February 28, 2011
CONSENSUS WATCH – 2/28/2011
An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed at all costs. Because without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data.
One of the ongoing problems with the scientific consensus on global warming is the fact that large numbers of scientists disagree with it.
Of course, these are mostly quibbles, such as NASA scientist Dr. Leonard Weinstein who noted that “Any reasonable scientific analysis must conclude the basic theory wrong,” or Nobel Prize-Winning Stanford University Physicist Dr. Robert B. Laughlin, who observed that “You can't find much actual global warming in present-day weather observations,” or Dr. Christopher J. Kobus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Oakland University, who subtly suggested that “The whole thing is a fraud. And even the fraudsters that fudged data are admitting to temperature history that they used to say didn't happen,” but you’re always going to have some minor disagreement on the margins.
Clearly, there remains a broad consensus that human emissions of CO2 constitute a grave threat to our climate, particularly among those scientists who believe that human emissions of CO2 constitute a grave threat to our climate, and really, who better to know?
Despite this, there remains an inexplicable complacency among the public at large. Some point to the fact that there’s no evidence that the planet is actually getting warmer. Others suggest that such things as increased snowfall, despite predictions to the contrary, have shaken confidence in the Consensus.
We believe the problem is much simpler:
Insufficient amounts of hysteria.
It’s just not enough to tell people the glaciers are melting, particularly when they aren’t. You have to personalize it.
Fortunately, Washington, DC-based climate activist Mike Tidwell is up to the task, writing in a recent op-ed piece for The Washington Post, that buying solar panels, using an energy-efficient refrigerator, and heating his home with organically fertilized corn pellets was simply not going to be enough, particularly given world food riots that have taken place over the past few years, so he upgraded all the locks on his doors.
Okay, sure, world food riots are partly the product of comfortable, well-fed global warming enthusiasts using corn for fuel rather than for food, and the closest thing we get to a food riot in the Washington metro area is when the Whole Foods runs out of artisan sourdough, but his heart is in the right place, which is all that counts.
What has driven Mr. Tidwell to take up firearms training and attempt to grow vegetables “behind barred basement windows?”
It wasn’t just because of an increase in the number of extreme worldwide weather events, which is just as well since there hasn’t actually been an increase in the number of extreme worldwide weather events, but something much more personal:
We’ve had a few rain storms here in DC over the past year or so.
As Mr. Tidwell tells it:
“Suddenly, darkness overcame us, and it became midnight at 8 a.m. The street lamps flickered on. Cars turned on their headlights. And I saw the largest, darkest, windiest thunderstorm I'd ever seen, approaching from the west. I whipped out my cellphone and called my wife in Takoma Park. ‘Go to the basement now!’ I said. Inside the TV studio, I watched the anchors switch to a live report about apartment dwellers trapped by a massive fallen oak as the first of more than 100,000 homes began to lose power. Houses across the area were ripped open by wind and crashing tree trunks.”
We remember well that storm.
Okay, no we don’t, but we’re sure if we did, it would also be seared into our memory. How could it not be, what with it getting dark and windy and a tree falling down.
It was like he lived through the apocalypse, only with good cell phone service.
So what does Tidwell's family think of his endeavors to keep them safe including raiding his young son’s college fund to purchase a $1000 generator?
“And my wife, God bless her, accepts the truth about what's happening to our planet. She knows we have to prepare.”
(He might want to make sure her preparations don’t include a court order.)
Remember, we'll never convince people to believe in the Consensus just using facts, even if we had them. We have to rely on hysterical retellings of routine events and childlike hyperbole if we're going to make any progress.
Or do you just want to keep behaving like a Neanderthal?
Do you want to make sure the world knows you won't allow yourself to be bullied by facts? Then check our extensive line of CONSENSUS WATCH MERCHANDISE!
We also have the classic Consensus Watch coffee mug, bag, and beer stein (along with assorted T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other garments): "Consensus Watch Because without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data" plus a complete line of "Stop raping the planet! You may, however, touch it inappropriately," items (shirts, coasters, stickers, buttons)
February 27, 2011
Weeks 4 & 5 – Our 21st-Century Regulatory System
We continue to monitor the progress being made on President Obama’s “21st-Century Regulatory System” initiative intended to not only promote “economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation," but also to “root out regulations that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb,” and yet at the same time “won't shy away from addressing obvious gaps.”
For this edition, we focus on the International Trade Commission’s ongoing endeavors to ensure that American consumers and businesses are protected from paying too little for the things they purchase.
