Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today Show Accidently Proves NYC 11-Year-Old Totally Safe Without Parents

Champions / Life underground (54)
Kids on NYC subway, Flickr's Victor Shoup
New York City 11-year-old Kareem Granton ran away from home last spring and spent five days hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese and riding the subway before the police found him. The Today Show presented this as a HARROWING TALE of a near-teenager somehow surviving without a parent monitoring his every move, before giving us a "social experiment" that purported to prove how dangerous everyday life is for kids.

Today's implication was that Granton could've been murdered at any moment, even though half a million NYC students take the subway or bus to school every day, and no less of an authority than New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it's perfectly safe for children ages 8 and up to ride the subway to school by themselves.

So to show how life is actually terribly risky in URBAN HELLHOLES like New York, The Today Show's Jeff Rossen sent an 11-year-old BY HIMSELF to extremely safe, busy public areas, then told bystanders they were history's greatest monsters for not immediately treating him like a kidnapping victim.



"At New York's famed Coney Island amusement park, Bjorn boarded ride after ride with no mom or dad in sight," reported Rossen, with absolutely no hint of self-awareness that he was actually describing an idyllic day for an 11-year-old of any previous generation. When Bjorn asked questions of strangers, they helpfully gave him whatever he needed.

Fortunately, Rossen was able to turn to John Walsh to inform people on the boardwalk that Bjorn was actually lucky to have survived the hour without being murdered by a lurking predator:
"Yeah, but he seemed comfortable and confident, self-assured," replied one. "He seemed old enough, it's broad daylight, lots of people around."

But Walsh pointed out: "They're not going to be crying or hysterical. And kids are so vulnerable, at that age particularly. They're so trusting, they're so innocent, and you don't want the bad guy to come up and say, 'I can help you.'"
Even if a child looks totally safe and secure, you must still treat them like they're terrified and in grave danger!
The experiment continued at a much quieter park where Bjorn walked through a group of adults, passed women pushing strollers, and listened to a musician. No one even looked twice. When the Rossen team had Bjorn sit alone on a bench for many minutes with no guardian in sight, no one said anything.
An 11-year-old sitting by himself with no one bothering him in a park filled with parents, and no one called the police? YOU SAVAGES.

The moral of the story: If we see an 11-year-old outdoors alone, we should be constantly asking him if he needs help. But having spent my entire childhood roaming the streets of Boston with friends with not one horror story but plenty of Kareem Granton-esque adventures, all I could conclude was:
  • Bjorn had fun
  • No one bothered him and he didn't hurt himself
  • Whenever he needed help, there was always a grownup right there happy to assist him
What Today didn't say is that America's kids are as safe today as they've ever been, but there are real questions about how much harm we're doing by overprotecting our children and arresting parents for letting their go kids outside alone.

Minutes later, Today launched into a new warning to parents: "Kids hooked on the Internet can suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and academic failure."

Might letting them out of the house once in a while by themselves ease that problem? Sorry, we'll have to leave it there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Must-Read Book of the Moment: Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything"

Seems like this is the book everyone's talking about this week. Joe Romm of ClimateProgress.org says Klein is right that unchecked capitalism will destroy civilization. Time to go look for $22 in my couch cushions & I'll try to get up a review of my own.

Monday, September 15, 2014

CNN: All Sizzle, No Science

The same CNN that laid off its entire science, environment and technology team sent an entire brigade to produce a live feed of Bill and Hillary Clinton flipping steaks in Iowa 16 months before the caucus:
CNN never pretended the science layoffs were about money. CNN turns $600 million annual profits and is owned by Time Warner, a $60 billion company that's reported $3 billion profits in consective years. It could hire 100 science journalists, but it chooses instead to endlessly debate if global warming is fake anytime it's cold in winter.

CNN can afford to produce world-class journalism. As Jay Rosen writes, it's made the choice to instead to produce state fair-quality crap.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Concord Monitor Nails Scott Brown's Climate Science Flip-Floppery

Climate science supporters often get too caught up in worrying about knowing every scientific detail. All you need to know is climate scientists say man-made carbon pollution is fueling rapidly-accelerating global warming and our politicians not only need to accept that reality, they need to have a plan to deal with it.

If a politician rejects that reality or, like Mitt Romney, accepts science when he's courting moderates but denies science when he's courting big-money polluting donors, he's asking for his leadership to be questioned. Today the Concord Monitor editorial board simply and directly calls out Scott Brown's climate science cowardace:
When running against Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Brown said climate change is real and in part driven by human activity. In New Hampshire, when asked if he believed man-made climate change has been scientifically proven, he said “no.” We await his general election position.
Oh! In the face! IN THE FACE.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bill Koch's Anti-Cape Wind Group Distances Itself from Itself

Astroturf the planetTo no one's surprise, Bill Koch's "Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound" front group for billionaires who hate looking at distant windmills has pledged to continue fighting Cape Wind despite the fact that the project is now committed to creating up to 1,000 jobs in New Bedford.

The statement from Audra Parker, the Alliance's top lobbyist, calls Cape Wind a "project already struggling under the weight of lawsuits". Audra doesn't say, but those lawsuits have either been filed by the Alliance directly or by partners like the town of Barnstable, which has taken at least $400,000 in Alliance money to pay lawyers. Why isn't the Alliance taking credit for its own lawsuits?

I've worked for or volunteered with several non-profits and at all of them, if we filed a lawsuit that slowed or stopped something we opposed, we'd be desperately trying to take credit for it. We'd have spent months or years rallying grassroots supporters behind our cause and we'd be thrilled to deliver them a win.

The Alliance is doing the exact opposite because it has no grassroots. It's pure Astroturf, using Bill Koch's green to buy the appearance of public support and hoping you can't smell the plastic.

