Monthly Archives: July 2012

Want to tell London and the US that we are not Romney?

Americans who are embarrassed about Mitt Romney’s ham-handed, ignorant, and jingoistic babbling about the London Olympics have a chance to tell the UK that it is not the case that we all feel that way. Daily Kos Campaigns has a letter you can sign.

An open letter to the people of the United Kingdom:

We are writing to express our concern over Mitt Romney’s recent comments, and to let you know that he does not represent how most Americans view your great country.

First, we do not believe, as Mitt Romney implied in 2007, that you have become a second-tier nation. Rather, we are impressed at how the United Kingdom has consistently been able to punch above its weight on the world stage.

Additionally, we do not share the opinion which Romney expressed in his 2010 book, No Apologies, that “England [sic] is just a small island,” and that “with few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy.” Please continue sending us your many wonderful products, especially the upcoming third season of Downton Abbey.

We look forward not only to the London Olympics, but also to many years of continuing the special relationship between our two nations. Rest assured we will do our level best to prevent Mitt Romney from becoming our next president.

Cheers!

Click Here to sign.

Potholer Does The Medieval Warm Period

This video looks at the scientific research to answer three basic questions: 1) Was the Medieval Warm Period global? 2) Was it warmer than today? 3) And what does this all mean anyway? I examine the internet feud over the hockey stick and the various myths and misinterpretations about the Medieval Warm Period that seem to be rife on the Internet. My sources for the myths are blogs and videos; my sources for the facts are scientific papers.

Boycott Reddit? (Again)

A while ago I asked Should we just stop using reddit? (For those of you following the Freethought Bullies discussion, I’ll note that one of my frustrations with Freethoughtblogs, which I overall think is a great blog network, is that so many bloggers there uncritically involve themselves in Reddit to the point that they are by default defending the widespread and offensive misogyny there.)

Lots of people showed up on that post to hate me for hating the hate at Reddit. Whatever.

More recently, Jim Hines, the author, has written this post: Why I Cancelled my Reddit Q&A [trigger warning].

What Hines notes in his post is even worse than what I had encountered. It is a very good argument for leaving Reddit off your social networking list of things to do.

Unless, of course, Reddit does the right thing.

Idaho Department of Agriculture Needs Science

It is my understanding that brucellosis, a disease that affects humans, bison, cattle, and elk, is transmitted from Bison to other Bison or to other animals such as cattle via contact with fresh afterbirth. This makes it quite possible for Bison with the disease to infect cattle, but only under very specific conditions, but those conditions do not include an adult Bison bull wandering around on ranch land. Nonetheless, “A bull bison was shot to death on Henry’s Lake Flat today, according to Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department.”

The Island Park News notes “…no bull bison has ever transmitted brucellosis to domestic livestock. Brucellosis is a disease that can cause livestock to abort their claves until they develop tolerance for the brucella organism. The organism is most active in the afterbirth of a bison calf for less than 48 hours after the birth. Bison births occur well before domestic cattle are brought to greater Yellowstone for summer grazing.” Also, the disease, if it does infect cattle, does not kill them. It might cause them to drop a calf once, but thereafter their immune system adapts. So, brucellosis is not insignificant, but the threat it presents and its consequences are a bit more detailed and nuanced than the “shoot the bison on sight” policy (and I exaggerate only slightly) is not good management or good science.

Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll

Skeptically Speaking #175:

This week, it’s part one of a two-week focus on genetics. For our first installment, we’re looking at the ways that evolution might influence our modern lives, from obesity to overpopulation to heavy metal music. We spend the hour with Rob Brooks, Professor of Evolution and Director of the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. He’ll join us to talk about his book Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll: How Evolution Has Shaped the Modern World. Email questions to live@skepticallyspeaking.com, or join us live in the chat!

More details, how to listen, and stuff, HERE.

Also, this would be a good point to remind you of your assigned readings: A Tutorial in Human Behavioral Biology.

Is the Mother Ship finally hitting the Target?

Target, which we in Minnesota refer to as The Mother Ship (as in “We’re out of everything. Time to visit the Mother Ship”), has a mixed record with respect to Gay Rights. A few years back, Target made a major indirect donation to Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campagin; Emmer is very anti Gay. You may remember that event because it is when Lady Gaga killed an album deal with the company as a way of showing her support for Gay Rights. Also, there is the more recent controversy over Frank Ocean’s album, although the reasons for Target dropping that album from its line are not entirely clear.

Well, cooler heads have prevailed at least to some extent, with Target now selling same-sex greeting cards and, most recently, using a same-sex theme in its advertising for a wedding registry.

When I first moved to Minnesota, Targets were not everywhere in the US, but they were everywhere here. There were so many Targets that you could not use them as landmarks when giving directions. If you said “Go north and turn right at the Target” you might was well say “Go north and turn right at any major intersection you see” because there is a Target at every major intersection. In those days, people who used a Target credit card knew that a significant percent (was it 5%?) of their purchase went into a fund to support education, and more than that, credit hard holders could specify which school district received the funding. Now, however, the percentage is much lower, but at least they still do it.

