August 28, 2008

The Sky Is Faling - UPDATED

Overblown headlines of Global Warming Doom really annoy me. As do dire predictions of doom based on "record" weather/climate phenomena.

Here's a headline example from the BBC

Arctic ice 'is at tipping point'

First off I'm getting really tired of "tipping points." I believe some guy named Gladwell is responsible for this over-used formulation. I supposed it's nice for him to have coined a cliche though - not many get to do that.

But what exactly does this mean for Arctic ice?

Here's the equally annoying lead:

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to the second smallest extent since satellite records began, US scientists have revealed.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says that the ice-covered area has fallen below its 2005 level, which was the second lowest on record.

Sounds really scary doesn't it - the second lowest level of Arctic ice ever. Humans and their carbon burning ways are destroying the planet causing year after year of record low Arctic ice levels. Humanity - or at least the industrialized population - must be stopped.

What the entire article glosses over and never explains is this phrase from the first sentence "since satellite records began." Which according to NASA - the satellite people:  

Satellites have made continual observations of Arctic sea ice extent since 1978

Just looking at our calendar, that means we have no comparable reference data for the previous 1,977 years. Meaning we have data for about 2% of our calendar.

According to a study by Frank Brown, professor of geology and geophysics, dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, University of Utah, Ian McDougall of Australian National University in Canberra, and anthropologist John Fleagle of New York state's Stony Brook University humans first began destroying apeared on the the planet about 195,000 years ago. Which means the satellite record that the BBC thinsks we should be so concerned about represents .02%  of the known existence of homo sapiens.

In this report we learn that the oldest fossil of the venerable horseshoe crab dates back almost half a billion years.

Rudkin and his colleagues, including Graham Young of the Manitoba Museum, spotted the fossils buried in 445-million-year-old rocks from the Ordovician period in central and northern Manitoba. They describe the discovery in the January issue of the journal Paleontology.

On the horseshoe crab scale - the Arctic ice "tipping point" is based on record comprising approximately .000009% of planetary history.

But if you want to consider the satellite record of Arctic ice in terms of the existence of the planet - here's the raw data:

The generally accepted age for the Earth and the rest of the solar system is about 4.55 billion years (plus or minus about 1%). This value is derived from several different lines of evidence.

Unfortunately, the age cannot be computed directly from material that is solely from the Earth. There is evidence that energy from the Earth's accumulation caused the surface to be molten. Further, the processes of erosion and crustal recycling have apparently destroyed all of the earliest surface.

The oldest rocks which have been found so far (on the Earth) date to about 3.8 to 3.9 billion years ago (by several radiometric dating methods). Some of these rocks are sedimentary, and include minerals which are themselves as old as 4.1 to 4.2 billion years. Rocks of this age are relatively rare, however rocks that are at least 3.5 billion years in age have been found on North America, Greenland, Australia, Africa, and Asia.

40 years out of 4.5 billion. You do the math.

Quite frankly, I don't see how anyone can honestly make the claim that they know what "normal" should be for Arctic ice or any aspect of the climate. I don't see how anyone can honestly look at the satellite ice record and proclaim that the second lowest ice level in 40 years is portent of impending doom.

Then again I don't understand why I still look for any level of honesty in "global warming" news.

UPDATE: Wired magazine goes for the record in headline hubris:

Arctic Ice on Track for Another All-Time Low


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:52 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

August 26, 2008

Because they Don't Want You To See

UPDATE: The embedded YouTube file was doing strange things to the formatting of the post when viewed in Safari. I was going to take the time to troubleshoot the issue then I realized that the ad was likely to disapear from YouTube. So instead I downloaded the YouTube and converted it to Quicktime in three different sizes. The remainder of the post is untouched (except for fixing a couple of typo's).

The Obama campaign is doing everything it can to keep this ad from being seen - from pressuring broadcasters to trying to get the Department of Justice involved.

If showing it here means that half a dozen more people get to see it - I'll take it.

