Controversy Continues Over George Will’s Column on Climate Change

There continues to be controversy over George Will’s recent column on climate change. As  many bloggers I linked to point out, Will’s scientific claims were not accurate. The Washington Post’s ombudsman has responded to the controversy today.

While I commented briefly and linked to those presenting the evidence that Wills was wrong, I did not get upset over this as many others did. This was an opinion column. It would be nice to live by Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s dictum that “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” Realistically those who present different opinions will often include facts which we do not believe hold up. This is going to be true in a conservative newspaper such as The Washington Post and certainly will be true from their conservative columnists. It was far more alarming when newspapers such as The Washington Post dropped the ball in their actual reporting in the run up to the Iraq war.

To be shocked that there are inaccuracies in a column by George Will on global warming strikes me as somewhat like Captain Renault saying he is shocked to see gambling going on in Casablanca. Still, while I fully expect this from conservative columnists, once the ombudsman is involved I would expect a stronger statement regarding the inaccuracies in the column (even if giving some acceptance of this in an opinion piece). In this day and age of instant response, inaccurate information of this type should have led to the posting of factual information to counter it.

Climate Progress provides more information on the pertinent facts. Andrew Sullivan points out a major error made by George Will and writes, “You can’t use scientific evidence whose source believes it points to global warming to argue that it points against it – without some clarification, at least.” He also points out why toleration of this will not work:

The blogosphere responded at light speed. And the WaPo then had to pretend that it somehow exists in another more acceptable zone of media – and undertook its investigation and correction process independently of the vulgar – but factually accurate – blogs.

Memo to WaPo: your days of thinking like this are over. If you don’t want to go the way of the Rocky Mountain News, wake up and smell the competition.

Hope For The Newspaper Industry?

Everyone realizes that the newspaper industry is in trouble. Many people are receiving news on line for free as opposed to purchasing newspapers. This is not a sustainable situation as, while there is some legitimate reporting from on line sources, the vast majority of news on line does come from the ailing newspapers.

Many newspapers are in financial trouble. Some such Newsday and the Hearst newspapers are now talking about charging for at least some of their content. Attempts to charge for on line access have not worked very well.  I do pay for an online subscription to The Wall Street Journal, seeing this as a bargain as it costs far less than I previously paid for a physical subscription. The Wall Street Journal is a national newspaper which does provide far more value than most papers (despite their extremist editorial page), placing them in a far better position than most to make money by charging for subscriptions. I also paid for access to the opinion sections of The New York Times but far too few others did for this experiment to succeed.

So far few on line publications have been able to make a profit by charging for access and most hope to make some money off of advertising revenue. This will hardly be enough to solve the problems faced by the newspapers, but The New York Times does report on a joint effort between newspapers and Yahoo to sell on line advertising:

Terry Widener has been selling newspaper ads for 35 years. But until last fall, Ms. Widener, a 53-year-old saleswoman at The Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., had never sold an Internet ad.

Then in a two-week sales “blitz” intended to test an innovative partnership between newspapers and Yahoo, she persuaded advertisers to buy $200,000 in online ads that ran on the paper’s Web site and on Yahoo. That represented about a seventh of the amount she typically sells in an entire year.

“I’m pretty much from the old school,” Ms. Widener said. “It was such a learning experience. Hopefully I am going to sell more and more online.”

Many newspaper owners and publishers have similar hopes. They say that the partnership with Yahoo is one of the only bright spots in an otherwise horrible advertising market.

Through the partnership, ad salespeople at newspapers pitch local businesses on advertising packages that let them reach visitors to the newspapers’ Web sites and Yahoo users in the area. The newspapers also use Yahoo technology that lets them charge more for ads on their sites.

A similar sales blitz at The Ventura County Star, a small daily north of Los Angeles, netted nearly $1 million in sales in the run-up to Christmas, or roughly 40 percent of what the paper sold in online ads in 2008. The Naples Daily News in Florida did even better: The late-January blitz generated $2 million in sales, or more than half what the paper sold online in 2008. Some larger newspapers have had similar successes.

Google is also looking at ways to make more money off on on line news, but their efforts are seen more as competing with publishers for advertising dollars as opposed to Yahoo’s joint efforts.

