This woman is remarkable.
Archive for the 'Environment' Category
Mr Bad Example
Isn’t there an energy crisis or something that we all have to worry about?
Guess, we can just call him “Mr Bad Example,” and be done with it.
The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.
“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”
Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) decided he wanted to show off how green he was by driving an electric car being developed in his district to his swearing in at the Capitol in D.C. Of course no electric car actually has enough juice to make the 300 mile trip. So what’s a feel good conservationist to do?
Massa drove one fuel cell car while a hybrid SUV towing an additional SUV followed along. Once he got half way, he switched to new fuel cell car. The empty fuel cell was then towed back by the first SUV. As he continued on his journey, the second SUV followed. Once Massa arrived in DC, the second SUV then towed the second fuel cell car back to NY.
I have to wonder if at any point while hatching this stunt that someone didn’t tell Rep Massa that by showing off his green technology he was wasting a ton of energy and polluting? Was he just too dense to know or just too callus to care?
(H/t: Radley Balko)
Pelosi says, “I’m trying to save the planet; I’m trying to save the planet.”
Charles Krauthammer points out the incoherence of this:
Does Pelosi imagine that with so much of America declared off-limits, the planet is less injured as drilling shifts to Kazakhstan and Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea? That Russia will be more environmentally scrupulous than we in drilling in its Arctic?
The net environmental effect of Pelosi’s no-drilling willfulness is negative. Outsourcing U.S. oil production does nothing to lessen worldwide environmental despoliation. It simply exports it to more corrupt, less efficient, more unstable parts of the world — thereby increasing net planetary damage.
Democrats want no oil from the American OCS or ANWR. But of course they do want more oil. From OPEC. From where Americans don’t vote. From places Democratic legislators can’t see. On May 13 Sen. Chuck Schumer — deeply committed to saving just those pieces of the planet that might have huge reserves of American oil — demanded that the Saudis increase production by a million barrels a day. It doesn’t occur to him that by eschewing the slightest disturbance of the mating habits of the Arctic caribou, he is calling for the further exploitation of the pristine deserts of Arabia. In the name of the planet, mind you.
Do you ever find yourself holding views that are mutually exclusive? If so, do not despair. My experience is that virtually all of us do this, even if very rarely. With the thousands of issues and millions of details pertaining to those issues, it would not be shocking to note that at times, some of what we hold to be so conflicts.
Still, if you are like me, you do your best to review your beliefs frequently. If you see that some positions are illogical, you analyze and reconsider.
Should a number of liberals do this vis a vis evolution and “saving the planet”? In my opinion, fer sure. Most liberals I know scream bloody murder if anyone offers a shred of a doubt that evolution isn’t settled fact. Yet, when it comes to practice with Our Earth – underlying notions of evolution seem to fly out the window.
Take Nancy Pelosi and Paul Krugman today. (I know; I know – please forgive me.) They want to “save the planet” – both hoping against hope that it is not “too late.”
It’s true that scientists don’t know exactly how much world temperatures will rise if we persist with business as usual. But that uncertainty is actually what makes action so urgent. While there’s a chance that we’ll act against global warming only to find that the danger was overstated, there’s also a chance that we’ll fail to act only to find that the results of inaction were catastrophic.
Does man have a major impact on the Earth’s temperature? Like all of us, I have seen data both confirming and disproving. My own extremely non-professional viewpoint is that the answer is: perhaps, but if so, not to a tremendous degree. Nevertheless, I am a proponent of conservation, searches for alternative energy sources, escaping the stranglehold of the middle-east on our energy needs and the like. These beliefs are related to other benefits, however; not to “saving the planet.”
Why do some among us imagine that Earth should remain forever as it is in 2008?
Long before man came on the scene, this planet changed cataclysmically. Glaciers formed and melted. Chunks of continents broke off and fell into the sea. Volcanoes erupted. Islands that existed disappeared – not to mention the scores of living creatures that sailed off into extinction due to climate changes. All this and much more happened prior to our firing up SUV’s, using incandescent light bulbs and keeping our homes above 63 degrees in the winter.
As mentioned previously, we have many good reasons to conserve and not waste our resources. And, it may be the case that a small portion of doing so can have a beneficial effect on Earth.
But, if these radical, enormous changes occurred in the planet long before Adam accepted that round red offering from Eve, then why should we assume that they cannot occur now, irrespective of what we all do?
If liberals believe in evolution and want it taught in the classroom – then why don’t they apply it to the nature of our planet? “Save the planet”? I say: “Save the notion of evolution.”
An Inconvenient Truth for Al Gore and Friends
I know that many of you think that global warming, at least anthropogenic global warming, is a fraud. I am not so sure. Either way though, I think Peter Huber has the broad contours of any attempt to address it correct.
So does the climate computer have a real audience, or is it really just another bag lady muttering away to herself in a lonely corner of the intellectual park? That the computer is heard in Hollywood, Stockholm, Brussels and even some parts of Washington is quite beside the point–they have far less global power and influence than they vainly imagine. Vinod Dar is right: “Contingency planning should entail strategic responses to a warming globe, a cooling globe and a globe whose climate reverberates with laughter at human hubris.”
Or more specifically it’s the soot, from our tailpipes, our industries, most of our electricity generation—and also from forest fires, volcanoes, and the wind. Black carbon soot is causing most of the loss of polar ice according to this recent piece from Scientific American. Yes, that Scientific American. The same Scientific American that seems to put global warming on it’s cover every other issue, usually including a Soviet-esque five year plan proposed by the editors. Check it out:
Belching from smokestacks, tailpipes and even forest fires, soot—or black carbon—can quickly sully any snow on which it happens to land. In the atmosphere, such aerosols can significantly cool the planet by scattering incoming radiation or helping form clouds that deflect incoming light. But on snow—even at concentrations below five parts per billion—such dark carbon triggers melting, and may be responsible for as much as 94 percent of Arctic warming.
“Impurities cause the snow to darken and absorb more sunlight,” says Charlie Zender, a climate physicist at the University of California, Irvine. “A surprisingly large temperature response is caused by a surprisingly small amount of impurities in snow in polar regions.”
What’s more, Charles Zender, the climate physicist at UC Irvine quoted in the piece, believes that this is warming we can actually do something about, and with policies far less drastically disruptive than those aimed at carbon dioxide production:
He argues that simple steps, such as fully burning fossil fuels in more efficient engines and using cleaner-burning cooking stoves, could help preserve the dwindling Arctic snow cover and ice (see video here). Even changing the timing of such soot emissions could play a role. “If you have to burn dirty fuel, you can do it in the fall or winter” when it will be buried under subsequent snowfall, Zender says. “If you can time your emissions so they have the least impact then you will not trigger these very sensitive regions to start warming by this ice albedo feedback process.”
Al Gore, call your office.
Most of the great problems we face are caused by politicians creating solutions to problems they created in the first place. Politicians and much of the public lose sight of the unavoidable fact that for every created benefit, there’s also a created cost or, as Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman said, “There’s no free lunch.”
Congress, doing the bidding of environmental extremists, created our energy supply problem. Oil and gas exploration in a tiny portion of the coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would, according to a 2002 U.S. Geological Survey’s estimate, increase our proven domestic oil reserves by about 50 percent.
The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and eastern Gulf of Mexico offshore areas have enormous reserves of oil and natural gas. Congress has also placed these energy sources of oil off-limits. Because of onerous regulations, it has been 30-plus years since a new refinery has been built. Similar regulations also explain why the U.S. nuclear energy production is a fraction of what it might be.
Congress’ solution to our energy supply problems is not to relax supply restrictions but to enact the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that mandates that oil companies mix more ethanol with their gasoline. Anyone with an ounce of brains would have realized that diverting crops from food to fuel use would raise the prices of a host of corn-related foods, such as corn-fed meat and dairy products.
Wheat and soybeans prices have also risen as a result of fewer acres being planted in favor of corn. A Purdue University study found the ethanol program has cost consumers $15 billion in higher food costs in 2007 and that it will be considerably higher in 2008.
So what will be done about these problems congress has created?
On May 1, Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, convened a hearing on rising food prices saying, “The anxiety felt over higher food prices is going to be just as widespread, and will equal or surpass, the anger and frustrations so many Americans have about higher gas prices.” Congress’ proposed “solutions” to the energy and food mess it created include a windfall profits tax on oil companies, a gasoline tax holiday for the summer, increases in the food stamp program and foreign food aid. These measures will not solve the problem but will create new problems.
Now some people I’ve talked with like the higher gas prices as they spead up alternative energy development and make it more attractive to use right now. That’s a perfectly valid, and logical opinion to have I say. However that’s not the view of the people in congress. They can’t push for alternative energy and then decry high gas prices that they’ve helped to create. They’re either ignorant or pandering, or both. I’m not sure which is worse.
Polar bears will now be listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
But in announcing the listing, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said the decision should not be “misused” to regulate global climate change.
“Listing the polar bear as threatened can reduce avoidable losses of polar bears. But it should not open the door to use of the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources,” said Kempthorne.
“That would be a wholly inappropriate use of the ESA law. The ESA is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy.”
It is certainly an inappropriate tool for shaping such policy. And it just as certainly the tool that will be used quite effectively to do so. Like I wrote over a year ago, this is nothing more than a backdoor way of implementing Kyoto in the US.
If the polar bear were listed as a threatened species, all federal agencies would have to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar bears will not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting pollution.
Environmentalists hope that invoking the Endangered Species Act protections might eventually lead the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases blamed for warming the atmosphere.
“The Interior Department has pretty much explicitly said that they don’t think they have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emission, but we know that the Endangered Species Act goes well beyond these walls, that it’s taken into account by other agencies,” said Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace.
Since the above was written, the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but more importantly, under the ESA the government is required to evaluate any project that may have an impact on endangered species. Normally this would be limited to such species within the geographical span of the proposed project, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Greenpeace, et al., will attempt to draw a direct connection between whichever new project they are challenging and polar bears using the threat of increased greenhouse gas emissions.
The coup de grace, of course, will be when all private industry and behavior is brought with in the realm of the EPA’s regulation authority (my emphasis):
As Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne noted, the 1973 Endangered Species Act is “perhaps the least flexible law Congress has ever enacted.” In 2005, green litigants took advantage of this rigidity, suing the government to force it to label the polar bear at risk for extinction. Since the 1980s, the sea ice that the bears use to hunt and breed has been receding. Although the population has increased from a low of 12,000 in the 1960s to roughly 25,000 today – perhaps a record high – computer projections anticipate that Arctic pack ice will continue to melt over the next half-century. This could, maybe, someday, lead to population declines.
The lawsuits were hardly motivated by concern for polar bear welfare. Instead, environmentalists asserted that the ice is thinning because of human-induced global warming. A formal endangered listing is one more arrow in their legal quiver as they try to run U.S. climate policy through the judiciary.
They’ll argue that emissions from power plants, refineries, automobiles – anything that produces carbon – would contribute to warming, thus contributing to habitat destruction, and thus should be restricted by the Endangered Species Act. This logic could be used to rewrite existing environmental policy to accommodate greenhouse gasses, purposes for which they were never intended but with economy-wide repercussions.
Is there any doubt that granting full regulatory control over all productive activities is the ultimate goal of these lawsuits? I’m sure that some in the movement are motivated entirely by their heart-felt concern for the welfare of animals and the environment. But the vast majority of these environmental activists are driven by the desire to bring capitalist forces to heel, towards which end their totalitarian instincts guide them. Passage of the ESA in 1973 was the first step in that cause. The combined forces of the AGW movement with this latest court victory may be all that’s needed to achieve their goal.
See also: McQ, who has more on the listing of polar bears as a threatened species.
