Who the heck knows what the best posts are? But I do have two quantitative measures of the hottest posts “” most comments and most views (Part II).
The most-discussed post this year received 390 comments, which doesn’t beat my record of 525 (see “Most discussed posts of 2008“), a figure I may never match again because of my comments policy, which is best described as anti anti-science. The disinformers and the quacks make their living by repeating false statements that have long been debunked in the scientific literature. In the real scientific community, anyone who did that would quickly be seen as a quack or a charlatan.
Those who have been duped by the disinformers endeavor to take over the comments section of every major climate website. Where they are allowed to do so, like Dot Earth, they ruin it for everyone else. Climate Progress has a long-standing policy of (generally) not allowing people to repeat long-debunked disinformation, since it requires me or my tireless readers to waste valuable time debunking it. The other choice, ignoring it, is not really an option because on any given day, a large number of people are visiting for the first time and if there is disinformation that is not debunked, they might assume the author and readers are accepting it as true. But sometimes I think it worthwhile to let the anti-science crowd have at it, just so everyone else can see what we are up against — and that leads to posts with lots of comments.
This list of most-commented-on posts is, I think, an okay introduction to Climate Progress (though I’d still recommend starting with the articles on the right hand column) — but it’s an even better introduction to the terrific set of readers that make CP’s comments section so lively and informative:
I sort of glanced past this on my first series of reads, but I’m intrigued that the departure point of the attempted Christmas plane was Amsterdam. My personal impression was that Schiphol Airport has some of the tightest security of anyplace I’ve ever flown out of. I recall that when I was in the Netherlands for an event sponsored by the Wiardi Beckman Stichting their security asked me what I’d been doing in the country and I had all kinds of trouble pronouncing “Wiardi Beckman Stichting” (understandable, I think) which led to all sorts of enhanced scrutiny. And whenever I’ve mentioned this to other people they, too, seem to feel that Amsterdam security is unusually high pressure.
Not entirely sure what conclusion to draw from that, but every time I get on a plane I’m certainly nagged by the suspicion that these security procedures are a classic example of the kind of thing that’s a pain in the ass for innocent people but not actually that big a problem for malefactors with the patience to make a careful study of what you can get away with.
Some bad news for the hope that price transparency will do a huge amount to slow the growth in health care costs:
The health care reform bill before the U.S. Senate would require hospitals to publicize their standard charges for services, but New Hampshire and Maine have gone much further in trying to make health care costs more transparent to consumers.
New Hampshire and Maine are the only states with Web sites that let consumers compare costs based on insurance claims paid there.
In New Hampshire, the price variation across providers hasn’t lessened since the Web site went live in 2007.
Tyler Cowen offers some theories as to why this may not be working. His option number four “Many local choices, especially in these states (somewhat rural, so-so road connections), don’t involve a lot of competition” is something that I think is worth emphasizing.
I went to the Maine version of this idea and decided to pretend that I was living at my dad’s summer house in North Brooklin, ME and was considering my hospital options. It turns out that the closest place to get a knee MRI costs $1,550 and is a 40 minute drive to Ellsworth. There are two slightly cheaper options in Bangor—$1,159 or $1,160—but that’s more like a 75-80 minute drive. So the competition in this market is not very fierce. Bangor is the second-largest city in the state; it’s not convenient to get there from Brooklin, and even there you only have two options. Possibly not the best test case for these ideas.
That said, I still do wonder how much this will work. In some contexts, people love bargains. If you can get a piece of brand-name clothing or electronics on a discount, then you snap it up. You haven’t bought a cheap suit, you got a great deal on a suit—the brand name and typical high prices serves as a anchor. But in other cases, the psychology is different. Do you want to send your kid to the discount pediatrician? In the absence of clear information about quality, I think information about price only gets you so far.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has marshaled his party to not only oppose health reform in the Senate, but also to obstruct the legislative process all along the way in an attempt to kill the bill. Senate Republicans have delayed legislative proceedings, politicized and filibustered the Defense appropriations bill, and have lied consistently about health reform legislation. But this morning on ABC’s This Week, McConnell was asked repeatedly if he would campaign in future elections on a platform of repealing health reform, and place repealing the legislation at the top of his agenda. McConnell refused to answer, instead saying that he would merely attack the legislation:
TAPPER: Do you think that Republicans running for Senate in 2010 should run on a platform of vowing to repeal the healthcare reform bill should it become law and will that be one of your first items should you regain control of the Senate, repealing what you guys call Obamacare?
