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.