defrog: (Default)
As you know, D.Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Accord.

Official reason: he wants to renegotiate a better deal that suits America’s interests and protects Americans.

Unofficial reason: climate change is a Chinese hoax and admitting anything else would be tantamount to admitting that Al Gore was right about something, and frankly most of the GOP would rather let the world roast than do that.

(Okay, I may have made some of that up. Except for the part about the Chinese hoax, although Nikki Haley claims Trump doesn’t really believe that, like that’s supposed to make me feel better about him.)

So I have thoughts, sure. And I have links for most of them.

1. The best starting place, for my money, is the basic fact that almost everything Trump said to justify his decision is inaccurate, misleading (intentionally or otherwise) and just plain wrong.

2. The renegotiation angle is typical of Trump, who basically views the world in terms of business deals – not the kinds of deals where both sides get what they want, but where the other side gets what they think they want while your side gets the far better end of the deal and basically just screwed the other guy and he’s too stupid to know it, ha ha loser. Which is also why Trump and some of his staffers – like the head of the EPA, for example – are convinced the only reason the rest of the world applauded when the US joined the Paris Accord was because it gives them an economic advantage over us.

3. That said, I suspect Trump cares a lot more about the political act of withdrawing from the accord than he does about renegotiating better terms. In his own words: “We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

Which suggests to me that Trump doesn’t really care one way or the other what happens because he figures the US is better off out of the accord anyway, so if he can’t have it his way, who cares? It’s not like we need those other losers. The US – as leader of the free world – is the center of the universe and the rest of the world can accomplish nothing without our participation.

4. He’s wrong about that, too. Trump and the GOP may think climate change is bogus. The rest of the world doesn’t see it that way, and is determined to get together and do something about climate change, and if they have to do it without the US, so be it. Many have already resigned themselves to the fact that the Trump admin is going to treat them at best like business rivals in a zero-sum game rather than allies and partners, and more are deciding that it’s better to keep working together without the US than play the game Trump’s way – not least because his policy decisions are based on how he thinks the world works as opposed to how it actually works.

5. Some people are responding with the usual hyperbole: OMG THE PLANET IS FUCKED NOW! Well, no, not really. By many accounts, the US dropping out of the Paris Accord won’t make a huge difference in terms of the overall effort to reduce greenhouse gases and keep the Earth’s temperature from rising, etc. It won’t help, but it won’t make the accord completely pointless, either.

What it could do is put the US at a tremendous disadvantage as the rest of the world invests in clean, renewable green energy technologies that are going to be the future of the global energy industry. Europe and Asia – and in particular China – are going to be leading that growth wave, while the US under Trump will still be futzing around with coal mines and Arctic drilling.

6. On the other hand, it seems we unexpectedly have a Plan B – namely, all these US states and cities stepping up to say, “We’ll back the Paris Accord ourselves” – to include, amusingly, the mayor of Pittsburgh.

That’s an interesting aspect in itself – the idea that states and cities will uphold an accord that the federal govt has rejected. It’s not unanimous, of course, but maybe that’s the antidote to all of Trump’s antics. I love the idea of state and municipal governments deciding that if the federal govt is going to reject progress in favor of some alt-reality, there’s no reason why they have to go along with it. States Rights, indeed!

7. Another bright side is that, legally, the US can’t actually start the withdrawal process officially until 2019, and it will take until 2020 to complete the withdrawal. So it’s reversible – at least for now.

But yes, overall, it’s the latest in a distressingly long list of terrible and badly informed decisions by this admin.

8. One other point worth mentioning – one of the long-standing criticisms of the Paris Accord from Trump and the GOP is that it won’t work anyway. All it does is punish the US economically and we won’t even get cleaner air or climate stability in return.

I smirk at such statements, not least because they’re basically criticizing the accord for failing to fix a problem that they firmly deny exists in the first place. And it’s hard to take that criticism seriously when conservatives not only have no alternative plan to tackle climate change, but have shown zero interest in proposing one (again, because that would contradict the talking point that there is no problem to fix).

Is it hot in here or is it just me,

This is dF
defrog: (science!)



With these hands,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Despite the fact that most people (including, I admit, me) tend to assume that politicians are liars who never keep their promises (or at least the ones from the political party you oppose), this article from FiveThirtyEight indicates that this is is actually a grand misconception, at least when it comes to US Presidents:

Political scientists have been studying the question of campaign promises for almost 50 years, and the results are remarkably consistent. Most of the literature suggests that presidents make at least a “good faith” effort to keep an average of about two-thirds of their campaign promises; the exact numbers differ from study to study, depending on how the authors define what counts as a campaign promise and what it means to keep it.

