Friday, December 05, 2008

The AP's Climate Conference Footprint Fetish

My story, published here on Gristmill yesterday.
It's odd, being edited - seeing phrasings you'd never use (most of which are improvements) appear under your name. It'd be more transparent if the editor was listed as a coauthor; now that we have the web and infinite space, why not do that, on a mouseover?

One dimension that was lost, in the post up on Gristmill, was the mouseovers; I'd composed the writing so mousing over virtually every link provided some context. Rather than consign that work to wasted effort, I've reprinted the story, as I submitted it (sans editing, plus title tags) here:

The AP's Climate Conference Footprint Fetish

"The AP writer couldn't see the forest for the trees." - Terry Tamminen
"The fact is, we live in a glass house today, folks, and sometimes we become part of the story whether we want to be or not." - Lex Alexander
What a difference vision makes.

Last week, CJR Observatory's Cristine Russell wrote about the Climate Change Media Partnership venture, which is enabling journalists like Brazil's Gustavo Figueiredo Faleiros to cover the Poland climate talks for their home countries.

And Michael Staples of New Brunswick's Daily Gleaner reported local high school student Taryn McKenzie-Mohr was Poland-bound, to meet and discuss climate change with other youth delegates.

And the Associated Press? Well, to judge from their stories before other climate conferences, for the AP the news isn't people like McKenzie-Mohr and Faleiros going to the climate conference, it's emissions from the flights to get them there.
"That kind of thinking is small"..."pernicious"... "Kind of like saying the toilet didn't work well on the lunar lander in 1969 - - but, oh yes, they landed on the moon!"

Why this "small-thinking", "miss-the-forest" mindset? Where did it come from, what needs does it meet, why has it persisted? Does it naturally emerge from the reporting, or is it imposed, and by whom?

And what will looking into such episodes reveal, about AP culture?

Join me as I find out.

In the past year, three AP stories, related to two climate conferences - Bali in December 2007, and Schwarzenegger's Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles last month - have stuck out like a trio of small-thinking sore thumbs. They are Samantha Young's "Schwarzenegger summit: A sizable carbon footprint" from last month, and two stories from last December, Jakarta Bureau Chief Robin McDowell's "Climate Change Meeting Adds to Emissions" and Stockholm Bureau Chief Karl Ritter's "Climate skeptics say debate stifled" (Although the latter isn't a "conference footprint" story, it too has a "miss-the-forest" mindset.)

Young's "footprint" story from last month entailed considerable effort, including a public records request and help from three other Sacramento political reporters. But the resulting story's focus dismayed essentially everyone in it. According to Terry Tamminen, who co-wrote a rebuttal ( The measure of environmental leadership ) with CalEPA secretary Linda Adams, "The Governor's office worked with the AP writer to give her background about the entire Summit and everyone was stunned that her focus turned out to be the carbon footprint". And the three nongovernmental sources in the story - who report they weren't contacted until the day before it appeared - say the reporter was vague about its direction: "she just asked me to comment on the conference", said one; "I don't know what prompted it to take the form that it did", reported another. The strongest criticism came from Carnegie Institution climate scientist Ken Caldeira, whose views on carbon offsets had been used to bolster the story's anti-conference message. "I think this whole line of argument about how much greenhouse gas emissions come from conferences about greenhouse gas emissions reduction is pernicious", he said. "This is reminiscent of the attacks on Gore. The success of the summit is far more important than any CO2 that might be emitted traveling to or from the summit."

You might wonder, why would this story's author force it in a direction that everyone involved considers a pointless distraction from an urgent issue; particularly when, as one California climate journalist informs me, "actually, she's a very good reporter"? And how - and by whom - was the story deemed to merit the efforts of four political reporters?

I tried to find out from the AP, to no avail. The Sacramento reporter who answered my call immediately passed me to the group's overseer, who said neither he nor the others could discuss the story without prior permission from AP San Francisco Bureau Chief John Raess. Mr. Raess himself isn't talking - "As a general rule I don't comment publicly on the internal editorial process behind an individual story... [N]othing about this story...would seem to merit an exception"; and didn't grant me permission to speak with the reporters.

For transparency, the Associated Press is no Wired.

