Sunday, January 31, 2010

What scientists know but the public doesn't know they know

Via Island of Doubt: 96% of climate scientists say the planet is getting hotter, but only 34% of the public think that climate scientists acknowledge that global warming is real.

Looks like I'm going to have to bump up Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming on my reading queue.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bias at NPR

One of the most curious arguments that I ever hear in relation to "liberal bias" is that AM radio is just an answer to the "liberally biased" or "left-wing" NPR. It's one of the things that I find so outlandish that I'm not quite sure what to say to anyone who believes such. Listening to ten minutes of AM radio and then ten minutes of NPR ought to be enough to demonstrate that there is no such equivalency: NPR is a well rounded news source which provides diverse views and intelligent, open discussion, while AM radio is a cesspool of vitriolic, fire-breathing one-sided/close-minded partisan propaganda.

A few years back when Milton Friedman died, I remember thinking to myself while listening to NPR's respectful and laudatory obituary of him, that were NPR actually as biased as its movement conservative critics accuse it of being, I'd have been instead hearing fiery denunciations of Friedman's economics. And conversely, I thought to myself, if it was a Howard Zinn or a Noam Chomsky who had died, there is about a zero percent chance you'd be hearing praising obits in AM radio world.

Well, that little thought experiment is now a reality, as leftist icon Howard Zinn died on Wednesday. FAIR noticed (h/t CMD) that NPR didn't have exactly the same standard for discussing the death of Zinn as it did for conservative icon William Buckley.

When progressive historian Howard Zinn died on January 27, NPR's All Things Considered (1/28/10) marked his passing with something you don't often see in an obituary: a rebuttal.

After quoting Noam Chomsky and Julian Bond, NPR's Allison Keyes turned to far-right activist David Horowitz to symbolically spit on Zinn's grave. "There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn's intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect," Horowitz declared. "Zinn represents a fringe mentality which has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So he did certainly alter the consciousness of millions of younger people for the worse."

Horowitz's substance-free attack contributed nothing to an understanding of Zinn's life or work, other than conveying that he's disliked by cranky right-wingers. (Horowitz has been best known in recent years for his race-baiting and Muslim-bashing--Extra!, 5-6/02; FAIR report, 10/1/08.) He seems to have been included merely to demonstrate that NPR will not allow praise for a leftist to go unaccompanied by conservative contempt.

Needless to say, it is not the case that NPR has a consistent principle that all its obituaries be thus "balanced." Take its coverage of the death of William F. Buckley, a figure as admired by the right as much as Zinn was on the left. Upon his death in February 2008, NPR aired six segments commemorating him, none of which included a non-admiring guest.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm not the only one

I see that Media Matters also recognizes that Beck keeps saying the same nonsense over and over again like a broken record.

Who is it again that's supposed to be the criminal?

James O'Keefe, one of the conservative supremacists responsible for the anti-ACORN propaganda videos that were supposed to demonstrate how super duper evil and nefarious ACORN is, has been arrested.
History repeats itself today as the FBI arrests four people attempting to bug the district office of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). David Hammer of The Times-Picayune is reporting that the the right-wing "gotcha" man, James O'Keefe, who orchestrated the effort to discredit ACORN via spliced video footage last year, is one of those who were arrested in the plot against a sitting U.S. Senator who is up for election later this year.

The FBI believes O'Keefe aided and abetted Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, "who dressed up as employees of a telephone company and attempted to interfere with the office's telephone system," thus entering federal property under false pretenses, at a minimum. O'Keefe was purportedly present for the attempting bugging and claimed to be waiting for someone.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Historians respond to Jonah Goldberg's "liberal fascism"

Make sure you take the time to check out the essays from several historians (and one researcher with a left-wing background) that Dave Neiwert organized for the History News Network that were posted today.

Academic historians, in fact, have tended to shy away from tackling Goldberg's book, precisely because it is such an obvious work of propagandistic polemics, and his methodology so shabby, that they haven't considered the work (such as it is) contained therein to be worthy of academic consideration.

