Los Links 1/14

This week, there’s going to be a rather heavier focus on politics than usual, for what I hope are obvious reasons.  

Meanwhile, major bits of Queensland are underwater.  Information on the disaster is available at the Australian Red Cross site, and you can donate there or at the Queensland government’s Flood Relief Appeal site.  In light of what’s happening in Queensland, I’m putting Anne Jefferson’s post on flooding front and center:

A flood is a disaster when people are in the way: “So while our hearts go out to those who are losing lives and property in Australia, let us not forget that there is a flood tragedy still unfolding in Pakistan, largely out of the media spotlight. Let us also remember that when we see increases in the human impacts of meteorological and geological phenomena, it’s usually not changes to the size or frequency of the phenomenon that drives the trend, but the increasing number of people in nature’s way.” (Highly Allochthonous)


Who is responsible for the murder?:  “Mohammed Hanif asks who is responsible for the murder of Salman Taseer? (And who is responsible for the multiple deaths and critical injuries in Arizona? Who is responsible for the attempted assassination of a Congressional representative and the successful assassination of a federal judge outside a Safeway in Tucson? The questions are related. It’s not just a single assassin in either case – it’s also a society, a culture, a discourse, a world view, a rhetoric, a climate, a mindset, and the people who help to create them.)” (Butterflies and Wheels)

Beware Compulsive Centrists and ISlate-esque Contrarians Bearing False Equivalencies: “Because a diary, out of hundreds posted every day, on a blog site is just like the political ads created by a former governor and vice-presidential candidate who has a potential audience of millions. Bai has to know enough about the internet to understand how diaries work (and that most probably aren’t even seen by regular visitors to the site). But this narrative is part of the Village’s Compulsive Centrist Disorder.” (Mike the Mad Biologist)

Gabrielle Giffords’ brain surgery: Decompressive hemicraniectomy: This surgery is known as a decompressive hemicraniectomy. I’ve published research with people who have had this procedure, blogged about that work, talked about it a TEDxBerkeley last year, and even got picked up by Mind Hacks and Wired for it.  (Oscillatory Thought)

The Absence of Civility Is Not the Problem: Lying and Inaccuracy Are the Problems: “We’re now seeing all of the civility trolls coming out of the woodwork. If by civility, one means ‘not engaging in violent eliminationist rhetoric’, well, then I’m all for it. But what I’m concerned about is that honest criticism will be silenced. While I’m not as sanguine about political rhetoric as, let’s say, Jack Shafer, the fact is a lot of people in political life are habitually…counterfactual. That is, they’re liars. Others are ideologically blinkered, while yet others, sadly, are either just kinda dim or else stone-cold ignorant. (Mike the Mad Biologist)

Tea party in the Sonora:  “But there is, in fact, one place where the results of Tea Party governance has already been tested: Arizona, where the Tea Party is arguably the ruling party. Less driven by issues of national security, on the one hand, or moral values on the other, Arizonan conservatives are largely obsessed with taxes and immigration—also the twin fixations of Tea Partiers, who, like Arizonans, are disproportionately white and older. So it comes as little surprise that top Republican elected officials in Arizona eagerly seek the Tea Party’s support and make time to speak at the group’s rallies. Should the Republicans succeed in retaking power nationwide over the next four years, the country might start to resemble the right-wing desert that Arizona has become.” (Harper’s Magazine)

“Don’t politicize this tragedy!”:  “Screw that. Now is the time to politicize the hell out of this situation. The people who are complaining are a mix of lefty marshmallows whose first reaction to the fulfillment of right-wing fantasies by a lunatic is to drop to their knees and beg forgiveness for thinking ill of people who paint bullseyes on their political opponents, and right wing cowards who are racing to their usual tactic of attacking their critics to shame them into silence. This is NOT the time to back down and suddenly find it embarrassing to point out that right-wing pundits make a living as professional goads to insanity.” (Pharyngula)

Who Profits from Violent Rhetoric? Can We Reduce The Profit?:  “KSFO/ABC/Disney/Citadel, as employers, can tell their hosts not to talk about killing people on the air as a condition of their employment, just like they can tell them not to swear. Management doesn’t like swearing because swearing earns them fines up to $500,000. However saying:

We’ll trace you back, run you down and kill you like a mad dog.‘ (audio link)
–Lee Rodgers about a Ron Paul supporter
Had no instant effect on Lee Rodgers’ finances. Rodgers eventually was fired. Part of the reason was he wasn’t generating as much revenue via advertising as he had in the past — before my advertiser alerts.” (Firedoglake)

Tucson Heroes: Unarmed People Who Stopped the Armed from More Killing: “The unarmed kept the armed from killing more people. Deal with it, America.” (Firedoglake)

Being Wyatt Earp: “And you don’t have to be an expert to understand this without having to have it acted out on the streets of Arizona. It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that people wading into gunfire with a gun will just be adding more bullets to the chaos. This rationale for arming everyone to the teeth has been nonsensical and absurd from the beginning and the fact that anyone has ever taken it seriously is a sad comment on our culture.” (Hullabaloo)

