Happy Blogiversary To Us!

It’s been two years now since we said hello to scienceblogs, and had our introductory posts on Conspiracy, Unified theory of the Crank, and the denialist deck of cards.

Lately reading a recent profile of a crank, Marc Morano in the NYT, which was sent to me by the crank himself. I can’t help but be amazed how our initial description has held up.

For one, throughout the article, it’s wonderful how wihtout realizing it, Morano exposes the the fact he’s living in a bizarre fantasy world. Starting with the questionable reality of his confrontation with Al Gore:

For example, Mr. Morano said he once spotted former Vice President Al Gore on an airplane returning from a climate conference in Bali. Mr. Gore was posing for photos with well-wishers, and Mr. Morano said he had asked if he, too, could have his picture taken with Mr. Gore.

He refused, Mr. Morano said.

“You attack me all the time,” Mr. Gore said, according to Mr. Morano.

“Yes, we do,” Mr. Morano said he had replied.

Mr. Gore’s office said Mr. Gore had no memory of the encounter. Mr. Morano does not care. He tells the story anyway.

Then his pride over being a swift-boater:

He then jumped to Cybercast News Service, where he was the first to publish accusations from Vietnam Swift-boat veterans that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, then the Democratic presidential nominee, had glorified his war record. Many of the accusations later proved unfounded.

Mr. Morano is proud of his work, which he says is not advocacy but truth seeking.

Or the bizarre way he justifies including scientists who completely disagree with his position on his BS AGW dissenter list:

Kevin Grandia, who manages Desmogblog.com, which describes itself as dedicated to combating misinformation on climate change, says the report is filled with so-called experts who are really weather broadcasters and others without advanced degrees.

Chris Allen, for example, the weather director for WBKO-TV in Kentucky, is listed as a meteorologist on the report, even though he has no degree in meteorology. On his Web site, Mr. Allen has written that his major objection to the idea of human-influenced climate change is that “it completely takes God out of the picture.” Mr. Allen did not respond to phone calls.

Mr. Grandia also said Mr. Morano’s report misrepresented the work of legitimate scientists. Mr. Grandia pointed to Steve Rayner, a professor at Oxford, who was mentioned for articles criticizing the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international treaty on curbing carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr. Rayner, however, in no way disputes the existence of global warming or that human activity contributes to it, as the report implies. In e-mail messages, he said that he had asked to be removed from the Morano report and that a staff member in Mr. Inhofe’s office had promised that he would be. He called his inclusion on the list “quite outrageous.”

Asked about Dr. Rayner, Mr. Morano was unmoved. He said that he had no record of Dr. Rayner’s asking to be removed from the list and that the doctor must be “not to be remembering this clearly.”

Yes, clearly, Dr. Rayner must not be remembering how he never said anything in support of the denialist position on warming. Only Marc Morano is ever correct.

It’s amazing to me how people who are so clearly cranks can remain so influential, especially on a topic as important as global warming. We clearly have more work to do.

US Postal Junk Mail Service

We’re discussing a junk mail case from the 1970s in my information privacy law case. In Rowan, Justice Burger laments:

…the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry, in itself, have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that, whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman’s mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And, all too often, it is matter he finds offensive.

And things have only gotten worse since 1970. Here are the most recent statistics from the Postal Service on junk mail (here, roughly defined as “standard mail”). Starting in 2005, the Postal Service started carrying more standard mail than first class, and now the gulf between the two is pretty significant. Also, note that the standard mail is much heavier than first class mail, and it generates LESS revenue!

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San Francisco recently passed a resolution calling for a do-not-junk-mail list. I’ll be signing up.

The Teabaggers Are Nuts

Via Brayton I caught this disturbing video of the new right-wing fringe movement:

Now, if you guys have been following along for the last few years of denialism blog, you know you should immediately be suspicious of people alleging conspiracy theories. This one is a doozy. The administration as a culmination of a 5 decade communist plot to take over the country? This movement is disturbing, and as radical and unhinged as the 9/11 truthers. I would emphasize as always, no political ideology is safe from this paranoid fringe, and this is a great example of how ideology is the universal threat to rational thinking.

