Global Warming – Straight to the facts, please.

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I’m reminded over and over again how maddeningly unproductive arguments become when the participants throw around unsubstantiated claims and figures. It seems like this is happening more and more in a fast-paced society where no one has the time to dig into the details of an issue. I’m as guilty as the next person of forcefully defending a position that feels right but which I can’t back up with any hard facts.

David McCandless took the time to do a broad study of Global Warming arguments/counter-arguments and did the background-work to back up the components of each side.  It’s shocking how deeply buried some of this information ended up being.

Perhaps now we can get down to the reality of the matter and move on from there into an argument worth having.

Quite an Epic Day

Yesterday’s inauguration was about more than Obama’s presidency.  The country came together to close the door on years of political partisanship, and to remind ourselves once again that it is the American people that make the country great.  It is the joining together of individuals from all over the country and from diverse backgrounds and ways of life from which this country draws its strength. 

A token of that unity is the CNN image taken by the GeoEye satellite of between one and two million people on the national mall to observe this inauguration, despite hours of security checks and frigid cold weather.

CNN: Satellite image of crowds on the mall   

How you know when you’ve borrowed too much

Including the recent $700 billion bailout of the financial industry and $100 billion dollors for Fannie and Freddie, the US has now dug deep enough into the hole to necessitate an extra digit on Times Square’s National Debt Clock.  Rolling over to above 10,000,000,000 dollars, over the weekend, the first digit previously used for the $ sign had to be changed to a 1 to mark the 10 trillion dollar threshold. (WKYC)

Now, maybe it’s just me, but how far into debt can we go before people start wondering whether we’re worth the investment.  Just for the sake of context, in 2006 back when the debt was around $8.5 trillion, the US paid $406 Billion in interest on the debt.  Compare that to the roughly $95 billion we spent on education or the $60 billion we spent on transportation in the same year.  What will it take to turn this around?  How long can the country go before we realize the danger we’re in.

Courtesy of http://www.federalbudget.com/

High gas prices are good for the US

Okay, before taking this the wrong way, hear me out.

For so long, gas prices in the US have been exceptionally low, kept down by government subsidies and protection of oil interests.  Check out this table comparing prices around the world.  We’ve been lucky to get along with such cheap fuel costs but when things get easy, people get lazy.  If it’s cheap to drive an hour to work every day, people have no reason to live closer, or invest in a bus or train route to fit the bill.  If it’s glamorous and profitable to push huge vehicles to consumers, there’s no incentive to develop efficient and sensible alternatives.

When times are easy, individuals and companies have no reason to invent and innovate and lead the world in developing new technologies.  We slip behind other countries because we’ve collectively forgotten what it means to strive desperately for the best.

High gas prices have forced us economically to do what we should have been doing on our own.  We’re facing the short-term shock that comes with a forced change in perspective.  Soon, though, the country will shift into gear and do what we do best.  The country should embrace this opportunity step it up and rediscover its place as a center of innovation and discovery.  I just hope we don’t forget the lesson when prices drop again.  SUV sales should never recover.

Selective backups made easy

I reformat occasionally to clean out all the built up junk and speed things up. The process of backing things up and getting them all set up again takes awhile. Every time I find myself worried that I will forgot something important and discover it only after I’ve hit the “Format Disk” button and blown past the warnings about deleted information.

Backup Magic automates and simplifies the process by allowing you to select certain folders to mirror on an external drive somewhere. I can set things up once and then periodically (or automatically on a cron job) run these backups. Just as easily, I can create another job to restore the backed up files/directories to their original location after a format (dead hard drive, sibling abuse, virus infestation, etc.).

Free to use. Pay if you really like it. Backup Magic

Perhaps McCain is Worth the Vote

The past several months have brought a clear Republican Party nominee and recently, a more and more decided democratic nominee.  I’ve discovered that, for the first time in my politically aware consciousness, I will not be absolutely disappointed by either party’s candidate.

