Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

I promise, the last one of these for the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s one more. What island is shown in the map above. Post your answer in the comments section below.

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The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 16 in a series

This takes some telling. Bear with me.

Start with a paper published in the journal Science 26 June 2015. It’s by Karl Thomas and others, and it carries the title “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus.” Here’s the abstract:

Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here, we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

That was a couple of years ago. Now come forward to September of this year:

WASHINGTON — Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), an early and loyal supporter of President Donald Trump, likes to make noise about the liberal media’s coverage of climate change, often dismissing it as “fake news.”

In February, however, this vocal denier of near-universally accepted climate science promoted a story about a climate data manipulation scandal that is about as flawed as they come.

The representative of Congressional District 21, just up the road from me, has, from all appearances, a mental block regarding aspects of modern science:

Smith publicly denies global warming. As of 2015, Smith has received more than $600,000 from the fossil fuel industry during his career in Congress. In 2014, Smith got more money from fossil fuels than he did from any other industry.

Under his leadership, the House Science committee has held hearings that feature the views of climate change deniers, subpoenaed the records and communications of scientists who published papers that Smith disapproved of, attempted to cut NASA’s earth sciences budget, and “the committee has earned a reputation for questioning climate scientists and environmental groups that say human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the main cause of rising temperatures.” In his capacity as Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Smith issued more subpoenas in his first three years than the committee had for its entire 54-year history. In a June 2016 response letter to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Smith cited the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s as valid legal precedent for his investigation. On December 1, 2016 as Chair on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, he tweeted out on behalf of that committee a Breitbart article denying climate change.

Smith has been criticized for conducting “witch hunts,” a “campaign of intimidation,” and “a direct attack on the rights of scientists and others to conduct research independent of government interference” against climate scientists. Smith has a lifetime score of 6% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters. Smith is an “outspoken climate naysayer in Congress”, according to Scientific American magazine. Smith has been described as a “climate change denier” by Vice Media and by Organizing for America and as “Congress’s preeminent climate change denier” by Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.

As a life-long Texas, this brings a small lump in my throat. Such notoriety and so little merit.

It is worth linking to the Breitbart posting at issue:

Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record.

But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community. You’d almost imagine that when temperatures shoot up it’s catastrophic climate change which requires dramatic headlines across the mainstream media and demands for urgent action. But that when they fall even more precipitously it’s just a case of “nothing to see here”.

Yeah, let’s chase that down. Breitbart links to a story that ran in MailOnline, an organ of the British Daily Mail.

Global average temperatures over land have plummeted by more than 1C since the middle of this year – their biggest and steepest fall on record.

The news comes amid mounting evidence that the recent run of world record high temperatures is about to end.

The fall, revealed by Nasa satellite measurements of the lower atmosphere, has been caused by the end of El Nino – the warming of surface waters in a vast area of the Pacific west of Central America.

Obviously there is much more, and you need to read the complete posting. So, what happened next?

IPSO adjudication upheld against MoS climate science article

Following an article published on 5 February 2017 in the Mail on Sunday, headlined ‘EXPOSED How world leaders were duped over global warming’, Bob Ward complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. IPSO upheld the complaint and has required the Mail on Sunday to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

The article reported on claims made by Dr John Bates, a climate scientist formerly employed at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about a paper published in the journal Science that suggested that there had been no ‘pause’ in global warming in the 2000s. Dr Bates had published a blog criticising the way the data used for the paper had been analysed and archived. The article detailed at length the complainant’s concerns with the data; it then characterised them as demonstrating ‘irrefutable evidence’ that the paper had been based upon ‘misleading, unverified data’.

And more. Read.

So, MailOnline published an item based on faulty information, and IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organization, called them down on it, and the item had to be disclaimed. On a side note, IPSO is a UK institution that oversees press standards. Ever wonder whether American outlets could use some oversight?

And the total of all this is that MailOnline published what was essentially a baseless claim, leading readers to conclude anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a hoax.

Next, Breitbart, that stellar exemplar of journalistic integrity, regurgitated the item, I’m guessing much to the delight of their readership, said readership being the cream of American conservatism.

Finally, the Republican chair of the House Science Committee, tweeted out the gist of the Breitbart posting, apparently considering it justification for his anti-science position.

Get this, readers. A fatally flawed item in a British on-line journal worked its way into shaping this country’s science policy. I’m thinking the Brits have never gotten over Yorktown.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 15 in a series

From the journal Science

 

There was a time we now call the Age of Enlightenment, centered in the 18th century. It was a time of scientific awakening, a time from which sprang many of our modern scientific principles. That was so three centuries ago. We may now have entered the Age of Embarrassment:

Science Teaching Guidelines Trigger Criticism in New Mexico

Sept. 19, 2017, at 5:09 p.m.