The average of promises kept between 1933 and 1999 is 67%, with some time periods as high as 80%. Meanwhile, PolitiFact has tracked the last two admins and found they generally fall in line with the average. There’s also a caveat here: some promises don’t get kept due to circumstances that POTUS can’t control, or by changing circumstances that require a different approach, etc.

Anyway, it’s an interesting study. I do have a couple of comments to add, however:

1. Keeping campaign promises doesn’t necessarily make you honest. There’s a difference between keeping a campaign promise and lying about the facts feeding the justification of that promise. You may have been telling the truth when you said you would (say) get tough on immigration, but you may not have been telling the truth when you justified the need to get tough on immigration by claiming (say) that all immigrants are rapists, drug mules, terrorists and welfare queens.

2. That said, there’s also a difference between lying and being wrong via stunning (and possibly willful) ignorance. A lot of politicians repeat stories and claims that are untrue to make a point or formulate policy, but they believe that they are true – and continue to believe they’re true regardless of how much evidence you present to debunk it.

So we could say that most politicians may be honest, but they're also dumb ignorant hicks who get elected because there are plenty of other dumb ignorant hicks who believe the same nonsense they do.

This is progress?

Trust me,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
As you know, the water in Flint is emergency-level nasty.

I don't have anything special to say about it. Obviously I’m against poisonous water and the bureaucratic (and possibly corrupt) incompetence that led to it. I’ve stayed out of the political batshit-slinging contest currently raging over it, because said contest just makes it impossible to get a straight story on what actually happened and who’s to blame for it.

Here’s a couple of stories that have filtered through the muck (so to speak) that are helpful primers to the situation in Flint.

1. This post from FiveThirtyEight is a great breakdown of what happened and when.

2. This article in The Guardian claims that yr probably going to see more stories like this, at least in major US cities east of the Mississippi River, because Flint isn’t the only city using questionable methods to test its water quality.

3. This post from Mic.com is worth reading as it asks the people from Flint what they think about this. Note that not all of them are impressed with Michael Moore’s theory that the Flint water crisis is a form of ethnic cleansing.

Developing …

Don’t drink the water,

This is dF


defrog: (science!)
Yr Insanely-Stupid-Clickbait Headline of the day:

No he fucking didn’t. He said something you agree with. There’s a fucking difference. This headline is the reason journalism sucks now. 

No he fucking didn’t. He said something you agree with. There’s a fucking difference. This headline is the reason journalism sucks now. That and the Knowable page just reposted Schwarzenegger’s entire column with a new sucky headline. Which is just doubly lazy.

Here’s the actual headline to the piece:

This is a better headline because it’s limited to the POV of the writer, and it actually tells you something about what the article actually says. Also, as Schwarzenneger isn’t actually a journalist, he can be held to a lower standard than actual journalists. And he has the better headline here so just let’s think about that for a moment. 

This is a better headline because it’s limited to the POV of the writer, and it actually tells you something about what the article actually says.
Also, as Schwarzenegger isn’t actually a journalist, he can be held to a lower standard than actual journalists. And he has the better headline here so just let’s think about that for a moment.

Sorry, but as someone who edits magazines for a living, this is a big pet peeve of mine. I understand the need for clickbait headlines – really, I do – but there’s a good and bad way to do it. And the worst offenders are invariably ones like this that claim the person in the story stated some opinion about some political issue that “totally crushed” or “destroyed” or “shut down” whatever political entity or ideology they oppose.

Which it never, never does. It would only be true if everyone on the other side gave up and joined yr side, or went Galt and disappeared into the woods, never to be seen again.

Anyway, my actual purpose for posting this is to relay Schwarzenegger’s post, which is actually quite good. Admittedly that’s something I never thought I’d type. But he does pretty much sum up the way I’ve felt about the climate change debate for some time now:

While I do think climate change science is real, I also think it’s beside the point. Whether you personally believe climate change science or not, what’s indisputable is that pollution is choking our cities and ruining our water supplies, and eventually, one way or the other, we will need an alternative to fossil fuels when they run out, and there’s no sense in waiting until then to figure out a plan.

How that can be accomplished affordably – and whether govt funding/regulation is required – is, of course, up for debate. But we need the debate to actually happen, and it won’t as long as the GOP leadership keeps using climate change denial as an excuse to avoid discussion of the issue.

Clean it up,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Men In Bras!



Blinded by weird science,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Oh, and also you’ll be able to do yr shopping list via TV.

