Archive for June 2011
Statement of the Board of Directors of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Regarding Personal Attacks on Climate Scientists
Approved by the AAAS Board of Directors
28 June 2011
We are deeply concerned by the extent and nature of personal attacks on climate scientists. Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and
the public. This both impedes the progress of science and interferes with the application of science to the solution of global problems. AAAS vigorously opposes attacks
on researchers that question their personal and professional integrity or threaten their safety based on displeasure with their scientific conclusions. The progress of science
and protection of its integrity depend on both full transparency about the details of scientific methodology and the freedom to follow the pursuit of knowledge. The sharing of
research data is vastly different from unreasonable, excessive Freedom of Information Act requests for personal information and voluminous data that are then used to harass and intimidate scientists. The latter serve only as a distraction and make no constructive contribution to the public discourse.
Scientists and policymakers may disagree over the scientific conclusions on climate change and other policy-relevant topics. But the scientific community has proven
and well-established methods for resolving disagreements about research results. Science advances through a self-correcting system in which research results are shared
and critically evaluated by peers and experiments are repeated when necessary. Disagreements about the interpretation of data, the methodology, and findings are part of daily scientific discourse. Scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for providing scientific results that are controversial. Most scientific
disagreements are unrelated to any kind of fraud and are considered a legitimate and normal part of the scientific process. The scientific community takes seriously its responsibility for policing research misconduct, and extensive procedures exist to protect the rigor of the scientific method and to ensure the credibility of the research enterprise.
While we fully understand that policymakers must integrate the best available scientific data with other factors when developing policies, we think it would be unfortunate if policymakers became the arbiters of scientific information and circumvented the peer-review process. Moreover, we are concerned that establishing a practice of aggressive inquiry into the professional histories of scientists whose findings may bear on policy in ways that some find unpalatable could well have a chilling effect on the willingness of scientists to conduct research that intersects with policy-relevant scientific questions.
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There is nothing new under the sun. When incumbent industries are threatened by a new and disruptive technology, they will use any justification imaginable to kill it in its infancy, trying to convince legislators that their particular special interest is a public interest. It always ends badly.
In the second half of the 1800s, cars started appearing in Western Europe. At first, they were powered by steam engines, and later by various liquid fuels. We’re currently seeing a rerun of the political game surrounding that development.
As industries become threatened by new technology, they typically embrace it in public and talk passionately about its potential, but only in terms of how the new technology can support the existing industries. Under absolutely no circumstances must the new technology be allowed to come into a position to replace the existing industries.
A famous example of this is the Locomotives Act of 1865 in the United Kingdom, better known as the Red Flag Act. It was a law that limited the speed of the new so-called automobile to 2 miles per hour in urban areas, and required them to always have a crew of three: a driver, a stoker (!), and a man who would walk before the automobile waving a red flag (!!).
The car was fantastic, but only as long as it didn’t threaten the railroad or stagecoach industries.
These industries, it turned out much later, were behind the lobbying that led to the Red Flag Act. The fledgling automobile industry stood to make the older industries obsolete, or at least significantly smaller, which could not be permitted. Therefore, they went to Parliament and argued how tremendously important their industries were, and claimed that their special interest was a public interest. Just like the copyright lobby does today.
Essentially, the stagecoach and railroad industries tried to limit the permissible use of the automobile to carry people and goods the last mile to and from the stagecoach and railroad stations. That wouldn’t threaten the existing industries, and they could pretend to embrace its usefulness.
Today, the copyright industry pretends to embrace the Net, but only inasmuch as they can keep operating as they always have. Any other use needs to be outlawed.
And sure, Parliament agreed in its time that the stagecoach and railroad industries were important. But Parliament made the mistake of seeing yesterday as the present time and eternal: those industries were only important before the technology shift that the car brought, a shift which was already underway. The special laws that these industries pushed through — with emphasis on the Red Flag Act — caused the inevitable technology shift to delay in United Kingdom, and therefore, the car industry of the United Kingdom lost considerable competitive edge against its foreign competition, being ten to fifteen years late into the game.
