Tuesday, June 26, 2007

UN bigwig can't run a farm

This is how they promote them at the United Nations. Francis Nhema, Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment can't run a farm, so the UN made him chairman of its Commission on Sustainable development last month. His farm - stolen by the government from a white family in 2003 - is overgrown and has derelict vehicles littering it. The Times UK reports:
It looks as if no one has lived here for years. Tall, dense elephant grass grows everywhere. There is a rutted track that passes a nearly empty dam where a truck has broken down and been left to its own fate. Sheds and barns for curing tobacco are deserted. Gates hang open and there is scant fencing. A fallen tree lies across the track. The only sign of activity is a flock of sheep owned by a neighbouring white farmer who leases the unused grazing. This is the farm of Francis Nhema, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, who became chairman of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development last month. He occupied Nyamanda farm, just south of the small town of Karoi in northern Zimbabwe in 2003, a year after its owner, Chris Shepherd, and his family were driven out by lawless ruling party militias. On its 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres), Mr Shepherd had planted 80 hectares of high-grade tobacco and 200 hectares of maize. Cattle grazed on 300 hectares. Last year Mr Nhema managed three hectares of tobacco and ten hectares of maize. “This year there is nothing,” said a former farm security guard, who asked to remain anonymous. “There is a small patch of soya beans. The rest is weeds. The whole 1,000 hectares are weeds.”
This is the status of Zimbabwe, the country of the UN's development expert Nhema:
— Zimbabwe's maize production fell 74% between 1999 and 2004 — The national cattle herd shrank by 90% and production of flue-cured tobacco fell from 237m kg (233,200 tons) to 70m kg — Real GDP per capita dropped 46.2% between 1998 and 2005 — Average wage $760 annually, the same in purchasing power terms as the Southern Rhodesian in 1953 — The UN says that 4.1 million people in the southern provinces face serious food shortages at the start of 2008 Sources: Centre for Global Development; UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; CIA World Factbook; Times archive
And the UN is making you, the US taxpayer, pay for this incompetence.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gore blames scientists

Scientists were too slow to reach today's deafening consensus. And Albert Gore. Jr. now blames them, it appears. And did you know that Albert Gore, Jr. made global warming his "principal [sic] agenda for eight years in the White House"? You didn't know that? Because there was no evidence of it. Did Clinton-Gore ask the US Senate to ratify the Kyoto Treaty? No. That's Albert Gore, Jr. leadership. It's leadership by powerpoint presentation years later rewriting history.
During his tenure as vice president, America's carbon dioxide emissions shot up far faster than at any time in modern history - by 15 per cent, compared to just 1.65 per cent during President Bush's first term. - Independent UK
Can Gore make one true statement about President Bush? No evidence here:
Mr Gore accuses his nemesis, President George Bush, of having taken "virtually no steps to address the problem. Worse, he and Vice President Cheney have led the nation in precisely the wrong direction."
Not true. Bush did not promise to lower the US's carbon dioxide emissions - a promise he knew could not be kept - but did start a program to bury CO2 in 2004. NPR reports.
In a Wyoming oil field, researchers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy are experimenting with injecting carbon dioxide underground to keep it from entering the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming.
Furthermore, The countries that did promise to cut CO2 levels have not kept their promises. Volokh blog reports:
Despite American inaction on climate change, emissions dropped in 2006. The AP reports:
The department's Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that preliminary data shows a 1.3 percent decline in the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide released in 2006 from energy-related sources, the first decline in 11 years and the biggest decline since 1990. . . . Whether the decline of 78 million metric tons was an anomaly, or an indicator of something more, was unclear. The Energy Department report said one reason for the decline was that 2006 had "weather conditions favorable for emission reductions." . . .
Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions increased in the E.U., in part because European governments allocated excess emission credits due to industry pressure. The Guardian reports:
In 2006, industry emitted about 30m tonnes less than permitted. German emissions rose 0.6% while overall EU emissions went up by 1%-1.5% because of resumed growth in the eurozone.
The US talked small and got big results. Europe talked big and got small results. Blame Bush for getting results instead of talking.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Africa Entrepreneur Delivers

