Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mars is warming - not my fault

How could people on Earth cause Mars to be warming? it is:
Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake. Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period. Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena. The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, to be different from that on Earth. One of the researchers, Lori Fenton, believes variations in radiation and temperature across the surface of the Red Planet are generating strong winds.
From the Times (UK). How about activity of the Sun? This short article doesn't say if they checked.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Overweight due to Farm Subsidies

Today low income people are more likely to be overweight than under. Hunger may be a problem some times and places, but there are no thin people to show for it. Why are the poor heavy? I have observed it and wondered. Adam Drewnowski of the University of Washington figured it out. The US farm subsidies underwrite five high-volume commodities, three of which which tend to carbohydrates and fats, not healthy vegetables. And we get what we taxpayers are stuck paying for. Go into the store and shop for calories while watching your money. Junk snacks and pop - soda drinks - you will load up on. Not vegetables - much more expensive for the calories. The New York Times has the story:
As a rule, processed foods are more “energy dense” than fresh foods: they contain less water and fiber but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening. These particular calories also happen to be the least healthful ones in the marketplace, which is why we call the foods that contain them “junk.” Drewnowski concluded that the rules of the food game in America are organized in such a way that if you are eating on a budget, the most rational economic strategy is to eat badly — and get fat. This perverse state of affairs is not, as you might think, the inevitable result of the free market.... For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation, which comes around roughly every five years and is about to do so again, sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system. Among other things, it determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat — three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy. That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Carbon indulgences - Sin and pay

Sin and buy your way out. That's what Albert Gore, Jr. is doing. He is not conserving; he is buying his way out of guilt. Financial Times - Industry Caught in Smokescreen:
Companies and individuals rushing to go green have been spending millions on “carbon credit” projects that yield few if any environmental benefits. A Financial Times investigation has uncovered widespread failings in the new markets for greenhouse gases, suggesting some organisations are paying for emissions reductions that do not take place. Others are meanwhile making big profits from carbon trading for very small expenditure and in some cases for clean-ups that they would have made anyway.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Muslim leader for democracy and Israel - Wahid of Indonesia

Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters. Suppose this, and you might feel as if you've descended into Neocon Neverland. In fact, you have arrived in Jakarta and are sitting in the small office of an almost totally blind man of 66 named Abdurrahman Wahid. A former president of Indonesia, he is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. Bret Stephens at Wall Street Journal explains
Indonesians know him universally as Gus Dur, a title of affection and respect for this descendant of Javanese kings. In the U.S. and Europe he is barely spoken of at all--which is both odd and unfortunate, seeing as he is easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism. ... What really concerns Mr. Wahid is what he sees as the increasingly degraded state of the Muslim mind. That problem is becoming especially acute at Indonesian universities and in the pesantren--the religious boarding schools that graduate hundreds of thousands of students every year. "We are experiencing the shallowing of religion," he says, bemoaning the fact that the boarding schools persist in teaching "conventional"--that word again--Islam. But Mr. Wahid's critique is not just of formal Islamic education. He also attacks the West's philosophy of positivism, which, he says, "relies too much on the idea of conquering knowledge and mastering scientific principles alone." This purely empirical and essentially soulless view of things, broadly adopted by Indonesia's secular state universities, gives its students a bleak choice: "Either they follow the process or they are outside the process."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bible publishers killed in Turkey

"The Religion of Peace" - NOT Christians were killed in Turkey because they were publishing the Bible in Malatya in the southeast part of Turkey. News 24:
Attackers on Wednesday slit the throats of three people in a Turkish publishing house that printed Bibles, the latest attack on minorities in mainly Muslim Turkey, said officials The victims were found with their hands and feet bound, said governor Halil Ibrahim Dasoz. He said one of the victims may have been German, but the embassy could not confirm it. Four people were detained in connection with the attack in the southeastern city of Malatya, said the governor. The killings come as political tensions rise between the powerful secular elite, including army generals and judges, and the religious minded AK Party government over next month's presidential elections.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hong Kong still leads the world

