Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Denial Watch - Get Your Science on...

Something I don't get about global warming denailism – why they never bother to support their arguments? By this I mean they (and their supporters) have pumped millions and millions of dollars into PR campaigns, fake grass roots organisations, scientists-in-your-pocket to lend credibility and loads of lobbyists – all used to back the same rough set of three arguments; it's not really happening/the science is not clear so lets not nothing/it is happening but it is not all bad.

But what they have never done is fund some science. I don't mean a conference or opinion piece by a paid denial scientists, I man the think they all claim to be about; the truth – real objective science.

For example recently the Cato Institute published a series of ads pushing the (fake) idea that the science was not settled on Climate Change. Let's pretend that they were right; that ad campaign was not cheap; it must have cost in excess of $1 million as just the New York Times ad costs $150,000. So why not spend the PR cash on financing a expedition to the Arctic to uncover the truth – publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal – then the 'consensus' would collapse under the one thing that can't be ignored; the truth?

I mean Exxon was estimated to have spent around £100 million over the past 10 years – imagine how much science they could have done? Why were they not sending teams to to measure glaciers or uncover the climate sink data of the oceans? I man we heard over-and-over that the climate science we do have is bias and part of some ill-defined conspiracy to fleece research funds; so why did the denialists not simply fund un-bias research?

Could it be because, like the creationists, they know deep down the people with the chequebooks who fund this stuff know they are wrong (as Exxon has admitted) and the PR battle is the only place they have a chance of winning?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Liberty University Bans Democrats

Lol! You couldn't make this up; the aptly named 'Liberty University' has banned the 'Democratic Club';

Liberty University has revoked its recognition of the campus Democratic Party club, saying "we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by" the university.

"It kind of happened out of nowhere," said Brian Diaz, president of LU's student Democratic Party organization, which LU formally recognized in October.

Diaz said he was notified of the school's decision May 15 in an e-mail from Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs.

According to the e-mail, the club must stop using the university's name, holding meetings on campus, or advertising events. Violators could incur one or more reprimands under the school's Liberty Way conduct code, and anyone who accumulates 30 reprimands is subject to expulsion.

Hine said late Thursday that the university could not sanction an official club that supported Democratic candidates.

"We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech."


Thursday, May 07, 2009

John Gray Talk: Beware Fascism

I went along to see the political philosopher John Gray give a talk yesterday at the Watershed. It was a very illuminating talk with lots of interesting points. His main point is that regardless we admit it or not, many of us have an idea of political 'progress' as a cumulative thing. What he means is that science and technology are cumulative - as in, once we solve one issue or problem, we can build new knowledge and technology on the back of that. As our knowledge about the world gets greater and the technology we can develop also grows. For example, as our ability to understand micro-technology grows we have been able to progress that knowledge further and further so we can each have a personal PC that is many times more powerful than the one NASA used to send people to the moon in the 60s.

Gray says we all tend to fall into the trap of applying the same ideals to political progress. There these is a big narrative to history; be it religious or secular - that we think history has a direction. So once universal suffrage is gained, that's democracy sorted and we can progress to exporting it (e.g. Iraq). Those (like the Neocons) who aims for impossible gains (spreading democracy via the gun) always end up sacrificing other people's lives on their alter of progress. He suggests this is foolish, that while the progress made is a good thing (he cited women's rights, ending slavery etc as good things we should protect) that when the sit hits the fan these can(and do) get reversed very quickly.

In his 2003 book 'Al Queda and What it Means to Be Modern' he does predict the economic collapse. In the talk he pointed out that tens of thousands of practising economists failed to. What does that say about the system? It says reverses can and do happen and the happen fast. Prior to this fall he suggests the hubris was that we thought we could control risk. We could not. He now predicts that we are in the first stages of a longer collapse and that reverses will happen - that groups of humans will blame other groups of humans and turn on each other. He also predicts the return of the racist right as part of this.

Looking at the predicted gains of the BNP, even the Evening Post's acquiesce to casual racism against travellers, it seems his predictions are coming to pass. Gray suggests things like resisting ID cards are worthy because while the government may claim benign reasons for it, almost all knowledge and technology can be used for ill, and as reveres happen fast, we should not empower the state with this data.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

We The People

Some work by artist Chris Jordan; Depicts 83,000 Abu Ghraib prisoner photographs, equal to the number of people who have been arrested and held at US-run detention facilities with no trial or other due process of law, during the Bush Administration's war on terror.

And in detail;

And more;

And finally;

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Why are the Taliban so Good at Fighting?

Reading a book review last weekend, it asked a good question;

From all this, readers are likely to come away asking "how the hell did the Taliban learn to fight like this?" They engaged in large-scale operations against the British and held their own. You don't learn this in a rudimentary camp in the mountains. It is easier to train someone to become a suicide bomber than to be a soldier in an organised, disciplined army. It is not a criticism that Grey [the author] doesn't answer this question. But somebody should.

Indeed. Are they being/were trained/helped by elements within Pakistan's ISI? Could it be the new 'open source warfare' where groups share knowledge about their common enemies? It is the old story of a group simply knowing it's home turf better than the foreign forces?

It is a good question that needs answering; how can a group of former farmers with AK47s and PRGs fight the most advanced military force ever, NATO, to an standstill?

Answers on a post card...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Britain Leaves Iraq, the War goes on

So finally, 6 years later, too many dead later and over £3 billion poured into the quagmire and finally the British forces are leaving Iraq. Despite the attempted propaganda, the situation is better but not perfect as US forces are still needed in Basra to replace the British. The British forces and government are trying to put a 'mission accomplished' spin on it, but it is a faliure - no WMDs, no functioning democracy and the low-level civil war rumbles on. While not as bad as it was, there are still around 15 US troops dying per month and the last British solider killed was in February this year.

There is also the worrying trend of the power of 'our man' in Iraq that is getting, well, dictatorial;

"Dictators didn't come out of nowhere, they didn't come by a great explosion. They come by capturing small things bit by bit. Small things are very telling - they tell you the nature of things to come. One day people will wake up and ask how did we come here, it must be an awful conspiracy."


More Climate Creationism

Amusing to see the climate creationist, having been cherry-picking data for years now, are also cherry picking quotes to support their case. They are using a tried and tested method that creationism uses; quote mining. You take part of a quote, or the quote out of context to make it appear to support your case, when in reality it does not. It's like putting words into somebody's mouth. For example;

Economist John Quiggin appears so concerned at the direction of events that he claims "mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs" (The Australian Financial Review, April 23).

However, it is a classic quote out of context. In context the meaning is very different;

While most media outlets give at least some space to these conspiracy theorists, the central role has been played by The Australian. Not only its opinion columnists (with a handful of honorable exceptions) and its editorials, but even its news reporting is dominated by the idea that mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs, publishing their findings not in the peer-reviewed literature but through blogs, thinktanks and vanity presses.