Perhaps turning food into transportation fuel would make sense if massive amounts of grain spoiled every year from a lack of demand, but that certainly isn’t the case. Farmers love the higher prices that come from the new demand to fill gas tanks, but higher prices have consequences for poorer nations that have just begun to be felt. Morally speaking, shouldn’t we feed people before we feed cars?
What makes this even more absurd is ethanol itself. It burns cleaner, but has significant problems as a transportation fuel. It has only two-thirds the potential energy of gasoline, which means more of it has to be used to get the same mileage. Ethanol has to be shipped by truck as it cannot be pumped through a pipeline, so much more energy has to get expended just to bring it to market. In order to use more than just a small amount in a mixture, car engines have to be designed differently to use it, which means more energy and resources have to go into producing the vehicles.
Every fill of the tank with ethanol uses the same amount of corn a child would eat in a year, and let’s not even talk about the amount of potable water used to grow the corn in the first place. Given the above, which is the better use of the corn?
Over at Green Tech we get some figures that should be rather sobering for those who wish for alternative energy to be a significant source of energy in the near future:
Put another way, we’d need to equip 250,000 roofs a day with solar panels for the next 50 years to have enough photovoltaic infrastructure to provide the world with a CMO’s worth of solar-generated electricity for a year. We’re nowhere close to that pace.
But don’t blame the solar industry. You’d also have to erect a 900-megawatt nuclear power plant every week for 50 years to get enough plants (2,500) to produce the same energy in a year to equal a CMO. Wind power? You need 3 million for a CMO, or 1,200 a week planted in the ground over the next 50 years. Demand for power also continues to escalate with economic development in the emerging world.
“In 30 years we will need six CMOs, so where are we going to get that?” Malhotra said. “I’m trying to communicate the scale of the problem.”
What is a CMO? A cubic mile of oil: (more…)
One of the toughest tasks to master is to keep an open mind. We work hard to discover what we ultimately believe to be the truth. After all that effort, often the last thing we wish to do is have to re-analyse, check – and toss out what we have labored so long to achieve.
Nevertheless, sometimes the honest course is to do just that!
Here is a man who took that course.
Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. And the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.
My former colleagues ignored science and supported the ban, forcing my departure. Despite science concluding no known health risks – and ample benefits – from chlorine in drinking water, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have opposed its use for more than 20 years.
Opposition to the use of chemicals such as chlorine is part of a broader hostility to the use of industrial chemicals. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” had a significant impact on many pioneers of the green movement. The book raised concerns, many rooted in science, about the risks and negative environmental impact associated with the overuse of chemicals. But the initial healthy skepticism hardened into a mindset that treats virtually all industrial use of chemicals with suspicion.
Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas.
And – if you think I am pointing fingers at others, I am – but at myself, too. Just like most people, my mind frequently wishes to stay slammed shut – and I must work to insure that it does not happen.
Hoystory poses a thought-provoking question with potentially dramatic consequences for the concept of “peak oil”:
What if “fossil fuels” weren’t made of fossils at all? What if the earth naturally made petroleum? What if gasoline was a renewable resource?
Imagine the howls from the environmentalist left if there was no such thing as “peak oil.”
In answer of the questions, Hoystory points to the following:
Lost in the big news last week — the race for the Democratic nomination, the reeling U.S. economy, the ongoing life/death saga that is “Dancing with the Stars” — came word that a new deep-water exploration area off the coast of Brazil could contain as much as 33 billion barrels of oil. How much is that? If estimates are accurate, the Brazilian find would amount to the world’s third-largest oil reserve. In comparison, the U.S. has proven oil reserves of 21.8 billion barrels.
What makes the Brazil find interesting is really the gold; not as in “black gold,” but as in Thomas Gold:
The Austrian-born astrophysicist, who died in 2004, was a renowned maverick in the science community, a brilliant rogue whose anti-establishment proclamations were often proven right. For instance, in the 1960s, as NASA began its assault on the moon, many scientists debated whether the moon’s surface was comprised of hard rock or might in fact be a layer of dust so thick that, upon touchdown, the Apollo lunar modules would sink out of sight. Gold, studying evidence from microimpacts, moon cratering, electrostatic fields, and more, boldly predicted that the astronauts’ boots would sink into the lunar regolith no more than three centimeters. And, give or take a centimeter or so, he was proven right.
What does Gold have to do with the recent Brazil oil find? In 1999, Gold published “The Deep Hot Biosphere,” a paper that postulated that coal and oil are produced not by the decomposition of organic materials, but in fact are “abiogenic” — the product of tectonic forces; i.e., deeply embedded hydrocarbons being brought up and through the earth’s mantle and transformed into their present states by bacteria living in the earth’s crust.
The majority of the world’s scientists scoff at Gold’s theory, and “fossil fuel” remains the accepted descriptor of oil. Yet in recent years Russia has quietly become the world’s top producer of oil, in part by drilling wells as deep as 40,000 feet — far below the graveyards of T-Rex and his Mesozoic buddies.
Is it possible that Thomas Gold was right again, and that the earth is actually still producing oil? It’s tantalizing to think so.
(emphasis added; more on Thomas Gold here.) If Gold was right and oil is abiogenically produced, then the fears of “peak oil” are premature at best. Of course, that assumes that the world does not consume the oil faster than the earth can produce it or that, alternatively, we don’t learn how to create artificially. But according to Gold’s theory, there is a staggering amount of oil to be discovered beneath the Earth’s crust, much more than we could rapidly consume. The following is from an interview Gold did with Wired Magazine (edited for clarity):
WIRED: How much more oil is there in your view of the world than in the view of traditional petroleum geology?
GOLD: Oh, a few hundred times more.
WIRED: But not all of it is accessible at the moment?
GOLD: It becomes accessible by recharging, and the recharging process I think I completely understand. There’s a stepwise approximation of the pore pressure to the rock pressure – that will always be the case if the stuff is coming up from below. You will not just fill up one reservoir at the top in the shallow levels. It will always be underlaid by another reservoir, and that in turn by another, and so on for a long way down.
WIRED: And by pumping out oil from the highest reservoir you release the pressure on the lower ones, allowing more oil to seep up.
GOLD: Yes, the partial seal between the surface reservoir and the one below in some cases appears to break open violently.
Yet in recent years Russia has quietly become the world’s top producer of oil, in part by drilling wells as deep as 40,000 feet — far below the graveyards of T-Rex and his Mesozoic buddies.
In his interview, Gold explained why Russia would have set its compass to the abiogenic star of oil production:
WIRED: Were there precedents for your idea that deep hydrocarbons are a normal fact of planetary geology?
GOLD: In the ’60s, Sir Robert Robinson [a Nobel Prize-winning chemist and president of Britain's Royal Society] said that petroleum looks like a primordial hydrocarbon to which biological products have been added.
WIRED: And what was the response?
GOLD: The response was that I quoted his remark in many of my papers. But the profession of petroleum geology did not pick it up. Mendeleyev [the Russian chemist who developed the periodic table] in the 1870s had said much the same thing, but Robinson had done a more modern analysis of oil and had come to the same conclusion. And, in fact, the Russians have in the last 20 years done an even more precise analysis that completely proves the point. The fact that Mendeleyev was in favor of a primordial origin of petroleum had a great effect – you see, to most Russians, Mendeleyev was the greatest scientist that Russia ever had.
So I guess, in reality, it isn’t Gold’s theory at all, but one posited by a Russian scientist from the late 1800’s, and one that was echoed by the founder of Britain’s national academy of science. Yet somehow the term “fossil fuels” has become fixed, and the concept that oil comes from the decay of death rather than the regeneration of life is treated as gospel. The consensus must have been against them …
Brrrr… it sure is cold out there. And now the data is in to prove it.
Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile — the list goes on and on.
No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.
Meteorologist Anthony Watts compiled the results of all the sources. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C — a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year time. For all sources, it’s the single fastest temperature change every recorded, either up or down.
So, what should good scientists do when the hypothesis doesn’t match real world results? Look for flaws in the hypothesis and add the knowledge gained through observation.
My biggest beef with much of the AGW crowd is their over-reliance on computer models for “forecasting” the future. They’ve continued to be incomplete, missing whole sets of factors that effect the weather and climate. The closer these models get to including these factors, the more I will trust them. In fact, the more they accurately predict changes in the climate, the more I’ll trust them.
According to Robert Toggweiler of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University and Joellen Russell, assistant professor of biogeochemical dynamics at the University of Arizona — two prominent climate modellers — the computer models that show polar ice-melt cooling the oceans, stopping the circulation of warm equatorial water to northern latitudes and triggering another Ice Age (a la the movie The Day After Tomorrow) are all wrong.
“We missed what was right in front of our eyes,” says Prof. Russell. It’s not ice melt but rather wind circulation that drives ocean currents northward from the tropics. Climate models until now have not properly accounted for the wind’s effects on ocean circulation, so researchers have compensated by over-emphasizing the role of manmade warming on polar ice melt.
But when Profs. Toggweiler and Russell rejigged their model to include the 40-year cycle of winds away from the equator (then back towards it again), the role of ocean currents bringing warm southern waters to the north was obvious in the current Arctic warming.
It is interesting that the more I hear about climate and the weather, the more I hear about cycles. Cycles of solar activity, winds, cloud cover, hurricanes, etc.
Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.
The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850. Crops failed through killer frosts and drought. Famine, plague and war were widespread. Harbours froze, so did rivers, and trade ceased.
It’s way too early to claim the same is about to happen again, but then it’s way too early for the hysteria of the global warmers, too.
Now, if in 5-10 years, the consensus swings around to saying that we’re really in danger of another ice age, I’ve got to wonder what the AGW zealots are going to do.
“If We Had Some Global Warming”
We’ll Get To That Wind Farm Application – Eventually
And by eventually, they mean decades down the road.
This is a perfect example of government getting in the way of the innovation we need to dig ourselves out of our fossil fuel dependency.
If you want to build a wind farm in Minnesota right now, you’re in for a nasty surprise. A 612-year nasty surprise in fact.
The Midwest Independent Transmission System (MISO), the organization in charge of the power lines, has to approve every new project that will connect to existing power lines. And MISO is only used to dealing with coal-plant-sized projects. Thus, the current regulations say that they must dedicate 2 years of their time to every project that will connect to the grid.
Not only that, but they’re only allowed to process one application at a time.
This worked fine back when they were approving coal plants. Two years was plenty of time, and there weren’t enough giant fossil fuel plants to fill their docket.
But a system that worked fine for fossil fuel has completely broken down in the face of distributed wind energy. People filing an application with MISO to build a medium- to large-scale wind project (of which there are currently over three hundred) have a heck of a wait in front of them.
Bill got a lot of heat over a video released by ABC News and an accompanying news story:
Former President Bill Clinton was in Denver, Colorado, stumping for his wife yesterday.
In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”
At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? “Slow down our economy”?
Of course, ABC has made a hash of this. From Iain Murray:
Jonah, that video is actually (and again, I can’t believe I’m saying this) really unfair to Bill Clinton. The biter bit, you may say, but I don’t believe this sort of manipulation by the media is in any way helpful. The clip is out of context. What Clinton actually said was:
“And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada — the rich counties — would say, ‘OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.’ We could do that. But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren.”
The bold section is what ABC chose to highlight in that video, plucked from the middle of words that have the opposite meaning. That’s not good journalism in any sense.
We have covered Antarctica many times in past essays, and despite literally thousands of websites claiming that some calamity is occurring in Antarctica related to global warming, we side with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in this matter. Magazine covers have wonderful pictures of melting of the Antarctic, but IPCC in their 2007 report clearly states “Antarctic sea ice extent continues to show inter-annual variability and localized changes but no statistically significant average trends, consistent with the lack of warming reflected in atmospheric temperatures averaged across the region” (in fact, Antarctic sea ice extent has recently set record highs for both total areal extent as well as total extent anomaly (see here and here)). Furthermore, IPCC tells the world (and we wonder if anyone is listening) “Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall.”