I also can’t help but think this teabagging movement represents a more mainstream identity of growing right-wing hate in this country. With new reports of growth of white supremacist recruiting, recruitment of members of the military and the Father Coughlin-esque ranting of Glenn Beck and Limbaugh I’m worried we’re seeing the rise of new hate movement. Seeing their signs – blaming Obama for economic woes he’s had all of three months to address, Obama’s Plan:White Slavery, The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s ovens, Obama is the Anti-Christ, drumming up paranoia about guns, and internment camps, secession from the union for the love of Benji, Obama is a Muslim, let’s waterboard Obama – my interpretation of these events isn’t that they are legitimately angry at government spending or taxation. I just don’t buy it. After all, why get angry now? We’ve spent hundreds of billions under Bush, and wasted huge amounts in foreign wars and disastrous national policies. The tax increase? 3% on those making more than 250k? I somehow don’t see that as taxing our children’s future away, or these folks as representative of the wealthy Americans that are targeted by the tax. The people leading this movement may be recruiting a large number of people who share this unbalanced delusion about taxes and “big government” but it’s clear there is also an ugly, nationalist, and frankly racist theme behind this new movement.

The leaders of right-wing talk are playing a dangerous game, tapping into a dark, paranoid underbelly of American politics. I’ve been following Orcinus pretty closely in the last few months and am increasingly disturbed by what I see. While we might want to dismiss the paranoid rantings of pundits like Beck, we should remember that such conspiratorial beliefs aren’t meant to convince the masses. They exist to radicalize ideologues, and ideologues are dangerous, whether left-wing or right-wing. Conservatives may be furious that the the FBI and DHS are tracking right wing extremism, but I see this as a rare example of them actually seeing a threat coming, and being ready to do something about it. For those of us old enough to remember Oklahoma City, I don’t think we should be dismissive about the terrorist potential of the militant right, especially with Beck and Limbaugh stoking the fires of paranoia.

In a just society payday loans would not exist

Via Lessig and as explained beautifully by Colbert, payday loans are evil.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor NASA Name Contest

Being a Democrat is no protection from corruption by corporations, as Congressman Gutierrez demonstrates. I think this is a pretty bad example of the type of corruption that Lessig and Brayton have been having a back-and-forth over. Whatever they want to call it, I think we can all agree it’s wrong.

Trauma II

I’ve been absent, I apologize, but my last rotation in medical school has been a sub-internship in Trauma surgery. Aside from work, sleep, eating, and buying a house in Baltimore, blogging has necessarily suffered.

I will say a few things though that should be a public service message on the TV. People need to wear helmets when driving ATVs. I’m sorry I know I’m repeating myself. As before, I’d say any time your going faster than 10-15mph and not enclosed and belted in steel cage you should be wearing a helmet. That includes on bikes, on motorcycles, scooters, go-carts, ATVs, skis whatever. It’s just a damn shame when people who are otherwise healthy and independent hit their heads and end up permanently disabled, or seriously injured. We can put a lot of other stuff back together, but once you conk your noggin we’re a little bit helpless to do anything about it. And these days ATVs are replacing tractors as one of the most dangerous vehicles on farms, and are responsible for about 800 deaths a year and ~150,000 ER visits.

And how is it possible in this day and age people are driving around without their seat belts on? It’s just so stupid. It seems almost every seriously injured driver or passenger we get wasn’t wearing their seat belt.

I realize working at a level 1 trauma center I end up with a bit of selection in terms of the patient population. After all there are tons of accidents every day, lots of injuries in those accidents, and most are taken care of by local hospitals. We tend to get the most seriously injured, which tend to be the motorcyclists, the unrestrained drivers, and those unlucky enough to have done more serious injury. But it is disappointing to see anyone come into the ER after an accident where they weren’t wearing their seat belt. It’s such a simple intervention that really can make the difference between life and death.

So buckle up people.

This is my very last week of medical school. Regular blogging will resume after that.