This Week's Links

31 October 2007




FOX News Has the Story - Part V

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl
Part IV: Panty Bandits


28 October 2007

WorldNetDaily is a news resource for crazy people. Observe the following:

When you click on the link, this is what you find:

Since when is evolution an "element of Witchcraft"?

FOX News Has the Story - Part IV

27 October 2007

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers
Part III: Lingerie Bowl

NASA: Arctic Sea Ice Decline

New Poll Numbers

26 October 2007

From the AP:
34% believe in ghosts.
23% say they have actually seen a ghost (or believe they have been in one's presence)
48% believe in ESP

This Week's Links

25 October 2007




WorldNetDaily Exclusive: There Were Racist Democrats 100 Years Ago!

This just in: Abraham Lincoln was a Republican! Wow!

Glenn Beck Passes Along Discredited Memes

If you like listening to hysterical people on the radio, then have I got a treat for you. This is from CNN host Glenn Beck's radio show:


BECK: We'll tell you the truth. We'll tell you the things that are politically incorrect. I'll go on and I'll tell you the fires have very little to do with global warming, if anything. The globe was the hottest in 19 -- was it 1934, Stu [executive producer Steve "Stu" Burguiere], or '37? -- '34, 1934 was the hottest year. A stat, by the way, that was, I believe, intentionally distorted by the guy the left holds up as the scientist on global warming. America's temperature peaked in 1934. Since 1934, the hottest year on record was 1998. It has not gotten warmer since 1998. That's a fact.
Nope. The globe was not the hottest in 1934. Earlier this year, NASA corrected its data for the continental United States only. Whereas previously 1998 was thought to be 0.01ºC warmer than 1934 in the U.S. rankings, it now turned out to be 0.02ºC cooler after the temperature correction.

The story was immediately picked up by FOX News columnist Steve Milloy, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, etc. They all shouted this story from the hilltops, conveniently leaving out the part where the global temperature rankings did not change at all, and the continental United States temperatures changed only by a statistically insignificant amount. Rather, they chose to pretend that 1934 was the new hottest year for the globe, and that global warming must surely be a hoax. This claim is apparently still reverberating in the echo chamber.

Also, what's this about James Hansen "intentionally distorting" the data? Do you have any reason to think that, other than the fact that this guy (a NASA scientist with many peer-reviewed papers on the topic) disagrees with you on a matter you know nothing about?

Beck goes on:
BECK: Now, why are these fires burning out of control? Al Gore and everybody else will have you believe that it is all about global warming. Well, really? A one-degree temperature change that happened at the first part of the century, not in the last part of the century, at least most of it, and a temperature change that hasn't changed since 1998 is causing superfires in California and only California? Only America? It's in the American borders. How is that possible?
Actually, let's take a look at the global temperature graph from the past century:

[Note: This is actually the pre-correction temperatures overlaid on top of the post-correction temperatures - notice how they are identical to within 1/1,000th of a degree]

According to a recent NASA report:
Global warming is now 0.6°C [1.08° F] in the past three decades and 0.8°C [1.44° F] in the past century. It is no longer correct to say that "most global warming occurred before 1940". More specifically, there was slow global warming, with large fluctuations, over the century up to 1975 and subsequent rapid warming of almost 0.2°C [0.36° F] per decade.

Whoops, I guess you got that one wrong, too.

Also, who are these "hippie California environmentalists that won't let you touch the landscape, wont let you clear the brush on the side of the hills where your house is because that's natural"? I've certainly neither seen nor heard of these people. Perhaps next time, you can cite something to back up your reckless claims that the California wildfires were caused by environmentalists.

One more thing: Why does CNN give this guy his own show? This seriously puzzles me.

Dinesh D'Souza Builds, Burns Straw Man

24 October 2007

Dinesh D'Souza is out promoting his new book What's So Great About Christianity. As a result, we get to enjoy some really bad editorials. Here is what D'Souza writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

This atheist attack is based on a fallacy – the Fallacy of the Enlightenment. It was pointed out by the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant erected a sturdy intellectual bulwark against atheism that hasn't been breached since. His defense doesn't draw on sacred texts or any other sources of authority to which people of faith might naturally and rightfully turn when confronted with atheist arguments. Instead, it relies on the only framework that today's atheist proselytizers say is valid: reason. The Fallacy of the Enlightenment is the glib assumption that there is only one limit to what human beings can know – reality itself. This view says we can find out more and more until eventually there is nothing more to discover. It holds that human reason and science can, in principle, unmask the whole of reality.

D'Souza spends the rest of his article arguing against the proposition that we can "unmask the whole of reality." Never mind the fact that this is completely 100% not the atheist argument at all.

I also like this line of argument:
When atheists summarily dismiss such common ideas as the immortality of the soul or the afterlife on the grounds that they have never found any empirical proofs for either, they are asking for experiential evidence in a domain that is entirely beyond the reach of the senses. In this domain, Kant argues, the absence of such evidence cannot be used as the evidence for absence.
Translation: "Just because I don't have any proof at all doesn't mean I'm wrong!"

