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18 February 2008

Don't Hold Your Breath

Jeff Jacoby has managed to spin out four skeptical articles about global warming in the last year, including a recent one in which he crows about how warm December 2007 was.

Now comes news about January 2008 in Australia.

Australia experienced its hottest January on record this year, with the dry continent heating up as part of the global warming process, the bureau of meteorology said Friday.

Temperatures rose by between 1.0 and 2.0 degrees [Celsius] in most parts of the country, with the national average hitting 29.2 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit) for the summer month, said the bureau's head of climate analysis, David Jones.

"It's a remarkable number certainly. Averaging, as we did across the whole country 1.3 degrees [Celsius] above average is the highest temperature we've seen in our history of records for Australia in January," he told AFP.

Please don't wait for Jacoby to update any of these columns. Merely waiting for Jacoby to write about global warming without cherry-picking evidence, labeling oddball climatologists as mainstream experts, or ignoring the interplay of greenhouse gases and global temperatures, will require possibly infinite patience.

Yes, Jeff Jacoby is a perfect example of why editorial pages need much better opinion writers. One would think that newspapers would want well-thought, reasoned opinions in order to attract thoughtful, reasonable readers. But perhaps slapdash and lazy is still good enough nowadays.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/18/2008 09:27:00 AM

13 February 2008

Rudy the Fiscal Conservative

Paying creditors "ten cents on the dollar"? What ever happened to balanced budgets and other supposed niceties of fiscal conservatism? For Rudy Giuliani, a balanced budget will only be part of the Administration That Never Will Be.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/13/2008 12:02:00 AM

12 February 2008

The Globe News Department Thinks We're Stupid

What is extraordinarily puzzling about newspapers nowadays is where the straightest talk about labor issues will be.

Sports reporters are not always the most objective sources of news, but an assiduous reader of the sports pages will get detailed and generally accurate news about labor relations in almost any sport, from baseball and football to hockey and soccer.

Similarly, the writer's strike that has affected the movie and television industries has received ample attention in the normally breezy entertainment sections of newspapers.

No one would expect a television writer to refer to, say, an association of animation studios as a group of "nonunion writers." But that is what the news section—you know, the section that is supposed to have facts about the news—of the Boston Globe did with a local group of contractors.

Nonunion construction workers are opposing Governor Deval Patrick's casino legislation, arguing that it discriminates against them by encouraging developers to use union workers.

"It's not a level playing field," said Ronald N. Cogliano, president of the Merit Construction Alliance, which advocates for nonunion contractors.

"The appearance is that the governor is trying to give a little political payback to his biggest supporters. That's troubling."

Cogliano sent a letter yesterday to Patrick and legislative leaders, arguing that the legislation should not discourage casino developers from using nonunion laborers.

Patrick's casino legislation has provisions that would encourage casino developers to use union workers, and it also gives organized labor a seat on an advisory committee that would have influence over casino regulations.

The headline on this masterpiece was "Nonunion workers oppose Patrick on casino legislation." The problem is that Ronald Cogliano does not represent nonunion workers, but instead he represents their bosses. Any reporter in the sports or entertainment pages would have recognized the difference, but apparently standards are not as high as they might be in the Globe news department.

Yes, technically, Ronald Cogliano is a non-union worker. He is the executive director of the Merit Construction Alliance of Massachusetts, whose website encourages contractors—not construction workers—to become members at $1,000 to $5,000 a pop. Indeed, its 2005 tax return claims "approximately 58 members" who contributed $130,000 in dues.

Incidentally, Cogliano might want to think a bit about that nonunion status: he supposedly works 40 hours in a typical week—at least that is what he signed to under the penalties of perjury, yet he earned only $22,342 in compensation and expense reimbursements and $0 in retirement benefits. That's $10.74 an hour, which surely does not go very far. (It is possible that the 2005 tax return did not reflect a full year of compensation; still, in 2004, when there was no executive director, the group's president earned only $37,500 for an ostensibly full-time job.)

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Posted by Tim W at 2/12/2008 02:54:00 PM

11 February 2008

Weather or Not, Redux

It bears repeating. As I mentioned last week, bad weather does not significantly reduce voter turnout, especially when voters care about either voting in general or about the election in question.

