Archive for October, 2015


Nothing’s certain but uncertainty

October 31, 2015

Here’s an entertaining column by Mark Steyn about climate change and some reactions to his new book “A Disgrace To The Profession,” which is about what other climate scientists think of Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph of temperatures.

The defamation suit against Steyn by Michael Mann, inventor of the global-warming “hockey stick”, is about to enter its fourth year at the DC Superior Court.

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Nine years ago self-proclaimed “climate hawk” David Roberts was contemplating Nuremberg trials for deniers:

When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.

But in his latest piece, at, he’s singing a rather different tune:

Basically, it’s difficult to predict anything, especially regarding sprawling systems like the global economy and atmosphere, because everything depends on everything else. There’s no fixed point of reference.

Now he tells us. […]

Read the whole thing; it’s brief.

Update 11/03/15

More about those uncertainties; here’s an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor.

Antarctica is actually gaining ice, says NASA. Is global warming over?

A new NASA study found that Antarctica has been adding more ice than it’s been losing, challenging other research, including that of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that concludes that Earth’s southern continent is losing land ice overall.

In a paper published in the Journal of Glaciology on Friday, researchers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Maryland in College Park, and the engineering firm Sigma Space Corporation offer a new analysis of satellite data that show a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001 in the Antarctic ice sheet.

That gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008. […]


What I want to know

October 25, 2015

Here’s a pretty grim report about what the Khmer Rouge did to Cambodians.

Wikipedia has this to say about the Khmer Rouge:

The organization is remembered especially for orchestrating the Cambodian genocide, which resulted from the enforcement of its social engineering policies.[1] Its attempts at agricultural reform led to widespread famine, while its insistence on absolute self-sufficiency, even in the supply of medicine, led to the death of thousands from treatable diseases such as malaria. Arbitrary executions and torture carried out by its cadres against perceived subversive elements, or during purges of its own ranks between 1975 and 1978, are considered to have constituted genocide.[2]

It was all the usual communist agrarian nonsense again, as though the world hasn’t seen that tragedy played out enough yet.

The narrator wonders whether Hitler or Pol Pot would have pursued their policies had they witnessed the results first-hand.

But the question that interests me is this: Where do all the eager gunmen and thugs come from? Murderous dictators don’t kill people personally – instead they always have lots of other people who’re ready to kill and torture at their command.

I want to know why there are always so many people willing to do that. Why is there never a lack of people who enable murderous sociopaths by doing their dirty work? Are many of our fellow citizens ready to do the same, given the chance?

Could Hitler have pursued his racial purity nonsense without the assistance of many Germans? Could Stalin have waged his war against the Ukranian kulaks without the active help of a lot of Russians? Could the Kim family have impoverished North Korea in its pursuit of Juche without all the North Koreans who enforce its policies? Could Pol Pot have committed the Cambodian genocide without a group of Cambodians ready to smash babies against trees?

And why do the people never collectively say, "F**k a bunch of this nonsense!"? Are we collectively suicidal?

Sometimes I think humanity deserves to suffer – for its sins against itself.


The world farm report

October 16, 2015

Matt Ridley writes about the (northern hemisphere) harvest season, both globally and on his own piece of land.


This week’s autumn equinox is traditionally the time for the harvest festival. I have just taken a ride on the combine harvester cutting wheat on my farm. It is such a sophisticated threshing machine that long gone are the days when I could be trusted to take the controls during the lunch break. A screen showed how the GPS was steering it, inch-perfect and hands-free, along the edge of the unharvested crop; another screen gave an instant readout of the yield. It was averaging over five tonnes per acre (or 12 tonnes per hectare) — a record. […]

Last week, my fields were yielding 60 or 70 grains (seeds) of wheat for every grain that had been planted a year before. This would astonish our ancestors. A farmer in England in the 1300s was lucky to get four grains for every grain he planted. One of those four had to be saved for next year’s planting, leaving a precarious three to feed not only his own family but the various chiefs, priests and thieves who fed off him.

The truly surprising thing about this bounty is that not only are yields going up and up, in Britain as in the rest of the world, but that the amount of land required to produce that food is going down; and so is the amount of pesticide and fertiliser. Not just in relative terms, but in absolute terms. […]

At Mark Perry’s Carpe Diem blog, he links Ridley’s article and includes this image.

(Paul Ehrlich, please call your office.)

Update 10/22/15
Here’s a related graph which appeared yesterday at Carpe Diem.


I’m not a farmer but I know a few. My guess is that one big factor driving this trend is the adoption of man-made fertilizers after World War II.

One fellow I know, who in his spare time helps his dad farm, told me that his dad recalls the days before anhydrous ammonia became available. Back then the only choice was to fertilize with manure and supplies of that were limited.


