Just a couple of links, comments, etc.
- Six seismologists in Italy have recently been convicted and sentenced to six years in prison (each) for issuing a "falsely reassuring statement" prior to the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy (BBC Article). The seismologists have been charged with manslaughter over the deaths of over 300 people in the quake, and have also been barred from holding public office ever again in the future. Yesterday's BBC Global News Podcast (Monday, October 22 AM) has some additional details on the situation behind this particular event—apparently there were a series of smaller quakes in the preceding month, but it sounds like such clusters of quakes are pretty common. Some commentators interviewed by the BBC have suggested that this could pave the way for politicians in Italy and other countries to impose new laws criminalizing what I can only label as "bad advice" from scientists, thereby making scientists less likely to offer advice to policymakers. I can't really speak to how likely I think this is, though my initial thought it "not very." Still, I would not have thought it very likely for six seismologists to be sentenced to prison terms under such circumstances in an advanced industrial democracy either. If such laws did become more prevalent, however, I guess I'd be more worried that one potential implication is that failure to come forward to begin with would suggest culpability as well. Damned if you do, damned if you don't?
- Dan Nexon has recently announced a new blogging reception at ISA's 2013 meeting in San Francisco. It looks as though nominations for the various award categories are open in the comments thread. Some great blogs already appear to be listed, like Phil Arena's and IPE@UNC. If you somehow read this blog, but not any of these others, you should probably go check them out.
- The presidential foreign policy debate was last night, and though I don't have a lot to say at this point I do have a couple of brief thoughts. First, Romney definitely seemed more tentative last night than in either of the previous debates. As many others have noted, it seems like this is partially because there's just not a lot of daylight between Romney and Obama on many of these issues. This could also be the result of Obama simply having a greater edge on this subject area because of the job he's held for the past four years, combined with the fact that he's proved far less a lefty on foreign policy than many on the left would have liked, and many on the right had feared. Romney clearly tried to steer the conversation away from what I'll say was a more traditional discussion of security issues to the economy. That's fine, so long as he could have framed it in a clear and convincing way. It's hard to argue that economic policy is not intimately tied in with national security. However, I don't really think Romney did that effectively. His reference to Mike Mullen's earlier comments were helpful, but I think it's getting harder for the Republicans to argue that Obama has reduced our military to some impotent shadow of its former self. Obama's comment on bayonets and horses, while cute, does carry some truth.* Further, that Obama highlighted the fact that we spend more than the next ten top spenders combined on our military helped to further discredit the idea that our military is languishing. He could have increased that number quite a bit and only strengthened that position. In short, I think Romney was weaker here not just because Obama had an experiential advantage, but because even on national security the facts just don't play out as the Republicans would like.
*I'm curious as to how much of this total is simply smaller support vessels that we just don't need anymore. The way to support and maintain ships is quite a bit different now than it was in the early 1900s. The elimination of battleships probably cuts down on this as well. The period Romney referenced is often identified with a significant buildup of increasingly large big-gun ships.