Elections in Pakistan have turned into a huge defeat for the pro-Musharraf PML-Q party and a substantial victory for the Bhutto family’s Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party. Beyond what’s in the newspapers, I don’t have much to add at the moment except the observation that once again the much-hyped fundamentalist takeover of Pakistan seems like a very remote possibility, when people get a chance to register their preferences, PPP and PML-N consistently come out on top.
Chris Bowers makes the case for the space program. I don’t necessarily disagree that space exploration is a reasonable mission for the US government. But what was specifically at issue was manned space flight. There’s nothing categorically wrong with manned space flight — if we find something out there such that there’s reason to believe a manned visit would bring enormous benefits, why not send someone? — but at the moment manned space flight serves mostly as a costly distraction from more useful space missions.
Unmanned missions are, at the moment, the ones really pushing the frontiers of our knowledge and that’s going to continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. That’s where we ought to be focusing our energies. Meanwhile, we might want to offer encouragement and assistance to rising powers who haven’t yet undertaken substantial manned missions and for whom the “yes we can” factor still looms large. There’s nothing special about being the nth American in space, but the first Brazilian or Chinese or Indian mission to the Moon might be a big deal if one of those countries was so inclined.
As President Bush tours Africa this week, the White House is touting its record fighting disease. “The president is requesting an increase for our contribution to the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria], an increase above his last year request from $300 million to $500 million,” Mark Dybul, the president’s global AIDS coordinator, asserted. This figure, however, is misleading. The Washington Post reports:
Bush did request $300 million for the Global Fund for the current fiscal year, but Congress decided to go further and approved $841 million. So even though Bush’s request for $500 million for the next fiscal year is higher than he requested the year before, in reality it would cut the contribution back from the $841 million it is getting in cold hard cash this year.
Dybul “acknowledged that when pressed,” but added, “You don’t want to pile up money.”
New poll has it very very close in Texas.
Charles Barkley on the Presidential campaign:
I’m not sure he’s the most effective conservative, though the “every time I hear the word ‘conservative’ it makes me sick to my stomach” line has a certain appeal, and the “fake Christians” stuff sounds accurate to this non-Christian. But he starts out talking about how Barack Obama is a good role model — since when does Barkley believe in role models.
Throughout the bulk of the campaign season, Hillary Clinton’s been full of tough talk about cracking down on the oil companies. She’s also repeatedly, and correctly, criticized Barack Obama’s vote in favor of a pretty bad industry-friendly 2005 energy bill. But now that the campaign’s shifted to Texas, it seems she wants us to know that she “recognizes the continuing vital role of the oil and gas industry”.
I caught some of this movie on cable last night before The Wire and it’s funny, I don’t recall anyone watching it back in the day and saying “you know what, maybe the NSA should have totally unchecked surveillance power! That’s be really useful, and by no means open to abuse!”
Andy Revkin of the NYT has a good blog post on one of the main problems with climate messaging by scientists, environmentalists, and the like. In short, it sucks!
One problem is the name “global warming” or “climate change.” It sounds like a vacation, not a crisis.
Indeed, one of the main reasons I titled my book Hell and High Water is that I thought it was a better term — more accurate of what is to come if we don’t act, more descriptive, more visceral — and I hoped (faintly) it might become more widely used. But other than being projected onto the Washington Monument by Greenpeace, nada!
Names do matter. As conservative message-meister Frank Luntz wrote a few years ago in an infamous memo that explains precisely how a politician can sound as if he or she cares about global warming but doesn’t actually want to do anything about it:
“Climate change” is less frightening than global warming. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.
So you should probably use “global warming,” but probably not waste a lot of effort trying to rename something that is deeply embedded in both scientific and popular usage. Also, I don’t think the name is the main problem. Revkin cites a marketing expert who said,
If the problem were called “Atmosphere cancer” or “Pollution death” the entire conversation would be framed in a different way.
But if that were true, how did the incredibly unsexy and unscary name “ozone depletion” drive international action to proatively ban chlorofluorocarbons, even winning the support of Ronald Reagan, nobody’s idea of an environmentalist? The answer is that “ozone depletion” actually leads directly to cancer and not in the distant future (and Reagan had had skin cancer).
Global warming was always going to be a tough sell, given its long timescale and mostly indirect impacts on human health, even without the incredibly effective disinformation campaign that has been waged for the past decade. Words do matter, though, and I will be publishing a detailed article later in the week that will delve into one of the biggest language mistakes I think scientists and climate activists have made….
The House Judiciary Committee has “called for New Jersey’s U.S. attorney, Christopher Christie, to testify at a hearing next week about his appointment of former Attorney General John Ashcroft to a lucrative assignment as a corporate monitor.” The committee made the request by “e-mail and phone to the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs about two weeks ago but has not received a response.” It has also not received a response from Ashcroft to testify.
Even Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano says Bush and the GOP are wrong on surveillance.