Buck Up, Get a Blog, DIY

Juan Cole lays it out for climate scientists:

f. Many journalists are generalists and do not themselves have the specialized training or background for deciding what the truth is in technical controversies. Some of them are therefore fairly easily fooled on issues that require technical or specialist knowledge. Even a veteran journalist like Judy Miller fell for an allegation that Iraq’s importation of thin aluminum tubes in 2002 was for nuclear enrichment centrifuges, even though the tubes were not substantial enough for that purpose. Many journalists (and even Colin Powell) reported with a straight face the Neocon lie that Iraq had ‘mobile biological weapons labs,’ as though they were something you could put in a winnebago and bounce around on Iraq’s pitted roads. No biological weapons lab could possibly be set up without a clean room, which can hardly be mobile. Back in the Iran-Iraq War, I can remember an American wire service story that took seriously Iraq’s claim that large numbers of Iranian troops were killed trying to cross a large body of water by fallen electrical wires; that could happen in a puddle but not in a river. They were killed by Iraqi poison gas, of course.

The good journalists are aware of their limitations and develop proxies for figuring out who is credible. But the social climbers and time servers are happy just to host a shouting match that maybe produces ‘compelling’ television, which is how they get ahead in life.

3. If you just keep plugging away at it, with blogging and print, radio and television interviews, you can have an impact on public discourse over time. I could not quantify it, but I am sure that I have. It is a lifetime commitment and a lot of work and it interferes with academic life to some extent. Going public also makes it likely that you will be personally smeared and horrible lies purveyed about you in public (they don’t play fair– they make up quotes and falsely attribute them to you; it isn’t a debate, it is a hatchet job). I certainly have been calumniated, e.g. by poweful voices such as John Fund at the Wall Street Journal or Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute. But if an issue is important to you and the fate of your children and grandchildren, surely having an impact is well worth any price you pay.

You’re going to get creamed anyway… might as well deliver some hurt as you take it. (Implicit Obama criticism/advice inadvertent but also free!)

That Newspapers Are Generally Terrible

Like so many, many things, because of a fealty to investors and/or corporate governance that equals the same thing, newspapers are under a lot of pressure these days. This creates an enormous problem for newspaper reporting, which itself creates one Gargantua of a feedback loop, where newspapers keep sucking, reporting is inaccurate and sensational, newspapers keep sucking, the profit margin shrinks, reporting gets more sensational, which makes newspapers suck more, which makes them less profitable… ad abundantiam, they get skewed hyper-capitalistic sensationalist status quo.

A fine example of this, if one is needed, rests in the deflowering of the supposed takedown of the IPCC and the work of scientists connected to it. It would seem to be enough, on a blog about green, to write about how all the pushback against climate change and global warming is a bunch of wishful thinking on the part of first-worlders, Randians and energy suppliers. That even though they really really really want to believe it’s bunch of bunk and we can keep on digging and spewing and burning for as long anybody wants to, we actually can’t.

But NOOOOOOOO. You can’t just do that. Because green isn’t just about climate real’ry or fakery but about financialry, and because it is you’ve got to get a handle on at least a few of the interlapping conflicts going on and how they relate to the preservation of a way of life. It’s what one might call a complex system.

It is a way of life, right?

Lighting A Billion

I’m sure you were thinking the end of that would be “on fire” and you should be ashamed for that alone, if not, well, you know, for other things that you, um, know.

Little known facts [buried in here somewhere]: In 1988 I went to New England for the summer and ended up working for an environmental lobbyist group. ‘Twas not the reason I went up there but it turned out… interesting[ly]. Which is all we can ever ask. Met some cool people, learned a lot about politics and lost all inhibitions I may have ever harbored about talking to strangers. [Some things stick with you – Ahem.] Anyway, it was an election year (irrelevant, yer honor!) and I remember one day before went out canvassing one of our number gave a little whoop-de-doo about the New York Times and how he was never going to read them again (that day) because that very morning they had suppressed a story from one of their own reporters [you can guess what it was about].

The deliverer of these tidings was an adamant and older (at least 23) guy from a U in the midwest – no right winger was He. But he was quite perturbED about the paper of record. Now, you can be, too.

You might think it impossible for any newspaper — let alone the one-time “paper of record” — to run a story raising “accusations of scientific sloppiness” about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that never quotes a single climate scientist.

You might think it inconceivable that the NYT would base its attack on the accusations and half-truths provided by “climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians and even some mainstream scientists” where

Rosenthal doesn’t actually quote a single mainstream scientist attacking the IPCC.

