23 November 2011

Silly skeptics!

I want to play tennis tomorrow morning. It's raining so I went to check the weather to see if it would be clear tomorrow. Good news: it should be.

So, I scrolled down a little (in retrospect, probably a mistake) and I saw this headline: "What Are Climate Change Skeptics Still Skeptical About?" Well, I can answer for myself: alot! I couldn't help clicking the link, though.

I don't have time to deconstruct the whole stupid article. But, on the whole, let us note that it is an exercise in rhetoric, not science. It is a well executed exercise in rhetoric and uses many of the standard devices of that art, for example, the reluctant convert. The article also spends time discussing the arguments against the theory of catastrophic, anthropomorphic global warming -- each briefly -- and then "refuting" them at some length. Standard straw man bullsh1t: you merely outline your opponents' side before giving the favored side a full and sympathetic treatment. Oh, and this was cute, each skeptical argument that they reviewed had a single person associated with it in the article which they quoted. They usually threw in some discrediting tidbits about the skeptic as well. The overall impression left is that there are a few clever kooks out there that are confusing the public and confounding the veritable armies of responsible scientists.

But, here's the part that finally raised the temperature of my globe enough to get me blogging a response:
A staggering 95 percent of people who reported being "disengaged," "doubtful" or "dismissive" of global warming had no idea that 97 percent of publishing climate scientists believe global warming is happening and that it is caused by humans.
Heh, heh, there's almost always a slip-up in their over-reaching conclusion.

Here's the thing: probably a very large percentage of these climate scientists owe their jobs to the alarmism surrounding the theory of catastrophic, anthropomorphic global warming (TOCAGW*). We all understand how one's livelihood may affect their opinions when they're in business. The article makes several references to the fossil fuel industry based precisely on that understanding. Well, newsflash: the conclusions of climate scientists may also be affected by the direct results that those opinions may have on their business. ... And, if that wasn't enough, they are further qualified as "publishing" climate scientists. Though, it's well known that the TOCAGW cabal works to ensure that papers not supporting the theory are squashed and that climate scientists submitting the same are punished.

So, "dismissive" I remain.

* I hate to use all the adjectives, and hence, the acronym. But, it is necessary to not shorten it to "global warming", lest one be turned into a straw-man who won't even admit the minor warming of the last half century.

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19 January 2011

Military-Industrial Complex Complex

Yesterday on the radio I happened to catch a re-playing of Eisenhower's Farewell Address. I picked it up in the middle, I'm afraid. But, still, I was shocked by what I heard. The famous warning about the "military-industrial complex" was there, but it was surrounded by the strongest possible language about the existential threat of the Cold War and the absolute need for a large, strong, modern military! His point was that such a large military, though necessary, was new to our United States and needed to be handled carefully. (Ike also discusses other subjects that remain of vital importance to us today. And, unlike today's ghastly lectures, his speech was fairly short. You may read the entire text here, which I heartily recommend.)

Let us see, then, what President Eisenhower said. Read this isolated quote, the one that you may often hear:
... we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

A troubling passage, no doubt. Now, compare that to the very same quote in its true context (emphases added):
    Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It (The Cold War - ed.) commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. ...
    A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
    Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.
    Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual --is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.
    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Then yesterday evening on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams said Eisenhower's farewell address was, "a warning about the future, when the outgoing president uttered his most famous quote about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower warned that money for weapons takes away from things like hospitals and schools." ... Go ahead: read it again. I went to NBC's on-line archives to be sure I got the quote right.

I'm simply at a loss for words. Is it dishonesty or ignorance? In either case, following a misrepresentation of that magnitude, I call upon NBC Nightly News to discipline or fire the staff member who wrote that absurd line of leftist fantasy.

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10 February 2009

Same-sex marriage poll

Some time back, I wrote this article in which I argue against the legalization of same-sex marriage using secular reasoning. It's turned out to be a popular article.

Feelings are often strong on both sides of this subject. So, I'm trying something new and starting a poll on the subject. I have a feeling what the results might be (based on how most traffic reaches that article), but we'll see if I'm correct. :) Either way, it will be fun. And perhaps, psychologically beneficial to readers to be able to express an opinion. No stuffing the ballot box!

I've tried to mix up the answers a little to keep from biasing the results. Notice that there are 5 possible answers and the intention is for them to roughly mean "strong for", "weak for", "unknown/undecided", "weak against", and "strong against". ... So, don't nitpick the wording. Go with the one that's closest to your opinion.



If multiple choice isn't enough for you, please leave a comment on the blog. I'll update with the "margin of error" as needed. :p

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14 September 2008

Ode to Price Gouging

[I first wrote this after Hurricane Ivan (2004) to a discussion group I'm in. It's relevant again after Ike! I've added some of the follow-up discussion that we had, too.]

With all of this hub-bub about price gouging after the hurricanes, I'd like to step up and defend the venerable practice.

Price gouging is not only not bad, it is good. It follows the laws of supply and demand. So, it helps ensure that the people who need the goods the most will get them because they are willing to pay the higher prices. It keeps the well off from hoarding supplies, because at high prices they're only going to buy what they really need.

Consider the case of chain saws, often needed for tree clean up. Who should get the last 10 chain saws at Home Depot? The first ten schmucks that show up that morning? Or the guy with a nine month pregnant wife and two big oaks in his driveway (who is happy to pay a little more) ?

In some cases price gouging could even ensure that more people get the services they need. Consider chain saws again. A lot of people might have big trees down in their yards and not want to overpay. But, an enterprising person could buy the high priced chain saw as an investment and then go clearing his neighbors yards for a small fee. It's a win-win-win situation (entrepreneur-neighbors-retailer). Or a group of people might pitch in together to buy a high priced chain saw and then share it. Either way, if the first 10 guys with $50 get the chain saws, they've no real incentive to share or even to try to work clearing others' yards -- because the price they paid does not reflect the real value of the chain saw.

Some might argue that gouging is unethical in the case of necessities. But, the same arguments still apply. Who should get the last case of bottled water? The person who doesn't like tap water and got there first? (And, who likes Florida Texas tap water?) Or the person whose home water supply is off due to storm damage? We know that in the U.S. there will be adequate disaster relief and no one's in real danger of starvation. A little price gouging will keep supplies going to those who need them the most until the relief arrives.

Response/objection 1:
" retailers would be hesitant to gouge because it may lose them business ... caused by the ill will."


That's certainly a factor. I think that this is a good and natural check on excessive gouging. The problem is that Florida and many states apparently have laws against price gouging.

And, I thought of another example of the positive effects of legalizing and encouraging price gouging. People from out of the area could see the opportunity and load up the truck with chain saws and drive down to the hurricane to sell them at a profit. ... In the process maybe undercutting the greedy Home Depot manager. See how the free market fixes it's own problems?

