Archive for the 'the_world' Category

More on Romney and the Embassy Attack

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

I liked this summary from digby: There’s a good reason why the country is polarized. Most of the major US daily papers, and an assortment of lesser ones, ran editorials today condemning Romney in the strongest terms. The thirteen different pullquotes really are amazingly harsh; taken in aggregate they’re kind of breath-taking. Meanwhile, in “Bizarroworld”, as digby puts it, an assortment of strained defenses were offered up by people like Rumsfeld and Rush and the various make-believe journalists at Fox.

I’m sure it makes a certain kind of sense for the more extreme elements in the right-wing media and punditry to make the best case they can; their audience is, after all, substantial, and I’m sure they’ll be able to sell lots of gold coins and adjustable beds or whatever else it is those poor suckers have coming to them. But the rest of the country is under no obligation to view it with anything but disgust and disdain, and I expect the polls coming out in the next week will show that they’ve done exactly that.

Swing voters may be unhappy about the economy, but that doesn’t mean they’re suicidal. Romney isn’t fit to lead, and his actions over the last 48 hours have made that starkly clear.

A couple of longer items I liked:

A recurring theme of some of the best commentary I’ve seen is this: In trying to muddy the facts and gin up tribal animosity aimed at Muslims (allegedly) and Obama (particularly), Romney is allying himself with the same sorts of religious extremists on both sides who want nothing so much as to provoke more violence, since their cynical analysis tells them that in a more violent world their own message will win more converts.

Screw that.

Pielke, Jr.: Someone Is WRONG at the IPCC!

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Roger Pielke, Jr. posts his email correspondence with the IPCC concerning parts of the body’s 2007 assessment (AR4) on extreme weather events. Pielke argues, as he has for some time, that the AR4 contains significant errors in that area, and should be corrected: The IPCC sinks to a new low.

It’s an interesting exchange, and granted, we’re only getting Pielke’s version of the evidence, but the IPCC doesn’t seem to be covering itself in glory. It reads very much like a bureaucratic organization going out of its way to construe the evidence raised by Pielke in whatever light makes it easiest for the organization to avoid altering its findings. Which seems perfectly consistent with a political entity. But not so much with a scientific one.

So, does that mean the IPCC is corrupt, global warming is bunk, and the whole thing is just a huge warmist conspiracy aimed at imposing socialism on us all?

Sigh. If only it were so. No, it doesn’t mean that.

But it does look to me like decent evidence that the IPCC is willing to lean on the scales when summarizing scientific findings in order to advance a particular policy agenda. Which is… unfortunate.

Russell to Daisey to Gleick

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

There’s a weird synchronicity in all these stories floating around lately about people, nominally good guys, trying to raise public awareness about nominal bad guys, but doing it by exaggerating or outright lying. When the nominal good guys succeed in raising that awareness, and a wider audience is suddenly up in arms about the nominal bad guys, what does it mean when it emerges that while those bad guys really are pretty bad, they’re actually not bad in the particular way or to the particular extent that the nominal good guys made them out to be?

The nominal good guys should have been more honest, right? Ideally, they would have raised awareness without resorting to deception. But what if being honest about the bad guys means that the narrative exposing their wrongdoing is not compelling enough to go viral and get the kind of traction that leads to real pressure for change? Is it okay in that case to stretch the truth a little, to embellish the storyline? Is it okay to stretch the truth a lot? Where do you draw that line? And if the nominal good guy does stretch the truth, only to have the deception come to light later on, is it all just “pearl clutching” for the nominal good guy’s nominal allies to call foul at that point?

I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions. I’m curious what you think. In particular, I’m curious about the following three cases:

Jason Russell: This is the guy who made the “KONY 2012″ video via his nonprofit, Invisible Children, Inc.:

I still have not watched KONY 2012, though with 81 million YouTube views (and counting), I’m apparently one of the few who can say that. Among those who have viewed it, there exists a subset of people who have checked into the claims it makes, and pointed out that while this Kony guy really is a legitimately bad guy, the monstrous depiction in the video glosses over or outright misstates some important facts. Like, Kony is not currently operating in Uganda, and hasn’t been since 2005. He doesn’t have an army of 30,000 child soldiers; that number in the video apparently was based on an estimate of his actions over several decades. And so on.