Here is the sweeping conclusion:
Atheism foolishly presumes that reason is in principle capable of figuring out all that there is, while theism at least knows that there is a reality greater than, and beyond, that which our senses and our minds can ever apprehend.
"So, I can't know if I'm, like, in the matrix "

Really, though, this is at best an argument for Agnosticism. Only if one defines Atheism as "the belief that we can in principle unmask the whole of reality through our human senses," rather than the more realistic "lack of belief in a personal Deity," does this line of argument make any sense whatsoever. I personally don't know any "Atheists" who fall into the first category, but I know plenty who say "maybe there is a God/Allah/Yahweh/Thor/Odin/Zeus, but in the absence of any real evidence, I don't see why I should positively believe in its existence."

Oh yeah, and this is the same Dinesh D'Souza who dated Ann Coulter, used the Virginia Tech shooting to denounce atheism, blamed liberals for provoking 9/11, and used stolen correspondence to out gay college students when he was editor of the Dartmouth Review.

(h/t Something Awful, falcon2424, corkskroo, spicychickenstyle)

John Stossel

Once again, John Stossel covers the issue of climate change without any mention of the vast, overwhelming agreement in the scientific community that the warming of the past 50 years has been primarily driven by the emission of anthropogenic gases. Once again, he fails to mention the near-unanimity in the peer-reviewed journals regarding this point. Once again, he fails to mention that every major scientific organization whose expertise bears on this point has said the same thing.

Instead, Stossel once again frames this as an "it's-all-about-that-liar-Al-Gore" argument, and completely fails to interview any scientists that disagree with his position.

The rest of the report is filled with all the common contrarian talking points.

See here and here for more on this segment.

Jay Rockefeller and Telecom Immunity

23 October 2007

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is apparently leading the Senate Intelligence Committee to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, regarding their involvement in the NSA's warrantless wiretapping activities. These graphs seem particularly telling:

The compact version:
AT&T Contributions to Rockefeller
January 2001 - February 2007: $300
March 2007: $19,350

Verizon Contributions to Rockefeller
January 2001 - March 2007: $3,750
April 2007 - June 2007: $23,500

More at Wired and The New York Times.

Mike Huckabee on the Founding Fathers

At the Republican debate the other night, Mike Huckabee (R-AR) said this:

When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator

Turns out, that's not true. Not by a long shot.
Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).

A few more of the signers were former clergymen, though it's a little unclear just how many. The conservative Heritage Foundation said two other signers were former clergymen. The religion web site said four signers of the declaration were current or former full-time preachers. But everyone agrees only Witherspoon was an active minister when he signed the Declaration of Independence.

For those of you out there with calculators, 1/56 is not "most." Neither is 4/56, if we want to be overly generous to Huckabee. But of course, nobody at FOX News called him out on this. Neither did any of the other major news networks.

Ben Stein's Expelled - Part V

Transcript available here.

My favorite part of the interview was this:

STEIN: Einstein worked within the framework of believing there was a God. Newton worked within the framework of believing there was a God. For gosh sakes Darwin worked within the framework of believing there was a God. And yet, somehow, today you're not allowed to believe it. Why can't we have as much freedom as Darwin had?

The big difference here is that Einstein didn't just say "light bends because God did it." Likewise, Newton didn't just say "gravity exists because God did it." Darwin didn't just say "different species are here because God did it," either. The fact that these men believed in the existence of God otherwise is completely irrelevant to the point Ben "persecution-complex" Stein is trying to make here. Their theories were good, and were backed up with evidence. They didn't just rely on divine fiat. As a result, they weren't laughed at in the scientific community. Even the Big Bang theory, although it has religious implications (insofar as it posits a beginning in time of the universe itself, and is thus compatible with religious beliefs), has been accepted because it presented significant evidence in its favor, and thus won over the scientific community.

Creationism, on the other hand, "works within the framework of believing there is a God" in a completely different manner. Its central argument is simply this: "things are so complex that God must have done it." It's the same old theological argument we've had floating around for centuries, but it's certainly not science, and it's certainly not on par with the theories of Newton and Einstein.

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Get This Man a Copy of the Constitution

21 October 2007

Jacob Sullum, writing for Reason magazine, makes the following sarcastic remarks regarding the children's health insurance (SCHIP) bill:

The Framers would have insisted on nothing less, as reflected in the Constitution's Health Care Clause. Oh, wait. The Constitution has no Health Care Clause. Nor does it include any other provision that authorizes Congress to spend taxpayers' money on health insurance for the children of the working poor, the grandparents of the middle class, the nephews of the super-rich, or the kin of any other socioeconomic group.

Well, since Sullum can't be bothered to look through the thing, I took it upon myself to find the constitutional provision Sullum can't seem to locate. Here it is:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States

I understand that you're a libertarian, and are therefore opposed to measures such as these, but don't let your sarcastic ambitions get in the way of the facts. Oh, and don't pretend that you're a constitutional expert.