Response/objection 2:
"The question seems to be an ethical one. We're talking about taking advantage of people in desperate times. .... There is nothing inconsistent with having a free market but also believing in giving charity."


We're all in violent agreement it seems. I certainly said nothing against charity, at any time or any place.

But, let's be honest about human nature -- you can expect the opportunists to arrive on the scene a lot sooner than the church ladies. If it's an emergency, why should the government impede this flow of goods? Like we do nature's scavengers, we can disdain the people that would do this, but to be honest we must admit that they are filling a useful role.

It is my understanding that Florida has laws against price gouging on the books now, which is why I brought this up. When the government decides to protect people from price gouging what they really end up stopping is the increased supply that market pricing would bring to a region that desperately needs it.

Response/objection #3:
"[I went through a Hurricane when I was 12.] We filled up our bathtubs with water and rationed the use till we got water back. Four or 5 days. .... Price gouging made the local news and there were some human interest stories afterward about the effects."


The question is, how would these people have gotten water without the gougers? Expensive water is better than no water. Without the gougers you may have been watching a news story of how many people were dead or sick due to dehydration or water borne disease.

Disaster relief services would certainly have been better for those people. I support disaster relief. But, we should think of gougers as the safety net of disaster relief. Obviously, in this case, they got there first and their product was desperately needed.

If the gougers disgust you, the best response is not to remove this safety net by making it illegal. The answer is to improve the speed and efficiency of disaster relief so that they will be put out of business.

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20 February 2008

Stop whining: Offer a solution!!

Official Google Blog: You are connected to mountaintop removal

American energy companies are blowing the tops off of mountains to get to coal. Big surprise. People need energy; our silly laws have stopped people from getting it from more reasonable alternatives, in particular nuclear.

Is the answer an email campaign to make more people mad about mountaintop removal coal mining?? No, it is not. Arguably, email campaigns are the bloody problem. Since these namby-pamby, half-witted liberals don't have the guts (or brains) to offer a real solution to an energy hungry world (like nuclear); then, by default, the solution they are offering is to turn off the computer. And, the hair dryer and the television and the air conditioner, etc.

Grow up people. Stop "raising consciousness" and start facing reality.

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15 February 2008

A Compromise on Global Warming

I talk about Global Warming from time to time. I think that it's bunk. Yes, the average temperature has risen slightly in the last century, but no more than it may have been expected to rise (or fall) on its own regardless of human activity. The temperature increases do not show strong correlation with the rise in carbon levels. And, to top it all off, there's no real reason to think that higher temperatures will be either unprecedented or a net negative to life on earth.

I could go on and on. I could write a book about it. But, it's been done already, quite a few times. If you're one of those people who still believe in anthropogenic global warming, please, study the issue. Educate yourself. The truth is out there.

BUT, if you're still not convinced, I've got a great idea for a compromise. Let's agree to support something that would greatly reduce carbon emissions and pollution, a win-win scenario that will have many other benefits as well. Let's create an effective public transportation system.

What's wrong with it now?

Everything. Public transportation is slow, expensive, inconvenient, and generally unpleasant. That's the reason that most people avoid it. People will choose to use public transportation in those few cases when driving happens to be even more expensive or slow (like New York).

Weeknights too!

Where I live, I see hundreds of cars sitting idle in traffic every weekday. The amount of gas (i.e., money) being wasted by this is offensive. There's also the wasted time (also "is money") and the quality of life impact that that wasted time results in.

Time and money aren't all, though. Commuters are frustrated and this causes them to take chances and drive more aggressively. This causes collisions and collisions often cause death. Shockingly often, in fact. If you like statistics, take a look at the NHTSA's fatality statistics. If you don't like statistics, I'll make it simple for you: with annual fatalities of about 15.1 per 100,000 people in the U.S., your chances of dying in a traffic related incident this year are about 1 in 6600. Compare that to your chances of winning the lottery. (In fact, you're more likely to die driving or walking to the store to buy a lottery ticket than you are to win the damned thing.)

Can we agree that a violent, early death is bad??

I hope so. So, let's reduce those deaths by making a usable public transportation system that people will use. Here are some ideas to get things started:
  • Subsidize it heavily with gas taxes. Public transportation should not be free. But, it should be very inexpensive. Every time some schmuck takes the bus instead of the highway, he's doing us all a favor. He won't be jamming up the roads and he won't be causing accidents. Save gas and lives. (And, pollution and carbon emissions -- whatever.) Since those in cars are reaping the benefits of reduced traffic, they shouldn't mind chipping in with a small(-ish) gas tax.
  • Make it faster. My experience with many public transportation systems is that they don't respect their customers and they don't bother to make the trains and buses run often enough. "Hey, you don't have a car? Then you better have 40 minutes to wait for the bus," seems to be the attitude of many systems. Here's an idea, use shorter trains and smaller buses and run them more often (a lot more often) so we don't have to stand around on the platform for half a damn hour.
  • ... And more convenient. Most systems need to be greatly expanded and built out. And, on the existing routes, they should expand capacity. Why should people have to stand up on the bus or train every single rush hour?
  • Make it cleaner. Clean is good.

  • Make it safer -- in fact and appearance. Let me be clear. I've been on public transportation many times. I've seen the guy with the hat and sunglasses and blaring headphones. And, the guy who needs a shower and randomly shouts obscenities to himself. You know, I got over it. ... But, my wife won't go near a bus and I wouldn't ask her to. If you want a middle class mother to ride public transportation with her children (and I do) then take the troublemakers and malcontents and kick their butts off. They're bad for business. (Duh. That's why you never see them in Macy's.)

I'm not a wishy-washy conservative. I'm not a moderate. But, I believe deep in the center of my reactionary soul that this is the conservative thing to do. The trick is to do it in the conservative way, which is to treat the riders of public transportation like the customers that they are and then to run public transportation like a business that actively seeks to keep its current customers happy and to get more people to become customers. (As opposed to the liberal way of telling people that they should sacrifice for the planet by taking an extra hour to get to work on a bus, standing up the whole time, and often being exposed to poor hygiene and mental instability! ... But, we're compromising, so that's not important right now.)

It's not just a conservative or liberal thing, it's a common sense thing. Stop complaining about traffic and think about traffic. Why do we keep sitting there like idiots? Our whole one-car-per-person-sit-in-traffic-for-hours model is impossibly broken. We all need other, reliable options to get around. One that won't kill so many of us. (And, will reduce pollution, if you're worried about that sort of thing.)

So, take a break from whatever other issue you've been thinking about and spend some time to support a change that will have a real and positive impact on your daily life. Let's fix transportation.

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19 October 2007

You missed a great one!

Blogger Buzz: Environmental Blog Roundup

Ugh. The "Environmental Blog Roundup" missed a big one. Blogger should be proud to have a truly wonderful science blog called The Reference Frame. It discusses Global Warming frequently and with great authority. And the writer's general theme on that subject is that it's not a crisis. Please, add "The Reference Frame" to your reading list and help rid our environment of the pollution of pseudo-scientific political garbage like the IPCC and "An Inconvenient Truth."

