URLs du Jour

2021-05-04

[Amazon Link]

  • So What Happened? Via Why Evolution Is True, Daniel A. Kaufman lists Twenty-Five Things Everyone Used to Understand. It's hard to pick, but…

    [8] Not discounting individual cases which may vary widely, as a general matter, no one living in the US and born after the Second World War is less “safe” or experiencing greater hardship or deprivation than those belonging to the generations behind them.

    [9] What we think of as “progress” is and always has been a mixture of steps forward and steps backward. Some things get better and some things get worse. [This in no way contradicts [8].]

    Kaufman considers these propositions to be saying "things that pretty much everyone in the United States understood until five proverbial minutes ago."


  • Our "Believe Nothing You Hear, And Only One Half That You See" Department is working Overtime. Glenn Greenwald notes more media (mis|mal)feasance: Corporate News Outlets Again "Confirm" the Same False Story, While Many Refuse to Correct it.

    On Thursday night, The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources (of course), claimed that the FBI gave a "defensive briefing” to Rudy Giuliani in 2019, before he traveled to Ukraine, that he was being targeted by a Russian disinformation campaign to hurt Joe Biden's candidacy, yet he ignored the FBI's warnings and went anyway. The Post also claimed that the right-wing news outlet OANN was similarly briefed. The claim about Giuliani not only predictably ricocheted all over social media and cable news — where, as usual, it was uncritically treated as Truth — but it was shortly thereafter “independently confirmed” by both NBC Newsde facto CIA spokesman Ken Dilanian along with The New York Times.

    What was the problem with this story? It was totally false. The FBI never briefed Giuliani on any such thing. As a result, The Washington Post had to append this "correction” — meaning a retraction — to the top of its viral story:

    Click through for the retraction's screenshot. What will it take for "Corporate Media" to admit it has a serious credibility problem?


  • Government "Doing Something" Is Overrated. Katherine Mangu-Ward notes a feature of 21st Century America: When Politics Makes It Impossible To Plan.

    To make good choices, people must have a fairly solid sense of what the consequences of those choices will be. But an ever-greater sphere of American life is subject to political risk. A lack of clarity about consequences can lead even people who want to do the right thing down dubious paths.

    For more than a decade, there has been a move away from generating lasting policy through conventional means and toward short-term wins through any mechanism available. This is reflected in everything from the disintegration of the congressional budgeting process to the increase in the use of executive orders to the vestigial involvement of the legislative branch in decisions about treaties and warmaking.

    It doesn't help when the Prez is a doddering old fool who can apparently be talked into any and every money-throwing scheme that's pitched to him.


  • [Amazon Link]
    In Our "Ships Passing In The Night" Department… Steven Koonin and I apparently overlapped in our college years, but I don't remember meeting him. But we definitely took different career paths; among other positions, he was undersecretary for science in the U.S. Department of Energy under President Obama. And (as another unexpected turn) he's written a book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters (Amazon link at your right). And it's excerpted at (of all places) National Review Questioning the Climate-Change Narrative .

    ‘The Science.” We’re all supposed to know what “The Science” says. “The Science,” we’re told, is settled. How many times have you heard it?

    Humans have already broken the earth’s climate. Temperatures are rising, sea level is surging, ice is disappearing, and heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires are an ever-worsening scourge on the world. Greenhouse-gas emissions are causing all of this. And unless they’re eliminated promptly by radical changes to society and its energy systems, “The Science” says earth is doomed.

    Well . . . not quite. Yes, it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond that — to paraphrase the classic movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think ‘The Science’ says what you think it says.”

    It would be very difficult to dismiss Koonin as a right-wing anti-science denier. (That probably won't stop people from trying.)


  • But The Downeaster Engineer Toots His Horn When I Wave At Him. Randal O'Toole celebrates the Fiftieth Anniversary of a Loser. Some doleful stats:

    Transportation analysts know that, under Amtrak, passenger trains have lost market share of U.S. travel despite billions in subsidies. In 1970, the private railroads carried a trivial 0.29 percent of U.S. passenger travel. By cutting so many passenger trains, Amtrak immediately dropped to around 0.16 percent. By 1991, Amtrak ridership had recovered to 1970’s levels, but other modes of passenger travel also increased, so Amtrak’s share was still 0.16 percent. After that, it declined to 0.10 percent in 2005, which is about where it remained in 2019.

    Followers of the coronavirus know that Amtrak has lost more than 70 percent of its riders during the pandemic, and it may never get all of them back. Thanks to even more federal subsidies, it keeps running trains, but they are nearly empty.

    Amtrak is trying to sell itself as a solution to global climate change. How can it be a solution when it carries less than 0.1 percent of passenger travel and 0.0 percent of freight? Amtrak’s nearly empty Diesel‐​powered trains generate tons of greenhouse gases per hour without saving any anywhere else. Even before the pandemic, intercity buses emitted fewer greenhouse gases per passenger mile than Amtrak’s Diesel trains, and they aren’t getting any of Biden’s proposed transportation funds.

    And Biden wants to give it $80 billion additional funding.


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:16 AM EDT