FOX News on Al Gore - Part IV

20 October 2007

More FOX News coverage of Al Gore:

FOX News on Al Gore - Part III

FOX News again covers climate change in its predictably awful, ad hominem, it's-all-about-that-liar-Al-Gore fashion.

The segment begins: "Is the global warming movement based more on mixed messages and intimidation than on facts?"

The implied answer is "yes," as the panel argues for the next four minutes, but the real answer is "no." It's ridiculous how the overwhelming majority of scientific organizations and peer-reviewed journals say that our recent warming trend is mainly driven by emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Yet you'll never really hear this on FOX News. Naomi Oreskes surveyed the peer-reviewed publications in Science, and found that 0% took the position now suggested by John Stossel and FOX & Friends. If the people at FOX News think otherwise, they should submit their theories for publication. As it stands, global warming contrarians (which is exactly what this panel is filled with) are not researching and publishing their views on this subject. Those who are studying and publishing on the topic are overwhelmingly finding that global warming is mainly driven by anthropogenic gases.

Oh yeah, and pretty much every major scientific organization whose expertise bears on the subject has said the same thing.

Anyway, Stossel starts off the interview:

"My problem is with his movie, and with this religious-like campaign about 'we must all go back to the stone age' because we're evil"

Whoah, there. Nowhere in the movie does he say anything of the sort. This is a pure 100% straw man argument. Furthermore, contrarians like Stossel like to couch the mainstream scientific opinions on this subject in terms of religion rather than science. It happens all the time. Michelle Malkin does it. Sean Hannity does it. Steve Forbes does it. They pretty much all do it in an attempt to hide the ball, and bring the argument down to their level.

Then Stossel talks about "the Vice President's campaign to intimidate scientists who disagree, saying they've been purchased by millions of dollars." But is it really intimidation to point it out when somebody has a real conflict of interest? Furthermore, I watched the Al Gore movie, and he doesn't talk about scientists being bought off by Exxon-Mobil and the like. Instead, he talks about the PR campaign funded by such groups. So it's unclear what Stossel is arguing here. It would certainly be nice if he could give us some examples and illustrations to make his point, rather than just innuendo.

Then the blonde chick chimes in:
"Some scientists have been fired, actually, from universities, I believe, because of their stance - that's a whole 'nother issue"
Name one. Or are you just floating out some innuendo and rumors you might have possibly heard from someplace?

This is all from just the first minute of the interview. I won't go through it all right now, but in summary: (1) the panel develops some conspiracy theories to explain that global warming is just a big money conspiracy, (2) they call Al Gore's film "brainwashing propaganda," (3) they suggest that Al Gore needs to give back his Oscar, (4) they suggest that the Nobel/Oscar committees are motivated by anti-Bush/anti-American sentiments, and (5) they reveal that their wives and daughters are smarter than they are.

Part I: FOX repeatedly compares Al Gore to Yasser Arafat.
Part II: FOX uses UK judge as its primary scientific authority.

Samuel Brownback: Outta the Race

19 October 2007

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is officially out. Here is the flowery explanation:

Said the Kansas senator: "My yellow brick road just came short of the White House this time."

Here is the more real explanation:
"We're out of money," said Brownback.

I'm gonna miss this guy.

FOX News on Al Gore - Part II

FOX News contributor and non-scientist Steven Milloy (who does not have a PhD in anything whatsoever, nor does he consult with - or cite - anybody with any relevant expertise) has a new column in which he argues that "25 percent of 'An Inconvenient Truth' is not true," and that moviegoers should be offered a full refund. His analysis is predictably awful.

First off, I thought this bit was particularly amusing:

Gore attempts to smear his critics by likening them to the tobacco industry.
That's an odd protest coming from Steven Milloy, who received $180,000 in 2000 and 2001 for his work as a consultant for Philip Morris (he also has many other ties to the tobacco industry).

Anyway, Milloy starts off by using a British judge as his sole scientific source, rather than any kind of climate scientist. As a preliminary matter, it should be pointed out that this same judge said that the movie was broadly accurate, particularly relating to its portrayal of anthropogenic greenhouse gases as the main driver of global warming (he even uses the IPCC report as his scientific source). The judge only went into minor factual points, even going so far as to put the word "errors" in scare quotes (lest someone like Milloy mistake what he was saying). But according to Milloy, there would be nothing left of An Inconvenient Truth if this judge's alleged "errors" (Milloy doesn't use scare quotes even though the judge in question did) were stripped away from the film. So let's take a look at what Milloy has to say.

Gore then links Hurricane Katrina with global warming. But the judge ruled that was erroneous, so the Katrina scenes would wind up on the cutting-room floor.

You can read what Gore actually said here. Basically, Gore mentions how warmer waters can lead to increased hurricane intensity (a claim well corroborated by many respected atmospheric and climate scientists). He then names a few, including Katrina, to illustrate the destruction involved.