Hong Kong after almost 10 years as part of China still is the most economically free country in the world. Despite no natural resources, Hong Kong has $33,500 per capita income -- 8th in the world. We didn't expect it. The new American magazine:
A decade ago this summer, as Britain transferred its prize colony to Chinese control, the gloom about Hong Kong’s future was thick and pervasive. Robert Burns, a trade consultant with McKeon-Burns international associates, was a typical mourner. “I don’t think the Chinese bureaucracy can resist the impulse to screw it up,” he said at the time. “In a few years you’ll have an isolated Vatican City on the island of Victoria.”
China didn't crack down and put Hong Kong under its heel, which we all expected.
Hong Kong has been immune to major meddling because Chinese officials realize it’s the engine for much of China’s explosive growth. But Hong Kong is also expanding into a world financial center in its own right. In 2006, it was the number-one market for stock offerings worldwide. While enthusiasm for Shanghai—the apple of the Beijing regime’s eye—is high among foreign business leaders, it is still Hong Kong that’s leading China.
... The secret of Hong Kong’s success isn’t hard to find. It’s economic freedom, and everywhere a visitor is struck by how much of it there is. Red tape is almost unknown; registering a company requires only a one-page form. “A businessman can walk off a plane in the morning and start operating a firm in the afternoon,” reports The Economist. As it has every year since the ratings system began, Hong Kong ranks first, by a wide margin, on the 2007 Index of Economic Freedom compiled by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. The United States is fourth; Canada, tenth; France, 45th; China, 119th. Since the 1997 handover, Hong Kong’s score has stayed steady. “Hong Kong remains a model of economic freedom,” said the 2006 Index. “It is a free port with no barriers to trade; has simple procedures for starting enterprises, free entry of foreign capital and repatriation of earnings, and transparency; and operates under the rule of law.”
Freedom causes prosperity!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nixon changed history

Thomas P M Barnett has earned my respect an analyst of the world. He says that President Richard Nixon is the one who caused the end of the cold war by opening up both the Soviet Union and China for trade. Reagan gets credit for mopping up, but Nixon, he says, caused the end. Russia was isolated with its own sphere of slave countries. No one could place a value on anything in the Soviet economy, because there was no exchange, so no comparison could be made. Once trade began, the people of Russia could see that the West was producing goods with quality and value. Then the comparisons began and the Soviet empire was shown to be impoverished. Indeed, Reagan's success by running the Soviet economy into the ground with the "Star Wars" arms race depended on Nixon also. He won when Gorbachov saw the Soviet Union could not afford to stay in the race. But, again, no comparison could be made without trade establishing comparative values. Barnett's column in the Knoxville News:
Even more important than setting the Cold War's trajectory toward our successful outcome, Nixon's opening up of China enabled that giant's eventual emergence as globalization's prime agent of economic change in the 21st century. Here, Nixon deserves serious credit as a formative influence on today's amazingly robust global economy, for without China's rise under Deng Xiaoping, globalization as we know it would not have been possible.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rachel Carson - Millions Dead due to Malaria

Rachel Carson caused millions of deaths by her nonscience in "Silent Spring" a few decades ago. She sowed fear that DDT and other pesticides would cause the end of life as we know it. She was wrong. Dennis Avery reports at Canada Free Press:
If Rachel Carson were still alive, April 12 would have been her 100th birthday. All over the Western World well-meaning, but misguided, souls marked that day with choruses of praise for the woman who almost singly-handed created the modern environmental movement. Her book, Silent Spring, warned us that man-made pesticides would kill our kids with cancer and eliminate our wild birds. Since Silent Spring was published, of course, massive testing has documented that synthetic pesticides are no cancer threat to humans. Dr. Bruce Ames, who received the National Science Medal from President Clinton, has found that 99.999 percent of the cancer risks in our food supply come from natural pesticides which Nature has put in the fruits and vegetables to ward off the pervasive insects, fungi and diseases. Even so, the one-fourth of our population which eats the most fruits and vegetables has half the cancer risk of those who eat the least produce. So much for the toxicity of pesticide traces. Rachel Carson’s major impact on the planet has been to discourage the use of a safe, cheap pesticide called DDT to suppress disease-bearing mosquitoes. North America and Europe used DDT to eradicate malaria. After our children were safe, we told the Third World not to use it because it might harm their bird populations.
Bald Eagles DDT is continually blamed for reducing the number of bald eagles to a small fraction; that eagles came back when DDT was banned. Wrong. There was a bounty on the eagles!!
...fewer than 100 eagles counted per year from 1900 to about 1940 in the inhabited regions of the United States. Farmers, hunters, and fishermen shot and poisoned our national bird because it competed for fish—and occasionally lambs and calves. The government even paid a bounty for the dead birds. Fortunately, for us and the eagles, the Bald Eagle Protection Act was passed in 1940, and the bounties ended. This began a slow but eventually spectacular surge in eagle numbers. DDT was not used in North America until 1946; by 1972, when DDT lost its registration, the annual Christmas bird count was up nearly 3000 eagles. In recent years, Audubon has counted as many as 16,000 eagles per year.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Duke or Rutgers?