So why do stories about the Maine caucuses mention high turnout and bad weather like they need potent emulsification to exist together?

The turnout was high at many caucus sites, despite harsh weather. Many people in Maine's 420 cities and towns were taking part in the state's delegate-selection process for the first time, driven to participate by excitement over the highly competitive race.

"If it wasn't so close I wouldn't vote," said Mark Antoine, who waited more than an hour in line at the state's largest caucus site, Portland High School, to cast his vote for Obama. Antoine, 20, said it was the first time he had participated in any election.

There was no parking for several blocks around the school, and some stood in slushy snow and shivered in lines that extended around the block.

"At the end of the day, we're from Maine and snow is not going to stop us from getting out," said Arden Manning, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party.

It should come as little surprise that when potential voters think that their vote is important, venturing out in the rain or snow is hardly going to dissuade them from something that they can only do once every one to four years.

Why journalists cannot even intuit that voting might have a different set of motivations than going out for a jog or running errands, to pick two things that might get deferred because of bad weather, is a mystery.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/11/2008 09:25:00 PM

Unclear on the Concept

This headline is currently on the Boston Globe's web site: Temperatures near 20 below.

Really? The temperature here was 9°F this morning, and I would not expect 30-degree differences between one part of the Boston area from another. A hint to the problem is the headline of the article itself ("Bitter winds push temperatures near 20 below"). While winds might bring cold air into a region, the winds themselves have nothing to do with the temperature.

Here are the first two paragraphs of the article, which seems to have been written by the Globe equivalent of Alan Smithee ("Globe staff"):

A howling west wind gusting near 70 miles per hour pushed temperatures today more than 16 degrees below zero as Massachusetts shuddered in a blast of arctic air.

The state low wind chill of 16 degrees below zero was measured at 6 a.m. at Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory and again at 8 a.m. in Worcester.

A word to the wise and also to the "Globe staff" responsible for writing about the weather: temperature and wind chill are different things. When you write that temperatures are near -20°F, when they are really 30 degrees higher, you come across looking foolish.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/11/2008 10:14:00 AM

09 February 2008

Sauce for the Gander

Some folks in Natick, Massachusetts just don't understand what all the fuss is about. How could anyone object to treating Native Americans as mascots?

A year ago, it seemed that the Natick Redmen would soon take the field for the last time. The School Committee voted to dump the name - and the silhouette of a Native American in a feathered headdress that some teams and local boosters have adopted as an unofficial logo - in time for the 2008 football season. A task force of students, school officials, and leaders from local Native American tribes searched for a new name that the whole town could rally around.

But tradition doesn't die easily in a town that calls itself the "Home of Champions" and reveres its most famous graduate, Doug Flutie. The task force considered suggestions from the community such as "Natick Pride," "Red Hawk Men," "Volunteers" and "Americans," before settling on "Natick Hawks" last month....

On Monday, a group that wants to preserve the team name intends to present the selectmen with a petition signed by 1,800 residents and demand the issue go to a townwide vote March 25. They have plastered the slogan, "Once a Redman, always a Redman." on bumper stickers that have become an increasingly common sight on Main Street.

According to the Census Bureau, out of the 32,170 inhabitants of Natick, only 134 claim Native American ancestry. If Natick sports fans want to continue the tradition of having mascots named after tribes, why not reflect the actual composition of the town? I humbly suggest the Natick Palefaces. Surely the good citizens of Natick would recognize that name as one without racial overtones at all.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/09/2008 10:44:00 AM

07 February 2008

The Inherent Contradictions of a Capitalist

if reports like this one are correct, then Willard Mitt Romney's quest to be president is over, and he will have to fall back on becoming God of His Own Planet someday.

What puzzles me is not how much money this supposedly savvy businessman wasted, but how often he would use the same jab at his opponents—that they had not held real jobs in the private sector—without someone noting something that The Old Man would surely have noted. If having a real job in the private sector is such a good thing, then why was Romney angling for the most visible of public sector jobs? And if being president of the United State s is important, would not a voter want someone who had learned something from being part of the government?