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists and educators raised new objections Tuesday to proposed changes to teaching standards for science in New Mexico that substitute references to rising global temperatures and climate change with statements about climate “fluctuations.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department has suggested several custom additions and deletions as it moves forward with adopting a set of science standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences.

Additions that highlight the study of New Mexico’s unique natural history are being overshadowed by several deletions of references to evolution, the 4.6 billion-year age of the earth and climate change.

My goodness! Is it time to ride that old dinosaur into ground again?

The story, featured in The Washington Post yesterday, further describes idiotic themes promoted by the Mercer Counter public school system. According to the Post report, a lesson contained the following language: “imagine that human beings and dinosaurs existed at the same time.” It continued: “So picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of a dinosaur!” Additionally: “He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn’t that be so wild!”

The Associated Press story, running in U.S. News and World Reports, has more to say. Issues such as this are often advanced by politicians who have personal stakes. Apparently one such is Representative Jim Smith, who is also a retired school teacher. He is quoted as saying:

“I think it’s better to take the middle ground where people in all those different areas of the state can accept standards that they can teach within,” he said. “You give students the opportunity to come to their own conclusions. I as a science teacher certainly don’t deny that there is global warming happening. I think ‘fluctuations’ is a better term for it.”

An inch-deep Google search does not reveal a lot about Representative Smith’s personal life, and his record in Santa Fe shows a genuine concern for good government. However, statements such as “You give students the opportunity to come to their own conclusions,” are indicative of the creationist movement’s approach to public school encroachment. Laws enacted in other states to promote “teaching the controversy” have demonstrated to be thinly-disguised fronts to enable teachers desiring to promote creationism and other biblical teachings. One effect of such laws is to provide cover for teachers who go outside the curriculum and introduce religious concepts.

From all appearances, Dr. Smith finds fault with the idea that human activity is mainly responsible for global warming. He likes the term “fluctuations” to give the idea the climate has always been changing, and there is no need to take action to forestall any calamitous consequences. He takes this stance in defiance of the best conclusions of modern science.

A story appearing in the Albuquerque Journal further highlights attempts to dilute the teaching of biological evolution:

 

The plan was criticized Friday by Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, who called it a “perverted, watered-down vision” of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Ly accused Ruszkowski in a written statement of proposing standards “that question climate change, deny evolution, promote the fossil fuel industry, and even question the age of the Earth – all areas of consensus among the scientific community.”

One proposed addition to the high school curriculum asks students to use a model to describe the effects of energy flows on Earth “that were caused by natural occurrences that are not related to human activity.”

Another omits the word “evolution” and replaces it with the phrase “biological diversity.”

Nothing has to date been signed off, and science teaching in New Mexico remains safe for the present. The continued actions by fact-deficient public employees remains a concern to a population still possessed of a healthy respect for fact-based governance. Though it may never come to pass, we continue to look forward to that day when creationists ride the dinosaur into the sunset.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

I’m taking a few days off, so here is another easy Quiz Question for the week. Name the country in the map above. Post your answer in the comments section  below. John Coombes, you should be able to get this one.

Update and answer

All right! A number of people figured out this was on the west coast of somewhere (see the water off to the left). Helen figured it can’t be Chile or Peru. It must  be Ecuador. Take note, geography students. That horizontal line running into Ecuador’s coast is the equator, after which the country is named.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 14 in a series

First of all, take note of the meme posted above. I used that in the previous edition of this series, The Age Of Embarrassment. I didn’t create it. I stole it from my Facebook feed, where some “friend” posted it. Or somewhere else. Rapidly becoming moot.

The post in question apparently caught the attention of a few. Somebody read it. Erik read it. Go back to the previous post and read the comments section:

A million dollars for a two-year health study is peanuts, in terms of government spending, and I imagine the aforementioned Committee costs even less. I wonder if this is mostly penny-pinching based on the principle of “small government” or simply an attempt to silence inconvenient voices. Personally I think it’s the latter in disguise of the former.

Thank you, Mr. Blanton, for this write-up on the Trump administration’s latest ventures. It’s much appreciated.

All right. That made my day. As much as I enjoy receiving your scathing comments:

This author is your typical Deceitful and Dishonest DemonRat. Regardless of labels changing, it makes no difference on his word play on Liberals and Conservatives, the simple Truth is you can’t change the simple FACT DemonKKKrats have always been the Party of Racists with their KKK Wing, Jim Crow Laws, Segregation, and today with their Black Racial Arsonists and Poverty Pimps. Yes, the lone good Democrat in history in JFK called himself a Liberal, bit today he’s be a Far Right Wing NeoCon Teabagger by today’s Leftist DemonRats. It doesn’t change the FACT he was an aberration within the Dems Criminal Organization. JFK of course was murdered by sociopath LBJ, or at least those of US educated on the subject. But like this misleading opionion piece article, he tries whitewashing the Democrats shameful history of RACISM and Corruption that is the Dems past and present history….