From an article by Demian Bulwa in sfgate.com (Kony video quickly raises awareness, skepticism):

In a response to criticism on its website, Invisible Children highlighted its education and rehabilitation programs in the region and said it had “sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format.

“In a 30-minute film,” the group said, “many nuances of the 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked. The film is a first entry point to this conflict for many, and the organization provides several ways for our supporters to go deeper.”

[snip]

Sean Darling-Hammond, a 27-year-old student at the law school, said he was becoming skeptical about all the skepticism.

“Criticizing the efforts of others has become the currency of relevance in social media,” he said. “If this video had been about the group’s cotton project in Africa, they would have gotten 200 views. The sad reality is that narrative sells, and catch-the-bad-guy is a classic narrative.”

I guess. But apparently the stress of his newfound success in selling a not-quite-factual bad-guy narrative — or maybe the pushback from people who want to hold the video to a higher standard of accuracy — has been having a negative impact on filmmaker Jason Russell. From the NYT (Police Detain Maker of Uganda Video):

SAN DIEGO – A co-founder of Invisible Children, the nonprofit organization whose video “Kony 2012” has become an Internet sensation, was detained by the San Diego police on Thursday, after they said he was found in the street in his underwear, screaming and interfering with traffic.

The police found Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind the video, after responding to calls about a man who was acting irrationally, including one call that alleged he was naked and masturbating, a San Diego police spokeswoman said. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment, and the police have no plans to charge him.

“It’s our belief that a medical condition would explain his irrational behavior as opposed to criminal intent,” said Lt. Andra Brown, the spokeswoman. “If we thought he was under the influence, we wouldn’t have taken him to a hospital; we would have taken him to jail.”

The 30-minute “Kony 2012” video has been viewed nearly 80 million times on YouTube since March 5. It has thrust a sudden celebrity upon Mr. Russell, 33, who narrates the video and appears in it with his young son, appealing to viewers to bring more attention to the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and advocating his arrest.

That success has brought criticism of Invisible Children for the way it spends its money, for a photograph of its founders, including Mr. Russell, holding rifles, and for other matters.

That criticism took its toll on Mr. Russell, according to his wife, Danica Russell, who released a statement Friday.

While the attention the film has drawn has brought increased awareness of Mr. Kony, Ms. Russell said, “it also brought a lot of attention to Jason — and because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.”

Mike Daisey: Because I’ve switched to mostly telecommuting lately, I don’t listen to nearly as much This American Life. As a result, I missed an episode, aired back in January, in which reporter thesbian Mike Daisey gave a first-person account of his investigation into the surreal and horrible working conditions at Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturing company where my iPhone was probably made.

The episode became the most-downloaded TAL episode ever, and apparently played a role in a massive petition campaign that pressured Apple into pressuring (some) of its Asian suppliers into improving working conditions for (some) employees, or (some)thing.

Except it turns out that many of the “facts” narrated by Daisey were not, in fact, factual. This weekend’s This American Life episode consists of an apology, including a detailed account of what went wrong: Retraction. See also this blog post (and attached press release) from TAL host Ira Glass: RETRACTING “MR. DAISEY AND THE APPLE FACTORY”.

Some of the falsehoods found in Daisey’s monologue are small ones: the number of factories Daisey visited in China, for instance, and the number of workers he spoke with. Others are large. In his monologue he claims to have met a group of workers who were poisoned on an iPhone assembly line by a chemical called n-hexane. Apple’s audits of its suppliers show that an incident like this occurred in a factory in China, but the factory wasn’t located in Shenzhen, where Daisey visited.

