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December 31, 2008

CONSENSUS WATCH – 12/31/2008

An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed immediately. Because without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data.

In some ways, it’s been a tough year for The Consensus.  Recent research has cast some doubt on anthropogenic global warming, large numbers of scientists are in open rebellion and actual climate observations have not been particularly helpful.

But that’s only if you rely exclusively on such areas of research as climate science, meteorological science or atmospheric science.  Sure, there’s been some erosion in these fringe disciplines, but the real breakthroughs are being made in a far more important discipline:

Political science. 

You need look no further than Barack Obama’s pick of John P. Holdren for his science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology.

Years of disciplined experimentation and extensive field research by Mr. Holdren and his colleagues have provided valuable insights into the complex processes involved in political science, such as the unusual phenomenon in which someone can be spectacularly and consistently wrong for an extended period of time and yet still retain many of the elements of credibility.

Prior to these groundbreaking discoveries it was believed that large amounts of new data clearly demonstrating the weaknesses of an existing theory would be taken properly into account, but that was before we fully understood the effect that prolonged exposure to sufficient levels of hysteria would have on human physiology.

An equally powerful force of politics with which Mr. Holdren has extensive experience is the phenomenon known as “the ad hominem argument.“

While ad hominem arguments were known at least as far back as the early Greeks, it was only with the advent of recent technologies that such attacks can be leveled with wide-ranging effectiveness. Believe it or not, there was a time when scientific debates focused on the merits of the argument at hand (an often frustrating and tedious process), rather than more important factors, such as where a person's funding comes from, his or her political affiliations, and what they can get through Congress. The ad hominem argument will be an important contributor to properly maintaining The Consensus against attacks from those other scientific disciplines, which frankly, have been nothing but a nuisance lately.

John Holdren, together with Stephen Chu, president-elect Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of Energy, and Jane Lubchenco his choice to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will create the greatest assemblage of minds ever to tackle the many challenges we face in the field of political science. 

As president-elect Obama put it, "It is time to muster the political will for concerted action."

And just in the nick of time!

J.

December 31, 2008 at 06:17 PM in Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 30, 2008

You’re welcome. Really, no need to thank us. Seriously…

Did you ever lend money to your loser brother-in-law, but only because you wanted to help out your sister? 

And then he turned around and used part of the money to buy you a big-screen TV you didn’t need, want, or ask for, to say “thank you?”

Chrysler is every taxpayer’s loser brother-in-law.

Chrysler Thank You Shortly after receiving $4 billion in taxpayer bailout money, Chrysler (owned by Cerberus Capital Management) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on full-page newspaper advertisements “thanking” the American people.

What kind of geniuses decide to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on ads thanking the taxpayers for the hundreds of thousands of dollars?

The same kind of geniuses who lose hundreds of millions of dollars in just one month going big into fixed income securities at precisely the wrong time.

Of course, we’d like to think we’ve all learned a lesson.  But then, we’d also like to think that Megan Fox is going to drop by some day and ask us to live-blog her next bikini photo shoot.

And no, that's not going to happen either. (Although if you are Megan Fox, we've got our own Verizon data card, so you don't even have to worry about the Wi-Fi setup, okay?)

So, naturally, the Treasury Department is doubling down and today rescued Cerberus-controlled GMAC with $6 billion more in taxpayer funds.

$6 billion? 

Maybe we’ll get a nice fruit basket out of it.

J.

December 30, 2008 at 05:32 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

We didn't really want to win anyway, we just pretended we did...

Unfortunately, good judgment and common sense prevailed and Planet Moron was not selected to be a finalist for the 2008 Weblog Awards.

We had been counting on the judges being barely literate, perhaps becoming amused by the colorful pictures, unaware that those were just the advertisements.  However, it appears they actually bothered to read our posts.

And no, we didn’t have a “Plan B.”

Then again, this saves us from the obligation of having to produce quality content, which would have been an unfamiliar departure from our comfort zone anyway.

Naturally, we are still disappointed, but there was plenty of competition in the humor category this year, including a blog made up of submissions readers send in about the funny things their Asian mothers say.

Sure, we considered trying something similar here, but given our readership we figured 95% of the entries would consist of, “When the hell are you going to move out of the basement?”

Regardless, we appreciated the outpouring of support you showed for our nomination. 

Which is something we strongly suggest you keep to yourself.

J.

(And do click the Weblog link and check out the entries, particularly in the humor category.  Humor is very subjective, but they did select a diverse bunch of blogs, and that makes everyone a winner.  Just some more of a winner than others…)

December 30, 2008 at 12:59 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 29, 2008

this just in: media determines that media is not at all responsible for media decline.

One of the problems professional newspaper reporter Paul Mulshine has with blogs such as ours is that people who are not professional newspaper reporters are basically drooling morons “who can't even keep track of the number of times the letter "N" appears in a two-syllable word,” an attack we believe is completely unncallned for and frankly beneath a man of his renownn.