There is a serious debate going on in the scientific community right now on the topic of hurricane intensity and global warming. Kerry Emanuel and others say that yes, hurricanes and tropical storms will gain more net energy (and thus become more destructive) as the earth gets warmer (thus supplying that energy to the hurricane's heat engine). This is borne out by the close correlation between temperature increase and hurricane intensity increase, as well as basic thermodynamics.

Atmospheric science professor William Gray (an old man fond of comparing Gore to Hitler - "Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews") and others disagree, saying that our recent surge in hurricane intensity is simply due to a decadal cycle.

The bottom line is that this point is unresolved (see Storm World). This was certainly not an error, or even an "error," in Gore's movie, since he has significant scientific support for his contentions. The only way you could attack this is if you think Gore should have sidetracked the discussion to go into the subtleties of the Emanuel/Gray debates. Simply put: Milloy is the one misleading here.

Milloy goes on:
...about the 16:30 minute mark, when, according to the judge, Al Gore erroneously links receding glaciers — specifically Mt. Kilimanjaro — with global warming.
No, what the judge said was that Kilimanjaro specifically cannot be attributed to global warming. This is very very different from how Milloy (a tricky lobbyist) presents the issue. Milloy says that the judge called Gore out on linking any receding glaciers (which includes Kilimanjaro) to global warming. In fact, the way that Milloy presents the issue is downright wrong. The world's glaciers are in fact retreating because (surprise!) the earth is undeniably getting warmer. Kilimanjaro, however, was not a great example of this claim, due to the other contributing factors to its retreat (see Tropical Glacier Retreat).

Milloy goes on:
As the judge ruled that the Antarctic ice core data presented in the film "do not establish what Mr. Gore asserts," this inconvenient untruth also needs to go.
This is a case of the judge simply being wrong. This is also precisely why Milloy was wrong in relying on a British judge as his scientific authority. What Gore actually said was this:
The relationship is very complicated. But there is one relationship that is more powerful than all the others and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, because it traps more heat from the sun inside
That is precisely, 100% right (see The Lag Between Temperature and CO2).

Gore spends about 35 seconds on how the drying of Lake Chad is due to global warming. The judge ruled that this claim wasn’t supported by the scientific evidence.
Nope. According to Gavin Schmidt of NASA:
There is substantial evidence that at least a portion of this drying out is human-caused. A few recent papers (Held et al, PNAS; Chung and Ramanathan and Biasutti and Giannini) have addressed causes ranging from Indian Ocean changes in sea surface temperature to the increase in atmospheric aerosols in the Northern hemisphere. Gore uses this example to illustrate that there are droughts in some regions even while other areas are flooding. Unfortunately this is exactly what the models suggest will happen.
...a 30-second clip about how global warming is causing polar bears to drown because they have to swim greater distances to find sea ice on which to rest. The judge ruled however, that the polar bears in question had actually drowned because of a particularly violent storm.
It appears that, yes, the polar bears here drowned because of a storm. This is the story that sparked the film's anecdote:

"We know short swims up to 15 miles are no problem, and we know that one or two may have swum up to 100 miles. But that is the extent of their ability, and if they are trying to make such a long swim and they encounter rough seas they could get into trouble," said Steven Amstrup, a research wildlife biologist with the USGS.

The new study, carried out in part of the Beaufort Sea, shows that between 1986 and 2005 just 4% of the bears spotted off the north coast of Alaska were swimming in open waters. Not a single drowning had been documented in the area.

However, last September, when the ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of Alaska, 51 bears were spotted, of which 20% were seen in the open sea, swimming as far as 60 miles off shore.

The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days later after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. "We estimate that of the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds," said the report.

Milloy plods along:
On the heels of that error, Gore launches into a 3-minute "explanation" of how global warming will shut down the Gulf Stream and send Europe into an ice age. The judge ruled that this was an impossibility.
Whoah, there. The judge certainly did not call it "an impossibility." He said that the IPCC called it "unlikely." When the IPCC says that something is "unlikely," though, they mean that there is a 5-10% chance of it happening. Of course, it seems far more likely that the Gulf Stream will simply be slowed down by about 30% by 2100. But there is certainly no error, or even "error," in mentioning the more severe possibilities. Simply put: Milloy is wrong again.

I'm going to skip a bunch of Milloy's "facts" and "journalism" here because it's really tiring. But I just want to point out one more:
Gore also says in the film that 2005 is the hottest year on record. But NASA data actually show that 1934 was the hottest year on record in the U.S. — 2005 is not even in the top 10.
Notice the weasel words added in the second sentence: "in the U.S." When NASA corrected its data earlier this year, it was only in relation to the continental United States. They found a minor error that meant that 1998 (which was previously thought to have been only 0.01ºC warmer than 1934 in the continental United States) was actually 0.02ºC cooler. The global temperature rankings, however, remained unchanged. In sum, Milloy's assertion here is pure, 100% bullshit.