Would you send your son or daughter to prestigious Duke University in North Carolina OR Rutgers the public State University of New Jersey? When Duke lacrosse players were accused of rape the university faculty raised up as one to condemn the entire team. The president of the university cancelled their season - punishing every member of the team, not just the accussed. Then he fired the coach. Did President Richard H. Brodhead presume the accused were innocent until proven guilty? Now he says so. But all along he has left them to hang. On the other hand, when the Rutgers women's basketball team were called cheap names by Don Imus, the university stood by them. I choose the public university Rutgers, not the "Ivy League of the South" Duke.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes

"...the only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes." Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is writing in Newsweek magazine. The alarmism we are hearing constantly is based on the misunderstanding that the climate would be fixed, never changing, if we humans weren't messing it up.
Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe. What most commentators—and many scientists—seem to miss is that the only thing we can say with certainly about climate is that it changes. The earth is always warming or cooling by as much as a few tenths of a degree a year; periods of constant average temperatures are rare. Looking back on the earth's climate history, it's apparent that there's no such thing as an optimal temperature—a climate at which everything is just right. The current alarm rests on the false assumption not only that we live in a perfect world, temperature-wise, but also that our warming forecasts for the year 2040 are somehow more reliable than the weatherman's forecast for next week.
And should we welcome warming?
A warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now. Much of the alarm over climate change is based on ignorance of what is normal for weather and climate. There is no evidence, for instance, that extreme weather events are increasing in any systematic way, according to scientists at the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the World Meteorological Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which released the second part of this year's report earlier this month). Indeed, meteorological theory holds that, outside the tropics, weather in a warming world should be less variable, which might be a good thing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Global Warming Fraud - Polar Bears

Albert Gore, Jr. shows polar bears drowning. And it's your fault. You caused global warming that killed the innocent bears, according to Goracle. But it's not true. And the photo shown around the world as portraying polar bears endangered is misrepresented, according to the photographer. It was printed in the Sunday Telegraph (UK), It made it onto the front page of the New York Times. And the International Herald Tribune. It also ran in London's Daily Mail, The Times of London and Canada's Ottawa Citizen - and that's just to name a few. Newsbusters collected the facts, the lies, and the conveniently misunderstood.
It turns out -- as NewBuster Jake Gontesky reported on March 20 -- the picture was taken in August, “when every year the fringes of the Arctic ice cap melt regardless of the wider effects of global warming.” The photographer, Australian marine biology student Amanda Byrd, didn’t think the bears were in any jeopardy: They did not appear to be in danger…I did not see the bears get on the ice, and I did not see them get off. I cannot say either way if they were stranded or not. Denis Simard of Environment Canada agreed: You have to keep in mind that the bears are not in danger at all. This is a perfect picture for climate change…you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die...But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim...They are still alive and having fun.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cost of classical music rising - always

The cost of producing classical music - live or recorded is rising and always will. It's basic economics called "Baumol's cost disease." In most areas of the economy productivity is rising due to better management methods and improved technology. This lowers costs. Improved productivity also raises pay. (Don't oppose increased productivity, because you will be opposing the pay raise you expect.) And increased pay puts us ahead. Our pay increases faster than the cost of living, so we can and do live better than we did 20 years ago. But this is bad news for areas that can't use technology to increase productivity. The typical pay goes up throughout the economy. But the classical music "industry" has to pay people also and they have to compete for them it requires paying more each year as the typical pay goes up. This is called the Baumol cost disease because it is unavoidable. Costs are going up and will continue to. It's like gravity: you can't outlaw it. Another way to look at it: Increased technology and productivity in manufacturing cause the amount of labor to reduce, which reduces costs. But the amount of labor to produce Carl Orff's Carmina Burana can't be reduced. Read more on this at Via James Glassman's excellent new magazine The

