August 31, 2004

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (George Bush: Foe of Global Warming Edition)

Gregg Easterbrook lowers the bar for the American press corps once again. Via Atrios:

Eschaton: Why do editors continue to run the inane garbage of Easterbrook? Check out this article in the Monthly, in a forum on a 2nd Bush presidency, in which he asserts this:

A reelected Bush, if he wants to win favor with historians, will have to do something impressive, statesmanlike, and out of character. Which is why I think a second-term Bush will be the president who imposes global-warming controls...

The only true statements here are that "impressive" and "statesmanlike" are indeed out-of-character for Bush. Atrios has it about right. This may well be Easterbrook's nadir--worse even than:

Most commercial satellites are bound for geostationary orbit, 22,300 miles above the Equator. In this orbit an object hangs the same distance from Earth as Earth is around; the effect is that the satellite moves at a pace matching Earth's rotation, and therefore remains over the same point.

Let us ignore the little factual problem that the height of a satellite in geosynchronous orbit is not the 40,075 km that is the earth's circumference but either 35,785 km (above the earth's surface) or 42,163 km (from the center of the earth). Let us focus on the conceptual problem that the height of a satellite in geosynchronous orbit has nothing at all to do with the circumference of the earth. The height depends on Newton's gravitational constant G, the mass of the earth Me, and the length of the day Ld (sidereal day: 86,160 seconds, not 86,400 seconds). It nowise depends on the circumference of the earth. the circumference of the earth nowhere appears in the formulas.

There is no physical theory that has been held by anybody in the past five thousand years--not Einstein, not Newton, not Galileo, not Aristotle, not the guys who used to bang the gongs to frighten the dragon away from the sun and bring the eclipse to an end--that ever said or would ever have said that an object in a circular orbit around the earth at a height equal to the earth's circumference orbits the earth in one day.

Posted by DeLong at August 31, 2004 11:28 AM | TrackBack

Isn't Easterbrook also a supporter of "intelligent design", which makes him a moron in addition to being a hack and a bigot.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff at August 31, 2004 11:42 AM

This guys is their science guy ?

Just shoot me, please. Or wait, give me the job.

Posted by: ch2 at August 31, 2004 11:42 AM

That Easterbrook would write such a pile o'crap doesn't surprise me in the least. But it frickin' *astounds* me that a quality mag like the Washington Monthly would *print* it.

Easterbrook provides exactly zero support for his assertion that Dumbya would deal with global warming in a second term. None. It's one thing to reach a bizarre conclusion on the basis of some shreds of fact and argument; it's another thing to simply *assert* it, which is why I can't believe the WM would print it.

I've been a subscriber of theirs for years. I've let them know how I feel.

Posted by: RT at August 31, 2004 12:00 PM

OK, Easterbrook is a dumbass, but I can't see the whole article, 'cause it is subscriber only. What was the topic he was writing aboue?

Posted by: noone at August 31, 2004 12:17 PM

I mentioned this over at and will mention it here, even if it is slightly off topic.

The Republicans need to stop comparing Bush to Winston Churchill, Abe Lincoln, and so on. You may think he's a good leader - I certainly don't - but to put him into the same category as those guys is absurd.

Posted by: Brian at August 31, 2004 12:18 PM

There seems to be a school that feels untroubled by (if not proud of) complete ignorance of the physical world. Perhaps they think politics and/or culture are so much more important that there is no time left for natural science; perhaps they're even proud of their ignorance, holding such things to be beneath them.

Alas, issues involving energy, polution, medical research, etc., just won't have the decency to leave politics alone.

Worst of all is that anyone would print such an thing, and that no editor would catch it. He (they) obviously think they know but don't. That's a recipe for trouble, and no administration in my memory has cooked more dishes using that recipe.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg at August 31, 2004 12:19 PM

Your calculation (Period = 2 (pi) x square root (a3/mu)) includes radius, silly.

Posted by: a at August 31, 2004 12:43 PM

John Kerry was a Legacy at Yale

This past weekend we took a tour of the Yale University campus in New Haven. The wife and I are fighting over which college our daughter should go to. I want her to go to MIT and study Artificial Intelligence and Robotics as well as participating in Navy ROTC.

The Fabulous Cindy wants her to go to her alma mater – Barnard College – or to Yale. She points out that since little Barbara wants to go into politics and perhaps become the President of the United States, that Yale already has eight graduates who became the President.