But because Goldberg's fraudulent thesis has now become conventional wisdom on the American Right -- and particularly among the Tea Party set, where signs equating liberals to fascists and Obama to Hitler have become commonplace -- many historians, especially those who have specialized in the serious study of fascism, have come to the realization that calling out Goldberg for his fraud is long overdue.

To that end, I began organizing last fall a series of essays from academic historians and political scientists critiquing Liberal Fascism. The essays are now ready, and this Monday, Jan. 25, they will be presented at History News Network.

In addition to my introductory essay, there will be essays by four widely acknowledged experts on fascism:

-- Robert O. Paxton, professor emeritus at Columbia University and the author of The Anatomy of Fascism.

-- Roger Griffin, professor of political science at Oxford Brookes and the author of The Nature of Fascism.

-- Matthew Feldman, professor of history at University of Northampton, and a co-editor of several academic texts on fascism.

-- Chip Berlet, senior researcher at Political Research Associates and the co-author (with Matthew Lyons) of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort.
I'm particularly looking forward to reading Paxton's response as he has written what is widely considered to be one of the most definitive texts on fascism.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How much longer can Reason magazine exist in my links?

Having Ronald Bailey endorse the intellectual atrocity that is Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism was bad enough, but Nick Gillespie appearing in Beck's hour long dumbumentary of the book is really testing my patience.

It's nigh impossible for me to find anyone credible who isn't immediately disgusted by Beck's mainstreaming of classic paranoid, anti-intellectual extremism.

The wrong business model to emulate

I've already noted how dismaying I find it to see MSNBC attempting to emulate Fox News, but Ed Brayton notes another example of the Foxification of MSNBC in its hire of Ed Schulz, who recently advocated for voter fraud.

I'm not sure how many people with journalism backgrounds work in executive type functions at MSNBC, but I must wonder how many of them are bothered by the fact that their network presents a block of primetime programming from 6pm all the way through the mid-am morning that insists entirely of commentary/opinion and no straight news. A strange thing for any entity designating itself a "news network."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Explicit eliminationism from Beck

"The republic and the progressive movement cannot coexist," says Beck.

You know, with someone who spends almost all of his time saying in a round-about way that liberals caused the Holocaust, you might think the irony of such a statement would hit Beck considering that the people who carried out the Holocaust believed that Jews and the German nation could not coexist.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quote of the day

'In what universe must someone be living to believe that the Democratic Party is controlled by "the Left," let alone "the furthest left elements" of the Party?' - Glenn Greenwald

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How many ways can Glenn Beck deliver the same crazy rant?

I have been busy lately so I haven't watched Glenn Beck's Fox tv show much over the last couple of months (thankfully), but I did happen to catch the show on Monday. And its like no time passed at all. Beck continues to repeat what he has said before .... over and over and over again.

He cites the same couple of audio clips; posits the same absurd, elaborate, Beautiful Mind meets the Da Vinci Code style conspiracies; makes the same McCarthyist charges; tosses out the same loaded buzzwords; and presents the same general message: "progressives" are totalitarian monsters secretly plotting to destroy America, and soon.

Someone needs to create the Beck/progressive equivalent of DDT Ban Myth Bingo where you can go ahead and check off a box everytime Beck mentions Alinsky, Soros, ACORN, Marxists, "fundamentally transform", etc.

During Monday's program Beck was ranting about ACORN and George Soros, something about Al Franken (stealing elections?), and the supposed Chairman Mao lovers in the White House. That the "manifesto" of "progressives" is to steal elections just like Saul Alinsky taught them to. That the White House is full of radicals and revolutionaries who admire Che, Marx, and Castro. Etc.

This was all leading up to Beck's teaser for his latest propaganda scare video "Live Free or Die," in which he has apparently attempted to up the ante of craziness from his last ridiculous propaganda video about the same imaginary subject. Check out the teaser

Really, I'm at a point where I'm not sure what to say to people who don't consider this as self-evidently insane. Consider that it has the same production value as Frank's "Scrooge" trailer from Scrooged.