The moral of the story is that an industry troubled by technological advances should neither be allowed special laws nor be confused with the public interest, but instead be permitted to die as swiftly as possible, so that new industries and new jobs can take its place. If you do the opposite and keep that industry alive with artificial respiration and repressive legislation, you not only hurt respect for the law, but also the future economy and competitive capability.
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at http://falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.
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Churchill’s speech in my opinion very good. It will not please the Left, but they forget that he has to speak to the whole world, e.g. to middle-western Americans, airmen and naval officers, disgruntled shop-keepers and farmers, and also the Russians themselves, as well as to the leftwing political parties. His hostile references to Communism were entirely right and simply emphasised the fact that this offer of help was sincere. One can imagine the squeal that will be raised over these by correspondents in the New Statesman, etc. What sort of impression do they think it would make if Stalin stood up and announced “I have always been a convinced supporter of capitalism”?
Impossible to guess what impression this move of Hitler’s will make in the U.S.A. The idea that it will promptly bring into being a strong pro-Nazi party in England is a complete error. There are no doubt wealthy people who would like to see Hitler destroy the Soviet regime, but they will be a small minority. The Catholics will certainly be among them, but will probably be too acute to show their hands until Russian resistance begins to break down. Talking to people in the Home Guard, including Blimps and quite wealthy businessmen, I find everyone completely pro-Russian, though much divided in opinion about the Russian capacity to resist. Typical conversation, recorded as well as I can remember it: -
Wholesale poulterer: “Well, I hope the Russians give them a bloody good hiding.”
Clothing manufacturer (Jewish): “They won’t. They’ll go to pieces, just like last time. You’ll see.”
Doctor (some kind of foreigner, perhaps refugee): “You’re absolutely wrong. Everyone’s underrated the strength of Russia. They’ll wipe the floor with the Nazis.”
Wholesale grocer: “Damn it, there’s two hundred bloody millions of them”.
Clothing manufacturer: “Yes, but they’re not organised”, etc., etc., etc.
All spoken in ignorance, but showing what people’s sentiments are. Three years ago the great majority of people above £1000 a year, or even about £6 a week, would have sided with the Germans as against the Russians. By this time, however, hatred of Germany has made them forget everything else.
All really depends on whether Russia and Britain are ready really to cooperate, with no arrière-pensée and no attempt to shove the brunt of the fighting on to one another. No doubt a strong pro-Nazi party exists in Russia, and I dare say Stalin is at the head of it. If Russia changes sides again and Stalin plays the part of Pétain, no doubt the Communists here will follow him and go pro-Nazi again. If the Soviet régime is simply wiped out and Stalin killed or taken prisoner, many Communists would in my opinion transfer their loyalty to Hitler. At present the British Communists have issued some kind of manifesto calling for a “People’s Government”, etc. etc. They will change their tune as soon as the hand-out from Moscow comes. If the Russians are really resisting it is not in their interest to have a weak government in Britain, or subversive influences at work here. The Communists will no doubt be super-patriotic within ten days – the slogan will probably be “All power to Churchill” – and completely disregarded. But if the alliance between the two countries is genuine, with a certain amount give-and-take, the internal political effects on both sides must be all for the best. The special circumstances which made the Russian military assistance a bad influence in Spain don’t exist here.
Everyone is remarking in anticipation what a bore the Free Russians will be. It is forecast that they will be just like the White Russians. People have visions of Stalin in a little shop in Putney, selling samovars and doing Caucasian dances, etc., etc.
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Everyone greatly excited. It is universally assumed that this development is to our advantage. It is only so, however, if the Russians actually intend to fight back and can put up a serious resistance, if not enough to halt the Germans, at any rate enough to wear down their air force and navy. Evidently the immediate German objective is not either territory or oil, but simply to wipe out the Russian air force and thus remove a danger from their rear while they deal finally with England. Impossible to guess what kind of show the Russians can put up. The worst omen is that the Germans would probably not have attempted this unless certain that they can bring it off, and quite rapidly at that.
