Prosecute the torture.

February 26, 2015

The Party of Stupid, Revisited

A few years ago Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the RNC at their winter meeting that the GOP:
  • Must stop being the stupid party.
  • Must stop insulting the intelligence of voters.
And yet, it doesn't seem that the GOP took his advice.  According to this nationwide survey of Republicans by Public Policy Polling:
  • 66% said they did not believe in global warming
  • 49% said they did not believe in evolution
  • 57% supported establishing Christianity as the national religion
The last one is surprising given the Constitution Fetishism of the GOP.  Take a look at this from the party's platform of 2012:
We are the party of the Constitution, the solemn compact which confirms our God-given individual rights and assures that all Americans stand equal before the law. Perhaps the greatest political document ever written, it defines the purposes and limits of government and is the blueprint for ordered liberty that makes the U.S. the world's freest, most stable, and most prosperous nation. Its Constitutional ideals have been emulated around the world, and with them has come unprecedented prosperity for billions of people.

In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral.
And yet they don't seem to realize that this is found in that very same Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [Emphasis added.]
Or that Madison's (he's one of those "founding fathers" they're always talking about) original text read:
The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.
But I guess that's meaningless to 57% of the GOP.

But that's not necessarily stupid, just hypocritical.

Given the huge amount of scientific data supporting each, the majority and near majority opinion of the GOP regarding global warming and evolution, respectively, now that's stupid.

Stupid like this is stupid:
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R), believes that cancer is a fungus, which can be flushed out from the body by means of an “inexpensive, cost-effective” and non-FDA approved treatment.
GOP - the party of teh stoopid.

February 24, 2015

RIP Mayor Marty B. O'Malley, Warrior for Social Justice and Peace

Chances are, if you ever attended a peace rally in Pittsburgh protesting the war in Iraq, you met Marty O'Malley as he participated in over 100 of them. But, you also could have met him at a protest against BP's oil spill, or at a rally for single payer health insurance, or at a protest against the billionaire bailout, or, well you get the idea. Marty was a true warrior for social justice and peace and he was hard to miss with his ubiquitous "Vietnam Veteran" cap and political/issue buttons.

Marty knew about war. He voluntarily served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966, but by 1971 joined Vietnam Veterans for Peace. However, it wasn't until Bush's Iraq War that he became a real activist. I'd be hard pressed to imagine a member of the progressive community who hadn't met Marty who was always more than ready to come up and shake your hand. Later, that could be expanded to anyone who attended Democratic political events.

I'm not sure where I first met Marty, but I got to know him through the Howard Dean campaign. One of the great things Dean did was to make a call to arms of sorts for progressives to run for office--any and all. Marty took up the call and ran for Forest Hills Borough Council member in 2005 and won. In 2010 he became mayor of Forest Hills Borough and ran and won for mayor again in 2013. One of his goals was to encourage young people to become involved in local politics. (Of course, he also banned fracking in his borough.)

If you're on social media in the Pittsburgh area, you are going to hear a lot of people claim to have been friends with Marty. Believe them. Believe them all. Marty always had a smile on his face and room in his heart for one more. He was also a hell of a guy to have a beer, or two, or three with.

Damn, I'm going to miss him!

Marty O'Malley died at home of natural causes. He was 73.

Sincerest condolences to his family and all his many, many friends.

February 21, 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Climate Change

NOTE: I'm blogging from an undisclosed location.

Another NOTE: Professor Tyson was born on my birthday.  That automatically makes me smarter by association (or osmosis - I always get those two confused.)

February 18, 2015

Happy Anniversary to Chuck McCullough! (When Does The Trial Start?)

Tomorrow, it will be 6 years to the day since this happened:
Allegheny County Councilman Charles McCullough was arrested and arraigned today on nearly two dozen counts following an investigation last year of his handling of an elderly widow's trust funds.
That's 6 complete years or:
  • 2,191 days or
  • 52,584 hours or
  • 3,155,040 minutes or
  • 189,302,400 seconds.
And still, there's been no trial. 

We've already had a little fun with stuff that's happened quicker than "Chucktime" (the time between his arrest and the present).  For example we already know that at 2,191 days, Chucktime is already longer than:
  • WWII in the Pacific (1,347 days)
  • The entire time Richard Nixon was President (2,027 days)
But did you also know that 2,191 more than:
  • the number of days between the date Michelangelo signed the contract to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (May 10, 1508) and the date the ceiling was first shown to the public (November 1, 1512) - 1,636 days?
  • the number of days between the adoption of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) and the British surrender at Yorktown (October 19, 1781) - 1,933 days?
  • the number of days between the  date Attorney General Janet Reno named Robert Fiske as Special Counsel to investigate Whitewater (January 20, 1994) and Clinton's acquittal at the end of his Impeachment trial (February 12, 1999) - 1,849 days?
Look again at that last one.  The entire Whitewater investigation has taken a shorter amount of time than it's taking Allegheny County (or whomever is supposed to be handling this case) to take Chuck McCullough to trial.