"Mrs. Jones flicks a switch on her television set and tunes in the Shopping Tele-column of the Air." (1943 Du Pont ad)

[Via A Word From Our Sponsor]

Wrap it up,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
ITEM: There’s an interesting article on io9 that looks at an upcoming trend – white people moving back into city centers – and the potential impact that has on the affected neighborhood, to include the low-income locals already living there.

Turns out it doesn’t end well for the low-income people:

If the incomes of these locals in the U.S. were rising at the same rate as the incomes of whites, this might not be such a problem. Maybe whites would come to town, move into some abandoned places, and spruce up the joint. The problem is that the income disparity between blacks and whites has been growing immensely over the past few decades. Local black residents can't compete with the white infillers for space.

So when whites flock to a black neighborhood, they are often the harbingers of doom. Rents skyrocket to the point where the original population can no longer afford it — and they move to low-income suburbs like Ferguson outside St. Louis.

It’s an interesting article, especially in light of recent events in Ferguson that have raised the spectre of both class and race disparities that commentators on a certain cable TV news channel like to pretend either don’t exist, don't matter or are overblown by liberals as being bigger problems than they really are and are really just an excuse to be lazy and mooch Obamaphones, steak and birth-control off the govt.

Something like that.

Note that the article isn't saying white people are doing this kind of thing on purpose. They’re not. It’s just that they don’t notice the impact they’re having on everyone else.

Which pretty much sums up the history of America, in a way.

“Oh, there are Indians here? Oh well, let’s just settle here, they’ll never even notice we’re here.”

Moving on up,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Science needs plenty of room.

SCIENCE!

[Via Neat Stuff]

Doing science to it,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Just as I haven’t watched True Detective, I also am not watching the rebooted Cosmos (mainly because it’s not available here yet, and I don’t want to see it badly enough to resort to piracy – they’ll stick it on in-flight entertainment systems soon enough).

Much has been made about the fact that Creationists are displeased over the evolution bits – specifically, that evolution is presented as fact and not theory (which for Creationists means, “If it’s theoretical, that’s the same thing as saying you don't really know if it’s true, yr just choosing to pretend it’s true to further yr liberal atheist agenda, unlike us”).

No real surprise there – I remember when the original Cosmos aired (and Carl Sagan published the book of the same name), conservative Christians complained about the exact same thing.

So yeah, nothing new there.

But I did come across this story in which Fox affiliate KOKH (Fox 25) in Oklahoma City interrupted part of Cosmos to show a news promo – and it just happened to broadcast right before Neil deGrasse Tyson mentioned evolution.

Oops!

Fox 25 claims it was a total accident. And the promoted comment at the bottom of that Ars Technica story suggests that it’s entirely possible that it was a legitimate goof.

On the other hand, as Ars Technica also points out, it’s a hell of a big coincidence to swallow when remembering that this happened in a state where Creationists have enough political sway that the state House of Representatives had just passed a bill that very week that would prevent school authorities from punishing a teacher who tries to “teach the controversy” – a bill that is based on a template from The Discovery Institute, the conservative Christian think tank that researches and promotes intelligent design.

So I’m not convinced it was all that “accidental” – although of course it’s perfectly conceivable that it was the act of a station employee and not a directive from upper management, if only because Fox 25 re-aired the episode the following Saturday.

Anyway, the only real reason I’m posting it is because it reminds me of how, when I used to have an apartment in mainland China just across the birder from Hong Kong, we could get TV signals from the two main broadcasters there: TVB and ATV. And whenever the news came on, and they started reporting a story on, say, Tibet, or the Dalai Lama, or Taiwan (which at the time was under the leadership of Chen Shui-bian, whose party advocates stronger independence from China), or anything negative about China, they would cut to local commercials until the story was over.

Because that’s what they do in China.

Not that there’s any comparison whatsoever between Oklahoma Creationists and mainland China. There isn’t.

I’m just saying, this reminded me of that.

Do the evolution,

This is dF


defrog: (science!)


[Via [personal profile] wiredwizard ]

I approve this message.

Doing science to it,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)


Poolside,

This is dF


defrog: (science!)
Yr F*** Yeah 21st Century lede of the day:

Yr F*** Yeah 21st Century lede of the day.

Here's a photo of the robot.



I linked to the above article mainly for the headline. More detailed articles are here and here.