I've written about global warming once or twice. But, honestly, the case against panic is so strong that I have trouble remaining interested in the subject. It's like smashing ants with a sledgehammer to shoot down global warming alarmists. Which is to say, it's easy, but also a waste of time. Because the alarmists will never listen.

They have some strange psychological need to save the world. Couldn't these boneheads just help other people? Maybe sponsor a poor child or something? ... No, they can't. They have to save THE WHOLE WORLD. And, curiously, they have to save it not by any personal action, but by destroying our modern economy with onerous, unnecessary, environmental regulation. ... Self-righteous, scientifically illiterate morons.

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11 September 2007

Phylum Democrata

Bucky zings 'em.


Heh, heh. This was a good one. I won't spoil it. Here is the link.

It's easy to slap around the Dem's, but what about the other guys? I'll choose the giant tick for the phylum republica. It finds a warm, dark place and then quietly sucks up as much of someone else's lifeblood as possible. Finally, it becomes too fat and disgusting to be ignored any longer. Naturally, it is then removed and squashed. And although it's large and voracious for a tick, it still has a small brain, and no one can be sure if it's learned from the experience.

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25 July 2007

Crichton is a Family Values Conservative!

In transcribing Michael Crichton's views on the problems of evolution (here), I reread the entire chapter and I found something very interesting. In the later part of that chapter he describes a theory of the evolution of humans that went as follows: Primates move out into the savanna. They start standing more to see over the tall grass. This leaves both hands free. This causes more use of tools and more complex tools. This causes the brain to expand rapidly to manipulate these more complex tools. This causes a cycle of more advanced brain function feeding more complex tools and vice-versa. This causes children to be born with larger heads. This causes the children to be born earlier (so they'll fit through the birth canal) and more helpless for a longer time. This causes humans to develop society to support the now necessary teaching and protection of these children. (Whew!) And, he concludes with something along the lines of "You might say that the whole purpose of civilization is to raise children."

By itself, this is not so exceptional. But, we've got to interpret it against the backdrop of the entire book ("The Lost World"). In this book, Ian Malcom goes back to the (other) island where the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park fame had been hatched and now many are living in the wild. Malcom also has a specific, primary interest in extinction and the subject is raised throughout the book. Some extinctions can be connected to cataclysm, but many cannot. Malcom has theories about extinction based on complexity theory. Basically, I'd put it as evolution going awry or maybe even as a species evolving itself into a corner. Somewhere in the highly complex and non-linear interplay between biological evolution and social behavior something goes wrong.

There is one more episode which completes the picture. It is with the velociraptors. They are observed eating a kill and the young raptors are being pushed at and bitten when they try to eat. They are also noted to be too thin for their height. Also, the nest area is dirty and badly tended, with surprisingly few eggs. This also stood in sharp contrast to the well maintained and protected nest of the Tyrannosauruses. Crichton really doesn't develop or directly address the ideas implied by these observations. But, there they are nonetheless: these raptors are on the road to extinction.

When we put this altogether, I think there is a clear message coming through. The survival of our own species is not guaranteed and our own civilization is showing disturbing signs of dysfunction. What are the velociraptors above but an allegory of failing human civilization? Absorbed in our own avarice, we neglect our young and fail to give them what they need. That is, when we even bother to have children at all. (Consider "The EU's Baby Blues," for example.)

I don't want to put words in Crichton's mouth (... just thoughts in his head, as in my outlandish headline). So, I'll use my own perspective to expound this idea. We're in trouble. We're extincting ourselves via childlessness, poor family environments (like single parents or both parents working), and abortion. We're forgetting what is one of the main purposes of life, to have children and to have them thrive. It doesn't matter if you're religious or not. "Be fruitful and multiply," or "Pass on your DNA," take your choice. Furthermore, society and culture is like a great ship whose course cannot be changed quickly. The cultural and economic biases against having children and in favor a childless, care-free life are going to be very difficult to overcome. Or impossible.

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19 July 2007

"More scientists are admitting it"

Below is a short excerpt from Michael Crichton's fine book "The Lost World" that touches on the evolution-ID debate. What I liked about it is that he has no problem at all in describing some of the problems with evolution. (The chapter is entitled "Problems of Evolution".) You should know that Ian Malcom, the main speaker below, is an archetypal scientist-oracle whose words can be fairly construed as Crichton's own. The below starts on page 205 (hardback). I make no further comment at the present and all that follows is from the book (heavily edited for space).

... "I think it's fair to say that every scientist in the world agrees that evolution is a feature of life on earth," Malcom said. "And that we are descended from animal ancestors. Yes."
"Okay," K. said. "So, what's the big deal now?"
Malcom smiled. "The big deal," he said, "is that everybody agrees evolution occurs, but nobody understands how it works. There are big problems with the theory. And more and more scientists are admitting it."
[Discovery of extinction precedes theory of evolution.]
"Then along came Darwin, .... The implications ... upset lots of people. But [Darwin] ... made an overwhelming case. So gradually his idea ... was accepted .... But, the question remained: how does evolution happen? For that, Darwin didn't have a good answer."
"Natural selection," A. said.
"Yes, that was Darwin's explanation. ... But as many people realized, natural selection isn't really an explanation. It's just a definition: if an animal succeeds, it must have been selected for. ...."
"But it's genes," K. said.
"[History of subsequent rediscovery of genes and discovery of DNA.] ... , evolution is just the result of a bunch of mutations that either survive or die. right?"
"But there are problems with that idea," Malcom said. "First of all, there's a time problem. A single bacterium - the earliest form of life - has two thousand enzymes. Scientists have estimated how long it would take to randomly assemble those enzymes from a primordial soup. Estimates run from forty billion years to one hundred billion years. But the earth is only four billion years old. So, chance alone seems too slow. Particularly since we know bacteria actually appeared only four hundred million years after the earth began. Life appeared very fast - which is why some scientists have decided life on earth must be of extraterrestrial origin. Although I think that's just evading the issue."
"Second, there's the coordination problem. If you believe the current theory, then all the wonderful complexity of life is nothing but the accumulation of chance events - a bunch of genetic accidents strung together. Yet when we look closely at animals, it appears as if many elements must have evolved simultaneously. Take bats, which have echolocation -- they navigate by sound. To do that, many things must evolve. Bats need a specialized apparatus to make sounds, they need specialized ears to hear echoes, they need specialized brains to interpret the sounds, and they need specialized bodies to dive and swoop and catch insects. If all these things don't evolve simultaneously, there's no advantage. And to imagine all these things happen purely by chance is like imagining that a tornado can hit a junkyard and assemble the parts into a working 747 airplane. It's very hard to believe."
"Next problem. Evolution doesn't always act like a blind force should. Certain environmental niches don't get filled. Certain plants don't get eaten. And certain animals don't evolve much. ...."
T said, "Are you saying evolution is directed?"
"No," Malcom said. "That's Creationism and it's wrong. Just plain wrong. But I am saying that natural selection acting on genes is probably not the whole story. It's too simple. Other forces are also at work. ... And it turns out, again and again, that living things seem to have a self-organizing quality. ... From complexity theory, we're starting to have a sense of how this self-organization may happen, and what it means. And it implies a major change in how we view evolution."