What bothers me about this entire article is that in-and-out hit pieces like these are a dime a dozen in the mainstream news today, while serious science journalism is truly rare.

UPDATE: Bonus FOX News graphic.

Mitt Romney Calls For Redundant Withdrawal

18 October 2007

In an attempt to boost his anti-U.N. credentials, Mitt Romney said the following:

"We should withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council."

We don't currently have a seat on the council, so withdrawal would be impossible. In fact, we've been boycotting the council for years now.

This Week's Links



Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

Fox & Friends on Al Gore and the Nobel Prize

17 October 2007

For years now, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has gathered the world's top atmospheric and climate scientists together to study the causes and impacts of climate change. Every few years, this group of scientists compiles a comprehensive written report detailing current scientific thought on the topic, as well as the effects and different mitigation strategies. They even provide helpful summaries of these reports in plain language for policy makers.

During his tenure in the Senate, his two terms as Vice President, and now as a citizen, Al Gore has consistently worked to establish and ratify international treaties dealing with this same issue. As of June 2007, a total of 172 countries and other governmental entities have ratified such an agreement (representing over 61.6% of emissions from Annex I countries). As I'm sure you're all aware, he even made a very successful documentary film on the topic.

This past Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the IPCC and Al Gore for having "done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations". The media's coverage was predictably awful. They pretty much all framed this story in one of three ways: (1) Will Al Gore run for President now?, (2) Al Gore is the anti-Bush, and this prize is a symbol of the world's dissatisfaction with the current President, or (3) Al Gore is a liar.

I'll try to write something about each of these (although I've been very busy lately), but #3 is obviously the most troublesome. Of course, all the usual characters came out. But I'd like to focus on one segment from Fox & Friends that really epitomizes the shallow, dishonest commentary that followed this story.

Right off the bat, FOX host Steve Doocy frames the story by linking Al Gore to Yasser Arafat (the Israeli and Palestinian leaders were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their peace negotiations that year). Of course, it could have been worse. Doocy could have started by comparing Al Gore to Osama Bin Laden (which is precisely what The National Review did).

Then Doocy mentions the $1 million prize. He doesn't say where this fits in to his story, but it seems that he just wants to solidify this story as being about personal gains for Al Gore. No mention of the fact that Gore is donating 100% of that prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Next, FOX & Friends mentions that another Peace prize winner was "anti-Bush." No explanation as to why this is significant, but the implication is that somehow this means that the Nobel Committee was simply motivated by "anti-Bush" sentiments. Also, subtly embedded in this comment is the suggestion that awarding Al Gore is somehow anti-American. This was the point that particularly bothered me.

Doocy then piles on to criticize An Inconvenient Truth, which he simply calls "not so true." Rather than citing any scientists or scientific organizations that take such a position (hint: they're very scarce), Doocy instead cites a judge from Britain. This is a very popular meme right now.

The blonde chick explains that the judge found "eleven falsehoods" (the judge she's referring to actually only found nine "errors" - and yes, the judge put scare quotes around the word "errors" throughout his opinion to underscore the triviality of the "errors"). Nobody on the show mentions that the same judge also said that "Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate."

Next, FOX & Friends tells the audience that some group wants to strip Al Gore of his Oscar. That group is actually just a conservative think tank in New Zealand.

Finally, FOX & Friends begins to list some of the nine "errors." According to them, Gore lied about sea level rises, the Gulf Stream, Lake Chad, and Polar Bears. But here is what the climate scientists Gavin Schmidt (NASA) and Michael Mann (ESSI) have to say about each of those:

Ice-sheet driven sea level rise Gore correctly asserted that melting of Greenland or the West Antarctic ice sheet would raise sea levels 20ft (6 meters). In the movie, no timescale for that was specified, but lest you think that the 20 ft number is simply plucked out of thin air, you should note that this is about how much higher sea level was around 125,000 years ago during the last inter-glacial period. Then, global temperatures were only a degree or two warmer than today - and given that this is close to the minimum temperature rise we can expect in the future, that 20 ft is particularly relevant. The rate at which this is likely to happen is however highly uncertain as we have discussed previously.
Climate impacts on the ocean conveyor The movie references the Younger Dryas event that occurred 11,000 years ago when, it is thought, a large discharge of fresh water into the North Atlantic disrupted the currents, causing significant regional cooling. That exact scenario can't happen again, but similar processes are likely to occur. The primary unresolved scientific issue regards how quickly the circulation is likely to change as we move forward. The model simulations in the latest IPCC report show a slowdown in the circulation - by about 30% by 2100 - but there is much we don't understand about modeling that circulation and future inputs of freshwater from the ice sheets, so few are willing to completely rule out the possibility of a more substantial change in the future. Further discussion on what this really means and doesn't mean is available here and here.
Drying up of Lake Chad It is undisputed that Lake Chad has indeed shrunk rapidly in recent decades. While irrigation and upstream water use are probably contributing factors, the dominant cause is the reduction of rainfall across the entire Sahel from the 1950s to the 1980s and with rainfall today still substantially below the high point 50 years ago. There is substantial evidence that at least a portion of this drying out is human-caused. A few recent papers (Held et al, PNAS; Chung and Ramanathan and Biasutti and Giannini) have addressed causes ranging from Indian Ocean changes in sea surface temperature to the increase in atmospheric aerosols in the Northern hemisphere. Gore uses this example to illustrate that there are droughts in some regions even while other areas are flooding. Unfortunately this is exactly what the models suggest will happen.
Impact of sea ice retreat on Polar bears As we presaged in August, summer Arctic sea ice shattered all records this year for the minimum extent. This was partially related to wind patterns favorable to ice export in the spring, but the long term trends are almost certainly related to the ongoing and dramatic warming in the Arctic. Polar bears do indeed depend on the sea ice to hunt for seals in the spring and summer, and so a disappearance of this ice is likely to impact them severely. The specific anecdote referred to in the movie came from observations of anomalous drownings of bears in 2004 and so was accurate. However, studying the regional populations of polar bears is not easy and assessing their prospects is tough. In the best observed populations such as in western Hudson Bay (Stirling and Parkinson, 2006), female polar bear weight is going down as the sea ice retreats over the last 25 years, and the FWS is considering an endangered species listing. However, it should be stated that in most of the discussions about polar bears, they are used as a representative species. Arctic ecosystems are changing on many different levels, but it is unsurprising that charismatic mega-fauna get more press than bivalves. In the end, it may be the smaller and less photogenic elements that have the biggest impact.

They may have taken it a bit easy on AIT when it comes to the refugees, though. More on the UK judge's ruling here and here.

I'm not saying that this movie is above criticism. It certainly isn't (particularly with regard to Tuvalu). However, to cover this Nobel Prize by simply rattling off nine "errors," and to simply call them "factual inaccuracies" is highly misleading and intentionally distracting from the main issue.

All in all, the people at FOX News have done what they always do when the issue of climate change comes up: (1) turn it into an issue about Al Gore, (2) act as if Al Gore is a total liar, (3) completely ignore the scientific community at large (they never once mention the collective thousands of scientists who shared in this award), (4) make some hit-and-run climate contrarian points, (5) act as if recognizing climate change is "anti-American," and (6) make a sweeping conclusion that "nobody knows" whether climate change is driven by anthropogenic gases.

UPDATE: Bonus FOX News coverage.

Again, they keep on turning to the UK judge, the New Zealand conservative think tank, and now a retired Geography professor to make their points. Maybe they should talk to some climate scientists before doing a news report on climate science.

UPDATE II: Bonus FOX News coverage.

Again, in a panel with Brit Hume, William Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer, FOX News argues that (1) Al Gore has joined the ranks of Yasser Arafat, and (2) the Nobel Prize must have an anti-Bush or anti-American agenda.

Juan Williams is also guilty of simply going the route of predictable talking-point narrative #2 (see above). Why are television round-table discussions so horrible?

UPDATE III: On yet another FOX News segment, they argue that (1) Al Gore has joined the ranks of Yasser Arafat, and (2) the Nobel Committee has some sort of Socialist, anti-American agenda. This time, they add the idea that General Petraeus should have won the award instead.

Inhofe Continues to Tout Never-Published Survey

Sen James Inhofe (R-OK) continues to push a meme that should have died a long time ago. According to his blog:

*A survey of 538 peer-reviewed studies reveals that less than half of published scientists endorse man-made global warming theory and only 7% believe that man-made gases are a major cause of global warming.

*But despite all of these developments, the American people are soon going to be asked to pay thousands per family for so called "solutions" to warming.
The "survey" Inhofe mentions here was never even published anywhere. In reality, the vast, overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed publications say the exact opposite. It's really not even funny. In 2004, Naomi Oreskes surveyed the peer-reviewed literature on climate change and found that 0% took Inhofe's position. She updated this study in 2007 and found more of the same.

Here's what happened. A couple of months ago, some guy thought that he could update the study himself. Before his findings were even published, the contrarian-friendly DailyTech reported on its alleged findings:
Of 528 total papers on climate change [since 2003], only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."
The study was immediately picked up by James Inhofe, DaveScot, Brent Bozell, Matt Drudge, FOX News, Free Republic, Michael Savage, and Rush Limbaugh as a sign that there was no scientific agreement on the issue of global warming. All of the careless hacks who can't bother themselves with fact-checking a story. Not only did they report on the supposed findings of this not-yet-published "study," they even misrepresented what it purported to show. One retard wrote that "A recent survey of climate change articles in science journals finds fewer than half of the authors endorse anthropogenic global warming theories. The so-called consensus has now collapsed to a minority position." Never mind the fact that this "study" showed nothing of the sort.