Acid rain.
Drug addiction.
International terrorism.
Freeway killers.
Now, more than ever.....we must remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Don't miss Charles Dickens' immortal classic, "Scrooge",
Your life might just depend on it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another payola pundit

One of the very first things I blogged about was the outrage I felt over the Bush administration's use of payola pundits to corrupt the fourth estate. Although time forces me into brevity, I must observe that I'm also outraged - again - that the Obama administration has employed at least one such "independent" analyst who was clandestinely on the WH's payroll.

In January 2005, USA Today revealed that a U.S. Department of Education contract paid Williams to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation on his TV show and to ask other African American journalists to do likewise. Democrats and media activists were appropriately outraged at such blatant and hidden government propaganda. A January 7, 2010, report by Marcy Wheeler on her Firedoglake blog exposed the similar failure of the Obama Administration and influential MIT economist Jonathan Gruber to fully and consistently reveal Gruber's role in receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars as a paid consultant to the Obama Administration, while promoting Obama's health care legislation.

What a difference partisanship makes now that Obama is president. In the Gruber scandal prominent liberals including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have attacked the messenger, Marcy Wheeler and Firedoglake, rather than criticizing the lack of disclosure and the money changing hands, and digging further into the relationship between Obama and his paid health care advocate Jonathan Gruber. Who else is receiving convenient Administration funding while flacking "independently" for Obama policies? In a democracy, we need to know and we have a right to know, no matter which party controls the White House.
Also see Glenn Greenwald's response to those who would defend the failure to disclose Kruber's finanical ties.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quote of the day

'Hume and Kant both wrote about reason. We think of the Enlightenment as privileging reason, but for Hume and Kant their question was: what are the limits of reason? Hume was sceptical about the capacity of reason to solve our problems in metaphysics and elsewhere. And so indeed was Kant. For me, this is the reason why both Hume and Kant are central Enlightenment figures, and of course Kant is the author of the great essay “What is Enlightenment?” People ask, if they are Enlightenment thinkers, why are they looking for the limits of reason? The answer is that before the scientific revolution of the 17th century and the Enlightenment, the source of knowledge was authority – the authority of the deity, the Bible, the Church. If we are going to exercise authority over the acquisition of knowledge, we have to understand our instrument. That is why we need a critique of our mental powers. Look also at Locke, a major figure in stimulating the Enlightenment. His question was, What can we know? How much can we know? This is why one distinctive feature of the Enlightenment is the examination of the nature and extent of reason.' - AC Grayling, interview with Tzvetan Todorov

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fox News continues to demolish the line between "news" and Republican politics

Fox News has added its third potential Republican 2012 presidential candidate (after Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee) to its roster of "analysts" and commentators.

The former Alaska governor will appear as a pundit on various Fox shows, beginning Tuesday on "The O'Reilly Factor," and host an occasional series that was already in the works, "Real American Stories," which will examine inspirational tales involving ordinary citizens who have suffered setbacks. Palin has used similar language in speeches, and apologized during the presidential campaign for referring to small towns as "the real America" and the "pro-America areas of this great nation."

Palin said in a statement that she is "thrilled" to be joining Fox, adding, "It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news."
Fox News is an absolute and utter disgrace. Palin is completely unqualified to perform any kind of journalistic function. Fox hired her for the ratings boost and she took the job to help further her political aspirations.

Creating an informed citizenry - the real purpose of true journalism - had nothing to do with this hire.

During the course of her moron meets crazed moron interview with Glenn Beck, she agreed with Beck that unless you share their political views you're going to Hell (because God will be mad that you didn't do enough to stop President Obama from transforming America into a totalitarian Marxist dystopia). She also agreed without hesitation with Beck's conspiracy theory that President Obama is deliberately trying to crash the American economy.

