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 1 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More Likely to Die of Old Age if you Live to be Old on: October 21, 2013, 05:15:37 PM This takedown made me laugh:Vitamin D And CancerPosted on 21 October 2013 by BriggsThis is our second big week focusing on colorectual cancer. Three weeks makes a streak. We’ll see.Our paper is Mapping Vitamin D Deficiency, Breast Cancer, and Colorectal Cancer by Sharif Mohr, including four authors whose surnames suspiciously begin with G.Paper is making the rounds with people concerned that they ought to be popping Vitamin D (VD for short?) pills to stave off the big C (today’s post sponsored by the letters C, D, G, and V).Idea is that there’s more sun the closer to the equator you get, therefore the more opportunity there is for your body to produce VD. Why is this important? Because statistics appear to show that people who live in equatorial lands have lower rates of breast and colorectal cancer.Rates of colorectual cancer countries classed by latitude.This picture from their paper gives you the idea. Shows the rates of colorectal cancer (found in various and variable public data sources) by about 200 different countries classed by latitude (not all countries are labeled). Paper has a similar picture for breast cancer.Seems plausible that the further from the sun you get the more at risk you are of cancer, no?No. Those equatorial countries are places like the Democratic (don’t laugh) Republic of Congo, life expectancy 45; Equatorial Guinea, life expectancy 48, and so on and such forth (data source; from 2000).This is versus sunlight depraved countries like Finland, life expectancy 78; Denmark, life expectancy 78; and on and on.Now the longer you live the higher the chance you’ll develop one of these “old age” cancers (you have to die of something, after all). Most people are diagnosed north of 50. So if you die before 50, you don’t have much chance of getting these cancers. This is my “theory”, which has the benefit of parsimoniously explaining the observed data.This explanation was much too simple for Mohr and the Four Gs, who show no sign of having thought of it. They instead developed complicated regression models of solar irradiance, optical depth, population density and, oh, I don’t know what all else. They got the wee p-values they sought, which was all the proof they needed.And, hey, it could be that their vastly more complicated hypothesis is true and mine false. Plus, they have a wee p-value and I don’t. I can’t even get one! So, as the authors say (as they always say), “More research is clearly needed.”http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=9612
 3 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Scope of Surveillance on: September 29, 2013, 12:53:39 PM http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/us/nsa-examines-social-networks-of-us-citizens.html?hp&_r=2&
 4 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 28, 2013, 11:14:00 AM
 6 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rooskie Evac? on: August 29, 2013, 11:47:46 AM http://theaviationist.com/2013/08/28/russian-evacuation-syria/?fb_source=pubv1#.Uh5FmpKkqHd
 7 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / "Weather Cooking" on: August 27, 2013, 12:50:43 PM Seeing how "global warming" seems to have lost some of it's lexicographic shizzle leaving a gap "climate change" doesn't have the spark to fill, perhaps the doomsayers should give "weather cooking" a whirl. Hey, not only has it worked before, but if we manage to dispense with modern follyswaddles we could inspire those rotten deniers to STFU:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcAy4sOcS5M
 8 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A Quick Drive By on: August 12, 2013, 10:35:26 AM State-Funded Science: It’s Worse Than You Think!By Patrick J. MichaelsResponse EssaysAugust 12, 2013CommentsTerence Kealey’s insightful essay is likely to provoke a vigorous debate among libertarians on the utility of publicly funded science. He concludes that “the public funding of research has no beneficial effects on the economy.”  I will argue that the situation, at least in a prominent environmental science, is worse, inasmuch as the more public money is disbursed, the poorer the quality of the science, and that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship.This is counter to the reigning myth that science, as a search for pure truth, is ultimately immune from incentivized distortion.  In fact, at one time James M. Buchanan clearly stated that he thought science was one of the few areas that was not subject to public choice influences. In his 1985 essay The Myth of Benevolence, Buchanan wrote:Science is a social activity pursued by persons who acknowledge the existence of a nonindividualistic, mutually agreed-on value, namely truth…Science cannot, therefore, be modelled in the contractarian, or exchange, paradigm.”In reality, public choice influences on science are pervasive and enforced through the massive and entrenched bureaucracies of higher education.  The point of origin is probably President Franklin Roosevelt’s November 17, 1944 letter to Vannevar Bush, who, as director of the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development, managed and oversaw the Manhattan Project.Roosevelt expressed a clear desire to expand the reach of the government far beyond theoretical and applied physics, specifically asking Bush, “What can the Government do now and in the future to aid research activities by public and private organizations.”  In response, in July, 1945, Bush published Science, The Endless Frontier, in which he explicitly acknowledged Roosevelt’s more inclusive vision, saying,It is clear from President Roosevelt’s letter that in speaking of science that he had in mind the natural sciences, including biology and medicine…Bush’s 1945 report explicitly laid the groundwork for the National Science Foundation, the modern incarnation of the National Institutes of Health, and the proliferation of federal science support through various federal agencies.  But, instead of employing scientists directly as the Manhattan Project did, Bush proposed disbursing research support to individuals via their academic employers.Universities saw this as a bonanza, adding substantial additional costs.  A typical public university imposes a 50% surcharge on salaries and fringe benefits (At private universities the rate can approach 70%.)These fungible funds often support faculty in the many university departments that do not recover all of their costs; thus does the Physics Department often support, say, Germanic Languages. As a result, the universities suddenly became wards of the federal government and in the thrall of extensive programmatic funding. The roots of statist “political correctness” lie as much in the economic interests of the academy as they do in the political predilections of the faculty.As an example, I draw attention to my field of expertise, which is climate change science and policy.  The Environmental Protection Agency claims to base its global warming regulations on “sound” science, in which the federal government is virtually the sole provider of research funding.  In fact, climate change science and policy is a highly charged political arena, and its $2 billion/year public funding would not exist save for the perception that global warming is very high on the nation’s priority list.The universities and their federal funders have evolved a codependent relationship. Again, let’s use climate change as an example. Academic scientists recognize that only the federal government provides the significant funds necessary to publish enough original research to gain tenure in the higher levels of academia. Their careers therefore depend on it. Meanwhile, the political support for elected officials who hope to gain from global warming science will go away if science dismisses the issue as unimportant.The culture of exaggeration and the disincentives to minimize scientific/policy problems are an unintended consequence of the way we now do science, which is itself a direct descendent of Science, The Endless Frontier.All the disciplines of science with policy implications (and this is by far most of them) compete with each other for finite budgetary resources, resources that are often allocated via various congressional committees, such as those charged with responsibilities for environmental science, technology, or medical research. Thus each of the constituent research communities must engage in demonstrations that their scientific purview is more important to society than those of their colleagues in other disciplines. So, using this example, global warming inadvertently competes with cancer research and others.Imagine if a NASA administrator at a congressional hearing, upon being asked if global warming were of sufficient importance to justify a billion dollars in additional funding, replied that it really was an exaggerated issue, and the money should be spent elsewhere on more important problems.It is a virtual certainty that such a reply would be one of his last acts as administrator.So, at the end of this hypothetical hearing, having answered in the affirmative (perhaps more like, “hell yes, we can use the money”), the administrator gathers all of his department heads and demands programmatic proposals from each. Will any one of these individuals submit one which states that his department really doesn’t want the funding because the issue is perhaps exaggerated?It is a virtual certainty that such a reply would be one of his last acts as a department head.The department heads now turn to their individual scientists, asking for specific proposals on how to put the new monies to use. Who will submit a proposal with the working research hypothesis that climate change isn’t all that important?It is a virtual certainty that such a reply would guarantee he was in his last year as a NASA scientist.Now that the funding has been established and disbursed, the research is performed under the obviously supported hypotheses (which may largely be stated as “it’s worse than we thought”). When the results are submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, they are going to be reviewed by other scientists who, being prominent in the field of climate change by virtue of their research productivity, are funded by the same process. They have little incentive to block any papers consistent with the worsening hypothesis and every incentive to block one that concludes the opposite.Can this really be true? After all, what I have sketched here is simply an hypothesis that public choice is fostering a pervasive “it’s worse than we thought” bias in the climate science literature, with the attendant policy distortions that must result from relying upon that literature.It is an hypothesis that tests easily.Let us turn to a less highly charged field in applied science to determine how to test the hypothesis of pervasive bias, namely the pedestrian venue of the daily weather forecast.Short-range weather models and centennial-scale climate models are largely based upon the same physics derived from the six interacting “primitive equations” describing atmospheric motion and thermodynamics. The difference is that, in the weather forecasting models, the initial conditions change, being a simultaneous sample of global atmospheric pressure, temperature, and moisture in three dimensions, measured by ascending weather balloons and, increasingly, by downward-sounding satellites. This takes place twice a day. The “boundary conditions,” such as solar irradiance and the transfer of radiation through the atmosphere, do not change. In a climate model, the base variables are calculated, rather than measured, and the boundary conditions—such as the absorption of infrared radiation in various layers of the atmosphere (the “greenhouse effect”) change over time.It is assumed that the weather forecasting model is unbiased—without remaining systematic errors—so that each run, every twelve hours, has an equal probability of predicting, say, that it will be warmer or colder next Friday than the previous run. If this were not he case, then the chance of warmer or colder is unequal. In fact, in the developmental process for forecast models, the biases are subtracted out and the output is forced to have a bias of zero and therefore an equal probability of a warmer or colder forecast.Similarly, if the initial results are unbiased, successive runs of climate models should have an equal probability of producing centennial forecasts that are warmer or colder than previous one, or projecting more or less severe climate impacts. It is a fact that the climate change calculated by these models is not a change from current or past conditions, but is the product of subtracting the output of the model with low greenhouse-gas concentrations from the one with higher ones. Consequently the biasing errors have been subtracted out, a rather intriguing trick. Again, the change is one model minus another, not the standard “predicted minus observed.”The climate research community actually believes its models are zero-biased. An amicus brief in the landmark Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, by a number of climate scientists claiming to speak for the larger community, explicitly stated this as fact:Outcomes may turn out better than our best current prediction, but it is just as possible that environmental and health damages will be more severe than best predictions…”The operative words are “just as possible,” indicating that climate scientists believe they are immune to public choice influences.This is testable, and I ran such a test, publishing it in an obscure journal, Energy & Environment, in 2008. I, perhaps accurately, hypothesized that a paper severely criticizing the editorial process at Science and Nature, the two most prestigious general science journals worldwide, was not likely to be published in such prominent places.I examined the 115 articles that had appeared in both of these journals during a 13-month period in 2006 and 2007, classifying them as either “worse than we thought,” “better,” or “neutral or cannot determine.” 23 were neutral and removed from consideration. 9 were “better” and 83 were “worse.” Because of the hypothesis of nonbiased equiprobability, this is equivalent to tossing a coin 92 times and coming up with 9 or fewer heads or tails. The probability that this would occur in an unbiased sample can be calculated from the binomial probability distribution, and the result is striking. There would have to be 100,000,000,000,000,000 iterations of the 92 tosses for there to be merely a 50% chance that one realization of 9 or fewer heads or tails would be observed.In subsequent work, I recently assembled a much larger sample of the scientific literature and, while the manuscript is in preparation, I can state that my initial result appears to be robust.Kealey tells us that there is no relationship between the wealth of nations and the amount of money that taxpayers spend on scientific research. In reality, it is in fact “worse than he thought.” At least in a highly politicized field such as global warming science and policy, the more money the public spends, the worse is the quality of the science.http://www.cato-unbound.org/issues/august-2013/who-pays-science  9 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: May 11, 2013, 04:28:30 PM  10 DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: March 8-10, 2013 DBMA Training Camp on: March 01, 2013, 08:59:02 AM Excited to be signed up and attending. Trust my aging and out of shape carcass will manage to keep up. Plan to stay at the hotel, but won't be able to book it until I'm sure a potential complication isn't going to sneak up on me. If worse comes to worse, got a couple of trees I can hang a hammock from? I backpack a lot and it's my preferred way of snoozing in the field. More than happy to share my shower if I do manage to book a room. Look forward to training with y'all.  11 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Draft IPCC Report Leaked on: December 13, 2012, 09:26:51 PM Hmm, a little sunlight goes a long way it appears: IPCC AR5 draft leaked, contains game-changing admission of enhanced solar forcingPosted on December 13, 2012 by Guest BloggerUPDATE1: Andrew Revkin at the NYT weighs in, an semi endorses the leak, see update below – AnthonyUPDATE2: Alternate links have been sent to me, should go faster now. – AnthonyFull AR5 draft leaked here, contains game-changing admission of enhanced solar forcing(Alec Rawls) I participated in “expert review” of the Second Order Draft of AR5 (the next IPCC report), Working Group 1 (“The Scientific Basis”), and am now making the full draft available to the public. I believe that the leaking of this draft is entirely legal, that the taxpayer funded report report is properly in the public domain under the Freedom of Information Act, and that making it available to the public is in any case protected by established legal and ethical standards, but web hosting companies are not in the business of making such determinations so interested readers are encouraged to please download copies of the report for further dissemination in case this content is removed as a possible terms-of-service violation. My reasons for leaking the report are explained below. Here are the chapters:Fromhttp://www.stopgreensuicide.com/Summary for PolicymakersChapter 1: IntroductionChapter 2: Observations: Atmosphere and SurfaceChapter 3: Observations: OceanChapter 4: Observations: CryosphereChapter 5: Information from Paleoclimate ArchivesChapter 6: Carbon and Other Biogeochemical CyclesChapter 7: Clouds and AerosolsChapter 8: Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative ForcingChapter 8 SupplementChapter 9: Evaluation of Climate ModelsChapter 10: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change: from Global to RegionalChapter 11: Near-term Climate Change: Projections and PredictabilityChapter 12: Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and IrreversibilityChapter 13: Sea Level ChangeChapter 14: Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate ChangeChapter 14 SupplementTechnical SummaryWhy leak the draft report?By Alec Rawls (email) [writing at http://www.stopgreensuicide.com/ ]General principlesThe ethics of leaking tax-payer funded documents requires weighing the “public’s right to know” against any harm to the public interest that may result. The press often leaks even in the face of extreme such harm, as when the New York Times published details of how the Bush administration was tracking terrorist financing with the help of the private sector Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), causing this very successful anti-terror program to immediately collapse.That was a bad leak, doing great harm to expose something that nobody needed to know about. With the UN’s IPCC reports the calculus is reversed. UN “climate chief” Christina Figueres explains what is at stake for the public:… we are inspiring government, private sector, and civil society to [make] the biggest transformation that they have ever undertaken. The Industrial Revolution was also a transformation, but it wasn’t a guided transformation from a centralized policy perspective. This is a centralized transformation that is taking place because governments have decided that they need to listen to science.So may we please see this “science” on the basis of which our existing energy infrastructure is to be ripped out in favor of non-existent “green” energy? The only reason for secrecy in the first place is to enhance the UN’s political control over a scientific story line that is aimed explicitly at policy makers. Thus the drafts ought to fall within the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.The Obama administration implicitly acknowledged this when it tried to evade FOIA by setting up private “backdoor channels” for communications with the IPCC. If NCAR’s Gerald Meehl (a lead author of AR5′s chapter on near-term climate