J.C. Moore Online
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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Just Raise Taxes

Sat ,18/07/2015

Being fiscally conservative requires making a sound national budget and raising the revenue to fund our nation’s needs.  The logical approach to paying off our national debt is to find middle ground between raising taxes and cutting spending. The tax rates, particularly those at the top of the earning scale, need to be adjusted upward,and there is also a grave need for spending restraint, elimination of duplicate efforts, and the elimination of waste and wasteful projects driven by special interest groups on both sides of the aisle. Since few Congressmen are willing to vote to cut pet projects, and perhaps lose their own, it leaves us with just one alternative:        ” Just raise taxes”.

As the chart below shows, cutting taxes does not necessarily lead to greater economic growth, but it certainly means a large increase in our national debt. The high tax rates and increasing national debt under the Eisenhower administration were mostly to pay off our war debts and rebuild Europe, yet there was also growth in GDPand and jobs. Reagan dramatically cut taxes, and experienced a lower growth in GDP, more jobs, but also a large increase in peacetime national debt.

Article PhotoTax Rates and Economic Indicators

 

If you wonder why a country as rich as ours is going broke, it may be because of Arthur Laffer‘s economics, Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, and ALEC.   We should not let men we did not elect or some secretive organization that represents special interest groups determine our tax policy. If you will remember, under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 90% and we used the money to take care of our soldiers, send them to college, rebuild the countries devastated by war, and build the interstate highway system that fueled economic development for the next several decades. Now we have cut the top tax rate, the corporate tax rate, the capital gains tax, and were now working on cutting the inheritance tax, while we are also cutting the safety nets and help for the poor because we cannot pay for them. We are better country than that.

Norquist claims 235 US Representatives and 41 US Senators have signed his Pledge. In doing so, they have clearly given up their responsibility as our elected representatives.   Those in the US Legislature who have signed the pledge are listed here. You may wish to check see who from your state has signed the pledge and contact them. Since Norquist claims that signing the pledge is binding into perpetuity, I would suggest that we make sure none of those who signed his pledge are re-elected.

 

The Psychology of Internet Trolls

Sun ,05/04/2015

If you have a website, or post comments on blog sites or newspaper articles, you have likely run into trol0trollls. Trolls are the bane of the Internet as their main goals  are to shut down reasonable discussions or spread misinformation. Free from editors or peer review trolls can, and do, distort information for ideological reasons or because they are paid. Then, there are trolls who do it just for fun.

Paid trolls are often called “sock puppets” as their message is controlled by those who create them.  Paid trolls are often given a target site, a set of talking points, and a program which allows them to set up a number of fake identities for additional sock puppets, to make it appear that many support their arguments . Sock puppets do not follow the rules of debate and are often uncivil, using personal attacks in an attempt to shut down reasonable discussion. Research shows that sock puppets, and even unpaid trolls, often enjoy what they do because of negative personality characteristics.

Trolls: personality study correlated the activities enjoyed by Internet users with personality traits. The study  explored whether Internet trolls’ behavior fell into the Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). The chart below shows the results.

sadism

It shows that the Dark Tetrad traits were positively correlated with self-reported enjoyment of trolling. Of the traits, the researchers  found sadism stands out among trolls.  The internet has given sadistic trolls, those who think that hurting people is exciting, a broader and more anonymous outlet to express their behavior. We have certainly all run across these trolls on climate change articles.

Trolling works: Popular Science shut down its comment section because of trolls,  citing a research report which showed that even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story. The results of the study by Dominique Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele was summarized by the authors in a New York Times article:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.  Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with a technology.  Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

George Monbiot who covers environmental issues at the Guardian, wrote in Reclaim the Cyber-Commons, of the need to restore civility to internet discussions of climate change. In it he said:

“… two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.

The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.”

His comments explain a lot about the motivation behind sock puppets and ideological trolls.

Trolling and Denialism: Trolls often use the same tactics as those who deny scientific evidence.  A study by McKee and Diethelm titled,  Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?,  describe the five tactics used by deniers (and trolls) as a means to identify them.  Their five tactics were summarized very nicely on Rachel’s Blog  which,  with a  few changes, are:

1. Identifying conspiracies. In climate science denial, people have argued that scientists are doctoring the temperature records to make it look like warming is happening when it is not. This idea must be incredibly hard to justify to oneself as it is ridiculous to think that thousands of scientists from lots of different countries could be in on some conspiracy theory which will not benefit them in any way and which all of us want to be wrong.