Wednesday’s Mini-Report: Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), reflecting on Saturday’s shooting, said, “I wish there had been one more gun there that day in the hands of a responsible person.” (There was — the man holding that gun very nearly shot an innocent man.) (Washington Monthly)

The Tea Party and the Tucson Tragedy: “Extremist shouters didn’t program Loughner, in some mechanistic way, to shoot Gabrielle Giffords. But the Tea Party movement did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.” (Slate)

Arguing Tucson: “In fact, there is no balance—none whatsoever. Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one side’s activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who can’t stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake. Any sentient American knows which side that is; to argue otherwise is disingenuous.” (Interesting Times via Kevin Drum)

Since When Do Conservatives Believe Words Don’t Have Consequences?: “The same wingnuts who are insisting today that there’s absolutely no connection at all between speech and actions have spent an awful lot of time over the past several decades saying exactly the opposite.” (Firedoglake)

Mental illness expert: We should be asking whether political climate helped trigger shooting: “A leading expert in mental illness tells me that asking whether the Arizona shooter’s violent behavior might have been partly triggered by the nation’s political climate is a wholly appropriate line of inquiry — even if the shooter is found to be insane.” (The Plum Line)

Sarah Palin and the Blood Libel:  “She’s trying to avoid taking any responsibility for the shooting. That’s
fine – she isn’t responsible for the shooting. But the way that she’s doing it is by falsely presenting herself as the victim in this situation. And to make matters worse, she’s doing that by cluelessly presenting herself as the victim of a historic anti-semitic slur that falsely accuses Jews of being murderers. She’s trying to distance herself from the attempted murder of a Jewish woman by presenting herself as the victim of an anti-Jewish slur.” (Good Math, Bad Math)

Required Reading: “Wouldn’t it be nice if national tragedies inspired everyone to band together to take an unflinching look at the causes and to determine what each of us can contribute to keep them from happening again? Yes, DrugMonkey, I am a dreamer. Still, it is important to recognize that how we react determines where we go from here, and a number of people are finding the public reactions to the Tucson shooting sadly wanting.” (Almost Diamonds)


The Slippery Slope of Anti-Vaccine Complacency: “What if a family decided that they didn’t want to confine their baby in a car seat? The baby cries whenever they strap him into it, and besides, accidents are rare. They’ve done their research, and they feel the baby is safe enough in the mother’s arms. Would my friend be as sanguine about that decision?”  (Musings of a Dinosaur) (h/t)

I’ve Been Selected for the Open Lab 2010 Anthology of Science Blogging: “I am pleased to announce that I’ve been selected as one of the 50 finalists for the Open Lab 2010 compendium of science blogging. I’m absolutely thrilled to be included in this group of talented and enthusiastic communicators of science. Below is the post that will appear in the volume (to be published in a few months).” (Clastic Detritus)

Experimental vs. historical science, and environmentalism:  “Experiments inform our understanding of nature, but nature comes first. Parts of our understanding may be decoded in a lab setting (e.g., isotopic dating, strain ellipse analysis, or groundwater chemistry), but the data are collected outside and must then be processed indoors. In geology, the big experiment has been run: its result is the planet we see before us. As archaeologists, cosmologists, and crime scene investigators must do, geologists use subtle clues to interpret the past.”  (Mountain Beltway)

More on Wakefield’s descent: money, money, money!: “The BMJ has just published Part 2: how Wakefield stood to make not just millions, not just tens of millions, but actually hundreds of millions of dollars by promoting the false link between the MMR vaccine with autism and Crohn’s disease.”  (Bad Astronomy[Editor’s note: can I just say I love it when Phil’s being a dick!]

Meteorites and Geology: big holes in the ground: “Putting it another way, on average over the last 542 million years, over 700 big asteroids would have hit a part of the earth with a subsiding basin covered by a shallow sea. This is rather cool, I suggest, particularly the idea that many of these craters may already have been surveyed, but the seismic data has yet to be appropriately analysed. It’s a nice thought that most examples of what happens when something very big falls out of the sky are to be found deep underground.”  (Earth Science Erratics)

On scientism: BioLogos‘s big meeting, in which Francis Collins embarrasses himself and the NIH: “As for the rest of the phenomena, ‘beauty’ (an evolved neural response), ‘love’ (probably a neural and chemical condition evolved to facilitate bonding), ‘friendship’ (ditto), and ‘justice’ (a byproduct of morality, which we’re working on, and social organization), the statement fails to show why religion provides a ‘source of knowledge’, especially because different religions have different—and mutually exclusive—solutions.  All they can say is ‘God made them.’” (Why Evolution is True)

A rant on the evolution of religion: “To the people of Iron Age northern Europe, garotting members of their community and dumping their bodies in the bog probably seemed like a damned fine idea. No doubt it appealed to a host of human mental biases. It also seems to have been successful in building communities (at least, in relative terms) – after all, the culture survived for millennia.

“And yet, it’s an approach to life that most people would frown upon today.”  Epiphenom (h/t)

Los Links 1/14