“It happened nearly a thousand miles away, in a city called Suzhou,” Marketplace’s Schmitz says in his report. “I’ve interviewed these workers, so I knew the story. And when I heard Daisey’s monologue on the radio, I wondered: How’d they get all the way down to Shenzhen? It seemed crazy, that somehow Daisey could’ve met a few of them during his trip.”

In Schmitz’s report, he confronts Daisey and Daisey admits to fabricating these characters.

“I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard,” Daisey tells Schmitz and Glass. “My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theater.”

Daisey’s interpreter Cathy also disputes two of the most dramatic moments in Daisey’s story: that he met underage workers at Foxconn, and that a man with a mangled hand was injured at Foxconn making iPads (and that Daisey’s iPad was the first one he ever saw in operation). Daisey says in his monologue:

“He’s never actually seen one on, this thing that took his hand. I turn it on, unlock the screen, and pass it to him. He takes it. The icons flare into view, and he strokes the screen with his ruined hand, and the icons slide back and forth. And he says something to Cathy, and Cathy says, “he says it’s a kind of magic.”"

Cathy Lee tells Schmitz that nothing of the sort occurred.

Here’s Daisey’s response, as posted on his personal blog (Statement on TAL):

I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.

Peter Gleick: You don’t really need me to summarize this, right? Just go back and read the last 50,000 words of drivel I’ve spewed in this blog. Note that for the purposes of the current comparison, I’m crediting Gleick with having forged the 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy memo. I’m also crediting him with having created at least some degree of heightened public awareness of what Heartland is up to, awareness that would have been less if he hadn’t “sexed up” his document leak with the forged memo.

So, here’s my actual question: Were these guys (Russell, Daisey, and Gleick) in any sense right to do what they did? All appear to have been willing to deceive the public as part of crafting a more-compelling narrative fiction. And in each case it appears to have worked (at least in a certain sense). Their acts of public deception gave their stories “legs,” making it so more people heard about them, were outraged by what they heard, and were motivated to pass the stories on. The fictions contributed to, and may actually have been essential to, the stories “going viral.”

With the benefit of hindsight, was that a good thing? Is the “it’s not journalism; it’s theater” defense valid?

Alexander on Why COP17 Was Depressing

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Kaitlin Alexander writes in her ClimateSight blog about just why the result that came out of the recent COP17 meeting in Durban was so depressing: What Happened At Durban?

At COP15 in Copenhagen, countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. The German Advisory Council on Global Change crunched the numbers and discovered that the sooner we start reducing emissions, the easier it will be to attain this goal. This graph shows that if emissions peak in 2011 we have a “bunny slope” to ride, whereas if emissions peak in 2020 we have a “triple black diamond” that’s almost impossible, economically. (Thanks to Richard Sommerville for this analogy).

The thing is, even the early-peak slope isn’t exactly the sort of thing you want to try to negotiate your first time on skis. A 3.7% annual reduction in global carbon output would be unprecedented and difficult. 9% per year just isn’t going to happen, as far as I can see.

That’s why the Durban outcome was so depressing: It represents an agreement to collectively close our eyes and repeat fervently, “I do believe in fairies. I do! I do!”

I do not believe in fairies. I do believe, however, that by pretending to enable collective action that can limit warming to 2C, Durban helped to ensure that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit a world with 4C warming and beyond.

Roberts on Anderson and Bows on Climate Change Mitigation

Friday, December 9th, 2011

David Roberts has been producing some of the best writing on climate change I’ve been reading lately. This piece in particular really impressed (and depressed) me: The brutal logic of climate change mitigation. In it, he talks about the implications of a recent paper by climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows (original: Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world).

The whole Roberts piece is very much worth reading, but here’s what he ends with:

This is the stark conclusion drawn by Anderson and Bows: “The logic of such studies suggests (extremely) dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily, for a period of planned austerity within Annex 1 nations and a rapid transition away from fossil-fuelled development within non-Annex 1 nations.”