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A Chinese man rows a makeshift raft in a flooded street in Xianing city (AP Photo)
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I have an article in The Independent today about the Banned List, so I reproduce the latest version here. These are the top 100 words and phrases to avoid.
Meanwhile, the Committee is working extra shifts compiling an even longer list in secret, so that no one knows whether they have been banned or not, thus ensuring that self-discipline, originality and the avoidance of cliché is internalised.
Nominations for candidates to go on the new list in the comments, please. Or send me a #bannedlist suggestion on Twitter.
1. It’s the economy, stupid.
2. A week is a long time in politics. Or variants thereof, such as, “If a week is a long time in politics then a month seems an eternity.”
3. What part of x don’t you understand? Although this one seems to have died a peaceful death already.
4. Way beyond, or way more.
5. Any time soon.
6. “Events, dear boy, events.” (Except as the name of an excellent political blog, currently in abeyance.)
7. Learning curve.
8. Raising awareness.
9. Celebrating diversity.
10. In any way, shape or form.
12. Community, especially a vibrant one.
13. Hearts and minds.
7. Going forward.
18. A forward policy.
19. A big ask.
20. At this moment in time.
21. Not fit for purpose.
22. Hard-working families.
23. Apologies for lack of postings.
24. Black hole (in a financial context).
25. The elephant in the room.
26. Perfect storm.
27. Seal the deal.
28. A good election to lose.
30. Beginning an article with “So”.
31. IMO, IMHO, LOL, ROFL and so on. I mean, whose opinion is it going to be? Genuinely witty abbreviations, however, are permitted, for example, QTWTAIN, YYSSW, IICRS (Questions to Which the Answer is No; Yeah, Yeah, Sure, Sure, Whatever; Iraq Inquiry Coverage Rebuttal Service).
32. Vibrant (when used to mean lots of non-English people).
34. Arguably, as in “arguably the most perfect village in the Siebenburgen” (Spectator, 24 July 2010).
35. Headlines beginning “Now”, as in “Now You Pay for Prison Parties.”
36. We will take no lessons on x from y.
37. Beginning a report with “They came”.
39. “Action” as a verb.
41. The level of.
42. A sense of.
43. A series of.
44. The introduction of.
45. A package of. Especially measures.
46. A basket of.
47. A raft of.
48. A range of.
49. The prospect of.
50. (All) the hallmarks of.
51. “Leverage” as a verb.
52. U-turn as a verb.
53. Dislocate as a noun. Or disconnect.
54. Toilet, storyline or any other unsuitable noun as a verb.
55. Exponential or exponentially used to mean big or a lot.
56. Incredible or incredibly as intensifiers.
57. On a daily basis.
58. It’s in his/her/their DNA.
59. Let’s be clear.
60. At the end of the day.
61. Organic, to refer to anything unrelated to farming or to the chemical science that deals with carbon-based compounds.
62. “The truth is…” before the peddling of an opinion.
63. End of.
64. Any journey not describing travel from A to B.
65. A no-brainer.
66. Pot, kettle.
67. What’s not to like?
68. Max out (in relation to credit cards only).
69. He/she gets it. They get it. He/she/it just doesn’t get it.
70. “All the evidence tells us” to mean “I’ve read something about this somewhere that confirms my prejudices”.
71. Fairly unique.
72. Paradigm shift. Or anything to do with a paradigm.
73. Quantum leap, except to mean a very small change of fixed magnitude.
74. Step change.
75. Sea change.
76. Real people and the real world. In real time.
77. Coffee, the waking up and smelling thereof.
79. Project, except in the construction industry.
80. “No longer.” (Following a loving description of The Way We Were.)
81. Agenda, except to describe a list of things to be discussed in a meeting.
82. Out of the box (especially thinking).
83. Kick the can down the road.
84. Psychodrama. (To describe any tense political relationship.)
85. Radar, to be on someone’s, or to be under the.
86. Name and shame.
87. Does what it says on the tin.
90. Key (adjective). Especially keynote speech.
91. Enough already.
92. Who knew?
93. Epic fail.
94. See what I/he/she did there?
95. Not so much.
96. Beleaguered, except of a city, town or fort with turrets.
97. Rolling out, except carpet, wallpaper or logs.
98. Forward planning (until invention of time machine allowing other kinds).
99. “And yet, and yet …”
100. The suffix -gate added to any news theme supposedly embarrassing to a government.
The original Banned List was, of course, George Orwell’s in 1946: dying metaphors (“Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed”); verbal false limbs (“Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of”); pretentious diction (“Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilise, eliminate, liquidate”); and meaningless words (his examples included “class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality”).