2. Using fake experts. This technique was employed by the tobacco industry which had a strategy of employing scientists whose views were at odds with the consensus in the field. The same tactic can be seen in climate change. From the McKee article: “In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed a Global Climate Science Communications Plan, involving the recruitment of ‘scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science [who can] help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases’.”

3. Highlighting outliers. This happens in climate change when contrarians make a big deal out of research that claims figures for climate sensitivity lying outside the IPCC range. They are highlighting a few research papers that are outliers while ignoring the majority of evidence.

4. Placing impossible expectations on research. The repeated phrase that the “models failed to predict the pause” fits with this. No-one can predict the future exactly. Scientists do not work with ouija boards.  Climate models – just like all models of physical systems – contain uncertainty and it is unreasonable to expect them not to. But although the model projections do a remarkably accurate job of making future projections of climate, contrarians still place unreasonable expectations on what they can do.

5. Using misrepresentation and logical fallacies.  Logical fallacies include the use of red herrings, deliberate attempts to change the argument, and straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute. Other fallacies used by denialists are false analogy and the excluded middle fallacy (either climate change causes a wide range of severe weather events or causes none at all, so doubt about an association with one event, such as a hurricane, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any weather event).

To respond these tactics, the authors suggest it is important to recognize denialism when confronted with it. The normal civil response to an opposing argument is to engage it, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties have a willingness to  follows certain rules such as looking at the evidence as a whole, rejecting deliberate distortions, and acceptance principles of logic. They say, a ” meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects the rules. Yet it would be wrong to prevent the denialists having a voice. Instead, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, to instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics trolls employ and identifying them publicly for what they are.” However, that may not work with trolls of the dark tetrad.

Dealing with Trolls: Exposure would probably work with paid trolls, as those controlling them do not wish to be exposed. Those who troll for the fun of upsetting people would likely enjoy the diversion off topic, deny being a troll, and heap abuse on anyone who even suggested their motives were not pure. A good strategy is to just ignore trolls. If one wants to confront the lies and distortions, it is more effective to write a separate article refuting their premises.  Running up a large number of  comments on a troll’s article is simply “feeding the troll”, giving them more opportunities to respond and enriching paid trolls. Clicking on trolls’ links only runs up the hit count of denier sites, making them appear more important than they are and possibly adding to their advertising value.

In most  cases, ensuring civility is up to the blog moderators. Blog sites can discourage trolling with good policies and strong moderation. Comments from those who attack others or claim obvious lies as fact should not get posted.  Repeat offenders should be banned or blacklisted. The trolls may claim violations of freedom of speech or censorship. If they do, invite them to resubmit their posts with valid references, in a civil manner, and without  personal attacks.  They will likely disappear. Don’t we wish?

(c) 2015  J.C. Moore

 

 

The 1956 Republican Party Platform vs. Todays

Sun ,02/11/2014

The chart at the right compares the 1956 Republican platform when Eisenhower ran with what the party’s platform seems to be today. Some things aagop platformevolve, and some things devolve. The modern Republican Party is an example of the latter. Trying to hold power, rather than govern well, the party has molded itself to satisfy the religious right, the anti-science anti-intellectuals, the false conservatives, and the very wealthy. Unable to progress as the world changes, without offending those, the party leaders have taken the path of obstructionism.

It is a rather vicious cycle for Republicans. As moderates and progressives move away from the party, the extremist are more in control. That influence is seen most in the primaries where the extremist and money interests can insert more influence to elect their candidates. It is tough to be an Eisenhower Republican these days.

The 2014 platform is very similar to that developed by the Republican Party in 2012. Republican leaders  used a push poll to develop the 2012 Republican presidential platform. Here  is an analysis of that poll.  The poll was an affront to intelligent Republicans as it was not really to solicit their opinions but instead an effort to spread propaganda and to raise money. It signaled the big money interests and extremists that if they gave generously, the Party would reward them. And it did. Here is an analysis of the 2012 Republican Party platform that Romney ran on. Can any Republican actually be proud of that platform? It is no wonder Romney lost.

Which platform in the chart do you prefer? It will never be 1956 again, but think where we might be today if the Republican Party had remained progressive. It is time for the Grand Old Party to become Grand again.