I know what you’re thinking. It’ll never happen. It’s political suicide to bring it up. Conservatives will use it against us. Very Serious People will take to fainting couches across the land. I’ll address those questions in my next post.

But for now, it’s enough to say: It is what it is. As Anderson says, we’re currently mitigating for 4 degrees C and planning for 2 degrees C. That is ass backwards. It is, almost clinically, insane. We need to be doing the opposite — mitigating for 2, planning for 4 — as soon as possible.

Like Copenhagen, the current Durban talks are challenging my sense of what’s possible, and this Roberts piece (and the paper it’s based on) really get to the heart of the matter. For people like shcb, climate change really is very nearly impossible to accept, no matter how much evidence exists for it, because if you accept that it’s real, and an existential threat to civilization, the only reasonable way to deal with it is through cooperative, collaborative global government action. Which is anathema to the current US conservative worldview. What is increasingly clear, also, is that it’s not enough to spur “green jobs” and “restore America’s place as the pre-eminent power in the 21st century”. We’re not going to be able to sustain economic growth along the same lines we’ve come to take for granted. We’ve binged our way through a huge fossil fuel energy expenditure, but we can’t continue, and the harder we squeeze our eyes and pretend we can, just a little longer, the worse a future we bequeath to our descendants.

It’s really quite spectacularly selfish. There’s a moral component to the crisis that really affects me on an emotional level. Climate change denialism isn’t just stupid. It’s evil. I’m not sure getting upset about that is conducive to true understanding or wise decision-making, but sometimes that happens.

Revkin and Klein on the Way Forward on Climate

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Andrew Revkin shares an email discussion he had with Naomi Klein (and bookends the discussion with his own additional observations) about the big picture on climate change: Naomi Klein’s Inconvenient Climate Conclusions. A short excerpt:

Q. Your examination of liberals’ views appropriately reveals the unwillingness – at least of “mainstream” liberals? – to acknowledge the full scope of what would need to happen on a world heading toward 9 billion people seeking decent lives. Certainly others — e.g., Growthbusters and the Post Carbon Institute — have not.

But you also seem to presume that the only strategy that can work is “radical government intervention,” when there are other approaches that have gained some traction — including no-brainers like strengthening standards and incentives for energy efficiency and conservation (which surveys show have very wide support, including among Republicans outside the obstructionist fringe, see p.5 here) while reviving long-eroded basic research and development in basic energy-related sciences. (Even George Will has warned the new Republican power brokers against neglecting science.)

A. I agree that some market incentives and R&D investments are part of the solution, and I say so in the piece. But do I think they can get us to 80 per cent emissions reduction by mid-century? No. Not everything is win-win, some very powerful players are going to have to lose if we ever decide to get serious about climate change, which is why the denial movement is so well funded.

It’s interesting to me (and kind of refreshing, if also depressing) to listen to some smart non-denialists arguing over what needs to happen. They’re describing an elephant based on divergent notions of the trunk’s importance versus the tail’s, which leads me to think they’re both right (and both wrong). But at least they’re not wrong in the same sense that the denialists are wrong. Yes, it’s an elephant, not a trunk or a tail. But it’s more a trunk or tail than it is a tortilla.

Goodman on CNN on the Japanese Disasters

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Tim Goodman, TV critic for The Hollywood Reporter, continues the discussion of how bad CNN’s Japan coverage has been: Japan disaster shows U.S. journalists unprepared.

Covering this trilogy of terror in Japan really underscores how much better prepared reporters and anchors need to be. The incessantly simplistic and embarrassing questions need to stop. Someone needs to tamp down runaway speculation. Also, the attention on the Middle East in past years has dulled producers’ sense of keeping experts from Asia on the source list.

It’s a shame that going online to watch videos from NHK, BBC and Al Jazeera English was far and away the best option for Americans.