Is that your impression of what the IPCC says? Not from the media or the Goracle.
So while we’ve heard recent reports about Antarctica losing ice, here we again find evidence to the contrary, and then some, at least in these locations. Not only is there no evidence of melting at the Gomez site, snow is accumulating there at an amazingly high rate. Clearly, this paper adds to the evidence that suggests that we simply, as of yet, do not have a firm grasp on the climate changes and their drivers that are effecting Antarctica, past, present, or, much less, future.
Let’s see if I have this straight…
that means “global warming may decrease the likelihood of hurricanes making landfall in the United States,” according to researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Miami Lab and the University of Miami.
No, it doesn’t…
Critics say Wang’s study is based on poor data that was rejected by scientists on the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They said that at times only one in 10 North Atlantic hurricanes hit the U.S. coast and the data reflect only a small percentage of storms around the globe.
Oh, they’re only talking about STRONG hurricanes…
One group of climate scientists has linked increases in the strongest hurricanes — just those with winds greater than 130 mph — in the past 35 years to global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said “more likely than not,” manmade global warming has already increased the frequency of the most intense storms.
No it doesn’t…
But hurricane researchers, especially scientists at NOAA’s Miami Lab, have argued that the long-term data for all hurricanes show no such trend. And Wang’s new research suggests just the opposite of the view that more intense hurricanes result from global warming.
And in fact, there’s no way we can know right now…
The Miami faction points to a statement by an international workshop on tropical cyclones that says “no firm conclusion can be made on this point.”
Neither do I.
Senate Committee Issues Climate-Consensus Busting Report
According to the press release (my emphasis):
Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.
The new report issued by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s office of the GOP Ranking Member details the views of the scientists, the overwhelming majority of whom spoke out in 2007.
This blockbuster Senate report lists the scientists by name, country of residence, and academic/institutional affiliation. It also features their own words, biographies, and weblinks to their peer reviewed studies and original source materials as gathered from public statements, various news outlets, and websites in 2007. This new “consensus busters” report is poised to redefine the debate.
Many of the scientists featured in this report consistently stated that numerous colleagues shared their views, but they will not speak out publicly for fear of retribution. Atmospheric scientist Dr. Nathan Paldor, Professor of Dynamical Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of almost 70 peer-reviewed studies, explains how many of his fellow scientists have been intimidated.
“Many of my colleagues with whom I spoke share these views and report on their inability to publish their skepticism in the scientific or public media,” Paldor wrote.
Now for the caveats:
* I haven’t read it yet, but you can get it here.
* It does not appear to be much more than a round-up of scientists who are skeptics of AGWTM, and some of their views.
* It’s not a “Senate Report” or even a “Senate Committee Report,” but instead a “Sen. Inhofe Report.”
* The bold claims that this report “debunks the ‘consensus’” are likely not true, or at best open to debate.
* It’s highly likely that most of the scientists in this report believe (a) global warming is real, and (b) that man has something to do with it, but (c) the hype from the IPCC politicos, the Goracle, and the vociferous environmentalists is way over the top.
With those caveats aside, however, I do look forward to digging into the report and seeing if it holds any value. In the very least, it may have the effect of introducing science back into the debate.
I wouldn’t hold your breath though.
“I don’t like other people telling me what to do.”
One of the reasons I abhor communitarianism (and tend to see my political philosophy as the opposite of that) is because it vests communitarian thinkers with the self appointed power to tell me (and others) what to do. Provided, of course, that they come up with a claim to do so in the name of what they call “the common good.” “For the good of all.” It’s utilitarianism on stilts.
That’s part of Eric Scheie’s introduction to his assessment of Global Warming as religion:
The source of today’s soon-to-be-ascendant total communitarianism (would that be “communitarian totalitarianism”?) can be summed up in two words:
It is the best thing to hit communitarian thinking since theocracy.
Depending on how you look at it, Global Warming Theory might even be a form of theocracy, and I don’t mean because it’s a form of earth worship, but because it shares something in common with all religions.
Actually, I have compared it to a theocratic regime before:
Few things annoy me more than the modern Lysenkoism of Anthropogenic Global WarmingTM and its rapturous congregation who viciously condemn any who dare challenge their scriptures. Each day it seems that we are bombarded with yet more bald-faced propaganda designed to scare us (and especially our children) into submission to the will of the environmental elite. These mullahs of climate change brook no dissension amongst their ranks, and harbor no compunction against destroying their enemies, by whatever means necessary. The Grand Imam himself jets around the world, in seeming hypocrisy, to deliver the message that the planet is doomed at the hands of evil capitalist oppressors unless we submit to the daily regimen prescribed for us at the site of his own personal Night Flight, and embodied in the Kyoto Protocol.
Well, I was obviously taking some poetic license there.
Still, leaving aside whether or not “communitarianism” is the proper moniker for the philosophy supporting AGW adherents, I think Eric summarizes the issue nicely with his lead in: “I don’t like other people telling me what to do.”
Anyone who values him or herself as an individual immediately comprehends that sentiment, and why it’s important. We all begin to part ways somewhere along the line towards being part of a community, in that we have varying degrees of tolerance for what we’ll put up with from others, but “leave me alone” is a fairly common sentiment amongst us all. This is especially so when we see no harm being done to anyone else by our behavior, thoughts, feelings, etc.
Again, that invisible line between “leave me along” and “hey, you stop that!” is different for each of us, but I would argue that we all start from a position of individual autonomy, and then agree to join larger and larger communities based on the amount of complete freedom we are willing to give up. A good indication of where that line resides generally for all people occurs when the hands of “others” reach too far into the individual sphere, such that more and more people start screaming “leave me alone!”
I think that is basically what happened with the Kelo case, which garnered broad support from Americans of all political stripes. The state taking one’s home in order to give it to another promising more benefits to the state elicited a visceral reaction from a large number of us, who instinctively found the state’s incursion to be have grossly transgressed that invisible line. “Leave me alone!” we shouted, and the individual states responded.
Perhaps AGW is beginning to have the same effect? If not, Eric points out the single most important reason why it should (my emphasis):
What I do not like (and what to me is theocracy) is when any individual or group posits that a particular theory or explanation of the unknown gives it an exclusive right to rule. Thus, I find the idea of Christian theocracy repellent, as I do Sharia, or state-enforced atheism.
I’ve lived more than half a century, and I have yet to see any system of control based on a theory of the unknown which promises to be as all-encompassing as the theory of Global Warming. That’s because we are creatures of carbon, both producers and consumers of it.
Any theory declaring carbon to be a poison declares all of us to be poison, and all of our activities to be poisonous. By doing this, Global Warming Theory is the ulimate trump card. It will reach out and touch every one of us, in every and any way imaginable and in ways none of us ever imagined.
This is really the same as the libertarian argument against universal health care: once the state has the right to intrude into the basic and fundamental areas of our individual lives, there is no stopping it, and it will soon control our entire being. Both AGW and universal health care rely on the concept of negative externalities to justify their intrusions. Both claim that individual decisions need to be checked by the state for the common good. Both rely upon the state to decide what the consequences of each individual action will be, who other than the individual will be affected and by how much, and what consequences should be used to curb such behaviors. Ultimately, both supplant the will of the individual with the will of the state as expressed by our betters, euphemistically deemed “experts.” In reality, they would be nothing more than slave-masters.
I would posit that the purveyors of AGW doom understand the invisible line quite well, and try to subvert it by painting ever more fantastic scenarios of death and destruction, scenarios which are specifically designed to overwhelm the individualist reflex we all feel when the invisible line has been crossed for us. Thus the outlandish claims put forth in propaganda pieces like An Inconvenient Truth are tolerated by those who know better, because they all want to see the end result where the common good (as defined by these same experts) abrogates the decisions of individuals.
Why would they want to do that? Well, in the end, everybody is a control freak, and we all think that the world would be a much better, saner, safer and happier place if everyone would just play by our rules. In fact, nearly every conflict of every sort has, at its root, this sentiment in one form or another — i.e. who’s in charge? The difference between individualists and “communitarians” (as Eric puts it) is that individualists eschew force in favor of reason in their pursuit of philosophical world domination, while communitarians consider force the primary means of exacting compliance since guilt only goes so far.
So where does that leave us then? Eric sums it up this way:
If mass regulation of human activity is required to save man from himself, the proper way to do that in this country is by constitutional amendment giving the government the vast and sweeping new powers it would need.
Good luck getting it through.
I hope I never live to see it.
Amen, brother. Amen.
Now, it is time to save marriage
Why? Because it is :
Divorce can be bad for the environment. In countries around the world divorce rates have been rising, and each time a family dissolves the result is two new households.
“A married household actually uses resources more efficiently than a divorced household,” said Jianguo Liu, an ecologist at Michigan State University whose analysis of the environmental impact of divorce appears in this week’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“People have been talking about how to protect the environment and combat climate change, but divorce is an overlooked factor that needs to be considered,” Liu said.
More households means more use of land, water and energy, three critical resources, Liu explained in a telephone interview.
Liu stressed that he isn’t condemning divorce: “Some people really need to get divorces.” But, he added, “one way to be more environmentally friendly is to live with other people and that will reduce the impact.”
Who do we have to thank for this?
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
Hat tip: Wilson Mixon
Hugo Chavez and the path to mass murder II
Part I is here, but in The Ruin of Venezuela I wrote:
As we have seen with Mugabe and many others, once you go down this road it is very difficult to turn things around. As the situation gets worse, in order to keep socialism in place, more force is needed. A Revolutionary ideology cannot allow that the Revolution is wrong, that it cannot work. Scapegoats are found and as their oppression doesn’t solve things the net gets cast wider and wider. Chavez will either abandon his program (his personality seems to make that unlikely) or there will eventually be a bloodbath. My guess is the bodies will start piling up even faster within the next three years.
As McQ says, Now the killing begins:
Gunmen opened fire on students, killing at least one, as they were returning from a march Wednesday at which 80,000 people denounced President Hugo Chavez’s attempts to expand his power.
At least one person was killed and six were wounded, officials said.
Photographers for The Associated Press saw at least two gunmen — one wearing a ski mask and another covering his face with a T-shirt — firing handguns at the anti-Chavez crowd.
Terrified students ran through the campus as ambulances arrived.
National Guard troops gathered outside the Central University of Venezuela, the nation’s largest and a center for opposition to Chavez’s government. Venezuelan law bars state security forces from entering the campus, but Luis Acuna, the minister of higher education, said they could be called in if the university requests them.
The violence broke out after anti-Chavez demonstrators — led by university students — marched peacefully to the Supreme Court to protest constitutional changes that Venezuelans will consider in a December referendum.
The City Car
The City Car, a design project under way at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is envisioned as a two-seater electric vehicle powered by lithium-ion batteries. It would weigh between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds and could collapse, then stack like a shopping cart with six to eight fitting into a typical parking space. It isn’t just a car, but is designed as a system of shared cars with kiosks at locations around a city or small community.
Admitting the problem, unlike many urban planners and transit advocates, leads to a potential solution:
“The problem with mass transit is it kind of takes you to where you want to go and at the approximate time you want to get there, but not exactly. Sometimes you have to walk up to a mile from the last train or subway stop,” said Franco Vairani, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT’s school of architecture. The City Car is his thesis, though it’s now a group effort involving many others at the school.
This isn’t intended as an individual vehicle, though I don’t see why it couldn’t be:
The City Car business model is akin to a shopping cart or a bike-share program where you return the item to a convenient location when you’re done with it. City Car users would be required to swipe their credit card as a form of deposit. The cars could also be tracked using GPS. To protect privacy, the GPS info could then be deleted once the car is safely returned to a kiosk.