Following is a partial list (culled from the last two weeks of entries in the Federal Register) of things the ITC believes you may not be paying enough for:
Friday, February 18
Tuesday, February 22
Thursday, February 24
Friday, February 25
Special mention should be made of those good citizens, whistle blowers if you will, who alert the ITC to potential instances in which you may not be paying enough for things, such as Polyethylene Terephthalate Film producer, DuPont, which was concerned that people were not paying enough for Polyethylene Terephthalate Film, and domestic producers of certain cut-to-length carbon steel plate who, despite the personal risks involved, noted that people were not paying enough for certain cut-to-length carbon steel plate.
There should be a Medal of Freedom in there somewhere.
February 25, 2011
Rock and Roll is Not Dead. It's Just on Strike.
The hardcore Irish punk band the “Dropkick Murphys” released a statement yesterday in which they “acknowledge the struggles of the working people of Wisconsin,” and by “the working people of Wisconsin,” they mean, “the college-educated professionals with platinum benefit plans, unparalleled job security, and nine-month work schedules.”
What about the working people of Wisconsin who have to be on the job all twelve months of the year in order to pay the taxes that pay for the college-educated professionals with platinum benefit plans, unparalleled job security, and nine-month work schedules?
Them, really not so much.
Still, the band wanted to:
“…pledge our support and solidarity by releasing the song 'Take Em Down' from our upcoming album. We think it's appropriate at the moment and hope you like it.”
When the boss comes callin' we gotta organize
Let em know
We gotta take the bastards down
Let them know
We gotta smash them to the ground
Let em know
We gotta take the bastards down
We know what you’re probably thinking:
“Yeah! Let’s take these bastards down! Let’s smash them to the ground!!”
“Wait, who are these bastards exactly?”
That would be you.
Since these are public employees, you are their boss. And their customer. And their paymaster. Oh, and you can’t protest by boycotting them unless you want to go to jail for tax evasion.
But that’s not the point. The point is that it is long past time that someone stand up for college-educated professionals to ensure that they retain their fundamental right to spend the summer fishing.
It’s just a matter of basic human dignity.
Think about it. Should these cuts go through, some of them might actually have to work more than nine months a year in order to supplement salaries that are barely twice the Wisconsin average.
Is that really the kind of America we want to live in?
And so we support the Dropkick Murphys and their call for us to help well-paid middle class teachers “smash them to the ground!”
Er, smash us to the ground. Or something.
Man, we miss the days when punk rock was simpler.
February 24, 2011
He’s Hatin’ It
New York Times Food columnist Mark Bittman is continuing to use his new platform on the opinion pages of that paper to convince America that we should all be a lot more like Mark Bittman.
His latest salvo is against fast-food giant McDonald’s, which perhaps more than any other restaurant chain, caters to people who are not Mark Bittman.
This drives Mark Bittman crazy.
In particular, Bittman takes aim at McDonald’s latest offering of oatmeal. It’s not just that the oatmeal is unpalatable to Bittman, or that its nutritional profile is not to his liking, no, it goes much deeper than that:
How is it wrong? For starters, Mr. Bittman notes that McDonald’s oatmeal has:
“11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”
Well, at least not in Mr. Bittman’s kitchen.
A quick look at the weird ingredients and we find Carrageenan, which is a seaweed extract that has been used for hundreds of years and is a readily available staple for molecular gastronomy enthusiasts.
Similarly, sodium citrate is a salty sour flavoring you can easily buy if you were so motivated.
The rest of the ingredients that Mr. Bittman finds weird are common additives for texture, flavor, color, and preservation and are the foundation of much of the convenience food that we take for granted.
But that’s not the point. The point is that offering a totally unremarkable product with common ingredients to a willing customer base without first securing the approval of Mark Bittman is clearly “wrong.”
What if someone wanted to argue that McDonald’s heavily sweetened version tastes better? As it turns out, they’re wrong too. According to Mr. Bittman:
“…they’re addicted to sickly sweet foods.”
You know who’s not addicted to sickly sweet foods? Mark Bittman. He doesn't like sickly sweet foods. Ever. So neither should you.
What if you want to argue that going to McDonald’s is more convenient?
Great, now you’ve made him angry:
“This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher.”
Note to self: Do NOT go to the McDonald’s in Mr. Bittman’s neighborhood, it apparently has really bad service.
“… you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat. Eat while you’re walking around getting dressed. And then talk to me about convenience.”
You might also want to talk to him about your dry cleaning bill.
“I asked them this, via e-mail: ‘Why could you not make oatmeal with nothing more than real oats and plain water, and offer customers a sweetener or two, a packet of mixed dried fruit, and half-and-half or — even better — skim milk?’”
