Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Seven Secrets of Feigning Objectivity

This article, NPR's Seven Secrets of Feigning Objectivity, by Bill Frezza in Forbes talks about NPR but the points made easily apply to any news outlet, whether it's Fox, MSNBC, Drudge Report or CNN. I've seen all of them using these "secrets." I know some of the selectivity in the stories they cover is driven by time constraints of their medium. However, Frezza also identifies other ways a news outlet can shape the news they're presenting to push their agenda. That's why I make it a point to get my information from more than one source. It is enlightening to switch, say, between CNN and Fox to see how they select different stories to headline or who they choose to comment on events.

I heartily agree with Frezza's last sentence: "Knowing these secrets will help you be a smarter consumer of the news and a better informed citizen."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Global Warming: Questions That Need Distinguishing – Maverick Philosopher

I like to share posts that give examples of what I think is objective thinking. Below are some extended quotes from Maverick Philosopher about global warming that provide an example.

I am a skeptic about global warming (GW). To be precise, I am skeptical about some, not all, of the claims made by the GW activists. See below for some necessary distinctions. Skepticism is good. Doubt is the engine of inquiry and a key partner in the pursuit of truth.

A skeptic is a doubter, not a denier. To doubt or inquire or question whether such-and-such is the case is not to deny that it is the case. It is a cheap rhetorical trick of GW alarmists when they speak of GW denial and posture as if it is in the ball park of Holocaust denial. People who misuse language in this way signal that they are not interested in a serious discussion. When GW activists speak in this way they give us even more reason to be skeptical.
I have not investigated the matter with any thoroughness, and I have no firm opinion. It is difficult to form an opinion because it is difficult to know whom to trust: reputable scientists have their ideological biases too, and if they work in universities, the leftish climate in these hotbeds of political correctness is some reason to be skeptical of anything they say. (Both puns intended.)

Off the top of my head I think we ought to distinguish among the following questions:

1. Is global warming (GW) occurring?
2. If yes to (1), is it naturally irreversible, or is it likely to reverse itself on its own?
3. If GW is occurring, and will not reverse itself on its own, to what extent is it anthropogenic, i.e., caused by human activity, and what are the human causes?

(3) is the crucial empirical question. It is obviously distinct from (1) and (2). If there is naturally irreversible global warming, this is not to say that it is caused by human activity. It may or may not be. One has to be aware of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Suppose there is a close correlation between global warming and man-made carbon emissions. It doesn't straightaway follow that the human activity causes the warming. But again, this is not a question that can be settled a priori; it is a question for climatologists.

4. If anthropogenic, is global warming caused by humans to a degree that warrants action, assuming that action can be taken to stop it?
5. If GW is caused by humans to an extent that it warrants action, what sorts of action would be needed to stop the warming process?
6. How much curtailment of economic growth would we be willing to accept to stop global warming? And what other effects on human beings could the anti-global warming policies be expected to have?
The first three of these six questions are empirical and are reserved for climatologists. They are very difficult questions to answer.

Our first three questions are empirical. But the last three are not, being questions of public policy. So although the core issues are empirical, philosophers have some role to play: they can help in the formulation and clarification of the various questions; they can help with the normative questions that arise in conjunction with (4)-(5), and they can examine the cogency of the arguments given on either side. Last but not least, they can drive home the importance of being clear about the distinction between empirical and conceptual questions.

Just for the record I too am a skeptic or, to be more specific and accurate, a “luke-warmer” which means I think we humans have some impact on the global climate but nowhere near what global warming alarmists claim. It would take many pages to explain why I believe this.

Monday, January 9, 2017

5 Reasons Meryl Streep's Golden Globes Speech Was A Dud

5 Reasons Meryl Streep's Golden Globes Speech Was A Dud 

Last night as my wife and I channel surfed we stopped at the Golden Globe awards just in time to see Meryl Streep receive the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. She lost no time to launch into an anti-Trump tirade. I like this commentary on The Federalist by Mollie Hemingway.

Here is a sampling of her commentary.

Streep said, “Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it. Hollywood, foreigners, and the press.”
How do I put this? UM, NO. Just no. The press and Hollywood are some of the most privileged segments of society. Whether you measure it in terms of cash money, prestige, fame, or an ability to fail year after year and get promoted, Hollywood and media elite do not get to cast themselves as victims. 
To be fair, Streep is right that the press and Hollywood are indeed vilified among certain parts of the population which includes some but not necessarily all of Trump's supporters. Streep's comment therefore is partially true: some of the people who voted for Trump did so because they vilify Hollywood and the press ... maybe because these voters feel vilified by Hollywood and the press! So it's mutual vilification!

Read the rest of it. Hemmingway is not a Trump supporter; I agree with her criticisms of some of Trump's verbal shenanigans during the campaign that consisted of mocking insults. 

I also agree with her closing paragraph.
As individuals, however, we can and should always redouble our efforts to speak well of each other and treat each other well. We shouldn’t take our guidance from politicians or movie stars, and if we focus our efforts on improving our own virtue, perhaps future generations will have better statesmen and artists.