anti-science

A Musical Moment (#SinisterMinister)

#SinisterMinister | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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The great angst needs a new great release.

Good morning, children! How nice to see you again! I hope you’re ready for your lesson today, hey-hey! To build your spiritual self we’ll start erasing the self; suppress those tiny Devils boiling in your bone! Your whole life you’ve been softly fading. Once you were strong, but now degrading and searching for a light to lead the way. That’s me, I’m a holy spastic. I’ll make you feel you’re made of blood in a world that’s plastic; take my hand, ’cause only I can show you the way, and all the way. The sinister minister’s grinning: What have I got to offer? What have you got to lose in your alcohol haze, in this soft disgrace, when you could be mine and even God needs lambs, and I am the Shepherd? I am the Shepherd! I hate to see you cry: place your hand in mine, and I’ll hate it. And why do you want to suffer? What are you trying to prove in your sick little phase? You’ve got your hands upraised. You could be clean, and you know I need lambs, and I am the Shepherd. You know I’m the Shpeherd! I hate to see you cry: Bleach that soiled life and take your place in line. And now you know all the way. I will be grinning, oh!

Floater, “Minister” (1998)

The Donald Trump National Convention (Not Quite Jesus Trump)

Detail of cartoon by John Cole, The Times Tribune, 17 July 2016.It seems worth noting that John Cole’s editorial cartoon for the Times Tribune, regarding the GOP platform, is tagged: business, Climate change, energy, environment, National Politics, Climate change, Donald Trump, Gay rights, GOP, GOP convention, tea party, and Womens’ rights.

No, really. Just sayin’.

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Image note: Trump the Carpenter ― Detail of cartoon by John Cole, The Times Tribune, 17 July 2016.

A Tumble Down the Clown Hole

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“It seems that with the arrival of a bullshit artist like Trump, bullshit has wholly conquered the Republican party. Which is not to say that that Republicans haven’t been duplicitous for a long time, which they have. But this dishonesty has become more and more blatant, as if they’ve come to realize that their base is either too ignorant to realize or too angry to care.”

Conor Lynch

The only thing that feels weird about that quote is the nagging feeling that it really isn’t a bunch of words wasted repeating the obvious. Because it’s like a bartender metaphor: Sounds like everybody’s problem, buddy. Except if it really was everybody’s problem, why would nobody be doing anything about it? If we run ’round the cycle enough times, the whole thing about civilization and suicide pacts starts to assert itself without actually saying anything.

But if for a moment it seems Conor Lynch is telling us something we already know, the next question is why it still plays in Peoria. Proverbially. Or, you know, maybe even literally. Because clearly this isn’t common knowledge, yet. Or else, perhaps it is, but it’s just not everybody’s problem.

Seriously, there will come a point at which we must entertain the proposition that the jaw-dropping insanity, at least, is what people want. But even that would spill over with a manner of cognitive dissonance. Chaos is as chaos does, but chaos also reflects its constraints. There is a reason this insanity and chaos plays, and that really should be a problem.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lynch, Conor. “Rise of the GOP bullsh***ers: How the electoral process has been overwhelmed by lies & untruths”. Salon. 14 December 2015.

The Trouble With Trolling

Photo of Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, via My Strange Family, September, 2009..There are always ethical questions involved with this sort of research, but we might assuage those by pointing out (A) nobody was killed or physically harmed in order to get these results, (B) sometimes we simply need this data, and (C) we get headlines like, “Scientists Tried Trolling Conspiracy Theorists”, and, “Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study”.

Yes, the results are about what you might imagine.

Ben Richmond of Motherboard explains:

What they found is that the people who you see trolling with conspiracy theories on non-conspiracy sites are the outliers. An astounding 91.53 percent of people who like posts on conspiracy theory pages pretty much only engage with conspiracy theory pages.

Not only that, compared to the science pages, conspiracy theory page posts are a lot more likely to be liked and shared. They call this a commitment to diffusion.

This focus on liking and sharing only from conspiracy theory pages also keeps conspiracy theorists posting and sharing amongst themselves, and rarely venture to comment or like things on the science pages.

Travis Gettys of Raw Story picked up the story and tried simplifying:

The researchers then tested the strength of these users’ biases by posting “troll information” – or sarcastic comments parodying anti-science views – on Facebook.

“These posts are clearly unsubstantiated claims, like the undisclosed news that infinite energy has been finally discovered, or that a new lamp made of actinides (e.g. plutonium and uranium) might solve problems of energy gathering with less impact on the environment, or that the chemical analysis revealed that chemtrails contains sildenafil citratum (the active ingredient of Viagra),” the researchers said.

They found that 78 percent of those who “liked” these 4,709 troll posts interacted primarily with conspiracy theory pages, as were 81 percent of those who commented on them.

The researchers also noted that anti-conspiracy theorists often wasted “cognitive resources” pushing back against these unscientific “troll” claims, even when they were “satirical imitation of false claims.”