My friend Jim Miller points out a great example of entrepreneurship in Africa. One local man invested his time and money and brought more benefit than a dozen people sacrificing their time working for nonprofits. Billions of dollars - hundreds of billions - in aid poured into Africa since colonialism was ending. Did the aid to Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo, ex Zaire) provide adequate infrastructure for telephones? In 1997 there were about 25,000 telephones. In 2006, Vodacom Congo had more than 1.5 million subscribers (wireless). Aid? No! One man - a business man! From the NY Times:
In 1997, Mr. Conteh recalled in an interview, he heard Laurent D. Kabila, then the country’s president, deliver a speech in which he called upon his countrymen to rebuild Congo’s infrastructure after the 30-year dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mr. Conteh, who had no experience in telecommunications, said he was inspired. He decided to build the nation’s first GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) digital network. At the time, according to Mr. Conteh, fewer than 10,000 people living in Congo — mainly business people, foreigners and government employees — had mobile handsets. They paid $7 to $10 a minute to make a call, using an older technology. Less than 15,000 homes had a telephone landline. Mr. Conteh said he went, cap in hand, to the minister of communications to ask for the country’s first GSM license. In January 1998 he got it — but he first had to pay the government a license fee of $100,000. Over the years, and with little explanation, he said, the government, which is often terribly short of money, increased the license fee, first to $400,000, then $2 million. Since, at first, no Western investors had any faith in the country’s mobile market, Mr. Conteh said he wrote the first checks to the government. And he paid $1.5 million to Nortel, the telecommunications equipment provider, to help create his network. To help raise the money, he had to sell his coffee trucks. In February 1999, Mr. Conteh introduced the Congo Wireless Network, with just 3,000 subscribers. Throughout the early days of his company, Mr. Conteh faced challenges unknown to Western businesses. Once, after equipment providers declined to send engineers to Congo during a dangerous time in the country’s unending civil strife, he encouraged the citizens of Kinshasa, the capital, to collect scrap metal and weld them into a cellphone tower. In 2001, he sold 51 percent of the company to Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile service provider, to get the capital to expand the mobile network to millions of Congelese. By the middle of 2006, Vodacom Congo had more than 1.5 million subscribers, according to Vodacom’s annual report...
The entrepreneur did what the nonprofits could not do.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Border security first

I sent this letter to Senator Patty Murray today. It's not much. Just to keep pressure on the topic.
Senator Murray, Protect our borders before you give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Amnesty will attract more. First, complete the fence on the Mexico border. The government of Mexico is flouting our laws and allowing people to cross in great numbers. The cost is worth it. Second, have special screening for people from countries that harbor terrorists. They are sending people via Mexico who want to kill us. We know which countries are the problem. Have special screening for their citizens, residents and people who travel from there. Don't rush. Make sure we will be safe. Security first. Truly, Ron Hebron
Hugh Hewitt has lots of interviews - both sides - and some ideas. And he read the entire miserable bill. This blog entry has links to the interviews and Hugh's analysis and suggestions for ammendments.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Venezuela TV station asks ex-Pres Jimmy Carter to act

The independent television station closed by Hugo Chavez asks President Jimmy to act. But this is counter to his track record. He only helps dictators; he doesn't aid independent speech. Here is RCTV's request at El Universal.com with a bit of humor.
Private television station RCTV Monday summoned The Carter Center to make the Venezuelan government comply with its commitments under the so-called Roundtable of Negotiations and Agreements in 2003. In a public letter, signed by RCTV chair Marcel Granier, The Carter Center is asked to act with "firmness" in this sense, following its "shy" and "tardy" statement on President Hugo Chávez' refusal to renew the broadcast license for RCTV. In the document, Granier demanded an equalitarian treatment for RCTV, which last May 27 became the only television channel whose broadcast license was not renewed, even thought it dealt with the events of April 11-12, 2002 the same way other private TV channels did. RCTV asked The Carter Center to mediate so that Chávez' administration to give them back both the broadcast license and the broadcast equipment the government confiscated from the television network.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tribute to Laura of Cowboy Cultural Society