Yes, she is extremely self confident and ambitious. I remember her telling me she “knew everything” when she was only four. I pointed out that she couldn’t know everything because she couldn’t even read yet. She responded “Ok, I’ll learn to read and then I’ll be able to know everything.” She always wins.

Anyhow, the Yale Campus was wonderful and we all agreed that it would be OK if Barbara did want to go to Yale. I asked the guide if Kerry was a Legacy and he allowed that he knew Bush was a legacy but he didn’t know about Kerry.

As it happens, this was important to me because all my Kerry-loving pals all point out that Bush was a Legacy Admission as proof that he really is very stupid. Well my friends, John Kerry was also a legacy Admission:

“Kerry, whose father worked for the State Department after graduating from Yale, was involved...

Posted by: Adrian Spidle at August 31, 2004 01:15 PM

RT - that's the ATLANTIC monthly, not the Washington Monthly.

Posted by: Skip at August 31, 2004 01:16 PM

Adrian, who is logic-challenged and has a bit of difficulty with the English language, seems not to realize that "legacy" as applied to Junior Bush means someone who was admitted solely because of family connections.(Junior had lousy grades and no accomplishments in prep school). John Kerry, who did have family connections to Yale -- and was a "legacy" in that sense -- was, however, admitted to Yale because he had excellent grades and accomplishments as a prep school student.
By the way, Junior has f*ck*d up everything else in his life, too.

Posted by: bob at August 31, 2004 01:21 PM

Mr. Spidle,
Blog-whoring is so undignified. What is your opinion on Brad's post ?

Posted by: ch2 at August 31, 2004 01:33 PM

One of the things that surprises me is how incestuous this media business can be. I'll be reading the Washington Monthly website, and then see a link to one of their 'contributing editors', Mickey Kaus - better known as Kaus Hackula.

If I were running a respectable magazine, Kaus would be neither a 'contributing editor', nor featured on my magazine.

I think that once somebody's in, they're in, and only pissing off the 'cool kids'. I'm now a strong believer in whoeveritwas' 'cool kids' theory of the press (that they're forever replaying the high school role of trying to impressing to impress the cool kids in the school).

Posted by: Barry at August 31, 2004 01:38 PM

Support for George W. Bush does seem to rest on recieving divine guidance which contradicts all empirical evidence. I am not sure if that is Mr. Easterbrook's gut that tells him GWB will act to cut global warming, or if it is the voices in his head.

Posted by: theCoach at August 31, 2004 01:45 PM

Sorry, that should be, '...once they're in, they're in, and the only worry is pissing off the 'cool kids''.

Posted by: Barry at August 31, 2004 01:46 PM

I remain mystified as to why Easterbrook, Kaus, and Sullivan ever find work.

Posted by: praktike at August 31, 2004 01:58 PM

Brings up an interesting question. Do we honestly consider someone like Gregg Easterbrook to be a member of the "press core"?

He was a sometimes, rather infrequent member of the ccommentariat, and even then, only about specific issues, who became suddenly besotted by his growing fame. I still have a hard time thinking of him as a pressman.

More like Will Rogers, only not funny and not smart. Well, ok, not like Will Rogers.

Posted by: Nash at August 31, 2004 02:27 PM

Mr. Spidle,

That's not even remotely on topic. I often vere away from the issue at hand, but I stay within the same area. With your posts, it's like we were talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers, when you decided to bring up cooking.

Posted by: Brian at August 31, 2004 02:47 PM

Yes, these things put Easterbrook in a very bad light.

However, he did write (1) a good essay a long time ago debunking the genetic determinism of _The Bell Curve_, and (2) a good article in _The New Republic_ as to why chemical weapons and likely most biological weapons aren't really "weapons of mass destruction."

Posted by: liberal at August 31, 2004 02:48 PM

Brad, Sorry you missed this Easterbrook fiasco as well The New Republic "THE CASE FOR GETTING OUT OF IRAQ On Leave" By Gregg Easterbrook
Yes, Easterbrook is always capable of a lower low.

Gee, Didn't Easterbrook serve as a Senior Editor for the New Republic, that was the "liberal" cheerleader for the Iraq War by stating even before March 2003, that sure WMD were never the issue, however a "Wilsonian" World View was the correct justification for invasion. The United State's mission was to bring Freedom and Democracy to the Arab world in order to fight Islamic Terrorism. A simple minded New Republic/true believer's take on the more Cynical Neo-Conservative world view.