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The Upcoming Republican Nomination and Defense Against The Dark Arts


As much as I would like to see a meaningful two party system with an opposition party keeping the governing power in check and proposing alternative policies, it looks like the Democrats might be the only serious choice for several years. They were justifiably repudiated in 2006 and 2008 and now look far more like a gang of Rush Limbaugh ditto heads than a serious political party. Their prospects for seriously contributing to public policy discussion is not helped when their leading candidate at the moment is Sarah Palin.

Polls this far before an election tend to have little predictive value and are largely measures of name recognition. Joe Lieberman led many polls well in advance of the 2004 election after being in an analogous position on the previous ticket but his campaign quickly fizzled out. Palin currently has far more support among Republicans than Lieberman ever had among Democrats, making her a strong candidate even if current polls cannot entirely be relied upon. She is trailed by others who received publicity in 2008 and a top alternative to the old candidates is Bobby Jindal.

A nomination battle including Palin and Jindal is certainly a possibility. If that is the case the nomination might be seen as a battle over who is best qualified at protection against the dark arts. I’ve previously noted  Sarah Palin’s qualifications against witches and demons. There have been numerous stories this week regarding Bobby Jindal’s involvement in an exorcism.

The Republicans did far better than they deserved in the 2002 and 2004 elections by capitalizing on fear of terrorism. Will their chances for a comeback in 2012 hinge upon whether they can capitalize on their abilities against the dark arts? We report, you decide.

Quote of the Day: More Republican Hopes For Economic Collapse

“The dirty little secret … is that every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so; I am willing to say it.”

Rush Limbaugh

Republicans really must totally dissociate themselves from people like Limbaugh. How do they really think this will be received by the average voter who faces personal disaster if the stock market crash continues to wipe out their retirement savings or if they lose their jobs should Obama fail?

Some conservatives realize this. Far too many Republicans, such as Rick Santorum do not. Limbaugh is also giving the keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). If the Republicans are smart they will laugh him off the stage. Unfortunately they will not and Limbaugh will continue to be their unofficial spokesman.

Bobby Jindal’s Train to Fantasy Land


Bobby Jindal not only is dishonest, but he is also a hypocrite. During his rebuttal to Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday Jindal attacked spending which he described as “a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland.” pointed out that this widely repeated claim by Republicans, along with many of their other claims, is simply untrue:

A widely repeated claim that $8 billion is set aside for a “levitating train” to Disneyland is untrue. That total is for unspecified high-speed rail projects, and some of it may or may not end up going to a proposed 300-mph “maglev” train connecting Anaheim, Calif., with Las Vegas.

There was already some irony in seeing how Jindal used a fictitious example of Disneyland to mock the stimulus bill and then immediately took off for a vacation at Walt Disney World. While I might overlook this, being a tremendous fan of Walt Disney World and having gone there often, I’m afraid this just doesn’t make a good commercial:

Bobby Jindal, you have just dramatically reduced your chances for national office following an embarrassing speech. What are you gong to do?

I’m going to Disney World.

I hope Jindal enjoyed his visit to Fantasy Land. I wonder if he took the (slow) train around the Magic Kingdom, or perhaps tried to learn about (non-levitating) high-speed rail at Big Thunder Mountain.

It gets much worse. Perhaps Jindal thought that the Disney monorail was an effective form of mass transportation. His administration is now going after the money which he made a point of attacking:

Louisiana’s transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president’s economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.

The high-speed rail line, a topic of discussion for years, would require $110 million to upgrade existing freight lines and terminals to handle a passenger train operation, said Mark Lambert, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development…

Jindal oversees the state transportation department and appointed its secretary…

I’m afraid that Jindal’s response to this comes off as sounding more like an evasion we’d get from Goofy:

Asked for comment Friday about the Jindal stance on the federal rail money, the governor’s Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell said he does not think the Las Vegas to Anaheim line is a good use of taxpayer money. He did not address the Louisiana proposal.

Kenneth the Page, despite all the comparisons to Jindal, would never be so dishonest.