Further, Mulshine points out that non-professional newspaper reporters are not willing to do the hard kind of reporting, such as distilling complex documents or visiting far-off sites.  This is an excellent point except for the whole not-being-true part

What then, can account for 20 years of nearly uninterrupted declines in newspaper readership?

Mulshine blames it on the Internet. 

When it comes to social criticism, the Internet plays the same role as our dogs: A convenient scapegoat.  Someone track dirt in the house?  Blame the dog.  DVR has no room left to record “What Not to Wear” because it is filled with late night adult entertainment from that promotional week when Cinemax was free?  Yep, that was the dog too. 

Newspaper circulation in a decades-long tailspin?  Blame it on the fact that “the Internet can carry ads more cheaply.”

The problem runs deeper than that, but it is not that all newspapers are terrible or that all bloggers are better.  It’s that most newspapers are, by definition, average, as are most professional newspaper reporters and is why so many alleged news reports read like warmed-over press releases or why so much commentary is little more than half-informed political proselytizing.  When we covered the TARP debate, we at least actually read the original 130-page document, the first 70 pages of which we were even sober.  Judging by the professional news coverage that put us in a distinct minority (at least on the reading part).

The problem for newspapers is that people simply have more choices.  There are excellent news reporters out there, but there are also excellent bloggers.  Not here, but other places. And if you want to hold and attract readers, you’ll have to do more than talking about how you do “amazingly well,” and start actually doing amazingly well. It's hard work, but if bloggers are willing to do it for a few Google AdSense pennies, professional newspaper reporters shouldn't mind doing it for their day job.

But Mulshine shouldn’t have anything to worry about on a personal basis. Given his casual disregard for facts and obvious contempt for others, he at least has a bright future as a blogger.

Or on MSNBC.

J.

December 29, 2008 at 05:07 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 27, 2008

But they look so delicious

The Agway in Clarion, Pennsylvania felt it was necessary to make it absolutely clear to patrons that these dog treats (“an excursion for the canine senses”) were NOT for human consumption, and were, in fact, “for dogs.”

Why is the dog looking at me like that

I had two immediate reactions to this:

1)    What kind of an idiot would you have to be to accidentally eat a dog treat?
2)    I wonder if I’ve ever accidentally eaten a dog treat?

J.

December 27, 2008 at 12:10 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 26, 2008

Now if only someone would come out with “Jack Daniels Plus.”

DietCokePlus It was revealed over the Christmas holidays that the Coca-Cola Company has engaged in the wanton inclusion of vitamins and minerals in “Diet Coke Plus,” going so far as to clearly disclose this fact on the label.

We know what you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Shouldn’t you be spending more time with your family instead sitting on the computer all day looking up obscure FDA enforcement letters?  It’s Christmas for God’s sake.”

Let us put it this way.  This is one of our family’s Christmas decorations: 

Alien Cyborg Snowman From Hell

Any other questions?

Anyway, according to a Warning Letter, the main problem with Diet Coke Plus is, “the FDA does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages.”

Some of you more extreme libertarian types out there are probably thinking, “The UN is trying to take my guns!”  Also, “shouldn’t the consumer decide what is appropriate so long as accurate information is presented in a clear and accessible manner?”

Well, maybe in a perfect world, but as surprising as this may sound, not everyone is as well versed with section 403(r)(1)(A) of the Act [21 USC 343(r)(1)(A)] as perhaps they should be (blame our overburdened public school systems) and so might have difficulty properly interpreting the requirements of 21 CFR 101.54(e)(1) never mind 101.13(j)(2)!

Been there, done that, right?

No, it’s better that we have FDA experts putting an end to the underhanded practice of creating informative labels and innovative supplementation lest we inadvertently become confused, mistakenly assuming that with all those added vitamins and minerals Diet Coke Plus is nutritionally equivalent to organic wheat germ or tofu, and begin serving it to our children as a dinner entrée along with a hearty tobacco salad and a big side bowl of jelly beans.

Beans are good for you, right?

J.

December 26, 2008 at 08:02 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 25, 2008

Maybe it’s not America that needs the reboot

You may not be aware of this, distracted as you might be with Christmas and related festivities, but America is a terrible place to live.

You know where it’s a lot better?

Communist China!

This, based on Thomas Friedman’s “Do-You-Have-To-Pay-For-A-Luggage-Cart-At-The-Airport” measure of national prosperity.

And it’s even worse than that.  Apparently, the escalators here are entirely too narrow to fit Friedman’s luggage (which he is presumably carrying, having failed to secure a suitably subsidized luggage cart as is the natural right of every human being) and he had some cell calls dropped while riding the Acela (which strongly suggests he is an AT&T subscriber and so only has himself to blame).

Driven to the point of despair by this comparative mistreatment, Friedman is compelled to ask the obvious question, “If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us?”

You know, like in China with its free airport luggage carts, wide escalators, forced sterilizations and arbitrary executions.

“My fellow Americans,” notes Friedman, “we can’t continue in this mode of ‘Dumb as we wanna be.’”

“Look in the Mirror: GM is us.”