KnowEnough-lg. (5.6MB)

KnowEnough-med. (2.2MB)

KnowEnough-sml. (796KB)

From the ad's creator American issues project - here is a large (5mb) pdf of the research documenting the content of the ad.

i don't know anything about aip and i'm not offering this as an endorsement of the organization. i am posting this in answer to a politician's assault on the first amendment. i would and have done the same with regard to mccain's assaults on free speech as well.

Michelle Malkin has a good post detailing the efforts of the obama campaign to stifle this speech.

John Hinderaker at Powerline offers a fairly succinct evaluation:

Of course, Obama's spokesmen didn't explain what about the ad is false, let alone despicable or outrageous. Every word in the ad is true. I suspect that "despicable" and "outrageous" are synonymous with "effective."

Let's hope that Obama doesn't succeed in suppressing this effort to bring the Ayers issue to the attention of voters.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:32 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

August 23, 2008

The Headline Tells the Story

Sometimes a headline writer hits the nail on the head and exposes more than perhaps they wanted.

The candidate of Hope and Change, of a new kind of politics and and end to the old ways of doing things in Washington has announced his pick for Vice President. Naturally every news outlet and political blog will be examining the choice in the minutest detail.

CNN ran an analysis with a headline that puts the lie to the Hope and Change Obama mantra:

Biden gives Obama old-school cred

I thought Obama was strictly "new school."

CNN does raise the issue in the first sentence

Sen. Barack Obama's choice of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate raises the question of whether Obama can carry off his message of change with a seasoned Washington politician by his side.

But then proceeds to ignore the question altogether and focuses on the wonderful old-schoolness of Obama.

I'm sure Obama is not too woried about his message of change - because that's all it ever was a marketing message. Like all politicians Obama will do, say, or fake anything to get elected.

Hopeless and Changeless. Politics as usual.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:38 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Rainbows Unicorns and Unity

Ace highlights, and ridicules, a Slate piece by Jacob Weisberg asserting that "If Obama Loses: Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him."

Ace focuses on the fact that there are many reasons having nothing to do with race for a person to not vote for Obama.

Why would I vote for a leftwing platform now when I've consistently rejected the same platform when announced by white men?

But there was one particular passage n the Weisberg piece that I feel deserves fuller attention:

Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives.

Personally I already see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rear-view mirror and a non factor in my life. But let us assume that an Obama election would make this universal for every man woman and child in the nation.

This would truly be the realization of the Reverend Martin Luther King's dream. People would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

On January 20, 2009 the need for affirmative action would cease to exist. All talk of slavery reparations would fade into the past. College admissions would be determined without racial preferences.

Hyphens would dissapear. No longer would there be African-Americans, Asain-Americans etc. Just Americans.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:44 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

The All Senate Campaign?

As I predicted below the announcement of Barack Obama's running mate could not have been more anti-climatic.

Joe Biden?


So now there are three members of "The Worlds Greatest Deliberative Body" on the presidential ticket. You know part of that group called congress with single digit approval ratings.

McCain is scheduled to announce his running mate on the 29th. I hope he has the imagination to pick someone who is not a senator.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

August 22, 2008

Obama's Vault

I understand why the Obama campaign is dragging out the announcement of his running mate. One need only look at the volume of press and pundit coverage to know that just by keeping it secret he's getting a lot of free exposure.

But here's where it's probably going to backfire.

I'm not sure there is a person on the planet who can live up to the expectation. When the name is finally revealed, apparently sometime tomorrow morning, it will be an anti-climax the likes of which we haven't seen since Heraldo pried open Capone's Vault.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:36 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

August 21, 2008

The Polish Question

There's good news and there's bad news.

The good news is Obama is suffering in the polls. Some polls even have him behind. Current electoral college focused polls show Obama losing the election.

The bad news is John McCain's is surging in the polls. Some polls even have him ahead. Current electoral college focused polls show McCain winning the election.

I have been asked before who I support in this election. One astute blog reader called me out on a comment left somewhere long ago in which I said the only way McCain would get my vote is as a vote against Hillary.