For the wing of the Republican Party that hates government—the sort that relishes runaway spending because it ruins the fiscal standing of future governments, and that encourages bad acts because it makes government look bad—his inherent contradictions were easy to ignore, because running the government like a leveraged buyout firm runs a typical business is exactly the model that they envision. For even most Republicans, government is at worst a necessary evil, so the incessant parading of his private-sector experience was annyoing at best and frightening at worst.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/07/2008 01:04:00 PM

05 February 2008

Weather or Not

It is primary day in Massachusetts and it has rained off and on all day. And this means that the local media are playing up how the weather will affect turnout.

The gray, gloomy rain that had soaked early primary voters stopped this afternoon when storm clouds moved south. The dry weather is predicted to last until after the polls close at 8 p.m., which may give turnout an extra bump in an election that is expected to draw 1.3 million voters across the state.

Stop it. Stop the incessant and inane chatter about how weather and turnout are necessarily linked. When political scientists analyze actual elections and actual voters and whether they actually vote, they find that there is no support for linking bad weather to overall turnout. The only significant correlation is for voters who are unlikely to vote in the first place ("those respondents scoring low on the standard National Election Studies civic duty indicator").

Think about it. If you have thought about the issues and the candidates, and think that voting is important, is a little rain really going to stop you?. Only in cloud-cuckoo-land, and in the mainstream media.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/05/2008 05:01:00 PM

04 February 2008

Strong and Wrong

How obvious was it that George Bush was playing Congressional Democrats for patsies when it came to invading Iraq? Obvious enough that Lincoln Chafee, not known for being the brightest bulb in the Senate light show, though that it was obvious.

Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against prosecuting the war. :The top Democrats were at their weakest when trying to show how tough they were," writes Chafee. "They were afraid that Republicans would label them soft in the post-September 11 world, and when they acted in political self-interest, they helped the president send thousands of Americans and uncounted innocent Iraqis to their doom.

"Instead of talking tough or meekly raising one’s hand to support the tough talk, it is far more muscular, I think, to find out what is really happening in the world and have a debate about what we really need to accomplish," writes Chafee. "That is the hard work of governing, but it was swept aside once the fear, the war rhetoric and the political conniving took over."

Chafee writes of his surprise at "how quickly key Democrats crumbled." Democratic senators, Chafee writes, "went down to the meetings at the White House and the Pentagon and came back to the chamber ready to salute. With wrinkled brows they gravely intoned that Saddam Hussein must be stopped. Stopped from what? They had no conviction or evidence of their own. They were just parroting the administration's nonsense. They knew it could go terribly wrong; they also knew it could go terribly right. Which did they fear more?"

Congressional Democrats forgot two things. They forgot the difference between Saddam Hussein's febrile ambitions and his actual deeds. And they forgot the difference between the relative ease of a military invasion of Iraq and the interminable morass of a military occupation of Iraq.

And they fell into the trap that hawks have set for generations, the idea that being "strong on defense" is somehow the intellectually responsible position. Never mind that being "strong on defense" has so often wasted thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, whether in Vietnam or Iraq or Cuba or Afghanistan or Nicaragua or Guatemala.

The fact remains that ideological opponents often have good reason to trade with one another, to learn from one another, and even to steal political ideas from one another. While few would have believed in 1975 that Communist Vietnam would be an important trading partner of the United States by 2000, this sort of thing should have informed those making decisions in 2001.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/04/2008 12:06:00 AM

03 February 2008

Uncivil Unions

If American unions had guts, they would be reshooting this Australian video scene for scene.

Alas, the full impact of the clip depends on remembering why Life of Brian was such a funny film. And Americans hate to admit that anything that makes fun of religion is funny.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/03/2008 10:30:00 PM

Thanks for the Gumball, Mitty

Somehow I knew that this was the kiss of death.

"I exchanged emails yesterday with Tom Brady, and he’s a friend," former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told reporters today. "And I wish him the very best and I wish the team the very best."

Well, that worked really well. I have the feeling that Tom Brady is going to let Willard Mitt's calls go straight to voicemail from now on.

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Posted by Tim W at 2/03/2008 10:20:00 PM

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