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21 January 2007

"Let them ride bikes!"

Thomas Friedman had a fun column in my local paper this past New Year's Eve. It was entitled "Thinking green gains ground at last." Talking about Time magazine's person of the year, he opines, "No, I'd have run an all-green Time cover under the headline, 'Color of the Year.'" Because 2006 was the year that, "living and thinking 'green' ... hit Main Street."

A remarkable overstatement. I'll grant him this much, 2006 may well be the year that wishing "green" by the elites has hit yet new highs. Spurred on by Al Gore's movie and a growing, idiotic complacency about terrorism, they've returned to their decade old battle cries against their new red menace, the global warming boogeyman.

He goes on to report events of this past year that most of us missed:
We reached a tipping point this year -- where living, acting, designing, investing and manufacturing green came to be understood by a critical mass of citizens, entrepreneurs and officials as the most patriotic, capitalistic, geopolitical, healthy and competitive thing they could do. Hence my own motto: "Green is the new red, white and blue."
And, hence my own motto "Green is the new utopian delusion." Sadly, it's a double sided delusion. On the one hand, folks like Friedman convince themselves that because Wal-Mart has taken an interest in saving money through the use of energy efficient light bulbs, that finally the rabble has seen the light and is ready to start wearing hemp clothes and living in mud huts to save the world. On the other hand is the big fantasy, that we can or should alter our society in a way that would significantly reduce energy use. I'm all for good gas mileage and energy efficient light bulbs, don't get me wrong. But, those aren't going to save even close to enough energy to meet the expectations of the true-blue greens.

Mr. Friedman goes on and on about Wal-Mart's experimental green store. But, eventually he calms down and reaches the inescapable bottom line:
... scale is everything if you want to change the world, but to achieve scale you have to make sure that the green energy sources ... can be delivered as cheaply as oil, gas and dirty coal.
(Wait for it ...)
That will require a gasoline or carbon tax to keep the price of fossil fuels up so investors in green-tech will not get undercut while they drive innovation forward and prices down.
Oh, I love liberal economics. For the green innovators to drive prices down, the government must first force other prices up with taxes. Up, down, down, up. With these guys, it's no longer just morals that are relative.

Yes, he's probably really saying that green tech' needs a competitve boost to build business and get the business advantages of higher volume -- however poorly he may have put it. There's two big problems I have with any gas tax. First, we're already paying a large, de facto, green-based gas tax due to lost supply from blocked reserves in ANWR the Gulf of Mexico and probably other places. I don't like that.

"Let them ride bikes!"

Just like the "gas guzzler" vehicles that Friedman decries, this blocked supply has also helped to keep prices high and unfriendly Middle Eastern countries well-financed.

The other problem with any gas tax is that it's punitive to ordinary people who still have to drive to work, the grocery store, and everywhere else. Ultimately, it is not the likes of Friedman and his friends that will pay the real price of this tax, it's regular Joes and small businesses. I still haven't entirely recovered from the last bout of 3 dollar a gallon gas. Now King Tom wants to bring it back. And, why? Just so rich elites -- who will never miss a few thousand a year more in gas money -- can feel good about saving the world from a threat that probably doesn't exist.


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17 December 2006

Bob Barr goes Lib-? ...

Lib-ertarian, that is. As first read on NewsMax: "Former GOP Rep. Bob Barr Joins Libertarians." From the article, Bob "has quit the Republican Party to become a Libertarian, saying he is disillusioned with the GOP on issues such as spending and privacy."

I find this interesting for several reasons. First, Bob Barr is principled to a fault, if that's possible. This is why he was a leader in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. In his view, Clinton broke the law, he should be held accountable, the end. (A view I share.) Bob has been a consistent critic of the erosion of privacy rights in recent years, so this move continues his admirable history of sticking to his principles. Though, I'm not entirely with him on that issue.

He's had enough.

I'm greatly interested in whether this is the beginning of a trend. In a previous post, "Two parties not working," I argued that our current two party system is a disservice to the voters and needs to be opened up. Long time, loyal, conservative Republicans like myself are disgusted with the near total lack of action by our party after years in power. Third parties have become a lot more interesting.

But, the libertarian party is not for me. This is a good time to reflect on the problems of the libertarian approach. They are very compelling because their solutions address one of our biggest problems: too much government. But, their ideas often go too far in the other direction. I know I have to give some examples for this. Consider vehicle safety laws, like motorcycle helmets or safety belts. I'm in favor of these, but libertarians would be against. Or, zoning laws: the libertarian, to be consistent, must be against zoning laws. Meaning that your neighbor would be free to open a 24-hour casino in the house next door to yours.

The Libertarians are a hybrid party in relation to America's current left-right scale. Nevertheless, the Libertarians can work with conservatives on many issues. I have a great deal of respect for Bob Barr and wish him success in the future.

Still, history shows that our system tends toward two parties. If the Libertarians enjoy any sort of substantial success, one possible outcome is that another party will collapse and the left-right scale would be redefined. I think that a true multi-party system would be better for our country than just rearranging the two-party mess. That's why I suggest people continue to look at other third parties, like the Green party and the Constitution party.

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09 December 2006

Give a brother a click!

The excellent blog "Stop The ACLU" is a finalist for Best of the Top 250 Blogs! This site really stays on top of the news relevant to the parody of civil rights that the ACLU is perpetrating. You can help. Head on over to Weblog Awards and vote for "Stop The ACLU".

Not sure if they're the best? Here's just a couple of their recent stories that I found damned interesting, "Whites Only Scholarship" and "Outrage: Only 10 Months For Kiddie Porn Producer".

So, get over there and vote! Vote early and vote often! (Apparently you can vote again every day in this particular poll.) It's just a click, brother. And, have a nice weekend (free for all).

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18 November 2006

The Big Idea

The Republicans brought virtually nothing to the elections this past November, nothing except a disillusioned base. Still, nothing versus nothing should still have been a tie, right? Should have been, except that the Dems did have something -- the "Big Idea".

It's pretty clear that our public discourse is not able to sustain any more than one issue at a time. The trick in politics is to make that issue one of your choosing and then pound away at it. The "Big Idea" that carried this past election was "Iraq war, bad." It's so vague and broad that it is impossible to refute. How can one argue with that simple idea? You can hardly say that any war is good. You might say that it's worth fighting or even necessary, but it's still "bad."

