SocraticGadfly: 1/8/12 - 1/15/12

January 14, 2012

Will cutting soot cut climate change? Is this a poor study?

Color me skeptical of the interesting research that says cutting soot, along with methane, could offer a quicker short-term bit of help on global warming than addressing carbon dioxide.

Why am I skeptical? Two reasons.

First, this study seems imprecise in referring "soot" rather than than "particulate pollutants." We know these include more than just "black carbon."

Second, most previous research on global warming has indicated that soot has actually helped slow global temperature rises, through blocking a bit of solar radiation. In fact, pumping more of it into the air has been highly touted as a geoengineering solution to global warming. Indeed, some scientists worry that a China reducing coal-fired power plants as an electricity source may not do as much good as once hoped.

I'm not denigrating the many non-warming benefits of cutting soot, but think it's being oversold.

And, there's one more concern.

Due to previous studies about geoengineering I referenced under Point 2, I'm waiting for the denialists to come out of the woodwork on this one. And, because the story I linked, at least, doesn't address already extant claims about geoengineering, or say that the researchers took that into account, the denialists wouldn't be all wrong at jumping on this one.

More proof this may be a backwards idea: new research connects the start of the Little Ice Age to particulates from volcanic eruptions.

Tricky Ricky Perry embarrassed in own backyard

Right here in Texas, a big confab of social conservative GOP wheeler-deelers met, put their heads together on backing a single option to Mitt Romney in the GOP primaries, and supported Rick ... Santorum, that is.

Now, will evangelical rank-and-file in South Carolina take marching orders? Gingrich supporters at the confab apparently remain obstinate, which lends credence to the possibility of a "Newt going nuclear" angle.

Meanwhile, back to Tricky Ricky. He didn't even make it past the first round of balloting.

If he fails to break, say, 15 percent in South Carolina, expect him to reassess his candidacy again, then to have Anita stick her hand up his backside and have him again reassess a reassessment a day later.

Texas GOP could cost itself millions

If Texas' primaries get delayed all the way to June, as the Supreme Court is considering, it would play havoc with both parties' state conventions, including leaving them on the hook for hotel and convention reservations. Of course, the Texas GOP will blame Texas Dems, or the liberal Supreme with its GOP-appointed majority, if this is the case.

Meanwhlie, let's hope Rick, or Anita, Perry, keep on campaigning to show just how weak Rick really is, if only Democrats would come up with a real gubernatorial nominee.

January 13, 2012

Mike Leach should have locked Craig James in a closet not his son

Craig James, the on-leave ESPN columnist who is running for the GOP nomination to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison for the U.S. Senate, is as nutbar as all the other candidates in the race.

And, as trite and trivial, calling the Constitution the "playbook." Apparently, neither he nor any other candidate have actually read that "playbook," being either hugely ignorant or hugely dismissive of the necessary and proper clause and other things.

Even scarier, Texas Democrats originally had retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez as the only real option, and now, even worse, have nobody. Let's hope we have a Green candidate of note. This is part of Democrats' ongoing failure to find decent candidates for statewide office in Texas. In the governor's race, that's been a problem since Ann Richards ran for re-election. Gary Mauro, Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell and  Bill White? All horrible as candidates in terms of campaign strategies and skills, mostly horrible on their politics.

January 12, 2012

#Wikileaks the "enemy"? Or Obama?

How else is one to interpret the U.S. Army saying Pfc. Bradley/Brenna (who may be transgendered, and whose lawyers may or may not be using Gender Identify Disorder as part of the defense, and who may or may not be having his/her gender identity used as an activist football outside the case) Manning charging the private, among 22 counts, with aiding the enemy?

The reality, of course, is that Wikileaks has never declared war on the United States. However, in another example of asymmetric warfare, the Obama Administration long ago launched an undeclared war on Wikileaks.

Were this 40 years ago, a la the Pentagon Papers, and in a civilian court, this case would be batted down in an eyelash. Today, it's different.

There is no such thing as jury nullification at a court martial. A definition of one's peers can be different in the military. And, many other factors are at play.

Nonetheless, given the Pentagon's own previous concessions on other documents, it's clear that no leaks aided the enemy. And, since Dear Leader, our constitutional law scholar president for the good retirement times afterward, is also C-in-C of the armed forces of the United States, this nonsense could come to an end any time he likes.

But it won't. Not even if his rightward triangulation gets him re-elected. The only thing I don't get about his "moves" in the last decade is, why didn't he leave the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church a lot sooner, and why didn't he do oppo research on that issue?