From footprints to fingerprints

The witnesses aren't talking, but we can still infer the Sacramento story's heritage. It appears to be modeled on AP Jakarta Bureau Chief Robin McDowell's Bali conference "footprint" story "Climate Change Meeting Adds to Emissions" (Dec. 5 2007). This story is itself a rewrite of a London Sunday Times story, "UN climate circus rolls in on CO2 cloud" (Nov. 25 2007), whose own predecessor appears to be a Sunday Times story scolding Prince Charles for his carbon footprint ("Green prince leaves a giant CO2"; June 24, 2007). These three stories all feature carbon analyses by Chris Goodall, author of "How to Live a Low-Carbon Life: The Individuals Guide to Stopping Climate Change".

A close look at the Sunday Times "Bali conference footprint" story, and then at the AP rewrite, yields interesting - perhaps meaningful, perhaps not - patterns of variation. The Sunday Times story appears inconsistent in its message: emissions from the conference, termed "a major contributor to global warming" at the outset, by the end faded to (if you do the math yourself; the article just gives the raw number) roughly 1/66,000th of the annual estimated emissions of Britain.
("The emissions from Bali, although huge for such an event, remain small on a global scale. Britain, for example, emits the equivalent of 660m tonnes of CO2 a year.")
The subsequent AP rewrite has a more consistent "anti-conference" message, which it achieves by diminishing content that would call this message into question: the comparison with Britain's annual emissions for context is gone, and the story's final, key quote is much weaker. Where the Sunday Times story had closed with a strong justification for the conference:
"Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Programme, said such conferences could never be small. "If you want to tackle an unprecedented global challenge like climate change then people have to meet and talk. Bali remains the world's best hope to minimise the effect of global warming." "

...the McDowell AP article closes with a weak one:
"It may sound like a lot of people, [b]ut you have to look at the issues, the number of countries involved, the number of people affected. Global warming is literally everyone's business."

And since the AP story employs the standard AP "view from nowhere" voice in place of the British opinionated one, the judgment gets outsourced to "critics":
"But critics say [the conference-goers] are contributing to the very problem they aim to solve".

These critics turn out to be one Chris Goodall, the gentleman commissioned to perform the original story's carbon analysis.

You might wonder why Ms. McDowell chose to adopt the Sunday Times's "small thinking" meme, and reshape the story to increase its outrage factor.

The third AP "small thinking" climate story is Stockholm Bureau Chief Karl Ritter's "Climate skeptics say debate stifled". Appearing the week after McDowell's "Bali footprint" piece, it gave voice to the dismay of Danish political scientist/statistician Bjorn Lomborg and other climate contrarians, at being shut out and disparaged by the climate science and climate action communities. The story made no serious attempt to determine whether past and present circumstances justify such treatment.

You might wonder why Mr. Ritter didn't address this more important issue.

And you might wonder if it's significant, that both of these stories were authored by AP Bureau Chiefs.
(According to this Daily Kos comment, the Bureau Chiefs decide which stories go out "on the wire"; so it seems more likely that a story written by a Bureau Chief would go out exactly as written, without editing or filtering - which could be a boon to public relations firms.)

I'd like to give you a clearer picture; I'd like to be able to put these questions to those who could answer them, and share with you their answers. But the AP's Director of Media Relations hasn't been willing to answer questions himself or to pass me on to others who would.

Journalist Lex Alexander of the pioneering Greensboro News and Record weighed in on this mindset back in 2005:
"The fact is, we live in a glass house today, folks, and sometimes we become part of the story whether we want to be or not.

And we've got three ways we can respond. We can get all defensive and arrogant. We can take the kind of absolutely silent approach that comes across as defensive and arrogant. Or we can acknowledge in fact what we always say whenever we're pushing for more liberal open-records laws: We're a public trust. We work for the people. And if we're smart, we're going to work _with_ the people as well, and talk to the people about how we can best do that."

He's right.

Open-Source Journalism: It's a Lot Tougher Than You Think

I never did get around to linking to my Assignment Zero article from last year, that appeared on Wired - here it is.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Two excellent climate posts from Tobis and Romm

From last spring, Joe Romm's PLEASE stop calling them “skeptics”

"I suspect future generations will call them “climate destroyers” or worse — since if we actually (continue to) listen to them, that pretty much ensures carbon dioxide concentrations will hit catastrophic levels, 700 to 1000, this century, as explained in Part II. But what should we call these people in the meantime, while we still have time to ignore them and save the climate?"

And from last summer, Michael Tobis's Science, Impartial Honesty, Advocacy, Stridency, Idiocy, Dissembling, Lying Through Your Teeth

"If you attack an opinion that is merely misguided as if it were malicious, you come off as arrogant, while if you try to cope with an opinion that is malicious as if it were misguided, you can fall prey to all sorts of polemical gamesmanship."
...with an interesting comment speculating about the delayers' strategies.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Resources for the perplexed, on global warming

(this is primarily for Nevada County residents)
Updates are in italics.