Using a "Big Idea" of such simplicity makes it easy. Everyone can take a part -- even your political opponents! Some people have argued that we did not (or still don't) have enough troops in Iraq. Others will argue the opposite: that there are too many there or that they've been there too long. But, both sides are supporting the BigIdea. The moonbats can help with their "Bush lied" piffle. Hawks can chip in too and say that the politicians aren't letting the troops fight aggressively enough. (Everybody's a critic.)

The BigIdea is the key part of winning an election and changing the balance of power. The full recipe includes two more ingredients: "The Blunder" and "The Campaign." The blunder is self-explanatory -- the other side has done something stupid or corrupt, you exploit it. Even if your opponents haven't done anything unusually stupid, you've got to find something and make hay. If we're going to choose one blunder for this past election cycle, I think it has to be the Abu Ghraib prison scandal -- a disgusting episode to be sure. Notice that the blunder dovetails nicely with and reinforces the BigIdea. An interesting thing about it is that any direct connection between any U.S. politician and the crimes commited at Abu Ghraib is dubious at the very best. Nevertheless, with events so ugly and harmful to our nation's cause, even a tenuous connection is sufficient to get the desired effect of political damage. We are a conservative country and leaders must always bear some responsibility for the behavior of their subordinates.

Also of note with this "blunder," the news of it broke in the Spring of 2004, well before even the previous election. This brings us to "The Campaign." In this case, it was a very long campaign. The important thing is to stay on message and repeat it every day and in every way. Awfully easy when the main stream media (MSM) is sympathetic to your political goals in the first place. To be fair, with American soldiers in harm's way, the Iraq war was going to be in the news either way. For that reason, I think that this BigIdea found the Democrats as much as they found it. After the 2004 election didn't go their way, they seem to have decided to stop equivocating and fully exploit the difficult situation in Iraq for political gain. (Yes, they're slime balls.) Enough time had passed that people would forget that they pretty much all voted for this invasion just like the Republicans. And, hot dog!, where ever Cindy Sheehan went the news cameras followed. Like a bee to a flower goes the politician to a camera.

(Some people may differ with me and say that the Foley kerfuffle was "the blunder" of this past election cycle.)

To recap then, for 2006 the BigIdea is "Iraq war, bad," the blunder is Abu Ghraib, the campaign is ... relentless, as always. I think this formula for election success is broadly applicable. Just thinking about other successful shifts in power in my living memory, consider 1994: the BigIdea was "The Contract with America," the blunder was "Hillary health care." For an individual political contest, it's a looser fit, but still works. Take 1992 for example: the BigIdea was "the man from Hope,"* the blunder was "read my lips, no new taxes."

And what of other elections? Let's say 2000 or 1996. These elections are not examples of the BigIdea because there was no sort of change in power. (In 2000, Gore was not an incumbent.) You don't need a BigIdea to keep the status quo. But, 1980 should fit the mold since it unseated a president. (Someone older than myself will have to provide that analysis.)

So, WHAT IS THE BIG IDEA?! What are the Republicans going to do to get back into power? So, far nothing. The PR campaign is a key ingredient and they will need a long one to restore confidence, so they'd better put on their thinking caps and find their BigIdea soon.

*(Yes, "the man from Hope" was the BigIdea -- because no mere idea is big enough to share a stage with Bill Clinton. I apologize if you'd just eaten before being reminded of this nauseating jingle. I'll normally refer to him as "the man from grope.")

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10 November 2006

Two parties not working

I've had some time to reflect on the recent election. It wasn't surprising to me, or anyone with a passing interest in current events and trends. So, to try to understand why the Republicans did this to themselves, why they did virtually nothing with their six years in complete control of the government, I believe we've got to look back.

First, back to the 1995 budget battle with Bill Clinton where the Republicans got thumped. This was mainly a PR battle, like so many things in Washington, and ol' Bill is good at that game. After that rebuke, it seems like the Republicans gave up on serious budget-cutting. Not necessarily the right approach -- they might have worked on their message and strategy and tried again. No matter, with the tax cuts and the economy the budget got balanced regardless. But, this started the bad habit of Republicans being just a speed bump on the road to bigger and bigger government, rather than the avenging angel of real fiscal responsibility.

Isn't it bizarre today to think that Gingrich was later ousted because the GOP lost 5 House seats in the 1998 elections? Leaving them with a mere 223 to 211 majority?

After the new speaker Bob Livingston was very quickly dispatched by personal scandal, moderate Denny Hastert became the speaker. This completed the transformation process begun with the budget battle -- the House Republicans were now completely tamed and DC-ified. And, so they remained, right through the fateful, inevitable day of November 7, 2006.

Enough history. What's the problem with a two party system? There's the obvious problem of a lack of choice. Recall the Simpson's episode where evil aliens Kang and Kodos disguise themselves as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Homer runs onto the stage during a debate and unmasks the aliens. The crowd gasps, but Kang says, "Well, what can you do about it? It's a two party system and you've got to vote for one of us." The crowd then reluctantly mutters that he's got a point.

Going beyond the obvious, however, there are several negative effects of a two party system. The one that I believe is most relevant to the recent election is that large blocks of the electorate really have no representation of their views in the government. America is in many ways a very conservative country. But, the representatives of the people do not reflect that conservatism. The two party system effectively filters out the views of a large number of the citizens, by forcing them to choose the side that is closest to their views -- though that might not be very close on a large number of issues. Undoubtedly, this is a problem for many liberals as well.

All of this is what allowed the Republicans to be comfortable in their moderate sham. The other side had bad ideas or unpopular ideas. The Republicans really didn't have to do anything except not be the Democrats. ... But, in the end, the dumb asses couldn't even do that. They spent as much money as any Democrat congress and have truly earned the title "Republocrats."

Another negative effect of the two party system is the in-fighting. Because each party becomes a coalition of people with wide ranging ideas, there's necessarily going to be a lot of conflict within each party. Conflict and debate are well and good, but I think a multi-party system would bring much more of this debate out into the open where it belongs. As it is, the debates often happen behind closed doors so that the party may proceed with a unified front. That's a reasonable tactic, of course, but in our two-party system it seems that important options and points of view are already off the table before the public debate begins on the floor.

Dude! More parties!

I believe that there is a large amount of pressure building on both the left and the right for new political parties to enter our system. Once a single third party gains some real measure of success on one side of the spectrum, I think that another party will immediately spring up on the other side as well. The Libertarian party is the only other party that appeared on the ballots where I vote. They don't fit onto the conservative-to-liberal spectrum very well. I believe that if either the Constitution Party or the Green Party can have a break out success, that the other one will also suddenly spring to life. There are many people in the two major political parties whose views would be better represented by these third parties, but feel trapped by the two party system.