Carlson: Why Do Governments Lie about Disasters?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Ann Carlson of the Legal Planet blog was initially impressed by the Japanese government’s openness about the unfolding nuke crisis. But today there were signs that the U.S. government thinks things are more serious than their Japanese counterparts have been saying, which makes her wonder what’s going on. From Why Do Governments Cover Up the Truth About Environmental Disasters?:

I’m reminded a bit of the Obama Administration’s efforts in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to seriously understate the rate of leakage of oil  even in the face of independent and credible expert conclusions that the spill was far larger than either the government or BP wanted to admit. After investigating the response to the oil spill, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Drilling and Oil Spill blasted the administration for its lack of candor and explained in very clear terms that the consequences of lack of candor go far beyond a PR disaster.  To quote the Commission’s staff:

The absence of trust fuels public fears, and those fears in turn can cause major harm, whether because the public loses confidence in the federal government’s assurances that beaches or seafood are safe, or because the government’s lack of credibility makes it harder to build relationships with state and local officials, as well as community leaders, that are necessary for effective response actions.

One could easily substitute a few words and make the same claims about the Japanese government’s handling of the nuclear crisis if the US version turns out to be the correct one.

So why do governments engage in obfuscation in the case of a major environmental crisis?  Is it because they fear that the political fallout from a disaster is likely to increase with the size of the calamity and therefore wishful thinking leads them to underestimate the harm?  I honestly don’t get it. Candor breeds trust, something badly needed during an emergency.  And yet governments seem incapable of learning that lesson.

I think she’s right that wishful thinking is a factor. There’s also this: Politicians are in the business of fostering a particular set of public perceptions. “I’m the best candidate/vote for me.” “The steps our administration has taken have been instrumental in bringing about [good outcome X].” “[Bad outcome Y] had nothing to do with the actions of our administration.” And so on. A lot of those things may have only a tenuous relationship with the truth, yet politicians’ overriding imperative is to convince people that those things are, in fact, true. In a crisis, with solid information in short supply and public perceptions in an especially volatile state, the urge to spin reality in as favorable a direction as possible is surely overwhelming.

Except that with disasters, reality has a way of asserting itself despite the spin. And as Carlson points out, squandering credibility by engaging in politics-as-usual can lead to very real harm.

Laden on Skeptics on Fukushima

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Greg Laden has some really good comments on the ongoing Fukushima reactor events and their spinning by pro-/anti-nuclear advocates: The Fukushima Disaster, Hyperbole, Credibility, Skepticism, and the Future of Nuclear Power.

I honestly think that it is too early to have this conversation, but alas, the conversation has been forced.

U.S. Media #fail on Quake, Tsunami, Fukushima Reactor Problems

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Like most people, probably, my main reaction to recent events in Japan is horror and sympathy. (I say “most people”, and am pretty confident in that, but there are still the depressing people documented here and here to take passing note of.)

But a secondary reaction, also shared by many, was this: Man, when did the news media in this country get so incredibly crappy? Doc Searls wrote about this at Earthquake turns TV networks into print. Pretty much every US TV news outfit, from CNN on down, came off as horribly inadequate to actually talk about what was going on in an intelligent manner. Instead we got a breathless, poorly informed voiceover. The visuals were compelling, but I could see them online.

It wasn’t just TV that came off as inadequate. Print was bad, too. The earthquake hit at 9:46 p.m. California time, yet the next morning’s LA Times had nothing — literally nothing — on the front page about it. Nor did it have anything on the front page of the little mini news section (called “LATEXTRA”) that the paper began including a while ago. I always assumed the LATEXTRA section is there so that the paper can run last-minute news items, but apparently even that didn’t buy them enough time to deal in any depth with a story like this that hit at 9:46 p.m. Pacific time. There was one (1) item about the quake and tsunami in the paper: Inside the LATEXTRA section was a single brief item noting a few of the initial facts. I can imagine the conundrum the Times’ editors went through: All they had time to do was this embarrassingly minimal mention, which was going to be viewed as completely inadequate, and be completely out of date even before it arrived on readers’ doorsteps. But what was the alternative? To run literally nothing would almost have been more honest, but I guess that would have been even more embarrassing.