Cape Wind Signs New Bedford Deal. Will Koch Keep Fighting?

Weeks 500Cape Wind has signed a lease agreement to stage its 130-turbine project in Nantucket Sound out of New Bedford's South Terminal, reports Ariel Wittenberg in the Standard-Times:
Cape Wind will pay a total of $4.5 million in rent to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the 28-acre facility, for two years. During that time, Cape Wind will be the only operator of the facility and the terms of lease allow for two one-year extensions.

Cape Wind has said that the assembly, staging and ocean construction of the project will create 600 to 1,000 jobs. Once in operation, the project is expected to employ 150 people, at least 50 of whom are expected to be based in Falmouth to do maintenance on the Nantucket Sound turbines.

The lease agreement is significant not just for Cape Wind but for New Bedford and the commonwealth's future involvement in the offshore wind industry. City officials have long stated that being the first port to stage an offshore wind farm will help the city to attract future projects and industry manufacturers.
Cape Wind also had held a lease option in Quonset, Rhode Island. Audra Parker of the William Koch-funded "Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound" had been trying to use the Quonset option to divide Massachusetts on Cape Wind, warning Cape Wind would dump New Bedford for Quonset. Various local anti-wind activists like Frank Haggerty joined Parker in pushing the talking point, demonstrating their reasonableness in the comments of Parker's letter:


Y'know, the Nazis had solar panels that they made the Jews wear.

The bottom line here is that Cape Wind is delivering on its promises to harvest clean offshore wind energy for Massachusetts and to bring new, long-term jobs to New Bedford. Meanwhile, the polluter blockade of New Bedford wind energy jobs has finally and fully crumbled. If Bill Koch wants to keep fighting to protect his beachfront estate views from the horrors of distant windmills, it's going to mean putting real people out of work in a city that desperately needs the jobs.

Will Koch carry on his quixotic crusade, or will he finally tell his army of lawyers and lobbyists to stand down? We're about to find out.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Data: Climate Crisis Accelerating Faster Than Anyone Expected

Goodbye, Cruel World!!Public statements about climate change, whether from scientists, journalists or politicians, are always tempered by an element of "surely at some point reasonable people will decide to act."

But it's 2014 and the world has yet to collectively act, and now the data is screaming at scientists that the climate crisis could be much worse than anyone predicted.

And tomorrow Congress will again fail to act, but no one will freak out because at some point, I'm sure someone will have to fix it, right? Right. Glad we settled that so we can go back to enjoying low-cost-today coal, oil and fracked gas, comforted by the knowledge that future reasonable people will pay the horrible bill that comes due.

Even Koch-Funded Push Poll Shows Majority Support For Wind Tax Credits

It's not enoughThe American Energy Alliance, a virtual subsidiary of Koch Industries, has a new energy push-poll out today. Not only are the questions rigged, the sample is skewed – while only 26% of US population is age 55 or older, 45% of poll respondents are 55 or older. Asked the most pressing issue facing America, this group’s #3 answer is “President Obama.” (???)

But one question contains a revealing result for the strength and bipartisan depth of support for government incentives for wind energy. Keep in mind that by this point in the poll, respondents have already been falsely primed to think tax credits mostly benefit foreign companies and don’t work:
9. Companies that generate electricity using wind power get a tax credit from the federal government which is paid for by taxpayers. In general, do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing?

51 Good thing
37 Bad thing
12 Don’t know/refused
The poll then comically keeps pushing respondents further and further against wind (well what if a turbine fell on your dog, would you support wind tax credits then?), but the poll's damage to the Koch's message is done. It's more proof that, as Joan Walsh wrote for Salon this week, Democrats should fear the Koch machine's money but not its message.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Are Anti-Cell Tower Activists Making Up Science?

You know cell service is bad when u need an antenna extender ;)AT&T wants to add mobile phone antennas to the top of a water tower in Dartmouth, MA. Are local NIMBY activists citing a made-up "study" when the truth is they just don't want to look at the antennas?

Here's the line that caught my eye in the New Bedford Standard-Times coverage:
Tucker Lane resident Amy Goulart cited Boston University and Harvard University studies that have called cell towers "a radiation hazard."
It just sounds funny - Harvard and BU usually put out studies on their own. Have multiple studies showing different things been combined to claim something the individual studies didn't? Or is someone putting the two names together just because it sounds more believable that way?

But more broadly, a study that showed that result would be big national news, altering the planning process for every cell tower that came after it. Yet a Google search turns up no direct links to a study like that.

Instead, the "studies" turns up as frequently referenced - but never directly linked - by anti-cell tower activists, often in smaller newspapers like the Standard-Times where corporate profits are prioritized over giving journalists and editors time to fact-check.

More alarmingly, the reference is often changed, again seemingly embellished to add false credibility:
  • "More than 40 physicians and scientists at Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health claim cell towers are a 'radiation hazard' and 'public health emergency.'" (example)
  • "Over 100 physicians and scientists at Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health have called cellular towers a radiation hazard." (example)
In reality, the Federal Communications Commission says, "radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular and PCS transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits." The FCC concludes, "there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students." Don't believe BIG GOVERNMENT? The American Cancer Society says, "Cell phone towers are not known to cause any health effects."

Look, I don't care whether AT&T gets its cell tower in Dartmouth (I have Verizon), though it's frustrating that cell service around here stinks in part because NIMBYs fight every single attempt to add a tower. It's fair to ask if companies like AT&T (2013 profit: $18 billion) should sweeten the deal for communities to speed the process. As we already know, cash is a miracle cure for "wind turbine syndrome."

But much like with wind turbine opposition, it sounds like anti-cell tower activists are spreading phony science because "I don't want to look at them" doesn't sway people in the face of a clear public need. (If I missed something and this study does exist, please post a link in comments.)