Why repeal drug laws?

October 14, 2015

One of the most concise statements I’ve seen recently of anti-prohibitionist arguments.

Being of a practical turn of mind, I can imagine all manner of horror stories from full legalization: parents neglecting their children, people bankrupting their families, victims killed by stoned drivers – or worse, by stoned doctors(!) – all the typical appeals to fear that prohibitionists like to make.

And I’ve seen some tragedies first hand. I once lost a contract employee due to his crystal meth habit. He was fired from the best gig he’d ever had and he ended up serving some time. Luckily he had no children.

But all those evils happen today due to other factors. I had an alcoholic uncle who was found shot dead in an alley. It was a nasty death but I don’t believe he was ever involved with drugs.

More importantly, all those evils happen today due to drug abuse and that’s in spite of the current drug laws.

And others evils happen because of drug laws. Can you say roadside cavity search? What if that happened to one of your relatives or close friends?

So live free or die, even if living free means that some will die from bad habits. Ain’t nobody’s business but their own.

Via Carpe Diem


People without borders

October 13, 2015

Why not? We’ve got Doctors Without Borders, Clowns Without Borders, Teachers Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, and Reporters Without Borders.

So why have borders for anyone, regardless of his or her occupation? That’s the gist of this article by Alex Tabarrok at The Atlantic. (My emphasis below.)

The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely
No defensible moral framework regards foreigners as less deserving of rights than people born in the right place at the right time.

To paraphrase Rousseau, man is born free, yet everywhere he is caged. Barbed-wire, concrete walls, and gun-toting guards confine people to the nation-state of their birth. But why? The argument for open borders is both economic and moral. All people should be free to move about the earth, uncaged by the arbitrary lines known as borders. […]

Even relatively small increases in immigration flows can have enormous benefits. If the developed world were to take in enough immigrants to enlarge its labor force by a mere one percent, it is estimated that the additional economic value created would be worth more to the migrants than all of the world’s official foreign aid combined. Immigration is the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised. […]

Kudos, Mr. Tabarrok. Well said.

And while we’re on the topic of immigration here’s a map of North America before all the illegal immigrants began pouring in (courtesy of Steve F, whose timing was perfect).


I’m still trying to figure out how this works. I mean the part where descendants of some European immigrants on the north side of a river demand that descendants of other European immigrants on the south side stay on the south side of the river. And what makes it especially puzzling is that the northern group was gifted with a statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.

I’m confused.


Know yer rights

October 10, 2015

I don’t know why, but I got a couple of links from Paul B this week related to rights when dealing with police officers in the US. (I hope this doesn’t mean that someone he knows has been busted.)

First he sent a link to this Fifth Amendment Flowchart by Nathaniel Burney. I’d never thought a lot about the topic — I haven’t needed to, luckily — but it surprised me how complicated dealing with the police could get when Miranda warnings and the Fifth Amendment are involved.

Then yesterday Paul sent a link to some podcasts made by folks at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. They’re a surprising resource to find. I hope their legal accuracy is as good as their convenience.

Continuing the 5th Amendment bit, I listened to the podcast titled Self Incrimination Roadmap. Not to take anything away from Mr. Burney’s excellent flowchart but I found the podcast a little easier to follow.


‘Land of the free,’ he reminded himself

October 4, 2015

Paul sends links to two accounts about the mayor of Stockton, CA being detained by Homeland Security.

This account is from SFGate: Stockton mayor was briefly detained on return flight from China.

And here’s another from TechDirt:

Homeland Security Detains Stockton Mayor, Forces Him To Hand Over His Passwords
from the home-of-the-free dept

Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, California, recently went to China for a mayor’s conference. On his return to San Francisco airport he was detained by Homeland Security, and then had his two laptops and his mobile phone confiscated. They refused to show him any sort of warrant (of course) and then refused to let him leave until he agreed to hand over his password:

A few minutes later, DHS agents confiscated all my electronic devices including my personal cell phone. Unfortunately, they were not willing or able to produce a search warrant or any court documents suggesting they had a legal right to take my property. In addition, they were persistent about requiring my passwords for all devices,” Silva said.

Silva was not allowed to leave the airport until he gave his passwords to the agents, which the mayor’s personal attorney, Mark Reichel, claimed is illegal. […]

To some extent what the DHS told him is true. It’s not that unusual, but it’s not that common either. But forcing him to turn over the passwords is unusual, and not standard practice. […]

I think the American people should be extremely concerned about their personal rights and privacy,” he said. “As I was being searched at the airport, there was a Latino couple to my left, and an Asian couple to my right also being aggressively searched. I briefly had to remind myself that this was not North Korea or Nazi Germany. This is the land of the Free.