I loved the part where Beck and Palin said they no longer recognize their country. Yes, efforts (however flawed they are) to expand health insurance coverage to more citizens signify the destruction of everything great about America, but people being kidnapped, put in prison without charges, and tortured to death is fine and dandy with them.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trivia of the day

Question: When did the first public demonstration of anesthesia take place?

Answer: Carl Zimmer writes in Discover

The first public demonstration of public anesthesia during surgery took place in 1846 in Boston. A man named Gilbert Abbott took some deep drafts of ether, and surgeons began cutting a tumor off his jaw. The audience was shocked that Abbott did not scream and squirm. One London newspaper expressed the amazement that many must have felt: "Oh, what delight for every feeling heart to find the new year ushered in with the announcement of this noble discovery of the power to still the sense of pain and veil the eye and memory from all the horrors of an operation."

Monday, January 11, 2010

New conservative meme: there was no domestic terrorism under Bush 43

"We had no domestic attacks under Bush." - Rudy Giuliani

Leave it to partisan Bush hacks to make a ubiquitous Orwell reference necessary.

An oblong slip of newspaper had appeared between O'Brien's fingers. For perhaps five seconds it was within the angle of Winston's vision. It was a photograph, and there was no question of its identity. It was the photograph. It was another copy of the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford at the party function in New York, which he had chanced upon eleven years ago and promptly destroyed. For only an instant it was before his eyes, then it was out of sight again. But he had seen it, unquestionably he had seen it! He made a desperate, agonizing effort to wrench the top half of his body free. It was impossible to move so much as a centimetre in any direction. For the moment he had even forgotten the dial. All he wanted was to hold the photograph in his fingers again, or at least to see it.

'It exists!' he cried.

'No,' said O'Brien.

He stepped across the room. There was a memory hole in the opposite wall. O'Brien lifted the grating. Unseen, the frail slip of paper was whirling away on the current of warm air; it was vanishing in a flash of flame. O'Brien turned away from the wall.

'Ashes,' he said. 'Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It never existed.'

'But it did exist! It does exist! It exists in memory. I remember it. You remember it.'

'I do not remember it,' said O'Brien.

Winston's heart sank. That was doublethink. He had a feeling of deadly helplessness. If he could have been certain that O'Brien was lying, it would not have seemed to matter. But it was perfectly possible that O'Brien had really forgotten the photograph. And if so, then already he would have forgotten his denial of remembering it, and forgotten the act of forgetting. How could one be sure that it was simple trickery? Perhaps that lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen: that was the thought that defeated him.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Beck's eliminationism: turn Manhattan into a prison island for liberals

My latest discount book purchase

Atheistic Humanism (hc) by Antony Flew for 5 dollars.

Flew before he converted to poorly informed Intelligent Design deism.

It's mint, too.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A curious pro-torture argument

Mark Noonan argues that because 58% of people in a Rasmussen poll think the Christmas Day terrorist should be waterboarded, waterboarding isn't torture:

Ok, liberals, you claimed that we needed to elect Obama in order to remove the stain of the evil Chimpy McSmirk BusHitler - including his heinous “waterboarding”, which you on the left actually consider to be torture. What say you to a strong majority of your fellow Americans figuring that we should go right ahead and do it? Are we all evil, too?
All evil, no. Blind to an evil? .... yes. I find it curious that Noonan seems to consider it inconceivable that a majority of Americans could agree that an evil practice is not evil. Cracking open a history book should dispel that notion; or for that matter, a book of basic logic.

The thing I find truly remarkable is how Noonan completely inverts reality and accuses "liberals" of doing precisely what he himself is doing.

Or is there any chance you out there will realize that the whole waterboarding issue was manufactured? You know - liberal leaders needed something to get your juices up about - get you donating, get you willing to back Democrats, that sort of thing - and so worked up a physically harmless but rather effective interrogation technique as if it were something right out of the Nazi/Communist play book.
In reality, waterboarding has been recognized as a quintessential torture since at least the Inquisition. It has been prosecuted in the United States at various legal levels as torture, including at the state level when it was used in the Jim Crow South to elicit false confessions from blacks. It wasn't until the Bush administration declared waterboarding a harmless, effective interrogation method that it magically became so for authoritarian followers like Noonan.

