Archive for January 2012
A quick self-promotion.
I have started blogging a weekly column at Precipitate: Journal of the New Environment. It’s a great collection of talented writers exploring this place through language and visual arts. Or, as they say for themselves: “Precipitate explores non-traditional perspectives of the physical world, and within these pages we invite writers, artists, and readers to investigate and destabilize ideas of place.”
My weekly piece on climate science and mystery and reality and other nonsense that keeps me awake at night will be published on Tuesdays.
I think Mark Wahberg is a fine actor. But Mark Wahlberg the person is boring. Super boring. So this post is not about Mark Wahlberg. But it is about the phenomenal capacity of the Huffington Post bloggers to create mind-explodingly inane material.
Let me explain. I clicked on the headline “Mark Wahlberg Apologizse for 9/11 Comments.” I don’t know why. This is what HuffPo does to you. I guess I wanted to see what non-sense some celebrity had to say about 9/11 so I could silently judge him (which I did, sorry Mark).
That link brought me to a post titled Mark Wahlberg on 9/11 Plane: I would have beat terrorists, landed it safely. Of course, that sentiment is totally absurd and insulting to everyone who died that day. Their lives would have been saved if only Mark fucking Wahlberg had been there to save them. So yeah. He’s a dumbass.
Then, because Huffington Post understands human interest, whoever had this terrible assignment continues to discuss Mark Wahlberg’s personal opinions on masturbation. Seriously. Because including Mark Wahlberg’s personal opinions on masturbation (he opposes it) only heightens the seriousness of Mark Wahlberg’s personal value of himself as an anti-terrorism agent.
Huffington Post, you are terrible at writing. Lucky for you, you have an army of interneters sitting around, posting updates to the world’s news the moment it occurs. If not for that benefit, who would read you? (full disclosure: I probably would. Because HuffPo is so fun to mock).
There are many reasons to oppose the very idea of “President Gingrich.” But if you have been searching for another one, well, here you go:
TRC tends to think that when most people are confronted with a difficult decision, they will weigh the options and choose what they think is the best. If they don’t, that’s what they should be doing.
And I think that’s what President Obama and his team did when they decided to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline today. I like to think that Obama and his staff looked at the benefits and the risks, weighed them, and came to a decision based on the evidence. That isn’t to say that someone could not do the same, and come out on the other side. But it is to say that Obama took the decision seriously, and chose with care. This is what I hope.
The pros of the Keystone XL pipeline, the only talking point there is for this project, is jobs. It creates jobs. It’s shovel ready. If you oppose the line, you are an extremist who does not put American jobs first. Look at the GOP responses already compiled, only hours after the decision was made public.
- “His decision today is a victory for the few extreme environmental activists who have lined up to protest Keystone and a defeat for the tens of thousands of Americans who are lining up to find a Keystone job.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
- “How long does it take for President Obama to put the needs of America’s workers ahead of his political interests?” Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)
- “I would note that under the law the president signed, the decision to claim that these jobs are not in the national interest is his alone. The president is the only one who can make that determination and block the jobs. “ Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
- “President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese. The president won’t stand up to his political base even to create American jobs.” Brendan Buck, John Boehner’s spokesman.
Jobs are an important argument. One of the most important arguments when trying to recover a depressed economy. But it is not the only argument, and it is not the most important argument when making policy, especially when making long-term decisions for the health of a nation. We need to create jobs. But we should not be obsessed; we should not create ANY jobs just because they are jobs. Instead, we should create 21st century, forward-looking, nation-improving jobs. Which TRC believes, and hopefully the Obama Administration agrees, are not oil-pumping, greenhouse gas emitting, boreal forest destroying jobs.
And in this light, Texas Gov. and GOP Presidential nominee Rick Perry’s response is particularly telling: “The president’s focused more on the next election than on the next generation.”
This is exactly wrong, Rick Perry. The people of Nebraska who oppose this pipeline, and the people of the Western US who require the Oglala Aquifer for their drinking water, the environmental community and those who prioritize the long-term health of the US and its resources are more concerned about the next generation than they are the this election.