So there you go. Be a hippie.

By the way, Lives. The title is a reference to a non-profit mentioned in the article, one you should also check out.

National Billion-tainment

It means you can buy part of a broadcasting network, to add to your cable monopoly.

In a joint statement announcing the agreementBrian L. Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, said the deal was “a perfect fit for Comcast and will allow us to become a leader in the development and distribution of multiplatform ‘anytime, anywhere’ media that American consumers are demanding.” The deal’s genesis lies in frequent flirtations over the last several years between Comcast and General Electric, although serious talks began in March. For Comcast, the purchase is the realization of its long-held ambition to be a major producer of television shows and movies.

I love that part: making it appear as if the viewing public is demanding oligopolistic cornering of entertainment creation and delivery mechanisms only to satisfy our never-ending pursuit of more viewing options. It’s reminiscent of the way the (late) Big Three had to, just had to, start making and selling all those massive SUV’s darn-it because the American public demanded it.

Look for incredible new innovations like bum-fighting and more award-creating reality shows designed to fit snugly into the headrest of your recliner.

The pathetic part is the added window-dressing to the courtship to come – the anti-trust hearings to make damn well certain the deal passes “regulatory muster,” whatever that could mean in this business country. Really, who is trying to make what case? Comcast already is the No. 1 cable provider; in January 2008, a Republican Chairman of the FCC was trying to get the country out of cable Guantanamo, but the industry trade group was having none of that.

“There is an agenda from a Republican chairman that is anti-free market and anti-competitive,” said Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunication Association. “It is disturbing.”

In the world of made-up names, we won’t improve on his. Are we getting to the point where even the word ‘disturbing’ qualifies as Orwellian? How long before Orwellian is Orw- uh oh.

The only, I mean the only salve to this whole thing: the precedent it follows.


A San Francisco couple challenges the Waxman-Markey climate change bill wending it’s way through congress. Yawn.

A San Francisco couple who are both lawyers for the EPA challenges the Waxman-Markey climate change bill wending it’s way through congress. Scandal.

Check out the video in question. After the scary music, they offer disclaimers about not representing the government or speaking for the president. And I can’t tell from a straight-up amateur video that these people are any more overzealous or weird than the editorial page editor of the Washington Post Kaplan Test Prep Daily. They work at the EPA, and have for many years. They have strong opinions about cap-and-trade – they think it won’t spur the urgent technological innovations and investments needed to usher in the mammoth energy transition necessary to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

At some level, I don’t care how amateurish their videos might be – which also means that at some level, I do.  But I’m sympathetic to the argument that the bill, which gives away emission permits, doesn’t do enough. The EPA has every right to make sure their employees aren’t misrepresenting official policy – precisely because what their employees say carries more weight. That being the case, I’m interested in what they think. Most of what we hear about the climate bill is how much passing it will damage the economy. You can imagine that a couple of climate change deniers who were EPA lawyers would be feted as dissidents and we, treated to a new round of cable cause celebre. Harnessing the power of n, where n is anything other than coal or petroleum, will necessarily revolutionize much what we see and do. How are we possibly going to accomplish it? Let’s argue about that for a while.


I’m all ready to put up something for your friday reading enjoyment, but (accidentally) listening to NPR this morning for a little too long had me pulling an Inspector Dreyfuss, and not in a good way.

Mara Liasson, you know you know me, national political correspondent or whatever, talking about the post-election shake-out, practically encapsulates the conventional wisdom flowing from every quarter that also just happens to be a ridiculous way of thinking about politics. It’s pulling for atrophy, as one friend is want to say. I’m not linking to it, but it goes something like this:

The final score of Tuesday’s election gives Republican’s evidence of a resurgence.

People want divided government, so it can do nothing.

So they vote for Republicans, even though they don’t like them (~20% consistently self-identify as republicans).

Republican can win, if they obscure their stances on social issues.

NY-23 was an example of Republicans dividing their support, and so handing a victory to the Democrat.

CA-10… oh, Mara didn’t mention CA-10.

Moderate democrats better hedge their bets on supporting the Obama agenda… or else voters will punish them for looking like they support something and running afoul of the way national political correspondents (aka The Village) and others have grown accustomed to thinking about what the legislative branch should [not] be doing.

So, NPR donors listeners good liberals… Is this the way the news about this or any election should be delivered?