It also is put together fundamentally different:
Unlike a regular car–or even another type of electric car–that has a central power system distributed to its wheels, the City Car is envisioned as a modular system. Each wheel base has its own motor, steering, braking, and suspension system. It then taps into a central system for power, computer control, and some mechanical linkage. These “electric robot wheels” as they are called, would allow the City Car to be collapsible, stackable, and spin on a dime for sideways movement and easier parking, according to Lark. “So you really treat this like a Lego brick you snap onto a cabin,” said Lark.
I like Lego’s.
Global Warming = California Wildfires
So says Harry Reid and other environmentalists, so it must be true. No doubt they have checked with everyone who agrees with them and they have a consensus about it.
So, what caused them way back when…
If there was a “worst fire season” in the last century or so, Berlant said, it would probably be 1936 — when flames swept across more than 1,250 square miles of California, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Three years earlier, in 1933, 29 men died battling a blaze in the city’s landmark Griffith Park — which was scarred by a wildfire again this month. The 1933 fire was the deadliest in the city’s history.
In 1970, 10 people were killed and some 400 houses destroyed when a 20-mile wall of fire burned over a mountain ridge toward the town of Malibu and the sea.
Berlant said firefighting has improved since the 1930s, when crews helpless in the face of massive wildfires were sometimes forced to let them burn.
But at the same time, the state’s population explosion and aggressive development into canyons and foothills has given wildfires the chance for more destruction.
Those issues and the fact that California is in the grip of a severe drought, part of a cycle that experts say can last for decades, have prompted Los Angeles officials to eye 2007 warily.
This is prompting some to call for a rethinking of fire management policies in California.
“California has lost 1.5 million acres in the last four years,” said Richard A. Minnich, a professor of earth sciences who teaches fire ecology at the University of California, Riverside. “When do we declare the policy a failure?”
Fire-management experts like Professor Minnich, who has compared fire histories in San Diego County and Baja California in Mexico, say the message is clear: Mexico has smaller fires that burn out naturally, regularly clearing out combustible underbrush and causing relatively little destruction because the cycle is still natural. California has giant ones because its longtime policies of fire suppression — in which the government has kept fires from their normal cycle — has created huge pockets of fuel that erupt into conflagrations that must be fought.
Fire needs fuel. If you let fuel accumulate, you get big fires. That’s what’s happened in our national parks, and is continuing to happen in California. Just as man is encroaching on the habitat of wild animals, man is also encroaching on the habitat of wild fires.
There’s been fires there for centuries. Man’s habitat is encroaching on places that used to burn with little notice. Man’s policy is putting out fires as quickly as possible, allowing fuel to accumulate.
So, which is it, the chicken or the egg??
I don’t expect that line of reasoning to get much hearing in front of those experts of everything in Congress…
The Subtle Oil Shock
It hasn’t been all that shocking. Why not? Greg Mankiw supplies a few possibilities. My favorites? Well let us start here:
In contrast to much rhetoric to the contrary, capitalism is the most powerful weapon to achieve energy efficiency we have.
He provides us with some things I am fond of, conjectures. So I will call this my Second Hand Conjecture of the day:
The macroeconomic effect of high energy prices may depend on whether the high prices are the result of reduced supply or increased demand. Perhaps in the 1970s high oil prices were largely the result of supply restrictions, whereas in recent years high oil prices are driven more by increased demand from a booming world economy.
I think this has been one of the most powerful factors throwing people’s economic predictions off. Coupled with energy being far less significant an input than it used to be we have allowed inapt comparisons to the past to color our view of the future.
The real issue I have with high oil prices is they function like a tax. They channel revenue through energy taxes and, in most of the world where oil companies are government owned, directly to the state. Thus government grows at the expense of the private economy with all the inefficiency, corruption and statist social engineering that implies. See almost any nation where oil is a significant part of government revenues, but specifically see Venezuela and Putin’s strengthening hand in Russia. This baleful dynamic in the Middle East has implications which hardly need be elaborated.
Speaking of Common Sense
While over at Megan’s I noticed a discussion she has about Bjorn Lomborg and her main criticism of him. That is that he doesn’t give enough weight to low probability, but catastrophic events. That is in fact a weakness (and she notes in his defense that it is a very contentious and difficult issue) and some of the discussion in the comments is pretty good. One of my favorite comments came from our own Keith who shows uncommon good sense in his answer, though my impression is that he is more skeptical about human induced global warming than I:
he doesn’t really address the problem of low-probability, but catastrophic systemic failures.
So, how much should we devote to asteroid defense, which would be even more catastrophic then climate change?? The problem with devoting resources to anything is there are always other things to devote resources to.
Alarmism isn’t helping promote solutions, it causing the issue to be deeply divisive. Either you believe the world is going to end from AGW, or you’re sticking your head in the sand.
The science of climate change isn’t quite there yet, especially the computer models. There is a bunch of uncertainty in the models. But the trick is figuring out if the uncertainty is enough to bet the whole farm on. And there are still quite a number of respected meteorologists who are less then convinced about the whole thing. For me, it isn’t, not yet, primarily because of the computer models. In another decade, things may be refined enough to know where we are going.
Beyond that, there are still good economic reasons for reducing energy use, increasing efficiency, and reducing overall emissions and pollution. I think if we really want to change, we need to come up with cost efficient solutions.
Most people will only care about a problem when they see that it is directly effecting them. Everyone is dealing with high energy prices, so show people how cost effective conserving energy is, and you’ll get more people conserving energy.
I have a lot of problems with the way the science is being interpreted, at least at the popular level. I don’t deny that GHG’s are a primary cause, but I don’t believe we know enough to confidently do anything about it. The issue manifests itself in regional and local scales, and the magnitudes of the effects are very much in dispute. Global models are insufficient. But people who point this kind of thing out, such as Roger Pielke and Lomborg who are within the mainstream of climate science in their views, are routinely thrown in with people who do have their head stuck in the sand, while people who are way out of the consensus of the IPCC (such as Al Gore) are lionized. This is dysfunctional. Keith is right. Alarmism is destroying the debate and breeding knee jerk skepticism among many. It is too momentous an issue to be dealt with in this manner.
Bjorn Lomborg on Al Gore and the IPCC
Bjorn looks at this in much the same way I do:
This year’s Nobel peace prize justly rewards the thousands of scientists of the United Nations climate change panel (the IPCC). These scientists are engaged in excellent, painstaking work that establishes exactly what the world should expect from climate change.
The other award winner, former US vice-president Al Gore, has spent much more time telling us what to fear. While the IPCC’s estimates and conclusions are grounded in careful study, Gore doesn’t seem to be similarly restrained.
Gore told the world in his Academy Award-winning movie (recently labelled “one-sided” and containing “scientific errors” by a British judge) to expect 20-foot sea-level rises over this century. But his Nobel co-winners, the IPCC, conclude that sea levels will rise between only a half-foot and two feet over this century, with their best expectation being about one foot – similar to what the world experienced over the past 150 years.
To be fair, Gore deserves some form of recognition for his resolute passion. However, the contrast between this year’s Nobel winners could not be sharper. The IPCC engages in meticulous research where facts rule over everything else. Gore has a very different approach.
Enjoy the whole thing.
Another award for the Goracle-Updated with even more reactions
This just confirms what a bogus award the Nobel Peace Prize has become. Past winners have often been inappropriate, such as when murderous thugs such as Yasser Arafat were awarded for claims and intentions rather than their murderous actions. At least in past cases, as deluded as they often were, the claim is it had something to do with World Peace. Now the prize has been shown to be no more than a way to reward favored political causes, not anything to do with peace. That was clear in the past with many awards, this is just the least defensible, if not the most revolting.
I can only assume they wanted to give him an award, and if they tried to give him one in the sciences the scientific community would double over in laughter. The ironic thing is that the IPCC has actually compiled some real science, while Al Gore’s claims are way out of the consensus the panel is trying to achieve. The claims Gore makes are an embarrassment to the scientific consensus. Most of the much derided “skeptics” are closer to the IPCC’s work than Al Gore. It would have been less incongruous from a scientific standpoint to give it to Bjorn Lomborg, though it fits many of the political uses of the IPCC. As I said, it has no merit as a peace prize, it has no merit from a scientific view to pair him with the IPCC, but it does fit the Nobel Committees political goals quite well. What a joke.
Update: I like this quote over at Volokh Conspiracy from the commenter known as Kazinski:
What did he win it for? I knew that Al Gore was the father of Extraordinary Rendition but I didn’t know the Peace Prize committee was on board with the war on terror.
“That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.”- Al Gore
Roger Simon: “Gore Deserves Nobel Prize More Than Oscar”
Fark: “Woman who saved 2500 Jews during the Holocaust given Nobel Peace Prize —- just kidding, it’s the guy who emits over a ton of CO2 a year telling us to stop global warming”
Update: Others Blogging:
ScrappleFace: “Although former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize this week for his work as a global-warming performance artist, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled early today that President George Bush would receive the gold medal, the diploma and the $750,000.”
Jonas Kyratzes: “Seriously, people. There are certainly more disgusting figures than Gore – Bush, Kerry, Blair, etc. But just because he’s occasionally put forth an idea which isn’t catastrophically idiotic (Bush), appallingly opportunistic (Kerry) or just butt-crawlingly evil (Blair), doesn’t mean he should be elevated to being the god of the Vaguely Progressive There’s Something Wrong With The World But We Refuse To Use Our Brains To Analyze It movement.”
This Ain’t Hell: “The fact that British courts even decided last week that the documentary is full of inaccuracies didn’t deter the committee from making the politically-correct decision.”
Daimnation: “I would have preferred to see the Prize go to some of the people putting their lives on the line to fight tyranny in Zimbabwe, Burma or the Middle East, but we knew this was coming.”
Damian Thompson: “The former US Vice-President has already taken over from Michael Moore as the most sanctimonious lardbutt Yank on the planet. Can you imagine what he’ll be like now that the Norwegian Nobel committee has given him the prize? More to the point, can you imagine how enormous his already massive carbon footprint will become once he starts jetting around the world bragging about his new title?”
Fausta’s Blog: “Tripping over themselves to further assininity, the Committee bypassed true heroes of the worldwide struggle for freedom, such as the Burmese monks and the Ladies in White”
News Brief, Chesme siah daree Edition
Cross-posted at The Conjecturer
Defense & The War
- Mountain Runner makes the case for why mercenaries aren’t all bad, and that the real sunk costs of their use should be handled. It’s similar to David Dryer’s case for their usefulness, which is framed as a counter to P.W. Singer’s point that their use obscures political costs. I don’t think Dryer addresses this point as completely as he thinks: if a draft is necessary to fight a big, long war, then we should institute a draft and see how much of the population continues to support fighting the war. If we need a bigger military to fight our wars, let us build a bigger military to fight them, and see how popular it is. Singer’s point is that not using mercenaries enables to public to more completely assess the cost of the war—and that by making it all military, you avoid not just the wretched war profiteering, but the thinking of “let someone else do our fighting.”
- Related is this look at how we are using shady hiring practices (to the point where one PMC brags about not abetting human trafficking) to hire Latin American paramilitaries to do a significant chunk of the private fighting. We can’t even ask our own contractors to bear the cost of our wars.
- But don’t expect anything useful from Congress, despite new revelations that PMC employees apparently really do fire their weapons far more often than they’ve led us to believe. What, were they magic bullets that never hit anyone?
- Oh Christ.
- RJ Hillhouse emerges to inform us how Blackwater has everyone by the balls—as do some other unaccountable megacorporations that do intel work.
- Apparently when he’s not crying over Britney (yes, the on just lost her kids for being such a drugged out mess), Chris Crocker is busy making about how Bush wants gays to “fight his redneck wars” to eliminate them from the population. What a waste of precious, precious oxygen.