And at least on this decision, so is President Obama. If President Obama were only concerned with the 2012 presidential election, he would have approved this pipeline. That seems fairly safe to assume. Approving the pipeline is more politically expedient than denying it. Because jobs are the word. If you can’t say JOBS in this political atmosphere, you are losing the battle. If you think that the Obama base is appeased by this one action, and thus will boost him in the 2012 general election, you fundamentally misunderstand the liberal voting base.
Regardless of how this action will be taken, TRC is happy to see President Obama make a decision that provides a voice to the future health of this country and its future citizens. TRC is happy Obama can see beyond this moment in January 2012, and make the right choice for January 2212. Because the American citizens of 2212 have the same right to clean drinking water we do. If you can’t look beyond the current predicament, and provide for the future, even in difficult times like these, then you should not be making long-term decisions that will impact the lives of millions of Americans.
This decision now made does not end the Keystone story, nor does it end an all of the above energy agenda including coal, nuclear and gas that the President has always confirmed he supports. But it is a good decision for today. Nice work, Chief.
*UPDATE: Here is the President Obama’s release on the decision:
As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment. As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied. And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.
In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security — including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico — even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas.
The decision allows TransCanada to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline, which the company immediately signaled it would do.
I recommend reading this interview with Kate Hayhoe, the scientist that Newt Gingrich had asked to write a chapter on climate change for his new book, which was then cancelled when Gingrich started getting fire from conservatives on acknowledging climate change.
It’s very sad, and very telling. More than anything, it shows TRC that many of the “serious people” in the Republican Party do know climate change is real, they are just unwilling to publicly say it because Rush Limbaugh and the other goons are willing to light the fire and take you down. Hopefully Limbaugh, Gingrich, and the other rabble-rousers realize the costs of their actions for individuals like Hayhoe.
There’s a ton of pressure on politicians like Newt Gingrich, but Newt probably knows what’s what in terms of climate change…And he’s throwing it overboard, out of what can be fairly characterized as political necessity. What do you make of that calculation? What do you expect from politicians?
A. We all have standards we would like people to live up to. Having lived through what I’ve lived through, I’m certainly much more sympathetic to people. I understand a bit more than I used to how being relentlessly and rigorously attacked can make you ask yourself, is this worthwhile?
What I’ve gotten is nothing compared to what Phil Jones or Mike Mann has gotten…What they’ve gotten is nothing compared to what political candidates get. And what I’ve gotten is certainly enough to make me say, look, what I’m doing doesn’t help me in my academic career. It attracts all sorts of unpleasant attention, some of which, frankly, makes me feel unsafe. When you get emails mentioning your kids and guillotines in the same sentence, it makes you want to pull the blanket over your head and keep your mouth shut for about 10 years… The level of attack you get if you stick your head out is so great at this point that everybody should have the right to decide if it’s worth the price for them or not.
Q. Have you seen climate scientists who have said, screw it, I’m just going to do my research in my lab?
A. Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, look at how many climate scientists there are, and look at how many you see talking about this issue.
Scientists are traditionally not outreach-minded people. They tend to be more introverted. They’re really good at writing papers; they’re not very good at looking people in the eye and talking in simple language. We need help from people who know how to do this. We need help in terms of learning how to communicate outside our ivory tower and how to respond appropriately to the kinds of attacks we’re going to receive.
Q. I’ve been hearing for years about stirrings of climate concern among the religious, particularly evangelicals. I did a whole package of stories on it. What’s your sense of how climate change is received inside the evangelical community?
A. Environmental issues and climate change carry a lot of baggage in evangelical circles. If you can dissociate the issue from Al Gore, if you can dissociate the issue from the Democratic Party, if you can dissociate it from hugging trees, from pro-choice, from evolution vs. creation, if you can strip away all of those ties and only talk about the issue of taking care of the planet God gave us and loving our neighbor as ourself, then there is hardly anyone who will not accept that message. It’s not about theology, it’s about baggage.
Nile Gardiner, writing for the Telegraph, has compiled a list of the Top 10 Conservative Movies of the Modern Era. The story struck me most of all because great movies are not conservative or liberal, they are works of art that speak to viewers regardless of such concerns as political ideology. A great film is a great film, and a liberal or a conservative will understand that. You can be sure that if one sets out to make a “great liberal movie“, or a “great conservative movie,” it is going to be terrible.