‘Healthy’ red wine data is bogus - Science, science and #scientism

An AP story has the details:
A University of Connecticut researcher known for his work on the benefits of red wine to heart health falsified his data in more than 100 instances, and nearly a dozen scientific journals are being warned of the potential problems after publishing his studies in recent years, officials said Wednesday.
UConn officials said their internal review found 145 instances over seven years in which Dr. Dipak Das fabricated and falsified data, and the U.S. Office of Research Integrity has launched an independent investigation of his work.
There’s no indication of the motive, but the university just turned down nearly $1 million in federal grants related to the fake research.

Meanwhile, at least one resveratrol seller is scurrying to distance itself from these findings.

It's not surprising.

First, even legitimate medical claims have a much lower margin of error for false positives, or p-value, than do natural sciences research. 5 percen vs. 0.01 percent is huge indeed.

But, that's secondary to the huge nature of the fraud, and the second half of the header for this post.

Scientism is obvious to those who know about.

For those who don't, it's a bit of hyperrationalism that says almost everything in your, my and Horatio's universe is understandable by scientific investigation. Some Gnu Atheists engage in it, notably Sam Harris. Some "professional skeptics" at least skirt its edges.

Other "professional skeptics," along with some scientists, don't go that far but are bad enough.

For them, Science with a capital-S is put forth instead of science.

I use the capital-S Science for a Platonic Idea of science, if you will. The professional skeptics and some scientists claim that science is not only the best endeavor of the human mind, but that it's on a plane all by itself. In situations such as the above, though, they're stuck. Was Das never a scientist? Or, rather, a Scientist? Like a lapsed Christian, was he once a Scientist, only to become a heretic?

And here, though Science doesn't have exactly the same take on scientific research as does scientism, the end result ... idealizing science some way, and even as a quasi-belief system, is the same.

The reality? Science is no less a human endeavor and no more one, as far as ethics of its practitioners, than any other. Beyond the laughable but mild problems of Gnu-style atheists, we've seen Nazi and Japanese medical experimentation, Soviet Lamarckianism at the hands of Lysenko and much more.

The idea of rational, ethical, human behavior is one we hope for in fields outside of science, anyway. We shouldn't expect science to do better at it than we do other fields.

January 09, 2012

Brooks, Nocera, liberals and messaging

David Brooks rightly notes (yikes!) that many people are actually liberals in their support for individual government programs, but don't trust the federal government as the instrument to implement those programs.

He adds that many perceive the government as being open to rent-seekers.

Joe Nocera, on the BP liability disbursement program, though, notes that government can and does still work well.

So, what's the issue? It really is that the "rent seekers" aren't Reagan's welfare queens, but are bipartisan rich fat cats, fat cats that gave Barack Obama more money overall than John McCain in 2008, and a bigger portion of respective campaign fundraising money.

And, that, in turn, is the difference between traditional American liberalism of New Deal and other varieties, and neoliberalism, technocratic ersatz liberalism, that started to grow under Jimmy Carter and continued ever since. After Carter, Walter Mondale's been the only traditional liberal nominated for president by Democrats. But, real liberals have continued to acquiesce in neoliberals glad-handing rent-seekers.

So, the Democratic Party's messaging problem here is self-inflicted, with additional collateral damage starting with Tip O'Neill, a paleoliberal, refusing to stand tougher against Ronald Reagan.

And, that's why people like me have to, in the face of David Brooks columns, often add an adjective like left-liberal.

Larkin is a HOFer

For someone like me, who's generally, on the Baseball Hall of Fame, a "small Hall" guy, but, who tries to keep an open sabermetric mind, and who recognizes the "nuance" of someone elected in his second or third year, this year's Hall of Fame voting was OK to a bit better, overall.

Barry Larkin got in on his third try. Tim Raines didn't quite break 50 percent, as I predicted last week, but came very close. Bernie Williams, despite ESPN "fluffing," only got a little over 10 percent.

Sadly, although he broke 50 percent, Jeff Bag well still fell a ways short. And, next year, with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, it may be tough for him to move up much, either because voters who think he roided, too, will be reminded of it, or just because of them sucking oxygen out of the voting booth.

More unfortunately, Jack Morris hit the 67 percent mark, and may just get in the Hall with one of his two remaining chances. Even with Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, he does not belong in. And, without it, any non-"homer" HOF fan or voter wouldn't even bring his name up.

Next year? Neither Clemens nor Bonds gets in. Jokingly, Rusty Hardin threatens to sue the Base Ball Writers Association of America on Clemens' behalf, while (half?) jokingly, Bonds says it is all about race.

Bagwell creeps up to around 60 percent. Raines hits 60 percent on his way to getting in, in two more years. None of the "older roiders" does any better than they have so far.

Meanwhile, ESPN's David Schofield gets an early start on "fluffing" a big Hall for next year. To even consider not only Morris, but also Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker and others