"As if it were something right out of the Nazi/Communist [sic] play book."

Ok, first. Why the slash in between Nazi and Communist, as if both forms of totalitarianism are some kind of unitary evil. Secondly, and more importantly, there is no as if to it. Calling your torture "enhanced interrogation" is something that Nazis did.

George Orwell would have been impressed by the phrase “enhanced interrogation technique”. By relying on it, the White House spokesman last week was able to say with a straight face that the administration strongly opposed torture and that “any procedures they use are tough, safe, necessary and lawful”.

So is “enhanced interrogation” torture? One way to answer this question is to examine history. The phrase has a lineage. Verschärfte Verneh-mung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the “third degree”. It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.

The United States prosecuted it as a war crime in Norway in 1948. The victims were not in uniform – they were part of the Norwegian insurgency against the German occupation – and the Nazis argued, just as Cheney has done, that this put them outside base-line protections (subsequently formalised by the Geneva conventions).

The Nazis even argued that “the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement”. This argument is almost verbatim that made by John Yoo, the Bush administration’s house lawyer, who now sits comfortably at the Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.
And the reverse-engineered torture techniques that the Bush administration approved as "enhanced interrogation" did literally come from a Communist play book!

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Ignoring Noonan's inability to consider the damaging long-term psychologocial effects that can result from being drowned repeatedly, let's consider his belief that waterboarding is phsyically harmless. Once again, he's wrong.

It seems pretty obvious that waterboarding can cause emotional trauma, but does it threaten a person's physical health?

No doubt about it, says Allen Keller, an associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine (who, it should be noted, testified that waterboarding is a form of torture before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2007). During waterboarding, some of this water can flow through the nostrils and into the lungs, Keller explains. Water in the lungs, especially if it's dirty, can cause potentially deadly pneumonia or pleuritis, an inflammation of the lung lining.

Waterboarding could also cause hypoxia, a condition in which the body is not getting enough oxygen, either because the victim is holding his or her breath or inhaling water -- and inadequate oxygen supplies can lead to deadly organ failure, Keller adds.

But don't underestimate how tightly intertwined the physical and psychological experiences of waterboarding are, Keller notes. Since it mimics the terrifying sensation of drowning, it triggers the release of stress hormones called catecholamines that can cause heart rate and blood pressure to soar, potentially setting the stage for heart attack in a person with underlying heart disease, he says.

But even healthy people can die from sheer terror, as Martin A. Samuels, chairman of the neurology department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston told earlier this year. The sudden outpouring of stress hormones can cause the heart to beat abnormally, hampering its ability to deliver blood to the body.
There's also the matter of waterboarding itself being part of a larger pattern of disregard for American and international law prohibiting the mistreatment of prisoners. A disregard that has resulted in persons being "interrogated" to death in multiple instances.

Finally, the bit about waterboading's effectiveness at yielding information. Wrong again.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

On public education

"To afford all members of the human race the means of providing for their needs; of securing their welfare, of recognizing and fulfilling their duties; to assure for everyone opportunities of perfecting their skill and rendering themselves capable of the social duties to which they have a right to be called; to develop to the utmost the talents with which nature has endowed them and, in so doing, to establish among all citizens a true equality and thus make real the political equality realised by law - this should be the primary aim of a national system of education, and from this point of view its establishment is for the public authority an obligation of justice." - Marquis de Condorcet, report to French Legislative Assembly (1791)

My New Year's re-resolution

Due largely to two factors: 1) have my reading time reduced this year and 2) my inability to read through a book without being distracted into starting a different book - I failed to complete last year's resolution.

I did rather miserably, actually, only getting about 2/5ths through Donald's Lincoln. So my resolution this year is simply to complete last year's resolution.