We are the 99%

September 29, 2014

A Jack Kelly Follow Up.

Remember my most recent debunking of Jack Kelly's most recent climate science misinformation?

Take a look.  I posted this at 1:58 yesterday afternoon.

And today, The City Paper's Bill O'Driscoll posted this at 4:45 this afternoon - that's almost 27 hours later.

Hey, Bill O'Driscoll.

You're welcome!


September 28, 2014

Jack Kelly Sunday

Here's a few things we know already - a few things that this column in today's Post-Gazette utterly fail to convince us otherwise - about Jack Kelly:
  • He doesn't understand the science
  • No one at the P-G fact-checks him
Put those two things together and you've got yet another embarrassment for what the Trib calls "The Block Bugler."

Let's begin:
Climate change is as grave a threat as the Ebola virus or the terrorists of the Islamic State, Secretary of State John Kerry said in anticipation of the United Nations conference in New York last week.

All but a “tiny minority” of “extreme ideologues” in the “Flat Earth Society” think the planet is warming dangerously, he said in speeches in Indonesia and Hawaii.
This is going to be a teensy bit of a challenge for us as the speeches in Indonesia and Hawaii aren't actually the same speeches. Nor are they even very close chronologically.  The speech in Indonesia was in February, 2014 and the speech in Hawaii was 6 months later in August.  So how they both can be made in anticipation of the UN conference this week is beyond me.

In any event, Jack quickly pulls out his "expert" and we've met him before:
If Mr. Kerry were to attend a meeting of the Flat Earth Society, “his presence might lower the level of discourse,” said Myron Ebell, gobsmacked by two in particular of the many things the secretary of state said that aren’t true.
And a paragraph or two later, Jack characterizes Mr Ebell this way:
...an environmental expert for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Ok, then let's go see what sort of "expert" this Mr Ebell is.  His page at CEI says:
Ebell holds a B.A. from Colorado College and an M.S. from the London School of Economics. He also did graduate work at the University of California at San Diego and at Peterhouse, Cambridge University.
So no PhD in science. But this doesn't tell us much about what degrees he does have. For that we can turn to Vanity Fair:
Though he likes to bash scientists for working outside their degreed fields, Ebell, it turns out, isn't a scientist at all. He majored in philosophy at the University of California in San Diego, then studied political theory at the London School of Economics and history at Cambridge.
And then a few paragraphs down, Ebell is quoted as saying:
"I'm not claiming to be a climate authority—the way Jim Hansen is, or Robert Corell," says Ebell. "Every interview I do, when I'm asked about scientific issues, I say I'm not a climate scientist." [Emphases added.]
Which is completely different from Hansen, and Corell who actually do have Phd degrees and actually are authorities on climate science.  But hey, one man's ignorance is just as real to him as another man's science - if that first man's a science illiterate.

And yet, Jack refers to Ebell as "an environmental expert" even when Ebell himself says he's not a climate scientist.

Doesn't anyone at the P-G look into these things?

But let's take a look at some of the things Jack thinks of as "facts" and see whether they correspond with reality (ie "science").  Jack writes:
There’s been no warming for 18 years, according to weather satellite measurements. It’s about 0.4 degrees Celsius cooler in the United States now than in 2005, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This year has been the chilliest since the federal government began keeping records in 1871.
Sentence 1 is simply untrue.  But this is, I think, what Jack is referencing:

See that brownish line in the upper right?  That's about the past 18 years.  See the rest of the line?  That's the trend since 1880 or so,  So even if the statement "There’s been no warming for 18 years" is true, it still doesn't deny the upward trend of the past century or so.

Climate.gov has some more info on this supposed "no warming for 18 years" thing:
Earth has warmed by 1.5°F (0.85°C) since 1880 and most of that warming has occurred since 1976.[1] Each of the last three decades has been warmer than the one prior—the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s and the 2000s were the warmest decade on record.[1, 2] Such a dramatic rise in temperature in three consecutive decades is a clear indicator that the globe is warming.

However, the most definitive warming has been happening in the ocean, which has absorbed more than 80% of the additional energy in the climate system.[2,3] Measurements show that while the rate of air temperature warming slowed in the early part of the 21st century, the ocean continued to warm at an unusually rapid rate. [Links and italics in original]
So how much are we talking here?  How much of the heat is stored in the ocean as opposed to being stored on land where it would show up as "surface" temperatures?  This much:

His next two statements confuse climate with weather (if, indeed, his numbers are accurate).  If it is the case that .4 degrees Celsius cooler now in that small portion of the Earths total surface called "The United States" than it was 9 years ago, so what?  It says nothing about the global temperatures over a span of more than a century.  Jack's insulting our intelligence if he thinks that that's even an adequate fact in this context.