Now we’re witnessing the next phase in the ongoing #fail: Coverage of the Fukushima nuclear reactor problems. Breathless “ohmygod, meltdown!” chatter makes for drama and viewership, I guess. But I think conveying actual information would be a nobler thing for the media to aspire to. J.A.Y.S.O.N. turned me onto @arclight’s Twitter feed, which led me to this excellent item: Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors.

Update: Perhaps not so excellent. Per this item at Salon:

Identified as an “MIT research scientist,” Dr. Josef Oehmen wrote the post over the weekend with the title, “Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors.” It was a modified version of an e-mail he sent to family and friends in Japan on Saturday evening, according to the blog where it was originally posted.

Oehmen, it turns out, does work at MIT but has no special expertise in nuclear power. And his key claim — that “there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors” — appears to have already been proven false…

So does Oehmen actually work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Yes. But not in the nuclear engineering department. He works at an entity called the Lean Advancement Initiative, which focuses on business management issues. Is he a “research scientist”? Yes. But, again, not in any nuclear field. Oehmen’s research focuses on “risk management” with an eye to helping companies “take entrepreneurial risks.” He writes papers on things like “Human Resource Management in China.”

I e-mailed Oehmen to ask if he stands by the claims in the post. He referred me to the MIT press office, which in turn told me that Oehmen is not doing interviews.

The bottom line is that thanks to the Internet we’re better off than we used to be in information terms. But it’s still pretty shocking to be confronted with how far the old media I used to rely on have eroded. And when it comes to TV news on breaking stories, I’ll be going with the Al Jazeera English live stream in the future.

Update: Hiro pointed out this cool interactive graphic to me. Behold the Slider of Doom: Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami. Nice jquery-based UI, dead-tree dudes.

NYT on the Other Neda

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

This story in today’s New York Times caught my attention: Mistaken as an Iranian Martyr, Then Hounded.

Iranian intelligence officials, Ms. Soltani said, pressured her to come forward publicly to show that she was alive and denounce the shooting as faked, and threatened her when she did not comply.

The Iranian secret police seem oddly inept in some of their propaganda efforts. There was that obviously photoshopped image of the rockets being test fired, for example, where you could clearly see where the billowing smoke clouds had been cloned to make it look like there were more rockets than there actually were. Or this story, in which they took an unrelated English-literature teacher and, after Western media sources mistakenly identified her as the woman shot and killed in that heart-breaking YouTube video, pressured her to participate in their weird propaganda effort to undercut the video’s impact.

These days Neda (the Neda who was not shot and killed), with the help of Amnesty International, has fled to Germany, where she has been granted political asylum. But she’s “haunted”, says the NYT:

“Both sides have destroyed my life, the Western media and the Iranian intelligence,” said Ms. Soltani, staring out the window of her apartment. “But I still have the hope that at least the media will realize what they have done.”

So: lessons for today:

1. Crappy journalism, even in the days of the Web when no one really expects journalists to have professional standards, has a price, and it’s paid by people like Zahra “Neda” Soltani.

2. The Iranian intelligence service are the Keystone Kops of government propaganda. But maybe they don’t care. Maybe, like the people pushing global warming denialism, it doesn’t matter if their shtick is ludicrous and transparent to anyone with an active bullshit detector. Because people with active bullshit detectors are not their intended audience. They’re looking for the low-hanging fruit: people who want to believe what they’re pushing, and won’t bother checking the facts.

Fear and Doubt

Friday, June 19th, 2009

From the Times:

Even Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has kept a defiant if low profile, made an unusual public concession. After insulting the huge crowds that poured into the street by dismissing them as “dust,” the president issued a statement on state television, according to The Associated Press:

“I only addressed those who made riot, set fires and attacked people. Every single Iranian is valuable. The government is at everyone’s service. We like everyone.”