So, you listened to Robert C. Balling Jr. (a speaker recommended by what Real Climate calls "the notorious "Heartland Institute" that we have commented on previously") on KVMR Tuesday night, he sounded reasonable, and you're confused.

Who can you trust? Is he right, that the only trustworthy way to know the state of the science on climate change is to read the IPCC report?

um, no.
Sure, you can, but that's not how we acquire our (public) understanding of science in other areas, and it doesn't have to be how you do it here either. You're certainly welcome to delve into the science, the back-and-forth on evidence for this assertion and that (and I can suggest some sites to help you in doing so, e.g. Skeptical Science), but the highest return-on-investment, if you've got 5 minutes for learning about this topic, is (in my opinion) to pick the right "network of trust".

Free-market (anti-regulation) ideologues backed by coal interests, such as the Heartland Institute (for which Dr. Balling is a speaker) aren't going to give you an unbiased view of climate science. They're the national equivalent of CABPRO.

So who can you trust?
The issue is, what does the science tell us? And the best, cleanest, most untainted fastest way for you to find this out, is to go to the websites of prestigious science institutions, and see what *they* tell us. Fortunately, most of them do now have sections on their website devoted to climate change.

The Royal Society of London has been publishing for 150 years; their section on climate change is here.

Nature is the top ranking science journal; their section on climate change is here.

Scientific American has been publishing science for nonscientists, for decades; here's one article about climate from them (no general intro on their site, that I could see)

Science News has also been publishing science for nonscientists, for decades; their section on climate change is here (alas, it's not a general intro, it looks to be just a list of their latest climate-related articles).

UCSD Provost and historian of science Naomi Oreskes did a classic study of the climate science literature, finding a consensus - see this post about it from the climatologists' blog RealClimate.
(if you want climate science from the horses' mouths, RealClimate is the place to go - these guys are the real thing.)

And if you want to grasp the science for yourself, try her
The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: How Do We Know We're Not Wrong? (PDF)

And - in case you're wondering why the public has been confused about the state of climate change science for the last 20 years - there has been a concerted effort, by the fossil fuel interests, to cloud this issue and manufacture doubt in your own mind, since doubt is paralyzing and delaying action is their goal. See Ross Gelbspan's Snowed and Mooney's Some Like It Hot; Sharon Begley in Newsweek has also covered this (The Truth About Denial), also other magazines.
(A book that'll open your eyes, btw, is Doubt is their Product, by David Michaels, documenting the "product defense industry" - where there's money to be made in delaying new regulations, there's a company-for-hire working to achieve that goal)

And keep your eyes open - if all goes well, NCTV will soon be airing a talk by Dr. Oreskes about the disinformation effort.

Climatologist Jim Hansen - who saw this coming 20 years ago, and has perhaps the best track record of anyone - has said that the most important lifestyle change you can make to fight global warming is to become politically active (on this issue) and hold the politicians accountable.

So - please consider that, whenever you put out your recycling.

and, in general, on all sorts of issues you can do surprisingly well at grasping the reality, *without* looking at the underlying data; you can make intelligent judgments based on higher-level factors. One of the best things I've ever read online is Daniel Davies' One Minute MBA - Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101 ("business often feel like the most collossal waste of time and money, but they occasionally teach you the odd thing which is very useful indeed...")

you might also google
wonderingmind42 video
and see what Greg Craven has to say, about what we should choose to do. He's entertaining, he's humble, and he's clear.
(he's a high school science teacher)

And if you want to keep aware of climate news etc, there's, my blog aggregator for reputable commentary about climate change.

Another resource - - is a nexus for intelligent science commentary by scientists. is good site for more information, including lists of professional scientific organizations (i.e., not "think tanks", which are really PR shops) that have issued "consensus" statements about climate change, and the statements they've issued.

Hope this helps. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment, or else stop by and talk sometime - I'm in Java John's on Broad St, many mornings, and would love to discuss this.

Does it matter? Yes, it does -
"Climate scientists who grapple with this every day ... we see where it's headed. We understand it very well.

"I think the public needs to know, straight in their face, that you can give up on civilization as we know it. This is what I'm trying to get across in the book. Do we actually give a s--- for future generations?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Q for climate bloggers - why *not* give Heartland spokesmen airtime?