My question is this: if we really could get a such shake-up and have a political system with 5 major parties, would the Democrat and Republican parties both survive? If each parties' moderate wing were freed from its ideological wing, they might just end up being the exact same party. Then they could merge and form the Republocratic party. (Because that sounds a lot better than the Democlican party.)

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10 October 2006

short hair, green jacket, RANT

On this blog I'm trying to write articles of substance, with a little thought behind them. I wish to avoid being a slave to the "news cycle" and the short, commenting-on-something-else posts that go along with it. "Not that there's anything wrong with that!!" It's just that there's plenty of people out there that are already doing a great job in that department. And, frankly, I've got a day job and could never keep up with the news cycle anyway. I'm trying to do something a little different and write articles that stand on their own and still be relevant when the hot story has changed.

This post, however, is going to be a departure. I've just seen something so obnoxious that it demands an immediate response. Hence, it receives the 'RANT' qualifier in the title.

I think Michelle Malkin broke the story, but LGF includes more background information and the original photos here: Democratic Party Fauxtoshops Veteran. The synopsis is as follows: The DNC has a page on its website called "Veterans & Military Families" (where they talk about ... the same thing they talk about on every other page, how Republicans and Bush are evil and ruining the country). This web page included a prominent picture of a soldier in a beret. This picture was of a Canadian soldier. The DNC apparently can't tell the difference.

Helpfully, the Army labels all its
soldiers to avoid this sort of thing.

In these times when the Republicans seem to be doing everything that they can to alienate their base and lose the coming elections, it's important to remember that things could be worse -- a lot worse. We need to remember that the Dem's are the party of John Kerry, who stabbed his military compatriots in the back; Jane Fonda, who slapped our military in the face; and Bill Clinton, who beat the draft then gutted the military in 90's. And others, ad nauseam.

Did these idiots at the DNC never watch Gomer Pyle? Major Dad? How about the f(*&ing evening news? Their hateful disdain betrays them, "short hair, green jacket, they all look the same to me!" The damnable bastards at the DNC were apparently too stoned during the 60's to even notice the uniforms of the soldiers that they were spitting on. ... And, now they've spit on them again.

Oh God, please, help us find a way to beat the bumbling, spineless, pork-whoring Republican party into shape before it's too late!

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11 September 2006

The Challenge of Democracy

Why is the United States of America so much more prosperous than other countries? It's an interesting and important question -- and one which I believe I've found the answer to. The paradoxical answer is two-fold: freedom and law.

Freedom is an obvious requirement for widespread prosperity. Freedom to open a business, to hire and fire workers, to travel freely, to enter contracts, to better oneself through education, to take a job or leave a job, to choose a government, and to influence its policies. Even in this brief list you may notice things that people in America are not completely free to do, like firing employees. Nevertheless, on the whole, and in comparison to most of the rest of the world, the United States is remarkably free and has been for a long time.

The role of law may be less obvious, but it may be even more critical. If laws are not strong and strongly enforced then the business environment suffers horribly. Contracts can't be enforced, so people won't enter into them. Government corruption should be included as a case of weak law. If one's business is too successful, the corrupt officials or dictators may simply take it. (Something like this happened to a large oil company in Russia not long ago.) And, property law is very important. Economist Hernando de Soto of Peru has done alot of work showing how important property law is to the economy. Americans often take for granted their system of property law. In many poor countries, people don't hold titles to the land they live on. This makes it impossible for them to get a loan against it, for example.

Thanks to Tom Bethel for writing in The American Spectator on this subject on more than one occasion. Above, I've just given my own brief recapitulation of what I learned from his articles. But, what I really want to talk about is what this means to the rest of the world. The secret is out, as it were. (And, my own prior obliviousness notwithstanding, must have been known for a long time to people who asked the question.) Why doesn't every country imitate America's methods? Wouldn't they like to be prosperous as well? Granted, you can't just declare "freedom and law" on Monday and be wealthy on Tuesday. It takes a long time to build up the institutions necessary to support a free and fair legal and political system. But, clearly, many poor countries are not trying to become more free and just. Why not?

I think the answer is simply that the people currently in power in these other countries are just fine with how things are. They don't want to give up any of their own power. It's shocking to think that -- that people are dying and toiling in dire poverty and the elite of the country just don't care and haven't the smallest interest in changing their system. But, what other conclusion can we draw?

If the people with all of the money and all of the power and almost all of the guns in some country are adamantly against freedom and democracy, what chance does it really have? Not very much. If the country is poor enough and the government absolutist enough, there can't be much opportunity for internal change.

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23 June 2006

A secular argument against same sex marriage

What is civil marriage? What is its purpose, its history? The first question we've got to answer is why is the government involved in any way in the first place.

The short answer is that civil marriage is primarily for the protection of women and children. That is borne out by the legal ramifications of dissolving a marriage today -- namely, alimony and child support.

The problem with same sex marriage, then, is that there are no parties in need of protection. In what way does a man need to be protected from being abandoned by another man? It's a little silly, isn't it? Furthermore, there is no prospect of children from such a union so, again, no need for a government sanctioned marriage.

(One might ask, "But, what about adopted children?" or, in the case of a female same sex union, children conceived with outside assistance. But, such cases really do not distinguish themselves from the case where a single person adopts a child or a single woman has a child without being married.)

So, the problem with government sanctioned same sex marriages is simply that they do not fulfill the purpose of the government sanctioning marriages in the first place. And, let's be perfectly clear here: the issue is entirely about government sanction of the marriage. There are many churches and other places of worship that will perform a marriage ceremony for two people of the same sex. There is no law against two people of the same sex exchanging rings and vows and calling themselves married, or even legally changing their surnames. It is a free country, you know.

As an aside, I have heard troubling stories of problems arising from the lack of a legal marriage between two people of the same sex. Probably the most distressing is where a person is kept from visiting their partner in the hospital because they are not kin. Without a doubt, this is outrageous and should be stopped. I in no way want to punish people who are committed to each other. (In fact, I think most hospitals now accomodate this situation.) Still, hospital visitation is not the purpose of civil marriage, which is not the right solution to this problem. (... For that matter, one might ask what if you had no family? Or even no family near by? Would a patient have to suffer or even die alone while his best friend was kept out? This may be a problem for people other than just gay couples.)

Government sanction. Government approval. That is, I'm afraid, what this debate is really about. Over and over we're told, the government has no business making judgements or decrees on morality. But, the knife must cut in both directions. Same sex marriages do not fulfill the purpose of civil marriages. The main reason to legalize them would seem to be to propagate the moral judgement that such unions are morally acceptable. I can understand that having them not sanctioned, as things generally are now, may cause some homosexual people to feel slighted. But, are we now making laws just to sooth people's hurt feelings? The irony is that we're all supposed to live and let live, be tolerant, etc. But, by pressing for government sanctioned, same sex marriage, the gay activists have forced a sort of judgement of the undeniable differences between gay unions and straight unions. The male-female relationship is, by historical presumption, imbalanced and calls for the female to be protected from abandonment -- the same sex union is not. The straight union is, shall we say, "pregnant" with the possibility of children -- the gay union is not.