One of the things that Target uses to differentiate itself from its main competitors, such as Walmart, is style. I’m told that Target keeps its aisles wide and open while Walmart fills its open space with stuff on sale. This provides Walmart with more income (because the amount of stuff you put out for sale is a factor in how much you sell) but it keeps Target customers subtly more happy about going to Target. In this and other ways, the two companies have different approaches to brand loyalty. Only slightly more subtle difference is the cultural and political aspect of brand loyalty. When I would visit relatives in the Ozarks, everyone would be all about Walmart, everyone had their Sam Walton story, and Walmart was without a doubt The Mother Ship in that region, whence Walmart comes. In Minnesota, the contrast is starker. Walmart is conservative, Republican, and Dixie-South, while Target is liberal, DFLish, and local. The thing about cramming the aisles vs. not seems to fit well with this contrast somehow. Free Market vs. Good Service, or something.

It is for this reason that Minnesotans really did become upset when Emmer received support from Target. Lots of Minnesotans supported Emmer, are against Gay Rights, and are otherwise misguided in their politics and social policy. But Progressives, DFLers, Liberals, pro-Gay Rights people were the Target customers, and we were shocked, chagrined, and upset when that happened.

So we applied pressure and it seems to be paying off.

I’ve known a handful of people who worked at Target, as executives. They are all at least liberal, some downright progressive and overtly pro-Gay Rights. People who graduate from the local colleges with certain degrees, and especially from MBA programs, know that the process of applying at Target for a management (or similar) job involves an evaluation of one’s ability to “fit the culture.” That culture mainly has to do with the overall management strategy at Target and is more about the nature of teams, approaches to organization, and attitudes about customer service, all of which I’ve heard a very different from other large corporations in the area. I’ve also gotten the sense, however, that it is also somewhat political. Target is more liberal inside and out, than other major retailers. But, they are also a business and I’m not entirely sure that the Management embraces a liberal political attitude when making decisions, or at least not consistently.

And that is somewhat appropriate since Target is not a political non-profit. It is a retail corporation. But still, it is also The Mother Ship, but not everybody’s Mother Ship. It is my Mother Ship and I want it to behave.

Of the last five times I needed to buy clothing, I went to JC Penny’s instead of Target because of recent politically shaded decisions by the two corporations. I’d never been to a JC Penny’s to buy my clothing before. I’m not the only person around here to did that.

When it comes to the politics of retail businesses, voting day is every day.

Hat Tip to Skeptically Money for pointing me to this story.

Why Science Is a Non-Issue in the Election…Again

Science Debate founder Shawn Lawrence Otto, author of Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, David Gergen, and Michael Lubell spoke on Talk of the Nation Science Friday with Ira Flatow. The focus was on climate change.

In the face of a massive drought and climbing sea levels, are the presidential candidates going to talk about climate change? Why is science always at the bottom of the list of campaign issues that resonate with the public? Ira Flatow and guests discuss what scientists can do to shape the national dialogue in an election year.

Click Here to visit the Science Friday web site and listen. It is a very interesting discussion.

The Science Debate web site is here.

Minnesota: Show Support for the US Bank Protesters

From the Court Support facebook page:

Four of the seven people arrested in front of US Bank plaza last fall are going to court next week, for challenging the banks practices of foreclosing on people and forcing them into homelessness. We recently learned that the prosecutor has added three new charges to each of us! We need people to pack the court room and show their support, and to say that standing up to the banks isn’t criminal, taking people’s homes IS!

Koch-funded group proves global warming is not a hoax and is caused by humans

It’s over. The whole climate deinalism thing, that is. We can now get to the business of addressing climate change with well informed scientifically sound policy.

My friend Ronald Bailey reports:

Stress – this is a rumor. However, the rumor says that next week Richard Muller will release the latest Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature analysis of surface temperature data going back as far as the 18th century. Muller, once skeptical of the temperature records that showed considerable global warming in recent decades, set up BEST to reanalyze that data….

This has been cooking beneath the surface for a while, and as Bailey stresses, this is rumor. But, I’m pretty sure the report is going to say there’s been a 1.5 C increase in global temperature (which is a lot) mostly as the result of the release of previously sequestered Carbon through the burning of fossil fuels since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

What happens on the ice, stays on the ice.

Especailly if it is actually frozen to the ice, I would imagine.

Check out this new book:

Winter-Over is a seriocomic, slightly obscene novel that tells the story of a year at Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole, including Cooper Gosling’s eponymous “winter-over” (very few people stay at the station over the polar winter due to harsh physical and psychological conditions). She is one of only a handful of women at the Pole, and must navigate the claustrophobic interior landscape of a remote station populated by a collection of people who don’t believe they belong anywhere else on earth—and with no flights in or out from February to October. Stuart Dybek, who awarded a fiction prize to the short story on which this novel is based, wrote that the characters here “retain what humanity they can in a place where the sentimentality scale measures absolute zero.”

This is a kickstarter project.