The Economic Recovery in the Past Five Years: Then and Now

Sun ,02/11/2014

We have heard so much bad economic news that most people believe it, even though it is not true.The economy has recovered to the point that theRecovery economic stimulus is being ended. That would normally be good news. It is strange that it has not been widely disseminated and many people may be unaware of it. You may read a little piece here and there in the paper about it, but it hasn’t seemed to enter the public’s mind. Actually, since it would help the Democrats, great efforts have been made by some money interests and obstructionists to downplay the recovery.

The chart at the right summarizes the recovery in the last five years. Though it was put together by the Occupy Democrats, the numbers seem to be accurate and can be checked. Normally the President would get credit for the recovery, but not so much in this case as it would likely help the Democrats in the next election. The news could probably have been even better except for the missed opportunities caused by obstructionists in Congress. I hope some of them will join the jobless after the next election.

The Climate Change Denial Machine: The Psychology of Denial

Mon ,03/03/2014

 “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” – AAAS

Similar statements have been adopted by every major scientific organization in the world, nearly 200 organizations. Yet, there are those who deny there is a scientific consensus as well as the evidence upon which it is based. They object to being labelled as “deniers”  so writers often use “dissenters”, “contrarians”, or “Skeptics”, with the capital “S” denoting their skepticism is based more on financial consideration or ideology than reason. The scientists who investigate human behavior use the term “denial”, as it is correct.

Denial: In psychology, denial is an aberrant behavior  exhibited by individuals choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable truth. It is also a sociological concept, as author Michael Specter defined group denialism, “when an entire segment of society, often struggling with the trauma of change, turns away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie.” Smokers, when confronted with the reality that their habit could shorten their lives, often denied the evidence – and the Tobacco companies were only too happy to provide the comfortable lies.  They funded scientific study after scientific study that found no link between smoking and lung disease and made commercials with doctors, or actors playing doctors, assuring people that smoking was safe. The tactics worked, as people still smoke today, harming themselves and everyone who inhales their secondhand smoke.

In tobacco’s denialism, money and misinformation were distributed through an organization of Conservative think tanks and front groups. Those who wish to deny climate change use many of the same organizations and tactics, with improvements. They are better funded,  support a far greater number of  Skeptics and politicians, and  use the Internet to widely disseminate their propaganda. Sociologists Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright have investigated the denial system and named it the Climate Change Denial Machine . Its main components were examined and explained in their article in the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society . Their diagram of the machine showing how all the components interact is below.

 Oxford-figure-reprinted-revised

 

Corporations and Foundations: The climate denial machine is funded by wealthy corporations and foundations. It is difficult to track the funding as it is channeled through 501C(3)  tax exempt organizations, which makes it difficult to trace the donors or the money. The front groups add another layer of anonymity for the donors and help distribute the money in what they claim to be charity and education expenses, justifying the corporation’s tax-exempt status.

The citizens watchdog group Opensecrets.org reported that during the last six years, fossil fuel companies spent an average of $152 million per year on lobbying alone. The corporations see the money as an investment, as last year the US subsidized the fossil fuel industry by $13.6 billion, about six times as much as subsidies to develop sustainable energy sources. Their lobbying efforts result in laws favorable to the industry and help them avoid taxes and regulation, essentially transferring  health and environmental costs  of pollution to the public. Since the lobbying money is funneled through tax-exempt organizations, taxpayers are helping fund the climate denial machine, a machine which is undermining our scientific and democratic institutions.

Motivated reasoning . Those who support the climate denial machine often justify it by  “motivated reasoning”. A  study of climate change deniers found they tend to hold general beliefs in free-market ideology and conspiracy theories. University of Western Australia psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky  and two collaborators  investigated the dynamics of science doubters. They surveyed visitors to  climate change blogs  and asked them about free-market ideology, their views on climate science,  and their belief in conspiracy theories. The study,  published in Psychological Science, found :

 1. The more people believed in free-market ideology, the less they believed in climate science.

2.The more they accepted science in general, the more they accepted the conclusions of climate science.

3. And the more likely they were to be conspiracy theorists, the less likely they were to believe in climate science.

These results fit in with a longer literature on what has come to be known as motivated reasoning. Other things being equal, people tend to believe what they want to believe, and to disbelieve new information that might challenge them.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The study upset those denying climate science and they rejected the study,  claiming it was  just a part of the  global warming conspiracy .