Around the World
- Afghansitanica has a post about a hip new band, Lion of Panjshir, which is named after who you think. I also take a look at the curious economics of the wanted posters going up around Afghanistan… and an interview with noted Iran apologist/Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin.
- Many months ago, I registered deep skepticism of the utility of a tour of Central Asia by OHCHR Louise Arbour, which drew the ire of Robert Templer, the Director of Asia Programs at the International Crisis Group (it’s quite a lively thread, and proof I am an equal opportunity bickerer and don’t zero in on Michael or conservatives in general). Anyway, ICG President (or whatever) Gareth Evans sat down with for a Seven Questions with ForeignPolicy.com, and cautioned that Sri Lanka is teetering on the verge of a massive humanitarian disaster. And lo and behold: Louise Archer is being denied access to Tamil Tiger territory on her upcoming tour of Sri Lanka… I mean it will make the human rights tour go much more smoothly, won’t it?
- Australia turns its back on Darfur? Indeed, he has decided not just to refuse troops to stabilization efforts, but to refuse new refugees. He isn’t Bush, and they’re not Iraqis… so what’s his problem? Oh right—the black people.
- Did The Kite Runner put its child stars at risk because of a very upsetting rape scene? I hope not, but I’m glad Paramount Vantage isn’t taking any chances… though it’s beyond retarded they can’t come to the U.S. Our immigration and refugee laws are beyond stupid, and I’m sick of hearing about non-citizen friends of mine getting harassed by the ICE or railroaded by the bureaucracy.
- Germany is playing with the idea of biomass power generation, which seems far more efficient than biodiesel and other “green” forms of combustion. Hey, works for me.
- Watching Jon Stewart interview Evo Morales was . I was made uncomfortable by the cheering over “nationalizing the oil industry” (i.e. stealing from the oil companies), and “agrarian reform” (i.e. stealing from landowners for redistribution). But the interview was a welcome change from when he groveled before Pervez Musharraf last year.
Back at Home
- Remember that time Bush solemnly swore he didn’t torture people? Yeah, April Fools, or something. This is why I cannot trust him to tell the truth—he doesn’t want to, and when he’s caught he’ll just look for ways to keep on torturing people (I hesitate to say “innocent” people, because a few non-innocents have been tortured among the thousands we’ve abducted and tortured since 9/11/01, but even non-innocents like KSM don’t deserve such treatment).
- It’s always nice to know that, in addition to their penchant for paramilitary raids on “suspected pirates,” the RIAA can convict people of music piracy on flimsy evidence that would barely be enough to convict a child pornographer, if that. The industry can’t prove a woman was at her computer, or even had a specific program they named in their suit installed on her computer at the time, yet the jury found in their favor… I guess on their pinky swear that she was assisting in music theft.
- But since when was this country about legit justice? That certainly seems to have been a dream that’s vanished from public consciousness.
News Brief, Truncated For Life Purposes Edition
Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.
Defense & the War
- Reading the Instapundit and his minions, you’d think the one reason Bush wasn’t more popular is because he’s not bombing the shit out of Iran. Luckily, most people don’t think as they do.
- How will the bombing-murder of Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni Sheikh most visibly associated with the progress in Anbar, affect the province, or Iraq? If this bottom-up approach is to work and be viable, then there must be a local, grass-roots campaign to sniff out who planned and executed the assassination; otherwise, I fear it might be the start of an unraveling… from rival tribes, mind you, and not the dread barely-there al-Qaeda in Iraq.
- One thing I’ve noticed among serious discussions of the Iraq War is that the two extremes—remaining there in force for many years versus a drastic and eventually total pullout—are the most reasoned, as both take the most proper account of the actual situation on the ground. This is why Bush’s partial withdrawal rubs me in all the wrong places: the partial pullout we achieved earlier on was a big reason why we couldn’t maintain control over much of the country (thanks, Tommy Franks!), and a big reason why we still face uphill battles everywhere outside of Anbar. Meanwhile, all glimmers of political progress in Iraq flicker and die.
- Speaking of dying, 2 of the 7 grunts who wrote that all the “progress” was at best stilted and uneven have been killed. Because of the progress, naturally.
- Reading this back-and-forth between Hugh Hewitt and Doug Bandow was deeply revealing. I like how Hewitt accord Bush near God-like omniscience for the “success” of Afghanistan, the political progress in Iraq he forgot to mention, and how “no more 9/11 attacks” was equated to the Iraqi occupation. He was, in other words, incoherent… unless going off on a universally accepted point, like the silly and needless bombast of the Betray Us ad.
Around the World
- I collect various local opinions of 9/11 and its aftermath in Afghanistan—including pleas for the Americans to bother to defeat the Taliban—in my latest dispatch for Global Voices Online.
- Did you know North Korea is collaborating with Syria on a nuclear facility? This isn’t totally new news, as there were rumors Syrian technicians were killed in that massive train explosion in North Korea in May of 2004—at the least collaboration between Pyongyang and Damascus isn’t that big a deal. But still—hooray for Bush’s counterproliferation efforts!
- Did you know the World Bank doesn’t tackle corruption?
- Equador has devised a novel environmental scheme: pay them not to drill for oil. In other oil news, Bonnie Boyd emerges from her South American retreat to keep us up to speed on the latest oil shenanigans in Kazakhstan.
- African craphole Congo is dealing with yet another outbreak of Ebola. I hope they can get it contained and treated quickly.
Back at Home
- Queen Sully wants to know why General Petraeus seems to have abandoned every single principle of counterinsurgency he spent two decades defining. I’m interested in the same, but I suppose someone will have a perfectly reasonable explanation, like expediency or career advancement, right?
- Ugh, did anything interesting happen in this country today?
Some Consensus – II
The sky is falling, the sky is falling…
Oh wait, no it’s not.
A new analysis of peer-reviewed literature reveals that more than 500 scientists have published evidence refuting at least one element of current man-made global warming scares. More than 300 of the scientists found evidence that 1) a natural moderate 1,500-year climate cycle has produced more than a dozen global warmings similar to ours since the last Ice Age and/or that 2) our Modern Warming is linked strongly to variations in the sun’s irradiance. “This data and the list of scientists make a mockery of recent claims that a scientific consensus blames humans as the primary cause of global temperature increases since 1850,” said Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Dennis Avery.
Other researchers found evidence that 3) sea levels are failing to rise importantly; 4) that our storms and droughts are becoming fewer and milder with this warming as they did during previous global warmings; 5) that human deaths will be reduced with warming because cold kills twice as many people as heat; and 6) that corals, trees, birds, mammals, and butterflies are adapting well to the routine reality of changing climate.
Despite being published in such journals such as Science, Nature and Geophysical Review Letters, these scientists have gotten little media attention. “Not all of these researchers would describe themselves as global warming skeptics,” said Avery, “but the evidence in their studies is there for all to see.”
News Brief, Kometenmelodie 1 Edition
Stewing in his own juices over at The Conjecturer.
Defense & The War
- The Republicans are refusing to ponder any troop withdrawals. Does that now make General Petraeus a Defeatocrat? Maybe not, as he still wants troop levels to remain high—the progress, after all, isn’t yet permanent.
- A face-wasted Just For Men’d Osama Bin Laden is set to appear in a new video. He’ll probably mention Iraq or something, and the Pavlovian response on the right will be to stay right where Bin Laden wants to fight us. I like how Jezebel puts it: “In just four days, Osama Bin Laden is going to interrupt Fashion Week to address the nation…” Heh. Really, that whole entry is brilliant.
- Meanwhile, the calls for a partition intensify, apparently in ignorance the very real fact that an independent Kurdistan will have Turkey and Iran teaming up for a good ol’ slaughtering. And a year ago who would have thought Charles Krauthammer would be calling for a well-armed Sunni stronghold in Anbar?
- Marines were censured for their role in the Haditha massacre.
- The International Crisis Group released a new issue of Crisis Watch. While Afghanistan appears to be unchanged (i.e. the Taliban are still fighting, but at least it’s not getting any worse), the most recent wave of high casualty bombing, combined with the collapse of the Maliki cabinet and a rising tide of violence in the south has prompted a further warning about the conflict.
- Let’s ask Stephen Biddle, one of the main advocates of a “patchwork” solution to Iraq, what he thinks: “Biddle also said (again, expressing his personal view) that the strategy in Iraq would require the presence of roughly 100,000 American troops for 20 years—and that, even so, it would be a “long-shot gamble.”" Hrm. I’d be interested, as is Kaplan, to see if both Crocker and Petraeus agree with this. And I’d like to know if we have the right to occupy a country that never attacked us with a hundred thousand troops for decades. I’m not being a jerk, I actually would like answers, if that’s what the people who support the war are talking about—high-cost long shot gambles over decades. And how would you ever sell such a thing, no matter its supposed moral rightness, to a nation that eschews long, violent occupations?
- Meanwhile, Britain rather bluntly tells us we’re winning battles but not the war in Afghanistan, and fear we are too fixated on Iraq to fight what they see as the front line in global anti-terrorism.
- I guess it all depends on the Petraeus report in a way. Because that’s how the Bush administration has staked its entire claim to the war: on Petraeus, a man with a curious history of wildly exagerating his case. Which doesn’t mean he’ll lie, just that he’ll deserve skepticism.
Around the World
- I’m kind of glad I don’t live in Beijing, because I would be fired at once.
- After declaring we’re “kicking ass” in Iraq, President Bush confused Austria and Australia, and OPEC and APEC. Whether these blunders were conceptual or only verbal I can’t say.
- The North Korean military sounds an awful lot like the churches I used to attend. Except for the money bit. No, those people loved their money.
- A harrowing journey through Uzbekistan. How, oh how, do I get these jobs?
- Buddhist monks step up the heat against Burma’s ruling junta. Here’s hoping they don’t wind up as statistics.
- Worried about global terrorism? You shouldn’t be. Not only are you far more likely to be killed by peanut butter than a terrorist, but these are plots being caught in their earliest stages… which means the police and intelligence services are actually doing a decent job of sniffing out and stopping attacks.
- I’ve always wondered why so many oil derricks flare off natural gas, especially when it can be used to power cars and buses relatively cleanly. Turns out this flaring is not only incredibly wasteful and an environmental hazard, but it costs the oil companies nearly $40 billion a year.
Back at Home
- Come to think of it, a Frenchman with a British accent and a love of earl grey tea would make a far better President. Indeed, it is a remarkable thing to ponder how Star Trek is the story of America.
- Speaking of which, hooray for years of unconstitutional government!
- Comcast, which is granted a government-enforced monopoly to be the sole cable provider in its areas of service, has taken to enforcing draconian download rules for its users. Which is why we should never have monopolies—we should have choice.
- “the enemies of America and the executive branch“
- Oh it hurts:”When Larry Craig’s daughter appeared on Good Morning America today, it reminded Idaho authorities that there’s an outstanding warrant out for her arrest. She was charged with “unlawful entry” last year — like father like daughter, am I right? Geddit? “Entry”?” LULZ.
- I for one would vote for Osama bin Ron Paul. Wouldn’t you
The “reality based” ideologues often decry when politics get in the way of science, but that certainly seems what they are doing with regards to global warming. But then, hey, making overblown claims based on the scantiest of evidence, real or anecdotal, gets them in the press, and makes them seem caring.
Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers “implicit” endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no “consensus.”
The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the “primary” cause of warming, but it doesn’t require any belief or support for “catastrophic” global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.
The “Bull Moose of Climate Change” reminds me of “A Modest Proposal”
Norway is concerned that its national animal, the moose, is harming the climate by emitting an estimated 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide a year through its belching and farting.Norwegian newspapers, citing research from Norway’s technical university, said a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit as much CO2 as a moose does in a year.
