Archive for October 22nd, 2009

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Dangerous People

October 22, 2009

I really object to this list of the so-called “most dangerous global warming deniers.” It’s not that I want to defend the people on this list. Most of them are complete nitwits. It’s that I think that vilifying people is terribly counterproductive, and perhaps generative of danger. I am reminded of repeated calls for the heads of university professors. I think those on that list will attest that this kind of politics is nasty and unhelpful.

Sure, some people can be dangerous, but most of the time, they’re just people. Focus on the ideas, on the issues, on the positions. Oh, I know, doing so is not as much fun. Many times it can be extremely frustrating. In cases where policy decisions matter, it can feel that the position another advocates is, and therefore that they who hold and defend that position are, dangerous. But I have to believe that it doesn’t help matters to single out dangerous people.

Carry on.

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Foot Fighting and Dog Balls

October 22, 2009

Here’s an outrageous thesis from New Yorker fluff-daddy Malcolm Gladwell. The upshot?  Football is injurious to the health of a player. Dogfighting is similarly injurious. Lo, some spectators love to watch that stuff.  Ergo, maybe they’re the same?

Check out this winning quote:

At the core of the C.T.E. research is a critical question: is the kind of injury being uncovered by McKee and Omalu incidental to the game of football or inherent in it? Part of what makes dogfighting so repulsive is the understanding that violence and injury cannot be removed from the sport. It’s a feature of the sport that dogs almost always get hurt.

True. But that’s not the core distinction between dogfighting and football. Another core distinction is that dogs don’t volunteer themselves to be stuck in cramped rings to tough it out with their enemies.

I have my affections for Gladwell’s work, but then… yeah, well, read it for yourself.

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NPR on Limbaugh and Revkin

October 22, 2009

NPR is on the case.  Andrew Sullivan posts a nice commentary from one of his readers:

It was as if NPR decided that, instead of giving Limbaugh more attention, they would give the attention largely to his innocent victim. It seems sort of jujitsu–turn Limbaugh’s energy against him by promoting exactly what he attacks.

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India In, India Out

October 22, 2009

Friend, colleague, philosopher, and co-conspirator Andrew Light posts this hopeful report over at the Center for American Progress. Friend, colleague, policy scientist, and co-conspirator Roger Pielke Jr. disagrees.

Light and authors are hopeful that “India may be the country that provides the necessary breakthrough in international negotiations to help developed and developing countries reach an agreement.”  Roger and Pielke are more pessimistic, given these obstructionist comments from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “No way.”

(Singh didn’t actually say that.  I paraphrase.  But, as we’ve seen, quotes can be a barrel of fun.  Singh actually said this: “”Developing countries cannot and will not compromise on development.”)

Who to believe?  What to do?  Shall I intervene?

The truth clearly lies somewhere in the middle: that international agreement options for developing nations at Copenhagen are not off the table, even though Singh implies they are; and that all of the options for developing nations are not on the table, even though Ramesh implies that they are. The idea, I take it, is that India will play, but maybe not play casually (whatever that means).  My impression is that apparently mixed messages work like this in politics.

This can be chalked up to the quick movement of statements, as well as the context in which the statements are uttered. I often challenge my students not to gravitate immediately toward apparent contradictions in statements — though this is an important skill too — but rather to engage in a bit of low-impact mental contortionism. I urge them to try to reconcile apparently contradictory statements. It’s a wee bit more difficult when you have multiple speakers, like Ramesh and Singh, as individual speakers often genuinely disagree, but when you’re talking about the utterances and whispers of an administration, I think we can nevertheless make sense of these claims.

Singh is signalling the dedication of his developing nation to development, implying that this means no agreement in Copenhagen. Ramesh, by leaking the memo, is signalling the dedication of his department to smart development, implying that this means yes agreement in Copenhagen. There’s no reason these two positions can’t be reconciled. Both positions can support development; the question is, rather, over what kind of development.

Policy positions change.  Singh wants to lay down the law. Ramesh is trying to get Singh to change his tune, to free his mind and allow his ass to follow, as any person in an advisory position might do.  There are clearly pressures pushing both ways internal to the Indian government, just as there are pressures pushing both ways among my friends and colleagues. Nothing so crazy about that.

Beer summit, anyone?

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The Woes of Oscar

October 22, 2009

Now how, exactly, is the new San Francisco law prohibiting the reckless disposal of food scraps supposed to work when so many poor monsters are dependent upon leftover trimmings for nutrition? This is clearly an inconsiderate strike against the interests of our lovable curmudgeon.  The grouch will have nothing to nosh on. He’ll go hungry, I say! He’ll stave, only to emerge weeks later — emaciated, chartreuse, and rail-thin — to terrify kids and spew all manner of hate-filled nonsense on freakishly-large birds with imaginary woolly mammoth friends.

What is he to do? Is he to eat plastic? Is he, woefully unqualified, suddenly to take bottom-of-the-trash-bin jobs photosynthesizing our waste?  Or will he be forever relegated to a life of crime, forced to steal cookies from other, more fortunate, monsters? What, pray tell, is the grouch to do when food scraps are pillaged from our waste stream?

There is no justice in this world.