Gee, didn't Easterbrook understand that it was never going to be that simple. Now, the problem is that there are people in Iraq who have proven to be true steadfast Allies like the Kurds not to mention everday Iraqi Shites, Sunni's, Turkmen etc, who may now regret the US invasion but who took a stand for a time in support it in the vain hope that it might result in a better life for themselves and their country. Now we are going to abandon these people to await the fate or whatever violent gang wins out in a Iraqi Civil war.

"Sorry, Iraq we meant well but we F'ed Up. Bye-Bye". TNR should have never trusted the Bushies to excute the Pentagon's 10+ years in the making War/Occupation Plan for Iraq(See Fallows Alantic Monthly). Bush fired or demoted all the Pentagon advisors on Iraq and replace with them Neo-Con Hacks or shills for Haliburton.

Ask Easterbrook now if there shouldn't be a sanity check for any single Foriegn Policy World view(Wilsonian(whatever that means), Realist, Human Rights, Neo-Imperalist/Neo-Con etc. Is a humble "First Do No Harm, Unless it is a absolute National Interest Imperative". That was what the America people thought the WMD's were all about. A TNR reader should check his/her back issues for the excellent April 1985 article by Hendrik Hertzberg on the 10 aniversery of the Fall of Saigon where he wrote a opposing opinion to the Senior Editors like Neo-con Wacko Dr.Krauthammer's Vietnam revisionism. A little bit of Hertzberg's humility would have save the TNR's making an ass out of itself over Iraq. Maybe Easterbrook should start by reading Hertzberg.

Now If you want to talk about a serious exit strategy for Iraq you may have to honestly consider Peter Galbraith's idea of allowing Iraq to partition into Kurdish, Sunni and Shite states. However, that will take incrediable amount of international co-operation and leadership for that to happen. Are the Bushie' up to the challange. Hell no!! Kerry may be. At least he knows the job will require not pissing off our Allies and tough bargaining with Saudi Arabia,Turkey,Syria, Kuwait and even Iran(not more Neo-Con war making).

Also, what about all the damage that has been done to Iraq already. The 87,100,200 billion has already been pissed away by likes of Haliburtan and Bechtel. Who is going to rebuild Iraq(I mean Kurdistan, Sunnistan, Shitistan). How can we just tearing the place apart and then abandon it?

Easterbrook should be left to write only about the Space Shuttle, SUV's and rasing Auto Milage Standards. On almost any other subject he is nausatingly simple minded or just stupid.

Posted by: llamajockey at August 31, 2004 02:49 PM

I poop too much and it makes me tired.

Posted by: Adrian Spidle at August 31, 2004 02:54 PM

Interesting note on carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide in the air is in equilibrium with the ocean where it can form carbonic acid. Apparently the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is starting to acidify the ocean. This is bad news for coral.

Even if global warming causes minimal disruption (we don't know yet) there are other adverse affects of increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere.

Posted by: bakho at August 31, 2004 03:25 PM

a is confused. r is not the radius of the earth, but of the orbit.

Posted by: cafl at August 31, 2004 03:53 PM

As I said before, this is the price we all pay for Easterbrook's friends in the media giving him a pass last year for denouncing Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein for worshiping money.

Posted by: Arnold Snarb at August 31, 2004 04:00 PM

"Interesting note on carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide in the air is in equilibrium with the ocean where it can form carbonic acid."

No. No. No. No. No.

The *top* 75 meters of the ocean is roughly in equilibrium with the atmosphere, because of wind/wave effects mixing the upper layers. Below that, the ocean is not in equilibrium with the atmosphere (so the ocean can still be a considerable sink of CO2). The ocean isn't even in *thermal* equilibrium with the atmosphere; which causes a considerable lag between the rise in radiative forcing from greenhouse gases and the rise in globally averaged mean temperature, as the ocean acts as a heat sink.

Posted by: Tom at August 31, 2004 04:13 PM


While you are, of course, correct I took Bakho's point just to be that increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration will have geochemical effects as well as the usually described climatic ones. Yes, right, on long enough time scales - the thosand(s) year scale for ocean acidification - these are the same thing but on short term time scales the link is much less strong and, as I thought Bakho was saying, thus not often mentioned in discussions of the impact of global warming.