And not, apparently, such American-based world titans as Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, Apple, the entire entertainment industry, the biotech sector...

How else are we dumb?  By not giving more of our money to the government, refusing to pay too much for energy, and not instituting nationwide uniform standards in education (like China).

According to Friedman, what America needs, given its expensive rental luggage carts and insufficiently spacious escalators, is a “reboot” and president-elect Obama’s potential $1 trillion economic stimulus plan is just the way to do it. Considering that our national net worth is north of $50 trillion, and that any stimulus plan will consist largely of baubles and ornaments for members of Congress to tout back home (see yesterday) this would be like believing you can transform your house by buying a motorcycle because you don't like your shutters.

Friedman concludes his piece with “Merry Christmas.”

But it’s the New York Times, so he probably meant it ironically.

We don’t.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

J.

December 25, 2008 at 09:11 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 24, 2008

Call them O-Marks

In an effort to “allay worries” about president-elect Obama's economic stimulus plan, vice-president-elect Joe Biden said in no uncertain terms that "There will be -- I will say it again -- there will be no earmarks in this economic recovery plan."

Earmarks are properly criticized as federal spending specifically targeted to benefit the constituents of influential members of Congress.

In contrast, the Obama stimulus plan will be federal spending specifically targeted to benefit the constituents of influential members of Congress.

That may sound similar at first read (and second and third) but clearly it is an essential national priority to create a rapid transit system on Boulder Highway and Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Because if we don’t do it, the Russians will.

In fact, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is pursuing 60 projects for the Obama economic stimulus bill.  In one of those strange coincidences, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid happens to represent the state of Nevada.   

Is that freaky or what?  It’s like how your wife always seems to have to work late at the office whenever her old boyfriend is in town for business. And your wife doesn’t even have an office.

But that’s not what’s important.  What’s important is that if we don’t get that major expansion to Interstate 215 at the airport connector, we’re looking at nothing short of economic Armageddon.  (That’s like regular Armageddon only with lower mortgage rates.)

As Biden said, "It's important for the American taxpayer to know that . . . this is not going to be politics as usual, and we will not tolerate business as usual in Washington."

That may not be true, but at least nobody cares!

J.

December 24, 2008 at 12:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 23, 2008

Traveling in Pennsylvania for the holidays

“Could you get me a sandwich while you’re in the market?” I ask.  “Sure,” she says.  “How about turkey, roast beef and ham?” she asks.  “Sounds great,” I say.

Heap-O-Meat

If you’re like us, when someone says turkey, roast beef and ham, you don’t assume it’s going to be an entire sandwich’s worth of each.  It’s not like we were ordering pizza toppings.

Pennsylvania, where it’s not a sandwich if you can close it.

J.

December 23, 2008 at 09:22 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 22, 2008

Budget Calamity!

Like many states, Virginia is facing a budget shortfall due to declining tax receipts as the country continues to struggle though a deep recession.

In fact, the outlook is so grim, that in order to close an anticipated $2.9 billion deficit, Governor Kaine is being forced to slash the current biennial fiscal 2009-2010 budget to levels not seen since 2007-2008.

You should probably let that sink in.  Those of us living in Virginia will have to survive on public services as they existed as many as two years ago.

Many of you are probably not old enough to remember what life was like back in the 2007’s.  We had to make do with the iPhone, the iPhone 3G being but a distant dream.  A high-definition DVD format war was raging with seeming no end in sight. And we were still dealing with the grisly aftermath of Taylor Hicks win on American Idol.  Yes, those were dark times, and we had to learn to get by on what we had, which was about 93% of what we have now.  It certainly wasn’t pretty, and we sure don’t want to have to live through it again.

Which is why the governor believes we need to double the cigarette tax.  Doubling the cigarette tax has a number of advantages:

1) It hits lower income citizens who don’t vote as much.

2) It hits smoking citizens who don’t live as much.

So really, everyone’s a winner. Besides, as the Governor pointed out, "That struck me as a much more prudent course than basically kicking people off the Medicaid rolls," which is really the only choice he has in a budget that’s grown by 40% in the past five years.    It’s not like he can cut back on things like the Virginia Wine Board.  What, you expect the people in the business of selling wine to be responsible for selling wine? What are you, some kind of right-wing free-market extremist?

The governor also plans on releasing prisoners early, because when it comes to justice being served in the commonwealth of Virginia, we believe in, “Hey, close enough.”

Finally, the governor hopes to raise additional revenue by eliminating the “dealer discount tax rebate” which was put in place to offset the costs retail businesses incur acting as sales tax collectors for the state.  (Think of the money you could save if you could stop paying people for the work they do.)  Look, we’ll never get out of this recession if we don’t start increasing the tax burden on small businesses.  That’s something you learn in Economics 101.  Or are we confusing that with Home Economics 101… something about pie…

Anyway, we can only hope that you are lucky enough to have a governor like ours, a leader ready to make the tough decisions and cut that budget right down to the second or so layer of skin.

But only when it's absolutely necessary, of course.

J.

December 22, 2008 at 04:27 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack