Archive for June, 2013


The evolution of liberal thought

June 30, 2013

Cato has an interesting set of audio clips about “The Ideas of Liberty” which is available here.

There are 12 topics presented in 15 clips that you can download (MP3) or listen to at their site. There’s no fee – it’s available free.

Home Study Course

When was the last time you were truly energized by ideas? In our WiFi, high def, high res, compressed digital, podcast and video clip era of 24-hour news channels and sound bites – how can you gain calm perspective and thoughtful understanding? Whatever happened to real thinking?

For that, you can turn to the Cato Home Study Course. It offers you the opportunity to deepen your perspectives, knowledge, and insight through exposure to some of the world’s most compelling thinkers. The growth of human freedom – and with it science, culture, and capitalist prosperity – are examined, explained, and clarified through the works and ideas of some of our civilization’s most brilliant thinkers. Mastering their ideas can make you a more effective advocate of freedom, a more informed and interesting member of your community, and someone more people will turn to for guidance and insights. […]

The 12 Home Study Course programs are:

  • The Ideas of Liberty
  • John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government
  • Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence
  • Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (part 1)
  • Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (part 2)
  • The Constitution of the United States of America
  • The Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments to the Constitution
  • John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator
  • The Achievement of 19th Century Classical Liberalism
  • The “Austrian” Case for the Free Market
  • The Modern Quest for Liberty

100 things John hates

June 30, 2013

John Stossel posted the list below at Twitter with the comment:

Sorry I am not yet furious about NSA surveillance. I AM furious about much of what gov’t does:

Follow the link or click the image below to read John’s list.



Sometimes you need to be contrary

June 29, 2013

As James Scott describes in Anarchist Calisthenics.



June 29, 2013

A little programming humor I found at imgur. (Click for larger, more legible view.)



AGW and CFCs

June 29, 2013

Here’s an interesting theory about the causes of AGW (anthropogenic global warming). It could lead to a lot of very interesting debate about the role of ‘consensus’ in science if it turned out to be correct.

I’m taking it with the usual Correlation-Is-Not-Causation grain of salt for now. But RTWT and decide for yourself.

Global Warming Caused by CFCs, Not Carbon Dioxide, Researcher Claims in Controversial Study

May 30, 2013 — Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are to blame for global warming since the 1970s and not carbon dioxide, according to a researcher from the University of Waterloo in a controversial new study published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B this week. […]

“Conventional thinking says that the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide has mainly contributed to global warming. But we have observed data going back to the Industrial Revolution that convincingly shows that conventional understanding is wrong,” said Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry in Waterloo’s Faculty of Science. “In fact, the data shows that CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays caused both the polar ozone hole and global warming.”

“Most conventional theories expect that global temperatures will continue to increase as CO2 levels continue to rise, as they have done since 1850. What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined — matching a decline in CFCs in the atmosphere,” Professor Lu said. “My calculations of CFC greenhouse effect show that there was global warming by about 0.6 °C from 1950 to 2002, but the earth has actually cooled since 2002. The cooling trend is set to continue for the next 50-70 years as the amount of CFCs in the atmosphere continues to decline.”



What a lab test

June 29, 2013

Interesting news via The Register about a very long-term trial run for a piece of equipment.

NASA to flip ion engine’s ‘OFF’ switch after brilliant 5.5 year burn

NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT), an ion-propulsion engine that has been firing continuously for five and one-half years, is due to be shut down at the end of this month.

“We will voluntarily terminate this test at the end of this month, with the thruster fully operational,” said NEXT’s principal investigator Michael Patterson in a statement. “Life and performance have exceeded the requirements for any anticipated science mission.”

Considering that the NEXT thruster has run steadily for over 48,000 hours, we would say that Patterson and his team have contributed mightily to NASA’s reputation of building devices with life spans that exceed expectations. The Martian mini-rover Opportunity, for one excellent example, was originally designed for a 90-day mission, but celebrated its ninth anniversary this January and set a new NASA distance record in May.



June 26, 2013

iPencil is a very good article by Kevin Williamson, taking off on Leonard Read’s essay I, Pencil.

It’s difficult to excerpt since it makes so many good points, so RTWT. I liked this ‘graph but there are several others I liked just as well.

