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>On capitalism, environmentalism and a bit on California

January 21, 2008 1 comment

>John Robson from The Ottawa Citizen has a nice piece, Capitalists saving the planet, in which he describes the many ways that capitalism is really the main driver of environmental advancement.

This will come as a surprise to many committed greenies who see capitalism as the cause of all of the world’s evils and especially the current Climate Change Bogeyman. The mistake they make is to see capitalism and Big Business as one and the same thing rather than understanding capitalism as being the enabler of not only business but also the advancer of society, as well.

In a recent post I described how anti-progress economic systems such as socialism cannot innovate, as there are no venture capitalists willing to risk their money on developing new products. A Sony Playstation or your mobile phone or your wide-screen TV or the myriad of other products are all the result of the investment evolution enabled by capitalist economics.

So back to the main point. Capitalism creates a competitive environment in which the company that can bring a product to market at the lowest cost survives while the others either die or lower their own cost. A major cost of manufacturing comes in the form of energy. If companies can lower the amount of energy consumed in either the manufacturing of the product and/or the operating of the product (in the case of electronic devices) then they have a competitive advantage. In the process, any impact on the environment in the manufacture or use of the product is reduced.

It’s opera. My wife is listening to opera while jogging. The heroine will, one assumes, come to a tragic end. But the batteries won’t, because she’s using a digital player. On which, I trust, I can record the sound of environmentalists applauding the technological advances capitalism brings.

…Permit me, then, to wipe it off deftly by pointing out that self-interest is what’s driving this greener technology. Most of us value the environmental benefits to some extent. But for all of us, digital technology means going green without suffering. Which will displease some in the organic-hair-shirt crowd.

It will upset others that companies are succeeding where governments often fail. The European Union’s environment commissioner just admitted that biofuels promote rainforest destruction. Legally mandated efficient light bulbs may give some people skin problems. The failure of governments to build nuclear plants has contributed massively to greenhouse-gas production. But over there in the private sector, it’s just progress progress progress. Wretched, isn’t it?

Continuing the theme is Glenn Milne in The Australian:

The great thing about visiting California is that it gives you a sense of where Australia is probably headed. In the context of the climate change debate, this assertion stands, only more so.

So to come here and see some of the political and economic hurdles that are emerging out of the market forces unleashed by global warming, and the political response to it, is to understand that while Kevin Rudd still basks in the warm afterglow of ratifying Kyoto, just a little way down the track substantial domestic challenges loom.

Remember, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is something of an environmental pin-up boy for Rudd. During the election campaign, Rudd repeatedly used Schwarzenegger’s embrace of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 to justify his own approach to target-based policy.

The thrust of Rudd’s argument was that if California, one of the biggest and most successful economies in the world, could adopt such an approach, why couldn’t Australia?

…Schwarzenegger’s thinking is crudely simple and effective. He believes that Californians want urgent action on the climate-change front and he feels compelled to respond to this democratic impulse.

The strategy is to set mandated targets and then for the Government to simply get out of the way.

In other words, Schwarzenegger is using the sheer mass of the Californian economy and, critically, its venture capital base to crash through any resistance on the climate change front.

Again, the key point is that governments can’t achieve the same level of positive progress as private enterprise and financial incentive.

Milne does get a bit carried away, though, in his description of California’s economy. Its liberal policies have seen it go through completely unnecessary financial difficulties and it is currently many billions of dollars in debt. That doesn’t seem like much of a model for new Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd to aspire to.

As usual, the great Victor Davis Hanson gets it right:

Our poor state is $14 billion plus now in the red, and the Governator has promised no new taxes, wise inasmuch as our sales and income taxes are already among the highest in the country. The University of California system is panicking and sending out emails to us alums, to march en masse on Sacramento for redress!

But lost in the furor is any self-reflection, such as why would UC Davis recently pay John Edwards, multimillionaire trial lawyer, $50,000 plus to give a brief lecture on poverty? Such questions are never answered, much less raised, since the problem is always framed as a matter of a shortage of income, never a surfeit of unnecessary expenditure.

We in California, given the past budget implosions, know the script to follow. We expect that police, fire, prisons, parks, etc. will be threatened with cut-backs and closure while the state-funded “Center for this” and the “Department of that” will remain untouched, since cutting the essential while protecting the politically-correct superfluous is the only way to scare the voter and achieve higher taxes.