change), has working copies of the draft report (and he’s only one of dozens of U.S. government researchers who would), then by law the draft report (now finished) should be available to the public.The IPCC’s official reason for wanting secrecy (as they explained it to Steve McIntyre in January 2012) is so that criticisms of the drafts are not spread out across the internet but get funneled through the UN’s comment process. If there is any merit to that rationale it is now moot. The comment period ended November 30th so the comment process can no longer be affected by publication.As for my personal confidentiality agreement with the IPCC, I regard that as vitiated by the systematic dishonesty of the report (“omitted variable fraud” as I called it in my FOD comments). This is a general principle of journalistic confidentiality: bad faith on one side breaks the agreement on the other. They can’t ask reviewers to become complicit in their dishonesty by remaining silent about it.Then there is the specific content of the Second Order Draft where the addition of one single sentence demands the release of the whole. That sentence is an astounding bit of honesty, a killing admission that completely undercuts the main premise and the main conclusion of the full report, revealing the fundamental dishonesty of the whole.Lead story from the Second Order Draft: strong evidence for solar forcing beyond TSI now acknowledged by IPCCCompared to the First Order Draft, the SOD now adds the following sentence, indicated in bold (page 7-43, lines 1-5, emphasis added):Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.The Chapter 7 authors are admitting strong evidence (“many empirical relationships”) for enhanced solar forcing (forcing beyond total solar irradiance, or TSI), even if they don’t know what the mechanism is. This directly undercuts the main premise of the report, as stated in Chapter 8 (page 8-4, lines 54-57):There is very high confidence that natural forcing is a small fraction of the anthropogenic forcing. In particular, over the past three decades (since 1980), robust evidence from satellite observations of the TSI and volcanic aerosols demonstrate a near-zero (–0.04 W m–2) change in the natural forcing compared to the anthropogenic AF increase of ~1.0 ± 0.3 W m–2.The Chapter 8 authors (a different group than the Chapter 7 authors) are explicit here that their claim about natural forcing being small compared to anthropogenic forcing is based on an analysis in which the only solar forcing that is taken into account is TSI. This can be verified from the radiative forcing table on page 8-39 where the only solar variable included in the IPCC’s computer models is seen to be “solar irradiance.”This analysis, where post-1980 warming gets attributed to the human release of CO2 on the grounds that it cannot be attributed to solar irradiance, cannot stand in the face of the Chapter 7 admission of substantial evidence for solar forcing beyond solar irradiance. Once the evidence for enhanced solar forcing is taken into account we can have no confidence that natural forcing is small compared to anthropogenic forcing.The Chapter 8 premise that natural forcing is relatively small leads directly to the main conclusion of the entire report, stated in the first sentence of the Executive Summary (the very first sentence of the entire report): that advances since AR4 “further strengthen the basis for human activities being the primary driver in climate change” (p.1-2, lines 3-5). This headline conclusion is a direct descendant of the assumption that the only solar forcing is TSI, a claim that their own report no longer accepts.The report still barely hints at the mountain of evidence for enhanced solar forcing, or the magnitude of the evidenced effect. Dozens of studies (section two here) have found between a .4 and .7 degree of correlation between solar activity and various climate indices, suggesting that solar activity “explains” in the statistical sense something like half of all past temperature change, very little of which could be explained by the very slight variation in TSI. At least the Chapter 7 team is now being explicit about what this evidence means: that some mechanism of enhanced solar forcing must be at work.My full submitted comments (which I will post later) elaborate several important points. For instance, note that the Chapter 8 premise (page 8-4, lines 54-57) assumes that it is the change in the level of forcing since 1980, not the level of forcing, that would be causing warming. Solar activity was at historically high levels at least through the end of solar cycle 22 (1996), yet the IPCC is assuming that because this high level of solar forcing was roughly constant from 1950 until it fell off during solar cycle 23 it could not have caused post-1980 warming. In effect they are claiming that you can’t heat a pot of water by turning the burner to maximum and leaving it there, that you have to keep turning the flame up to get continued warming, an un-scientific absurdity that I have been writing about for several years (most recently in my post about Isaac Held’s bogus 2-box model of ocean equilibration).The admission of strong evidence for enhanced solar forcing changes everything. The climate alarmists can’t continue to claim that warming was almost entirely due to human activity over a period when solar warming effects, now acknowledged to be important, were at a maximum. The final draft of AR5 WG1 is not scheduled to be released for another year but the public needs to know now how the main premises and conclusions of the IPCC story line have been undercut by the IPCC itself.President Obama is already pushing a carbon tax premised on the fear that CO2 is causing dangerous global warming. Last week his people were at the UN’s climate meeting in Doha pretending that Hurricane Sandy was caused by human increments to CO2 as UN insiders assured the public that the next IPCC report will “scare the wits out of everyone” with its ramped-up predictions of human-caused global warming to come, but this is not where the evidence points, not if climate change is in any substantial measure driven by the sun, which has now gone quiet and is exerting what influence it has in the cooling direction.The acknowledgement of strong evidence for enhanced solar forcing should upend the IPCC’s entire agenda. The easiest way for the UN to handle this disruptive admission would be to remove it from their final draft, which is another reason to make the draft report public now. The devastating admission needs to be known so that the IPCC can’t quietly take it back.Will some press organization please host the leaked report?Most of us have to worry about staying within cautiously written and cautiously applied terms-of-service agreements. That’s why I created this new website. If it gets taken down nothing else gets taken with it. Media companies don’t have this problem. They have their own servers and publishing things like the draft IPCC report is supposed to be their bailiwick.If the press has First Amendment protection for the publication of leaked materials even when substantial national security interests are at stake (the Supreme Court precedent set in the Pentagon Papers case), then it can certainly republish a leaked draft of a climate science report where there is no public interest in secrecy. The leaker could be at risk (the case against Pentagon leaker Daniel Ellsberg was thrown out for government misconduct, not because his activity was found to be protected) but the press is safe, and their services would be appreciated.United States taxpayers have funded climate science to the tune of well over 80 billion dollars, all channeled through the funding bureaucracy established by Vice President Albert “the end is nigh” Gore when he served as President Clinton’s “climate czar.” That Gore-built bureaucracy is still to this day striving to insure that not a penny of all those taxpayer billions ever goes to any researcher who is not committed to the premature conclusion that human contributions to atmospheric CO2 are causing dangerous global warming (despite the lack of any statistically significant warming for more than 15 years).Acolytes of this bought “consensus” want to see what new propaganda their tax dollars have wrought and so do the skeptics. It’s unanimous, and an already twice-vetted draft is sitting now in thousands of government offices around the world. Time to fork it over to the people.=============================================================UPDATE1: Andrew Revkin writes in a story at the NYT Dot Earth today:It’s important, before anyone attacks Rawls for posting the drafts (this is distinct from his views on their contents), to consider that panel report drafts at various stages of preparation have been leaked in the past by people with entirely different points of view.That was the case in 2000, when I was leaked a final draft of the summary for policy makers of the second science report from the panel ahead of that year’s round of climate treaty negotiations. As I explained in the resulting news story, “A copy of the summary was obtained by The New York Times from someone who was eager to have the findings disseminated before the meetings in The Hague.”Here’s a question I sent tonight to a variety of analysts of the panel’s workings over the years:The leaker, Alec Rawls, clearly has a spin. But I’ve long thought that I.P.C.C. was in a weird losing game in trying to boost credibility through more semi-open review while trying to maintain confidentiality at same time. I’m sympathetic to the idea of having more of the I.P.C.C. process being fully open (a layered Public Library of Science-style approach to review can preserve the sanity of authors) in this age of enforced transparency (WikiLeaks being the most famous example).I’ll post answers as they come in.Full story at DotEarth==============================================================UPDATE2: Alternative links for AR5 WG1 SOD. At each page click on the button that says “create download link,” then “click here to download”:Summary for Policymakershttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363425211/SummaryForPolicymakers_WG1AR5-SPM_FOD_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 1: Introductionhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363425214/Ch1-Introduction_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch01_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 2: Observations: Atmosphere and Surfacehttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436270/Ch2_Obs-atmosur_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch02_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 3: Observations: Oceanhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436276/Ch3_Obs-oceans_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch03_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 4: Observations: Cryospherehttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436279/Ch4_obs-cryo_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch04_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 5: Information from Paleoclimate Archiveshttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436282/Ch5_Paleo_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch05_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 6: Carbon and Other Biogeochemical Cycleshttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436285/Ch6_Carbonbio_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch06_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 7: Clouds and Aerosolshttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436286/Ch7_Clouds-aerosols_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch07_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 8: Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcinghttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363425217/Ch8_Radiative-forcing_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch08_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 8 Supplementhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436312/Ch8_supplement_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch08_SM_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 9: Evaluation of Climate Modelshttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436298/Ch9_models_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch09_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 10: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change: from Global to Regionalhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436302/Ch10_attribution_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch10_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 11: Near-term Climate Change: Projections and Predictabilityhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436303/Ch11_near-term_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch11_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 12: Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibilityhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363425220/Ch12_long-term_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch12_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 13: Sea Level Changehttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363425221/Ch13_sea-level_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch13_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 14: Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Changehttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363425222/Ch14_future-regional_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch14_All_Final.pdf.htmlChapter 14 Supplementhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363436309/Ch14_supplement_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch14_SM_Final.pdf.htmlTechnical Summaryhttp://www.peejeshare.com/files/363425223/TechnicalSummary_WG1AR5-TS_FOD_All_Final.pdf.htmlhttp://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/13/ipcc-ar5-draft-leaked-contains-game-changing-admission-of-enhanced-solar-forcing/  12 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Carbon Sequestration Masks on: December 05, 2012, 08:12:52 AM At climate talks in Qatar (something of an oxymoron to begin with) participants are duped into wearing a "carbon sequestration" mask. Critical thinking does not seem to be something the participants caught here are endowed with: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/04/doha-delegates-pwned/  13 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Temporary Takings on: December 05, 2012, 08:08:36 AM Supreme Court Rules That Temporary Government-Induced Flooding of Private Property Can Qualify as a TakingIlya Somin • December 4, 2012 2:51 pmToday, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States. The case involved a claim by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that the federal government’s repeated deliberate flooding of its property between 1993 and 2000 constituted a taking requiring compensation under the Fifth Amendment, which mandates that the government pay “just compensation” for takings. The flooding caused extensive damage to forest land owned by the Commission.Today’s opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rules that temporary flooding can qualify as a taking at least sometimes, but tells us very little about how to determine whether a given case of flooding qualifies as a taking or not:We rule today, simply and only, that government-induced flooding temporary in duration gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection. When regulation or temporary physical invasion by government interferes with private property, our decisions recognize, time is indeed a factor in determining the existence... of a compensable taking....Also relevant to the takings inquiry is the degree to which the invasion is intended or is the foreseeable result of authorized government action.... So, too, are the character of the land at issue and the owner’s “reasonable investment-backed expectations” regarding the land’s use.... Severity of the interference figures in the calculus as well.So far as it goes, I think the Court’s decision is clearly correct. For reasons I discussed here, there is no good reason to hold that temporary flooding can never count as a taking. This is especially true if the flooding was deliberate and inflicted permanent damage on the property owner’s land. Temporary physical invasions qualify as takings in many other contexts (e.g. – overflights by aircraft), and there is nothing special about flooding that should lead the Court to create a categorical exception. To the contrary, allowing the government to temporarily flood private property without paying any compensation whatsoever would severely undermine the purpose of the Just Compensation Clause, which is, as a 1960 decision puts it, to “bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.”Unfortunately, the Court gives very little guidance on how to determine whether a given case of flooding is a taking or not. The opinion lists several factors that might be relevant, but does not explain how many need to be present before a taking can be said to have occurred, or what to do if some factors cut one way and some the other. It also says nothing about how much deference, if any, is due to the government in such cases. The Court does not even address the federal government’s extremely dubious argument that damage inflicted by flooding on downstream owners is categorically excluded from qualifying as a taking, even though the justices expressed great skepticism about this claim at the oral argument. These and other issues will have to be dealt with by the lower court on remand.I suspect that the justices bought unity at the expense of clarity here. In the meantime, it seems clear that Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is going to result in further litigation in the lower courts, as property owners and government agencies advance competing interpretations of the Court’s vague standards for determing whether a temporary flood qualifies as a taking or not.That said, the Court did take an important step in decisively rejecting the federal government’s extreme position that temporary flooding can never be a taking. The case is therefore joins Sackett v. EPA as a rare unanimous victory for property rights in the Supreme Court.UPDATE: In this post, I explained why the Court is applying the Just Compensation Clause to this case despite the fact that it involves the flooding of government-owned land, while the text of the Fifth Amendment specifies that it applies only to “private property.” Under longstanding current Supreme Court precedent, the Takings Clause applies to both private and state-owned land. I have some doubts about the correctness of those decisions, but the Court is unlikely to overrule them anytime soon.UPDATE #2: Brian Hodges of the Pacific Legal Foundation comments on this post here:Professor Ilya Somin.... praised today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States as “a rare unanimous victory for property rights” and “an important step in rejecting the federal government’s extreme position that temporary flooding can never be a taking....”Professor Somin highlights, however, a couple a paragraphs toward the end of the decision that injected unnecessary confusion into an otherwise clear opinion....While I agree that the language is unclear, I am not so sure that the quoted passage will cause too much confusion in future litigation. The passage lists, without differentiation, various tests, developed over the years, to determine regulatory and/or physical takings. For example, the Court recites the “intent or foreseeability” and “character of the invasion” tests from Ridge Line, Inc. v. United States (2003) and Portsmouth Harbor Land & Hotel v. United States (1922)—both are tests that have never been applied to regulatory takings....Although some may be tempted to argue that the Court created a chimera from blended regulatory and physical takings tests, the Court did not intend to do