When I am speaking to students, I like to show them a still from the Oliver Stone movie Wall Street in which the masterful financier Gordon Gekko is talking on his cell phone, a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. The students always — always — laugh: The ridiculous thing is more than a foot long and weighs a couple of pounds. But the revelatory fact that takes a while to sink in is this: You had to be a millionaire to have one. The phone cost the equivalent of nearly $10,000, it cost about $1,000 a month to operate, and you couldn’t text or play Angry Birds on it. When the first DynaTac showed up in a movie — it was Sixteen Candles, a few years before Wall Street — it was located in the front seat of a Rolls-Royce, which is where such things were found 25 or 30 years ago. By comparison, an iPhone 5 is a wonder, a commonplace miracle. My question for the students is: How is it that the cell phones in your pockets get better and cheaper every year, but your schools get more expensive and less effective? (Or, if you live in one of the better school districts, get much more expensive and stagnate?) How is it that Gordon Gekko’s ultimate status symbol looks to our eyes as ridiculous as Molly Ringwald’s Reagan-era wardrobe and asymmetrical hairdos? That didn’t just happen.


Dark humor

June 25, 2013

Res ipsa loquitur

June 25, 2013

I’ve often thought that citizenship should require an examination, like the one immigrants are required to pass. But if we can’t have that, at least we ought to make people running for office pass an exam on the Constitution.

From The Agitator.

When Congress Voted Down The Fourth Amendment

Earlier this month [May, 2013 – JHC], President Obama nominated North Carolina Rep. Mel Watt to head up the Federal Housing Finance Authority. Here’s a fun little nugget about Watt that has little relevance to the job he’s seeking, but has lots of relevance to the current debates over leaks, press investigations, wiretapping, and such:

Back in early 1995, the new Republican majority set out on its “limited government” agenda with a bill to chip away at the Exclusionary Rule, the policy that says evidence found in the course of an illegal search can’t be used against the suspect at trial. (Though there are some exceptions.) During the debate, Watt introduced the following amendment to the bill:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That of course is the exact language of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The House killed Watt’s amendment by nearly a 3-1 margin.


Show us yer e-mails!

June 19, 2013

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe Asks Senator Lindsey Graham for His Email Password

Washington, DC- At a press conference today, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe addressed the growing list of civil liberties violations that have surfaced in recent weeks, and extended an open invitation to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to walk the walk implied by his casual dismissal of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. If he has “nothing to worry about,” he should be willing to publicly release his email password. The petition can be found at

In a Fox and Friends interview last Thursday, Senator Graham defended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless surveillance of American civilians, telling the show’s hosts, “I don’t think you’re talking to the terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So we don’t have anything to worry about.” Senator Graham then went one step further, concluding that he was “glad” the warrantless surveillance activity was happening in the NSA.

Kibbe commented […] “Respectfully, Senator, we ask you to lead by example and make your email account password available to the American people. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about. Right?”



June 19, 2013

H.T. Jeff G


However beautiful the strategy

June 7, 2013

said Churchill, “you should occasionally look at the results.”

Via Coyote blog, some results-checking of climate models by Roy Spencer. Click the image for a larger (readable) view.

Dr. Roy Spencer has compared the output of 73 climate models to actual recent temperature measurements. He has focused on temperatures in the mid-troposphere in the tropics — this is not the same as global surface temperatures but is of course related. The reason for this focus is 1) we have some good space-based data sources for temperatures in this region that don’t suffer the same biases and limitations as surface thermometers and 2) This is the zone that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory says should be seeing the most warming, due to positive feedback effects of water vapor. The lines are the model results for temperatures, the dots are the actuals.



Back to basics

June 2, 2013

You’d think the lessons from letting governments mismanage economies would be apparent to people by now and that they wouldn’t let their governments try that. But you’d be wrong.

Hope springs eternal in the socialist breast, to paraphrase Pope. (I’ll be charitable and call it hope, though blind faith is a better description.)

This article’s from The Guardian.

Venezuela hopes to wipe out toilet paper shortage by importing 50m rolls

First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities – toilet paper.

Blaming political opponents for the shortfall, as it does for other shortages, the government says it will import 50m rolls to boost supplies.

That was little comfort to consumers struggling to find toilet paper on Wednesday.

“This is the last straw,” said Manuel Fagundes, a shopper hunting for tissue in Caracas. “I’m 71 years old and this is the first time I’ve seen this.”

One supermarket visited by the Associated Press in the capital on Wednesday was out of toilet paper. Another had just received a fresh batch, and it quickly filled up with shoppers as the word spread.

“I’ve been looking for it for two weeks,” said Cristina Ramos. “I was told that they had some here and now I’m in line.”

Economists say Venezuela’s shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government’s controls on foreign currency.

“State-controlled prices – prices that are set below market-clearing price – always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union,” said Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.

I found the idea of blaming political opponents for the shortage particularly funny. There’s a toilet paper conspiracy in Venezuela? Heh.

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