September 02, 2006

Dallas Morning News says: Rich kids’ shit don’t stink

At least not on cheating on standardized tests

The Snooze had a story Saturday about how the Texas Education Agency is looking at firing Caveon, an outside agency it hired to monitor schools across the state for possible cheating on the Texas Association of Knowledge and Skills, the state’s standardized test battery.

Why?

In a nutshell, because Caveon’s method of data analysis for identifying potentially cheating schools was flagging too many rich schools.

And, in a blatant bit of editorializing, the Snooze and reporter Joshua Benton agree, without any factual warrant given, that rich kids really don’t cheat that much.

Here’s what Benton said:
The result is that Caveon flagged a large percentage of the high schools in well-off suburbs – schools where students generally achieve high TAKS passing rates without having to resort to cheating.

No proof that the Highland Parksters of the world cheat less often than students down here in poorer — and darker — Lancaster. Just a statement out of thin air.

I e-mailed Benton and the Snooze’s education editor:
Who says? Do you have proof that students in well-off schools are less likely to resort to cheating? Maybe they are more sophisticated at how they cheat, for all you and I know, unless you have some other proof.

Beyond that, which I forgot to mention last night, rich high school students have more incentive and pressure to cheat, if anything.

Not to slight the majority of students at poorer districts, but taking reality as it is, the temptation and the pressure to cheat to get into Harvard or Yale might be a bit more than to get into a local junior college.

Yet, the Snooze assumes just the opposite.

Scientific American covers energy future

But Rosy Scenario seems to be an uncredited coauthor

The September SciAm looks at America’s, and the world’s energy future, primarily from a global warming perspective.

The issue, which is entirely about energy issues, is decent, but could have been better.

Peak Oil issues weren’t discussed in depth, let alone given a separate section of the magazine. And where EROEI (Energy Return On Energy Investment) was touched on in things such as ethanol, fuel from lignin or other biomass, biodiesel, etc., the authors of two of the sections I browsed leaned toward the optimistic side; on ethanol, for example, one pair of authors claimed an 18 percent positive EROEI before admitting that models range from 36 percent positive to 29 percent negative. Another article, in discussing the oil sands of Alberta, didn’t touch on either Peak Oil OR the relatively low EROEI of the sands.

The optimism appeared to leak out elsewhere, such as saying, in a chart, that a hydrogen fuel cell car could hit market in 15 years, and ignoring that plug-in hybrids will probably be more fuel efficient and more carbon-friendly.

Some of their other solutions, while not anywhere as dewy-eyed as Daniel Yergin is about Peak Oil, nonetheless all seem to lean optimistic on the global warming issue and the relative ease of fighting it. For instance, the mag suggests a 700-fold increase in wind energy to replace all of coal, if I recall correctly. That’s pretty huge.

And, while the authors do include its energy needs as part of the equation, finding the extraalternative electric power sources to power up plug-and-play hybrids only adds to the problem from the Peak Oil side.

I’m not an apocalypticist like James Kunstler, but I still find this issue of SciAm just a bit too optimistic.

Little of it is new, nor in-depth for readers of websites such as The Oil Drum. And, while a fair amount of it seems spot-on re the concerns, the answers do not quite put me at ease, or easiness.

August 31, 2006

Our first Christianofascist — Ann Coulter

As promised in the post immediately below, it’s now time to use the word “Christianofascist” about some of the far right’s lowest lifes.

And who better than Ms. Fascist herself (who is NOT that good looking, either, by the way, looking like a cosmetically camouflaged old hag, probably due to all the smoking), Ann Coulter?

So, here goes.

“The Christianofascist Ann Coulter wants to kill all Muslims, believing they cannot ultimately be trusted.”

“The Christianofascist Ann Coulter wants to install the unscientific faith-based education of creationism in public schools.”

You get the idea.

Take the word out for a whirl; you’ll feel better.

“Christianofascists” — spread the word

I have gotten soooo tired of the phrase “Islamofascist” (thanks, Christopher Snitchens, that must have been an extra-heavy drunk that night) that I have decided a counterpart term is needed.

So, I nominate “Christianofascist.”

Now, some will argue that people like Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly don’t have the power to do what Hezbullah or the Taliban do.

Yes, but what if they DID have that power? How many times has Coulter talked about killing people? O’Reilly is less bloodthirsty only by comparison.

Coming up, it gets used for a few deserving people.

August 30, 2006

Rick Perry lies again about Tom DeLay seat special election

Months after insisting vehemently that no pre-November special election could be held to fill the disgraced and resigned Tom DeLay’s vacant seat, Texas Gov. Rick “Adios, Mofo” Perry has
reversed course. He has now called a special election for Nov. 7, the same day as the general election, with the winner to fill out the unexpired portion of the term before January.

Why? In a word, politics.

After the Texas GOP lost three rounds of court battles, including a U.S. Supreme Court refusal to hear the case, the party was stuck having to back in a write-in candidate, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who would not have her name on the general election ballot.

But now, the special election would put her — and other people who filed to run in it — on the ballot. And, since the state GOP had been worried about voters in the general election spelling her name correctly on the write-in, they’ll have it spelled out for them.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman gets this exactly right:
Coleman, D-Houston, called Mr. Perry's calling of the election “a tactical move” to help Dr. Sekula-Gibbs because she has a complicated name and faces long odds to win the Nov. 7 general election as a write-in candidate.

Meanwhile, Perry’s state-appointed flunkies are already at work, trying to exploit this advantage for even more gain.
Secretary of State Roger Williams, a Perry appointee, is urging election officials in the four counties in Mr. DeLay’s 22nd House District to place special elections at the top of the ballot, said Scott Haywood, Mr. Williams’ spokesman.