[Pardon me for a moment while I recall with fondness that loving embrace from the far right.]

As much as I appreciate responses like this, I do feel a twinge of the heart when somebody says thanks.

So much for that, because it’s not what this post is all about. Here’s what it’s about.

Take another look at the meme. I did, after I posted it and after I basked in the glory. The meme is most totally fabricated. How did I figure that out? I figured it out the same way readers should have figured it out. I checked the facts. I cheated. I used Google. I Goggled “Will McAvoy.” There is no Will McAvoy. He’s a fictional character in a fictional TV series that ran on HBO starting in 2012 and titled The Newsroom. It was created and (so far) mostly written by Aaron Sorkin, the same person who wrote the script for A Few Good Men , previously reviewed, from 1992. Sorkin, an apparent liberal who has contributed consistently to Democratic candidates, also created and contributed much writing for The West Wing, a TV series that ran on  NBC for seven  seasons from 1999. The West Wing was a follow-on of The American President, a 1995 movie scripted by Sorkin and that glorifies a Democratic President.

So, you can see where Sorkin is coming from, and you have to wonder why he cast Jeff Daniels in the starring role as cable news anchor McAvoy, a registered Republican. In The Newsroom McAvoy is Republican, but he disavows the right wing nuts who seem to be tearing his beloved party to shreds, the above meme representing one such revelation.

But there is more that’s wrong with the meme in question. Look at what McAvoy says about hurricanes and gay marriage. People, hurricanes are created by low barometric pressure, not high barometric pressure. And certainly not by gay marriage. And by the way, here is the scene containing the famous quote. The screen shot is from Amazon Prime Video, where the TV series is currently streaming.

That’s Jeff Daniels as McAvoy saying the famous words:

First of all I’m a registered Republican. I only seem liberal because I believe hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not gay marriage.

(To the left side of the screen that’s Sam Waterston as McAvoy’s boss Charlie Skinner, president of Atlantis Cable News (ACN).)

And nobody called me on it. I’m ending this for now, and I am going to some secluded corner for a quiet cry. May Jesus have mercy on your soul.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 13 in a series

There was in the 18th century a period now called the Age of Enlightenment. It was marked by intellectual and philosophical advance, noted predominantly in Europe, but not denied to others. There was born the notion that authority and legitimacy should be founded on reason rather than on social standing and political power. I state this because this series is my argument that we may have entered in this country into the Age of Embarrassment. People at the highest levels are acting contrary to reason, and we are beginning to embarrass ourselves. There is evidence:

(CNN) — The Trump administration has fired another shot at the scientific community, this time dismantling a federal advisory committee on climate change.

Members on the 15-person committee tell CNN they learned the news by email Friday. CNN has obtained a copy of the email sent from acting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Benjamin Friedman.

As the meme posted above would indicate, the Republican Party seems to have passed through the Age of Enlightenment without catching on. We now have a President of the United States who previously declared:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

Considering whether Donald Trump ever backed down from that claim, the core concept has never left him:

They changed the name from “global warming” to “climate change” after the term global warming just wasn’t working (it was too cold)!

Another freezing day in the Spring – what is going on with “global warming”? Good move changing the name to “climate change” – sad!

It’s 46º (really cold) and snowing in New York on Memorial Day – tell the so-called “scientists” that we want global warming right now!

Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!

We should be focusing on beautiful, clean air & not on wasteful & very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit! China & others are hurting our air

I’m running out of room here. I will just skip over some of these and print one more:

Any and all weather events are used by the GLOBAL WARMING HOAXSTERS to justify higher taxes to save our planet! They don’t believe it $$$$!

So we elected Donald Trump President, and we got what we asked for:

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, weakening efforts to combat global warming and embracing isolationist voices in his White House who argued that the agreement was a pernicious threat to the economy and American sovereignty.

In a speech from the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump said the landmark 2015 pact imposed wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers. He vowed to stand with the people of the United States against what he called a “draconian” international deal.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the president said, drawing support from members of his Republican Party but widespread condemnation from political leaders, business executives and environmentalists around the globe.

You will note that in his speech President Trump is no longer denying anthropogenic global warming (AGW). He’s just saying it’s bad for business. Except…

Except, the city he named, Pittsburgh (not Paris), does not considered itself to be represented by Donald Trump. The voters of Pittsburgh went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the November election, and the city of Pittsburgh is all in for combating AGW. Again we are reminded we are no longer in the Age of Enlightenment.

So, has President Trump, rather the Department of Commerce under the command of Donald Trump, decided he can go it alone without the benefit of reason, previously provided by those scientists, now dismissed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is part of the Department of Commerce, and the following is now posted on the NOAA site:

Per §102-3.55 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment (Committee) charter expired on August 20, 2017. The Department of Commerce and NOAA appreciate the efforts of the Committee and offer sincere thanks to each of the Committee members for their service.

