Archive for October, 2009

Jon Stewart, Pwned! (by Jon Stewart)BPSDB

I was rereading Brad Johnson’s article about the Jon Stewart non-interview with Levitt of Superfreakonomics infamy when I realized that one of the links he provides is the Stewart interview on Crossfire

Ouch, nasty, but so apropos. It brings up a couple of points worth mentioning in regard to the Levitt interview, so here is the Crossfire transcript, and here is the Crossfire interview:

Two points about the interview

1) Stewart is both clear and ruthless about how the failure of investigative journalism is damaging to society.

…it’s not so much that it’s bad, as it’s hurting America … Right now, you’re helping the politicians and the corporations. … You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks …

2) Carlson and Begala do challenge Stewart that he is no better, citing his interview with Kerry. Stewart responds that if they wish to compare themselves to a comedy show, that was fine with him. A number of people have made a similar point with regard to the Levitt interview, ie ‘come on, it’s a comedy show.’



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Even No One Care of Us, We Can start to Care Each Other and Nature First.’” – from the children of Sidhi Astu Orphanage House, Tuka, Bali, Indonesia, Climate Day of Action

A Number Heard Round the World

Moms Against Climate Change


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BPSDBThe good news about the US Chamber of Commerce (CoC) and their climate change Denial public relations disaster just keeps rolling in, thanks to … The US Chamber of Commerce.

In August the CoC made a very public demand for political trials of climate change science. This proved to be a public relations “own goal” as the CoC outed itself as a regressive force for ignorance and stupidity. The tail spin just got worse as member corporations and groups began very publicly leaving the CoC accompanied by scathing critiques of the Chamber. Then the Yes Men and Avaaz Action Factory staged a press conference mocking the CoC and all hell broke loose.

Now it seems that having shot themselves in both feet, the CoC has reloaded and is aiming at their knees.


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To make Glenn Beck’s head explode?BPSDB


I really don’t know what I’m talking about, do I?

Jon Stewart

Well no shit Sherlock! The question is, why not?

The context (nutshell version) is that the new book Superfreaknomics has a chapter on climate change that is scientific gibberish. Not simply wrong, but error riddled nonsense. One of authors was on The Daily Show last night for some slow ball questions, with a nerf ball … and no strikes called … with Stewart both pitching and catching for Levitt.


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Mr Potato HeadBPSDB No, the Yes Men have not punked the Wall Street Journal, although you sure could be forgiven for thinking “Freaked Out Over SuperFreakonomics” is a DenialDepot post mocking how extremely braindead and fraudulent climate change Denierism can be.

There’s really nothing in Brett Stephen’s article to suggest that it’s supposed to be serious (cf Poe’s Law). Then again it’s not that surprising, Brett Stephens is definitely not “boldly going where he has never gone before.”

Stephens opens with 6 paragraphs of summary (more or less)  of climate change as it appears in Superfreakonomics, liberally sprinkled with spurious cheap shots at Al Gore and all people who accept actual science and reason.

Then we get to the serious disinformation, errors and lying.  Links to the many  critiques and authors referred to by me may be found here, here and here.

Mr. Gore, for instance, tells Messrs. Levitt and Dubner that the stratospheric sulfur solution is “nuts.” “


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BPSDB“WASHINGTON — Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book.

Only one problem: It’s not true, according to an analysis of the numbers done by several independent statisticians for The Associated Press (for full story).”

Nice! Of course the climate science and science blogs have been saying so all along, repeatedly (below), but this independent AP story can be nothing but good news for the fact based, rational world.

[UPDATE 22:30 EST The APS story has +100,000 search engine hits already – wonderful! Kudos to Seth Borenstein]


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“When I looked in her eyes they were blue,

but nobody home”BPSDB

I thought I was done with this particular tar baby and would just leave it to Brian to keep track of the ongoing discussion of Superfreakonomics, but like others (eg here and here) I just can’t seem to shake it off. Actually there are some good reasons to revisit it, so please bear with me … or jump right to “what you can do.”