so. Instead, the Court stated that its decision was narrow, “We rule today, simply and only, that government induced flooding temporary in duration gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection.” And elsewhere, in Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (2002), the Court advised that it is “inappropriate to treat cases involving physical takings as controlling precedents for the evaluation of a claim that there has been a ‘regulatory taking’ and vice versa.” The upshot being that the tests that control physical invasion takings still control physical takings cases, and the tests that control regulatory takings still only apply in regulatory takings cases.I continue to believe that the opinion is clear in rejecting the government’s extreme claim that temporary flooding can never be a taking, but unclear as to the standards that determine when temporary flooding is a taking. As Hodges notes, the Court lists a grab bag of relevant factors drawn from both regulatory and physical takings cases. So it is by no mean clear which set of precedents applies here. Of course one can argue that the language listing possible relevant factors is just dictum and that the sole holding is, as the Court puts it, “only... that government induced flooding temporary in duration gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection.” But if the list of factors is just dictum, that makes the opinion less clear, not more, as lower courts would have even less guidance on the question of how to figure out whether a given case of temporary flooding qualifies as a taking or not.UPDATE: Robert H. Thomas of the Inverse Condemnation blog rounds up other reactions to the decision here.http://www.volokh.com/2012/12/04/supreme-court-rules-that-temporary-government-induced-flooding-of-private-property-can-qualify-as-a-taking/  14 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How Many are Too Many? on: November 28, 2012, 08:41:18 AM QuoteYou seem unfamiliar with the concept of deterrence. Using your logic, the razor wire and gun towers that guard the perimeters of medium/high security prisons are unneeded, as they rarely have prisoners try to escape that way.Poor analogy. Razor wire demonstrably keeps felons in prison, security theater demonstrably does not keep box cutters out of secure airport areas.QuoteBecause the American public demands security and also demands convenience and the USG lunges for every high tech "solution" drug before it in an attempt to placate the citizens.Correct, and thanks for making my security theater argument for me, though I wouldn't characterize the current autocratic regimen as "convenient." QuoteYou kind of gloss over how important it is to keep flammibles and explosives off of aircraft, as well as firearms.While you gloss over how easy it's proven to get the same past the TSA. Is effectiveness not something we can demand, or is confusing gross and ineffective intrusions for security acceptable to you? BTW, as I've already mentioned, a bomb placed up a person's rectum has been used in an assassination attempt, while rumors abound regarding explosive breast implants. By you logic shouldn't Americans be dropping trou, bending over, and coughing or getting mammograms before boarding an aircraft? Your security uber alles take on things would seem to necessitate those sorts of intrusions. Why are you not making arguments for those measures? You're not weighing the benefits and costs of doing so while taking me to task for suggesting the same, are you? QuoteWhat's the libertarian solution to this threat?Get the vast, ineffective, bumbling, autocratic TSA out of the picture and let private firms run security as they are all ready doing at other airports with measurably better results. I'd also start talking to the American people like adults, rather than treating them like sheep, telling them that we live in a violent world with violent people and that it is not possible to anticipate or address all possible threats, and indeed that attempts to do so in fact play in to the hands of our enemies as those measures create the exact kinds of disruptions our enemies intended. I would make the actuarial point that the amount of time currently spent in line awaiting security theater performances greatly exceeds the number of life hours lost in past attacks and so some sort of rational benefit/risk assessment has to come into play as it does in all other activities from driving to walking into a 7/11 at night. I note, by the way, when we get into these exchanges you regularly disparage my Libertarian creed, and I confess that grates on me as it doesn't seem too far removed from denigrating someone's religion or heritage. You've made it abundantly clear that you feel the founding values of this nation are an inconvenience where security is concerned and that extra-constitutional end runs are therefor more than justified; as such I understand you view my embrace of liberty as a trifling thing to be dismissed with disdain, along with all those dead white guys who attempted to found a nation based on inexpedient principles of liberty. While doing so, however, it'd be nice if you could find a way to be dismissive based less on my creed and more on the issue at hand. As that may be, is it safe to assume you have no issue with 250 Americans dying a month directly due to TSA's onerous and ineffective measures? If so, how many Americans are too many to kill to keep Americans safe?  15 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / High Sticking on: November 28, 2012, 07:32:23 AM Nice overview of sundry hockey stick foolishness. Doomed Planet“Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”Vaclav KlausBlue Planet in Green ShacklesSpeak loudly and carry a busted hockey stickby Walter StarckNovember 19, 2012The average temperature for the Earth, or any region or even any specific place is very difficult to determine with any accuracy. At any given time surface air temperatures around the world range over about 100°C. Even in the same place they can vary by nearly that much seasonally and as much as 30°C or more in a day. Weather stations are relatively few and located very irregularly. Well maintained stations with good records going back a century or more can be counted on one’s fingers. Even then only maximum and minimum temperatures or ones at a few particular times of day are usually available. Maintenance, siting, and surrounding land use also all have influences on the temperatures recorded.The purported 0.7°C of average global warming over the past century is highly uncertain. It is in fact less than the margin of error in our ability to determine the average temperature anywhere, much less globally. What portion of any such warming might be due to due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions is even less certain. There are, however, numerous phenomena which are affected by temperature and which can provide good evidence of relative warming or cooling and, in some cases, even actual temperatures. These include growth rings in trees, corals and stalactites, borehole temperature profiles and the isotopic and biologic signatures in core samples from sediments or glaciers. In addition, historical accounts of crops grown, harvest times, freezes, sea ice, river levels, glacial advances or retreats and other such records provide clear indication of warming and cooling. Recent Warming Nothing UnusualThe temperature record everywhere shows evidence of warming and cooling in accord with cycles on many different time scales from daily to annual, decadal, centennial, millennial and even longer. Many of these seem to correlate with various cycles of solar activity and the Earth’s own orbital mechanics. The temperature record is also marked by seemingly random events which appear to follow no discernable pattern.Over the past 3000 years there is evidence from hundreds of independent proxy studies, as well as historical records, for a Minoan Warm period around 1000 BC, a Roman Warm Period about 2000 years ago, a Medieval Warm Period (WMP) about 1000 years ago and a Modern Warm Period now developing. In between were markedly colder periods in the Dark Ages and another between the 16th and 19th centuries which is now known as the Little Ice Age (LIA). The warmer periods were times of bountiful crops, increasing population and a general flourishing of human societies. The cold periods were times of droughts, famines, epidemics, wars and population declines. Clearly life has been much better in the times of warmer climate, and there is nothing to indicate that the apparent mild warming of the past century is anything other than a return of this millennial scale warming cycle.Good News Unwelcome to AlarmistsThis rather good news about a possibly warmer climate has not met with hopeful interest from those who purport to be so concerned about the possibly dangerous effects of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). On the contrary, their reaction has overwhelmingly been a strong rejection of any beneficial possibility. It is apparent that their deepest commitment is to the threat itself and not to any rational assessment of real world probabilities or the broader consequences of any of their proposed remedies.Fabricating a Hockey Stick from Hot AirThis blanket rejection of any possibility other than the hypothetical threat of AGW has led to some strange behaviour for people who modestly proclaim themselves to be the world’s top climate scientists. Not only have they ignored and dismissed the hundreds of studies indicating the global existence of a Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, they have set out to fabricate an alternate reality in the form of a graph purporting to represent the global temperature for the past thousand years. It portrays a near straight line wiggling up and down only a fraction of a degree for centuries until it begins an exponential rise gradually starting at the beginning of the 20th century and then shooting steeply up in the latter part of that century. This hockey stick-shaped graph was then heavily promoted as the icon of AGW. It appeared on the cover of the third climate assessment report of the IPCC published in 2003 and was reproduced at various places in the report itself.Among the emails between leading climate researchers released in the Climategate affair were a number which revealed a concerted effort to come up with some means to deny the existence of the MWP. The implement chosen to do this became known as the Hockey Stick Graph.The methodology used to construct the graph involved the use of estimates of temperatures from a very small sample of tree growth rings from the Yamal Peninsula in far northern Siberia and ancient stunted pine trees from near the tree line in the High Sierras of California. This data was then subjected to a statistical treatment later shown by critics to produce a hockey stick form of graph even when random numbers were used as raw input data. To make matters even worse, the same tree ring data also indicated a significant decline in temperature for the 20th century, but this was hidden by burying it in a much larger number of data points from instrument measurements. The resulting study was published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature in 1998. Remarkably, this very small, highly selected and deceptively manipulated graph was proclaimed to be an accurate representation of global temperatures and the extensive body of contrary evidence was simply ignored.Continuing the Game With a Busted Stick When serious shortcomings of the hockey stick study began to be exposed and questioned the climate alarmists closed ranks and proclaimed their preeminent authority and expertise but refused to engage in any genuine scientific debate with their critics. Instead, they appealed to a supposed consensus of experts, peer review, and personal denigration of any who dared to disagree.All of the name calling, pissing contests over credentials and abstruse statistical manipulations made it difficult for the general public to come to any conclusion. Regardless of various provable errors and conflicting evidence, the alarmists could and did simply ignore it all and claim the HS graph as gospel truth.Then came Climategate. Obvious scams, lies and connivance are something that doesn’t require a computer model or a PhD to recognise. In the Climategate emails discussion of things like things like “…Mike’s Nature trick…,”, manipulations to “…hide the decline”, requests to destroy correspondence, efforts to supress publication of conflicting studies, vilification of critics, and abuse of peer review were matters anyone could see were not ethical. Certainly they were not the kind of behaviour we should expect from high level scientists whose advice we are being asked to accept in policies that could be expected to have major effects on the prosperity of our entire society.The loss of public trust and credibility resulting from Climategate was immense and has been compounded by additional ongoing exposures of misconduct, repeated failures of alarmist predictions and the slow motion economic train wreck of green energy initiatives.Although one might rationally expect that the obvious collapse of alarmist momentum would have them reassessing their approach and perhaps even the validity of their earlier assumptions, it seems that the idea that they may have been wrong in any respect must be be inconceivable to them. Instead, their response to conflicting reality and declining credibility has been only to declare still greater certainty and ratchet up the alarm to an even less believable level of hype.If at First You Don’t Succeed, Repeat the FailureIntroduction of the carbon tax in Australia was supposed to lead the world along the path of righteousness toward cheap renewable energy and environmental correctness. Unfortunately for the current government both economic reality and climate itself have not co-operated. The intended good example is becoming one of an obvious foolishness to be avoided and nobody is following. Ongoing exposure of scientific misconduct by alarmist researchers and repeated failure of their predictions haven’t helped either. The alarmist community is in disarray and becoming increasingly shrill in the tone of their pronouncements. The need for strong new scientific evidence to reinforce the shredded remnants of their discredited claims is becoming desperate.CSIRO has tried to help with a series of increasingly dire predictions but having become a heavily bureaucratised and politicised institution they have been careful to cover their backsides with qualifiers and disclaimers which dull the sharp edge of hype, certainty and urgency needed by government. However, through generous grants government has also bought and paid for reliable cadres of university based academics whose funding and even whole careers are now based on research into Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). Although science may aspire to value free objectivity, it is observable fact that when generous funding is provided to study a purported problem, one thing is certain. It will never be found that there really wasn’t one.In early June this year a new research report announced the finding of a distinct hockey stick shaped graph for Australian climate over the past millennium. If correct, this would be of great value in supporting the faltering case for CAGW. As the original HS graph was based entirely on data from the northern hemisphere, finding the same pattern from the Southern Hemisphere would bolster the claim that the recent warming is indeed global and unprecedented. Based on different much more extensive data and free of the inappropriate statistical treatment of the original HS study, this new one would also greatly bolster the tattered credibility of the original study.The new study appeared in Journal of Climate under the title, "Evidence of unusual late 20th century warming from an Australasian temperature reconstruction spanning the last millennium". It was authored by Joelle Gergis, Raphael Neukom, Ailie Gallant, Steven Phipps and David Karoly. In mid-May 2012 it was made available online in preprint form, having been peer reviewed and accepted for print publication in an upcoming issue of the journal. In a number of key aspects what followed has been a rerun of the original HS story. Shortly after the online preprint appeared, the Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre pointed out that a statistical procedure which was stated in the Gergis et al. study to have been applied had not in fact been used.Not coincidentally, it was McIntyre who exposed the statistical shortcomings in the original HS study.Although advanced statistical analysis is widely used in science, very few researchers have a thorough mathematical understanding of what they are doing in this regard. Most are simply following a recipe. However, there is little risk of having to justify the validity of anything as their peers are not statisticians either. McIntyre has an unfair advantage in this. He is a genuine expert in statistics critiquing the work of researchers who are really not very skilled in his discipline. What ensued in subsequent critical discussion on the Internet and in emails between the authors, their colleagues and the journal editors was a litany of shifting denial, obfuscation, excuses, trivialisation and denigration that could have been borrowed from the original HS script. Without going into the tedious and tawdry details (readily available on the net), the key points of the story are that in response to McIntyre’s finding of the statistical problem the authors announced they had already discovered it themselves the day before McIntyre pointed it out, and that it was really just an oversight in the data processing routine which could quickly be corrected and would have no effect on the overall findings of the study. The journal editors accepted this and gave the authors a deadline with sufficient time to rerun the data routine and make any necessary corrections to the MS.After much speculation in the blogosphere and varying opinion among the authors and their supporters about what to do and how it might affect the outcome, the deadline passed without a corrected MS being received by the journal. The editors then asked for the study to be withdrawn. Such a request is the scientific equivalent of hara-kiri, a dishonour so great that the only honourable atonement is what amounts to ritual scientific suicide.If, as publically maintained, all that was involved was a data processing error which could easily be corrected and would have no important effect on the outcome, surely the correction would have been made. However, email correspondence between the authors (which became available through an FOI request) revealed a concern that if properly applied the omitted data processing routine would not result in the desired HS graph or, if it did so, would at best yield only highly uncertain results.The direct cost of this fiasco to taxpayers is reported to have totalled some$950,000 in research grants from 2009 to 2012. To further this failed work the latest Australian Research Council grants announcement also lists another $350,000 in funding to the lead author approved for 2013 – 2015. The climate gravy train can provide a sumptuous ride for those whose work shows promise of producing what the government wants. Climatology - Science or Ideology?Climatology is no longer recognisable as a science but has morphed into a fundamentalist ideology of a millenarian nature. Science only serves it to enhance claims of authority and certainty. Scientific ethics and evidence are employed selectively in accord with the noble cause of saving the planet from the corruptions of humanity and capitalism. Any conflicting reason or evidence is never sufficient for doubt but is only a test of faith to be overcome. Any opposing argument is not simply incorrect but driven by wilful evil, in league with big business if not Satan himself.For third rate academics CAGW has much to offer. One doesn’t need to be