A Desired Loss For Obama

Obama lost in court, and it was a good thing:

The Obama administration has lost its argument that a potential threat to national security should stop a lawsuit challenging the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday rejected the Justice Department’s request for an emergency stay in a case involving a defunct Islamic charity.

Yet government lawyers signaled they would continue fighting to keep the information secret, setting up a new showdown between the courts and the White House over national security.

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, claimed national security would be compromised if a lawsuit brought by the Oregon chapter of the charity, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, was allowed to proceed.

Now, civil libertarians hope the case will become the first chance for a court to rule on whether the warrantless wiretapping program was legal or not. It cited the so-called state secrets privilege as a defense against the lawsuit.

Conservatives and Pornography

Conservatives might outwardly oppose pornography but they are the biggest consumers. New Scientist reports:

A new nationwide study (pdf) of anonymised credit-card receipts from a major online adult entertainment provider finds little variation in consumption between states.

“When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different,” says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.

However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.

Utah is the biggest consumer of porn. Purchases of porn did correlate with election results:

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

Of course this doesn’t mean that church going conservatives skipped church to buy pornography. They just held off until another day:

Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays – a 1% increase in a postal code’s religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds.

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage.

To get a better handle on other associations between social attitudes and pornography consumption, Edelman melded his data with a previous study on public attitudes toward religion.

States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behaviour.”

Bobby Jindal Is No Kenneth the Page

Since his disasterous rebuttal to Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday, Bobby Jindal has been compared to Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock for the manner in which he spoke down to the audience and sounded rather simple himself. It turns out that this comparison is unfair–to Kenneth. While Kenneth might seem a little simple at times, he is honest. We found that Bobby Jindal is not completely honest. There have been blog posts all week questioning a story he told regarding Katrina. His office now admits that the story was not true as told. They have tried various ways to spin the story in their favor. Kenneth would never behave this badly.

Conservatives Reject Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber (But Do We Still Ask Conservatives About Dinosaurs?)

It is a horrible time to be an intelligent conservative. Not only has their party been thoroughly rejected by the voters but their ideas are now being represented by anti-intellectuals such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Joe the Plumber. Some conservatives see the downside to having their ideas be represented by such individuals.

John Derbyshire writes on How Talk Radio Wrecks the Right:

With reasons for gratitude duly noted, are there some downsides to conservative talk radio? Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? All those good things are plainly off the table for the next four years at least, a prospect that conservatives can only view with anguish. Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?

They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”

Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises. Thus a liberal like E.J. Dionne can write, “The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. … Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans.” Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development.

It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominem—Feminazis instead of feminism—and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob. “Revolt against the masses?” asked Jeffrey Hart. “Limbaugh is the masses.”

In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right. But however much this dumbing down has damaged the conservative brand, it appeals to millions of Americans. McDonald’s profits rose 80 percent last year.

Patrick Ruffini is critical of The Joe-the-Plumberization of the GOP:

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

Actually there was no legitimate policy beef with Obama. Joe claimed that Obama’s policies would result in a tax increase for him when actually they would not.  While there is a lot I disagree with in Ruffini’s analysis of the political parties, at least he does realize that Joe the Plumber is a poor spokesmen for his party.

The Republican Party establishment does not help with this problem, even if you consider those leaders of talk radio to be outside of the party. Joe the Plumber was elevated to his position by John McCain, their last presidential candidate. Even worse, McCain elevated Sarah Palin to a major position in the party and she has become more popular in the party than he is. Rejecting talk radio and Joe the Plumber won’t help the conservatives if they have someone like Sarah Palin as their leader.

Ultimately the conservative movement has the leaders it deserves. With both Palin and many of their followers believing in creationism Derbyshire and Ruffini must face the fact that a rejection of science and reason does represent the current state of the conservative movement even if such views are not universal among conservatives.

Holder Promises End To Raids on Medicinal Marijuana

As I’ve noted here and here, hold overs from the Bush administration have continued to enforce federal laws against medicinal marijuana in states where it is legal since Obama took office, despite promises from Obama that he will end this practice. The Huffington Post reports that Attorney General Eric Holder has stated at a news practice that he will end these raids.