So they keep telling us.

On the one hand, this appears to be another case of random abuse. If Homeland Security had well-founded suspicions about the mayor, they should have produced a search warrant for his gear or taken him into custody straight away. If not, they should have left him alone.

Where’s the Fourth Amendment when you need it?

On the other hand, I think it’s great when elected officials get a good taste of the monsters the federal government has created. I doubt that Mayor Silva had anything to do with the creation of DHS – but maybe he’ll think about running for Congress now and doing something about acts like these.


Why we need limited government

October 4, 2015

Jeff sends a link to this documentary and writes, "I have to wonder how many examples there are across the nation where politicians and other guvmint [sic] officials illegally use the IRS to harass U.S. Citizens?"

It’s just shy of 30 minutes long.

I invite your attention to the 8:00 minute mark when an attorney named Mark Fitzgibbons says, "It started out as a good thing as you want local control over local issues. But you have people in county government who have all this power and no checks on their power. Of course they’re going to abuse it." (My emphasis.)

Well said, Mr. Fitzgibbons. Well said.


More evidence for the limited-government argument

October 3, 2015

When government doesn’t have the power to "pick winners", it can’t practice cronyism. To use a recent example, how about Solyndra?

Why some billionaires are bad for growth, and others aren’t
Not all inequality is created equal

Over the past few decades, wealth has become more concentrated in the hands of a few global elite. Billionaires like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helú and investing phenomenon Warren Buffett play an outsized role in the global economy.

But what does that mean for everyone else? Is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a select group a good thing or a bad thing for the rest of us?

You might be used to hearing criticisms of inequality, but economists actually debate this point. Some argue that inequality can propel growth: They say that since the rich are able to save the most, they can actually afford to finance more business activity, or that the kinds of taxes and redistributive programs that are typically used to spread out wealth are inefficient.

Other economists argue that inequality is a drag on growth. They say it prevents the poor from acquiring the collateral necessary to take out loans to start businesses, or get the education and training necessary for a dynamic economy. Others say inequality leads to political instability that can be economically damaging.

A new study that has been accepted by the Journal of Comparative Economics helps resolve this debate. Using an inventive new way to measure billionaire wealth, Sutirtha Bagchi of Villanova University and Jan Svejnar of Columbia University find that it’s not the level of inequality that matters for growth so much as the reason that inequality happened in the first place.

Specifically, when billionaires get their wealth because of political connections, that wealth inequality tends to drag on the broader economy, the study finds. But when billionaires get their wealth through the market — through business activities that are not related to the government — it does not. […]

(My emphasis.)

I think we should to be a lot more jealous of our Constitutional prerogatives. How about enforcing the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

To put perhaps-too-fine a point on it: constitutionally, the US government has no business concerning itself with funding basic scientific research, or with wealth inequality, or with any number of other things it does when those aren’t directly related to its role has protector and defender of the people.

And it shouldn’t matter what the policy wonks or special interests might think the government ought to be doing.

Via the always readable Coyote blog



October 2, 2015

Here’s a little follow-up on the post about the 20 academics who sent a letter to President Obama urging him to use RICO laws to prosecute people who disagreed with them about climate change.

This is an op-ed by Judith Curry, professor and former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and President (co-owner) of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). RTWT.

A new low in science: criminalizing climate skeptics.

Scientists have many important roles to play in preparations for the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris. Some are working hard to clarify uncertainties in the science, others on developing and evaluating alternative climate policies.

One group of climate scientists is trying a different approach. Dismayed by what they see as a lack of progress on the implementation of climate policies that they support, these 20 scientists sent a letter to the White House calling for their political opponents to be investigated by the government. […]

But, wait, there’s more! Anthony Watts has a post about some of the folks leading the #RICO20 group.

Backfire on the #RICO20 and Jagadish Shukla is imminent; wagon circling, climbdown, dissolution begins

This story has legs now, as I predicted in this piece yesterday “The ‘RICO 20 letter’ to Obama asking for prosecution of climate skeptics disappears from Shukla’s IGES website amid financial concerns” the Streisand Effect has been unleashed. Now, instead of explaining why the RICO 20 letter was mysteriously withdrawn from the IGES website after questions began to be asked about the millions of dollars that George Mason’s Jagadish Shukla apparently has received, some of it while apparently “double dipping” against university policy, all the while claiming climate skeptics are the recipients of money that should be prosecuted under the RICO act, we find this curious missive posted in place of the RICO20 letter at the URL where it previously resided: […]

Heh. I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning.

H.T. Jeff G

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