So what does Gardiner’s list represent?
These are all brilliant movies that conservatives can be inspired by, and which are guaranteed to offend Left-wing sensibilities in one way or another.…Films that conservatives can be taken to heart in both the United States and Great Britain, movies that celebrate conservative values, the defence of the free world, deep-seated patriotism and individual liberty.
Aside: I still find it adorable that Conservatives can so easily consider “deep-seated patriotism” a conservative value. It is so insulting (as a very patriotic, country-loving liberal progressive) that such a comment can almost make me stop reading a piece.
TRC wondered if this list would be great movies, allowing anyone to include it on (almost) any list because great art defies such things, or mediocre movies that uphold “conservative” values as Gardiner declared in his intro (you know, like the Patriot). Turns out, it is a mixture of both.
No surprise, Chariots of Fire is number 1. It is every Republicans favorite movie, and an excellent movie worthy of such a place on such a list.
From there, it gets dicey. According to Gardiner, apparently any movie that takes a frank, bold, honest look at war or military conflict is “conservative.” Number 2 is Zulu, number 3 is Saving Private Ryan (which, sorry Gardiner, is not Spielberg’s best), number 6 is Deer Hunter, number 8 is Black Hawk Down. I like all these movies. Some of them are in fact great movies, and any one of them could be very easily held up as an example of progressive values–a sign that they are indeed, excellent films.
But Gardiner does include a few duds to build his conservative credentials as a film critic. Take Master and Commander. A fine film, but nothing to write home about (again, not even close to Peter Weir’s best film, Gardiner, not even CLOSE!), but I can think of no top 10 list this belongs on, with the exception of possibly the Top 10 Seafaring films.
Rocky is glorious. And I get that one, though only by a hair.
Killing Fields, too, is a masterpiece. And seeing how it is about the failings of tyranny and Marxism, I guess it can be included, since today’s conservatives think all liberals are Marxists and want a tyrannical government. (I think I’m joking).
The Lord of the Rings fits Gardiners’ profile. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love these films. Tolkien was Tolkien, and any attempt to argue against these as “conservative” is beyond the point. LOTR doesn’t give a shit about politics. But I also worry that casting the movies as “ perfectly fitting a post 9/11 world where the forces of freedom found themselves pitted against a barbaric enemy” damages the true greatness of story. Oh well.
And finally, number 10: The Pursuit of Happyness. Gardiner, you ruined any cred you thought had. That movie is terrible (though to be fair, Will Smith is fantastic in the role. It’s what surrounds him that gives me the jeebies). It may be a “heart-felt tribute to the free market and the value of individual responsibility,” but it is also so hackneyed and so absolutely and jarringly manipulative in its demand that you know exactly what it is about (the poor have only themselves to blame) and how you are to go about interpreting it (work harder!) that any move to ignore or deny its tremendously obvious lessons for life means you are just plain stupid.
Oh wait, maybe it is conservative.
How long, as a nation, are we going to fight battles over whether non-science can be taught in the science classroom? It’s tiresome. If you don’t want to “believe” science, that’s your decision and no one can take your right away to not “believe” in science. Fine.
But you still can’t decide what is science, how science works, and what it finds. The scientific process is how science operates, and what it finds is what should be taught in the classroom. Anything else is religiously or politically motivated and should not be allowed to impact education. This has long been fought over regarding evolution, and evolution continually wins out over creation/ID in the science classroom. Because one is science and one is not.
Unfortunately, this is no longer just a conversation about evolution.
Although scientific evidence increasingly shows that fossil fuel consumption has caused the climate to change rapidly, the issue has grown so politicized that skepticism of the broad scientific consensus has seeped into classrooms.
Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.
Mandating science teachers to teach opposition shows how far the denial industry can reach in this country. There’s no other reason that states would require teaching climate change DENIAL. Teaching denial to accepted scientific findings as a valid scientific stance makes a mockery of science education, decades of scientific research, the peer-review process, and reality. Denialism has no business in the classroom. Teachers do not teach denial of creationism. They teach evolution as the strongest scientific understanding of biology.