Anyway, Tim Lambert (who shot down Benny Peiser when he tried to do the same thing) looked into the "study's" claims regarding peer-reviewed articles that "reject the consensus outright." It turns out, these much touted articles did nothing of the sort. Energy & Environment eventually decided that not even they would publish the "study."

By the way, Energy & Environment is a poorly regarded social science journal. It is not carried in the ISI listing of peer-reviewed journals, and it has been roundly criticized for publishing substandard papers in the past. Additionally, it's run by global warming contrarians for the sole purpose of giving other contrarians something resembling a scientific platform. Basically, it's the equivalent to an unaccredited or online college.

Not to be deterred, Inhofe still references this "study" and claims that there is some sort of "huge change." He repeated it to convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy a couple weeks ago. Not only that, he even continues to misrepresent what the survey itself purported to show. This time, he even added 10 papers out of thin air!

This is precisely how rumors and misinformation spread.

FOX News Has the Story - Part III

15 October 2007

Part I: Sex Robots
Part II: Sex Teachers

FOX News Has the Story - Part II

14 October 2007

Duncan Hunter at Values Voter Debate

After expressing support of Roy Moore's proposed bill to strip Americans of their right to challenge Establishment Clause violations, Duncan Hunter made the following speech:

HUNTER: Can I use a minute on that?

FARAH: Yes, go ahead.

HUNTER: You know, Roy, it looks to me like you are ahead of all of us in the polls.

[audience cheers]

You may accept the nomination. But you know something? At the first Constitutional Convention in 1787 when they couldn't get together, and Ben Franklin moved that they began each session with a prayer with the supplication to God, and George Washington was said to have beamed and to have loved that, and James Madison seconded the motion. I guess my question to the liberals, to the liberal activist judges who say that the Constitution doesn't allow that, doesn't allow reference to God or to His direction, just what part of the U.S. Constitution and the interpretation by George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin don't those liberal judges agree with?

Actually, at the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin did suggest that the sessions begin with a prayer. However, he was not seconded by James Madison, and he was completely ignored by the convention, who thought such a proposal was totally unnecessary. According to Franklin, "The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary." I don't know where he got that bit about George Washington "beaming," but I'd take that with a grain of salt after his other comments.

Also, even if this were so, it does not shed much light on our interpretation of the Constitution, given the fact that the Constitution (particularly the Establishment Clause from the Bill of Rights, which came later) did not even exist yet.

FOX News Has the Story

13 October 2007

From the discussion: "You can finally find a man with a 17-inch penis"

Giuliani Lies About Clinton - Part I

11 October 2007

At the recent Republican debate, Rudy Giuliani told a couple of lies about Hillary Clinton:

  1. "Giuliani claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton once called the free-market economy "the most destructive force in modern America." She didn't say that. She quoted another author who said free markets were "disruptive." She also said free markets bring prosperity."
  2. "The mayor falsely claimed Clinton proposes to give $1,000 to "everybody." Her proposed subsidies to workers' retirement accounts would be for couples making up to $60,000 a year and would be $500 for those making up to $100,000. "
  3. "Giuliani falsely claimed that more than 2 percent of the nation's gross domestic product is spent on "frivolous" lawsuits. The figure is from a study about the cost of all lawsuits."

That last one wasn't about Clinton, but I thought I'd keep it in there anyway.

I find it fascinating that none of the major news networks are really talking about the misstatements and misinformation from these debates. They should be hammering this guy, but instead they devote entire segments to whether or not Fred Thompson looked nervous.


Oregon Petition - Round 2

About 10 years ago, a group called the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine circulated a non-peer reviewed article, dressed up to look like an article from the well-respected National Academy of Sciences (they actually had to issue a press release clarifying that they had nothing to do with the bogus article), with the usual global-warming-is-a-hoax stuff. They sent it out to pretty much every scientist whose address they could find, along with the Oregon Petition, and allowed anyone to fill it out online with little-to-no oversight. Some even added the names of Spice Girls, the cast of M*A*S*H and (my favorite) "Redwine, PhD." To this day, James "global warming is a hoax" Inhofe (R-OK) cites this petition to make his case that there are thousands of scientists who think just like him.

Well, they're doing it again. RealClimate has the story here.

Rudy Giuliani on the Issues

08 October 2007

On his changing position on gun control:

"There are some major intervening events - Sept. 11 - which cast somewhat of a different light on the Second Amendment."
On taking phone calls while in the middle of a speech:
"Since Sept. 11, most of the time when we get on a plane we talk to each other and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other"
On building a border fence:
"I support security at the borders. I think security is enormously important in the post-Sept. 11 period. I think we have to know who's coming into this country."
On his American flag pin:
"Each time I wear it, it reminds me of Sept. 11."
On religion:
"I need God's help for everything, and I probably feel that the most when I'm in crisis and under pressure, like Sept. 11, when I was dealing with prostate cancer, or when I'm trying to explain death to people."
On what day it is:
"For me, every day is an anniversary of Sept. 11"

(via New York Daily News)

UPDATE: TPM has a little montage here:

Pat Robertson Launches Research Program

07 October 2007

In 1978, televangelist Pat Robertson founded an unaccredited University and named it after his television station: Christian Broadcasting Network University. In recent years, the name was changed to Regent University. Despite having achieved accreditation, the school continues to have a poor academic reputation, with Robertson's fourth-tier law school tied for the dubious honor of "lowest ranked law school in the country."

