Climate change deniers

I meant to link to this article in Salon months ago, but never did.  I remembered it yesterday when I covered "public policy myths and realities" in my last day of Intro to American Government for the semester.  Lots of students were unhappy when I pointed out that "there is a scientific controversy over global warming."  As you surely know, there's not.  There's plenty of non-scientific controversy, but the science behind human-caused global warming, though very much a work in progress, is still largely a settled issue.  Pointing out that the head of The Weather Channel or some TV weather forecasters don't buy global warming is not exactly an indicator of actual scientific controversy.  Sure, somebody can read the newspapers every day and decide that issues play an important role in the outcomes of Congressional elections, but that doesn't change the fact that people with PhD's in Political Science who have vastly more expertise and have devoted years to studying issues like this, have concluded that this is, in fact, not the case.  Anyway, here's the intro, which I especially love, of the aforementioned article:

So what's next? A series of essays by Sarah Palin about the Large
Hadron Collider and the mysteries of dark matter? An MIT lecture series
by Rush Limbaugh regarding the thermodynamics of black holes? A
Festschrift of Sean Hannity's scholarly articles on plate tectonics and
volcano formation? Glenn Beck performing live heart-lung transplants on
Fox News?

Everybody understands that these things couldn't happen. That when
it comes to serious scientific endeavor, years of study and professional
apprenticeship are required. In a word, expertise.

Ex-beauty contestants, drive-time DJs, TV sports announcers,
hairstylists, newspaper columnists — basically anybody whose math
skills topped out in the 10th grade — rarely have anything substantive
to add to the sum of technical and scientific knowledge. That's what
they most resent about it.

It's not impossible that such persons could educate themselves
sufficiently to have an informed opinion, but it's rare. Most of us,
most of the time, are like historian and blogger Josh Marshall: "The
fact that the vast majority of people with specialized knowledge in the
field think there's a problem is good enough for me," he wrote. "I can't
be knowledgeable about everything. And I'm comfortable with the modern
system in which the opinions of really knowledgeable people with
expertise counts more in cases like this than people who know nothing at

Of course science and the scientific method of peer review and such gets things wrong, but damn it, it's the best we've got.  You can't just choose to reject this when it clashes with your preconceived ideological notions or whatever Sean Hannity tells you. 


Texas justice

From what I've seen of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest court in Texas for criminal cases, the Texas Supreme Court only handles civil cases), they might as well be the highest court in some totalitarian dictatorship.  When discussing 8th amendment rights to a competent counsel, I always enjoy telling my classes about the case in which this court found a narcoleptic, drug-addicted defense attorney (yes, he was either high or sleeping through the whole trial) to have provided effective counsel.  This present case, described by Slate's Dahlia Lithwick may be even worse.  Don't think the US Supreme Court looks so hot in this one, either, by refusing to take the case.  Anyway, the key points:

When the U.S. Supreme Court denied Charles Dean Hood's appeal last week, it was done
in a one-sentence, unsigned order. Hood is a Texas death-row inmate who
was convicted of murdering two people in 1990. Long after the conclusion
of the trial, it became clear that his trial judge and prosecutor had
been secretly involved in a years-long extramarital affair. Because they
were both married, they denied the affair—even to Hood's death-penalty
lawyers. After the clandestine relationship finally came to light, the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Hood's challenge in two curt
sentences last September, finding that his lawyers had waited too long
to raise the issue on appeal. How Hood was to have raised the conflict
of interest when the existence of the affair was not conclusively
established until 2008, when the judge and prosecutor were forced to
admit it under oath, is not explained.

Hood has already been granted a new sentencing hearing because the Texas
appeals court has acknowledged that the jury instructions were
improper, but prosecutors say they will again seek the death penalty. In
any event, resentencing Hood doesn't resolve the fundamental problem
with the case. The issue here is whether any reasonable person would
believe that a criminal trial at which one's prosecutor and judge are
secretly in love could ever be fair. And that's the issue the courts
keep refusing to address.

Whenever discussing federalism and the important differences between states in my classes, one question I always ask, "would you rather be accused of murder in Texas or Minnesota?"  Nobody ever chooses Texas.  For damn good reason. 

Useless poll, no. MMCX

Okay, I could admittedly spend a whole blog trumpeting mis-use of public opinion polls, but sometimes I just cannot let it go by.  Especially, when as in this latest Washington Post poll on financial regulation, the Post is using the results to frame all its stories on the matter.  Here's the question that really gets me: "Do you support of oppose having the federal government regulate the complex financial instruments known as derivatives?"  43% support and 41% oppose.  Well, clearly we've got closely divided opinion.  Or, more like it, I'd guess upwards of 75% of respondents were lying so as to not sound ignorant. The vast majority of truthful respondents, answered "no opinion" but they were only 17% of the poll.  If you believe that 83% of Americans have even the slightest clue what financial derivatives are (much less understand what regulating them would entail), I've got a bridge to sell you.  


Arizona’s immigration policy

I've been a little slow to comment on the recently passed legislation on immigration in Arizona.  (Here's EJ Dionne's nice quick take on the matter).  As written, the law may be Constitutional, but I truly see no way that it can actually be enforced in the real world which does not end up being a blatant violation of civil rights (i.e., selective enforcement on the basis of ethnicity).  The law gives Arizona police the power to search anyone they have probable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant.  That sounds all well and good, but in the real world, just what is "probable cause" to believe someone is an illegal immigrant? Hmmm, something tells me it might have something to do with a person's ethnic appearance and language.  As soon as you start checking for evidence of legal status based on these factors, you are violating civil rights and thus the Constitution.  Selectively asking for proof of citizenship only for persons who fit a certain stereotype is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment (my favorite) proposition of "equal protection under the law."  

On a sort-of-related note, actions like this might help the GOP short-term, but long-term makes it ever more likely they will have permanent minority party status.  Building a party off the anger of angry white men is just not a good long term strategy as they are an ever-shrinking (thank goodness, does that make me a self-loathing white male) portion of the electorate. 


Fox News and scary logos

I missed this from Jon Stewart last week.  It's brilliant.  Watch.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
A Farewell to Arms
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party


Anderson Cooper shows what actual journalism looks like

Every pundit in America who does TV interviews should be forced to watch this and see how its done.  It's not that hard.  Just know your facts and don't be afraid to use them.  This is awesome:

Quick hits

1) Why are Wall Street banks so damn profitable.  Safe to say, any industry that is actutally this profitable is not actually a properly functioning market.  Certatinly, in part, these large profits depend on a huge lack of transparency.

2)  Nice post from Ezra really outlining the pernicious effects of the modern filibuster well beyond the 60 vote requirement.

3) Should college professors ban laptops?  I really struggle with this one.  My students get so distracted, but as someone who much prefers typing to actual pen to paper, I've got a lot of sympathy for those that simply want to type.  

4) We've talked about prison rape in my criminal justice class a fair amount this semester.  In response to another post, Matt Yglesias makes a nice comment I hadn't really thought about: "…it should be seen that in addition to being horrible on its own terms
this kind of thing totally undermines the criminal justice system’s
ability to mete out punishment in a considered way. The idea is that
criminals should be punished in some kind of proportion to the severity
of their crimes. Allowing violence to run amok in prisons does the
reverse—ensuring that members of organized gangs get off lighter than
less dangerous felons."


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