Our local community radio station featured Robert C. Balling Jr. as a guest Tuesday night, for a call-in. I had a very interesting talk with their news director about it yesterday, that I'm still chewing on.

But I'm wondering, ye with collective wisdom -

How would you explain, pithily, to someone who values free expression of divergent views, wants his listeners to be exposed to a variety of views and to chew on the ideas and evidence for themselves, and knows that the climate science, on what the future effects will be, is *not* monolithic -

... that bringing a Heartland speaker on to discuss global warming science - a climate scientist who's published in peer reviewed journals, who says he's not a denialist, he just has different views on how strong an effect increasing CO2 will have - doesn't serve the station's listeners?

For the purpose of this exercise, assume your word carries as much weight as Joe Blow's down the street.

Note: Please comment *only* if you share the mainstream view that climate change is happening, the evidence strongly indicates humans are causing it, and it's urgent that we address it now - comments from the fringe *will* be deleted.

also - where can I find the "ontogeny of climate inactivism" scale? It's basically this, right?:
1. It's not happening
2. It's might be happening, but it's not us
3. It's happening, it's us, but it won't be too bad
4. It's happening, it's us, it'll be bad, but it'll be cheaper to leave it for our children to fix
5. Nothing we can do about it, since here comes China

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Robert C. Balling Jr, the day after

Dec 10 update: partial response from Dr. Balling (he says he wasn't paid to do the KVMR call-in) below.
You know how you always realize afterwards, what you should have said?

Fortunately in this day&age we have email; so I've sent this to Dr. Balling:
Subject: A couple of leftover Qs from KVMR Q&A last night

Hello again Dr. Balling, and my apologies for not having been more prepared, last night. Not only did I waste your time and KVMR's, I probably sounded like an idiot... sorry.

Could you give me a rough estimate, please, of your yearly income from sources other than your university salary? - i.e. from Heartland, the Greening Earth Society, other such organizations, speaking engagements, etc?

And who pays you to do public outreach such as last night's KVMR call-in?

Thanks much -
Anna Haynes PhD


Dec.10 update - I hadn't received a response, so yesterday I sent this:
Hello again Dr. Balling, I'm not sure my first email reached you.

Could you tell me please, who pays you, and how much, to do a radio call-in appearance like the one you did for KVMR last month?

Thanks very much -
Anna Haynes
He responded
That's easy -- $0.00. I have done many radio appearances over the years, and my total is still $0.00. I have done TV appearances, and the total is $0.00.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

KVMR News with Robert Balling Jr tonight

For anyone who listened, my apologies - I'd only been told that there'd be "a call-in on climate change"; I didn't know - until 5 seconds before he started speaking - that it'd be with Robert Balling.

I should have asked; I would have been better prepared.
Update: M3U of the discussion, from KVMR news page; i don't think it's a permalink, so grab it soon.

A bit of googling shows that Robert Balling was involved with ICE - the "Information Council on the Environment":
The Information Council on the Environment (ICE), was a U.S. organization created by the National Coal Association, the Western Fuels Association, and Edison Electrical Institute. ICE launched a $500,000 advertising and public relations campaign to, in ICE's words, "reposition global warming as theory (not fact)." Patrick Michaels, Robert Balling and Sherwood B. Idso all lent their names in 1991 to its scientific advisory panel.

Its publicity plan called for placing these three scientists, along with fellow greenhouse skeptic S. Fred Singer, in broadcast appearances, op-ed pages, and newspaper interviews. ...

ICE is featured in the Naomi Oreskes talk on the Western Fuels Association, in which she concludes:
"...[Polls show that] while most Americans now do accept global warming as a fact, they don't accept its origins in scientific consensus; they think that scientists are still arguing about it, and this may have played some role in the reluctance of our leaders to actually do something about it.
And it suggests that the resistance campaigns were effective in creating a lasting impression of scientific disagreement, discord, and dissent."

'nuff said.

News values of the Associated Press

"We abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions

We always strive to identify all the sources of our information...

We avoid behavior or activities that create a conflict of interest and compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action.

[I]t is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that these standards are upheld.

Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously.

Transparency is critical to our credibility..."

- from the AP News Values page

Related - "1919: Upton Sinclair includes a scathing criticism of the AP in his investigative book on contemporary journalism, The Brass Check."