Think Tanks: The Conservative think tanks are misnamed as they present climate change denial as a conservative cause, but there is nothing conservative about advocating for policies which result in changing the climate of the Earth. Think tanks are the brains of the climate denial machine, as they plan the strategy and generate the misinformation and comfortable lies that are passed on to the public. They also coordinate the production of misinformation by fake scientists, such as Lord Monckton, and, even worse, produce misleading statements by science Skeptics, such as John Christy, Roy Spencer, Judith Curry, and a few dozen others who regularly attend the NIPCC (Not the IPCC) meetings sponsored by fossil fuel corporations.  

The Sounding Board is in made up of politicians, media sources, and blog sites. Politicians, particularly those who claim to be conservatives, spread misinformation that ranges from “climate science is a hoax” to “scientists have not proved their case enough for us to take action”. The science Skeptics are invited to Congressional hearings where they cast doubt on the testimony of climate scientists and provide cover for the politicians. Politicians often speak at public gatherings and are quoted in newspapers, giving them many opportunities to spread propaganda.

Science Skeptics often present their ideas in interviews and op-ed articles in newspapers to bypass the peer review required by science journals. The media sources are complicit in this, claiming they are presenting both sides of the issue. This makes the Skeptic’s arguments, supported by little research, appear equal in weight to the arguments of climate scientist, supported by thousands of peer-reviewed research papers. A count of research papers from  1991 to 2012 found that 13,926 papers supported the consensus opinion, while only 24 rejected it.

Blog sites are one of the main ways that misinformation is spread to the public. Free from editors or peer review, the skeptics can, and do, distort information to suit themselves. Many of the science Skeptics have web sites which, along with sites like Wattsupwiththat and ClimateAudit, dispute the findings of peer-reviewed research. The misinformation they create is then picked up by other websites and Internet trolls who spread it across the Internet.

Astroturf organizations are fake grassroots organizations designed to make it appear that a cause has much more widespread support than it actually does. An example is an ad in support of clean coal that showed a large group with a banner reading “We Support Clean Coal”. The hoax was exposed when someone noticed that that the same photo was available on the Internet and that the clean coal banner had been Photoshopped in. The Internet can be used to create Astroturf organizations such as occurred on an Internet site protesting genetically modified food. A large number of bloggers in support GMO foods descended on the site to dispute the message and to shut down the discussions. The bloggers were exposed as trolls when their IP addresses were found to be registered to Monsanto – which sells genetically modified seeds, and ironically, also holds the patent for Astroturf.

Paid trolls are often called “sock puppets” as their message is controlled by those who create them.  Paid trolls are often given a target site, a set of talking points, and a program which allows them to set up a number of fake identities for additional sock puppets, to make it appear that many support their arguments . Sometimes a troll will create a sock puppet with weak, easily refuted arguments, to make the troll’s arguments seem stronger. Sock puppets do not follow the rules of debate and are often uncivil, using personal attacks in an attempt to shut down reasonable discussion. Research shows that sock puppets, and even unpaid trolls, often enjoy what they do because of negative personality characteristics.

Trolls: personality study correlated the activities enjoyed by Internet users with personality traits. The study  explored whether Internet trolls’ behavior fell into the Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). The chart below shows the results.

sadism

It shows that the Dark Tetrad traits were positively correlated with self-reported enjoyment of trolling. Of the traits, the researchers  found sadism stands out among trolls.  The internet has given sadistic trolls, those who think that hurting people is exciting, a broader and more anonymous outlet to express their behavior. We have certainly all run across these trolls on climate change articles.

Trolling works: Popular Science shut down its comment section because of trolls,  citing a research report which showed that even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story. The results of the study by Dominique Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele was summarized by the authors in a New York Times article:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.  Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with a technology.  Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

George Monbiot who covers environmental issues at the Guardian, wrote in Reclaim the Cyber-Commons, of the need to restore civility to internet discussions of climate change. In it he said:

“… two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.

The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.”

His comments explain a lot about the motivation behind sock puppets and ideological trolls.

 In Summary: A study by McKee and Diethelm titled,  Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?,  describe the five tactics used by deniers as a means to identify them.  Their five tactics of denial were summarized very nicely on Rachel’s Blog  which,  with a  few changes, are:

1. Identifying conspiracies. In climate science denial, people have argued that scientists are doctoring the temperature records to make it look like warming is happening when it is not. This idea must be incredibly hard to justify to oneself as it is ridiculous to think that thousands of scientists from lots of different countries could be in on some conspiracy theory which will not benefit them in any way and which all of us want to be wrong.