particularly capable to speculate about some dire consequence of warming, receive widespread publicity and be treated as an important expert. Unlike in real science, no colleagues will dispute them and the few sceptics willing to question anything will generally be ignored and denigrated by all their peers. The news media will describe them as experts and provide the public attention they know they deserve but somehow had never been recognised by anyone else until they climbed onto the climate bandwagon. Grants then flow and jetting off to attend important conferences in attractive places with all expenses paid provides frequent welcome breaks from the tedium of academia. Perhaps best of all, is a delicious feeling of importance and moral superiority over all of the high achievers striving so hard to discover something of consequence about the real world. The only personal cost is to one’s own scientific integrity and that’s not worth much if one is just another unrecognised minor league academic no one had ever heard of before they joined into the climate alarm. In any case, saving the planet is the noblest of all causes and absolves any tinge of guilt in such regard.Uncertainty and a Duty of CareRecently an Italian court sentenced several scientists to jail terms in connection with a failed prediction regarding an earthquake. The court decision provoked widespread condemnation from the global scientific community because earthquakes are beyond the ability of current science to predict. However, the legal basis of their culpability was not in failing to predict the quake but in falsely asserting certainty in their own prediction. In this instance the scientists assured the local population that there was little risk of a dangerous event and that they should all go home, have a nice bottle of wine and not worry. A strong quake took place and several hundred people were killed.The situation was perhaps exacerbated by a conflicting opinion from an independent researcher who had detected a sharp rise in radon gas in the air and felt this was evidence of an impending temblor. The government experts disagreed and assured everyone they were the experts and they were confident there was little or no risk.If scientists are going to claim high levels of expert authority they have a duty of care to make clear the level of uncertainty in their predictions. This is especially so where there are potentially major detrimental consequences from following their advice should it prove to be incorrect. The essential difference between belief and science, or between alarmists and sceptics, is that the former assert certainty while the latter admit room for doubt. False claims of certainty and expertise by alarmist researchers have been a major obstacle to any rational public debate of the matter.Fantasies vs. RealityIn the meantime, while we have been indulging the fantasies of activists and academics vying for our attention on the threat of CAGW, the economies of the developed world have come to teeter on the brink of financial chaos.Democracies everywhere have voted for more government and more benefits than their productive sectors can support. Deficits are now chronic and blowing out while productive activity struggles under the burden of ever more government imposed restrictions and demands. The climate-alarmist push to penalise and restrict the use of fossil fuels and force the premature adoption of expensive, inadequate, unreliable renewable energy is a dagger to the very heart of our society at a time of great vulnerability. Ironically, if the alarmist aim is achieved they themselves, the urban non-producers, will be among the first to become truly unsustainable. The next few years look to become a decisive reality test. In news just in (and curiously ignored in the mainstream Western media) it is reported that for the first time since it began The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not invited to attend an upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference. Could it be that in a global financial crisis nations have finally come to realise that climate hysterics are more of a problem than a solution?http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2012/11/speak-loudly-and-carry-a-busted-hockey-stick  16 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: November 27, 2012, 09:23:16 AM QuoteSmoking rubble filled with body parts where towers once stood is part of the cost, which is ignored by the article you posted. How many 9/11 attacks a week can we absorb until we move back to trying to secure aviation ? Or did I miss out on the al qaeda surrender ceremony?An appeal to emotion. What a surprise. Remind me again how many terrorist plots the TSA has foiled. Some number less than one, yes?And did you read the news about how the nudie scanners were prone to breakdown and generally gumming up the flow through security so they've been removed from large airports and sent to smaller ones . . . that are too small to accommodate them and so now that critical piece of infrastructure that formerly was all that stood between us and more postulated smoking holes sit in warehouses across the country. Couple billion burnt on the altar of security theater. Lovely planning abilities shown by the folks in charge of airport security. Confidence inspiring.Then there's the fact the TSA regularly fails security audits, is currently unionizing, and regularly produces nasty employees that make it into the news. Hardly inspires confidence in the organization and its management abilities, either. Add to that the smoking holes were created by a couple smuggled box cutters; do you have any doubt that a couple more box cutters could be smuggled past these clowns? The TSA appears to be of the opinion American citizens are sheep that need to be herded on to aircraft, yet the only instances where Al Qaeda was foiled in their attempts occurred when non-sheep stepped up and shut the attacks the fornication down. But hey, let's keep trying to cow Americans into meekly submitting to "security" measures that in fact would do little to slow a committed terrorist down. The reason there have not been more smoking holes is because our enemies have opted not to commit the resources to creating them. They have in fact succeeded in creating ongoing disruptions having enlisted the petty and short sighted bureaucrats of the TSA to impose ham-fisted security theater measures that regularly fail when audited and no doubt would do so again when dedicated terrorists get around to attacking the air travel infrastructure. But hey, in the interim let's kill 250 Americans a month on roads while wasting countless man hours standing in dubious security theater lines so the TSA can conjure and illusion of security while practicing DC CYA along the way. The bad guys need a good laugh every now and then too; I've little doubt the TSA provides them.  17 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: November 26, 2012, 02:13:08 PM QuoteDo the people in the buildings struck by hijacked aircraft get a voice in the matter?No more voice than the 250 a month dying on the highways do as part of the TSA's ongoing production of Security Theater. Or are we in some sort of zone where benefits and costs aren't allowed to be weighed or even mentioned?  18 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 242 Per Month on: November 21, 2012, 08:42:02 PM How TSA Kills Peoplefrom John Stossel by John StosselThere are plenty of news stories this Thanksgiving about TSA incompetence. But having to deal with lines, groping, and rude agents may not be the worst thing about the TSA. The worst thing may be that, to avoid the TSA, some people drive instead of fly - and that is far more likely to get them killed.As Bloomberg writer Charles Kenney points out:"To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month-which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day."The trend towards driving instead of flying has grown since the TSA started. This Thanksgiving, AAA estimates that 4.5 million people will fly for the holiday and 31 million will drive. Before the TSA, on Thanksgiving AAA estimated there would be 6 million flyers and 28 million drivers.Thanksgiving travelling.............2000.........2012Flying.....6 million....4.5 millionDriving...28 million...31 millionSlate blogger Matt Yglesias is right to question whether the TSA is so bad that even having NO airport security might be better.The best solution would be to allow airports and private companies to set their own security measures, as I reported in this segment.http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-air/stossel/blog/2012/11/21/how-tsa-kills-people-0  19 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Snowballing on: November 16, 2012, 08:48:30 PM  20 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No Percentage in Initiative on: November 16, 2012, 08:14:21 PM Why the U.S. Job Market Remains Terribly Bleak By John C. Goodman | Posted: Fri. November 16, 2012, 4:24pm PTAlso published in Forbes on Thu. November 15, 2012Full time work is about to get scarcer. The reason? By hiring part-time workers who put in less than 30 hours per week, employers can avoid a mandate dictated by the new health reform law: either provide expensive health insurance or pay a fine equal to$2,000 per worker. Avoiding the mandate becomes even more attractive for low-wage employees, since they can get highly subsidized insurance in the newly created health insurance exchanges. According to the Wall Street Journal:Darden Restaurants [parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden] was among the first companies to say it was changing hiring in response to the health-care law.Pillar Hotels & Resorts this summer began to focus more on hiring part-time workers among its 5,500 employees, after the Supreme Court upheld the health-care overhaul.CKE Restaurants Inc., parent of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains, began two months ago to hire part-time workers to replace full-time employees who left.Home retailer Anna’s Linens Inc. is considering cutting hours for some full-time employees to avoid the insurance mandate if the healthcare law isn’t repealed.In a July survey, 32% of retail and hospitality company respondents told [Mercer] that they were likely to reduce the number of employees working 30 hours a week or more.Clearly the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is a major factor holding back economic recovery. But it’s not alone. Other public policies enacted during the Obama administration’s first four years have been affecting the supply side of the market.A new book by University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan explains that through a major expansion of the welfare state we are paying people not to work:n the matter of a few quarters of 2008 and 2009, new federal and state laws greatly enhanced the help given to the poor and unemployed—from expansion of food-stamp eligibility to enlargement of food-stamp benefits to payment of unemployment bonuses—sharply eroding (and, in some cases, fully eliminating) the incentives for workers to seek and retain jobs, and for employers to create jobs or avoid layoffs.Mulligan gives the example of a two earner couple—each earning $600 a week. After the wife gets laid off she obtains a new job offer, paying$500 a week. But after deducting taxes and work related expenses her take home pay would be $257. Since untaxed unemployment benefits total$289, clearly she is better off not working.All in all, Mulligan estimates that about half the precipitous 2007-2011 decline in the labor-force-participation rate and in hours worked can be blamed on easier eligibility rules for unemployment insurance, food stamps and housing aid.As Steve Moore writes in a review of Mulligan’s book:The annual value in average benefits for not working rose to $14,000 per recipient in 2011—the high was$16,000 in 2009—up from $10,000 in 2007. Such increases were inversely related to changes in average hours worked. On average, Americans worked a stunning 120 fewer hours in 2009 than in 2007—the largest contraction in work effort of any recession since the Depression. Since 2009, work hours and labor-force participation have remained at record lows even though the recession officially ended in June 2009.Mulligan notes that it was the collapse of the housing market that set off the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession. But our problems are not confined to housing. They are systemwide. For every one job lost in construction, five others were lost is other sectors. One thing that affects all sectors, however, is overly generous incentives not to work.Another frequently heard explanation for the slow recovery is the Keynesian idea that there has been a lack of consumer spending—which caused businesses to cut production and lay off workers. Yet:Mulligan shows that, during the worst of the 2008-09 troubles, most sectors “outside of hard-hit construction and manufacturing…increased their use of production inputs other than labor hours.”…“Businesses perceive labor to be more expensive than it was before the recession began,” Mulligan writes. The reason for the added cost was that easier requirements for benefits—even as the government was pumping “stimulus” money into the economy— unwittingly reduced the supply of workers.Meanwhile, health reform will require family coverage that is expected to average more than$15,000 a year. For $15 an hour employees, that sum equals more than half their annual wage. Unless they move to part-time employment or pay a hefty fine, employers of low-skilled workers are about to get hit with mandated benefit that will increase their labor costs by 50% or more.To make matters worse, employers don’t really know what insurance they will have to provide or what it will cost. The$15,000 number I refer to is an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. And even though employers will have the option of paying a $2,000 fine, does anybody think the fine is likely to stay that low?The uncertainty created by all this is possibly worse than the actual monetary burden.John C. GoodmanJohn C. Goodman is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and President and Kellye Wright Fellow in Health Care at the National Center for Policy Analysis. The Wall Street Journal and the National Journal, among other media, have called him the “Father of Health Savings Accounts.”http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=3497  21 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Frack Fears on: November 16, 2012, 05:00:49 PM Merrill on “Fear of Fracking”from The Volokh Conspiracy by Jonathan H. Adler(Jonathan H. Adler)This morning, Columbia’s Thomas Merrill delivered the keynote address at the Case Western Reserve Law Review symposium on “The Law and Policy of Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing the Issues of the Natural Gas Boom.” His talk, “Fear of Fracking,” sought to addressed four important questions about fracking: 1) Why did fracking technology emerge in the United States rather than somewhere else? 2) Does fracking present any novel environmental risks? 3) Insofar as there are novel risks from fracking, how could they be best addressed? 4) What should a citizen concerned about climate change think about fracking?These are important questions about an important topic. As Merrill noted, fracking has rapidly emerged as intensely polarizing environmental issue, celebrated by some as an economic and ecological savior and decried by others as a threat to landowners, local communities, and the environment. The Wall Street Journal believes fracking heralds the rise of “Saudi America,” while some environmental groups fear fracking will further feed America’s addiction to carbon-based fuels.Whatever its ultimate ecological impact, the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling promises to dramatically increase domestic oil and gas reserves, drive down energy prices and fundamentally transform the energy sector. North Dakota now produces more oil than any state but Texas and the oil and gas boom in this state is enriching landowners tremendously. Every president since President Nixon has called for energy independence. Fracking’s rise could make this possible within the next few decades. Beyond that, fracking and the proliferation of cheap gas, Merrill suggested, likely means the end of the nuclear power industry in the United States and has thrown the coal industry into a tailspin. Cheap gas is a bigger threat to coal than any alleged “war on coal” waged by the Environmental Protection Agency. It also threatens the future of alternative energy technologies dependent upon government subsidies for their economic viability.[My write-up of the rest of Professor Merrill’s remarks is continued below the fold.]Why did fracking arise in the United States? Contrary to some analysts, Professor Merrill does not believe it is attributable to federally funded research and development. What little funding for drilling technologies the federal government has provided has been fairly tangential. This does not mean federal policy has been irrelevant, however. The federal government has provided special tax credits for the drilling of unconventional natural gas which almost certainly facilitated the early development of the technology as early frackers developed and improved fracking techniques.Professor Merrill also doubts industry structure has much to do with fracking’s rise either. However much major oil companies like to tout their commitment to innovation, the majors played a minor role in developing this technology. It was largely developed by smaller players in the industry.A more likely factor is the way U.S. law treats subsurface rights. The U.S. is something of an outlier in that subsurface minerals are the property of the landowner, and not the government. This results in decentralized ownership and control over subsurface rights facilitates experimentation and innovation in figuring out how to exploit and manage subsurface resources.Further decentralization, and experimentation, results from the federalist regulatory structure. Different states have different regulatory approaches than others, creating opportunities for further innovation and the opportunity for jurisdictions to learn from one another. The existence of a few jurisdictions that will allow a new technology to be tried provides a laboratory from which others may learn, whereas under a more centralized regulatory structure such innovation is unlikely to get off the ground.The existence of a relatively open infrastructure network – a pipeline system that is subject to common-carrier rules – also plays a role in facilitating entry into the market. These factors have a common theme: decentralization. Taken together, Merrill suggests, they are the most likely source of fracking’s rise in the UnitesNow that fracking is here, does fracking present any novel environmental risks? Insofar as fracking presents the same risks as any sudden surge of production, the traditional regulatory framework would seem up to the task, but is this the case? The biggest environmental risk cited by fracking’s critics is the potential for groundwater contamination by fracking fluid. This may be different in kind from the risks already addressed by existing regulatory programs. Other concerns range from stresses on local infrastructure to increased pollution accompanying development to earthquakes. Fracking has a voracious appetite for water, but this would seem to be manageable, particularly in the eastern United States. Earthquakes, on the other hand, would seem to be a novel concern definitely worth more serious attention, even if it is not unique to fracking.To Professor Merrill, the potential threat of groundwater contamination is the most serious, and potentially most distinct, environmental threat posed by an upsurge in fracking. While there is little empirical evidence confirming that such contamination has occurred thus far, and energy experts often downplay such risks, concerns