John McCain spoke yesterday afternoon on issues of foreign policy: Remarks Transcript

I side with the democratic viewpoint on most issues, advocating social programs, little religious involvement, protection of the environment, and unabashed use of taxes to pay for the programs we universally enjoy as an American public.  Though I disagree with McCain on a number of issues, I feel that when it really comes down to it, he has what it takes to pursue policy for selfless reasons based on experience and advice from different viewpoints.

 “There is such a thing as international good citizenship. We need to be good stewards of our planet and join with other nations to help preserve our common home.”

“Our goal must be to win the “hearts and minds” of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists. In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs.”

I’ve found it very easy to harbor burning hatred for the neoconservative republican attitude of the current administration and party leadership, but statements such as the above make it impossible for me to classify McCain as anything but a responsible politician.

Blogged with Flock

Priorities

The vast majority of the American public is ignorant to the government process and the decisions made by its governing body.  These decisions affect nearly every aspect of public and even private life and yet it’s reality television, co-worker drama and scandal that people care about, whilst the important stuff goes on by.  For instance, the politics involved with the Bush administration struggling to hold on to some facade of strength and influence by vetoing everything slip under the radar.

The American Blog, seen by a relatively small percent of the American public, discusses the subtle politics involved with the Bush administration veto of defense policy legislation.  At the same time, a quick glance at cnn.com, touting “Breaking News” turns up no coverage whatsoever.  Now, I don’t expect people to pay attention to, or understand all of the subtleties involved in our government processes, but one would hope that people might consider the very real implications of the decisions being made.

The neoconservatives running the country can get away with a startling amount of manipulation when no one pays attention.  Government is accountable to its constituents, democrat and republican representatives alike.  Who’s to guarantee fair play, though, if the ref has his nose buried in the tabloids.

Bush Says Iran Still a Danger…Sound Familiar?

New York Times: Bush Says Iran Still a Danger Despite Weapons Report

This headline is way too familiar. Try changing one letter and you’re back 4 years ago debating the exact same issue. Intelligence agencies released the following long-awaited report on the nuclear capacities of Iran, finding that they stopped weapons development in 2003.

National Intelligence Estimate: Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities

A few highlights from the report:We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely.

  • We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.
  • We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.
  • We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.

but…

  • We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015

Iran may eventually be a danger – and we’re not exactly taking action in the world to convince people we’re worth being friends with – but this is not an imminent threat to US security, and it worries me that Bush is slipping into the same rhetoric he displayed with respect to Iraq. This does not justify Bush saying things such as

Bush: But this — we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon… (Full transcript)

Judgement on Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth

Check out these two articles in that order. It’s amazing what people can do to science.

Junk Science: Hey Al Gore, We Want a Refund!

vs.

An ‘error’ is not the same thing as an error

London Justice Burton heard a case regarding the problems with presenting Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to classrooms across the UK. The justice acknowledged the value of the film as professionally produced and well-meaning but struck down 9 major errors in the presentation. These pertained to Hurricane Katrina’s path of destruction, melting snow on Mount Kilimanjaro and the loss of fish communities dependent on coral reefs, among other things.

In none of these cases does the justice find Al Gore’s assertions to be false. Rather, the claims he finds have to do with a lack of sufficient comprehensive evidence for global warming as a cause, and possible other factors potentially responsible for the discussed climate changes.

Frankly, Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize this past week not for incredible scientific discoveries on his part. He’s a smart guy but not by any means a leading expert in every one of these areas. The value of this film doesn’t depend on the simple mass of how many proofs it can come up with to advocate global warming. Global warming is almost universally recognized by the scientific community as a very real and important factor in how we interact with the environment around us. This film takes this absolute truth and portrays it in a way individuals can relate to. A film like this is important because it helps the public throw away the unsupported statements and censored reports coming out of the Bush administration.

Justice Burton didn’t call Gore’s statements untruths, simply not fully and completely proven so far, and even at that, the justice was only citing inconsistencies between the film and the current formally accepted body of scientific research. That’s a lot more than we can say for most of the arguments against global warming.

Justice Burton’s Judgement