Now, in the wake of their failed attempt to keep Terri Schiavo's body perpetually pumping food and air, the people at Regent University are announcing a new undertaking:

University leaders have launched a new effort to research everything from disabilities to cloning and stem cells.

Who better to research such things than a school that doesn't even have a single science department?

Iran So Far

06 October 2007

Medved on McCain on the Constitution

04 October 2007

Conservative film critic (who spoiled the plot for Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby) and frequent Rush Limbaugh fill-in Michael Medved recently weighed in on John McCain's "Christian nation" comments.

Starting off strong, Medved promises to give "eight undeniable and sometimes uncomfortable" reasons why he believes America is a Christian nation, then proceeds to list only five. I'll go through each of them in turn.


Right off the bat, Medved starts using phony quotations. He attributes this to James Madison, Father of the Constitution:

James Madison (acclaimed as “The Father of the Constitution”) declared that “religion is the basis and Foundation of Government”

This quote is straight from the pages of David Barton's list of phony quotations (he calls them "unconfirmed"). James Madison never said any such thing. Either Medved is a liar, or he gets his information from David Barton and Internet rumor-mills. No matter which, we should proceed to take everything he says with a grain of salt. Here is what James Madison really thought about the proper relationship between Church and State.
The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State (Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819).

Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and & Gov't in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history (Detached Memoranda, circa 1820).

Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together (Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822).

To the Baptist Churches on Neal's Greek on Black Creek, North Carolina I have received, fellow-citizens, your address, approving my objection to the Bill containing a grant of public land to the Baptist Church at Salem Meeting House, Mississippi Territory. Having always regarded the practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, I could not have otherwise discharged my duty on the occasion which presented itself (Letter to Baptist Churches in North Carolina, June 3, 1811).
Still on his first point, Medved goes on to misattribute an Abigail Adams quote to John Adams.

His successor as president, John Adams (also known as “The Atlas of Independence”) wrote to his wife Abigail in 1775: “Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. A patriot must be a religious man.”

Abigail Adams, as I'm sure you're aware, had no part in drafting the United States Constitution. But I'm sure you get the point by now. Michael Medved is a schmuck who can't bother with basic fact-checking. Nonetheless, as much as it pains me, I'll go on to his other points.


Medved begins by quoting early Chief Justice John Marshall as saying that "The American population is entirely Christian" (a transparently false declaration on Marshall's part), and that he would be surprised if the United States government did not "exhibit relations with it [the Church]." Leaving aside the fact that Marshall merely suggested that the United States government might have to interact with a powerful organization within its borders, Medved leaves out the part where James Madison ("Father of the Constitution") writes a letter correcting this point of view. According to Madison:
The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst by an entire abstinence of: the Govt from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, & protecting each sect agst trespasses on its legal rights by others. (Letter to Jasper Adams, 1832)
Medved goes on to call Marshall's statements a "judicial opinion" despite the fact that it was merely private correspondence.

But the madness doesn't end here. Medved proceeds to lie about Thomas Jefferson:

In 1803, in fact, Jefferson recommended to Congress the approval of a treaty that provided government funds to support a Catholic priest in ministering to the Kaskaskia Indians. Three times he signed extensions of another measure described as “An Act regulating the grants of land appropriated for Military services and for the Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen.”

Oh, boy. This is another popular one, with so much misinformation packed into two little sentences. First of all, the Kaskaskia Indians were foreign nationals, and accordingly treated as a foreign nation. The treaty Jefferson signed with them was a quid-pro-quo agreement, in which the Indians gave up their claims in Illinois. In exchange, they asked that they not be pushed off their remaining lands and that they be given a priest. The Kaskaskia Indians had converted to Catholicism a century earlier and positively requested a priest as part of the treaty. This is not a case of Thomas Jefferson proselytizing.

The second sentence here, about "propagating the gospel among the heathen" is so awfully misleading. First of all, "The Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen" was merely the name of a group involved in this treaty, so you should not interpret "propagating the Gospel among the Heathen" as being the purpose of this act (as Medved would probably like you to believe).

During the Revolutionary War, Congress declared that all Indians who did not aid the British would have their lands confirmed and secured after the war. In the years after the war, SUBPGAH was concerned that certain tribes would not get what was promised to them. They successfully petitioned Congress for the above-mentioned Act.

...Actually, I'm going to just pause here. Medved is almost too sloppy to warrant a response. He's already made way too many mistakes in his "eight" part response. My summary: Michael Medved is a hack.