2. Using fake experts. This technique was employed by the tobacco industry which had a strategy of employing scientists whose views were at odds with the consensus in the field. The same tactic can be seen in climate change. From the McKee article: “In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed a Global Climate Science Communications Plan, involving the recruitment of ‘scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science [who can] help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases’.”

3. Highlighting outliers. This happens in climate change when contrarians make a big deal out of research that claims figures for climate sensitivity lying outside the IPCC range. They are highlighting a few research papers that are outliers while ignoring the majority of evidence.

4. Placing impossible expectations on research. The repeated phrase that the “models failed to predict the pause” fits with this. No-one can predict the future exactly. Scientists do not work with ouija boards.  Climate models – just like all models of physical systems – contain uncertainty and it is unreasonable to expect them not to. But although the model projections do a remarkably accurate job of making future projections of climate, contrarians still place unreasonable expectations on what they can do.

5. Using misrepresentation and logical fallacies.  Logical fallacies include the use of red herrings, deliberate attempts to change the argument, and straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute. Other fallacies used by denialists are false analogy and the excluded middle fallacy (either climate change causes a wide range of severe weather events or causes none at all, so doubt about an association with one event, such as a hurricane, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any weather event).

To respond these tactics, the authors suggest it is important to recognize denialism when confronted with it. The normal civil response to an opposing argument is to engage it, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties have a willingness to  follows certain rules such as looking at the evidence as a whole, rejecting deliberate distortions, and acceptance principles of logic. They say, a ” meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects the rules. Yet it would be wrong to prevent the denialists having a voice. Instead, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, to instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics denirs employ and identifying them publicly for what they are.”

Dealing with Trolls: Exposure would probably work with sock puppets, as those controlling them do not wish to be exposed. Those who troll for the fun of upsetting people would likely enjoy the diversion off topic, deny being a troll, and heap abuse on anyone who even suggested their motives were not pure. A good strategy is to just ignore trolls. If one wants to confront the lies and distortions, it is more effective to write a separate article refuting their premises.  Running up a large number of  comments on a troll’s article is simply “feeding the troll”, giving them more opportunities to respond and enriching paid trolls. Clicking on trolls’ links only runs up the hit count of denier sites, making them appear more important than they are and possibly adding to their advertising value.

In most  cases, ensuring civility is up to the blog moderators. Blog sites can discourage trolling with good policies and strong moderation. Those who attack others or claim obvious lies as fact should not get posted.  Repeat offenders should be banned or blacklisted. The trolls may claim violations of freedom of speech or censorship. If they do, invite them to resubmit their posts with valid references, in a civil manner, and without  personal attacks.  They will likely disappear. Don’t we wish?

(c) 2014  J.C. Moore

 

Bits and Pieces 14: Misinformation Trumps Facts on the Economy

Fri ,23/08/2013

  • There has been a tremendous amount of worry about the US deficit, but most of it is stirred up by propaganda that ignores the economic data. Here is what the Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, had to say about the deficit.
Article Photo

 

 

Here is the data that shows what he means.

 

Article Photo

 

The Motley Fool reported on a recent Google consumer survey which asked the question, “How do you think the US Federal Government’s yearly budget deficit has changed since January 2010?” With 665 responses from around the country spanning a wide variety of demographics, here’s what it found. Respondents thought the deficit had:

Increased a lot      41%

Increased a little   14%

About the same     24%

Why are so many people getting it wrong? They get misinformation from their Congressional Representatives, who should know better. Many of the Representatives  probably do, but why tell the truth if misinformation works to their advantage?

(c) 2013  J.C. Moore

Climate Change: Citizen Journalism Can Make a Difference

Mon ,03/12/2012
 This is a guest article by Pabitra Mukhopadhyay about citizen journalism which was first published on his website, Pabitraspeaks.  It is great honor that Pabitra chose this website as an example of citizen journalism. Pabitra’s posts and articles on Climate Himalaya, Th!nkaboutit.eu, and his website, Pabitraspeaks, show that he is a citizen journalists of the first order, concerned about his fellow man and a sustainable environment.
 
 
“The authorities in New York are discovering what Egypt also learned — that it’s not as easy to regulate or arrest journalists when everyone is a journalist. But while that may make our lives a little more complicated, it is fundamentally a good thing for society,” writes Mathew Ingram in his post ‘What happens when journalism is everywhere.