Monday, November 17, 2008


Suppose you know someone who engages in boorish behavior; what kind of feedback can you give such a person, that'd be most likely to help them to recognize it, to see how others perceive it, and to stop it?
Particularly if they're wired to interpret criticism as insult.

Constructive answers only, with sample dialogue, please.
(if you make any other comments, save a copy, because it may get deleted.)

Bonus Q: how, as a society, can we most constructively integrate people who are "high dudgeon" addicts?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Knock knock: In Nevada County, it ain't the Avon Lady

... more like the ovine lady, or a portion thereof.

(this isn't news anymore, being 2 weeks old, but - particularly for city-folk who don't have a feel for our local culture - I did want to document it. Beware: photo below.)

News sources report that on the night of Oct 30, a severed sheep's head showed up on the doorstep of CA District 4 Democratic candidate Charlie Brown's campaign headquarters in Grass Valley.

Police were, of course, investigating.

severed sheep's head photo

Photo from Calitics (where it's a goat), story from The Union (where it's a sheep).

(And in other news, we have a new President-Elect. Good news: this one comes with a brain that isn't still shrink-wrapped - and is still attached.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jeff Pelline responds to Messenger story

Updated Nov 17; Nuke Brunswick responds in comments

Jeff Pelline's response, which I'd requested earlier today regarding the Mountain Messenger story:
I’m flattered this paper choose to write about me, but the fact that this paper wouldn’t contact me for a story about me says everything I need to know about The Mountain Messenger and this report’s credibility.
[Reporter's response here in comments - Ed.]
If I were going to write a story about the Editor of The Mountain Messenger, I would contact him or her directly. I received no messages from the paper: the first I heard of it was from blogger Anna Haynes. Also, who is reporter “Nuke Brunswick?” The name doesn’t appear on the list of staff members. When our reporter writes a story, we put our real names and contact information at the end of the story.

I also can state that the story is full of inaccuracies. If someone had called, I would have pointed out:

Here’s the story about the Fire Safe Council that ran on The Union’s Web site about an hour after our meeting with them.

The article ran in the paper the next day as well — on the front page. So we didn’t “refuse to publish anything.” We published two stories: one on the Web and one in print.

The reason we had to abruptly end the Fire Safe Council meeting was to post the story on our Web site to match the press release that had been handed to our news competitors prior to our meeting. We were the first to inquire about this story, based on a tip we got, but the last to get the information. We compete in real time with a radio station, not on daily print newspaper cycle. Since this incident, we have run other stories about the Fire Safe Council’s efforts.

I also worry about being treated fairly by some local groups whose board members also happen to be owners of the competing radio station or other news outlets — something we encounter from time to time. For example, the Fire Safe Council also has board members who are owners of our competitors. I was assured this relationship — and potential conflict of interest — has no bearing on the timing of how news gets disseminated.

•As for the event at Miners Foundry, it was pitched as a communitywide, all inclusive media event. The Union, however, wasn’t invited. When we learned this, we met with the Miners Foundry and said we’d like to join as sponsors. They were happy to have us. We volunteered to help set up audio and video equipment, and donate $200 for food. We decided to back out of the event a day later after reading on the Democratic Party Web site that people of “like minds” were being invited to this so-called nonpartisan event. As it turned out, the GOP was holding an election party at Tailgaters. We wouldn’t sponsor that event either, for the same reasons. The “code of ethics” in our newsroom states we cannot sponsor partisan political events. I thought most news organizations, including the ones here, had such a policy.

As for the coverage of the Miners Foundry event (as distinct to sponsorship), we published a story in the paper promoting the party, and we published a large photo of the Miners Foundry party on the front page of the paper the day after the election showing the party-goers. I venture to say we gave it more publicity than anybody. We also received a thank you note from the Miners Foundry for covering the event. They also apologized for the misunderstanding. We also discussed some future coverage of Miners Foundry events. You’ll be reading plenty of news about the Miners Foundry, the Fire Safe Council and other groups in the future.

I hope this helps clarify matters. I suppose we’re obliged to show the article to a lawyer for a second opinion, but for now, we’ll just drop the matter. I’m surprised The Mountain Messenger would run an article like this.