MCCONNELL: Well certainly it’s a big problem for them. [...]
TAPPER: Respectfully sir, you didn’t answer my question which is, will Republicans campaign on a platform of repealing the health care reform measure and will that be one of the first items in your agenda should you become the new Senate Majority Leader after the 2010 elections?
MCCONNELL: Well, I’m sorry I thought I did answer your question. It’s no question that this bill, if it were to become law, and frankly even if it doesn’t become law, will be a big, if not central issue, not only in the 2010 elections, but in the 2012 elections.
TAPPER: Alright, well I’ll take that as a yes they should campaign on repealing Obamacare.
Later in the program, during the round table, host Jake Tapper noted that he “couldnt really get McConnell to say Republicans should campaign on repealing Obamacare.” While McConnell feels confident lying about the legislation to scare the public into voting in more Republicans, he won’t commit to repealing it. His refusal illustrates the insincerity of his attacks, including the unfounded smear that health reform “may cost you your life.”
Discussing President Obama’s foreign policy approach on Meet The Press, host David Gregory asked Newt Gingrich whether “pragmatism” was appropriate in the face of threats faced by the United States. Gingrich responded “Pragmatism assumes you know what the facts are. To be pragmatic is to be in touch with reality.” Gingrich then went on to describe the president’s “two enormous challenges”:
GINGRICH: The president has two enormous challenges, and this goes back to self-deception. The first is Iran. It’s very clear the Iranians have been lying consistently, it’s very clear the Iranians want to get nuclear weapons, it’s pretty clear the Iranians — this current dictatorship — will use them. This is a much deeper crisis than anything that happened in the last decade.
The second is the very nature of the threat we have. We don’t even have a language that will allow — I would describe the irreconcilable wing of Islam, some of my friends would describe “Islamists.” In large parts of our political culture that’s politically incorrect. So if I said to you normally, “tell me what distinguishes the murderer at Fort Hood, the people we arrested in Denver and Detroit and New York, and the five people who were just picked up in Pakistan?” You could say “well, they weren’t Rotarians,” but it would be politically incorrect to describe the one common characteristic they have, which is they all belong to an irreconcilable wing of Islam which wants to destroy our civilization.
While it’s funny to hear one of the most prominent promoters of electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) alarmism talk about being “in touch with reality,” there’s nothing amusing about Gingrich passing off unsubstantiated assertions about Iranian nuclear intentions as “facts.” While it’s clear that the Iranians have misled the international community and concealed elements of their nuclear program, there is no conclusive evidence that the Iran regime is determined to obtain a nuclear weapon. And there is no evidence at all that, in the event that they did obtain such a weapon, that they would use one. Indeed, Iran’s past behavior points the other way. The embattled and divided Tehran regime is and has been concerned primarily with its own survival; it’s unclear how inviting the destruction that would almost certainly occur in the event of a Iranian nuclear attack serves that goal. That’s not to suggest that we should be sanguine about the prospect of deterring and containing a nuclear-capable Iran, just that there is no reason to think that the people who currently rule Iran have any intention of committing suicide.
As for Newt’s tiresome whining about “political correctness,” it’s not so much politically incorrect to say that we’re at “war” with Islamists who want to “destroy our civilization” as much as it is just incorrect. And strategically unwise. Positing the fight against Islamic extremism as a global war of civilizations, as Newt would apparently prefer, and as was done by the Bush-Cheney administration, proved to be an excellent way to reinforce the propaganda of Islamic extremists; they, too, believe that they are locked in an existential battle with the West, and they would like other Muslims to believe it as well.