about groundwater are understandable. The uncontrolled nature of the subsurface injection in fracking is a source of legitimate apprehension, particularly since many of the potential effects are not fully understood. This counsels the development of some regulatory structure to address these risks.Accepting that the risk to groundwater posed by fracking is relatively novel, how should it be addressed? In many cases, ex ante regulation of potentially polluting conduct is advisable. In this case, however, the nature and likelihood of the risks in question are not sufficiently known to make such a regulatory approach effective. Over time, consensus views about best practices will likely develop, but they have not yet because not enough is known. Adoption of a precautionary regulatory strategy would likely stop fracking in its tracks, as the problem is lack of knowledge about the technology that will only come from experience.Under the current circumstances, Professor Merrill thinks the best way to regulate and control the potential groundwater risks from fracking is through an ex post liability system. Professor Merrill would encourage the adoption of a strict liability regime combined with administrative measures to facilitate the identification of and compensation for harms, including mandated baseline testing, bond posting, and the like. Legislative adoption of such a regime is unlikely, Merrill notes, as legislatures are unlikely to enact such a regime absent greater evidence that fracking is, in fact, a meaningful threat, i.e. until real damage is done. Common law tort liability might do, however, particularly if courts impose strict liability, following the lead of Rylands v. Fletcher, and adopt a presumption of causation if producers don’t take adequate ex ante precautions, such as testing water prior to initiating development.What then about climate change? Does fracking help or hurt efforts to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases? Over the past five years, GHG emissions in Asia (where coal is the dominant power source) have continued to rise. In Europe, GHG emissions have remained rather stable, despite substantial subsidies and inducement for the use of renewable fuels. In the U.S., by contrast, GHG emissions have fallen. Some of this is due to the economic slump and improvements in fuel efficiency. But some is also due to the dramatic increase in natural gas usage. Declining gas prices, largely due to fracking, have helped displace the use of coal. This is a positive development, but unless similar trends can be replicated elsewhere it will not matter. Unless gas can displace coal overseas as well, the fracking boom will not do much to reduce global emissions, particularly if lower gas prices make it more difficult for renewables to compete.On the whole, however, Merrill thinks those concerned about climate change should support fracking. While it undermines reliance on nuclear and renewables, cheap gas is a bigger threat to coal, and the displacement of coal is more important to get GHG emissions under control. Further if the development of fracking in the U.S. can be exported to other nations, it could help stem GHG emission increases in other nations with large coal reserves (e.g. China). Ultimately, however, Merrill believes GHG control requires substantial technological innovation, and suggests that a fracking-driven drop in energy prices might facilitate the adoption of policies that could encourage needed innovation, such as the adoption of a carbon tax. Whatever political obstacles there may be to the adoption of such a tax, lower energy prices make such measures more likely, even if only on the margin.http://www.volokh.com/2012/11/16/merrill-on-fear-of-fracking/  22 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 13, 2012, 06:16:15 PM Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority — that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law. One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions. At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty. Always they condition it with the doctrine that the state, i.e., the majority, has a sort of right of eminent domain in acts, and even in ideas — that it is perfectly free, whenever it is so disposed, to forbid a man to say what he honestly believes. Whenever his notions show signs of becoming "dangerous," ie, of being heard and attended to, it exercises that prerogative. And the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in supporting it in the outrage. Including especially the Liberals, who pretend — and often quite honestly believe — that they are hot for liberty. They never really are. Deep down in their hearts they know, as good democrats, that liberty would be fatal to democracy — that a government based upon shifting and irrational opinion must keep it within bounds or run a constant risk of disaster. They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty — liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. The rights of other persons do not seem to interest them. If a law were passed tomorrow taking away the property of a large group of presumably well-to-do persons — say, bondholders of the railroads — without compensation and without even colorable reason, they would not oppose it; they would be in favor of it. The liberty to have and hold property is not one they recognize. They believe only in the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it.H.L. Mencken, "Liberty and Democracy" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (13 April 1925), also in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy : New Selections from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (1994) edited by Terry Teachout, p. 35  23 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Abortion on: November 13, 2012, 01:41:06 PM QuoteMitt Romney 59 million, Gary Johnson 1 million, for one example, or almost any race, any state, any year. That's all I was saying there.Meh, apples and oranges where statist and statist lite suck up most the oxygen. Call it 100 to 1 once both sorts of statist are combined. Seeing as the statist market is cornered, perhaps another approach is in order assuming a different outcome is preferred? QuoteYou didn't address my question, liberty for whom - meaning who protects the unborn, the most innocent among us.While you had little in the way of response to the Judith Jarvis Thompson piece I posted quite some time back that spoke to many of these distinctions far more eloquently than I will. Be that as it may, I am intentionally avoiding getting into a "most innocent among us" argument because doing so feeds into the current dynamic. I'm asking instead what can shatter the current paradigm and lead to less statist outcomes? I don't see a way of getting from here to there with the abortion issue as the primary grail.  24 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 13, 2012, 10:30:14 AM What he said ^^^.Worry not, the panic mongers can always roll out the polar bears.  25 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Embracing what we want to Beat? on: November 13, 2012, 10:25:21 AM Doug sez:Quote1) Gallup May 2012 (from further up the thread): Pro-choice 41%, Pro-life 50%. Speaking in general terms about respect for life including the unborn is not bad politics and did not cost Republicans the election. To BBG, pro-life conservatism defeats 'unadulterated liberty' by about 50-1 in the electoral marketplace. The question comes back to liberty for whom? Libertarians can choose which party generally supports more liberty. Pro-lifers don't give up that view over budget issues or political advantage. It is mostly hard-care liberals who fully deny any value to unborn life, while the politically successful ones utter things like personally opposed, safe, legal and RARE to satisfy their own constituents.I'm assuming the "50-1" is a typo as it certainly isn't reflected in any polling I've encountered. And despite any national polling to the contrary, the "War on Women" meme--which was used as a placeholder for abortion--swung significant segments of some constituencies. As someone who lives in a swing state I can assure you that Romney's pronouncements on Planned Parenthood and abortion where a theme relentlessly hammered on the airwaves; I don't think the opposition would be doing so if they did not think it would bear fruit.(An aside: correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Planned Parenthood a private organization that receives public monies? The Dem. campaign seemed to purposely elevate PP to some sort of entitlement status; the Repubs had no effective response. It galled me that all the PP vilification occurred in an unanswered vacuum).With that said, 50/41 national polling data speaks to a simplistic view of the electoral process. Grass roots activists tend to nominate candidates that then have to swing to the middle to get elected. Though there is plenty of nuance here, broadly stated the Repubs tend to nominate folks the Dems can cast as right wing abortion zealots, and that ability costs elections. Do you imagine this dynamic will change in the future or had folks who want to send statists packing best game out solutions?Indeed, here's where the game gets pretty grim from my perspective: much of what is wrong with this nation is the results of a decades long statist evolution that's becoming ever more entrenched, with the alternatives, if not being flat out statist lite, at least containing statist litmus tests at the activist/nomination level. Where abortion is concerned most who would make that a litmus test would require statist structure enough to then enforce the proscription. Where security hawks are concerned anything that does not include an internal statist security structure is a non-starter. For drug zealots, anything that does contain draconian statist prohibition strictures won't work. And so on. The net effect is that every electoral battle becomes one over the degree of statism, with the hard core statists seizing on statist lite aspects of the opposition and then thrashing 'em over it.Perhaps the lame idealism I'm always trying to disavow is gumming up my thinking, but should today's statism really be that hard to fight? Described in all it's folly by folks unimpeded by statist lite banners it really shouldn't be difficult to provide stark contrasts. It took generations to get to the current statist mess, and will likely require a similar time frame to cast off statist vestiges, but if the fight is worth having it's worth beginning sooner rather than later, and if it's worth starting it's worth winning. I don't see a winning path that embraces statist lite impulses, as such I think statism needs to be rejected in all it's forms if we are to successfully move toward a national ethos the framers would recognize.  26 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Planetary Influence on Solar Activity on: November 10, 2012, 08:10:58 PM Fascinating look at a new paper that charts planetary tidal influence upon the sun and then relates them to known terrestrial solar cycles. If true it ought to suggest to carbon fetishists that there are subtle and powerful influences on the earth's climate that transcend the single variable they obsess over. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/11/10/is-there-is-a-planetary-influence-on-solar-activity-it-seems-so-according-to-this-new-paper/  27 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 09, 2012, 05:34:45 PM Quote from: G M on November 09, 2012, 04:30:11 PMThe hispanics in the statist camp are there not because of immigration, but because class warfare and free stuff taken from others is cool with them. Just like the others in the statist camp. I haven't read the exit polling directly, but several sources I've encountered of late have said that Bush pulled in substantially more Hispanics than Romney and that Catholic Hispanics have their share of conservative issues that are trumped by the perceived "deport 'em all" GOP policy.  28 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Counterpoint on: November 09, 2012, 10:33:14 AM Armchair doomsaying has been popular this week for understandable reasons, but those who train MAs ought to have a deeper perspective here, IMO. What do you when someone bites you in a street fight? Pull the impacted body part back as hard as you can causing flesh to rend, or do you drive it as deeply into the gullet as possible using your opponents gag reflex to create an opening?Similarly I've had sundry gigs over the years where some sort of fiscal or organizational crisis occurred. I'm someone who embraces constant innovation, innovation that is often thwarted by the comfortably intransigent. A good crisis comes along, however, and all of a sudden even the hidebound will embrace change that appears more likely to preserve the status quo than the alternative. Guess who always has a plan to roll out when a crisis arrives?America's current path is flat out unsustainable; a reckoning will occur. Think the hard core statist know this, with the worst of them hoping to force a new feudal order out of it, casting themselves as the lords and high priests. Think those of us on the other side need to be able to make forceful arguments for the antithesis: unadulterated liberty. Those favoring liberty will also need a plan for when all the unsustainable chickens come home to roost.Watching the GOP prepare for the next election will be telling. Will it embrace a simple message of liberty or rather cater to its strident constituencies and then try to swing to the middle after an unelectable candidate is nominated once again? Will it drive unmarried women into the statist camp over abortion, or will it embrace liberty? Will it shed independent and libertarian votes by supporting the construction of a surveillance state that will surely be used by statists to enforce their ends, or will they embrace liberty? Will it drive Latinos and other immigrant groups into the statist camp or use the tactics posited by Krauthammer in the piece Crafty posted elsewhere and default to liberty?I entertain no illusions: most who oppose abortion will be unable to support a message of unadulterated liberty. Those who posit an existential threat so vast that construction of a surveillance state infrastructure which will be usurped by statists must proceed despite its threat to liberty will continue to believe so. All who want illegals rounded up and booted out will not drop that cause in support of a message of liberty. That's okay. It will all become a part of the great big gag reflex headed this nation's way.The Republican party arose out the crucible of the Civil War, a war caused by the unsustainable institution of slavery. The Republican party will join the Whigs and Tories on the ash heap of history if it does not develop an effective response to the unsustainable institutions looming today. It ought not be a difficult task. The statist would dictate everyone's energy consumption if they could; they would tell you what your child is allowed to learn in school; they would limit speech deemed hurtful to their ends; they would disarm us and leave us dependent; they would determine who was fit to heal, what was fit to eat, where one is permitted to live, how one pursues happiness, and tell us why doing so is good for us.Ends such as those should not be hard to battle; creating a 51 percent constituency favoring liberty ought not be a Herculean task, unless we burden ourselves with issues congruent with statist ends. Perhaps there's another grail out there, another straightforward message I've missed, a means to get the citizenry to rally around founding virtues and surmount the unsustainable. If you have one please spit it out. If you don't have a method by which to move forward, however, you are part of the Great Big Gag that's looming and will be unprepared to take any advantage of the openings it brings.  29 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uplifting Responses on: November 07, 2012, 08:08:24 AM QuoteDick Morris is a blowhard. I've taken him to task elsewhere, but I hope others can see that his credibility at this point is shakey.But his hair is so telegenic, his loyalties so expedient, and his scruples so lacking that it makes for great TV, assuming you enjoy the sound of fingernails on a blackboard muted by an unctuous grin.QuoteAll the talk of unscientific polls, liberal bias in those polls, etc., etc., etc. There IS a method to the polls. They aren't perfect (hence the margin of error), but they consistently went for Obama. Even in the wake of the terrible Obama showing in the first debate, 538 had Obama with a 70% or so chance at reelection. It was at 90% yesterday morning. Not quite the conservative narrative. And statistical methods won the day. This will increasingly be the case, as the scientific method is improved with technology and the skill of the practicioner. The days of Dewey defeating Truman are gone. Well kinda. As a second amendment guy I have seen all sorts of dubious polling. The term "assault weapon," for instance, is essentially meaningless yet anti-gun politicians with MSM collusion have worked long and hard to make it appear that black guns are full up automatic weapons. They are not. Hence, when pollsters ask questions about assault weapons they tend to be furthering a false narrative as much as they are gathering data. Indeed, I wonder if all these late season MSM polls had asked "Do you approve of the President's handling of Benghazi," with the MSM explaining why the question is germane, would we have seen a shift in the polls? At the risk of going all McLuhan on you, perhaps we've transcended the "medium is the message" stage and are now on to "the measurements we create and then choose to report are the message." QuoteSo, given the president's victory, how do we heal as a country and as a people?Heal what exactly?$16 trillion in debt and rising? Easy, stop borrowing money to spend. Is that likely to happen? No. Heal concerns over a vast system electronically monitoring Americans? Doubt we'll be shutting down the NSAs facility in Utah any time soon. Cease herding all Americans toward a socialized health care system? I suspect yesterday's result will be seen as an endorsement of that vast intrusion. And so on. First step toward healing is to stop picking at the wound. Fat chance.QuoteWhat can be done, constructively, by us and others to assist in this process?Ibid. What needs to be done is for freedom loving Americans to quit worrying about who sleeps with whom, put aside concerns about at what point a fetus becomes viable, and unite to toss statist off all stripes out. Alas, I think that what's coming to be known as the Free Sh!t Army comprised of statists and their charges have a leg up on the kind of organizing that will be required to surmount those of a statist bent. QuoteWhat does the fact that all of the "rape" congressional candidates lost (Mourdock and Akin, the latter decisively in an election that he once had 7-9% lead in)? That saying stupid stuff is ill advised, particularly in an environment where the MSM endlessly replays and inflates the gaffs on one side while averting their gaze from the gaffs of those they favor.QuoteWhat does it say that many Tea Party candidates lost or nearly lost?Relentless vilification works, particularly when forums where one can effectively respond to two-dimensional claims are so hard to come by.  QuoteIs the Brown loss in Massachusetts a referendum for the Tea Party in the same way his victory was pitched as such for Obama in 2010?Hmm, despite the fact Brown worked relentlessly to change his Tea Party stripes and repackage himself in a manner he thought MA would find more progressively palatable? Think it's more of a tea leaves issue: Repubs don't often win national offices out of states as blue as MA, regardless of packaging effort.QuoteWhat does it say that the GOP retained the House? Is it simple incumbency or other? Incumbency for the most part. But at least it allows the hope that statist brakes might be applied every now and then.