Bacteria in a moose’s stomach create methane gas which is considered even more destructive to the environment than carbon dioxide gas. Cows pose the same problem
Norway has some 120,000 moose but an estimated 35,000 are expected to be killed in this year’s moose hunting season, which starts on September 25, Norwegian newspaper
It seems they are busy correcting the problem. Of course, I have noted before that focusing on human emissions or the raising of livestock ignores all the other sources of greenhouse gases that we could conceivably control, and that wildlife needs to be considered. Those hunting numbers tell me Norway may be thinking along the same lines. Therefore, since as a particularly green friendly blog, we are going to engage in a little recycling. For those who missed it the first time around, please enjoy a blast from the past reproduced in its entirety below, and please, fire up the barbecue!
A Modest Proposal: Butchering Animals for PETA and Green Sex
Glenn Reynolds wants to know where we can purchase “sirloin offsets” since, as Eric Scheie points out the raising of livestock for food may be the single largest contributor to the greenhouse effect:
News Brief, Pizazz We’re Gonna Give It To You* Edition
Would much rather be back at The Original Conjecturer.
- How to make an EFP.
- The difficulty of sea mines.
- These two takes on the SCO exercises (covered in sometimes much greater depth here, at Registan.net, and Bonnie Boyd’s Central Asia blog) have some interesting tidbits: the PLA has never performed a distance deployment before, and it’s a lot of hoopla over nothing, since they didn’t mean much and didn’t accomplish much by our standards. Our standards. Our standards are pretty high—a decade ago we were air-dropping battalions from Missouri to Shymkent non-stop—and not matching such incredible capability doesn’t matter very much. The real purpose of this exercise was coordination, and a sort of show-of-force: proving other countries can organize outside of NATO and the UNSC. That being said, the irrational hostility toward the Chinese is beyond tiresome at this point. China has no real expeditionary capability to speak of, and could never sustain any sort of foreign deployment without significant foreign support (the Chinese troops in Lebanon and Darfur are supported by UN logistics, for example). What’s more, not since invading Vietnam in 1979 have they deployed troops beyond their borders without UN sanction—a milestone we have yet to match. China is also hypersensitive to world opinion and its foreign relations in a way I wish we could be, which gives them a great deal of gravitas (if you will) when dealing with collective security issues. So I chalk the SCO exercises up to a big-time win for China… and a medium win for Russia, and all the other SCO countries. And of course, a big smack on the nose to the U.S.—perhaps not coincidentally just as Ms. Boyd did. These sorts of wargames are never (I should say rarely) about war itself or the militaries involved, they about the politics of the individual nations, and the nations at which they are directed.
Around the World
- Tons going on in China, which has enough spare cash to buy the market capitalization of every publicly traded company in Africa should it choose (which says a lot about both the side of China’s currency reserves and the miserable state of the African economy, that an incredibly resource-rich continent cannot muster a trillion dollar market). Their investments in various African countries have apparently spurred them on to slightly higher levels of development (though it is of course unevenly distributed), but there is a dark side: neo-colonialism. I don’t mean the traditional European sense of the word, but of an economic sense, like breeding dependency. Meanwhile, China’s economic rise has given India and Japan such pause they’re forging their own economic collaboration, which they hope will emerge as a counterweight to Chinese influence. Of course, any time Japan does anything mildly aggressive, you can rely on Beijing to freak, so I suppose stay tuned for that (Nitin rightly sees this as ultimately about power relationships, but I sense it is even more complex). It will be interesting to see how China’s growth might allow more of this sort of dissent, which, while encouraging the western ears (surely his intended target anyway), concern the Chinese leadership, who seem to value unity more than they do liberty or choice. Until any of that can happen, however, Beijing needs to decide what to do about the horrible pollution that, no matter what they try, just won’t go away.
- The Chinese reversal on the Shenyang Six, on the other hand, is a total surprise. They had faced no consequences for breaking the treaties they signed when repatriating Northern refugees; that they reversed course this time is certainly worth celebrating.
- Things with North Korea, however, are not really improving. Now the UN is realizing a whistleblower who exposed abuses and rules violations at the UN Development Program in Pyongyang faced severe reprisals. Because disloyalty to the UN is a bigger crime than pointing out it’s not cool to defraud the already desperately poor, I suppose.
- Hugo Chavez, if you didn’t already realize, is batshit crazy. I mean, if he didn’t exist, and the only hilariously dangerous crazy out there was Kim Jong-il and Turkmenbashi, I’m not sure we could invent something like that. It takes real talent to combine fear and inanity in such a taut, Goron-like package. (As an example, dig the Chavez-emblazoned cans of tuna, which may or may not also also be chicken.)
- Hah! I’m in ur socialized healthcare system, killing you with cancer. Actually, that’s not funny. And anyone who thinks the NHS is utopia has clearly never used it.
- European countries like Sweden often allow their workers well over a month’s vacation per year, as well as limits on the number of hours per week they can legally be forced to work. Of course, such a system is unsustainable. But when you’ve been going strong for almost a year of looooong week just to get a few days off (which may or may not be granted due to lame internal office politics), it sure does hold a lot of appeal.
- Is it me, or did the Soviet Union of the 1950’s resemble an outsized, inhuman, real life version of Metropolis? It sure looks that way, right down to the mad scientist/ruler falling of his own arrogance…
- Surreal afternoon tune of the day was definitely “,” by Flight of the Concords. Excellent. I had more than one class like that.
Back at Home
- Charleston, WV has decided to grant gays and lesbians the right not to be for being homosexual; they also classify hate crimes as hate crimes. I am ambivalent about hate crimes (I think crime is crime and should be punished equally), but it is telling that now cities in West Virginia—a state normally mocked in my home state of Virginia for being full of backwoods rednecks— is now more protective of my rights. Progressive, liberal Northern Virginia still hasn’t yet cut it.
- Wonkette says something darkly true about the pathetic space program: “Space experts applauded the mission, which as usual consisted of nothing more than sending the thing up into low Earth orbit, desperately trying to fix it during a number of frantic “spacewalks,” and praying to whatever nearby space god to please let the thing land again without blowing up another teacher. Earlier generations of Americans actually traveled to the Moon and had ambitious plans to colonize distant planets.” Well, yes.
- If you haven’t properly accessorized the internationally humiliating presidential election yet, now is the time to buy the Hilary Clinton nutcracker from the hot Overstock.com lady.
*Title’s hilariously gay explanation .
News Brief, My News Brief Beat Up Your Honor Student Edition
- Phillip Carter has some choice things to say of the Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair: “Anyone who finds Beauchamp’s story incredible merely because it’s upsetting has no idea what war can do… How, then, should journalists tell the story of what happens in wartime? At best, the American public is getting a filtered picture of the battlefield today, and at worst, it’s getting garbage from both sides of the aisle. The American public needs to know the truth about the wars it sends its sons and daughters to fight — even when it’s ugly.” Why, yes, I agree with this.
- Calling Sherlock Holmes: Chinese missiles might target U.S. satellites? Who else might they target? Who else relies on space assets nearly as much, and insists on being hostile toward them?
- Three MRAPs down, 8 to go. Which will get the honored duty of proving just how big insurgents can build EFPs? Stay tuned, I suppose.
- Here’s an interesting big idea: the utilization of noöpolitik in statecraft. Basically a tarted-up form of social engineering, noöpolitik would involve “the role of informational soft power in expressing ideas, values, norms, and ethics through all manner of media.” The authors hold it up in contrast to realpolitik, which is concerned with interstate relations—surely an outdated idea if ever there were one. I must dig into this later.
Around the World
- Self-pimping: in case you missed it, I wrote three big-ish posts yesterday, one following up on the sloppy logic in the right-o-sphere that contends China’s workers in Pakistan are being attacked because of China’s campaign against the Uighurs, one on what I see as a looming tectonic shift in Central Asian geopolitics, and one on how Barrack Obama was actually fairly right and non-controversial in his statements on the misuses of U.S. air power in Afghanistan.
- Interesting, too, is this take on why the political situation in Afghanistan is faltering. The author chalks it up to a fundamental (and deliberate, which is more interesting and worrisome) misunderstanding of “local political dynamics, especially bypassing the Afghan tribal system with its driving force within the Pashtun majority in the country.” Now, I’m no expert on Pashtunwali, but Afghanistanica made the very strong case back in June that it really isn’t as vicious, or necessarily all-powerful, as many non-Pashtuns seem to assume. Of course, the exclusion of Pashtuns from the central government is indeed a major issue (that has interesting echoes of the ethnic situation in Iraq), but I don’t think it matters that much. At least, not if you base your ideas of what policies might be the most useful from what people are actually saying, in the press and in the villages.
- Speaking of which, the Washington Post ran a fantastic op-ed on the dangers of modern day COIN, and how our much-vaunted overwhelming force doctrine doesn’t really play nicely in a modern insurgency. To summarize in relation to my other complaints about policy in Afghanistan, “Reconstruction funds can shape the battlefield as surely as bombs.” Indeed they can. It is telling to contrast this article with a look at the latest secret torture prison in the country, and why and how those sorts of things will slowly unravel our efforts to rebuild the country.
- “I like dogs, fishing, poisoning dissidents, and long walks on the beach.” What’s that? Why, it’s Vladimir Putin’s Craigslist ad, where he trolls for dirty, meaningless gay sex like the rest of humanity. As a commenter noted: “what, no Vlad the Impaler jokes?”
Back at Home
- I’d join in on the indie-bashing, but I think I’ve done enough self-hating this year, don’t you think?
- The complete sham of carbon credits, or, as I like to call them, “transferring the burden of conservation from the rich to the poor.”
- Argh, strung out and waiting for Saturday…
Global Warming: The Early Years
As an ideal follow up to my most recent post on Anthropogenic Global WarmingTM, Keith forwarded me an interesting tidbit from the Washington Times’ “Inside the Beltway” round-up:
D.C. resident John Lockwood was conducting research at the Library of Congress and came across an intriguing Page 2 headline in the Nov. 2, 1922 edition of The Washington Post: “Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt.”
The 1922 article, obtained by Inside the Beltway, goes on to mention “great masses of ice have now been replaced by moraines of earth and stones,” and “at many points well-known glaciers have entirely disappeared.”
“This was one of several such articles I have found at the Library of Congress for the 1920s and 1930s,” says Mr. Lockwood. “I had read of the just-released NASA estimates, that four of the 10 hottest years in the U.S. were actually in the 1930s, with 1934 the hottest of all.”
Once again, facts such as this do not prove or disprove anything about global warming or climate change. I think we have pretty accurate proof that the planet has warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius over the past century, and global warming hysteria from the 20’s doesn’t change that. But these facts that run counter to the current AGWTM hysteria — an hysteria which is blasted as fact all over the airwaves and assumed in every question about the environment — should be noted by all. Too many people are entirely too comfortable with the consensus view of science instead of the factual view.
Just for kicks, however, it wouldn’t hurt to be reminded of what the last great climate crisis was. From the January 11, 1970 edition of the Washington Post:
From TIME Magazine, June 24, 1974:
The Science News, March 1, 1975:
There’s much more at this link, including articles predicting a new ice age from the late 1800’s. Fascinating stuff.
On The Wings Of Butterflies
My favorite class of all time was a course on chaos theory that I took my senior year in college. I think it was listed as part of the Chemistry Department’s curriculum (hey, whaddya know, it still is!), but it also involved physics and statistics (and thankfully, little math). My fondness for the class was certainly influenced by the teacher, who was uniquely adept at fostering intellectual curiosity, but also by the broad implications of chaos theory and the study of non-linear systems that piqued my imagination. I am constantly considering lessons learned from that class when pondering questions of probability, predictability and dynamic systems of all sorts, even everyday human interactions. Of course, the easiest thing to remember from that class was the theme: Sensitive To Initial Conditions or “STIC”.