Why can't they put the guy on trial?  It's been longer than WWII, Nixon's presidency, Beatlemania, and the Whitewater investigation!

    February 17, 2015

    Warm, Warmer Warmest - More Climate Misinformation From The Tribune-Review

    With this Op-Ed, the editorial board over at the Tribune-Review continues it's never ending (yet also never succeeding) project to deny climate science.

    It's their usual practice of folding together an incomplete set facts in such a way to that it looks thorough and coherent.

    But it isn't.

    Let's take a look why:
    Contrary to some contorted conclusions twisted further by Big Media, 2014 was not the hottest year on record, based on satellite temperature data. It wasn't even close.

    But the dubious declaration by the Japan Meteorological Agency was enough to launch a fusillade of folderol. The Japanese climatologists measured surface temperatures, with readings from weather stations, ships and even buoys around the world. Supposedly 2014 was 0.05 degrees Celsius warmer than 1998, the next hottest year on record.

    NASA as well reported last month that 2014 was the warmest on record. What it neglected to mention, however, was that its own, more accurate satellite temperature data showed that last year was only the sixth warmest since NASA Remote Sensing Systems satellites went up about 40 years ago, according to The New American.
    Let's look at their first statement - by the satellite data, 2014 "wasn't even close" to being the warmest on record.  It comes, as per the braintrust's own telling, from this piece at The New American.

    But does the satellite data actually measure the same stuff as the surface stations?  What the braintrust neglected to mention is that the satellite data does not measure the same section of the climate as the surface or the oceans - it's only one part of the data.  How do I know?

    NOAA's Summary of the data:
    • The 2014 temperature for the lower troposphere (roughly the lowest five miles of the atmosphere) was third highest in the 1979-2014 record, at 0.50°F (0.28°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), and sixth highest on record, at 0.29°F (0.16°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS).  
    • The 2014 temperature for the mid-troposphere (roughly two miles to six miles above the surface) was third highest in the 1979–2014 record, at 0.32°F (0.18°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by UAH, and sixth highest on record, at 0.25°F (0.14°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by RSS. 
    • The temperature for the lower stratosphere (roughly 10 miles to 13 miles above the surface) was 13th lowest in the 1979–2014 record, at 0.56°F (0.31°C) below the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by UAH, and also 13th lowest on record, at 0.41°F (0.23°C) below the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by RSS. The stratospheric temperature is decreasing on average while the lower and middle troposphere temperatures are increasing on average, consistent with expectations in a greenhouse-warmed world. 
    The satellite data is for the troposphere and the stratosphere not the surface - so setting them in opposition (as the climate deniers are looking to do) is simply unfounded.

    I'm just surprised the braintrust didn't pounce on this sentence from the New American:
    In fairness, after being pressed by increasingly skeptical journalists on its data, NASA scientists claimed to be only 38 percent sure that last year was actually the warmest on record.
    Lucky for me, the Washington Post has already debunked this debunking:
    The figure comes from slide 5 of the PowerPoint presentation mentioned above, where NASA scientists noted that there was a 38 percent chance that 2014 was the hottest year, but only a 23 percent chance that the honor goes to the next contender, 2010, and a 17 percent chance that it goes to 2005.

    The same slide shows that NOAA’s scientists were even more confident in the 2014 record, ranking it as having a 48 percent probability, compared with only an 18 percent chance for 2010 and a 13 percent chance for 2005.
    And in reality, that bit of data was not released "after being pressed by" the science deniers.
    According to a NASA spokesman, the PowerPoint containing this slide went online at the same time that the 2014 temperature record itself was announced. So it may not have been as prominent as the press releases from the agencies, but it was available.

    The slide was also discussed in the press briefing when the news of the new record was released.
    Something else the deniers neglected to either mention or find out for themselves.

    Anyway, here's the chart:

    Note that the number does not show that NASA is "only 38 percent sure" (or 48 percent in the case of NOAA) that the statement "2014 was the warmest year on record" is true.  What it does show is that that's how confident 2014 was warmer than all the other years before it.  It's a mistake, for example, to assume that there's a 62 percent chance that some other year was warmer.  From the NOAA press briefing:
    Certainly there are uncertainties in putting all this together, all these datasets. But after considering the uncertainties, we have calculated the probability that 2014, versus other years that were relatively warm, were actually the warmest year on record. And the way you can interpret these data tables is, for the NOAA data, 2014 is two and a half times more likely than the second warmest year on record, 2010, to actually be the warmest on record, after consideration of all the data uncertainties that we take into account. And for the NASA data, that number is on the order of about one and a half times more likely than the second warmest year on their records, which again, is 2010. So clearly, 2014 in both our records were the warmest, and there’s a fair bit of confidence that that is indeed the case, even considering data uncertainties.
    That's how the science goes.

    And it's still getting warmer:

    No matter what the science deniers say.

    February 12, 2015

    A Message to Alabama

    (But it applies equally well to, say, some pharmacist anywhere who refuses to dispense birth control, etc.)