Right. Pretty much what you would have expected.

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Image note: Photo of Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, via My Strange Family, September, 2013.

Richmond, Ben. “Scientists Tried Trolling Conspiracy Theorists”. Motherboard. 24 February 2015.

Gettys, Travis. “Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study”. RawStory. 24 February 2015.

The Grudge Match: Republicans vs. Science

In this handout photo, taken in 2011, provided by Jonathan Gero, scientists witness and measured carbon dioxide trapping heat in the sky above, confirming human-caused global warming, using the Atmospheric Emitted Radience Interferometer seen here, located in Barrow, Alaska.  Scientists witnessed carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere above the United States, chronicling human-made climate change in action live in the wild.  A new study in the journal Nature demonstrates in real-time field measurements what scientists already knew from basic physics, lab tests, numerous simulations, temperature records and dozens of other climactic indicators.  It confirms the science of climate change and the amount of heat-trapping previously blamed on carbon dioxide.  (AP Photo/Jonathan Gero, University of Wisconsin)

There are so many ways to go about this. We might, for instance, pause to consider the pathetic canard about how the competing political parties in these United States are the same. Or perhaps we could take a moment to think about why American progress lurches forward in quick bursts after seeming to stall for extended periods. And it is not exactly impossible that we might also eventually encounter an opportunity to simply look away and give our attention to something else.

First up, science:

Scientists training their instruments on the skies have caught the world’s major greenhouse gas right in the act of warming the planet, researchers reported Wednesday, providing the first direct evidence that human activity is dangerously altering the environment.

The instruments captured more than a decade of rising surface temperatures, changes that were directly triggered by the atmosphere’s increasing burden of carbon dioxide, a team of scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, reported.

That gas, whose main source is emissions from burning fossil fuels, has long been the principal culprit in global-warming investigations by the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists. Its rising levels in the atmosphere have been the basis for increasingly strong warnings about global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, known as the IPCC.

“We have known for decades that there must be an effect, but getting a direct measurement and isolating the carbon dioxide component are a technological coup,” Christopher Field, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University who has led two major IPCC reports, said in an email.

The UC Berkeley scientists’ study, he said, provides concrete evidence for the first time of carbon dioxide’s effect on global warming.

(Perlman)

(more…)

Not Exactly the Moral of the Story

"U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014." (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Compartmentalization. Equivocation. Misdirection.

Watch the birdie.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has once again dug himself a hole, and yes, he’s annoyed that anyone noticed:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday continued to walk back his comments that parents should be allowed to choose whether to vaccinate their children, saying he holds the same position as President Barack Obama on the matter.

“I got annoyed that people were trying to depict me as someone who doesn’t think vaccines were a good idea,” Paul told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday, noting that he had been vaccinated before a recent trip to Guatemala and had vaccinated his children.

“I’m not sure I’m different from the president or anyone else on the position,” Paul said. “We have rules to encourage people to have vaccines in the country, but I don’t think anybody’s recommending that we hold them down.”

(Levine)

Did you catch that?

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A Sour Grape of Wrath (…?)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).Something about market demand goes here. To the one, it is easy enough to mourn last month’s midterm election. To the other, sure, there is certainly some custom suggesting the dignified thing to do would be to move on. The beeblebrox, however, might suggest that the machinations of history during any given period are defined by the contemporary literary record. And if we want a fourth to raise while we sit around licking ourselves we might also wonder whether future considerations of our own contemporary literary record will account for marketplace demand in the context of various interests attempting to shape the historical record.

To wit, it is one thing to consider a legacy of history, another to attempt to manipulate our own legacies as we live our lives. And it is another thing altogether that our society includes a cottage industry dedicated to the shaping of historical narratives.

msnbcRepublicans might have been better off – which is to say, they would have ended up with a more conservative outcome – if they’d actually compromised and taken governing seriously in some key areas.

But McConnell thought it’d be easier to win through scorched-earth obstructionism.

Again, as of next month, he’ll be the Senate Majority Leader, so maybe he doesn’t care about the substantive setbacks. But for all the GOP gains at the ballot box, it’s Obama, not Republicans, moving a policy agenda forward.

(Benen)

The question of punditry takes on an interesting context when experts in subjective rhetoric enjoy increased marketplace demand while actual expert consultation faces public sector hostility.

But it is all ultimately part of the same narrative. Mr. Benen might sound akin to grasping at straws, but the 2014 midterm really was phenomenally demonstrative of something. Nobody is certain just what, but consider this context within the narrative: What does playing the centrist game get liberals? Trounced by rightist extremism.

Really, though, just how liberal are Democrats? Really?

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Benen, Steve. “Mitch McConnell and the limits of scorched-earth obstructionism”. msnbc. 1 December 2014.

Abrams, Lindsay. “House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research“. Salon. 19 November 2014.