At some point we Californians should ask ourselves, how we inherited a state with near perfect weather, the world’s richest agriculture, plentiful timber, minerals, and oil, two great ports at Los Angeles and Oakland, a natural tourist industry from Carmel to Yosemite, industries such as Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and aerospace — and serially managed to turn all of that into the nation’s largest penal system, periodic near bankruptcy, and sky-high taxes.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Economics, Politics

>Sunday night rock ‘n’ roll

January 20, 2008 Leave a comment

>Slade are an English glam rock and hard rock band. Slade were one of the most recognisable acts of the glam rock movement and were, at their peak, the most commercially popular band in the UK. They are well known for the deliberate misspelling of their song titles and for the song “Merry Xmas Everybody” (released December 1973), now one of the most iconic Christmas pop songs in the United Kingdom.

One of the most acclaimed British Rock bands of the 1970s, Slade are especially remembered for their brash songwriting and energetic live performances. Today, the band is often regarded as an obvious pre-cursor to late 1970s British Punk (Sex Pistols, The Clash).

The group dominated the British charts during the early 1970s. During the height of their success, Slade out-performed their chart rivals Wizzard, Sweet, T.Rex, Suzi Quatro, Mud, Smokie, Gary Glitter, Roxy Music and David Bowie. In the UK, they achieved 12 top five hits from 1971 to 1974, six of which topped the charts. In total, Slade had 17 top 20 hits between 1971 and 1976 including six #1s, three #2s and two #3s. No other UK act of the period enjoyed such consistency in the UK top 40 and Slade actually came the closest to emulating The Beatles’ 22 top ten records in a single decade (1960s). Three of their singles entered the charts at #1 and they sold more singles in the UK than any other group of the 1970s.

The very first album I owned was Sladest. I pestered my mother until she bought it for me and she actually bet me $10 that I wouldn’t like the album in 10 years. I collected. I still rate Slade Alive as one of the top 10 live rock ‘n’ roll albums ever made.

Cum on Feel the Noize

Get Down and Get With It

Mama We’re All Crazy Now

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Music

>The ACLU hits moral rock bottom, digs

January 18, 2008 Leave a comment

>We in Australia are extremely lucky that we do not have an equivalent to the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU. If I put together a top 10 list of organisations that hurt America in a similar format to my top 10 institutions that ruin the world then I’d be hard pressed to come up with one to beat the ACLU for top spot, though their education unions would be a contender.

The main reason that the US has such a litigious society – one that imposes a burden equivalent to a tax on the economy of about 8% – is that it does not have a loser pays law such as we have in Australia and other countries like the UK have. This allows motivated organisations with deep pockets to undertake frivolous action against individuals and small companies in order to intimidate and/or financially destroy them with no fear of being sued for damages.

The largest contributor to the Democratic Party is the union movement followed by trial lawyers. The Republicans favour a move to user pays. Unsurprisingly, the Democrats favour the status quo.

You may recall US Senator Larry Craig who was caught soliciting sex in a men’s toilet at the Minneapolis Airport. His hilarious defence for his right foot touching the foot of the man in the cubicle next to him – who turned out, inconveniently, to be an undercover federal agent – was that he had a “wide stance” when sitting on the can.

If you’ve ever been in a public facility at the same time as people are having sex then you know it’s quite confronting. To the ACLU, though, sex in public toilets is apparently quite OK. These guys must have run out of things to sue people for.

Extremism: The latest in the endless series of outrages from the ACLU is its claim that anonymous sex in public bathrooms enjoys constitutional protection. What we need protection from are cunning ACLU lawyers.

Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig has an unlikely new friend in his fight against charges of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis Airport men’s room last summer. The American Civil Liberties Union came to his defense this week, arguing that “the Minnesota law under which he was arrested is unconstitutionally broad.”

The organization characterizes solicitation for sex as “constitutionally protected free speech” and cites court rulings concluding that “a closed bathroom stall is a private location.”

At the same time, the ACLU claims it “is in no way advocating sex in public bathrooms.” But “sex in public restrooms” is what ends up being protected in the world according to the ACLU.

The ACLU may also be “in no way advocating” terrorist attacks, but it is fighting the U.S. government’s terrorist surveillance program and the CIA’s terrorist interrogation program in the federal courts, both of which have prevented terrorist attacks. Those lawsuits, in fact, aid and abet terrorists.

If you’re a parent taking your child into a public restroom, the ACLU says tough luck: You just have to put up with the “free speech” taking place in the “private location” of “a closed bathroom stall” because “the police have no business spying on people in places where there is an expectation of privacy.”

Even the federal government’s advance planning in the case of a bird flu pandemic, an attempt to save as many lives as possible, is now subject to ACLU attack.