The truth is, there is no one currently running that I actually want to have in the White House. The truth is I have felt this way in every election except the first one in which I was eligible to vote and cast my vote for Reagan's second term.

I can't seriously consider casting a vote for Bob Barr because that would be a futile empty gesture. To meaningless an Quixotic even for me. For better or worse, either Obama or McCain will be the next President. The trick is to find the lesser two evils by examining the differences between the two candidates.

One issue where the differences are stark is national security. This was highlighted with the recent Russian invasion of Georgia and the response of the two candidates.

Obama, as he stumbled and fumbled through a series of differing responses until he found one that sounded good, was wishy-washy, internationalist and equivocating.

McCain's response was strong, unwavering and unequivical in placing the onus for the invasion squarely where it belonged, in Russia. As much as it pains me to say, I liked McCain's response. It was far superior to Bush response in the early days of the crisis. Bush started out sounding more like Obama but eventually came around to sounding more like McCain.

Recently the two candidates sat down for interviews with the pastor of some mega-church. He asked them each the same tough but fair questions. There has been endless analysis about who won, did McCain cheat etc. There is one question that wasn't asked that I wish had been.

The Polish Question.

At the height of the tension over Russia's invasion of Georgia, the United States and Poland signed an agreement  for the U.S. to install a missile defense system in Poland. The Russians were not amused.

Vladimir Putin, speaking through the little wooden dummy in the Kremlin called Medvedev (seriously you couldn't see his lips move), said that if the system were actually installed, the Russian response would be beyond diplomacy.

This is not a problem that the Bush administration is going to solve. When it comes time to step up to Russia's line in the sand and decide what to do, Bush will be kicking back in Crawford. He's not likely to be out making crazy Clinton money on the lecture circuit.

This is a question that the next president will have to answer and one I would like to hear both candidates positions on before the election.

McCain's web site includes the following statement on missile defense:

Effective Missile Defense

John McCain strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses. Effective missile defenses are critical to protect America from rogue regimes like North Korea that possess the capability to target America with intercontinental ballistic missiles, from outlaw states like Iran that threaten American forces and American allies with ballistic missiles, and to hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China. Effective missile defenses are also necessary to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred by the threat of missile attack from a regional adversary.

John McCain is committed to deploying effective missile defenses to reduce the possibility of strategic blackmail by rogue regimes and to secure our homeland from the very real prospect of missile attack by present or future adversaries. America should never again have to live in the shadow of missile and nuclear attack. As President, John McCain will not trust in the "balance of terror" to protect America, but will work to deploy effective missile defenses to safeguard our people and our homeland.

McCain's statement could be read as indicating that McCain would proceed with installing missile defense in Poland despite and in defiance of Russian threats This would seem to confirm that assumption:

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Tuesday that Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain would carry out the Bush administration's missile defense plans in Poland if he were elected.

The Obama web site gives the following position on the subject of missile defense:

National Missile Defense: An Obama administration will support missile defense, but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public.

Translated this means that missile defense will be treated as afterthought if it is allowed to exist at all. Reading this one might be inclined to think that Obama would not support installing a missile defense system in Poland. And one would be right.

Mr. Sikorski's attempt to determine what Mr. McCain's and Mr. Obama's plans for the shield might be is understandable given the significant commitment Poland would be making, Mr. Spring said.

Mr. McCain supports the program, but Mr. Obama does not.

"I will cut investments in unproven missile-defense systems. I will not weaponize space," Mr. Obama said last year.

Obama bases his position on his belief that missile defense doesn't work. But if missile defense doesn't work what are the Russians so upset about? Russia's power and influence in the region are based on two sources; energy and  intimidation. Missile defense makes intimidation a little harder.

I tend to think that showing any sign of weakness in the face of Russian aggression is a dangerous policy. I think that walking away from this agreement - for any reason - will be seen by the Russians as a victory over the U.S. and will out us and our allies in greater danger.