The matriarch of cowboy music on the radio and the internet dies Memorial Day, only two weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Laura Ellen of KPIG radio in the Santa Cruz, California, area. Laura was the force behind Cowboy Cultural Society, an internet station of cowboy music. It's been my online favorite for about 5 years. Outside my realm of experience, she was a radio maverick at KPIG, refusing to go with the strict playlist rules of the FM-radio industry. The Santa Cruz Sentinal newspaper:
To understand Laura Ellen Hopper, you had to talk music with her.
Oh, she had other passions. She loved horses all her life and spent as much leisure time as she could manage in the saddle. She was an excellent cook and was especially devoted to wood-fired stoves. She proudly restored an old Airstream trailer. She was devoted to her husband, Frank, her daughter, Elsie, and a confederacy of close friends that encompassed miles and years. But any portrait of the woman mourned by so many this week up and down the California coast and across the country would have to begin and end with music. Hopper's friend Gail Korich had countless conversations with her about music, many times sitting on the floor of her office at KPIG [107.5 FM] in Watsonville over coffee. "There was nothing like the light in her eyes when she found something she really liked," said Korich, who works at the Santa Cruz-based Hawaiian-music recording label Dancing Cat. "She was always saying, 'Oh, you've got to hear this.' "
"Laura is to Americana what Bill Monroe was to bluegrass," said "Sleepy John" Sandidge, longtime host of KPIG's Sunday morning live show, "Please Stand By" "If she really knew what kind of influence she had, she would have been living in France with servants waiting on her. But money was never a motive for her" She gave her programmers great latitude in choosing their music. But many of them took their cues from Hopper because of her impeccable radio instincts. "She was the most talented programmer I've ever known," Amy Airheart said. "She was really good at the musical segue. I learned how to segue from one song to another, paying attention to the themes, from Laura" Bill Goldsmith now runs Radio Paradise, a pioneering Internet-only station inspired by his work at KPIG. He said that Hopper was guided by a stubborn adherence to an ideal. "To her, nothing was more important than the music and treating the music and her listeners with a certain amount of respect. And that's unheard of in the radio business today," Goldsmith said. "There was no such thing as Laura playing your music because she was your friend," said Gail Korich. "It had to live on its merits"

UN Leadership - Global Warming causes almost every problem

The new Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has already descended to causing harm by his foolishness. He says it is your fault - YOURS. You caused human slavery in Darfur Sudan. Aid workers are having their vehicles carjacked and are being abducted. Reuters Sudan: The Passion of the Present has lots of information in the situation. From Breitbart:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the slaughter in Darfur was triggered by global climate change and that more such conflicts may be on the horizon, in an article published Saturday. "The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change," Ban said in a Washington Post opinion column. UN statistics showed that rainfall declined some 40 percent over the past two decades, he said, as a rise in Indian Ocean temperatures disrupted monsoons. "This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming," the South Korean diplomat wrote. "It is no accident that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought," Ban said in the Washington daily. When Darfur's land was rich, he said, black farmers welcomed Arab herders and shared their water, he said. With the drought, however, farmers fenced in their land to prevent overgrazing. "For the first time in memory, there was no longer enough food and water for all. Fighting broke out," he said.
Ban is wrong. Darfur isn't farmers fighting over fence lines. The Muslims are practicing human slavery; they kidnap people into slavery. They attack villages, killing all the men and boys, raping the women and burning all dwellings. They are not looking for land to farm. If this is how Ban starts how can we take him seriously?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dining out - Outside

Dining outside in Seattle Seattle Times Two highlights - Chinook's at Salmon Bay
1900 W. Nickerson St., Seattle (206-283-4665 or www.anthonys.com). Lunch Mondays-Fridays, dinner nightly (beginning at 1:30 p.m. Sundays), brunch Saturdays-Sundays. All hands on (the) deck! The vessel-filled view of Fisherman's Terminal will keep the small fries busy with their fish 'n' chips while you knock back a beer and some oysters.
St. Clouds
1131 34th Ave., Seattle (206-726-1522, www.stclouds.com). Dinner nightly, brunch Saturdays-Sundays.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham

A great woman passed away Thursday - Ruth Bell Graham - wife of evangelist Billy Graham.
Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, died Thursday at her home at Little Piney Cove in Montreat, North Carolina. She was 87. She was born to missionary parents in Tsingkiang, China, in 1920, where she was raised in staunch Presbyterian piety, with daily doses of private and family devotions and being expected to memorize large portions of the Bible. Her high school years were spent in a boarding school in Pyongyang (now North Korea).
Christianity Today

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Continue trade - jobs in Ecuador and Bolivia