The above really settles the question in my view. But, let us address one more aspect of the issue. Same sex marriage proponents often ask, "How would you be hurt if some other people are allowed to be legally married?" And, the example that comes first to my mind would be, say, a small business owner who gets slapped with unexpected, new dependents from newly married employees. Health care costs are a big drain on businesses and a small business may or may not always offer them. A small business owner that is trying to do the right thing and help his employees with families by offering such benefits might be very unhappy to find out he's now paying out even more. ... And, let's go one further and say that this small business owner doesn't approve of same sex marriage. That's not going to matter -- if the marriages are legal, he's going to pay the same darn benefits or be sued. So, here's a case where a person is coerced to subsidize something that he disagrees with. That's "hurt" where I come from.

Update:
I've created an on-line poll on this subject. Go to this post and voice your opinion!

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01 April 2006

The fraud of self-ownership

I heard this on the radio again the other day, "A person owns themself and ought to be able to put what ever they want into their bodies." So, I guess they were talking drugs. I've heard this many times before, but it drives me up the wall.

You usually hear the "Each person owns himself" argument in support of drug legalization, assisted suicide, prostitution, or the like. But, I can't believe that anyone who makes this argument has fully thought through the implications. Because if a person owns themself, then a person could, well ... sell themself. Don't scoff. If a person has such total control over a piece of property that they may destroy it at any time for any reason, or for no reason, then certainly they could also give or sell that property to another person as well. Then, this new owner could also choose to destroy his property, could he not?

A natural objection here may be that no one would want to sell themselves. But, then, presuming what people ought to do with their own bodies was how this all started! But, for the sake of argument let's say that no one anywhere would ever sell themselves. We're still not out of the woods, though, because if you truly own yourself then that is just one more asset that can be liquidated in the event of unpaid debts or bankrupty. Granted, we have bankruptcy laws to protect people's barest belongings, but these laws are based largely on biblical traditions and should have no place in our system of law -- at least, that's what most self-ownership proponents would argue if they want to be consistent.

Let's take a moment to consider bankruptcy law all by itself. We as a nation may choose to incorporate a morally based element of debt forgiveness into our laws -- or we may choose not to. Regardless of what measure of debt forgiveness is required by the law, there can be circumstances under which a person of good will would take it upon themselves to forgive debts. The point I want to make is, even though there's general support for bankruptcy laws that give some moderate protections to debtors, they're just not crucial to our entire system. Take away all bankruptcy protection and people will get more careful, the market will adjust, and life will go on.

But, the pernicious concept of self-ownership very much is antithetical to our entire constitutional system of law. As mentioned in our country's founding documents, a person's rights are granted by God himself and the human person therefore has a special status in our system. It's for this reason that we must always oppose slavery, for example, even if some person wants to sell themselves into slavery. Slavery is a plain denial of the God given rights of each human, so we forbid it -- even if, paradoxically, a person desires to become a slave. To allow it or recognize it in any way strikes at a cornerstone of our entire system. And, when we forbid slavery we are not harming an individual in any way, but upholding the rights of all men by defending the dignity of each man.

As to the other issues often cited by self-ownership proponents, the argument of human dignity is not always an iron-clad rebuttal. The case of drug legalization is a good one to consider. If recreational drugs are a harmless amusement, then there's no grounds to oppose them. If they are just a form of protracted suicide or, indeed, of slavery, then we must oppose them mightily. That we are created by God and valued by God does not give an easy answer to all policy questions. My purpose is rather to take away the glib, simple-minded argument that a person owns themselves and may therefore destroy, even desecrate, themselves in any way they see fit -- ultimately devaluing all men in the process. We must uphold this central concept of human worth. The result will be that we must start again to give some real thought to the implications of our laws.

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23 March 2006

Globaloney

Really, honestly, I don't understand it. I don't understand how serious people can continue to pump the global warming issue. The recent 60 Minutes story about the "brave" scientist who was speaking out, regardless of the cost, regardless of the Administration's attempts to censor him! -- it was just too much. Human caused global warming is a complete non-issue to anyone who has bothered to research it even a little. Finish reading this post and you too can start worrying about other things.

First, the 60 Minutes story. A lot ballyhoo about melting glaciers, followed by the most dire warning:
"We have to, in the next 10 years, ... begin to decrease the rate of growth of CO2 emissions, .... If that doesn't happen in 10 years, then I don’t think we can keep global warming under one degree Celsius and that means we’re going to, that there’s a great danger of passing some of these tipping points. If the ice sheets begin to disintegrate, what can you do about it?"
(NASA Scientist James Hansen, from www.cbsnews.com)
Oh, another key part of the hoax, mention of the recent "warmest year on record." If you can't tell the trick in that, close your eyes and think about it for a second. The answer is below.*

Now, this is my question for these bozos: What did the precious glaciers look like about 1000 years ago when the Earth was already 1 degree Celsius warmer that it is right now? And, again, what did the glaciers look like 2500 years ago when the Earth was 2 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today? Look at the graph below. What you'll see there is that the recent warming trend does not even rise to the level of noise when compared to the natural, historical variance of the temperatures. My gosh, I could explain this graph to any school child that knows the difference between up and down.

(From the excellent paper on global warming found here. Used with permission.)

There is no reasonable way to explain away this graph. Heck, even if we are causing global warming, then good! Look at the graph! It was getting cold in here, anyway.

Global warming is some sort of hoax. I'm not sure why people want to wreck our modern economy by restricting fossil fuels for no good reason. Can we really all go back to being hunter-gatherers? Subsistence farmers? (Well, no. The limousine liberals pushing this nonsense won't be giving up their cars and jets. Let's not get carried away.) Like I said in the start, I don't understand it. My best theory is that some people just resent American prosperity, and are only too eager to believe that it must be destructive. And, it must be stopped.

Michael Crichton wrote a great book called State of Fear that is highly critical of global warming theories. You know, in case you're the sort that doesn't believe your own eyes. And, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine site (www.oism.org) has a petition signed by over 17,000 scientists saying that "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." You know, in case you're the sort who wants to hear it from someone other than an unknown blogger.

* Records have only been kept for a little over 100 years.

Addenddum

One commenter said that you can't take these temperatures as representative of global temperatures. True to a point. These temperatures must be taken as a proxy for global temperatures. But, as usual, it skirts the issue of what really were the global temperatures in the past. And, as it turns out, these are a good proxy. You can always expect the global warming alarmists to attack those with good data and then -- incredibly -- refer you to computer models and the "precautionary principle".