Walled gardens with a vengeance? Jeff Pelline covered in Mountain Messenger article

Update: or not; Jeff P. responds (and Yubanet puts the Mountain Messenger story online)
Fear and Loathing in a One Newspaper Community?
NevadaCo Wrestles with Media Monopoly

Seems like it was only yesterday that I was praising The Union editor Jeff Pelline for breaching the paper's walled garden, by enabling RSS feeds for their on-site weblogs. But another day, another revision of the story (or not; see Jeff P.'s response): the Mountain Messenger reports that elsewhere in the garden, the walls have grown massive, heavily fortified, and topped with broken glass.
"Intimidation and retaliation tactics have long been seen as one of the paper's, and Pelline's, main ways of dealing with dissent in the community. ... waging a vendetta against radio station KNCO ... '[Pelline] wanted an exclusive story and when we told him that we had given it to KNCO as well, he said "The meeting is over" and he left the room'..."
"...not a further drop of ink about the Foundry would appear in print if the paper was not allowed to participate..."

I emailed Jeff Pelline asking for his response, since it doesn't appear that he was contacted for the story. (his response is here)

I'm trying to get the Mountain Messenger to start a blog, so they can put their Nevada County stories online.
(Some other Messenger articles (ballot, tourists, business) have appeared on Yubanet, but not this one, as of this writing.)

the inflammatory Haute Trash and Stuckey editor-vs.-public email exchanges from pre-Pelline years;
March 2007 'arrogance and censorship' NCFocus post;
my suggestion from back near the start of the Messenger-vs-Union conflict: "It seems to me the Mountain Messenger ought to...(un)cover Nevada County. Then The Union could retaliate... and it could escalate from there, and the 2 counties would benefit enormously...newspaper sales would skyrocket."

Introducing the Comment Purgatory

(Update & bug report: as displayed on NCVoices, the Purgatory's comment permalinks don't go where they should, and I don't have time to fix it now. Workaround: go to the sidebar of the Purgatory's home page (or here), and click on the comment from there.)

I don't know if there's a demand for this, and I do know I shouldn't have taken the time to create it, but - the Nevada County Comment Purgatory is now open for business. It sits over in the far right column of Nevada County Voices, and is a place for you to put your civil comments that got rejected locally.

It's an experiment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Union's blogs - soon on NCVoices

Next-day update: this isn't the whole story

It turns out The Union's blogs now have RSS feeds, which is excellent news (if not exactly new; when did they get them?). Kudos to Jeff Pelline for opening up the walled garden.
(and auxiliary kudos for recently taking Russ Steele to task for using his official position on the ERC as a soapbox for flat-earth preaching)

I'll be adding these blogs to Nevada County Voices soon.
(originally mistyped "Nevada County Vices", which frames our home turf in a different way...)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In which we get cranky about leaf blowers

Please, if you pay a yard care service to keep your homestead up to snuff, be aware that your yard and driveway might not need an entire hour of leafblowing every morning - 5 minutes would be more like it - and for the additional 55 minutes squandered in toying with the leaves, sending them hither and yon, your kind, sweet neighbors' teeth are being set on edge (which, if you're a dentist, might be lucrative - please disregard this)

So... waste of money, waste of gas, needless exhaust emissions, increasingly fragile neighborhood sanity...

you can google leafblower emissions for more information.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Censored blog comments here, please

Update II: created a blog for this instead; it's the Nevada County Comment Purgatory, and is located in the far right column of Nevada County Voices. (Yes, this was probably a great waste of time.)

Update: mea culpa, false alarm, looks like I got fooled by paginated comments (and broken permalinks) and perhaps also page cacheing . I'll leave this post up though; it may come in handy in future as a "deleted comments" repository, since local bloggers do sometimes do this.
Comments might be getting deleted over at Russ Steele's blog, particularly on his recent Transportation Commission Talking Points post (wherein The Union editor Jeff Pelline takes Mr. Steele to task for irking the Economic Resource Council with his global warming denialism, and I offer (still in vain) to pay Russ if he'll meet me for coffee and intellectually honest discussion on global warming, and Steven Frisch rolls his eyes at the flat-earthers...)

If you've submitted a comment over there - or on any other local blog - that didn't survive moderation despite civil wording (and you're someone who's willing to talk to me in person - i.e., reasonable people only, please), I hope you will resubmit it as a comment below. Enquiring minds want to know...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting on propositions

Yes, I know, you already voted. But if not - Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, who studies these things, has his choices here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The journal Nature endorses Obama - from values of scientific enquiry

For you nonscience folks - Nature is the most important journal in science.