Please note this action does not impact the completion of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which remains a key priority for the Department and NOAA. 

Under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is responsible for climate assessment activities and the quadrennial National Climate Assessment (NCA) report. The NCA integrates and evaluates the findings of the USGCRP in the context of current and projected global climate change trends, both human-induced and natural, and analyzes the effects of current and projected climate change on: ecosystems and biological diversity, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, and social systems. USGCRP is implementing a sustained National Climate Assessment process that will ultimately facilitate continuous and transparent participation of scientists and stakeholders across regions and sectors, enabling new information and insights to be synthesized as they emerge.

In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The Advisory Committee consists of 15 experts that advise on the engagement of stakeholders and on sustained assessment activities and the quadrennial NCA report.

The diverse membership of the Advisory Committee assures expertise that reflects the breadth of the NCA activities, including: communications, engagement, and education; risk management and risk assessment; economics and social sciences; technology, tools, and data systems; and other disciplines relevant to the sustained NCA process. These non-federal eminent experts also reflect the NCA regional and sectoral interests, as well as the ethnic and gender diversity of the United States. Members are appointed by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in consultation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director.

For a concise overview of the Advisory Committee, please view our fact sheet.

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment is seeking public input on a draft outline of Near-term Recommendations on Sustained Assessment. Comments can be sent to snca.advisorycommittee@noaa.gov. Comments received by August 14, 2017 will be incorporated into the initial draft recommendations.

For further information contact:
Dr. Cynthia Decker, Designated Federal Officer
Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 734-1156
FAX: (301) 713-1459

Lest you imagine fifteen highly invested scientists and other professionals are being dumped on the street, take note: this is not a paid position:

Members will be selected for appointment on a clear and standardized basis in accordance with Department of Commerce guidance. Each member shall be appointed for a term of one, two, or three years and shall serve at the discretion of the Under Secretary. Thereafter, members may be reappointed for successive terms of two years. To the extent possible, not more than one-third of the total membership shall change in any one year. Members will be appointed as special government employees (SGEs) and will be subject to the ethical standards applicable to SGEs. Members are reimbursed for actual and reasonable travel and per diem expenses incurred in performing such duties, but will not be reimbursed for their time. As a Federal Advisory Committee, the Committee’s membership is required to be balanced in terms of viewpoints represented and the functions to be performed as well as the interests of geographic regions of the country and the diverse sectors of U.S. society.

[Emphasis added]

The CNN item above additionally noted:

The Trump administration’s dismissal of the advisory committee on climate change, first reported by The Washington Post, will not affect the completion of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, according to NOAA, which says the report remains a key priority.

Scientists who discussed this with CNN expressed concern the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), due for release next year, will be suppressed:

A not-yet-released federal report on climate change finds that humans are already witnessing the effects of a warming globe — and the report’s authors are fearing that the White House will intervene before it’s published. CNN’s Rene Marsh reports.

This concern has motivated the unauthorized release of an early draft of NCA4:

A final draft of a key federal report on the science behind climate change has been leaked to the New York Times and made public. The “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR), produced by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is a cornerstone of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a periodic study of climate change impacts across US regions. Many wonder how the Trump-Pence White House will deal with this first major US government report on climate change to come across its desk; a report warning that Americans are feeling the harmful impacts of climate change in real time, and therefore “directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet” as noted by the Times. Initially released for public review and comment during the last days of the Obama Administration, the final draft was submitted to the White House for final approval on June 28.

The New York Times has made a copy available online:

A final draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. AUG. 7, 2017

A related Times article elaborates:

A final draft of a key federal report on the science behind climate change has been leaked to the New York Times and made public. The “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR), produced by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is a cornerstone of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a periodic study of climate change impacts across US regions. Many wonder how the Trump-Pence White House will deal with this first major US government report on climate change to come across its desk; a report warning that Americans are feeling the harmful impacts of climate change in real time, and therefore “directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet” as noted by the Times. Initially released for public review and comment during the last days of the Obama Administration, the final draft was submitted to the White House for final approval on June 28.

In other news, the Trump administration has decided to hold off pursuing the study of the health effects of surface coal mining:

(CNN) — The Trump administration has halted a study of the health effects of a common mining technique in Appalachia, which is believed to deposit waste containing toxic minerals in ground waters.

letter from the Interior Department directed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to “cease all work” on a study of the potential health risks of mountaintop removal mining for people living near surface coal mine sites in central Appalachia. The Interior Department acknowledged in a statement that it had “put on hold” $1 million in funding for the two-year project as part of a review of its grants, which is focused on “responsibly using taxpayer dollars.”

I’m guessing, bad for business. Are you embarrassed yet?