February 22, 2015 archive

Guardians of Veracity

Adapted from Rant of the Week at The Stars Hollow Gazette

Jon Stewart – Guardians of Veracity

Bri, why? Why, Bri? Why, Bri lie? Sigh. Were you Bri high?

A Mercenary Scholar

Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher


FEB. 21, 2015

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.

“What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, a group funded by foundations seeking to limit the risks of climate change.

Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.

Dr. Soon is employed by the Smithsonian Institution, which jointly sponsors the astrophysics center with Harvard.

Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard. He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. He has received little federal research money over the past decade and is thus responsible for bringing in his own funds, including his salary.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.



The Breakfast Club (A Young Person’s Guide)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgSo instead of what I should have been doing, which was writing a kick ass Breakfast Club, I spent last night watching a movie called Moonrise Kingdom with my family and a few friends.

I think their intention was that I should like this movie, which I do.  It’s a coming of age love story between two quirky misfits set in the Penobscot Islands, just about the best place on the planet as far as I’m concerned.  It features Bill Murray, one of my favorite actors, and Bruce Willis, in one of his less objectionable roles.

Things work out well in the end, most of the jerks come to the realization that they are being jerks and stop it and become inspired to aid the course of true love.

If it’s still available on YouTube I’ll put it up tonight as a Sunday Movie Spectacular, but I’ll warn you in advance that unless you want to spend between .99 and $2.99 for an Amazon stream or a month or two rooting around the remainder bin, you’ll want to install this tool (Free YouTube Downloader) and grab a copy for yourself.  It comes with the usual load of bloatware, so choose ‘custom install’ and decline where possible.  View on YouTube, Share, copy the http:// code and paste it in the downloader, hit the downward pointing arrow on the right.

The rest of the audience felt it was terrifically uplifting and funny, but it left me kind of sad and depressed.

I haven’t quite worked that out yet which is why I’ll have to watch it again, but I think a part of it is that I am 120+ years old and no longer have the innocence and enthusiasm of youth and true belief.  Instead I am trapped in the ashes of past decisions, mostly good but some bad, along with the awful certainty that things never really change for the better and the best and most heroic you can hope to do is keep sticking your fingers in the dike until the tide overwhelms you.  The closest thing to actual excitement I can muster is a rather cynical and insincere quote from a better known Bill Murray movie-

Excuse me Egon?  You said crossing the streams was bad!  You’re going to endanger us, you’re going to endanger our client – the nice lady, who paid us in advance before she became a dog…

Not necessarily.  There’s definitely a very slim chance we’ll survive.

I like this plan!  I’m excited to be a part of it!  Let’s do it!

But how does this relate to Art Music?

Well, most of the music in the movie comes from the pen of Benjamin Britten, a central figure of mid-20th Century British Art Music which the female lead plays incessantly on a battery powered record player she stole borrowed from her brother.

This is not surprising, among the works he’s best known for is The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra which if you are of a certain age and cultural background will fill you with instant nostalgia.

But he wrote other, more serious, things too and while he has a resume that proves his mastery of all the conventional forms, he’s best known by older students for his vocal compositions which include many popular Operas (“according to Operabase, they are performed worldwide more than those of any other composer born in the 20th century, and only Puccini and Richard Strauss come ahead of him if the list is extended to all operas composed after 1900.”) and many, many complicated and difficult a cappella pieces sadistic Choirmasters use to torture their Choruses and expose their vocal weakness in front of the public (have I mentioned I spent 5 years in purgatory Choir and am a natural, but very bad, Tenor?).  I suppose this is only to be expected given his Edwardian, Public School education.

Once upon a time there was a prep-school boy. … He was quite an ordinary little boy … he loved cricket, only quite liked football (although he kicked a pretty “corner”); he adored mathematics, got on all right with history, was scared by Latin Unseen; he behaved fairly well, only ragged the recognised amount, so that his contacts with the cane or the slipper were happily rare (although one nocturnal expedition to stalk ghosts left its marks behind); he worked his way up the school slowly and steadily, until at the age of thirteen he reached that pinnacle of importance and grandeur never to be quite equalled in later days: the head of the Sixth, head-prefect, and Victor Ludorum. But – there was one curious thing about this boy: he wrote music. His friends bore with it, his enemies kicked a bit but not for long (he was quite tough), the staff couldn’t object if his work and games didn’t suffer. He wrote lots of it, reams and reams of it.

He was very conscious of the tenuous hold Art Music had on the public and did many film scores and live appearances as a featured performer (pianist) or conductor to pay the bills.  Many of his pieces dealt with alienation, existential angst, and the corruption of innocence.

He was an out homosexual in a long term relationship with his protégé and partner Peter Pears and because of his orientation and his interest in educating young people (as well as his habit, unfortunately common among people of a personality type I share, of simply writing off relationships that don’t work) was the subject of many scurrilous rumors about pedophilia which extensive historical analysis has shown to be no more justified in his case than that of Charles Dodgson, and a secret syphilis infection that was dismissed as “complete rubbish” by his Doctor and the Hospital where he died in 1973 of complications after cardiac surgery.

Rather than the overplayed Young Person’s Guide, today I offer Gloriana, an Opera in 3 Acts written in celebration of Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953.  It’s one of a few works of his that was not a critical success, probably because Elizabeth I (Gloriana) is portrayed “as a sympathetic, but flawed, character motivated largely by vanity and desire.”

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History February 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 22 is the 53rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 312 days remaining until the end of the year (313 in leap years).

On this day in 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team makes “miracle on ice”.

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators.

The United States did not win the gold medal upon defeating the USSR. In 1980 the medal round was a round-robin, not a single elimination format as it is today. Under Olympic rules at the time, the group game with Sweden was counted along with the medal round games versus the Soviet Union and Finland so it was mathematically possible for the United States to finish anywhere from first to fourth.

Needing to win to secure the gold medal, Team USA came back from a 2-1 third period deficit to defeat Finland 4-2. According to Mike Eruzione, coming into the dressing room in the second intermission, Brooks turned to his players, looked at them and said, “If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your graves.” He then paused, took a few steps, turned again, said, “Your fucking graves,” and walked out.

At the time, the players ascended a podium to receive their medals and then lined up on the ice for the playing of the national anthem, as the podium was only meant to accommodate one person. Only the team captains remained on the podium for the duration. After the completion of the anthem, Eruzione motioned for his teammates to join him on the podium. Today, the podiums are large enough to accommodate all of the players.

The victory bolstered many American citizens’ feelings of national pride, which had been severely strained during the turbulent 1970s. The match against the Soviets popularized the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant, which has been used by American supporters at many international sports competitions since 1980.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Turkey launches rescue operation inside Syria

      Turkish forces carry out incursion into Syria to evacuate Turkish soldiers from Suleyman Shah tomb, Turkish PM confirms.

22 Feb 2015 07:27 GMT

Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah in Syria have been successfully evacuated to Turkey in a military operation overnight, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu said the remains of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, would be moved to a different area of Syria which has been brought under Turkish military control.

The military said in a statement that there had been no clashes during the operation but that one soldier had been killed in an accident.

Sunday’s Headlines:

At long last, Australia is able to halt the relentless advance of the cane toad

 The Grexit Dilemma: What Would Happen if Greece Leaves the Euro Zone?

Runaway British schoolgirls ‘have already crossed Syrian border’

Nigeria military retakes Boko Haram town: Is the tide turning?

It’s (almost) official: The 2022 World Cup is a total abomination

Late Night Karaoke