The US Senate is considering extending trade agreements with Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. The trade agreements increase trade in both directions and cause the employment of thousands in their home country in South America. Senator Grassley has a concern and a valid one. Ecuador stole the property of Occidental Petroleu; they accepted development of oil but then canceled the contract. We have to make it clear that that is not acceptable. So let's make it a two-way street. Ecuador can have the trade agreement it desparately wants if it honors its contract with Occidental. Grassley's complaint against Bolivia is that its government is anti-American and antitrade. NASDAQ:
"In fact, it boggles my mind that the governments of Ecuador and Bolivia would even ask us for extensions of these trade preferences," Grassley said. "After all, the leaders of those two countries have based their careers on attacking U.S. policies - our trade policies in particular."
The Hill covers the story.
Ecuador Foreign Minister Maria Espinosa met last week with House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), both of whom support extending the preferences. Rangel has introduced legislation extending the preferences for two years with all four Andean nations — Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru — but it is not certain whether this legislation could move forward in the Senate, given the opposition from Grassley.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mr. Gorbachov, Tear down this wall

Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of a major American shot in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Speaking in Berlin, President Reagan said:
There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Some say it was a prediction. I say it was a shot at the Soviet leader who fenced his people in. I had forgotten one bit of history. in 1982 President Reagan took a few steps across the line of the Iron Curtain, enraging the Soviets. Great! John Fund has more at the Wall Street Journal (free link). -- And a new memorial will be dedicated Tuesday to the Victims of Communism in DC two blocks from Union Station.

Freeman Dyson say it's not Global Warming

Freeman Dyson is a very prominent physics professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, now retired.
His most useful contribution to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga. Cornell University made him a professor without bothering about his lack of Ph.D. He subsequently worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied.
Classical Values links to two videos of him speaking about global warming: He starts out in the first video talking about vegetation. He says you can't do good science without good data. He notes that the data on vegetation is sparse (as in almost totally non-existant). The money went into computer models instead of data gathering. It figures. Computers are sexy. Electronic wind vanes and anemometers are not. He also notes that the carbon in vegetation dwarfs the carbon in the atmosphere. In the second video he says the real problem is not CO2 induced global warming, but CO2 induced stratosphere cooling which may lead to bigger ozone holes. He ends with the fact that the lowest cost way to control CO2 in the atmosphere is not by controlling energy production and use, but by planting or cutting down plants. He suggests more irrigation. For that we are going to need cheap fresh water. And a source of fresh water: the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Geyser site in Russia buried - mostly

One of the few sites in the world with geysers and surface thermal effects was buried in a landslide this week - Valley of Geysers on the Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Russia - 54°26' N, 160° 8' E. The only other sites are in Iceland, Chile, New Zealand and the big one - Yellowstone NP in the US. National Geographic
In Kamchatka more than 20 large jets and 200 smaller thermal springs punch through Earth's crust in a 2.7-square-mile (7-square-kilometer) area. "We've lost one of the great natural wonders of the world," Laura Williams, director of WWF Russia's Kamchatka office, said in a statement. The landslide was likely caused by an earthquake, as Kamchatka is located on the tectonically unstable "Ring of Fire" circling the Pacific Ocean, said Margaret Williams of WWF's Alaska office. Much of the peninsula, including the Valley of the Geysers, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the presence of almost a hundred volcanoes. Unless the new river blockage is breached, the area will probably turn into a large heated lake....
Update 6/11/07: Wikipedia reports that the largest geyser, Velikan (Giant) Geyser, was not buried and been seen erupting. Johnson's archive Geyser and Yellowstone Resources is excellent.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Suffering due to Rachel Carson's bad science

John Tierney now does science writing for the New York Times. This week he takes a look at the huge damage done 50 years ago by Rachel Carson and her Silent Spring.

