Strong opinions, weakly held

Links for August 9

I’ve been deficient in posting links but not in collecting them. Here’s a big list of interesting stuff I’ve seen over the past week:

Newsweek ran a long article this week about the well-funded global warming denial program that has developed over the past few decades. The article explains the comprehensive disinformation campaign applied over the years to stunt public understanding of global warming. Every popular argument against doing about global warming can be traced back to these efforts.

Wired editor Chris Anderson has a review of Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book on global warming. Lomborg has consistently said that we pay too much attention to climate change, but he comes up with different arguments in support of that assertion every year or two.

The recent barrage of greeting card spam was part of the largest spam and dump scam in history.

How many Web servers is Google running? Enough that Netcraft changing its tracking to separate Google Web Server from the general Apache population put a sizable dent in Apache’s market share in their survey.

Scott Rosenberg’s latest code read is the Big Ball of Mud paper. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

Buried in a long New Yorker article on Israel is an astounding factoid. Thirty percent of Israelis favor pardoning Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. If I were a member of the remaining 70%, that would scare me.

MeasureIt is a cool screen ruler extension for Firefox.

The Boston Globe published an article on recent academic studies concerning the effects of diversity that bears thinking about. Here’s a snippet:

The study is part of a fascinating new portrait of diversity emerging from recent scholarship. Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable — but discomfort, it turns out, isn’t always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches. At the same time, though, Putnam’s work adds to a growing body of research indicating that more diverse populations seem to extend themselves less on behalf of collective needs and goals.

The Slacktivist exposes how banks have turned overdraft protection into a way to make a lot of money. Did you know that banks are allowed to manipulate the order in which your transactions are processed in order to cause you to withdraw more than your balance?

Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings on torture:

One of the most striking signs of our government’s complete immorality and incompetence is that they have turned the architect of 9/11 into a victim of human rights abuses.

Anil Dash posts about what designers can learn from chefs, fake Steve Jobs, and the new trend in pie charts.

Whimsley has a huge, fascinating post on the Netflix prize.

Bruce Schneier has put up one long post with his full interview with TSA’s Kip Hawley that I linked to previously.

There have been a ton of interesting reactions to the California voting machine security review. That’s a link to one of them with some jumping off points.

The idea that politicians should refuse to answer hypothetical questions is idiotic. Hopefully it’s one trend from the Bush administration that won’t last.

Elizabeth Kolbert on the New Yorker on bees.

Best captcha ever.

Tyler Cowen posts on the pros and cons of equalizing the income tax rate and capital gains tax rate. I have long been in favor of doing so but I’m no longer certain that is the best policy (even if it is the fairest).

Chris Anderson also posted a bearish review of Second Life, explaining why Wired magazine ended its SL boosterism.

Today’s iPhone bucket: there’s an NES emulator being developed. Apple is earning praise for its Web design guidelines for the iPhone. MobileTerminal may be the first native application for iPhone. Walt Mossberg posts about the new iPhone features in version 1.0.1.


  1. Not to try and start a huge flame war, but the Newsweek article did have a few issues with it. I’m certainly not a climate change denier, but I am skeptical about some of the more.. publicized claims that are bandied about. I am at least willing to listen to both sides, and the tone of the Newsweek article was pretty derisive about anyone not toeing the company line on anthropogenic warming trends. Warren Meyer over at Coyote Blog has a decent rebuttal that I found worth reading. YMMV.

  2. There’s clearly a lot of speculative information out there when it comes to climate change, but I find it pretty darn suspicious that nearly all the climate change deniers have, over the years, changed their argument but not their purpose.

    And as far as that rebuttal goes, it’s not a rebuttal of the story at all (which was about a systemic and well funded effort to disseminate disinformation about climate change). Also, that site attacks a specific set of measurements, but there is a lot more information about the effects and mechanism of global warming that are hard to dispute.

  3. I only read the Newsweek article quickly on the Metro, but one impression I walked away with it is that while the article described the disinformation campaign, it didn’t really get into the motivations of WHY people and organizations are so fixated on it. The obvious implication is that it’s a (comparatively short-term) profit motive, but I was surprised that not much attention to underlying drivers was given. And, of course, these things take on a life of their own. Anti-science bigotry pays dividends for certain ideologically authoritarian viewpoints.

  4. I am a regular reader of your article. And I am very impress with your blog upon Global Warming. Now I am also write a blog upon effects and causes of Global Warming. This blog is collection of news & reviews like the study found that global warming since 1985 has been caused neither by an increase in solar radiation nor by a decrease in the flux of galactic cosmic rays. Some researchers had also suggested that the latter might influence global warming because the rays trigger cloud formation.

  5. I think that energy people have worked to cloud the debate over climate change because they don’t want the government to regulate people into using less energy, nor do they want people to voluntarily use less energy.

    I think that right wingers want to cloud the debate because major environmental crises favor the Democrats politically. If we really do face a climate crisis, we need to look at the federal government (and even worse, international cooperation) to dig us out of this hole. That isn’t too appealing to the right wingers.

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