Doesn't anyone even both to let Jack Kelly know how wrong he is?  If he wants to present his case (rather than tossing off unsubstantiated statements) let him do that.  Let him present us with the peer-reviewed articles.  Let him present us with the authors of those peer-reviewed articles (rather than non-scientists from CEI).  In the meantime, let's not think he's actually presenting science.  Let's not let him get away with thinking that he is.

But he's not done with his dishonesty.  Let's take a look at some of the things he said Secretary of State John Kerry said.  For example:
Warming “will make it much more difficult for farmers to be able to grow the regular things we grow,” Mr. Kerry said.
This came from the speech in Indonesia.  But take a look the rest of Kerry's sentence:
Scientists predict that, in some places, heat waves and water shortages will make it much more difficult for farmers to be able to grow the regular things we grow, like wheat or corn or rice. [Emphasis added.]
Note that Jack follows Kerry's phrase with this:
Carbon dioxide is to plants what oxygen is to us. Warmer temperatures at higher latitudes extend growing seasons. More CO2 and more warmth should mean more food production. The planet’s gotten greener since 1980, satellite measurements indicate.
So while John Kerry was talking about how climate change-caused heat waves and water shortages will make it more difficult for farmers in some places, Jack leaves that out to talk about CO2 and "warmer temperatures."  By leaving out what Kerry actually said and then responding to the incomplete utterance, Jack's committing a logical fallacy known as the "straw man argument."

Doesn't anyone at the P-G even bother with this stuff anymore?  If not, why the heck not, and if so, why the heck are they letting him get away with it?

September 26, 2014

Silly, Just Plain Silly

I usually don't react to "Letters To The Editor" for a number of reasons.  I figure that news delivery people or news commenting people should get their facts right.  If they don't, then I contend I have the right to correct them in public.  They should know better.

But consumers of news?  People who aren't paid to comment or deliver the news?  I'm just not comfortable fact-checking them.  Their only fault is that they're usually just feasting at the wrong table and they don't know better.

That being said, I want to start with this letter to the editor
The president lacks prudent judgment and common sense. Coffee cup in hand, he recently stepped off Marine One and gave the traditional military salute to the Marines strategically positioned to officially receive the commander in chief.

This sloppy, halfhearted salute while holding a coffee cup in his saluting hand clearly demonstrates a disrespectful attitude toward every American veteran and all men and women now serving in the military.

Certainly, a better example can be set in the future by following the official protocols and traditions of saluting and acknowledging those who faithfully serve and represent the military. Further, let's not demean and diminish the dignity, honor and respect of the office of president of the United States.
It's a complaint that made its way around the sillier part of the already silly conservative media.

I wonder if these same folks reacted the same way when this happened:

And of the two "disrespectful" and "sloppy half-hearted" salutes, which one was proffered by a president who lied the country into a war that led directly to the deaths of 4500 servicemen and women?  How many lost limbs for the WMD and the Saddam/al-Qaeda connection that simply weren't there?  How much more PTSD?  How much more strain on the already strained VA due to the fear mongering over how we can't wait for the smoking gun mushroom clouds?

Silly, just plain silly.

September 25, 2014

Video Follow-Ups (Two Johns)

The nonsense non-science on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology gets a much deserved mocking by John Stewart:

It still amazes me that the GOP throws these science illiterates onto this committee.  This should embarrass any clear thinking conservative in the country.  They're political party's been abducted by some otherwise intelligent people who simply refuse to use their brains.

And a month or so ago, I took John Oliver to task for his take on the Gender Pay Gap.  He was wrong then, but he's completely and brilliantly right about the Miss America Pageant:

Completely right.

Enjoy your Thursday.

September 23, 2014

The Right Wing Noise Machine vs Climate Science. Again

From today's Tribune-Review:
The New York Times went full-tilt boogie in its front-page coverage of “legions of demonstrators frustrated by international inaction on global warming” descending on the Big Apple on Sunday, even devoting eight photos to the rally.
And that would be a legion of over 310,000, by the way.

A march that the Trib has decided not to cover, by the way, though it did post this piece from USAToday:
The one-day [UN] summit, preceded by a historic march that drew tens of thousands of climate activists to Manhattan streets on Sunday, occurs as scientists report that global greenhouse gas emissions rose 2.3 percent last year to record levels. In the United States, despite several recent years of decline, they rose 2.9 percent.
So while that's in the Trib, they editorialize with this:
As Steven Koonin, a former Obama administration undersecretary for science in the Energy Department, offered in Saturday's Wall Street Journal, “there isn't a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing the human influence” on climate.
Yea, they also left out that Koonin at least as late as 2007 was the "Chief Scientist" for British Petroleum.

Gee, they put in that he was an undersecretary for Science under the Obama administration but left out that he was a Chief Scientist for British Petroleum.  I wonder why.