 30 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strong Terms for a Weak President on: November 02, 2012, 03:18:15 PM Editorial excoriating the administration and lapdog media over the handling of Libya:http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/benghazi-blunder-obama-unworthy-commander-in-chief-176736441.html
 31 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Department of Departments Department on: November 01, 2012, 12:40:47 PM Department of Cronyismfrom Reason Magazine by David HarsanyiYou know what could really help the economy? A huge new bureaucratic department in Washington, that’s what.President Barack Obama, a man who recently asserted that the “free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known,” intimated that once he secures a second term in office, he would appoint a Secretary of Business to manage a newly-merged, but still unnamed, agency that would offer Americans that top-down guidance they never asked for—a homeland security for cronyism, if you will.“We should have one Secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like giving loans to SBA or helping companies with exports,” Obama explained in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “There should be a one-stop shop.”The Department of Business promises to do to business what the Department of Education has done for education. It’s the sort of idea that sounds like it adds efficiency but actually offers the opposite. The larger context of the idea comports well with the president’s belief that a healthy private sector is healthiest when relying on the dedicated technocrats.But as a political matter, it promises results. If Mitt Romney, for instance, loses the election over Ohio and the president’s auto bailouts, a handout that allegedly saved one in eight jobs in the Buckeye State, politicians will surely have re-learned an invaluable lesson: the more taxpayer money you spend, the more votes you earn.And if winning elections means funding busy work at a union-run money pit or keeping a pleasing sunflower-logoed company afloat via a stimulus package, imagine what an entire agency giving out favors could accomplish? On the surface, a consolidation of a bunch of agencies sounds like a bright idea, but there is, as you know, plenty of room for mission creep in the pretending-to-do-good business. With 54 former lobbyists (according to Timothy Carney of the Washington Examiner) in the Obama Administration, it, no doubt, has a keen sense of what the business world is looking for — handouts.But the most obvious pitfall of a Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, or whatever it’ll be called, is that it would further institutionalize the absurd notion that government can foresee what consumers desire and then “invest” accordingly. When Obama talks about “jobs of the future” he means jobs the government will subsidize because people who vote for him like the sound of it. The more they fail, the more it will have to “invest.” It’s not about what you want, it’s about you need.If the Obama Administration was an investment house, it would have tanked long ago. Its record on green energy is horrid. It has heaped federal loans and subsidies onto coal-powered electric cars—an “investment” that “will not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil,”Obama said in 2009, but “put Americans back to work.” Hardly. The Chevy Volt’s been a tepid seller, at best, and without taxpayer subsidizes few could afford a $100,000 compact car. Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, has stopped mass production of a new sub-compact iQ plug-in. Toyota executive Takeshi Uchiyamada recently explained that, “current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars run, or the costs or how it takes a long time to charge.”Does government care if ethanol or a windmill meets society’s needs? Does it care about cost? Uchiyamada risks stockholder investments—real investments—while politicians’ decision-making rests on political and ideological pressures. So how could a Department of Business be a good idea?http://reason.com/archives/2012/11/01/department-of-cronyism  32 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Now That's Cold Treatment of a Warmist on: October 31, 2012, 08:08:19 PM Oh my goodness. Several months back National Review Online published a piece excoriating Michael Mann of Hockey Stick statistical manipulation fame. Mann claimed he would sue NRO for the piece, and indeed did so in a DC court recently, claiming, among other things, to be a Nobel laureate. Some called BS on the claim, and the Nobel committee stated Mann in fact was not a winner. As such NRO took a full page ad out in Penn State's student newspaper: Ought to be amusing to see what sort of hyperventilation this inspires in Mann. Might want to set up a wind farm in his office. . . .Whole piece here:http://nationalreviewonline.tumblr.com/post/34722632643/honoring-michael-manns-nobel-prize-to-mark  33 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Know Your Target & What's Beyond on: October 31, 2012, 06:32:13 PM Blaze kills Saudi Arabia wedding guestsWomen and children perish in Eastern Province after celebratory gunfire brings down power line, local media say.Last Modified: 31 Oct 2012 12:33Women and children perished in Tuesday night's fire in Ain Badr village of Eastern Province. At least 25 people have been killed by electric shock in a wedding in eastern Saudi Arabia, civil defence officials and local media say.Celebratory gunfire brought down an electric cable at a house in Ain Badr village where the wedding was held on Tuesday night, Abdullah Khashman, an Eastern Province official, said.Thirty others were injured in the incident near Abqaiq, a centre of the Saudi energy industry.Some Saudi media reports said the blaze erupted inside a tent, killing at least 23 women and children. The kingdom's conservative codes require genders to be separated at most public events, including weddings.The media cited civil defence officials as saying that celebratory gunfire brought down a power line that touched off the fire.However, Reuters news agency quoted Khashman as saying: "At the wedding, the cable fell on a metal door and the 23 people who died were all electrocuted."The victims were reportedly trying to escape through the door, the only exit from the courtyard, when they were killed.All those killed were from the same tribe, Khashman said.Saudi Arabia last month banned the shooting of firearms at weddings, a popular tradition in tribal areas of the country.Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, Eastern Province's governor, ordered an investigation into the incident, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.In July 1999, 76 people died in a similar incident in the Eastern Province.Forty-three women and children were killed at a wedding in neighbouring Kuwait in 2009 when a fire engulfed a tent.The ex-wife of the groom said she started the fire to avenge her former husband's "bad treatment" of her.http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/10/2012103192352586941.html  34 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on Benghazi on: October 30, 2012, 10:57:36 AM The Wages of LibyaBy Victor Davis HansonOctober 30, 2012 4:00 A.M.We have had ambassadors murdered abroad before, but we have never seen anything quite like the tragic fate of Chris Stevens. Amid all the controversy over Libya, we have lost sight of the human — and often horrific — story of Benghazi: a U.S. ambassador attacked, cut off and killed alone, after being abused by frenzied terrorists, and a second member of the embassy staff murdered, as two American private citizens rushed to the rescue, heroically warding off Islamist hit teams, until they were overwhelmed and also killed.Seven weeks after the tragedy in Benghazi, new government narratives just keep appearing, as various branches of government point the finger at one another. Now the president insists that “the minute” he “found out what was going on” he gave “very clear directives” to “make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to.” The secretary of defense argues that he knew too little to send in military forces to save the post. Meanwhile, we are hearing from other sources that the beleaguered compound in extremis was denied help on three separate occasions, and there are still more contradictory accounts.When the government systematically misleads and cannot establish a believable narrative, almost everyone involved is eventually tarred. The final chart of those officials in the Nixon White House who were devoured by Watergate was vast — and so it is becoming with the disaster in Libya. If we have learned anything from Watergate and Iran-Contra, it is that the longer officials deceive and obfuscate, the greater the number of wrecked careers and reputations.Most likely, the political wing of the White House almost immediately made a decision that the attack on our Benghazi consulate should not endanger the conventional narrative of a successful commander-in-chief — ahead in the polls in part because he had highlighted a supposedly successful foreign policy. Key to that story was the notion that the hit on bin Laden and the drone attacks on other Islamists had rendered al-Qaeda all but impotent. In addition, the administration’s supposed lead-from-behind strategy in Libya had served as a model for energizing a democratic Arab Spring. Commander-in-Chief Obama was intent on reminding the country of his competence and toughness as an international leader, and especially of his wise reluctance to rush into areas of instability.In such a landscape, Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were brutally murdered. And almost immediately it was clear that the ambassador had earlier warned that Libya was descending into chaos and that Americans were not safe there — only to have his requests for further protection rejected.During the actual assault on the consulate, a real-time video, streams of e-mail exchanges, and surveys of Islamist websites confirmed that al-Qaedists were carrying out a preplanned assassination — and over the next seven or eight hours it became clear that our staff was in dire need of military assistance that was somehow never sent. Then for nearly two weeks, the president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Press Secretary Jay Carney, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice advanced a counter-narrative that simply could not have been true: A spontaneous demonstration over a two-month-old video — just happening to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 — got out of hand as some disruptive protesters showed up with machines gun, mortars, and RPGs and began killing Americans. Since it was an American religious bigot who had prompted such terrible but “natural” riots with his video that ridiculed and injured Islam, we should apologize for the uncouth among us in the strongest terms.Obama, Clinton, Clapper, Rice, and Carney strove to outdo each other in damning the obscure video maker — to such an extent that he was summarily arrested on a supposedly outstanding probation charge. The message? Ambassadors die and careful U.S. foreign policy is undermined when right-wing bigots abuse their free-speech rights.Yet almost all of that story is untrue, and it will come back to haunt all those who either by intent or through ignorance engaged in the cover-up. Review the following spinners.President Obama still does not grasp the significance of Libya. When he calls the attacks there and in Egypt “bumps in the road” or “not optimal,” and asserts that they will not play much of a role in the final weeks of the campaign, he sounds either callous or naïve or both. Collate the administration’s statements over the two weeks following the attacks, and they simply cannot be true. The months-old video proved just too much of a temptation for the president to resonate the themes of his Cairo speech in damning uncouth Americans for offending Muslims. When the president claims that he ordered everything to be done to save the compound, he must be aware that subordinates who did not in turn give orders that relief be sent will eventually come forward to either affirm or deny his statement. His further problem is that lax security, administration misdirection, and hesitancy to aid the beleaguered all feed into the earlier attitudes framed by “overseas contingency operations,” “man-caused disasters,” “workplace violence,” promises to try KSM in a civilian court, the al-Arabiya interview, the Cairo speech, and other efforts to contextualize and airbrush radical Islam’s terrorist assault on the West. In other words, fairly or not, we can discern a logic to why the president would not be candid and accurate about Benghazi.Secretary Clinton will have to explain why the State Department did not heed requests for greater security, both before and during the attack. And she is beginning to grasp — and so especially is her husband — that the administration is hanging the disaster around her neck. She crudely blamed the attacks on our embassies in the Middle East on the video (with caskets of our dead as backdrop), reminding us that a few months earlier she had crudely giggled about the murder of Qaddafi (“We came, we saw, Qaddafi died”). All in all, her performance during this disaster has been disappointing, and more so with each new disclosure.Then we come to Ambassador Rice, who apparently was being groomed to succeed Secretary of State Clinton. As part of that trajectory, she was to be point woman for the administration’s spontaneous-mob narrative. That meant that on at least five different occasions Rice hit the Sunday talk shows, apparently to showcase her rhetorical skills, insisting that the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi were ad hoc assaults that had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy, anti-American animosity, or mistakes in American security preparation. Whether through ignorance or by design, Ambassador Rice repeatedly told an untruth, and did so with energy and dogmatic insistence. Her problem, then, is not just that what she insisted was true was clearly not, but also the unambiguous and forceful manner in which she wove her story. That she suddenly appeared from obscurity to play the sophist, and then retreated back into anonymity, suggests that her diplomatic career will be soon coming to an end.Next is the matter of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. His insistence that a mob had caused the mayhem is one untruth or mischaracterization too many — and a wrong assessment that trumps even his earlier absurdities, such as that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely a secular organization or that Qaddafi would not fall from power. Politicians and bureaucrats err all the time; but when intelligence officers do not appear to have intelligence, then they too usually quietly disappear into comfortable retirement.Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey at some point supposedly received information about the attack in real time. Why — given the supposed directive of the president to do “whatever we need to” to save our people — he did not order military assistance will have to be explained. Uncertain conditions will not do, because that is what militaries do: go into uncertain conditions to save lives and defeat the enemy. Armchair tacticians will argue that planes and teams could have been sent and then called off near arrival time if that was what circumstances seemed to warrant; that option would have been wiser than sending no one and thereby ensuring that the compound and annex would be overrun. And because General Dempsey has not been shy in weighing in on matters political by warning retired servicemen not to comment on contemporary politics (General Wesley Clark apparently excepted), and because he has phoned a Florida pastor to tell him to tone down his anti-Islamic rhetoric, the public will all the more expect an explanation. If the chairman can lecture both civilians and retired officers on proper behavior, then he should be able as well to explain why he did not heed the president’s order to do “whatever we need to do.”CIA Director David Petraeus is now by implication being faulted. A brief communiqué that the CIA did not refuse pleas for assistance was prompted by anonymous administration officials’ allegations that it was our intelligence agencies, not the State Department or White House officials, that prevented assistance to our diplomatic mission. At some point Petraeus will probably have to use all his influence and power to correct the administration’s narrative, which is apparently intended to shift culpability to him and his agency. General Petraeus, by his singular record, probably should have been made either chairman of the Joint Chiefs or NATO supreme commander; he apparently received neither offer. After pulling off the surge in Iraq, he was redeployed into Afghanistan under far different — and more difficult — circumstances that limited his range of options, and he had to give up his nominally superior billet as CENTCOM commander. When he took on the CIA job, he apparently was asked to retire from the military. There is a pattern here: selfless service to the United States, but recently in the context of a politicized administration that has used the enormous prestige of Petraeus in ways that have reduced his influence. Directing responsibility away from the administration to the CIA is more of the same, and it puts a historic figure like Petraeus in an unfair predicament.Benghazi was a disaster, whose graphic details most Americans do not fully know and, in some sense understandably, do not wish to relive. Still, we await two simple clarifications: an administration timeline of exactly who was notified, in what manner, and when on the night of the attack, and a full release of all information detailing the administration reaction to the murders, from the hours in which the attack occurred to the present day.Without that honesty, those responsible will only continue to weave their tangled Libyan web.— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/332001/wages-libya-victor-davis-hanson?pg=2  35 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Armed & Unionized on: October 26, 2012, 11:56:27 AM Police Union Intimidates California City Councilfrom Reason Magazine by Steven GreenhutMany people were outraged this summer after a private investigator, with ties to a law firm that represents 120 police unions in California, made an apparently false report to the cops claiming that a councilman in the Orange County, California, city of Costa Mesa stumbled out of a bar drunk and was weaving all over the road as he drove home.The clear goal was to embarrass a councilman who had been leading the charge in his city for pension reform, outsourcing, and other reforms. Evidence showed that the councilman, Jim Righeimer, had nothing to drink and did not stumble. Subsequently, other officials revealed similarly disturbing tactics from police in their cities.Despite the revelations, police unions continue to behave as if nothing has changed, as they intimidate council members who refuse to go along with their demands for ever-higher pay and benefits, and protections from oversight and accountability.Two councilmen in Fullerton, Bruce Whitaker and Travis Kiger, are experiencing disturbing attacks similar to the ones that Righeimer experienced. The Fullerton police union is angry at the role those men played in demanding reform in the wake of the horrific 2011 beating death by officers of a homeless man named Kelly Thomas.The unions also dislike Whitaker’s and Kiger’s call for pension reform, their consideration of a plan—common in Orange County and elsewhere—to shift police services to the more cost-efficient and professional sheriff’s department.The private eye mentioned above had ties to the Upland law firm of Lackie, Dammeier & McGill. The Orange County Register had reported on the political “playbook” which the lawyers had published on their web site until the ensuing bad publicity. The playbook detailed how police unions should bully elected officials into giving in to their demands. Although the Fullerton union uses a different firm, it is following a similar blueprint.As the firm explained, the union “should be like a quiet giant in the position of, ‘do as I ask and don’t piss me off.’” It detailed the “various tools available to an association to put political pressure on the decision makers.” The firm advises police to “storm city council” and have union members and supporters chastise targeted council members “for their lack of concern for public safety,” even though the issue is about pay rather than safety.The playbook even calls for the police to engage in dubious behavior—calling in sick (Blue Flu) even if officers are not sick and using the color of authority to scare residents (i.e., calling for unnecessary back-up units) into thinking there is a crime problem in their neighborhood. The scared residents will then, presumably, give the police more money.In Fullerton, union members have repeatedly stormed the city council. The union has handed out free T-shirts and free hamburgers for those residents who went into the council chambers to support them.Supporters have yelled at council members and leveled unsubstantiated charges designed to scare Fullerton residents into electing pro-union wastrels.They have sent out one hit mailer after another. For instance, the union claims that the council’s failed vote to get a bid from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for the provision of police services amounts to “putting our families at risk,” something that would be news to the sheriff and her deputies.Reminiscent of those “reefer madness” efforts from the 1950s, the union has transformed the council members’ irrelevant support for a statewide marijuana initiative into something ominously portrayed in mailers that proclaim, “Our neighborhoods could be full of marijuana dispensaries.” Even if the initiative passes, Fullerton’s law bans such dispensaries. And there is no evidence dispensaries “jeopardize our families’ safety,” although I understand why police are addicted to the federal cash that funds the drug war.Kiger and Whitaker are freedom-oriented conservatives who oppose Fullerton’s DUI checkpoints on constitutional grounds, which has led the union to claim yet another assault of Fullerton’s tranquility. I’ve been driving through Fullerton during those infuriating checkpoints, forced to wait in lines on public streets as cops randomly poke around everyone’s cars, so I am glad some council members question this intrusion.These are standard campaign efforts, perhaps, but these tactics don’t stop there. Kiger talks about a police officer who makes a “repeated false assertion to the public that I smoke marijuana.” Kiger also relayed an incident in which an officer followed him in a patrol car around town in what he viewed as a clear act of intimidation.The officers claim the council race is all about “public safety,” but the union is backing a liberal candidate with no obvious commitment to actual safety issues, but who seems willing to support the pay and pension packages the union demands, and who was mostly silent during the Thomas incident.“If I wasn’t able to contribute money, these councilmen wouldn’t be able to defend themselves against these union attacks,” said Tony Bushala, a local businessman and blogger who was the main supporter for a recall effort over the summer against three union-allied council members. “The unions put out a hit mailer every day, which explains the importance of Proposition 32.” That is the statewide paycheck-protection initiative that would stop unions from using automatic payroll deductions to fund political campaigns.Last week, I wrote about a new study revealing that between 2005-2010 pension costs to the state government have soared by 94 percent for “public safety” officials. People often ask me why the state is in such a fiscal mess, why council members don’t implement reasonable reforms, and why so many localities are considering bankruptcy.The answer can be found in Costa Mesa, Fullerton, and elsewhere. Most council members don’t have the courage or resources to stand up to the union fusillade. Until the public rejects these despicable union efforts, neither public services nor public finances will improve.http://reason.com/archives/2012/10/26/police-union-intimidates-california-city  36 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chemical Ba'thist on: October 25, 2012, 05:26:15 PM Exclusive: U.S. Rushes to Stop Syria from Expanding Chemical Weapon Stockpilefrom Danger Room by Noah ShachtmanA U.S. Army chemical weapons crew takes samples from an M55 rocket. Photo: U.S. ArmyThe regime of embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is actively working to enlarge its arsenal of chemical weapons, U.S. officials tell Danger Room. Assad’s operatives have tried repeatedly in recent months to buy up the precursor chemicals for deadly nerve agents like sarin, even as his country plunges further and further into a civil war. The U.S. and its allies have been able to block many of these sales. But that still leaves Assad’s scientists with hundreds of metric tons of dangerous chemicals that could be turned into some of the world’s most gruesome weapons.“Assad is weathering everything the rebels throw at him. Business is continuing as usual,” one U.S. official privy to intelligence on Syria says. “They’ve been busy little bees.”Back in July, the Assad regime publicly warned that it might just use chemical weapons to stop “external” forces from interfering in its bloody civil war. American policy-makers became deeply concerned that Damascus just might follow through on the threats. Since the July announcement, however, the world community — including Assad’s allies — have made it clear to Damascus that unleashing weapons of mass destruction was unacceptable. The message appears to have gotten through to Assad’s cadre, at least for now. Talk of direct U.S. intervention in Syria has largely subsided.“There was a moment we thought they were going to use it — especially back in July,” says the U.S. official, referring to Syria’s chemical arsenal. “But we took a second look at the intelligence, and it was less urgent than we thought.”That hardly means the danger surrounding Syria’s chemical weapons program has passed. More than 500 metric tons of nerve agent precursors, stored in binary form, are kept at upward of 25 locations scattered around the country. If any one of those sites falls into the wrong hands, it could become a massively lethal event. And in the meantime, Assad is looking to add to his already substantial stockpile.“Damascus has continued its pursuit of chemical weapons despite the damage to its international reputation and the rising costs of evading international export control on chemical weapons materials,” the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a leading think tank on weapons of mass destruction issues, noted in an August profile of Syria’s illicit arms activities.PopoutExactly why is unclear; Assad is perfectly capable of mass slaughter with more conventional means, like tanks and cluster bombs. Perhaps his chemical precursors are relatively unstable, and he needs fresh supplies; perhaps this is a late shopping spree before the international noose tightens completely; perhaps he wants to send a warning to potential adversaries in Jerusalem and Washington.Whatever the rationale, Assad is continuing his attempts to buy the building blocks of nerve agents like sarin. The CIA and the U.S. State Department, working with allies in the region, have recently prevented sales to Syria of industrial quantities of isopronol. Popularly known as rubbing alcohol, it’s also one of the two main chemical precursors to sarin gas, one of the deadliest nerve agents in existence. The other precursor is methylphosphonyl difluoride, or DF. The Syrians were also recently blocked from acquiring the phosphorous compounds known as halides, some of which can be used to help make DF.At a recent meeting of the Australia Group, an informal collection of international government officials dedicated the stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, participants “discussed the extensive tactics – including the use of front companies in third countries – [that] the Syrian government uses to obscure its efforts to obtain [regulated equipment], as well as other dual-use items, for proliferation purposes.” Bottom line: “Syria continues to be a country of proliferation concern, with active biological and chemical weapons programs.”In June, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that North Korean engineers were spotted in Syria working on Scud-D short-range ballistic missiles, which can carry chemical warheads. Two months later, witnesses tell the German magazine Der Spiegel, Syria test-fired several of its chemical-capable missiles at the al-Safirah research center east of Aleppo.To Leonard Spector, deputy director of the James Martin Center, these reports are signs that “Syria has not stopped the weapons of mass destruction program.”Among American policy-makers, there’s a growing sense (perhaps a bit wishful) that Damascus will eventually fall to the rebels — despite Assad’s brutal crackdown on the uprising, and despite an often-haphazard international campaign to help the rebellion. On Thursday, rebel group announced that they had seized two more districts in the city of Aleppo. U.S. intelligence agencies are believed to be helping with the training of opposition groups, while the Pentagon denies shipping arms to the rebels. In public, American aid has largely been limited to organizational advice (Washington is trying to set up a council of opposition leaders in Doha in the next few weeks, for instance) and technical assistance. Several hundred Syrian activists have traveled to Istanbul for training in secure communications, funded by the U.S. State Department. The rebel leaders received tips on how to leapfrog firewalls, encrypt their data, and use cellphones without getting caught, as Time magazine recently reported. Then they returned to Syria, many of them with new phones and satellite modems in hand.In the background, the U.S. is also starting to strategize for how it should operate in a post-Assad Syria. And that includes scoping out plans for disposing of Assad’s stockpiles of nerve and mustard agents. It won’t be easy: Iraq’s former chemical bunkers are still toxic, a decade after Saddam’s overthrow. The U.S. recently said it won’t be done disposing of its Cold War chemical weapon arsenal until 2023.Disposing of chemical weapons might not be as touchy a political issue in Syria as it is in America. But Assad’s nerve agents will still be tricky to render (relatively) safe — or “demilitarize,” in weapons jargon. DF, for example, can be turned into a somewhat non-toxic slurry, if combined properly with lye and water. The problem is that when DF reacts with water, it generates heat. And since DF has an extremely low boiling point — just 55.4 degrees Celsius — it means that the chances of accidentally releasing toxic gases are really high. “You could easily kill yourself during the demil,” one observer tells Danger Room.Naturally, this process could only begin once the DF and the rubbing alcohol was gathered up from Assad’s couple dozen storage locations. Then, they’d have to be carted far, far out into the desert — to make sure no bystanders could be hurt — along with the enormous stirred-tank reactors needed to conduct the dangerous chemistry experiments. And when it was all done, there would the result would be a whole lot of hydrofluoric acid, which is itself a poison. In other words, even if the U.S. stops every one of Assad’s chemical weapon shipments from here on out, the legacy of his illicit weapons program will linger on for decades.http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/10/syria-chemical-weapons-2/  37 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / F&F Whistleblower Reinstated on: October 25, 2012, 11:51:07 AM Those who have been following Fast and Furious know that much of the original reporting was developed by sources at Clean Up ATF. ATF officials have been gunning for an ATF investigator who is also a founder of CUATF, Vincent Cefalu, and terminated his employment in a Denny's parking lot several weeks back. Cefalu just one a stay on his termination and has been ordered reinstated. With luck future hearings and law suits will bring the ATF house of cards down. Order of reinstatement here: http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=766615&version=769489&application=ACROBAT  38 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya should Sink BHO on: October 25, 2012, 11:18:47 AM Why Obama's Actions in Libya Should Cost Him the Electionfrom Reason Magazine by Andrew NapolitanoThe final presidential debate earlier this week was a tailor-made opportunity for Mitt Romney to rip into President Obama's inconsistent, value-free and at times incoherent foreign policy. And it was also an opportunity for the president to explain his administration's material misrepresentations on the murders of our ambassador and others in Libya. Instead, we heard silence from both of them on this topic.One can conclude from this that the president uttered a silent sigh of relief when he dodged a bullet. And one can conclude that Romney wanted to look and sound presidential and emphasize his economic credentials and allay fears that he wants another war. Whatever the gain and whatever the strategy, this matter of American deaths in Libya is of vital importance to American voters.It is important because it shows how far the American government has drifted from the confines of the Constitution and how far we as a people have drifted from the rule of law. The president bombed Libya last year in a successful effort to remove Col. Gadhafi from power. Gadhafi was a monster, but he kept the streets safe, the mobs from foreign embassies and consulates, and the terrorists in jail.In 2005, President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Gadhafi as a partner in the war on terror because he disposed of his nuclear weaponry and he arrested and resisted al-Qaida operatives. Obama, who last year claimed he did not have the time to seek authorization from Congress to bomb Libya as the Constitution requires, but did have the time to seek approvals from NATO and the Arab League, also claimed at the time and as recently as last Monday night that there were no American boots on the ground during the bombing. That, of course, is patently false and is known to be false.American fighter planes (boots in the skies) would not be sent to bomb a foreign land without guidance from troops on the ground. I suspect that by "boots," Obama meant "uniforms." We know that American intelligence agents and American Special Forces -- neither of whose personnel wear uniforms, but most of whom no doubt wear boots on their feet in the Libyan desert -- were there, are still there and were providing intelligence about Gadhafi and his military to aid the assault by U.S. warplanes.The assault was devastating not only to the Gadhafi government, but also to the Libyan people. It destroyed much of Libyan authority structures as they then existed. Not only were Libyan government personnel and buildings and equipment destroyed, but so were Libyan intelligence agents and assets, police stations, roads and bridges, and innocent civilians, as well. This resulted not only in the death of Gadhafi and the destruction of his government, but also in a vacuum into which moved the roving gangs of militias who reign there today. The militias opened up Gadhafi's jails and released many of the prisoners Bush and Blair had praised Gadhafi for incarcerating.Fast-forward to September 11th of this year, and some of these al-Qaida-led and populated gangs murdered our ambassador and his colleagues. The Obama administration -- which knew of the al-Qaida role in all this and knew that the president's unconstitutional behavior facilitated that role -- denied what it knew and dispatched the American ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, to deliver lies to the American public. Rice claimed on five TV shows that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed by the spontaneous reaction of ordinary Libyans to a cheap Hollywood-made YouTube clip about Mohammed -- not by an organized terrorist gang.Shortly after Stevens' murder, European newspapers began to speculate that though Stevens was the bona fide U.S. ambassador to Libya, he was also a member of the U.S. intelligence community, as were his now-murdered colleagues. Earlier this week, my colleagues at Fox News discovered that the building in which they were killed was and was known locally to be a CIA facility, and that the future Ambassador Stevens had used that facility to meet with Libyan rebels during the Gadhafi years.Now we can connect some dots. If Stevens was a CIA agent, he was in violation of international law by acting as the U.S. ambassador. And if he and his colleagues were intelligence officials, they are not typically protected by Marines, because they ought to have been able to take care of themselves. And if Rice knowingly lied to the American public about a matter as grave as this, she should be fired, no matter who asked her to lie. And 14 days before a crucial presidential election, when both major-party candidates have an audience of 60 million voters, why were they mysteriously silent about all this? Might U.S. intelligence agents who routinely brief Romney have whispered the same instructions into his ear that they received from the president when they briefed him?I still think Romney has a far better understanding of economic forces and a far superior appreciation for the free market than does Obama. But I had hoped he could demonstrate a better understanding of the proper role of the U.S. in foreign lands than has the president.On this from Romney, thus far we have heard only silence; from the president, only boasts.http://reason.com/archives/2012/10/25/why-obamas-actions-in-libya-should-cost  39 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flip Off the Big Bird on: October 24, 2012, 07:27:51 PM Big BirdPosted by John Stossel | October 24, 2012 Print Email Share 0 CommentsTweetGive me a break.The left screams because Romney says he'll cut PBS.A Huffington Post writer says that would be "a cultural and spiritual disaster for the nation."Please. America is going broke! If we can't cut PBS, what can we cut?Public broadcasting costs taxpayers "only"$420 million per year, but that's real money, and even if it weren't, the price is not the point. Government should not fund any broadcast networks.As for news programs, government funding means taxpayers pay for lefty propaganda like Bill Moyers and most of NPR. We need separation of News and State. Thomas Jefferson warned that it is wrong to force citizens to pay for "the propagation of opinions which [they] disbelieve." He was right, but now I have to fund NPR.As far as children's programming, Big Bird doesn't need the money! Sesame Street has assets of $355,858,257! Sesame Workshop makes$46M in licensing fees. The company is such a gold mine, it paid its recent president $929,629. Big Bird will do fine without taxpayer subsidies.PBS once asked, "If not PBS, then who?" Cato's David Boaz points out that now the answer is: HBO, Bravo, Discovery, History, Science, C-SPAN, The Learning Channel ... and so on. I'm told that kids' programs like Noggin (Nick Jr.) are like pre-school on TV.Yes, you have to pay for cable, but 63.7% of people below the poverty line have cable or satellite TV.Those who don't have cable still get education programs on free TV. NBC alone has The Wiggles, Noodle and Doodle, and LazyTown (get up & go, eat healthy).Funding public broadcasting is welfare for rich people. PBS viewers are richer than average Americans.NPR even bragged about its listeners' wealth to potential advertisers: "152% more likely to have a home valued at half a million or more ... 194% more likely to travel to France."It's fine that they appeal to rich people. But you shouldn't have to fund it.http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-air/stossel/blog/2012/10/24/big-bird  40 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Past 16 Years of Panic? Nevermind. . . . on: October 15, 2012, 04:01:57 PM Report: Global warming stopped 16 years agofrom Watts Up With That? by Anthony WattsUPDATE: There’s a response from the Met Office hereA report in the UK Daily Mail reveals a Met Office report quietly released… and here is the chart to prove it:By David RoseThe figures reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012 there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperaturesThis means that the ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week.The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.This means that the ‘plateau’ or ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.The new data, compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea, was issued quietly on the internet, without any media fanfare, and, until today, it has not been reported.This stands in sharp contrast to the release of the previous figures six months ago, which went only to the end of 2010 – a very warm year.Ending the data then means it is possible to show a slight warming trend since 1997, but 2011 and the first eight months of 2012 were much cooler, and thus this trend is erased.Some climate scientists, such as Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, last week dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions.Others disagreed. Professor Judith Curry, who is the head of the climate science department at America’s prestigious Georgia Tech university, told The Mail on Sunday that it was clear that the computer models used to predict future warming were ‘deeply flawed’.Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released–chart-prove-it.html#ixzz29E78OR9Hh/t to reader “Dino”regarding the significance of the period from 1997, recall that Dr. Ben Santer claimed 17 years was the period needed:http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/17/ben-santers-17-year-itch/They find that tropospheric temperature records must be at least 17 years long to discriminate between internal climate noise and the signal of human-caused changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere.MIT Professor Richard Lindzen said something similar in a WUWT guest post:There has been no warming since 1997 and nostatistically significant warming since 1995.Bob Tisdale did a 17 and 30 year trend comparison hereHere’s the HADCRUT4 4.1.1. datasethttp://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/13/report-global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago/  41 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 12, 2012, 01:12:59 PM I expect my appearances will be fairly erratic as I've pretty much sold out on internet argument. With that said, 'tis nice to be back.  42 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Failure Graph on: October 12, 2012, 01:10:21 PM  43 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Healthcare Hand and Whitewashing on: October 11, 2012, 07:31:48 AM Why Sebelius Campaigns So Hard for Her Boss — and Why He Won’t Fire Herfrom Cato @ Liberty by Michael F. CannonBy Michael F. CannonSecretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been campaigning so enthusiastically for President Obama that she — whoops! — broke a federal law that restricts political activities by executive-branch officials. Federal employees are usually fired for such transgressions, but no one expects that to happen to Sebelius. Heck, she got right back in the saddle.Every cabinet official (probably) wants to see the president reelected, and no president relishes dismissing a cabinet official. But in this case, there’s an additional incentive for Sebelius to campaign for her boss and for Obama not to fire her.ObamaCare creates a new Independent Payment Advisory Board that — “fact checkers” notwithstanding — is actually a super-legislature with the power to ration care to everyone, increase taxes, impose conditions on federal grants to states, and wield other legislative powers. According to legend, IPAB will consist of 15 unelected “experts” who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Yeah, good one.In fact, if the president makes no appointments, or the Senate rejects the president’s appointees, then all of IPAB’s considerable powers fall to one person: the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The HHS secretary would effectively become an economic dictator, with more power over the health care sector than any chamber of Congress.If Obama wins in November, he would have zero incentive to appoint any IPAB members. The confirmation hearings would be a bloodbath, not unlike Don Berwick’s confirmation battle multiplied by 15. Sebelius, on the other hand, would not need to be re-confirmed. She could assume all of IPAB’s powers without the Senate examining her fitness to wield those powers. If Obama fired her, or the voters fire Obama, then the next HHS secretary would have to secure Senate confirmation. Again, bloodbath. That makes Kathleen Sebelius the only person in the universe who could assume those powers without that scrutiny.No wonder she’s campaigning so hard. No wonder Obama won’t fire her.Why Sebelius Campaigns So Hard for Her Boss — and Why He Won’t Fire Her is a post from Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute Bloghttp://www.cato-at-liberty.org/why-sebelius-campaigns-so-hard-for-her-boss-and-why-he-wont-fire-her/  44 Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Green Density on: January 30, 2012, 08:00:23 AM Perhaps misfiled, but a look at how some of the shibboleths of the environmental crowd fail to stand up to real world examination.Get DenseIt’s time to stop wasting land and resources in the name of environmentalism.JIM RICHARDSON/CORBISThe opposite of dense: windmills in Kansas.More than three decades ago, the British economist E. F. Schumacher stated the essence of environmental protection in three words: “Small is beautiful.” As Schumacher argued in a famous book by that title, man-made disturbances of the natural world—farms, for example, and power plants—should have the smallest possible footprints.But how can that ideal be realized in a world that must produce more and more food and energy for its growing population? The answer, in just one word this time, is density. Over the course of the last century, human beings have found ways to concentrate crops and energy production within smaller and smaller areas, conserving land while meeting the ever-growing global demand for calories and watts. This approach runs counter to the beliefs of many environmental activists and politicians, whose “organic” and “renewable” policies, as nature-friendly as they sound, squander land. The real organizing principle for a green future is density, which not only provides the goods that we need to survive and prosper but also achieves the land-preservation goals of genuine environmentalists.Food cultivation is an excellent example of the virtues of density. During the second half of the twentieth century, hybrid seeds and synthetic fertilizers, along with better methods of planting and harvesting, produced stunning increases in agricultural productivity. Between 1968 and 2005, global production of all cereal crops doubled, even though the amount of cultivated acreage remained about the same. Indur Goklany, a policy analyst for the U.S. Department of the Interior, estimates that if agriculture had remained at its early-sixties level of productivity, feeding the world’s population in 1998 would have required nearly 8 billion acres of farmland, instead of the 3.7 billion acres that were actually under cultivation. Where in the world—literally—would we have found an extra 4.3 billion acres of land, an area just slightly smaller than South America?There is an important exception to the historical trend of ever-denser agriculture, however: the production of organic food, which doesn’t use many fertilizers and pesticides. Various recent studies have found that land devoted to organic farming produces 50 percent less wheat, 55 percent less asparagus and lettuce, and 23 percent less corn than conventionally farmed land of the same acreage does.A large-scale transition to organic production therefore makes little sense. In a 2011 essay in Slate, James McWilliams, a history professor at Texas State University and a fearless debunker of the hype over organic food, pointed out that the global population was likely to increase by some 2.3 billion people over the next four decades. So many people, combined with an emerging middle class in developing countries like China and India, would require the world’s farmers to grow “at least 70 percent more food than we now produce.” The latest figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which showed that the world had little unused arable land, led to an obvious conclusion, McWilliams wrote: “Skyrocketing demand for food will have to be met by increasing production on pre-existing acreage. . . . Ninety percent of the additional calories required by midcentury will have to come through higher yields per acre.” That is, agriculture must become even denser, producing still more food from the available land. Organic farming would do the reverse.Inefficient organic production would also undoubtedly increase the cost of food. That’s a particular concern at a time when global food prices are near record highs: last February, the FAO reported that its Food Price Index, a basket of commodities that tracks changes in global food costs, hit its highest level since the organization began documenting prices in 1990. Though food prices have fallen somewhat since then, the Food Price Index throughout 2011 was roughly 60 percent higher than it was back in 2007. Adopting low-density agricultural techniques could also increase deforestation, as farmers desperately seek more farmland—a result that should disturb true environmentalists.Yet we are continually bombarded with arguments for organic agriculture. In 2010, Maria Rodale—the chairman and CEO of the Rodale Institute, a pro-organic organization—wrote an essay arguing that organic farming was “the most effective way to feed the world and mitigate global warming.” Organic-friendly grocers, like Whole Foods Market, have seen huge increases in their market share, and industry groups like the Organic Trade Association point out that global sales of organic food and beverages more than doubled, to some$51 billion, between 2003 and 2008.A related crusade against density is the push for biofuels, which are supposed to help reduce carbon-dioxide emissions but will divert huge blocks of arable land away from food production and into the manufacture of tiny amounts of motor fuel. The leading biofuel at the moment is corn ethanol, whose “power density”—the amount of energy flow that can be harnessed from a given area of land—is abysmally low. Some energy analysts put it as low as 0.05 watts per square meter of farmland. By comparison, a relatively small natural-gas well that produces just 60,000 cubic feet of gas per day has a power density of 28 watts per square meter; the power density of nuclear plants is even higher.The power density of ethanol is so low that in 2011, to produce a quantity of motor fuel whose energy equivalent was just 0.6 percent of global oil consumption, the American corn-ethanol sector had to convert a mind-boggling 4.9 billion bushels of grain into ethanol. That’s more corn than the combined outputs of the European Union, Mexico, Argentina, and India. It represents 40 percent of all the corn grown in the United States—about 15 percent of global corn production and 5 percent of all the grain grown in the world. The EU, too, is pushing to produce motor fuel from farmland.These efforts have, unsurprisingly, driven global food prices upward. In a June 2011 article in Scientific American, Tim Searchinger, a research scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School at Prince- ton University, observed that “since 2004 biofuels from crops have almost doubled the rate of growth in global demand for grain and sugar and pushed up the yearly growth in demand for vegetable oil by around 40 percent.” We need to consider the moral impact of our actions, Searchinger continued: “Our primary obligation is to feed the hungry. Biofuels are undermining our ability to do so.” Yet each year, Congress lavishes some $7 billion worth of subsidies on the ethanol industry, and in his January 2011 State of the Union speech, President Obama declared that “we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels.”Biofuel enthusiasts, recognizing the moral problems with converting food into fuel, have long promoted cellulosic ethanol, which is derived from inedible biomass, such as switchgrass and trees. In 1976, Amory Lovins, cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and a darling of the Green Left, wrote in Foreign Affairs that “exciting developments in the conversion of agricultural, forestry and urban wastes to methanol and other liquid and gaseous fuels now offer practical, economically interesting technologies sufficient to run an efficient U.S. transport sector.” Three decades later, not a single company in the United States was producing significant quantities of cellulosic ethanol—yet in 2004, Lovins and several coauthors wrote Winning the Oil Endgame, still clamoring for cellulosic ethanol and even claiming that it would “strengthen rural America, boost net farm income by tens of billions of dollars a year, and create more than 750,000 new jobs.”Will it? Cellulosic ethanol’s power density, though higher than corn ethanol’s, is nevertheless very low. Even the best-managed tree plantations achieve power densities of only about 1 watt per square meter of cultivated area. That means you need gargantuan quantities of biomass to produce meaningful volumes of motor fuel. Let’s say that you wanted to replace just one-tenth of U.S. oil consumption with ethanol derived from switchgrass. That would require you to produce about 425 million tons of switchgrass per year, which would mean cultivating some 36.9 million acres of land—an area roughly the size of Illinois. Put another way: to replace 10 percent of the country’s oil needs with cellulosic ethanol, you’d need to plant switchgrass in an area equal to 8 percent of all American cropland currently under cultivation.Nevertheless, in May 2008, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi helped pass a subsidy-packed$307 billion farm bill, declaring it an “investment in energy independence” because it provided “support for the transition to cellulosic ethanol.” Under Pelosi’s leadership, Congress also mandated that fuel suppliers in the United States blend at least 21 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the American gasoline pool by 2022. To reach that standard, Congress set production targets: in 2011, for instance, domestic distilleries would supposedly produce some 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol. But the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol remains so insignificant that the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the government’s renewable-fuel rules, was forced to slash the production target to just 6.6 million gallons.Over the past decade, global energy consumption has increased by about 28 percent. Today, the world’s inhabitants are consuming the equivalent of 240 million barrels of oil per day. We cannot depend on the planet’s farmland to provide the enormous quantities of energy needed by countries like China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil as millions of their citizens move into the modern economy. We must rely on forms of energy that have the highest density and, therefore, the smallest footprints.Biofuels aren’t the only renewable sources of energy whose low power densities make them impractical. Wind turbines have a power density of about 1 watt per square meter. Compare that with the two nuclear reactors at Indian Point in Westchester County, which provide as much as 30 percent of New York City’s electricity. Even if you include the entire footprint of the Indian Point project—about 250 acres—the site’s power density exceeds 2,000 watts per square meter. To generate as much electricity as Indian Point does, you’d need to pave at least 770 square miles of land with wind turbines, an area slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island. Further, few people could live on that great expanse of land because the low-frequency sound that wind turbines generate can cause health problems.Until now, we’ve examined density chiefly as it relates to area: how much food or energy can be produced on a certain quantity of land. But wind projects defy density in a second way, eating up not just huge tracts of land, relative to their poor performance, but enormous quantities of steel as well. Installing a single wind turbine requires about 200 tons of steel. The newest turbines have capacities of about 4 megawatts. Divide four by 200, and you’ll find that such a turbine can produce about 0.02 megawatts of electricity per ton of steel. Compare that with a conventional natural-gas-fired turbine—say, General Electric’s LM6000. The LM6000 weighs nine tons and can generate nearly 43 megawatts, meaning that it produces about 4.7 megawatts per ton of steel—more than 230 times as many as the wind turbine does.These numbers are only ballpark figures, of course, and they don’t account for the other resources needed to produce electricity. For instance, wind turbines are generally located far from urban areas and require the construction of thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines, while gas turbines must be supplied by long steel pipelines carrying methane from distant wells. But even if the calculations are off by a full order of magnitude—and gas-fired generation uses steel merely 23 times as efficiently as wind generation does, rather than 230 times—it remains clear that wind energy production is an enormously resource-intensive process.Fortunately, opposition to wind projects is growing rapidly. The United States has seen the rise of about 170 anti-wind groups over the past few years. Ontario in Canada alone has more than 50, the European Platform Against Windfarms has 505 signatory organizations from 23 countries, and in the United Kingdom, some 250 anti-wind groups have formed to fight industrial wind projects in Wales, Scotland, and elsewhere. The resistance is easy to understand: people don’t want to look at 400-foot-high industrial turbines all day, or at flashing red lights all night, or at unsightly transmission lines.Environmentalists themselves have begun to recognize the inefficiency of wind turbines. In 2009, the Nature Conservancy, one of America’s most conservative environmental groups, issued a report condemning the “energy sprawl” that comes with large-scale wind-energy projects. Even hard-core environmental groups like Earth First! have sprung into action. In November 2010, five people, several of them from Earth First!, were arrested for blocking a road leading to a construction site for a 60-megawatt wind project in Maine. According to the Portland Press Herald, one of the protesters carried a sign: STOP THE RAPE OF RURAL MAINE. But politicians have been slower to object to energy sprawl. In March 2010, governors from 29 states implored Congress and the White House to install more wind turbines across the country, arguing that wind energy would “reduce electric-sector greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 percent.”The virtues of density can be seen even in nuclear waste. The American commercial nuclear-power industry, over its entire history, has produced about 60,000 tons of high-level waste. Stacked to a depth of about 15 feet, that would cover an area the size of one football field. Coal-fired power plants in the United States, by contrast, generate about 130 million tons of coal ash, much of it contaminated with heavy metals, in a single year. Yes, radioactive waste is toxic and long-lived, but it can be stored safely. France produces about 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear fission, and all of its high-level waste is stored in a single building about the size of a soccer field.Perhaps the most familiar example of environmentally friendly density, though, is the way humanity has concentrated itself by moving from the country to cities, a process that is happening especially rapidly in the developing world. The opposite process, suburbanization, requires far more land area per resident—and therefore more miles of streets, electricity cables, and sewer lines (see “Green Cities, Brown Suburbs,” Winter 2009). In a 2009 essay for the Atlantic, architect and author Witold Ryb- czynski wrote that “being truly green means returning to the kinds of dense cities and garden suburbs Americans built in the first half of the 20th century.”The greenness of density leads to two conclusions. First, those who make environmental policy should consider density a desirable goal in nearly all the issues that they confront. And second, the real environmentalists aren’t headline-seeking activists and advocacy groups; they’re farmers, urban planners, agronomists, and, yes, even natural-gas drillers and nuclear engineers.Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute.http://www.city-journal.org/2012/22_1_environmentalism.html