 I think Mathew uses the word ‘Journalism’ only because there is no other suitable description for world citizenry finding a voice and articulating independent views about the environment from a strong personal perception. This is one important node where social media branches off from the mainstream media, which in today’s world is a corporate institution. The Arab spring reporters reported with mobile phones, with no formal journalistic training and without financial incentive.

But this citizen reporting, whether or not you credit it with journalistic neutrality has come to be reckoned with a credibility that is almost undisputed now. This is deeply linked with a wave of neo-democratization that mainstream media is riding instead of refuting. For example, we see media offshoots like BBC’s User-Generated Content Hub, Reuter’s partnership with blogging network Global Voices, and sites like PJ Media .

In the sea of blogs that piece through world events with views ranging from practical to outrageous, there are few that are slowly but steadily debunking the myths of power and politics in determining our world views. J.C.Moore’s story is one such silent reconstruction.

J.C. Moore is a native Oklahoman who earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Kansas State University. A retired professor of chemistry and physics, he is a member of the American Geophysical Union and Republicans for Environmental Protection. Dr. J.C. Moore is also a blogger who yielded key-board when people of his age and position would prefer spending time playing golf and not asking uneasy questions. He comes from the state whose legislature resolved to condemn invitation of Richard Dawkins by the University of Oklahoma because professor Dawkins is known for his stand against biblical genesis being taught as an alternative creation theory besides Darwinian Evolutionary theory in the state. J.C Moore also represents the same state that flaunts the Global Warming denier Senator James Inhofe – who recently proposed a law that would forbid funding for climate research.

Interested readers may find it worthwhile to check Dr. Moore’s blog JC Moore Online – a body of work that bespeaks of passion and rationality of appropriate mix. It’s not because I have been following his work for long now and come to respect his sincere efforts to engage Climate Change deniers with science and evidence, but because of his strength of conviction I find this man inspiring.

And such silent work should not go unnoticed for mostly the people for whom he is primarily concerned. Happily enough the review by Moore of Inhofe’s book ‘The Greatest Hoax’, a shorter version of which was also published in the Tulsa World recently became part of Senate debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. James Inhofe, where Sen. Sanders quoted Moore’s lines to refute Sen. Inhofe’s views and policies. Here is the C-SPAN clip of Sen. Bernie Sander’s speaking.

This is citizen media at its best. It is inspiring to see my Think blogger colleague achieving something, which, considering his location and position corporate media will give a hand and a foot to do. And for J.C. Moore it neither takes fancy TV Channels nor high selling media campaign.

I missed the good fortune of interviewing Dr. J.C. Moore in person as we are half a world apart, but this is what he has to say about the above episode.

I wonder about what happens when there is one J.C.Moore in every society.

(c) 2012 Pabitraspeaks

Who's Responsible for High Gas Prices?

Sat ,13/10/2012

    “It’s hard to see how President Obama is to blame for high gas prices when the record high was $4.12 a gallon in  July of 2008, six months before he took office.”

The Republican strategy during the 2012 election has been to try to pin the economic problems we have been facing on President Obama. Certainly President Obama inherited a mess and it is very difficult to figure out how well the president’s policies are working since we don’t know where we would have been without them.

The price of gasoline is something we are reminded of every time we fill up our car. So we’ve heard a lot about the price of gasoline during this presidential election. During the presidential debates, Mitt Romney said to president Obama ,”At the same time, gasoline prices have doubled under your presidency.”  Bill O’Reilly in his debate with John Stewart said, “Gas prices have doubled since Obama took office.” And someone at Exxon Mobil even cooperated with this theme by placing the gas sign on the right on the Internet. And, it is true.  However, the conclusion drawn from it is not.

The implication is that Pesident Obama is responsible for our current high gas prices. You can only think that is true if you have a very short memory or are very dishonest. Average US gas prices hit a historic high of $4.12 per gallon in July of 2008,  six months before Obama took office and while  George Bush was still president. The International Energy Agency (IEA) graph below shows the historic prices in the US and other countries, showing that the US President is not responsible for gas prices. That is unless you consider the wars in the Middle East, which destabilized the region, to be a main factor in gas prices. The graph shows the gas prices were relatively stable until about 2002.