Romm on the Media’s Conspiracy of Silence

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Joseph Romm continues to speak the truth about climate change, including in this item about non-coverage in the US media of the results of the recent Copenhagen Climate Science Congress: Conspiracy of silence.

In the last two years, our scientific understanding of business-as-usual projections for global warming has changed dramatically (see here and here). Yet, much of the U.S. public — especially conservatives — remain in the dark about just how dire the situation is (see here).

Why? Because the U.S. media is largely ignoring the story.

Romm goes on to summarize the key messages to come out of the conference, including that worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories for atmospheric CO2 concentrations (or worse) are being realized, and that “inaction is inexcusable.” Romm’s response?

What is inexcusable is US media coverage and the blinkered conservative strategy of scientific denial — what can only be described as a murder-suicide pact with the human race (see here).

Ward on Why We Are Going Quietly Nuts

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I was out of town without net access for a while, which always makes it tough for me to get back into the bloggy swing of things when I return. But it’s also that I’m still wrestling with my reaction to that Gwynn Dyer Climate Wars piece.

Ken Ward, guest blogging at Gristmill, touched on something today that resonated with my current mood. From Why we are going quietly nuts:

In our hearts we know that what we are doing is futile, but we do not know what else we should or could be doing. The constraints within which we work feel so intractable and out of human scale that we cannot imagine how to break them. Despite our best efforts, Americans just dont seem to get it or they dont care, and we are at a loss to explain this. Unable to influence our own nation, we are further dismayed by the far vaster challenge of altering the trajectory of China, India, Brazil, and the rest of the world.

What are we going to do about this? Those of you lucky enough to think this talk is just lefty alarmism have it easy. Those of us who don’t, though, have a tougher row to hoe.

Romm on the Top 10 Global Warming Stories of 2008

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Good, if depressing, stuff from Joseph Romm: The top 10 global warming stories of 2008.

McCain’s Khalidi Smear

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Various places have been commenting on this video of McCain’s sleazy spokesperson, Michael Goldfarb, in which Goldfarb tries to save Florida for McCain by creating the impression that Obama is a scary guy who pals around with terrorists and anti-Semites:

There have been two main responses to Goldfarb’s comments: First, there was ridicule at how Goldfarb tried to raise Jeremiah Wright without actually naming him (since McCain has said that Wright is off the table). But since then, there has been even more pushback regarding the smear of Rashid Khalidi, which CNN anchor Rick Sanchez apparently accepted as factual.

Lindsey Beyerstein is one of many people who are outraged by that, in The McCain spokesman and the phantom antisemite:

The McCain campaign is attacking an innocent academic in a way that can only be described as racist.

The man has done absolutely nothing wrong. Yes, he’s pro-Palestinian. That doesn’t make him a terrorist. Yes, he has been critical of Israel’s human rights record in Palestine. That doesn’t make him an antisemite.

If John McCain is too ignorant or too bigoted to see the difference between an academic critic of of the Israeli occupation and a terrorist, he’s even less fit to be president than I thought.

More likely, McCain knows perfectly well that Khalidi is neither a terrorist nor Jew-hater. McCain’s own institute, which is dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights, funded Khalidi’s work in Gaza for many years. McCain appeared on television opposite Khalidi in 1991, which I doubt he would have done if he really thought Khalidi was a terrorist.

More Photoshop Phun

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

From some bloggy New York Times site: In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many.

Here’s the first version (which apparently was pulled by those stalwart defenders of copyright, the mainstream media, from the web site of “Sepah News, the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”). This photo ran on the front pages of the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, and the Chicago Tribune, as well as on the web sites of BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and NYTimes.com. None of these top-notch media outlets noticed (or at least, none of them cared) that one of the four missiles is a fairly obvious photoshop clone:

Today the following image was posted to the Sepah News site. Presumably this is the original from which the other one was made:

It’s kind of fun to figure out how little effort was required to alter the image, and what a big psychological difference is achieved by the alteration. (And again, what a gullible bunch of n00bs the MSM editors were to run it without comment.)