The values of scientific enquiry, rather than any particular policy positions on science, suggest a preference for one US presidential candidate over the other.
[S]cience is bound by, and committed to, a set of normative values — ... [such as] placing a disinterested view of the world as it is ahead of our views of how it should be; recognizing that ideas should be tested in as systematic a way as possible; appreciating that there are experts whose views and criticisms need to be taken seriously: these are all attributes of good science that can be usefully applied when making decisions about the world...
On a range of topics, science included, Obama has surrounded himself with a wider and more able cadre of advisers than McCain...tends to seek a range of opinions and analyses ... also exhibits pragmatism...
[McCain] fails to educate himself on crucial matters ... frequently makes decisions that seem capricious or erratic. ...
[A] commitment to seeking good advice and taking seriously the findings of disinterested enquiry seems an attractive attribute for a chief executive. ...
[If this journal had a vote] ... it would cast its vote for Barack Obama.
Here's the link (pdf)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

N.C. citizen journalism project needs your discerning eye

Greetings dear reader, and apologies - I've been away from this blog (and from most other blogs, and from any Nevada County focus whatsoever) - been working on a nonlocal story.

But while researching it I've run across some intriguing Nevada County material in the UCSF Tobacco Documents Archive.
(which is addictive, a wealth of diversions, an impediment to sleep and to unidirectional progress on anything, it's Google as an n-dimensional electron microscope...)

You might think that those in the tobacco industry wouldn't trouble themselves about events in our little county, but they did. And we can see this, because they kept records, which - thanks to the anti-tobacco attorneys - are available, to you, online.

And in those records, you'll see some local names, and, potentially, see what they were doing.

But I can't decipher all the handwriting, and I need to return to my main project - so I'm hoping to enlist your help:

Can you decipher the handwriting in this May 8 1991 memo from "RCM"?
(confidential to RCM: please work on your penmanship, which has been - accurately - labeled 'illegible'.)

Here's what I think I could make out; please submit any additions & corrections in the comments to this post.
"Call to Todd Juvinall, Supervisor
Left ? message, wish to discuss Nev ? ord, ques & suggestions,
as a followup to his ? of 04/04/91. Req'd that he
call us back when in (prob Thursday), and discuss same.
Gave our toll free 800# for return call.

? present ?
2) disc'd NC issue w/ both ? & ?...
They agreed w/pay initial ?
use N/C as a "reasonable" model, a la Colfax

3? D/R to contact Greg Cook @ F/Tucks's disc Nev City ? N/C
? with him.
Then will disc further options, ie - send D/R(?) up to N/C for on-site activities.
Extra credit, if you can guess who D/R might be.

(Note for newcomers to the tobacco PR world - this background article will help you get a feel for the lay of the land;
or if you prefer aquatic metaphors, read Paul Graham's
The Submarine to discover how much of your information intake comes from PR; including, for decades, concerted efforts to deny the reality and cloud the urgency of global climate disruption.

"People have simply no idea how serious this issue is. ...[If we don't fix it,] you can give up on civilization as we know it."


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mishaps mark John McCain's record as naval aviator

Does everyone already know about this? It was news to me.

LA Times article; Rolling Stone ("disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty").

via Barry Sussman at Nieman Watchdog

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another thought on why we bury the lede

We bury the lede (aka take our time in getting to the point, aka circumlocute) because that's what we've been socialized to do in conversation, where if we don't, we get tagged with less-than-favorable labels.

The NCFocus staff seems to be averaging one thought a year on this topic; here's last year's.

Monday, September 01, 2008

We lost Russell Towle

Dutch Flat environmentalist, author Towle dies in auto accident - back in early August.

I hadn't known about his blog, North Fork Trails.

What a tragedy.

And it's the 2nd case I know of in 6 months where an elderly driver has inadvertently caused bodily harm to a member of his family. Watch out, folks.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Small town journalism, etc

This is interesting - Sharon Dunwoody explains and compares small vs. large community newspaper coverage of the same story.

I think in the past I have been rather naive.

( Note to fellow techno-luddites: the cognoscenti would put a mini-post like this into a TumbleLog on their sidebar, or just tag it with )

But since this is growing into more than a mini-post, something else I've been meaning to put up:

Someone recently asked my thoughts on "the strange bedfellows that are being created to promote blogging vs. MSM"; I answered:

In brief, to the extent it's a "vs.": it's exactly akin to the strange bedfellows (students and imams) that joined together to overthrow the Shah of Iran.

It didn't turn out so well for the students.

The trick is to avoid the "vs.", to create a chimaera that takes advantage of the strengths of both. This would require trust - and more importantly, behavior to earn that trust - from both.