Exactly. And while we’re at it, why on earth don’t they make vegan tofu stir fry? Or a fair trade sustainably farmed lentil-and-potato knish? Indeed, why don’t they offer products specifically tailored to customers who have no intention of ever going to McDonald’s? What kind of businesspeople are these?
“Their answer, via e-mail and through a spokesperson (FMO is ‘fruit and maple oatmeal’): ‘Customers can order FMO with or without the light cream, brown sugar and the fruit. Our menu is entirely customizable by request with our ‘Made for You’ platform that has been in place since the late 90s.’”
Not to worry, Bittman has a comeback for that:
Ooh, snap! That one is going to leave a mark.
“Here’s the thing: McDonald’s wants to get people in the store. Once a day, once a week, once a month, the more the better, of course, but routinely.
A business wants customers? Interesting. In theory.
"And if you buy oatmeal, they’re o.k. with that. But they know that, once inside, you’ll probably opt for a sausage biscuit anyway.”
Why? Because you’re suffering from an incurable case of not being Mark Bittman. Otherwise, you would be on the lookout for these Bittman-approved alternatives to McDonald’s oatmeal:
Cardamom-scented oatmeal pancakes.
Coconut oat pilaf.
Why, you could whip up a batch of cardamom-scented oatmeal pancakes while you’re dressing the baby, changing the oil in the car, volunteering at a charity auction and then eat them while you bike to work.
And then come talk to us about convenience!
February 23, 2011
If Only They Had Time to Tackle Middle East Peace, Too.
Up until very recently we were unaware that Planet Moron’s home county of Arlington, Virginia, had a “Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force.” Given that the county has been around for over 200 years and the area had been settled long before that, we had assumed that we had established the “sustainability” part some time ago. Unfortunately we were in error. According to Arlington officials:
“We must reduce our energy use and emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal.”
You’re probably wondering, “What could a small county of 200,000 people do to address the global emissions of heat-trapping gasses particularly given the government’s many other local responsibilities such as putting out fires, filling potholes, and protecting residents from the menace of unauthorized signage?” The answer just may surprise you:
Okay, that wasn’t as surprising as we thought it was going to be.
While Arlington County has many pressing demands on its budget, such as offering courses on how residents can learn to spend other people’s money, that is no reason why it shouldn't press ahead and prepare a detailed draft report that not only reduces heat-trapping gases, but also produces these many benefits:
As you can see, the plan will not only “lower costs,” but also result in “premium prices!” How many plans do you know of that can both lower and raise costs at the same time?
We think the Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force should talk to someone about this, perhaps explore the reasons for this lack of intimacy in their own personal lives that might help to explain this need to fill the void by turning outside the home.
Of course, it’s not like lonely task force participants are going to find emotional fulfillment with their electric utility without doing some hard work.
For example, officials hope to plaster the county with solar panels arguing that:
“The effective economic returns are likely to be positive under today’s conditions.”
Not long ago, we here at Planet Moron had a solar panel contractor look into what we could do to save the planet, and by “save the planet,” we mean, “secure a backup source of power for when the Federal Reserve's secret police come in black unmarked helicopters to seize our gold coins.”
What do you think? Too Glenn Beck?
Anyway, after we received the report from the contractor, we did a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation and found our investment in solar panels would pay for itself in about a million years. Assuming that humans will have evolved into beings of pure energy by that time, the whole exercise seemed kind of moot.
However, the county’s goals are more expansive than just encouraging people to put up a few solar panels:
“Energy in all its forms must never be wasted…”
This sound fine. Until you consider that Arlington believes driving a car to be wasteful.
“…and wherever feasible, should be produced from clean, renewable, and economically sensible sources within the County.”
Keep in mind that Arlington County is only about 26 square miles and densely populated. How do they plan on achieving this goal?
“However, to be fully realized, many planning and decision processes, business models and relationships will need to be realigned.”
Well, we suppose that could have sounded creepier. Somehow.
The plan runs 89 pages and includes the completely practical suggestion that the county
“…should create a mixed-use multifamily residential building containing at least 100 homes… supplied with a fully integrated 100% renewable electrical and thermal system, with near-zero use of fossil fuels. The energy demand and supply system could be managed with a fully automated community micro-grid. This total integration of demand, supply and smart management would be unique in the U.S.”
No doubt it would. While they were at it, they should have proposed that Arlington build a biosphere, populate it with genetically engineered county residents, and launch it to Alpha Centauri so as to populate a new world of sustainable zero-energy mega-cities that could one day return its descendants to Earth so as to realign our relationships.