Posted by: Kramer at August 31, 2004 04:36 PM

Skip - I was talking about Easterbrook's global-warming BS, which will appear in the September 2004 *Washington* Monthly:

I think you were talking about Easterbrook's geostationary-orbit BS, which, as you said, appeared in the Atlantic.

It's easy to get confused - you really can't keep track of the Easterbrook BS without a scorecard.

Posted by: RT at August 31, 2004 05:45 PM

You are correct, should not have used the word equilibrium, too short hand. Carbon dioxide in air can exchange with carbon dioxide in the water and enter the carbonate cycle. Adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere drives the carbonate equilibrium in the water more acid (depletes carbonate). Thus one effect of CO2 is to make the water more acid. Apparently this is enough to effect the growth of coral.

"By mid-century, increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, are expected to reduce by 30 percent the carbonate ion concentration of the surface ocean. When Langdon changed the carbonate concentration in the Biosphere 2 ocean to that projected level, he observed significant reduction in calcification rates for the coral and coralline algae."

Posted by: bakho at August 31, 2004 05:45 PM

"...because all my Kerry-loving pals..."

You have pals?!

Sorry, shouldn't pick on your nicest post ever. I really do like your kid story even if it was off-topic.

Wasn't Easterbrook TMQ? (or something like that meaning Monday Morning Quarterback-- Slate & ESPN). I liked that material; so confusing, cognitive dissonance for liberals.

Speaking of TMQ are those GOP Convention Faux Reporters babes or what? Anybody know the link to their underwear page? Geosynchronous This!

Posted by: dennisS at August 31, 2004 05:53 PM

Sorry historians have already "weighed in" on Bushie boy.

Historians vs. George W. Bush
By Robert S. McElvaine

“Bush is blatantly a puppet for corporate interests, who care only about their own greed and have no sense of civic responsibility or community service. He lies, constantly and often, seemingly without control, and he lied about his invasion into a sovereign country, again for corporate interests; many people have died and been maimed, and that has been lied about too. He grandstands and mugs in a shameful manner, befitting a snake oil salesman, not a statesman. He is an abject embarrassment/pariah overseas; the rest of the world hates him...

...He is, by far, the most irresponsible, unethical, inexcusable occupant of our formerly highest office in the land that there has ever been.”

Posted by: standa at August 31, 2004 06:23 PM

cafl wrote: a is confused. r is not the radius of the earth, but of the orbit.

Brad wrote: Calculate this by taking the average of the altitude when the object is closest to the earth with the altitude when it is farthest from the earth and then *** add the radius of the earth ***.

Posted by: a at August 31, 2004 09:53 PM

Proposition:Orbital period depends on orbital radius in a circular orbit (let's keep it circular for simplicity).
Proof: Orbital radius, a, is calculated as "altitude plus earth's radius" in the example, true.
But altitude is simply "orbital radius minus earth's radius", or "a-earth's radius".

Axiom: Period =2pi x root (a3/mu). (PBS)
Let us assume that mu is constant.

1. Period is proportional to root a3.
2. Period is proportional to root ((a-earth's radius)+(earth's radius)3.
In the above equation, 2, the two mentions of earth's radius cancel out.
Therefore a change in earth's radius does not affect orbital period.

Posted by: ajay at September 1, 2004 02:34 AM

I seem to remember that Easterbrook at one point was parroting that idiotic line about how global warming will be good for us because we'll have more nice warm days in the sun.

That alone should have disqualified him from being taken seriously in any future statement on the topic.

Posted by: wvmcl at September 1, 2004 06:09 AM

ajay wrote: Proposition:Orbital period depends on orbital radius in a circular orbit (let's keep it circular for simplicity).
Proof: Orbital radius, a, is calculated as "altitude plus earth's radius" in the example, true.
But altitude is simply "orbital radius minus earth's radius", or "a-earth's radius".

Cool. Lets continue your line of thought:

Earth radius is orbital radius (a) minus altitiude. So the period is ((a-altitude) + (altitude))^3. Altitudes cancel each other so the altitude does not affect the period.

In addition, you've proven that earth radius does not affect the period. However a = earth radius + altitude and since neithe part affects the period, a does not affect it either.


Posted by: a at September 1, 2004 10:24 PM