“A spending addiction” — it’s almost enough to make me want to not claim to be a liberal

Kristi Willis, a former aide to Austin-area Congressman Lloyd Doggett, pled guilty to stealing $168,000 from his campaign and got 30 days in jail.

Here’s the latest in “victimization psychology”:
Her attorney, Charles Grigson, earlier said that Willis had a spending addiction due to a psychological problem and that she was seeking professional help.

A spending addiction? The hell she did. She was a thief. (Unless her lawyer Grigson has a bullshit addiction.

Appeals court folds, spindles and mutilates Constitution, ruling treaties are not federal law, committing an impeachable action

And shock me that it was the D.C. Court of Appeals

The D.C. Court recently ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency acted legally in allowing agribusinesses to increase their use of methyl bromide during a phase-out of the ozone-depleting product.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, plaintiff in the case, claimed the mega-growers of Big Ag were violating the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty duly approved by the U.S. Senate, regulating the phase-out of ozone-damaging chemicals.

Here’s the doozy:

The court unanimously ruled that an international treaty could not be considered a federal law.

Really?

Let’s check the Constitution.

Article III, Section 2:
The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority.

It sure sounds like a treaty, which is made “under their authority,” i.e., the authority of “the laws of the United States,” is itself therefore a federal law.

But, of course, that’s the minor point.

Let’s look at Article VI, which any constitutional lawyer, at least one in international law, knows by heart.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.

(Emphasis added.)

Doesn’t get any clearer than that.

But that’s STILL not all. More from Article VI:
All executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.

That would include supporting the earlier part of Article VI about treaties being the supreme law of the land.

By deliberately and willfully ruling otherwise, the members of the D.C. Court of Appeals have violated their oaths of office and are liable to impeachment, which will of course never happen.

That’s what you get with a conservative activist judiciary.

Why Bill really wants Hillary to run for president

Picture this conversation in the White House, early February 2009 —

Bill: “If you’re comfortable, Hillary, I was going to take an extended vacation soon.”

Hillary: “Where are you going?”

Bill: “I was thinking about Thailand. I have a 15-year-old friend there.”

Hillary: “Whaaaattttt?”

Bill: “Did I say Thailand? I meant Tibet! And a friend I’ve known for 15 years! The Dalai Lama.”

August 27, 2006

Hot-air rhetoric clouds global warming opponent’s study of hurricanes

That’s the only way to explain hurricane-researcher Roy Spencer’s blather in the Sunday opinion section of The Dallas Morning News (Well, that and the fact that the column first appeared on the webpages of science-spinning Tech Central Station

Spencer claims the problem with hurricane damage in the U.S.
is entirely due to overdevelopment of our coasts.

Now, he’s right that overdevelopment is a problem. Indeed, the most recent issue of Sierra notes that Alabama was spared some of Louisiana’s and Mississippi’s Katrina damage because an endangered species of mouse prevented as much coastal development there.

BUT, but, but, this is not “coastal development” versus”global warming.” First, Spencer knows that he’s making a straw man false dilemma. Second, he knows that the “global warming doesn’t exist” side of that false dilemma is itself false.

Here’s an extended version of the e-mail I sent him, interspersed with explanatory and transition comments by me, and quotes from his column.


I totally agree that we've overbuilt our coastlines. However, I disagree that we should ONLY concentrate on this because, because, global warming isn’t affecting hurricane intensity duration, or anything else about hurricanes, because, because...

Global warming really can’t happen.

In essence, that’s what the guts of your column says.

(Spencer goes on to claim that a cooling ocean has offset alleged global warming, and has refuted, nay, destroyed, the modeling accuracy and ability of global warming scientists.)
The rapidity of this observed temperature change is beyond what computerized climate models can explain. This is perplexing for modelers, who tend to believe that their models contain all of the important physics of the problem.

As for variability in sea-surface temperatures, well, that issue has NOTHING to do with global warming. Any sufficiently complex climatological system is going to have variability within constituent subsystems, no matter where the thermostat is set at (unless you're at absolute zero, or so hot that you have no liquid water, or something like that).

For example, even with a 3-5 degree C bump in the average Earth temperature, we'll still have El Nino/La Nina, or something similar.

Fact is, while it may be true that climatological modeling is harder than it looks at first glance, global warming predictions do have a strong scientific background.

As for your claim that "stablizing feedbacks in the climate system ... keep Earth's temperature from varying too much," sorry. That fails to explain either severe ice-ages or an Earth saturated with ferns in the days of the dinosaurs. Spencer claims just this:
But it is not so surprising for those of us who believe that there are stabilizing feedbacks in the climate system that keep the Earth's temperature from varying too much. If there weren't such stabilizing mechanisms, the climate system would have spun out of control long ago.

Spencer then delivers what he sees as an additional smackdown to global warming scientists.

While it is still quite possible for this hurricane season to end up being above normal in activity, the unexpectedly cooler sea surface temperatures should humble long-range forecasters at least a little.

Given how quickly Ernesto ramped up in the middle of the Caribbean, shouldn’t you keep your own mouth shut, Spencer? Maybe you need to eat a little of your own crow a la humility.

Conservation-minded Texans, do NOT switch to Green Mountain Energy for your electricity

Here’s why: It’s owned by Charles and Sam Wyly. Who are they?

Remember Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Take a guess who financed them. For more about the brothers John McCain called “Wyly coyotes,
read on.

For more on what’s seriously wrong, seriously deceitful and seriously hypocritical about this company, see
Boycott Green Mountain.