But there is this nagging question in the back of my mind. Another Polish question. What would Putin actually do?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:38 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

August 15, 2008

Constitutional Right to Accept Bribes?

This Washington Post article highlights the legal strategy of recently indicted GOP Senator Ted Stevens. Stevens was indicted for filing false financial disclosure forms to the Senate from 2001 through 2006. Stevens apparently did not disclose gifts totaling $250,000 from an oil services company in his home state of Alaska.

The Senator's attorneys have filed to have the case dismissed on the grounds that neither the courts or the justice department have the jurisdiction to enforce Senate rules.  On it's face, to someone who has never studied the law, this seems to be a reasonable assertion. I don't know the relevant law or the Senate rules well enough to comment on the how big a pile of crap the argument is. But based on their second assertion I'm inclined to think it's a rather large pile.

They also said the indictment infringed on Stevens's constitutional rights as a lawmaker because the allegations involved his legislative actions, votes and decisions.

I understand the value of exempting legislators from prosecution for things that are said and done in the legislative process. But it seems to me that Stevens is asserting that accepting a quarter of a million dollars in undisclosed gifts from a home state company involved his "legislative actions, votes and decisions." In other words, the bribes he took were part of his legislative decision making process. And because these bribes were part of the legislative process, he should not be subject to prosecution for accepting them.

I bet almost every member of congress is secretly hoping he can pull this one off.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:52 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

August 12, 2008

Casting Dispersions on The One

For the first time that I know of in the entire time I have been reading and commenting on blogs, I have had a comment deleted. (I've left comments at a few lefty blogs in the past and never went back to check on them. They may have been erased for all I know.)

The post is at a blog called Design Observer. It's a group blog written by a bunch of designers who mostly write about design. Every now and then a little politics slips in, and in this case, the two subjects merged.

Written by William Drenttel, the post is offering for sale the URL

Last February, in the heat of the primary campaign, Winterhouse got (very) excited about Barack Obama's candidacy, and we asked what designers could do to help his campaign. We wondered whether there wasn't some opportunity for collective action, or for a specific initiative, or for a news source about the campaign focused on design issues, or maybe even a citizen journalism project. So we rushed out and bought this historic URL — (As fortune tellers, we're one-for-one: we also bought in 2003. We let it expire if anyone wants it.)

Apparently they aren't planning on doing any actual designing for Obama so they are looking to sell (give?) the URL to someone who will  "do something powerful or influential or collaborative with it."

Being a designer and being definitely not for Obama I did what I felt necessary and left a comment. I wanted to note for the record that not all designers were under the sway of The One. I didn't save a copy of what I wrote bt it was something like:

Of course if you're not into higher taxes, socialized medicine and Carteresque foreign policy is also available.

I went back today to see if my bit of snark had generated any conversation. My comment was gone. There were in fact no comments on the post at all. Appended to the end of the original text was the following:

Note: comments on this post are limited to ideas or proposals, and discussion thereof. General discussions of politics, dispersions on Obama or this URL, etc., will be removed. Constructive comments required.

Thus I learned the First Commandment of Hope and Change: Thou shalt not cast dispersions upon The One.

I left another comment that will likely be gone soon too:

I guess I broke all the rules. But then they weren't listed when I left my earlier comment - which has been removed.

UPDATE: My second comment was, of course, deleted and the author of the post added this to the comments:

We've received two thoughtful proposals today. Thank you. Keep them coming. We expect to make a decision by the end of the week.

We've also removed three comments as being irrelevant to this discussion.

Two of them were mine. I wonder what the third had to say.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:59 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment

August 04, 2008

Solving the Energy Crisis

Barack Obama says that if we all inflate out tires properly we can solve the energy crunch without drilling.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:12 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

August 01, 2008

Welcome To My World

It's always fun to get a glimpse into what it is that other people do for a living. This probably explains some of the success of the show Dirty Jobs. My job wouldn't make for a good episode but someone had put together a good short documentary showing what it is like to work as a graphic designer.

The Sign

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:53 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

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