Jonathan Kulick, “The National Review of hardcore zines, Maximum Rock’n’Roll, … .” Brilliant.
Yesterday, CBS News ran a touching piece highlighting Abdul, an Iraqi translator who was lucky enough to immigrate to the United States under the Special Immigrant Visa Program. Yet the segment failed to note what an anomaly Abdul’s situation is, and only briefly noted at the end of the segment that the State Department has stopped processing the applications of 551 Iraqi and Afghan translators “because the current legal quota of 500 visas for the program this year is about to be reached.” Watch it:
Abdul is even more fortunate when compared to the overall Iraqi population. More than 2 million Iraqis have fled since the 2003 invasion. In 2007, the United States admitted 1,608 Iraqi refugees — well below its goal of 7,000 — but “up from 202 the previous year.” The State Department has a goal of 12,000 refugees for 2008.
It seems that the somewhat odd and definitely complicated compromise transit funding plan that Virginia finally adopted after a lot of legislative wrangling has been thrown out by the courts. The black hats here are really the dead-ender conservative faction of the Virginia GOP which seems to believe that the state’s growing population just doesn’t have any infrastructure needs whatsoever. It was their intransigence that forced more reasonable parties to adopt a byzantine approach.
That said, Virginia transportation policy debates tend to be a depressing thing to watch. Basically, you get a lot of arguments between anti-tax fanatics who think the government should have no revenue whatsoever and then people who want to build more roads. There’s very, very little consideration given to smarter anti-congestion measures like congestion pricing, expansion of the state’s very rudimentary commuter rail system, etc. It’s a bit of a mess and with local governments all now seeing budget shortfalls thanks to the housing downturn, I don’t imagine we’ll see any more imaginative thinking in the near future.
On a recently concluded call with reporters, Susan Rice was pushing back vigorously on the Clinton campaign’s assertions that she trumps Obama in the national security experience department. Her strong points where when she pointed out that Clinton’s claims of experience often seem overblown. Rice referenced the fact that Clinton’s surrogates couldn’t site any examples of her crisis-management experience, said that Clinton “claims to have negotiated opening the border of Macedonia, but that opening preceeded the opening of that visit by a day,” and said that Clinton’s “claimed to have played a crucial independent role in the Northern Ireland negotiations, but George MItchell said she was ‘not involved directly.’”
I think that’s all about right. Rice and the rest of Team Obama is quite a bit less convincing when they try to talk up their own candidate’s experience in these domains. They wind up winning this argument since they’re not the ones who’ve been trying to fight the campaign on this issue, but the reality is that like most presidents either Clinton or Obama would be entering office without significant diplomatic or military experience even though these are the most important aspects of the job. I’ll take “little experience plus good ideas” over “years of experience have committed me to crazy warmongering” in a heartbeat, but that’s the basic shape of things.
There were some more interesting ideas put forth on the call on more interesting topics — including ideas aimed squarely at John McCain — but it’ll probably take me until tomorrow to get my thoughts together on them.
Obama provides further confirmation that he wants a thorough review of the space program’s priorities.
I fully understand why the spreaders of climate disinformation have hyped up a (sort-of) cold January as if it somehow provided scientific evidence to support their campaign to undermine the well-established scientific understanding of human-caused climate change. That’s their job (literally, in many cases).
But I can’t understand why the media keep treating such disinformers as if they were a genuine part of the scientific process who deserve free publicity, rather than as dangerous serial misleaders who don’t believe in either science and real-world observations (but who repeatedly misuse one or the other to confuse to the general public).
Our deep understanding of the climate is, as I’ve noted, based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that themselves are based on countless real-world observations over decades (and paleoclimate data extending back hundreds of thousands of years). It can’t be undercut by a few weeks of cool weather – and the really annoying thing, you may be surprised to learn, is they haven’t even been remarkably cool!
So I don’t understand why the usually thoughtful Andrew Revkin would enable the disinformers write a NYT article titled “Climate Skeptics Seize on Cold Spell,” or the usually thoughtful WSJ blog would write a similarly misguided piece, “Little Ice Age? Cold Snap Sparks Cooling Debate.” Seriously. Who cares what non-climate-related factoid or piece of pseudo-science so-called ‘Climate Skeptics’ seize on? And the only “debate” that has been sparked is one created by the disinformers and the media.
[I will come back to the media critique at the end. In Part II I'll discuss, one more time, why they do not deserve the label "skeptics," and why I'm finally persuaded "deniers" isn't a great term. Let's call them "disinformers," for now, though a good case could be made for "would-be climate destroyers."]
This internet meme began with a misleading post by a meteorologist about how cool January 2008 was compared to January 2007 (but who made no connection to global warming). It got picked up by the climate disinformers at dailytech.com (what else would you call people who publish articles like “Solar Activity Diminishes; Researchers Predict Another Ice Age“). They wrote an article titled, “Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling,” with the subhead “Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming.” The Drudge Report linked to it, and the traditional media got suckered picked it up with blaring subheads like “An Unusually Cold Winter.”
You might think from all this that 2007 was a cold year, surely much colder than 2006, or even that we’ve had an unusually cold winter. NOT! Let’s start with the relevant facts that I didn’t think needed to keep being repeated, but obviously do.
INFORMATION VS. DISINFORMATION
As NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies explains, “The eight warmest years in the GISS record have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1990.” What about 2007? NASA explains “2007 tied with 1998 for Earth’s second warmest year in a century” (NOAA puts the 2007 ranking slightly lower, at a close fifth). NASA’s James Hansen explains:
“As we predicted last year, 2007 was warmer than 2006, continuing the strong warming trend of the past 30 years that has been confidently attributed to the effect of increasing human-made greenhouse gases.”