Its extremist lawyers are alarmed by an executive order in October directing the Department of Health and Human Services to set up a task force to plan for terrorism, disease outbreaks or natural disasters, utilizing Pentagon medical research resources.

“Pandemic planning today tends to emphasize mandatory vaccination and forced treatment,” the ACLU complained at a press conference on Monday.

The ACLU is so wrapped up in its crazed, false notions about the Constitution that lifesaving common sense gets lost — and its lawyers will stop at nothing to impose their radical views on the American people.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Uncategorized

>Mr Gloom Boom Doom’s views on bubbles

January 17, 2008 Leave a comment

>Marc Faber is one of the most miserable, curmudgeonly market analysts in the world. He publishes the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, which has a strong track record at predicting downturns.

It’s interesting to look back a year and review what his thoughts were.

In this discussion on bubbles he points out that credit expansion is potentially a problem…which the sub prime mortgage situation proves.

My view is that the Fed will probably reduce interest rates by 0.75% and that will prop up failing loan providers for a while. I expect there to be a market correction of about 20% and that the US dollar will weaken by about that amount also over the next couple of years.

Part 1

Part 2

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Economics

>Climate models still fail to predict real world observation

January 15, 2008 5 comments

>Here’s a new study showing that climate models really are a massive failure in spite of the billions of dollars pumped at them and the ‘debate is over’ support they get from the Climate Faithful.

An extremely important and challenging paper, ‘Coupling of water and carbon fluxes via the terrestrial biosphere and its significance to the Earth’s climate system’, has just been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Vol. 112, 2007: doi:10.1029/2007JD008431). The paper is by Paul R. Ferguson and the eminent, Professor Ján Veizer, of the Department of Earth Sciences and Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, University of Ottawa, Canada. The ‘Abstract’ is as follows:

“Terrestrial water vapor fluxes represent one of the largest movements of mass and energy in the Earth’s outer spheres, yet the relative contributions of abiotic water vapor fluxes and those that are regulated solely by the physiology of plants remain poorly constrained. By interpreting differences in the oxygen-18 and deuterium content of precipitation and river water, a methodology was developed to partition plant transpiration (T) from the evaporative flux that occurs directly from soils and water bodies (E d) and plant surfaces (I n). The methodology was applied to fifteen large watersheds in North America, South America, Africa, Australia, and New Guinea, and results indicated that approximately two thirds of the annual water flux from the ‘water-limited’ ecosystems that are typical of higher-latitude regions could be attributed to T. In contrast to ‘water-limited’ watersheds, where T comprised 55% of annual precipitation, T in high-rainfall, densely vegetated regions of the tropics represented a smaller proportion of precipitation and was relatively constant, defining a plateau beyond which additional water input by precipitation did not correspond to higher T values. In response to variable water input by precipitation, estimates of T behaved similarly to net primary productivity, suggesting that in conformity with small-scale measurements, the terrestrial water and carbon cycles are inherently coupled via the biosphere. Although the estimates of T are admittedly first-order, they offer a conceptual perspective on the dynamics of energy exchange between terrestrial systems and the atmosphere, where the carbon cycle is essentially driven by solar energy via the water cycle intermediary.”

“Given the close correspondence between T and NPP and the disparity in terms of mass exchange between these fluxes, it seems probable that the larger water cycle controls the much smaller carbon cycle, not vice versa, and other limitations to plant growth, such as atmospheric carbon dioxide, nutrients, and temperature are likely superimposed phenomena. Intuitively, the validity of this assertion should be apparent and cannot be considered novel, as biological studies have established the connection between the water and carbon cycles at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Nonetheless, few regional estimates of T are available and despite the limitations inherent to this methodology, results are informative and emphasize the inter-dependency between solar radiation, water vapor, and carbon dioxide in determining the interaction between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere, and ultimately, the Earth’s climate.”

Apparently, Hansen’s Scenario B ‘success’ (wrong assumptions, not bad forecast) is enough to convince Climate Babblers that models work. One thing that amazes me with these people’s faith in models is their lack of understanding of back-fitting, what it means and the statistical no-no that it is.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Climate Change

>Turkish women drivers

January 14, 2008 4 comments

>Mustafa Akyol from the Turkish Daily News writes an article that if it were printed in Western Europe, the USA, Australia or New Zealand etc then there’d be a massive outcry from feminist groups and other politically correct do gooders.

What’s interesting is that Akyol understands that while what he’s writing is not politically correct it’s not going to get him sacked from the paper.