Yr plastic pal who’s fun to be with,

This is dF


defrog: (science!)
ITEM: A scientific paper from Barcelona’s Artificial Intelligence Research Institute says that modern recorded music is louder and more boring than ever – and proves it with math




The loudness part is pretty easy to quantify. The researchers found an average 9% increase in decibel level over the past 50 years. That’s no surprise – it’s been noted before that CD mastering in the 21st tends to cram more volume, so CDs play louder.

However, more volume also means loss in dynamics – meaning it gets harder to hear the subtleties in instrumentation that make music interesting.

By no coincidence, the research team also discovered that the variety of timbres used over the last 50 years in music has dropped significantly across a wide variety of genres, after peaking in the 1960s, and now we’re using the same set of melodies we were in the 1950s to the point of sacrificing the variety of ways those melodies are combined.

How do they know this? Statistical analysis!

The research uses Columbia University’s Million Song Dataset, which contains beat-by-beat data on one million different Western songs. They then do basically the opposite of sonification — different musical facets (melodies, instrumentation, etc.) become data points and, then, can be subject to regular old statistical anaysis models, like Zipf’s law, which describes a frequency relationship in which one musical chord’s frequency is inversely proportional to its rank in a frequency table of different chords. (Zipf’s law is usually used for linguistic analysis but works pretty well for music too, it turns out.) That is, the most popular chord is twice as common as the second most popular and three times as common as the third, and so on.

What they found was that chord distribution is getting less creative – instead of mixing common chords with uncommon chords, songwriters tend to use the same common chords over and over again, resulting in “a growing homogenization of the global timbral palette” and “a progressive tendency to follow more fashionable, mainstream sonorities.”

In other words, music is boring.

Which is great news for music snobs who have been saying this for years.

On the other hand, boredom is relative. For a start, new music isn’t boring to young people who haven’t had time to be all jaded and snobbish about music. And it’s not boring to people who don’t demand all that much from music in terms of chord arrangements, so long as the lyrics are catchy or meaningful. Rock and blues have been getting by on three chords since Day 1, and they still draw a crowd. In fact, purists (a.k.a. actual music snobs) complain when you try to vary the chord formula too much.

It’s also worth mentioning that with only so many chords to choose from, originality is harder to come by. Every new generation of songwriters has to deal with the fact that whatever they come up with, odds are someone’s thought of that. Which is why differentiation comes more from new instruments of technology, or maybe using traditional instruments in unexpected genres (accordians in rock music, for example, or maybe playing bluegrass versions of heavy metal songs).

Anyway, I don’t know about chord arrangements being an indicator of “boring” music. But point taken about the loss of timbres and dynamics. People used to listen to music a lot more closely than they do now. That’s arguably because there’s not as much to listen to now.

Being boring,

This is dF

defrog: (science!)
Yr “F*** Yeah 21st Century” lede of the day:

I want one.

Three words: 

I want one.

Fit to print,

This is dF


defrog: (science!)
ITEM [via Grist]: Science proves that conservatives oppose anything they think liberals are for, even if they see actual benefits in it. 

Well, not quite. But there is a new paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examined attitudes about energy efficiency in liberals and conservatives, particularly when it comes to energy-efficient light bulbs.

To summarize: Conservatives and liberals generally agree that compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) are beneficial in terms of saving money on yr electric bill and could help reduce dependency on foreign oil. But if you try to market CFLs as helping to fight climate change, conservatives are more likely to buy an old-school bulb instead, even if they're aware of those other benefits of buying CFLs.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that I haven’t seen the methodology for the study. So I don’t know how they define “conservative” or “liberal”, or if any of the respondents were big fans of, say, Michele “It’s A Govt Takeover Of Lightbulbs” Bachmann.

Still, I’m not too surprised by the results, if only because political polarization in America has reached the point where any proposal put forth by The Opposition Party is automatically denounced as the worst and most destructive idea ever in the history of America, so yr going to have people with knee-jerk reactions to anything that hints at endorsing the opposition’s view.

Both sides do this, of course. But climate change does seem to be one of those issues where a lot conservatives (or at least the ones with their own talk shows or blogs) have pretty much convinced themselves that climate change is a big liberal conspiracy to turn America into hippies. Or maybe they just can’t stand the idea of Al Gore being right about something for once in his life. Or something.

The good news is that this is not irreversible. Another recent scientific study found that people who have extreme views of complex, nuanced issues tend to assume they understand the issue at hand – but if you ask them to actually explain the issue itself in detail (as opposed to why they’re for or against it), they tend to realize they’re not all that well informed about it, after which their positions become more moderate.

Put simply, the more extreme a person’s opinion, the less likely they are to know all that much about the issue. Or, the cure for extremism is education.