Nancy Pelosi's foolish shuttle diplomacy

That's the headline by the Washington Post - her top cheerleader.
HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered an excellent demonstration yesterday of why members of Congress should not attempt to supplant the secretary of state when traveling abroad. After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria. What's more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to "resume the peace process" as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria," she said. Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message.
Statement from the Prime Minister of Israel's office:
The Prime Minister's Office issued a rare "clarification" Wednesday that, in gentle diplomatic terms, contradicted US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's statement in Damascus that she had brought a message from Israel about a willingness to engage in peace talks. According to the statement, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emphasized in his meeting with Pelosi on Sunday that "although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the Axis of Evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East." Olmert, the statement clarified, told Pelosi that Syria's sincerity about a genuine peace with Israel would be judged by its willingness to "cease its support of terror..."
Nancy, respectfully, there is a reason why the foreign policy of the United States is entrusted to the President and no one else. The US has one foreign policy. You are causing damage - clearly. You have a large job to fill in the US House of Representatives; don't try to do the job given the President in our Constitution.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Early Daylight Savings - Waste of Effort

We got nothing for the bother of starting daylight savings time 3 weeks early. A waste. The US Senate promised us that it would save energy. Why were they so sure? I had no idea. The power companies have the data, from Reuters:
We haven't seen any measurable impact," said Jason Cuevas, spokesman for Southern Co., one of the nation's largest power companies, echoing comments from several large utilities. ... For example, households may draw less electricity for lights at night, but will use more power in the early in the day as they wake to darker and chillier mornings.
My philosophy is "if you want to get up early, go ahead, get up! You don't need senator Patty Busybody to give you permission." Some people can go to work early; some can't. If you can't, then get up early and enjoy theher with it. That's my way. Via Techdirt.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Senator Feinstein finally caught on conflict

Senator Diane Feinstein stepped down as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Military Construction Appropriations last week. Did she depart because of her conflict of interest with her husband's business? She won't say.
Feinstein's press office was contacted several times Friday by Cybercast News Service, but her office did not provide a statement on the matter at the end of the day.
We covered her conflict of interest on January 27. For several years she oversaw hearings involving her husband for about $1,000,000,000 per year. Tell us, Di Fi, why did you step down?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mitigating effects of global warming

Our choices are more than sit and suffer or let Albert Gore, Jr. shut down industry and force us into poverty. The earth is warming out of the last ice age, so it's not your fault. The effects include the sea level rising and shifting where rain falls. So let's think of what we can do about it. We can raise existing bulkheads and build new ones. It costs, but it doesn't put Gore in charge. We can install desalination plants where there will be less rainfall. Bjorn Lomborg in the Skeptical Environmentalist estimates the costs of avoiding the effects by such construction projects. Off the top of my head, his estimate is large in dollars, but tiny as a fraction of the world's economy. And, again, it does not require impoverishing everyone but AlGore' family. Today's New York Times recognizes that we can mitigate global warming:
Cities in Texas, California and Australia are already building or planning desalination plants, for example. And federal studies have shown that desalination can work far from the sea, purifying water from brackish aquifers deep in the ground in places like New Mexico.
[Henry I.] Mr. Miller, of the Hoover Institution, said the world should focus less on trying to rapidly cut greenhouse gases and more on helping regions at risk become more resilient. .... There are some hints that wealthier countries are beginning to shift their focus toward fostering adaptation to warming outside their own borders. Relief organizations including Oxfam and the International Red Cross, foreseeing a world of worsening climate-driven disasters, are turning some of their attention toward projects like expanding mangrove forests as a buffer against storm surges, planting trees on slopes to prevent landslides, or building shelters on high ground. Some officials from the United States, Britain and Japan say foreign-aid spending can be directed at easing the risks from climate change. The United States, for example, has promoted its three-year-old Millennium Challenge Corporation as a source of financing for projects in poor countries that will foster resilience. It has just begun to consider environmental benefits of projects, officials say.
Of course the NYT can't tell it straight; they have to make this another "evil whilte males" story. Update: Henry Miller at Hoover Institute has looked at the options for mitigating global warming. But his article is based on an article in Nature Magazine 2/8/2007 by Roger Pielke of University of Colorado - in PDF form. They explain that mitigating, that is, adapting for global warming overlaps with other sources of problems. But one big problem is that policy makers are so focused on CO2 that they ignore much larger problems.
For example, in the Philippines, policy-makers have begun to acknowledge the flood threats posed by the gradual sea-level rise of 1 to 3 millimetres per year, projected to occur with climate change. At the same time, they remain oblivious to, or ignore, the main reason for increasing flood risk: excessive ground-water extraction, which is lowering the land surface by several centimetres to more than a decimetre (4 inches) per year. As with Katrina, the political obsession with the idea that climate risks can be reduced by cutting emissions distracts attention from the more important factors that drive flood risks.