One of the important lessons of the Iraq war (other than we shouldn’t have started the Iraq war) was that it’s not smart to lump all of the people fighting us at any given time — foreign extremists, anti-occupation insurgents, opportunistic criminals, guys looking to make some money to feed their families — together under one banner. The goal should be to find potential points of division among our enemies and exploit them, not bolster their numbers by affirming the pathetically grandiose claims of a tiny faction.
So I think Newt’s real problem is not that we aren’t able to have a conversation about our enemies. It’s that we’ve been having one, and Newt’s side is losing.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, (I-Conn) a renowned hawk and one of the foremost champions of the invasion of Iraq, warned on Sunday that the United States faced “danger” unless it pre-emptively acts to curb the rise of terrorism in Yemen.
“Somebody in our government said to me in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war,” Lieberman said, during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday”. “That’s the danger we face.”
This is dumb. Unless we invade Yemen today, it’ll be tomorrow’s war? At any rate, Glenn Greenwald had an actual Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen on the Christmas Eve edition of his podcast if you want to learn about the subject.
The good news is that while progressives basically need Joe Lieberman’s vote in the Senate to pass domestic legislation, thus giving him a ton of leverage over what happens, nobody needs to listen to him about Yemen. The balance of risks, it seems to me, is neither that we’re just going to ignore the al-Qaeda movement there nor that we’re going to invade. Rather the risk is that, as Johnsen says, we’ll have too many airstrikes without “the proper groundwork to undermine al-Qaeda to the degree that these attacks would be seen as a good thing by the Yemeni population.” Nobody likes to see American airstrikes happening inside their country. But if the political context is right, people can see it as the lesser of two evils. If the context isn’t right, that can build support for al-Qaeda faster than it kills terrorists.
I think this point from the brief on Yemen that Andrew Exum and Richard Fontaine did last month is basically on those same lines:
Since 2001, U.S. policy toward Yemen has focused mostly – and, at times, overwhelmingly – on counterterrorism. This is understandable, but problematic. When the perceived terrorist threat in Yemen retreated in 2003, U.S. policymakers lost interest, abandoning or curtailing development projects in the country. Given the threat posed not just by terrorism in Yemen, but also by the potential for nationwide instability, U.S. policy should move toward a broader and more sustainable relationship, with a strong focus on development. Such a relationship would include a counterterrorism component, but not be defined by counterterrorism alone. American officials should make clear, both publicly and privately, that the United States seeks an enduring relationship with the people of Yemen. In so doing, they should note that the United States does not merely view Yemen as a counterterrorism problem, but rather as a country with which it seeks a multifaceted and enduring relationship that includes economic development, improved government, and domestic stability.
In practice, this seems like a tricky rope to walk. One where a Lieberman-style bombs away mentality isn’t going to help.
On CNN today, GOP strategist and former Dick Cheney adviser Mary Matalin argued that President Obama is speaking too much about the severe debt, deficits, and economic recession he inherited from the previous administration. Defending her former boss, Matalin charged that President Bush had in fact “inherited a recession” and the September 11th attacks from President Clinton:
MATALIN: I was there, we inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history. And President Bush dealt with it and within a year of his presidency within a comparable time, unemployment was at 5 percent.
In reality, the terror attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 — eight months into President Bush’s first term. Also, the 2001 recession technically began in March of 2001, well after Bush assumed office. Last month, former Bush administration spokesperson Dana Perino claimed that “we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.” Former Bush administration officials seem intent on misrepresenting history to pretend that the country never suffered its worst terror attack in history under Bush’s watch. It’s a peculiar talking point, even considering the other efforts to whitewash Bush’s disastrous record.
At the bar last night we got to talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Various points were raised including the argument that it should really be Leonardo who “does machines.” My main issue, however, is that Donatello seems like a much less-renowned artist than the other three.