  • He’s right

  • It’s bad, seriously bad

  • Popular sentiment

  • Why it matters

  • What you can do

He’s right

An interesting exchange took that took place on a forum a couple of days ago raised an important question generally, but with reference to Superfreaknonomics specifically. As is too often the case the more general discussion will have to wait while we deal with the Superfreaks.


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guthrieawardBPSDBIn acknowledging the Woody Guthrie Award, Dan manages to weave together some of his own personal history, as well as Guthrie’s, anthropogenic climate change, and the struggles of the 1930s that inspired and motivated so much of Guthrie’s music, all in just a few short paragraphs!

Now that‘s story telling! … he does Guthrie proud.

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BPSDBIt has been almost a month since Honestpoet did me the singular honour of making me the recipient of the Woody Guthrie Award (presented to A Thinking Blogger). I am very late in acknowledging this honour and making the presentation to another blog for several reasons, one of them being the timing of my absence discussed under Houskeeping).

Another reason would be that I am a social coward. When asked to pick between two people I have been known to feign death rather than admit to a preference.  Receiving the award was humbling, but it also threw me into a panic. The third, related reason is that

I am in Awe of you

All of you who blog for climate and social justice. Your passion, commitment, knowledge, insight, creativity and basic insanity humbles me every day.


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Alice laughed: Theres no use trying, she said; one cant believe impossible things.

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."


One of the great challenges in any social justice activism is that the ultimate goal is, practically speaking, impossible.  Whether we are talking about ending poverty or human trafficking, stopping climate change or saving the whales, any sort of realistic analysis says that they are unattainable goals that are beyond ridiculous.

Needless to say contemplating the obvious futility of one’s efforts is not the most uplifting way to spend time. Indeed it often very quickly leads to despair and apathy.

In considering whether to participate in the International Day of Climate Action tomorrow, there are plenty of reasons to consider doing nothing. The Day of Action is mean to build momentum towards the Copenhagen meetings, but isn’t that more or less a lost cause? There are certainly plenty of good reasons to think so.


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Vodpod videos no longer available.

BPSDBThe US Chamber of Commerce (CoC) disrupted a Yes Men /Avaaz Action Factory press conference on Monday as part of an elaborate prank meant to distract attention from the Chamber’s regressive and ignorant stance on climate issues. Some have suggested that it was the Yes Men who were pranking the US Chamber of Commerce (here and here) rather than the other way around. However, given that the Yes Men’s climate policies (full text of speech here and discussed here) are reality based and rational, whereas the CoC‘s are obviously an irrational comic farce, that really doesn’t sound very credible (see also here).

Chamber of Hope

For me one of the most hopeful signs that we might be starting to take climate seriously is the plight of the US Chamber of Commerce after it’s most recent episode of climate change Denial. There are three elements to the CoC story that I find to be very hopeful

  1. The Yes Men action was credible

  2. Corporate flight from the CoC

  3. Fallout and CoC’s attempts at damage control


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First, HUGE thanks to S2 for minding the store while I have been lost where ever it was that I was lost (below). Particularly as the absence turned out to be much longer than planned.

Also an interesting lesson learned … I have been futilely trying to recruit guest bloggers for many months, and it turns out that all I really had to do was disappear; who knew? 😉


A planned absence of a week or so extended because:

  1. I’m an idiot, and catching up with everything once I return invariably takes much longer than anticipated;
  2. Apparently when there is  a break for whatever reason I find that I extend it to catch up with things that get neglected when I am full on blogging (dishes, laundry, life etc);
  3. I also pretend that I am going to clean up the backlog of links and reading, but in fact I invariably make it worse as I wander the the climate blogosphere;
  4. My ancient computer is dying, seriously dying. I am getting a new one and it will arrive someday, but in the meantime this one  continues to randomly die which could mean more disappearances in the next little while;
  5. My internet access stopped, and I assumed it was related to #4) above. After working on it for almost 2 days I discovered that the problem was my ISP … but by this point it Fri eve at 7 PM, before the long weekend … ir no one at the ISP office. All told sorting that out took almost another week, sending me back to #1).