Fateful Voice of a Generation Still Drowns Out Real Science

For Rachel Carson admirers, it has not been a silent spring. They’ve been celebrating the centennial of her birthday with paeans to her saintliness. A new generation is reading her book in school — and mostly learning the wrong lesson from it. If students are going to read “Silent Spring” in science classes, I wish it were paired with another work from that same year, 1962, titled “Chemicals and Pests.” It was a review of “Silent Spring” in the journal Science written by I. L. Baldwin, a professor of agricultural bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin. He didn’t have Ms. Carson’s literary flair, but his science has held up much better. He didn’t make Ms. Carson’s fundamental mistake, which is evident in the opening sentence of her book: “There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings,” she wrote, extolling the peace that had reigned “since the first settlers raised their houses.” Lately, though, a “strange blight” had cast an “evil spell” that killed the flora and fauna, sickened humans and “silenced the rebirth of new life.” This “Fable for Tomorrow,” as she called it, set the tone for the hodgepodge of science and junk science in the rest of the book. Nature was good; traditional agriculture was all right; modern pesticides were an unprecedented evil. It was a Disneyfied version of Eden. Ms. Carson used dubious statistics and anecdotes (like the improbable story of a woman who instantly developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT) to warn of a cancer epidemic that never came to pass. She rightly noted threats to some birds, like eagles and other raptors, but she wildly imagined a mass “biocide.” She warned that one of the most common American birds, the robin, was “on the verge of extinction” — an especially odd claim given the large numbers of robins recorded in Audubon bird counts before her book. Ms. Carson’s many defenders, ecologists as well as other scientists, often excuse her errors by pointing to the primitive state of environmental and cancer research in her day. They argue that she got the big picture right: without her passion and pioneering work, people wouldn’t have recognized the perils of pesticides. But those arguments are hard to square with Dr. Baldwin’s review.... Further Reading "Chemicals and Pests." I.L. Baldwin. Science, Sept. 28, 1962. "Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists and Activists Celebrate the Writings of Rachel Carson." Edited by Peter Matthiessen. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. "Suffering in Silence." Katherine Mangu-Ward. Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2007. "Eco-Freaks." John Berlau. Nelson Current, 2006. "What A Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring." Priscilla Coit Murphy. University of Massachusetts Press, 2005 "What the World Needs Now Is DDT." Tina Rosenberg. New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2004. "Silent Spring at 40." Ronald Bailey. Reason, June 12, 2002. "Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet." National Academy of Sciences, 1996. "A Moment on the Earth." Gregg Easterbrook. Penguin, 1995. "100 things you should know about DDT." J. Gordon Edwards and Steven Milloy. JunkScience.com.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vote suppression - insider tales

Democratic operative Bob Shrum is known as 0 for 8 for his record of no success in presidential bids. He has a recent book No Excuses. In it he tell of two cases he knows of intentional suppressing votes in 1980 and 2000. Via Politico with page numbers:
Shrum relates how l980 [Ted] Kennedy campaign operatives, posing as officials of the National Weather Service, phoned in to radio stations fake reports of a weather emergency to depress the Carter vote in southern Ohio. (No Excuses p. 113-114). Twenty years later, with the full support of the candidate, Gore campaign operatives manufactured traffic jams to obstruct the Bradley vote in southern New Hampshire. (Id. p. 324.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fred Thompson has a question for Michael Moore

Fred asks Moore if he asked about a documentary film maker while he has in Cuba. Castro doesn't allow publishing the facts and opinions about his miserable country and the Cuban filmmaker was punished for it. Nicolás Guillén Landrián Video at YouTube: Read Thompson's column on this at Pajamas Media.
If Moore wants a subject for a real documentary, I would suggest looking into the life of Cuban painter and award-winning documentarian Nicolás Guillén Landrián. He was denied the right to practice his art for using the Beatles’ song, “The Fool on the Hill,” as background music behind footage of Castro climbing a mountain. Later, he was given plenty of free Cuban health care when he was confined for years in a “mental institution” and given devastating, repeated electroshock “treatments.”

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Hiding projects from voters

The Democratics are already breaking their new rules. They promised increased visibility and honesty; those are the rules they are breaking. Surprised? New York Post reports:
Democrats are sidestepping rules approved their first day in power in January to clearly identify "earmarks" - lawmakers' requests for specific projects and contracts for their states. Rather than including specific pet projects, grants and contracts in legislation as it is being written, Democrats are following an order by the House Appropriations Committee chairman to keep the bills free of such earmarks until it is too late for critics to effectively challenge them. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., says those requests for dams, community grants and research contracts for favored universities or hospitals will be added to spending measures in the fall.
Surely they can explain why they are breaking their promises.
Obey insists he is reluctantly taking the step because Appropriations Committee members and staff have not had enough time to fully review the 36,000 earmark requests that have flooded the committee. What Obey is doing runs counter to new rules that Democrats promised would make such spending decisions more open.
Obey is breaking the rules and knows it.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Chavez closes popular TV station - Now on YouTube

Hugo Chavez followed through and closed popular Radio Caracas TV. See Venezuela dictator Chavez goes too far. Fox News had a reporter there when police repeatedly tear gassed protesters.
A top opponent of President Hugo Chavez demanded the release of jailed protesters Wednesday as university students poured into the streets for a third day to protest the removal of a leading opposition TV station from the air.
But RCTV is available online. President-for-life Chavez can keep it off the air, but can't keep it from broadcasting on the internet! Story: Hot Air Direct link at YouTube