I’ll be the first to admit that I shouldn’t be your go-to source for Renaissance art commentary. But in this sense I think I’m ideally qualified to speak to the issue at hand. I’m semi-cultured. My family took me to the Met a bunch when I was a kid. I’ve been to pretty much all of Western Europe’s super-obvious famous museums. And it’s just clear that Donatello doesn’t have the star power of the other three.
My suggestion as a replacement turtle would be Titian. He doesn’t quite have the blockbuster appeal of the other three, but no one does, and I think he comes closest. I also think he chronologically matches the other better. I suppose the counterargument would be that he’s Venetian and the others are Florentine, but it’s all Italy to the kids.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday this morning, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) used the recent failed attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up an airliner at the Detroit airport as an opportunity to attack the Obama administration for “appeasement,” as well as to attack unions and collective bargaining.
Asked by host Chris Wallace whether he was concerned that “the Obama administration has not done as good a job as it should have in connecting the dots,” DeMint replied “Chris, I am concerned, because it’s related to another issue that we’re dealing with now in the Senate. The administration is intent on unionizing and submitting our airport security to union bosses’ collective bargaining”:
DEMINT: And this is at a time, as Senator Lieberman said, that we’ve got to use our imaginations, we’ve got to be constantly flexible, we have to out-think the terrorists. And when we formed the airport security system, we realized we could not use collective bargaining because of that need to be flexible. Yet that appears now to be the top priority of the administration. And this whole thing should remind us, Chris, that the soft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo, these things are not gonna appease the terrorists. They’re gonna keep coming after us, and we can’t have politics as usual in Washington, and I’m afraid that’s what we’ve got right now with airport security.
Actually, “politics as usual” is what we’ve got with Sen. DeMint’s blatant attempt to exploit a failed terrorist attack to go after two conservative bugaboos, “appeasement” and unions. But neither engagement nor closing Gitmo represent anything like “appeasement.” Obama’s engagement with Iran, while it hasn’t yet produced an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, has done a lot to forge the international unity that will be necessary if and when the administration chooses to go the sanctions route.
On Guantanamo, General David Petraeus, among others, has recognized that closing the detention center is a wise and necessary step in the ideological battle against extremism, one that “sends an important message to the world” regarding “the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.” DeMint’s deriding these measures as “soft talk” shows that he still subscribes to the failed Bush-Cheney policies that Americans rejected in 2008.
It’s unclear what, if anything, “union bosses’ collective bargaining” has to do with the failed airliner attack, other than that DeMint doesn’t like unions, and will use any excuse to attack them.
When I first heard about the Christmas airplane plot, my working assumption was that we should discount talk of a internationally orchestrated campaign. After all, as far as terrorist attacks go this was a pretty lame one. There was none of the redundancy, simultaneity, and good planning that were once the hallmark of al-Qaeda. But according to Eric Schmitt and Eric Lipton investigators are taking these claims seriously:
Federal authorities on Saturday charged a 23-year-old Nigerian man with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, and officials said the suspect told them he had obtained explosive chemicals and a syringe that were sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda.
The authorities have not independently corroborated the Yemen connection claimed by the man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was burned in his failed attempt to bring down the airliner and is in a hospital in Michigan. But a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said on Saturday that the suspect’s account was “plausible,” and that he saw “no reason to discount it.”
Abdulmutallab acted alone. There can be little doubt the operation was intended to go off on Christmas, for the obvious symbolism, so we would have seen evidence of a coordinated attack by now. The inescapable if preliminary conclusion: al-Qaeda can’t get enough dudes to join Abdulmutallab. And what does it give the guy to set off his big-boom? A device that’s “more incendiary than explosive,” in the words of some anonymous Department of Homeland Security official to the Times.
The bad sign here is the emergence of Yemen as a potential trouble spot. This is something the government has been aware of for some time. But I think it underscores the difficulty of ever truly succeeding at eliminating “safe havens” all the world ’round. You could imagine a sort of whack-a-mole situation developing, since no matter what results from our current efforts in Afghanistan and Yemen I hardly think we’re going to bring stability and good government to every single country on earth.