Although most people today understand the basic idea behind chaos theory, they only grasp it from that colorful metaphor known as the “butterfly effect” which describes how a butterfly flapping its wings over Tokyo may cause (or prevent) a tornado occurring in Houston. What many people forget is that the story behind that metaphor, the origin of modern chaos theory, was an accident in trying to predict the weather.
Around 1960 an American mathematician and meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, developed a computer model to study weather patterns and ultimately to predict weather. What Lorenz discovered was that minute changes in one part of the globe could dramatically alter weather patterns in completely different places. The most dramatic example of this occurred when Lorenz attempted to recreate some interesting weather patterns he noticed from the computer model’s results. At the time, it was not unusual for Lorenz to set up some weather models, feed them into the computer to run overnight, and then review the results the next morning. This particular morning, however, when Lorenz tried to recreate the patterns, he instead received results indicating tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and many other dramatic weather effects, none of which were in any way similar to the overnight results.
Lorenz sat down to figure out what went wrong, and eventually realized that the coordinates he was inputting were incorrect. The problem was that he could print out the coordinates to three decimal places, but the computer itself was keeping track up to six decimal places. So instead of inputting .506127 to recreate the weather scenarios from his model, Lorenz typed in the truncated .506, and chaos theory was born. That such a minuscule change could have such dramatic and wide-ranging effects on the weather was dubbed the butterfly effect.
The immediate lesson learned from Lorenz’s discovery was that predicting weather is so dependent on an infinite number of variables that, aside from our ability to even know (much less model) all of the them, the slightest change in any single one of them can completely alter any prediction, rendering it unrecognizable. The ability to model weather outcomes is completely dependent upon, and highly sensitive to, the initial conditions set for the model.
In an entirely unrelated news event, it seems that NASA has quietly revised downward the temperature data for the US, resulting in 1934 now being the hottest year on record, as opposed to 1998 as was previously stated unequivocally and vociferously. (more…)
News Brief, This Is My Sundown Edition
Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.
- DARPA wants many outrageous things—an oil-free Air Force, invisibility cloaks, piezoelectric bodysuits, kill-proof animal-esque soldiers, and so on. For the latter, my quite serious question is: at what point do these enhanced soldiers cease being human, and are reduced to machines? It’s all very Ghost in the Shell.
- Calling Kevin Drum: Legacy of Ashes really isn’t that useful a history book, or a book of anything factual about the CIA. In fact, it gets many basic facts wrong—a sadly typical feature of such Rita Skeeter-style polemic. It plays into preconceived biases and that’s about it. And we all know how much I enjoy that.
- Does torture net us bad confessions and therefore bad intelligence? Just how reliable are these CIA black sites? How many people have been needlessly brutalized by them? Can we justify our security through the kidnapping and torture of innocent men? Can we in fact win a war of ideas with our secret death squads patrolling the bazaars? Can we if we did not? These are the sorts of questions I wish could have been resolved in a calm and rational and transparent manner before they were put into policy. Then again, even writing as much make me laugh at its sheer foolishness. I know better than that.
- Most discussions on Iraq, if between those of differing opinions, tend to go nowhere: no one is convinced, no evidence is enough, no argument is persuasive. And that’s exactly what you can take away from the news over the British withdrawal from Basra. “[T]he complicated and shifting picture the article paints is decidedly resistant to simple policy prescription—which makes the piece all the more credible.” Agreed. Pretending there are simply solutions to Iraq (or rather, no- or low-cost solutions) is fundamentally silly.
Around the World
- Cathy Young has another stunner of a post: “When anti-Americanism becomes so extreme that it turns the U.S. into the bad guy of World War II, that’s truly frightening and depressing.” Indeed it is.
- President Bush doesn’t like Hamid Karzai calling Iran a trusted ally and friend. Probably like how President Karzai doesn’t like George Bush calling Pakistan a trusted ally and friend. Just a thought. But since when have we been about coherence or consistency? Hell, Iran is probably treated better as an enemy than they ever would be as a friend.
- Related: let’s look at why an actual MP in the Afghan government (a woman representing Helmand!) thinks security remains so poor. Interesting…
- Georgia is accusing Russia of launching air strikes on its territory.
- Expect more and more of these kinds of stories, as every social trend in China has global ripples. I was always under the impression that most East Asians were lactose intolerant; why or how this may not be true eludes me. But it is nevertheless interesting.
- Iraq’s defeatocrat government continues to splinter under the breathing room the surge has provided.
- Ugh, new money. Bad taste is almost a worse crime than being horribly corrupt, don’t you think?
- Why does seem 100% reasonable? “Thai police officers who break rules will be forced to wear hot pink armbands featuring “Hello Kitty,” the Japanese icon of cute, as a mark of shame, a senior officer said Monday.”
- Turning the world’s poor into the world’s largest market. As usual: yes please.
- Despite much domestic harping, I hope India is rejoicing at the deal they wrangled out of the Bush administration. From its inception, I’ve worried that this deal is tantamount to our shredding the NPT, as it gives us the right to declare friendly countries simply don’t have to abide by the treaty. (In fairness to India, they never signed the NPT, but this raises a more troubling point: which was more “legal” – India never obeying a treaty it didn’t sign, or North Korea following the treaty’s stipulations for its intention to cease compliance? More importantly, how does the U.S., which signed the NPT and therefore pledged to limit weaponized nuclear technology regardless or friend or foe, still claim to be following its terms?)
- I hate being the one to do this, because I don’t think he is being dishonest, but I would really like to see Michael Totten interview one of the insurgents who are resisting U.S. rule in Iraq, and see why they feel the need to plant IEDs to pop open humvees. That would be truly balanced, insider information. Touching as “Hammer’s story” is, it’s not surprising, and says nothing new save a more personal example of how truly barbaric the Iraqi insurgents are. We have made ourselves responsible for men like Hammer; it would be incumbent on us to evacuate him and his family when we withdraw.
- Here are some aerial photos of an 8th century Uighur fort build just north of the Mongolian border, west of Lake Baikal. Here is a blurry image in Google Maps, and a slightly cleaned up version in Google Earth. There is a tiny bit of background on this and the Khaganate that brought it about at Wikipedia. All this makes me even more excited to read my histories (yes, plural) of the steppes. And just for kicks, some pics from the top of a series of radio towers in Belarus, which made me almost dizzy just looking at them from my monitor. That takes serious balls.
- Ms. Boyd hits a big homer today on the nasty trouble both sides of our Presidential candidates are causing with their reckless calls to nuke Muslim countries. Much as my more reactionary readers may have pant-swellings at the idea, I’m curious how our country could function if we turn the deserts above those oil fields into gigantic shards of glass. Oh yeah, and there’s the whole genocide thing.
Back at Home
- Congressional Democrats = spineless. Umm, duh? Like, we knew that already? More here.
- Kind of related: the enviro-left is called that for good reason. Because why make progress along bipartisan lines when the FUTURE OF THE PLANET can be reduced to partisan politics?
- All I can say is: Heh.
- A fascinating glimpse into the Wild West Capitalism of the New Russia, brokered by ex-KGB agents.
- Maybe our idiotic immigration policy will be brought into its proper light when teenagers across the land react in horror to the denial of a work visa to traveling MySpace music star Lily Allen.
- I hope everyone else was OMG DO WANT about the new iMac. These things make a mockery of my beloved 12″ aluminum Powerbook… and Apple’s whole shiny white plastic thing that had become a bit too THX-1138 for my tastes. And that keyboard. Mmmmm. At least from my monitor, that’s one tasty desktop.
News Brief, Much Much Better Off Edition
- As usual, Cathy Young chimes in on the Beauchamp debate with several highly cogent points: “I think there are good reasons to question Beauchamp’s accuracy, and neither TNR nor liberal bloggers are doing themselves any favors by coming uncritically to his defense. But conservative bloggers aren’t covering themselves in glory either when they stridenly insist that TNR gave Beauchamp a platform in a nefarious plot to smear and slander the troops. TNR is not some far-left rag that revels in spitting on American soldiers; it is a centrist magazine that initially supported the war in Iraq.” Read her whole take. It’s one of the only sober analysis of the entire brouhaha.
- I’m not the only one who finds much to be skeptical of in The Economist’s reporting: their take on China’s deployment schedule for the DF-31 leaves much to be desired, as well. That whole no-bylines thing sure does come in handy, doesn’t it.
- Isn’t it great to know our strategic bombers have to be expensively upgraded because their radars interfere with satellite TV?
- Interesting: David Axe is upfront that Boeing is funding a big junket for several industry rags and a few milbloggers to pimp their contender for the KC-X program. Among them is famous warblogger Bill Roggio, who has yet to say anything about it. Interesting? I think so, but we’ll see what eventually happens…
- That arms deal to the Saudis was such a stupid idea. Plus, we mock the idea of not exacerbating conflict zones when we are the world’s largest arms dealer, to the most nations.
Around the World
- It’s interesting that many on the right bemoan the lack of a Caliphate (a Muslim Pontiff) with regards to the War on Terror: a Caliph could set global Muslims religious policy, after a fashion, and be a central point at which criticisms and discussion can be levied. It would also serve to a certain degree as a homogenizing agent across Islam, for those who choose to buy into it (as the Catholic Church does). Of course, when an actual Muslim group calls for a Caliph, people freak. Then again, this is Hizb-ut-Tahrir meeting in Londonistan, and while I honestly have my doubts at how much of a threat they really pose, I can see governments not enjoying the jubilant calls for overthrowing an unresponsive illiberal government.
- Turkey hopes hopes this day will be long remembered: it has seen the end of Kenobi, and will soon see the end of the rebellion. So long as Red 5 doesn’t go in and screw it all up.
- Nicaragua is wants to trade with the world’s largest, fastest growing economies: Daniel Ortega, the former Sandinista kingpin with NO RELATION to the unfortunate salsa, signed a trade deal with Tehran. Because nothing says success like a failed Marxist and a collapsing autocracy teaming up on trade.
- It’s interesting to compare the so-called Dutch Method in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan with the British Method in Helmand. The Dutch Method is traditionally chided for being too “soft” (right down to the confusing assertion that shipping their waste back to Netherlands is better for the environment), and hasn’t been able to muster up decent responses to suicide bombings. The British, on the other hands, have been more heavy-handed, and have seen some remarkable progress in pushing the Taliban back. Then again, Helmand has wildly swung back and forth between Western and Taliban control… and for the life of me I can’t figure out if NATO has actually managed to retake Musa Qala from the Taliban, or if there are just recurrent gun battles and air strikes there. So we really can’t say which method is more effective, though I would hope we’re all in agreement that air strikes cannot bridge the gap of an understaffed force (see lessons one and two from this analysis of the Winograd Commission).
- Meanwhile, I totally hate on The Economist some more, in a poorly-reasoned article they ran on Afghanistan (and contrasted it with a snippet from Peter Bergen). Excellent reporting can also be found at David Axe’s blog, where he posts video from a CSPAN segment he did on Tarin Khowt and the Battle of Chora. It makes for an interesting contrast with , who seems convinced the “Jew Zionist bastard pigs” are trying to foment an Afghan war. That must mean the Taliban are controlled by the Jews, right? Or is that backward?
- I guess, as a wary fan of Freakonomics, it shouldn’t surprise me that honest studies of benefits and costs yield surprising results, but they sometimes do: “In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.” Stupid economics, getting in the way of my holy environmental outrage!
- More here: “The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.”
- It’s in French, but this Le Monde article on Northern Niger is really fascinating: it holds vast reserves of Uranium (remember, that was never offered to Iraqi?), and the French nuclear industry is practically salivating over the prospect of getting their little Gaulic hands all over it. The trick is, the government is chafing over the French company’s monopoly rights, and wants some of that revenue to filter back to the incredibly poor country. Additionally, there are rumors swirling about that the Chinese have their eyes on it as well, and there’s a whole lot of mess shaping up there. Could be the next crush zone, who knows.