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Freak Show #1BPSDBA week ago Joseph Romm fired the opening salvo in what became a hail of criticism of the forthcoming book “Superfreakonomics” by  Levitt and Dubner, particularly the climate change chapter which had been circulating on the web (albeit probably illicitly). Now the authors  have begun to reply to their critics, or at least put out what they claim is a reply … or as Only in it for the Gold put it “The authors, Dubner and Levitt, are busily jumping the shark …”

I was late in making it to the freak show and had not actually read any of the critiques when the authors began to reply.  As such I thought it would be interesting to discuss their reply rather than the climate chapter itself, particularly given the rather thorough treatment it has been getting (below). Thus I have read the critiques and the relevant parts of the book only after Levitt or Dubner framed it first. (more…)

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Hudson’s choice


Modern Mechanics

Over at ClimateSight, in the middle of a long but highly readable post entitled Credibility in a Bewildered World, there is this:

And a controversy really sells. For example, would you rather pick up a newspaper with the headline “Another Study Confirms What Everyone Already Knew”, or “Scientists Locked in Epic Battle over Question of Global Warming”? We are naturally drawn to controversy. It’s so much more interesting to readers.

Possibly that was the inspiration for a remarkable article entitled What happened to global warming? by Paul Hudson on the BBC just over a week ago (it was remarkable because it was published by the BBC, and apparently penned by a “Climate correspondent”).

Needless to say, it was picked up all over the world – in fact it was the most popular article on the BBC’s Science & Environment website for three days running, which takes some doing. It could probably have done so for longer, but the BBC chopped the link to it after three days (which is also unusual in itself – popular articles tend to sit around for a while longer than this).

Quite how the article ended up where it did is in itself a bit of a mystery, as Leo Hickman explains in the Guardian.

However, all of the above is a bit of a preamble – what I’m really interested in is Hudson’s choice of “solar scientist” Piers Corbyn as one of his named “sceptics” (the other was Don Easterbrook – what is it with geologists?).


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Blog Action Day

Blog Action Day
I missed it – I was too busy.

However it seems to have been a success:

We are about to hit 27,000 32,000 total trackable blog posts, and our current estimate is that together we reached at least 17 million people today. We are also about to exceed 12,000 registered bloggers on the site and are working to get all of you who posted but haven’t yet registered into the final count.

The numbers are not huge in global terms. Maybe that reflects on the general level of interest in Climate Change worldwide – or maybe not. I don’t know of a good statistical source for this.
But since the aim was to increase awareness (even temporarily), it appears to have worked.


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An odd kind of Icon

This one has been going around for a while now, so it isn’t new.
Apologies if you’re already aware of it, but if you haven’t come across it before, read on.

New York Sea Level

A reader recently pointed us towards a poster at http://meteo.lcd.lu/globalwarming/Holgate/sealevel_change_poster_holgate.pdf as evidence that rising sea levels are no threat to humanity. In his view the key sentence appears to be

The first half of the century (1904-1953) had a slightly higher rate (1.91±0.14 mm/yr) in comparison with the second half of the century (1.42±0.14 mm/yr 1954-2003).

Conclusive proof, apparently, that the residents of Tuvalu and Bangladesh have nothing to fear and that sea level rise is the greatest lie ever told.


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Sense and Censorship

National GeographicBPSDB
I seem to have opened up a can of worms in The Curious Incident of the Denier in the Night-time.

For anyone who has not yet waded through all the comments, I tried to calm things down by imposing a temporary ban (on that thread alone) on any comments that were not relevant to Mike’s original post.
(I should point out that I did so entirely without Mike’s knowledge or consent. It is going to be interesting to read what he makes of all this on his return).
My intention was to stop the circular reasoning and name-calling that was becoming more and more persistent.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. 🙂

In practice, I may have made a rod for my own back. It is surprisingly hard to act as sole judge on the validity of comments, especially those from people for whom I have a lot of respect. To make matters worse, this isn’t even my blog – I’m just minding the shop for a while.

But it has got me thinking about the nature of censorship.


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