(I believe we were both using "bloggers" as shorthand for "people who aren't journalists by training, who have blogs and may do some citizen journalism [and who criticize newspaper coverage...]")

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Best of John Mashey, on climate and other science

Update - I've put these into a section at the bottom of Mashey's wikipedia page; so add more links there, not here.

Other relevant links -

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Update on Russ Steele, who says no funding from WFA

Update, a day later: I've asked Russ to come over and submit a comment setting the record straight, if any of this is incorrect.

Update, 4 days later: And I've now also asked Russ to come over and submit a comment saying that this is correct, since I haven't heard from him in response.

Upon reading this IJI post on The Way of the Astroturf, after watching the new Naomi Oreskes talk on the Western Fuels Association, and after being rebuffed by local denier Russ Steele when I sought to talk to him in person about why our views on climate differ, I called him just now at his home and asked,

"Have you ever received direct or indirect compensation, directly or indirectly, from the Western Fuels Association?"

Russ responded "I haven't received any funding or anything from anybody" - not for his blog, not for his public speaking on climate, or any other such action. And he reported that to his knowledge, the Sierra Environmental Studies Foundation (ncfocus coverage) is only funded by its three board members, except for some donations "which go exclusively to college scholarships for local high school students", and that to his knowledge, the board members don't receive any outside funding that's subsequently funneled through them to SESF.

(Russ, if I got any of this wrong, please set it straight in the comments below. And to be 100% clear, "indirect compensation" includes compensation of any sort - including past and expected future - to family members.)

of course, now I'm thinking of additional questions that I should have asked, but didn't think to. Anyone else have suggestions, put them in the comments...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Amy Goodman in Java Johns this morning; am still kicking myself

So Reinette Senum and I were both in Java John's getting our respective caffeine fixes an hour or so ago, and Reinette says "there's Amy Goodman" - and lo, there's Amy Goodman, who spoke in Grass Valley last night. And who comes in, and who Reinette approaches, telling her "You've been an inspiration to me... I'm now running for City Council."

And your silver tongued correspondent chimes in with the oh so informative "yeah, she's going to win"; but do I think to mention, say, Reinette's having put on the community Peak Oil forum? the community Climate Change forum? her role in Step It Up 2007, or in last year's Climate Cafes? her & Kelly's column in The Union? The upcoming weekly Nevada City Saturday morning farmers' market? PowerUp-NC? last December's lightbulb exchange?

and that's probably just scratching the surface.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


(which has nothing to do with blogging)
How do you go about apologizing to someone for something that they probably didn't even notice, and that - if they didn't - you'd really rather they continued not to notice?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Just a note - smelly drinking water is back

Update, another week later - water is fine again.

Our water started going bad last weekend, I called and left a msg (which might not have been received...) - but last night it was still noticeably off.
For newcomers, a post from 2005 provides background on this problem. Overall, the water has gotten much, much better since that time. Just not for the past week.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Naomi Oreskes talk on history of climate science and of climate contrarianism

Updated May 24 - see below.
Video of UCSD historian of science (and soon to be Provost) Naomi Oreskes talking on The American Denial of Global Warming.

First half is on history of the science of global warming (predictions and results), the 2nd half is on the history of climate change contrarianism and the role of the Marshall Institute.

Tuesday Update, excerpt from caerbannog's comment on another blog:

After the lecture, I asked Dr. Oreskes if Scripps scientists were ever invited to appear on the local conservative talk-radio shows (i.e. Rick Roberts and Rodger Hedgecock). She laughed and replied with an emphatic “no”.
I wanted to find out if our local right-wing radio hosts (who have repeatedly scoffed at global-warming) had any interest in hearing what some real experts had to say. Well, Dr. Oreskes made it quite clear that the local conservatives aren’t interested in hearing anything the Scripps folks might have to say regarding the matter.

The fact that even an organization as prestigious as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography cannot get a fair hearing on its own home-town conservative talk-radio shows tells you all you need to know what conservatives think of scientific expertise these days…


May 24 update: I'd emailed Scripps asking if they could confirm this; their response was more nuanced:

"...we have been approached to debate the media about climate change science, and, in at least once instance I can recall recently, we declined. Being asked to debate is not effective -- it just feeds in to the "uncertainty" framework, which scientists do not support."

On 'debates', see Eriga, quoted here ("I can't win a debate, not only about climate change, but about any reasonably complex scientific issue, with someone who knows what they're doing. ... it's essentially a debate about trust in scientific authority, not about the science itself.")