- The old skool Soviet autos were… well, ugly. But also weirdly beautiful. I don’t know why I am drawn to such horribly inorganic shapes, but somehow I think they’re beautiful… like a pile of burning tires, I guess.
Back at Home
- I can’t believe I missed this at the time, but Fox is making a TV series out of the Terminator franchise, with the girl who played River in Firefly in it as a Terminator and the only woman in the delightful homosexual slasher film 300 as Sarah Connor. This tells me it will either be an unbelievably brilliant show, with sharp acting, witty writing, and engaging cinematography, and will be canceled after its first 13 episodes are aired out of order on an irregular schedule… or it will suck and be around for six seasons. I really do hate Fox.
- Dateline sent a mole to a Black Hat conference and she was counter-PWN3D, LOLOMG OUTRAGEOUS LUVS IT.
- The government hates your 4th amendment.
- Hah, lulz Rudy’s daughter totally loves Barry Hussein! Now, I’ll really start pounding my head on the wall if conservatives use his estranged children to draw a comparison with Ronald Reagan.
The increase in the amount of bio-fuel production, specifically ethanol, is driving up the costs of anything that feeds or is produced with grain. This is leading to higher prices for milk, ice cream, cereal, and a host of other staples. The UN is also having a harder time buying grain to feed the hungry in Africa.
Well, good think I don’t have much a of a sweet tooth anymore…
What’s the connection between ethanol, the biofuel produced from corn, and a cherry vanilla ice-cream?
Answer: the first is responsible for pushing up the price of the other.
This month, the price of milk in the United States surged to a near-record in part because of the increasing costs of feeding a dairy herd. The corn feed used to feed cattle has almost doubled in price in a year as demand has grown for the grain to produce ethanol.
Currently, because government intervention has driven up demand, bio-fuel producers are running with whatever is easiest to find supply for. The biggest problem in America right now is the grains we are using are the least efficient plants to use for ethanol production. We need more research to determine what is best source of renewable plant life for our needs.
In fact, research already shows that “there’s not enough corn available to make it a viable long-term source.”
UPDATE: Instapundit links to an article about making CELLULOSIC ETHANOL in Georgia. “Liquid pork,” probably an apt description of the politics involved in the ethanol industry.
And why should this be of interest for us…
Cellulosic ethanol can contain up to 16 times more energy than is required to create it! If that doesn’t sound ridiculously impressive, consider that gasoline contains only 5 times more energy than was required to create it and corn ethanol is totally lame, containing only 1.3 times the energy required to create it.
Oh, and it should bring the cost of ice cream, and milk, etc, back down, since we wont be using food crops as an alternative to foreign oil…
Supporting carbon creds means no street cred
Since the entire concept of carbon credits emerged a few years ago, I’ve constantly found myself questioning not only the actual effectiveness, but also the underlying motivation behind them. Donating or purchasing carbon credits basically seemed, to me at least, to be the designer way for rich (or wealthier than average) people to buy their way out of guilt over the environmental damage that their private jets, power boats and collection Hummers and Ferraris do. I was pleased to notice this Thomas Friedman (whom I usually disagree with) article addressing exactly this point. Notice the absurdity of carbon credits when compared, accurately, to simply buying away our sins? Those advocating carbon credits (Al Gore, Laurie David and pretty much every group that appeared at Live Earth) need to talk a long look in the mirror on this issue before their hypocrisy swallows them whole.
(H/T Red State)
Instapundit links to an article in Reason about how the increased production of ethanol is leading to higher prices for food.
I also think it could lead to increasing reliance by America on foreign grain. Which, as we saw with the pet food recall, could mean a riskier supply. You can poison grain, but you can’t poison oil…
Congress evidently believes that American energy independence depends, in part, on turning massive quantities of food into fuel. The energy bill being debated in the Senate would mandate that 36 billion gallons of ethanol be produced for transport fuel by 2020. President Bush is more or less on board since he proposed a 35 billion gallon mandate in his last State of the Union speech. This is on top of the 2005 requirement that 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol be produced by 2012. Almost one-third of the U.S. corn crop will be used to produce ethanol in 2012.
Some energy hawks might argue that breaking our dependence on foreign oil is worth higher food prices. After all, on average Americans spend about 10 percent of their incomes on groceries. Doubling that would bring us back to the good old days of the 1950s when families spent about 20 percent of their incomes on food. Doubled food prices would not mean mass starvation for Americans. However, our biofuels frenzy will not only starve oil despots of cash, but it could end up literally starving millions in poor countries.
News Brief, I Worked Late Then Went to the Wilco Show Edition
Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.
- Follow up to the story on the pathetic number of fluents in Arabic currently stationed at the Baghdad Vatican-Embassy (and shame on me for not noticing this): the 3/3 proficiency level is virtually useless—both because it is not advanced enough for technical or legal matters, and it of a sort not actually spoken in Iraq.
Around the World
- China cut rebates on some export sectors, slightly reducing its trade subsidies. It still has that nasty problem of child slavery to contend with, but who knows—maybe we’ll be so busy driving the new Everest Highway next year we’ll forget to ask about it.
- I am deeply sympathetic to the cause of overthrowing tyranny around the world. However, my reason for no longer advocating it in quite the same way relates to a more practical matter than stability: resources. We don’t have the resources, whether people money or equipment, to invade and topple every nasty leader on the planet. The world combined might, but the world combined doesn’t care. So we’re left caring very deeply about the oppressed, but mostly impotent in terms of solutions.
- Strikes over gas prices and a nasty insurgency have had the effect of raising the price of oil. Ironic.
- Though officially speech is restricted, the blogosphere in Kazakhstan is vibrant and lively. What’s better is, there’s no active crackdown on it, either. This leaves me with hope for Kazakhstan, that maybe, once Uncle Nazzy kicks it, the country might slowly normalize itself.
Back at Home
- If Bush’s presidency were defined by his vetoes… well, I wouldn’t want that legacy.
- A fascinating look at the history of gays in the military—to be distinguished, apparently, from the infamous Monty Python skit Swanning About by Numbers.
- Are Romney supporters easily impressed by old web tech? Yeah. But so is everyone else. Argh. Is it 2009 yet?
- This look at Google’s Greenness reveals a fundamental misconception about environmentalism: profit. For too many, environmental protection is equated with anti-capitalism, and thus see profiting from the practice as somehow “impure,” or immoral. In reality, there is not only nothing wrong with profiting from environmental preservation and green measures, it is the only way to ensure other companies will adopt the practice on a permanent basis. If there is more money to be made through being green, more companies will be green. So what if it isn’t for anti-profit, altruistic reasons? The result is the same.
“Kyoto, we have a problem.”
Few things annoy me more than the modern Lysenkoism of Anthropogenic Global WarmingTM and its rapturous congregation who viciously condemn any who dare challenge their scriptures. Each day it seems that we are bombarded with yet more bald-faced propaganda designed to scare us (and especially our children) into submission to the will of the environmental elite. These mullahs of climate change brook no dissension amongst their ranks, and harbor no compunction against destroying their enemies, by whatever means necessary. The Grand Imam himself jets around the world, in seeming hypocrisy, to deliver the message that the planet is doomed at the hands of evil capitalist oppressors unless we submit to the daily regimen prescribed for us at the site of his own personal Night Flight, and embodied in the Kyoto Protocol.
But lately, it seems, the dissenting voices have grown stronger. More and more scientists are speaking up about the corrupted process that went into the IPCC report on climate change, the infamous Stern Report was rather openly challenged, and “An Inconvenient Truth” was widely panned. Huzzah! I say. “It’s about time,” says I. Not that I have any real doubt that the Earth is getting warmer, but I’m not at all confident that humans can, much less are, causing said warming. And then today I read that, perhaps, we aren’t even warming:
Remember in January when the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its good friends in media trumpeted that 2006 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States?
NOAA based that finding – which allegedly capped a nine-year warming streak “unprecedented in the historical record” – on the daily temperature data that its National Climatic Data Center gathers from about 1,221 mostly rural weather observation stations around the country.
Few people have ever seen or even heard of these small, simple-but-reliable weather stations, which quietly make up what NOAA calls its United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN).
But the stations play an important role in detecting and analyzing regional climate change. More ominously, they provide the official baseline historical temperature data that politically motivated global-warming alarmists like James Hansen of NASA plug into their computer climate models to predict various apocalypses.
The information gathered from those 1,221 weather observation bases provide the basis for claiming that the Earth is warming, and according to the AGM faithful, at an alarming rate. According to people like Hansen, these weather stations “have been providing reliable temperature data since at least 1900.”
But Anthony Watts of Chico, Calif., suspects NOAA temperature readings are not all they’re cracked up to be. As the former TV meteorologist explains on his sophisticated, newly hatched Web site surfacestations.org, he has set out to do what big-time armchair-climate modelers like Hansen and no one else has ever done – physically quality-check each weather station to see if it’s being operated properly.
To assure accuracy, stations (essentially older thermometers in little four-legged wooden sheds or digital thermometers mounted on poles) should be 100 feet from buildings, not placed on hot concrete, etc. But as photos on Watts’ site show, the station in Forest Grove, Ore., stands 10 feet from an air-conditioning exhaust vent. In Roseburg, Ore., it’s on a rooftop near an AC unit. In Tahoe, Calif., it’s next to a drum where trash is burned.
Watts, who says he’s a man of facts and science, isn’t jumping to any rash conclusions based on the 40-some weather stations his volunteers have checked so far. But he said Tuesday that what he’s finding raises doubts about NOAA’s past and current temperature reports.
“I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment.”
You have to see the pictures to understand exactly how useless some of the stations appear to be, such as this one surrounded by asphalt and air conditioners. Those of you who approach this story with a libertarian bent, will of course have no problem understanding how such incompetence could be allowed not only to form the basis of scientific studies but to also be one of the driving forces behind AGM and the draconian policies being pushed by its adherents.
What will be really interesting is to see how this is explained away by Al Gore and his disciples. Will they loudly shout down and seek to excommunicate the whistle-blowers in this story (much like the slanderous machinations used against Bjørn Lomborg), or will they studiously ignore the challenge, chalking it up to radical skeptics (as was done to those who pointed to flaws in the famous “Hockey Stick” graph)? Whatever is done, if the crux of this story is true in that the temperatures relied upon to demonstrate a dramatic heating of the Earth are completely unreliable, then we may yet see the remaining pillars holding up the science of AGM collapse beneath the Gorites like brittle ice from under the feet of castaway polar bears.
It will be sweet.
The Green Party and National Security: An Interview with Alan Augustson
A few weeks back I posted a facile little rebuke aimed at the national security implications of Green Party presidential candidate Alan Augustson’s political platform. Alan responded to this in such a way that I realized I had little idea what the Green Party’s position on security matters was, relative to its environmental policies. Indeed, rarely have I seen anyone even ask Green Party figures questions about this subject.
In continental Europe, Greens are expected to have a broad agenda on all conventional political issues from foreign policy, to funding for the humanities. However in the United States, Greens seem to have been ghettoized into answering questions solely on subjects like global warming or genetically engineered foods. This has the natural effect of marginalizing them into niche political interests within the broader Left. A Left that the media seems quite content to have dominated by the Democratic Party alone.
So, toward a better education in the broader politics of Greens, Alan was kind enough to sit down with us for a short interview on security policy.
From the outset, it should be noted that Alan is a fierce critic of current US security policy and naturally his ideas won’t find much agreement with me, or among postpolitical’s predominantly conservative audience. But I think you’ll agree with me that we managed to ask some fair questions and the interview turned out to be an interesting and instructive exploration of a radically different political perspective.