Exxon/Mobil has also been a little duplicitous about this. In the past, they have emphasized on their website that the high gas prices are reasonable when they are considered in terms of inflation. However, now that Mitt Romney has promised oil companies carte blanche to do pretty much as they please if he is elected, they’re only too happy to blame the rising gas prices on President Obama. Mr. Romney apparently does not believe in climate change, and even if he did  he certainly places money ahead of almost everything else, including the environment. Mr. Romney has promised that he would allow completion of the XL pipeline, which will make lots of money for the oil companies. He would also allow them to drill on public land, in National parks, in wildlife refuges, and in environmentally sensitive areas. Those policies might be okay if it were not for the fact that they would increase air pollution, increase greenhouse gas concentrations, and put a large number of environmentally fragile areas at a risk of being damaged.

And, it is very unlikely that allowing oil companies to do as they wish would bring down the price of gasoline. In the first Presidential debate, Mitt Romney blamed President Obama’s policies for limiting oil production. That is also not true, as you can see from the IEA’s table below.

Oil production  dropped during the Bush presidency but has risen by about 20% during Obama’s presidency.  It is clear that domestic oil production has  little effect on the price of gasoline. Last year our largest export was fuels, so it seems if we produce more, we will just export more while gas prices continue to rise in the U.S. It also appears that gasoline prices do not follow the law of supply and demand, both things that Exxon/Mobil and the other oil companies should have to explain. They receive large subsidies; their products do not bear the cost of dumping large amounts of CO2 into the environment; and they have been quite profitable while many other US companies are struggling to stay afloat, in part because of the high fuel prices. Many are international companies that have little allegiance to the United States, but if they’re going to do business in the United States, they should behave as good citizens. We should certainly not let their money and misinformation determine the outcome of our elections.

Note added on 02/17/2015: This picture shows the gas prices in January of 2015 in Kansas. Does President Obama0gas get credit?

The Shortcomings of the 2012 Republican Platform

Wed ,29/08/2012

Aristotle, the father of science, thought that nature could best be understood by observation and reason. Not only did he apply the scientific method to the physical world, but he also considered political systems. One of his conclusions was that a democracy could not function well without a strong middle class. Aristotle was also strongly opposed to sophistry. Both of those are things that our politicians need to keep in mind.

After a number of push polls to try to influence their constituencies’ opinions, Republican leaders have managed to get many of their most extreme positions into the Republican platform. Republicans have tried to create a coalition of one issue voters, and there is a plank in there for each of them. Some the planks are more extreme than even Romney would have liked, and they seem more to reflect Paul Ryan’s views.

Economy: The plan for job creation is “economic growth”– and to stimulate economic growth the platform requires a further reduction in taxes. The plan is to keep the  Bush tax cuts, eliminate taxes on capital gains for the middle class, pass a balanced budget amendment and require a supermajority for any future tax increases . Grover Norquist and most millionaires will be very pleased with that plank. The middle class may not be so happy because little of their income is from interest and capital gains. Then, there’s a problem of how to fund government programs, but other planks are going to eliminate many of those, especially those that help the disadvantaged and the middle class.

Social Issues: The platform is loaded up with social issues.  It calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage, claims life begins at fertilization, and seeks to make abortions difficult to obtain, no matter the circumstances. It would not fund any health care that covered abortions. And, that would include most forms of birth control under that definition of when life begins. It also declares that only abstinence education be permitted, and that would likely greatly increase the needs for abortions – as that doesn’t work too well in practice. And in spite of the large number of public massacres that have occurred lately, it is opposed to banning high-capacity clips or assault rifles.

Minorities: It declares; “Voter fraud is a political poison”, although there are very few instances of voter fraud. It appears to be an attempt to justify the Republican Party’s attempt to disenfranchise a large number of minority voters. It takes a hard line on immigration, even for those born here who are children of immigrants. It rather forgets that most of us were originally immigrants and that President Reagan granted amnesty to almost 3 million illegal immigrants. It would prohibit federal lawsuits against states that make restrictive immigration laws, even though those laws might interfere with citizens’ rights or violate human rights.

Energy: The energy plank does not recognize the need to protect the environment, which Republicans in the past strongly supported, nor does it recognize the realities of climate change. It would give almost free rein to fossil fuel companies to pursue their interests without regard to environmental issues and it would restrict the EPA from taking action to protect the environment. It does mention an “all of the above” energy policy, but there is no specific mention of policies to encourage the development of alternate energy sources.

Health and Welfare:  The plank on health care would be disastrous for the middle class. It would repeal most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while promising to promote the free market and give you more choices. That is fine if you have plenty of money. There’s a lot of verbiage associated with Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid but it all boils down to changing them in ways that would cost less money and make them much less effective. It says, “the platform pledges to move both Medicare and Medicaid away from ‘the current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model.’” And, it supports a “ Medicare transition to a premium-support model with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice.” Is that a description of vouchers?