Are you confused yet? It certainly seems like the climate has kept warming. And the best way to convince yourself the climate is going to keep warming is to challenge anyone to make a $1000 bet that the next decade will not be warmer than this one. Heck give them 2-to-1 odds. That should be a no-brainer for anybody who repeats the nonsense that human-caused global warming isn’t really or has somehow stopped. Yet nobody ever takes the bet.
But the New York Times says we’ve had “an unusually cold winter.” If this were actually true in any meaningful sense of the word “unusually” it would still have no bearing on the climate issue. But is it true? To check, let’s go to maybe the best source for analyzing and comparing historical trends in monthly data — I hate to reveal this secret data source, but circumstances demand it.
NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) issues a report each and every month. So let’s see what their taxpayer-funded analysis concludes. Winter begins in December. How bitterly cold was December?
Now NCDC did note that it might get a wee bit colder in coming months since, “Cold phase (La Ni±a) ENSO conditions intensified during December.”
Okay, well, how bitterly cold was January?
The 31st warmest on record? Are you really confused yet??? As the old saying goes, anybody who isn’t confused here doesn’t understand what is going on.
So what exactly is the news here? What is all the fuss about?
The major answer is big media swallowed the spin of disinformers. The minor answer is two sow’s ears of relatively meaningless weather-related factoids that the disinformers have spun into a climate disinformation silk purse:
Michael Kazin argues, persuasively in my view, that effective rhetoric is a really important part of being an effective politician so it makes little sense to castigate a rival as offering rhetoric rather than results. Obviously, rhetoric alone won’t make the country a better place (it could be effective rhetoric in pursuit of bad policies) but it’s an important element of an effective politics.
On Fox News Sunday today, host Chris Wallace read an e-mail from a viewer attacking Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for having yet to do an interview on Fox News Sunday. Referencing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the viewer claims Obama’s ditching of FNS means he can’t “confront America’s adversaries”:
Obama will sit down with anyone, including Iran’s Ahmadinejad, who calls for the death of the Great Satan America, but FNS, that’s where he draws the line. Can we seriously believe he can confront America’s adversaries when he won’t even sit down with you?
The viewer’s comments, which Wallace made a conscious decision to read on air, echo Fox News chief Roger Ailes’s hysterical claim that “the candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda.”
Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Tim Russert pointed to a new CNBC poll showing that 83 percent of the American public rates the U.S. economy as only fair/poor. Right-wing strategist Mary Matalin tried to brush off that number, stating that most Americans are nevertheless happy about their personal finances.
When liberal strategist Bob Shrum pointed out that her statement is false, Matalin switched to the well-worn tactic of blaming the media for the problem:
MATALIN: Well, there’s an element of cognitive dissonance there, because if you ask them how their own personal finances are going, those numbers completely switch. Yes — he’s looking around. Those numbers are completely true. They absolutely switch on their own personal finances.
SHRUM: I think most people are getting very insecure about their personal finances.
MATALIN: That’s because they’re berated with these numbers.
Matalin is echoing a popular right-wing talking point. On Feb. 11, former White House adviser Karl Rove claimed that the “media has been beating the drum for years and years and years that the economy stinks. And after a while, that begins to color people’s attitudes.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also recently tried to blame it all on the American people by saying that it’s just “psychological.”
Matalin’s baseless assertion was quickly rebutted by her husband, liberal strategist James Carville:
This is not something created by the media. These mortgages, these high energy costs, these pathetic employment numbers, the health care costs, food costs — they’re just killing people out there. They’re not just being told that things are terrible. They’re feeling this every day.
As Shrum pointed out, most Americans are insecure about their own finances. A recent Pew poll found that 53 percent rate their personal finances as only fair/poor, up from 49 percent in January. Additionally, 58 percent believe that their personal income is “falling behind” compared to their cost of living, up from 44 percent in January.
Transcript: Read more
Call me crazy, but I found the latest Pew poll to be almost insanely good news for Barack Obama’s prospects of beating John McCain. In particular, check out these results on the left. They don’t, on the face of things, seem like very good news for Obama. But they come in the context of a poll that shows Obama beating McCain by a large 50-43 margin. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the best argument McCain has available to him is to try to persuade voters that Obama isn’t tough enough on national security issues. Conversely, Obama’s people will try to argue that McCain is too much of a warmonger. Given that a lot of what McCain is going to be looking to accomplish has been done already and he’s still losing, this looks like trouble to me.
Similarly, Obama is winning even though he’s doing unusually poorly among self-identified Democrats. In particular, older white working class Democrats seem drawn to McCain in pretty large numbers. But you’ve got to consider that at this point almost ever older white working class Democrat in America has been the target of a lot of messaging from Hillary Clinton arguing that Obama is too inexperienced and too dovish. They haven’t, meanwhile, heard any messaging from anyone about how John McCain wants to privatize Social Security and cut Medicare benefits. Obama, in other words, is currently winning despite weakness with this demographic, and is also almost certain to look less weak among this demographic in November than he does today.
Meanwhile, in more good news for Democrats, in a Clinton-McCain matchup, Clinton wins too with a somewhat different pattern of support. Basically, even though 95 percent of Americans have never heard McCain criticized from the left, he’s still behind against either candidate. I think it’s a pretty bad position for him.