Meanwhile, in a whopping demonstration of misunderstanding how science operates, legislatures (in areas that will be least affected by climate change, by the way) are passing resolutions denying climate change. Because that is how you respond to science. Science finds something we dislike, so our state government will deny it even exists. Screw you, peer-review! Screw you professional experts!
A true triumph for intellectual honesty.
There is room for debate in science, in the public square, and in the halls of government. But when it comes to education, there is no room for putting our heads in the sand and ignoring the fundamental understanding of science to the detriment of our future.
It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the USA. A worthy holiday, one you should be spending off-line. But in case you’re not, here’s a few pieces of news for those of you on the internets today (like me).
First, in “real” news, Jon Huntsman is dropping out of the GOP 2012 Primary contest. He may be been Mormon, and has worked for Obama, and speaks Chinese, and been the Governor of Utah, and a list of other descriptors that make him “disqualified” or “qualified.” But congratulations, GOP, you have now successfully ignored the only candidate in the race who came off with any sense of moderation. Which leaves Huntsman (smart and capable and super conservative) out of the race, but Rick Santorum (terrible and super conservative) left in the race. Nice one.
And now for things that don’t really matter.
The Packers lost to the NY Giants in a football game. Though I no longer have any ill-will towards the Packers (as a Vikings fan) it is always fun to see the underdogs win. Additionally, having grown so tired of this years “it’s all about the offense, the QB is unstoppable” theme, I’m delighted to see both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers lose. Clearly it is not all about the offense. Suckers.
The Golden Globes happened yesterday. They were pretty boring. Last year, Ricky Gervais was mean, but also mostly funny. And it came off as a total surprise to see him do and say what he did and said, and thus made the event worth watching, if a bit painful. By asking him back, and encouraging him to use the same schtick, all the shock value was lost, and Gervais was just boring. Oh remember how Ricky Gervais was rude to Johnny Depp last year, well here is Depp now returning the favor. Oh, He’s joking that everyone loves Colin Firth. EVERYONE DOES love Colin Firth, you jackass. That’s not funny.
And by the way, I struggle to see how Descendants is the best picture of the year and Hugo was the best directed film of the year. I haven’t seen either (and I’m sure they are both solid, if not good films) so I know I’m speaking out of turn, but still, Hugo? Descendants? I watched Moneyball last night, and will bet it was better than both of those movies.
I read the blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates for many reasons. One of the primary ones is his writing on the Civil War. That’s where we’re going today.
Yesterday, Coates posted about Civil War counter-factuals that have arisen in the past 150 years, questioning the necessity of such a bloody conflict to end slavery. He is responding in this post to Howard Zinn asking: “Is it possible if slavery could have been ended without 600,000 dead? We don’t know for sure. And when I mention these possibilities, you know, it’s very hard to imagine how it might have ended, except that we do know that slavery was ended in every other country in the western hemisphere. Slavery was ended in all these others places in the western hemisphere without a bloody civil war.” Previously Coates wrote about Ron Paul’s similar sentiment.
His response is required reading.
Too often I find that this argument is based in high-minded generalizations, and not in the tiny, hard facts of history. The history of emancipation attempts in Delaware and the South never come up. No one looks at how Sojourner Truth’s son was sold into slavery in Alabama, after New York went with gradual emancipation. Instead we just get “war is bad.” But some of us were already at war.
What most saddens me about this argument is the sense that Abraham Lincoln, who repeatedly advocated for peaceful means to end slavery, many of which were opposed by African-Americans (and rightfully so,) is somehow cast as a kind of war-monger. To put this in perspective, consider that Abraham Lincoln had to come to Washington on a secret train for fear that he would be killed. When he got there, he said this upon his inauguration:
He was answered, a month later, when Confederates fired on federal property. The next five year took a toll on Lincoln which I can scarcely imagine. His wife was bipolar. His son died from typhoid fever. And Lincoln, himself, was murdered by an unrepentant white supremacist.
There’s something distasteful, and cynical, about asking why Lincoln couldn’t prevent a war, that was thrust upon him a month after he became President. Of course we could flip the question and ask why slaveholders elected to expand their war against black people to the entire country. But we already know the answer. The truth is so very terrible.