Defense: This plank sounds a lot like saber rattling. It would restore “American exceptionalism” and take a hard stance toward North Korea, Iran, and China (China?). That would greatly increase military spending, particularly if we started another war. Our last Republican President started two, and we are still suffering from the loss of lives and the staggering cost. We already spend five times as much as any other country on defense, and there is no plank explaining where the money would come from without raising taxes. Nor is it clear how it might work out to have  as Comander-in-Chief someone who sat out  the Vietnam War in France on a rather easily obtained “divinity student” deferment. 

I think many traditional Republicans will be rather dismayed with the platform and it remains to be seen if they will still support the party and vote for its candidates. Certainly the wealthy and the one issue voters can be counted on, but it would appear to alienate many independents. Sometimes reason prevails and political parties do not follow their platform too precisely, and that is the most that we can hope for if  Mr. Romney is elected president.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

The 2012 Republican Presidential Platform Survey

Mon ,04/06/2012
All registered Republican voters have just received yet another survey from the party leaders, along with a request for donations of course. It is difficult to answer many of the survey questions as they contain assumptions that bias your answer – if you can answer at all. Below are some of the worst examples; please see how you fare in answering them.
 
3. How important is it to voters in your state to have candidates give attention to the following issues during the 2012 campaign?

        (d)Exposing Obama’s radical left-wing policies

              ( ) Very important    ( ) Somewhat important    ( ) Not important

 8. Do you support a federal balanced-budget amendment to the US Constitution to stop deficit spending in Washington

                                                    ( )  Yes   ( ) No

 16. Do you believe Obama’s strategy of treating all countries as equals to the United States has strengthened our security and weaken the resolve of our enemies?

                                                     ( )  Yes  ( )   No

29. Do you believe the Republican Party needs to do a better job of exposing the Obama record and his radical liberal agenda?

                                                     ( )  Yes  ( ) No

30. Are you committed to helping ensure that in 2012 the Obama era policy of radical liberalism reckless spending and embarrassing foreign-policy comes to an end?

                                                       ( )  Yes   ( ) No

The questions above are from the 2012 Presidential Platform Survey sent out by the Republican Party to registered Republican voters. This is better than some of the surveys received under Michael Steele, where we also received his four-page letters telling us how to answer. Still, many of the questions are biased to get a particular answer – and are also designed to send a message rather than ask the constituent’s opinion.

For instance:

 Question 3. No matter what you answer, you are accepting the assumption that President Obama’s policies are radical and left-wing. His policies are considered to be slightly right of center and many of them were proposed in the past by Republicans.

 Question 8. Is cutting spending the only way to balance the budget? The budget could also be balanced by raising taxes to pay for our debts and our wars.

 Question 16. To answer it you must accept the assumption that Obama has a strategy of treating all countries equal. Does that mean “equal” as in treating them all with respect, which might lessen tensions and make them less likely to behave as our enemies?

 Question 29. In case you missed the inferences of Question 3., here president Obama’s agenda is called “radical liberal” to make sure you don’t miss it again. Wink, wink.

 Question 30. Repetition, repetition, repetition. That is the key to teaching slow learners, which is how the Republican leadership seems to see their constituency. To answer this question, you must not only buy into the “radical liberalism” label, but also into assumptions about “reckless spending” and “embarrassing foreign-policy”. How can you answer the question if you disagree? Oh, you are supposed to be a good “Stepford” Republican and not disagree.

If this survey is any indication, Republican leaders seem to be more interested in defeating Obama than they are in governing responsibly. It is more likely that those who agree with the biased assumptions will fill out and send in the survey, further biasing the results. I would hope that the party can develop a reasonable platform that traditional Republicans can support. My concern is that the Republican leaders will use the results of these biased surveys to try to whip into line the candidates who might object by telling them, “This is what the Republican voters want.” But is it really?

Note added on July 30, 2012: I received another Republican Presidential Platform Survey last week. Interestingly, it was almost identical to the one received  less than 2 months ago – and it did not mention the results of that survey. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the results were because the surveys main purpose seems to be to provide propaganda and to request donations. It contained all the questions listed above above, but there was another section that is noteworthy. The section entitled “Values Issues” had 4 questions, and 3 of them were about the abortion issue. Are there no other values issues that should go into the Republican platform?

(c)2012  J.C. Moore