Tag Archives: politics

A look at the U.S. government’s planned budget for climate research

The next time someone begins ranting about how the money from “big oil” is used to attack the science of global warming, tell them to take a look at this post, which outlines in detail the more than $2 billion that the U.S. government plans to spend on climate change research in 2011 alone (too much of which is unfortunately used by partisans like James Hansen to try to prove the Earth is warming).

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The Tucson shootings

Here are two links that I think are worth reading in connection with the aftermath of yesterday’s tragic shootings in Tucson:

Two sicknesses on display in Arizona.

Disgusting partisanship on display after shooting.

Above all, these murders are horrible and a terrible tragedy. For anyone from either party to try to make political gain from them is beyond despicable.

I should also note that, unlike most Islamic terrorists attacks where either no one in the Muslim community protests while many Muslim leaders express joy or agreement with the violence, I can find no one who is happy about yesterday’s murders. The general response from across the American political spectrum is horror and agony. Such things are wrong and should not happen. It is this distinction that separates Western culture from modern Islam. Until the Islamic community finally stands up to its medieval bullies, I will continue to consider it a threat to civilization and freedom.

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Speech codes for the year of 2010 and for January 2011

Freedom of speech alert! Fire’s speech codes for the year of 2010 and for January 2011. For the yearly “award,” get these rules::

UMass Amherst’s policy on “Rallies” has special regulations applicable to what it calls “controversial rallies”—and it leaves “controversial” wholly undefined, giving the administration unfettered discretion to invoke the policy when it sees fit. If a rally is deemed controversial, it may only take place between noon and 1 p.m. on the Student Union steps, and must be registered at least five days in advance. That’s just one hour a day on one tiny area of a campus of more than 27,000 students! Worse yet, the policy also requires that when holding a controversial rally, “The sponsoring RSO [Registered Student Organization] must designate at least 6 members to act as a security team.” In other words, student groups wishing to publicly express a controversial opinion on campus must give at least five days notice, may only do it on one small area of campus for one hour a day, and must be willing to put themselves in harm’s way by acting as their own security in order to do so.

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TSA: Living on Borrowed Time?

TSA: Living on borrowed time? Key quote:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year. At TSA headquarters alone, there are 3,526 staff whose average salary tops $106,000. And while the TSA has gotten very good at groping airline passengers and undressing them with full body scans, the organization has yet to prevent a single terrorist attack. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation released last spring revealed that at least 17 known terrorists have been able to pass through TSA security totally unhindered. [emphasis mine]

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NPR Boss Who Fired Juan Williams Resigns

Progress? The NPR manager who fired Juan Williams has resigned. In addition, NPR’s CEO has been denied her 2010 bonus because of “concern over her role in the termination process.” And what does Juan Williams think of this?

“It’s good news for NPR if they can get someone who is the keeper of the flame of liberal orthodoxy out of NPR. . . , She had an executioner’s knife for anybody who didn’t abide by her way of thinking. . . . And I think she represented a very ingrown, incestuous culture in that institution that’s not open to not only different ways of thinking, but angry at the fact that I would even talk or be on Fox.”

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TSA bans bikini woman for ‘unusual contour’ around buttocks

A woman in a wheelchair — whom the TSA had previously interrogated for an hour then denied her entry when she arrived at the airport in a bikini — was later refused entrance when she arrived fully clothed because of an “unusual contour” around her buttocks. Key quote:

Banovac offered to strip for the agents to prove that she’s not hiding anything. However, since TSA agents aren’t allowed to fully undress a passenger, they had no choice but to deny her access to her flight.

Does one get the feeling that the TSA agents are out to get this woman because she makes them look like fools?

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University of Virginia resists releasing climate documents

Another whitewash? The University of Virginia is resisting releasing a variety of climate documents being requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Key quote:

In response to a previous FOIA request, U.Va. denied these records existed. However, during Cuccinelli’s pre-investigation under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (“FATA”), a 2007 law passed unanimously by Virginia’s legislature, which clearly covers the work of taxpayer-funded academics, U.Va. stunningly dropped this stance.

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Peer-reviewed journal article a “Fraud”

Back in 1998 a peer-reviewed paper in the medical journal, Lancet, claimed that the childhood vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella vaccine could be linked to autism and other health problems. The consequence was that thousands of parents withheld vaccinations from their children, resulting in an outburst of measles that almost certainly did actual harm to many children.

This paper has now been shown to be an outright fraud.

This story raises two thoughts. First, it demonstrates clearly that just because a research paper is published in a “peer-reviewed” science journal is no guarantee that the paper will be honest, reliable, or factually accurate. As good scientists like to say, “Extraordinary results require extraordinary evidence.” Both the press and public need to be constantly skeptical about all research, regardless of where it is published.

Secondly, the reaction of the journal, Lancet, to this whole affair suggests strongly that this particular journal is even more unreliable than most. To quote:

The Lancet withdrew the article in January of last year after concluding that “several elements” of the paper were incorrect. But the journal didn’t describe any of the discrepancies as fraud.

The journal’s reaction is similar to what we saw with the climategate emails, an effort to whitewash the situation while refusing to face the problem bluntly and fix it. If the article was as fraudulent as the Wall Street Journal article above suggests, it raises serious questions about the editorial policies at Lancet. That the editors there seem uninterested in addressing these concerns acts to discredit their publication entirely. And until they deal with this issue properly, I would look very skeptically on anything they publish.

(Note that this is not the first time Lancet has published research of questionable reliability. See this story for another example.)

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Charles Bolden has come out of hiding

Today NASA administrator Charles Bolden spoke at the AIAA meeting in Orlando. According to Florida Today, he said two things of interest:

  • He is proud of the achievements of the shuttle program and is sad the program is ending.
  • He believes flying three more shuttle missions would be safe.

Considering that his administration has done nothing to save the program, and in fact has almost seemed eager to shut it down at times, his sadness seems incredibly insincere and self-serving.

As for his second comment about the shuttle’s safety, I wonder how he knows this, especially since his own engineers are currently struggling to pin down the root cause of the external tank cracks that have delayed the last flight of Discovery, and appear to be a chronic problem that needs to be fixed before any shuttle can once again fly.

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Opportunity at Santa Maria Crater, as seen from space

The image below was taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on New Year’s Eve. It shows the rover Opportunity on the rim of stadium-sized Santa Maria Crater, where scientists plan to spend the next two months exploring the crater.

Opportunity has truly been an astonishing success for NASA’s planetary science program. The rover has operated on the Martian surface since 2004, almost seven years beyond its original mission length. It is presently about halfway on its long journey to the much larger Endeavour Crater (14 miles in diameter), still several miles away.

Opportunity at Santa Maria

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