Maybe in the next draft.
February 22, 2011
Word has it that the White House is not very happy that its current slogan, “Winning The Future” shares an unfortunate ordering of letters with the common Internet chat and text term, “WTF” which stands for “What The (bad word)” suggesting that for all its assumed technical prowess and young workers, the President’s staff doesn’t spend very much time on the Internet.
In fairness, we should point out that “Winning The Future” was actually only one of many slogans the White House had considered. Some of the others that had been proposed:
STFU: Seeing The Future United
FOAD: Funding Our Advanced Development
OMFG: Organizing Multi-Faceted Growth
PITA: Progressing Innovation Towards Advancement
NSFW: Nurturing Society's Future Wellness
Relatively speaking, we think they didn’t do too badly.
February 21, 2011
Perhaps She’d Be More Supportive if They Sponsored A Prairie Home Companion
Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum feels strongly that we need to address our nation’s budget deficit by seeking cuts in military spending. Sure, it will be a sacrifice, but one that needs to be made.
By someone else.
Not by Minnesota of course, given that the state is pretty much the lynchpin in the critical defense systems protecting us against “the northern hordes” streaming across our border with their courteous small talk and valid passports, but rather sacrifices that have little to nothing to do with Minnesota, specifically, ending the Army’s sponsorship of NASCAR.
Yes, you could argue that market research has found that NASCAR fans are a rich and natural source of recruits for the army, but according to Betty McCollum’s chief of staff Bill Harper, who has many years of experience being Betty McCollum’s chief of staff, NASCAR sponsorship is:
“A complete waste of taxpayer money. The military shouldn’t be in the business of sponsoring race cars, they should be in the business of fighting wars.”
We couldn’t have said it better. Likewise, FedEx and UPS shouldn’t be in the business of sponsoring race cars, they should be in the business of delivering packages. For what earthly reason would anyone want to achieve widespread exposure of their brand to a huge national audience by sponsoring one of the most popular sports in America viewed by individuals who are a natural part of your target market?
It just doesn’t make any sense.
According to Harper, who is said to have a unique talent for keeping Betty McCollum’s calendar straight:
“Who is in Iraq or Afghanistan because they saw an Army car go around the track?”
Exactly! Who is in the hardware aisle because they saw a Home Depot car go around the track? Who is on GoDaddy.com because they saw a car go around the track? It’s madness! A madness that has gripped large swaths of corporate America, which is only responsible for selling products and providing investors with an acceptable return on their money and so does not enjoy the insight that can only be gained after years of answering the telephone for someone else.
As Harper says, the army should just stick to fighting wars, and get out of the business of recruiting people to fight those wars. (As long as it in no way affects anyone in Betty McCollum’s congressional district.)
Sadly, McCollum’s proposal was defeated just prior to the launch of the NASCAR season this past weekend, however she has vowed to fight on.
In fact, she's so passionate about the subject, maybe she’ll even be around to vote for it next time.
February 18, 2011
Brave Sir Miller
Rather than lose a vote that would require members of the teachers union to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance and eliminate certain items that fall under a collective bargaining agreement, Wisconsin Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller led his fellow Democrats to an undisclosed location thus denying Senate Republicans a quorum to hold a vote.
Inspired by Mark Miller’s willingness to flee the state rather than fulfill his responsibilities and cast a vote in a legislature chosen by the people of Wisconsin in a free, fair, and open election, we dedicate this song to him:
Bravely bold Sir Miller
Rode forth from Manona.
He was not afraid to vote,
Oh brave Sir Miller.
He was not at all afraid
To be defeated in nasty ways.
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Miller.
He was not in the least bit scared
To lose procedural votes.
Or to have his agenda thrown out,
And his bills rejected.
To have his caucus split
And his priorities turned away,
And his coalition all spurned and marginalized
Brave Sir Miller.
His support smashed in
And his laws cut out
And his power removed
And the unions shut out
And the Rs in control
And public funds cut off
And his budget split and his…
"That's... that's enough music for now lads,
there's dirty work afoot"
Brave Sir Miller ran away.
Bravely ran away away.
When a vote reared it's ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Miller turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat.
Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Miller!
February 17, 2011
I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to The Death My Right to Make You Shut The Hell Up
Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps didn’t like some things that Bill O’Reilly and Bernie Goldberg of Fox News said about him. But, this being America, there was really only one thing he could do about it:
Threaten to silence them using the powers of the federal government!