And they're still trying to play the "no consensus" card?  Why?  From BillMoyers.com:
The most important thing to understand about the scientific consensus that human activities are causing the earth to warm is that it isn’t a result of peer pressure or someone policing scientists’ opinions. It results from the scientific method.

“Scientists are very interested in theories that other factors may be causing climate change,” says John Abraham. “The contrarians put forward ideas and the consensus scientists investigate them honestly and find that they don’t withstand scientific scrutiny. This happens all the time. That’s how science works. In fact, showing that these guys are wrong makes the science better.”

A scientific consensus emerges when the weight of evidence for a proposition becomes so great that serious researchers stop arguing about it among themselves. They then move on to study and debate other questions. There’s quite a bit of scientific debate about lots of different aspects of climate change, but the question of whether humans are causing the planet to warm isn’t one of them.

There have been three studies, using different methodologies, that have shown that almost all working climate scientists — 97 percent — accept the consensus view.
So simply saying "no consensus" doesn't really mean there's no consensus.

But we already knew that.

September 20, 2014

Openly Secular

Richard Dawkins and Robyn Blumer, from Time.com:
It took the threat of a lawsuit before the Air Force agreed on Wednesday to allow airmen to omit the phrase “So help me God” as part of a required oath. Until then, they claimed an airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was ineligible to reenlist after he crossed out the phrase on his reenlistment form.

This controversy will rile up many people of good will—not against the military, but against the airman. Why make a big deal out of words that the majority of Americans believe in? Just cross your fingers if you must, and say the words. Why rock the boat?

Here’s why: The incident betrays a subtext of intolerance and hostility toward secular people that is embedded in American culture and public institutions. The Air Force was ready to end a man’s military career because he would not submit to its religious demands.

To secular Americans, requiring an oath to God is like asking a Jewish airman to swear, “So help me Jesus” or a Christian to say, “So help me Allah.”

The objection to forcing the oath on nonbelievers should be obvious. It’s not.
And slapping "In God We Trust" on the County Council wall?  Yea, I object to that too.

And now some numbers:
Secular Americans make up a huge and growing stratum of society. Atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and the nonreligious make up 20 percent of Americans overall and fully a third of Millennials under 30 years old. But until secular people come forward and introduce themselves, the misconceptions marginalizing them will persist.

The polls are pretty startling. A Pew poll this year found that nearly half of Americans say it’s necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. Another recent poll found Americans would rather vote for an adulterous or pot-smoking candidate for President than one who is an atheist.
Yea, cause we're Godless and all that.

And so:
But a new campaign is hoping to change all that. Openly Secular launching today, is a new coalition of more than two dozen secular groups—one of the largest of its kind—coming together with the goal of raising awareness of the numbers of nonreligious people in the country. We include not only atheists and agnostics, but our allied organizations include religious people of many denominations who cherish the Founding Fathers’ ideal of church-state separation.
Hello, I'm David. I'm an agnostic and I am openly secular.

September 19, 2014

The Trib Editorial Board Botches The Facts. Again.

Boy did the Braintrust get this one wrong.  From today's Tribune-Review editorial page:
The Obama administration is mum on why, in 2012, it began requiring gun buyers to declare their ethnicity and race. But its gun-grabbing, politics-first nature should make reasonable people suspect the worst.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives amended its Form 4773, the required record of firearms purchases, to make buyers check two boxes for their ethnicity and race, reports The Washington Times. One box asks if buyers are Hispanic, Latino or not. A second box asks if buyers are Indian, Asian, black, Pacific Islander or white. Dealers can be shut down if buyers don't check off both. [Emphasis added.]
And then a few paragraphs later:
Around the time the form changed, the administration was citing flows of U.S.-sold weapons to violent Mexican drug gangs during a gun-control push and requiring Southwest border-state dealers to report multiple rifle sales.

So, was the change implemented in an attempt to better track gun runners and straw purchases? Or was it an intentional effort to trip up legitimate gun dealers and close them? And what of the mass copying?

Americans deserve a full explanation.
Here is the Washington Times piece they're referencing.

So what's the problem?  Take a look at this version of Form 4773.  It's from 2008.  Here, I'll even post the important part:

And here's how it looks now:

In 2008 there was one box to fill.  In 2012 there were two.  Both forms asking for the same information.  So how can a revised 2012 form begin something that was already in place at least 4 years before?

But wait...the Wayback Machine has a sample image of form 4773 from 2001 where they ask, you got it, a question about race and ethnicity.

2001?  That was like 13 years ago, right?

So how badly is this sentence botched?
The Obama administration is mum on why, in 2012, it began requiring gun buyers to declare their ethnicity and race.
Pretty bad.  Anyone who claims to be a news gatherer at the Trib should feel more than a little embarrassed to be employed by an organization that can get something like this so damn wrong.