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31 January 2006

Under your nose

A friend and I were vigorously debating Intelligent Design some time ago. After finally admitting (some of) the shortcomings of evolution, he asked me a question. He said, "Do you have any reason to believe that when we do discover how life came about that it will not turn out to have been by some natural process?" Wow, that was an eye opener. Of course, my answer was no. Everything else we've found so far follows predictable laws of nature, so I've really no reason to expect anything different in this case. You can't rule it out entirely, of course. But, if I was betting on it, I'd definitely have to say that the origins of life will be found to follow some laws of nature -- very likely including some that have yet to be discovered, based on the current implausibility of "evolution".

And, the thing is, I've got to be deeply concerned about people that are putting too much energy, and even hope, into the Intelligent Design theories. I think that Intelligent Design theories still have great value as a check on the sometimes outrageous claims of radical evolutionists. I also believe that some of the ideas behind Intelligent Design could further our understanding of the origins of life one day. But, when push comes to shove -- and sooner or later it always does -- we've got to ask this question: could there ever be a fact, uncovered and proven, that is so revolutionary that it causes committed materialists to renounce their metaphysical world view? I'm guessing not. Many of these people have shown themselves to be so devoted to a God free universe that it's hard to imagine what discovery they would be unable to explain away to maintain their, well, religion.

The more pressing question is this: are there believers that are waiting for such a fact? Or claiming that such a fact is found already in Intelligent Design theory? I hope not! Don't get caught waiting for the train that's already arrived. The proof of God's existence is abundant and all around us. It would be a big mistake to make the evolution-ID debate any part of that decision, so to speak. Without a doubt, the beauty and wonder of the natural world is a testament to God. But, how exactly things, especially living things, got to be this way continues to befuddle everyone as far as I can see. If and when we unravel this mystery, I don't expect to find any evidence for God that's much more striking than what we already have. Such as what man is, what he is not, and what he ought to be.

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07 January 2006

"Lost ID?"

Last month's court decision in the Intelligent Design (ID) case in Dover Pennsylvania has caused quite alot of glee among evolution proponents. Gloating too. I come to this controversy with a perspective apparently not shared by either side. For one thing, I am familiar with the root concepts of ID, namely specified complexity and irreducible complexity. I find these ideas to have some merit. But, I cringe when I read that ID is an alternate theory of origins. It's nothing of the kind and never was.

ID is really a scientific criticism of evolution. In the parlance, you might say that it is an attempt to falsify the theory of evolution. Things get very messy here because the term "evolution" has come to encompass so much. To view the controversey fairly you've got to understand that ID theorists do not contest the many things under the evolution umbrella that are well known. It would be easiest to just say that natural selection is not evolution; inheritance of traits (genetics) is not evolution; the progressive, multi-billion year fossil record is not evolution. No reasonable person denies these well known things -- including the scientists who work on ID.

But, wait a second, if "designists" are really just creationists in sheep's clothing then how can they believe in all those things? ID proponents apparently do include quite a number of creationists who have jumped onto the bandwagon. The embarrassing, ham-handed way in which some school boards have handled things makes that obvious. But, the authors of the ideas and the many other earnest people who have bothered to actually understand ID -- and find these ideas credible and important and worthy of further research -- are not generally creationists. Simply put, ID theorists have raised critical questions about our understanding of evolution. These ideas cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand or attacks on the motives of the evolution critics. They must be addressed.

But, still, if one believes in all those pieces and parts of evolution, then how can they not believe in evolution?? That's the big question all right. I think I have to speak only for myself here. I believed in evolution for most of my life, up until just a few years ago. (I also believe in God and saw no real conflict -- then or now.) Now, I'm not saying I no longer believe in evolution. Not exactly. I'm just saying that I've come to understand that we really have no idea how it all happened. We don't know how this earth went from no life to human beings in the relatively short span of a few billion years. So, I might believe in evolution. If someone would just explain it to me. No one's been able to yet and, believe me, I gave them a fair hearing.

"What? You don't believe in evolution? You stinking, creationist scumbag!" (Yes, that's usually the next stop on this little trip.) Well, not exactly. That's a big issue with ID, it doesn't actually answer the questions of our origins either. It simply is not an alternate theory of origins. Anyone who represents it as such either doesn't understand it or actually is a theory-hijacking creationist. (Note to ID theory authors: bad choice of name for your theories.)

Now, I wanted to talk about the science of the debate versus the politics of the debate. But, how can you separate them? The two have become so deeply intertwined that it is impossible. For example, I would like to see more honesty from the evolution proponents about the true limits of our knowledge in this area. But, they believe they are under assault from anti-scientific fundamentalists and that they must maintain a unified front and admit no inadequacies at all in their understanding. Is this a political stance or an honest, misguided attempt to keep the unwashed masses from being hoodwinked? The vitriol with which many denounce the authors of ID makes it difficult to accept that their motives are pure. Destroying a reputation now passes for science. And, again, it proves my point that we still have very, very much to learn about the origins of life. If the facts of the matter were as well known as some insist that they are, then the answer would be to explain those facts, not attack the people that merely point out that they are lacking.

Many ID proponents continue to disappoint me, too. They continue to be allied to and perhaps infiltrated with people who really do appear to be pursuing a religious agenda. What are they thinking?

The whole mess reminds me of the Cold War proxy wars, where the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would support opposite sides of some small war between third world countries. There is a much larger cultural battle going on here and what should be a minor scientific controversy has been dragged into it.

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24 December 2005


Mr. Grinch needs coffee

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20 December 2005

M.I.C.key Mouse

I admit that I boycotted China for much of the 90's. It was lonely work and I eventually gave up. It was either that or jog in $300 Italian shoes.

I'm still greatly concerned about China and I think that it may well become the world's pre-eminent superpower some day. I'm still waiting for their new middle class to rise up and demand democracy. I don't think it's going to happen -- we've been waiting for 20 years now. I believe the Chinese Communist Party is well aware of the dangers of economic growth and is working carefully to ensure that things stay under their control, even while reaping the benefits of a little economic freedom and capitalism.

I'm also very curious about what the real state of human rights and forced labor and slavery is in China. Are we such hypocrites in America that we will argue endlessly about the morality of driving SUVs or wearing fur coats, while benefitting directly from slave labor? Frankly, I'd find that even worse than having slavery right here in America -- you get the monetary benefits of slavery without all of the icky seeing them and stuff. You make someone else do the dirty work.

Where are all of the liberals on this, anyways?? They only care about the false charges they've trumped up against Bush. Real injustice and crime against humanity are of no interest to them. (Wouldn't help them win an election, I guess.)

Some people are still boycotting China, but it seems to be slow going: boycott made in china

Just to be clear, I don't think boycotting China brings jobs back to America, but back to Mexico, Taiwan, India, Korea, and others (where they belong).

So, I'm seriously thinking about taking up the boycott again. Encouragement is welcome.

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