As Copps pointed out in a speech this week, referencing comments made by the Fox News personalities regarding an earlier speech Copps had given:
“Fox News Channel’s Bernie Goldberg worried that I wanted ‘to shut down conservative talk radio’ and Bill O’Reilly wondered if I was ‘going to begin calling shots here on The Factor.’ Let me be clear: neither is true. And neither has anything to do with what I was actually talking about.”
Of course it wasn’t. What Copps was actually talking about was that news outlets should be required to:
“...prove they have made a meaningful commitment to public affairs and news programming, prove they are committed to diversity programming (for instance, by showing that they depict women and minorities), report more to the government about which shows they plan to air, require greater disclosure about who funds political ads and devote 25 percent of their prime-time coverage to local news.”
He doesn’t want to shut down conservative talk radio or “call the shots” for Bill O’Reilly,” he just wants to dictate what they cover, how, where, and with some advance notice about what they plan to air. He calls this a, “Public Values Test.”
See, O’Reilly and Goldberg took his remarks completely out of context.
And should be punished.
According to the Commissioner,
“What you and I are getting these days is too much opinion based on opinion and too little news based on fact."
Clearly, there is a much better balance to be had, one best established by unelected government officials rather than people making their own decisions absent the guidance of Commissioner Copps.
“In truth, the news is suffering from a bad case of substance abuse. That’s not just because the news is hard to find; it’s because there is much less of it. And there is much less of it because there is much less real journalism going on in our country today. When you lose a quarter or a third of your newsroom reporters, something’s got to give. Well, it gave.”
He makes a valid point. For example, here in Arlington, Virginia, with newsrooms slashed to the point that we only have two local papers and one business paper and only about a dozen cable news channels including one local, we also only have more local Internet news sites populated by hungry young reporters than we even have the time to follow.
Wait, where were we going with this?
Oh yes, Mr. Copps understands:
“Yes, it’s true that the barrier to self-publish has never been lower, and that there are millions of websites to choose from, and innovation and collaboration are providing some impressive results. But newspaper and broadcast newsrooms still provide the overwhelming bulk of the news citizens receive—whether they receive it in the paper, over the air, or online.”
This sounds good but we still can’t shake the feeling that he thinks an iPad is something you find in an optometrist’s office.
No matter, Commissioner Copps thinks people have way too many opinions, particularly ones about him.
February 16, 2011
CPB: The Corporation for People with BMWs
A number of Congressional representatives, many believed to be adults, gathered on Capitol Hill along with popular cartoon characters to defend continued funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which includes PBS and NPR.
Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon for example, noted with great passion that, “Rather than having a serious conversation about reducing our budget deficits, some in Congress are using this opportunity to act on their long-standing grudge against public broadcasting. The simple fact is that these attacks on public media are a dangerous political gimmick that achieves no meaningful deficit reduction,” all the while standing next to a seven-foot tall orange aardvark.
Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts also enthusiastically defended the interests of “Arthur the Aardvark,” saying:
“We need your help today. We can’t leave Arthur and all of his pals in the lurch.”
Regardless, Markey points out that in contrast to commercial television, PBS broadcasts educational shows for children hour after hour, all day long, every day, nearly endlessly.
Representative Markey doesn’t have any kids, so maybe he’s unaware of the fact that children probably shouldn’t spend every waking moment in front of a television. A little outside time is fun too!
Also, aardvarks aren’t really orange. And they don’t wear glasses. Well, not for reading anyway.
The problem, as Markey sees it, is that commercial television is a “vast wasteland.” Echoing this view, Representative Paul Tonko of New York said that reverting to only free-market, consumer-driven broadcasting would be:
“…like treating the Library of Congress as an amusement park rather than as a seat of knowledge.”
The real problem, as they see it, isn’t that we’re spending money that we don’t have on a medium that, based on our 500-channel culture, can be easily provided by the private market.
It’s that you’re a moron.
If they pull support for Public Broadcasting, all we’ll be left with is your idiotic, “consumer-driven” broadcasting choices. Probably a reality show with Snooki trying to become a NASCAR driver.
(Note to self: Pitch idea for a reality show with Snooki trying to become a NASCAR driver.)
Of course, in support of continued funding, they argue that public broadcasting is actually very popular in that “over 170 million Americans use public media every month,” however it would be impossible for it to survive in the commercial marketplace.
By the way, MSNBC has about 47 regular viewers.
Perhaps the real concern is that without government subsidies, the upper-income viewers who enjoy these programs would be forced to pay the full cost of them. The negative impact on our economy could be serious.
Although that depends on how many trips to France they’d have to cut back on.