particular concern.

This is not a hypothetical. Thousands of scientists have studied the issue from a variety of angles and disciplines over many decades. Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists — seekers of evidence and explanations. As a result, we feel uniquely qualified to assist you in understanding what's already happening in the climate system so you may make the most effective decisions about what must be done to protect the state, including reducing emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants.

It is crucial for policymakers, such as yourself, to have a full understanding of the current and future threats to Florida. Most importantly, you should have a detailed understanding of the specific climate change impacts already affecting Florida to help you formulate the optimal plans for mitigating future impacts, while simultaneously preparing Florida's communities and businesses for the changes already underway, and almost certain to accelerate in coming years.

We look forward to meeting with you, and await your response.
And while I've not found any instance of Governor Corbett saying "I'm not a scientist" it shouldn't be that difficult to re-write the above letter, change some of the details (like replacing "Florida" with "Pennsylvania" and so on) and sending it to Harrisburg.

For the Governor to state that the science is still "subject of debate" only shows how much he needs to be properly educated on the subject and that's something one or more of Pennsylvania's climate scientists should seek to address.

How 'bout it??