Just a note about the button there on the right. I won’t pretend not to have added it to the site if you won’t pretend you didn’t notice it.

Seriously, though, a little time line: whatdoesgreenmean.wordpress (free!) launched in April 2008; moved to whatdoesgreenmean.net (not free!) in the fall of 2008, basically in its present form. It may be time for 3.0, as I seek to keep you, and me, interested and engaged.

So, I’m considering a re-design for the site – nothing crazy, just a move to a content management system that takes advantage of the talents of the guy who does our hosting. Plus it would have a slightly different appearance. And though these elements would be good for the site, it’s not something I can contemplate underwriting myself at this point. So I thought I would solicit (your) help. Nothing more.  Whether you decide to help or not, I already appreciate your support of the site and its steady growth. 

Thanks and let me know what you think.


Green Like Them

Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker on the literary – and I use the term loosely – phenomenon that is eco-living as an extreme lifestyle:

The basic setup of “No Impact Man” is, by this point, familiar. During the past few years, one book after another has organized itself around some nouveau-Thoreauvian conceit. This might consist of spending a month eating only food grown in an urban back yard, as in “Farm City” (2009), or a year eating food produced on a gentleman’s farm, as in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (2007). It might involve driving across the country on used cooking oil, as in “Greasy Rider” (2008), or giving up fossil fuels for goats, as in “Farewell, My Subaru” (2008).

All of these stunts can be seen as responses to the same difficulty. Owing to a combination of factors—population growth, greenhouse-gas emissions, logging, overfishing, and, as Beavan points out, sheer self-indulgence—humanity is in the process of bringing about an ecological catastrophe of unparalleled scope and significance. Yet most people are in no mood to read about how screwed up they are. It’s a bummer. If you’re the National Academy of Sciences or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the Pope or Al Gore, you can try to fight this with yet another multivolume report or encyclical. If not, you’d better get a gimmick.

And we wonder why people move onto other, more pressing matters. Writers are always looking for angles – society rewards I’ll-get-mine all the time – and as she wittily describes, this is what these folks are doing. It’s as American as the three car garage. Fine. Cashing in. You know, Green. I get it.

Yuk-yuk. It reminds me that, despite the trends, there are more interesting things to write books and make moves about* and these are the mere trifles of people who sit in writers’ workshops and mfa programs, trying to think of the next big book idea. They’re smart and well-trained so I’m not surprised that they figure out the caricature, which seems to arrive pre-mocked. Just don’t go meta and get too depressed by what they write/film; the writers, their agents and editors will lose interest with this and move onto something else before too long.

*There are even stories to write and film that have never been written about or filmed before.

Science… So What?

principal drawing of a caisson. cc wikimedia
principal drawing of a caisson. cc wikimedia

So Everything. Thus spaketh this fancy new U.K. site. Whether you’re wondering why the sky is blue or arguing with your friends at the bar over what a caisson is*, it seems like a good place to go for answers, as well as explanations for why science is important. As if anybody would possibly need that. The site seems to be predicated on being a destination/resource for kids, but I really don’t see how we’re availed of such distinctions.

*Actually, if your barman isn’t handy with a Webster’s Dictionary to settle such fraci – which can escalate – you should seek improvement in your level of watering hole.

The Big Picture

That’s the name for a ‘news stories in photographs’ feature on the Boston Globe site and it’s really excellent.

Words can be hurtful and leave permanent scars, but images are even more powerful. They can help explain conditions and situations by harkening back to the essential and human in us. Maybe images can even be helpful to people like the chairman of the House Agriculture committee, who holds great sway over measures that will combat climate change, even though he does not understand what it is.

… has been blocking the passage of comprehensive climate legislation, dismissed a White House report on the damaging effect of global warming on U.S. agriculture. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the chief of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association and one of the top scientists in the Obama administration, called the climate impacts report released yesterday a “clarion call for action” for a problem that “is happening now, and in our own backyards.” However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Peterson, “when asked by reporters Tuesday about the report’s findings, said they run counter to what many in his region are experiencing“:

We’ve just had the biggest floods and coldest winters we’ve ever had. They’re saying to us [that climate change is] going to be a big problem because it’s going to be warmer than it usually is; my farmers are going to say that’s a good thing since they’ll be able to grow more corn.

If you’re in a position of influence and don’t know what you’re talking about, on what basis do you continue talking?

  1. the soothing sounds of one’s own voice
  2. The shill/hack continuum
  3. ?

Maybe someone can draw me a picture.