That said, some people don’t want to be cured. And some people may be beyond curing – Alex Jones, for example. Or the average Fox News contributor. Or the various people I know who aren't conspiracy hacks but have bought so deeply into their given party line/ideology that they are suspicious of any explanation that doesn’t conform to their talking points and Facebook memes. They also don't appreciate being told that they don’t know as much about something as they think they do (especially by a bunch of elitist know-it-alls).

As David Hume once said, “You can lead an ignoramus to an intellectual discussion, but you can’t make him think it.”

Complicating things is the fact that we live in an age where everything is political, and tailored hyperpartisan media makes it easier than ever for people to have their prejudices and worldviews simplified, distilled and reinforced to the exclusion of everything else that contradicts it, creating the seeds of a Batshit Reality Schism of competing parallel realities defined by liberal and conservative ideology, with each reality battling for control of America. Kind of like Fringe, only with less science and more gullible, intellectually lazy dingbats.

Or not. Most people aren’t that far gone. Not yet. But I stand by my point: if the cause of extremist rhetoric is ignorance of the facts, the proposed solution is getting the extremist to realize and admit that he/she is ignorant of the issue no matter what all his/her friends on Breitbart.com or Addicting Info say.

Good luck with that.

Yr doing it wrong,

This is dF


defrog: (science!)
At least, I think that’s what’s going on here.

elevenacres:Where’s this going?

[Via Sloth Unleashed]

“She’s ready, Sister. Just plug her in and off you go.”

I’m guessing that’s some kind of underwater diving apparatus. It’s the nun part that mystifies me.

Sink or swim,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Of course you would.



[Via Hookers Or Cake]

Notice the bit where Willie calls Sinatra “Francis”. He’s the only man to do that and live, you know.

Space truckin’,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)


[Via Radioactive Lingerie]

Meddling with forces beyond my understanding,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
I get press releases.

Sometimes they are about pseudoscientific polls.



The “collateral damage” involves relationships with friends, family members and/or co-workers – three out of five respondents to the poll say they’ve had such relationships damaged by talking politics. Around 14% say the damage is permanent.

And so:

The study of more than 500 people found that only 15 percent of respondents believe they can express their full political views to others without getting upset. So, rather than risk an emotional verbal battle, 86 percent avoid political discussions and one in 10 report they stay away from political banter at all costs.

Now, leaving aside the fact that this poll is from a company pushing corporate training products to improve interdepartmental communication and team-building, this kind of thing is easy to believe – especially if you spend any amount of time on Facebook. Or if you watch a lot of Fox News.

I can tell you from my own experience that when I go back to the states, I stay off politics as much as possible, although that’s partly because:

(1) For most of the Bush II admin, I was on the wrong side of the Socially Acceptable Political Opinion divide (i.e. I opposed the war and thought Gitmo, the Patriot Act and TSA no-fly lists were terrible, dangerous and useless ideas). No one wanted to hear about that for at least the first five years after 9/11 – not when the official White House/DOJ/DHS position was “If yr not with us, yr an honorary member of Al Qaeda, and if you know anyone like that, let us know”. And:

(2) The Fox News/MSNBC/Daily Kos/Breitbart/talk radio hyperpartisan echo chamber seemed to be expanding the reality gap between the two sides into batshit territory, and who wants to risk getting caught up in an argument with one of THOSE people?

However … there’s a lot this kind of poll doesn’t tell me. For example, how much of this is new? How would this compare to, say, 20 years ago? Or before Vietnam? Have we always been this insane about politics, or is this a recent development?

Which leads to the other missing point: how much of this being gun-shy about politics is the result of social media making it easier to get into toxic arguments?

I ask because one thing I’ve noticed is that, overall, the way people talk about politics online is a lot different from the way people talk about it face to face. Maybe it’s because I’ve never met the kind of people who show up at Tea Party rallies – or people who take Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris seriously – but that feared screaming match that I often dread actually never happens. Not even if I make a political remark in a public place where other people can hear me.

Which gets me to thinking that social media has been a major influence (alongside things like cable TV news) in shaping people’s perceptions of the nature and risks of political discourse – and amplifying them.

Or, again, maybe it’s just made us more hyperaware of something that’s been around for most of American history.

Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something to this survey – not that political discussions in themselves are risky in 2012, but that the majority of people in America THINK they are.

TRY IT AT HOME: The press release also gives some tips on how to have a productive political discussion. They’re good in theory, but in practice I don’t imagine too many people will follow them. And of course they're useless for Facebook rants.

No time to argue,

This is dF


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