And Orwell’s six rules hold good:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
It should also be noted that the Committee has decreed that some phrases are compulsory.
By John Rentoul
JUNE 14, 2011
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The Earth says events like this should have made it “pretty obvious” what it’s been driving at.
EARTH—According to a statement released to the press Tuesday, the planet Earth has “just about run out of ways” to let its roughly 6.9 billion human inhabitants know it wants them all to leave.
Following a recent series of disastrous floods along the Mississippi River and destructive tornadoes across much of the United States—as well as a year of even deadlier natural catastrophes all over the world—the Earth said its options for strongly implying that it no longer wants human beings living on it have basically been exhausted.
“At this point, I think I’ve stated my wishes quite loudly and clearly,” the Earth’s statement to all of humanity read in part. “I haven’t exactly been subtle about it, you realize. I have literally tried to drown you, crush you, starve you, dehydrate you, pump you full of diseases, and suck your homes and families into swirling vortices of death. Honestly, what more is it going to take for you people to get the message?”
“Do I have to spell it out for you?” the statement continued. “Get the fuck out of here. I want you to leave now.”
The Earth says all it can do at this point is keep manufacturing disasters and hope humanity finally “wises up.”
The statement went on to list thousands of incidents in 2011 alone that the Earth claimed were “solely and unmistakably” designed to inform the human race that it might be time to move on, including the devastating tsunami that caused thousands of deaths in Japan, an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed an estimated 181 people, and historic rainstorms in Colombia that destroyed entire communities with deadly landslides.
The planet Earth also singled out an ongoing drought in China that has left more than 2.3 million people with a shortage of fresh water as “a pretty big goddamned tip-off, wouldn’t you say?”
While the Earth had hoped the human race might finally “get the picture” following one of the harshest winter storm years in recorded history, it instead found that people simply went on with their lives, occasionally making reference to disaster victims in their thoughts and prayers but showing no intention whatsoever of preparing themselves for a long trip through the far reaches of space to find a new home.
“I know your species has developed the technology to leave me, I’ve seen you use it before, so I’m asking you now, please, just take the hint already,” read another excerpt from the Earth’s statement, which added that it would really be best for all concerned if humanity were to “trundle off to some other biosphere for a while.” “You can’t possibly be enjoying this, can you? Honestly, you would have to be completely deranged or masochistic to continue staying here.”
Immediately after delivering the statement, the Earth ignited a series of wildfires throughout the world’s arid regions.
Though some scientists have responded to Earth’s message with theories as to precisely what the planet might be trying to communicate, most firmly acknowledged that further study would be required before any definitive evidence could be gleaned from the “fascinating” statement.
“Certainly these utterances from the Earth are strongly worded, but at this point it is difficult to say whether they speak to a larger trend or are simply a bio-geological anomaly,” Dr. Roger Summons of MIT said. “While there seems to be an implication that the Earth wants us to go away and never come back, I, for one, can’t say conclusively from either a geochemical or a meteorological standpoint whether this is in fact the case.”
In a sharp rebuke to both the planet and the mainstream scientific community, Republican leaders in Congress responded this week with a scathing critique of what they deemed to be the Earth’s “pathetic and extremist viewpoints.”
“What we’re seeing here is the same old scientific mumbo jumbo and partisan rhetoric that the Earth has been spewing out for millennia,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said. “We’re not going to be bullied by a celestial body that has time and again failed to deliver on its promise to glorify and reward mankind with its bounty.”
Immediately following these statements from the human race, the Earth emitted a loud sigh, which shifted multiple tectonic plates and caused massive earthquakes on five continents.
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