Greenwald on Carlson on Peev on Power on Clinton

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Intelligence is sometimes overrated. Stupidity can be a great source of truth, not to mention (black) comedy. In that vein I give you the Michael Scott of US television “journalists”: Tucker Carlson.

You have to sit through a commercial to view the video at that site (which is why I didn’t embed the video here; I will not let my teency piece of the web be degraded in that particular way, at least not yet), but I think it’s actually worth sitting through, because Carlson exposes so clearly what is wrong with US journalism, and the response of The Scotsman reporter Gerri Peev (who did the interview with former Obama advisor Samantha Power where Power called Hillary Clinton “a monster”) is so awesome.

This is coming courtesy of Glenn Greenwald, who has lots more insightful things to say about the issue, including a round-up of several YouTube clips of non-US journalists asking questions of US politicians. All highly recommended.

To sum things up, here’s an excerpt from Greenwald’s piece at Salon (Tucker Carlson unintentionally reveals the role of the American press), which also requires viewing an ad (sigh), though at least it’s not a TV ad.

Credit to Tucker Carlson for being so (unintentionally) candid about the lowly, subservient role of the American press with regard to “the relationship between the press and the powerful.” A journalist should never do anything that “hurts” the powerful, otherwise the powerful won’t give access to the press any longer. Presumably, the press should only do things that please the powerful so that the powerful keep talking to the press, so that the press in turn can keep pleasing the powerful, in an endless, symbiotic, mutually beneficial cycle. Rarely does someone who plays the role of a “journalist” on TV so candidly describe their real function.

Greenwald on Levant on the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Investigation of Suspected Thoughtcrime

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Glenn Greenwald has some extremely apt things to say about Ezra Levant’s interrogation by the Alberta Human Rights Commission in response to Levant, publisher of a Canadian right-wing magazine, choosing to publish cartoons depicting Mohamed, and thereby eliciting complaints from an Islamic group’s imam: The Noxious Fruits of Hate Speech Laws. Among those apt things is his description of the above video as “nothing short of stomach-turning.” There’s also this:

For those unable to think past the (well-deserved) animosity one has for the specific targets in question here, all one needs to do instead is imagine these proceedings directed at opinions and groups that one likes. If Muslim groups can trigger government investigations due to commentary they find offensive, so, too, can conservative Christian or right-wing Jewish groups, or conservative or neoconservative groups, or any other political faction seeking to restrict and punish speech it dislikes.

You ’08 – Trade Debate

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Sorry for not keeping my promise to follow up the original reader platform post with some debate posts in a timely manner.

Rather than open this up to a free-for-all, I’d like to start with a specific topic for which we had a pretty wide span of opinions and policy, but is perhaps more pressing even than the typical topics of argument here: trade. To summarize:

  • Steve advocates free trade with restrictions used as a tool to punish human rights offenders. NorthernLite feels similarly, with added emphasis on environmental enforcement, while shcb seems to favor no restrictions at all, allowing business to set its own agenda.
  • JAYSON wants a return to a strong American manufacturing base by cutting the agreements and incentives that drive globalization. Knarlyknight takes a less harsh stance, but additionally favors tight enforcement of safety standards for imported goods.

Here are a couple starter question for the candidates:

Steve, NorthernLite, and shcb, are you concerned that transnational corporations may be often be pursuing business strategies that optimize their profits at the expense of nation-specific interests, as typified by America’s drift toward a service/consumer economy and widening economic gap?

JAYSON and Knarlyknight, strong economic ties between nations may the be the most effective base on which to build lasting good diplomatic relations; wouldn’t a more nationalistic US economic policy further isolate the US on the world stage, and embolden competing economic unions in the EU and Asia?