This might not be the most politically correct thing to say, but I cannot resist the temptation to proclaim the truth: Most Turkish women are horrible drivers. You will see what I mean if you spend a couple of years, or even months, in Turkish streets. If there is a car in front of you which is too slow, too undecided, and too paralyzed, there is 95 percent change that a lady will be sitting in its driver seat. Indeed, it is a truism among Turkish men that “women can’t drive.”

Of course, there are exceptions. I have a friend who defies most clichés about Turkish females, including this driving problem. Her car has a sticker which reads, “Beware the mare,” and she masters all the highways and narrow streets of Istanbul with great skill. Once in a while, I see more of such ladies who have developed the talent to survive and triumph in the Social Darwinistic driving culture of this frantic city. Yet they remain exceptions.

Not much decision making:

In the distant past, I used to think that there was some genetic reason behind women’s failure to handle the steering wheel. But I started change my mind as I spent time in the roads of America. Here, many females were — and I am sure still are — pretty skillful in driving their huge jeeps, trucks and SUVs. “It is not that women can’t drive,” I said to mself. “It is the Turkish women which have a problem with that.”

Let me speculate a bit on the origins of that phenomenon. One thing about driving is that it is a very individualistic experience. While moving on four fast rotating wheels, you can’t ask anybody whether to take or not to take the next exit. You have to decide it for yourself. You have to be independent.

Of course such an individualistic experience can be very dangerous if it is combined with irresponsibility. That explains why quite many Turkish men are horrible drivers, too: Actually they are the ones who are generally reckless and aggressive. They see their cars as embodiments of their egos, and try to satisfy them by intimidating other vehicles.

As for most Turkish women, however, the problem is just the opposite: Generally they are very cautious, but they lack the talent to respond to challenges. A common joke about a Turkish female driver is that she crashed into a roadblock because she couldn’t decide to take whether the detour to the right or to the left. The problem is the lack of a talent for independent and quick decision making.

A sociologist would easily see the link between this driving problem and the role given to women in Turkish society. The lack of independence is precisely what our society suggests as a feature of the ideal woman. In popular Turkish imagination, women are perceived as girlfriends, spouses, and wives. They are not self-made human beings who master their lives. They need to be protected, financed, and tutored by men.

I bet some readers would rush to blame religion, and in particular Islam, for this passive female attitude. They would be partly right. It is true that there are elements in the Islamic tradition which make women subservient to men. One just needs to look at Saudi Arabia to see how tyrannical those teaching can be on the feminine side of the society.

Yet the Turks who have distanced themselves completely from Islamic teachings and who have rather become zealous secularists can be very similar in the way they see gender relations. Go to upscale bars in Istanbul and you will see drones of stylish girls looking out for “rich husbands.” Their career plan is based on not their intellectual merits, but their physical assets that will attract males who will, if they are dumb enough, pay for and take care of their lives. These “provider” guys will probably buy these girls fancy cars, too — and the latter will probably soon crash them into some roadblock.

Who is to blame?:

On the other side of Turkish society, one can find “Islamic feminists” who criticize the “chauvinism” in the Islamic tradition, which they see as a post-Koranic deviation, and who argue for a comprehensive reinterpretation of religion. These women might be journalists, doctors or academics who earn their living and make up their own minds. Despite the clichés, there is no sign of a dominating male under their veil.

In other words, the culture of the passive female is something that stands alone, and it can dominate both the secular and the religious mindsets. Similarly, both of those mindsets can be liberated from the attitudes that prevent the flourishing of a decision-making, independently thinking personality.

The thriving of that individualism — which is often, and quite mistakenly, confused by selfishness — is the key to the progress of Turkish society. It will definitely help our women find more meaning in their lives. I believe it will even make them better drivers.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Culture, Middle East

>Europe’s white army of terror

January 14, 2008 Leave a comment

>Richard Elias from Scotland On Sunday has written a piece titled Al-Qaeda’s white army of terror in which he reports on the increasing number of whites who are converting to Islam under the guidance of radical imams and the security threat they present.

The rise in popularity of nationalist groups throughout Europe is being driven by one thing – rampant Muslim immigration – which wouldn’t be an issue if Muslims integrated into their host societies in the same manner as the myriad of other peoples who have emigrated to Europe, but they don’t. Demands for Sharia Law, support for terrorism (both tacit and implicit) and sucking at the public teat don’t go down well with anyone other than the elitist, multi-culti apologists who provide moral support for this new ‘victim’ group.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the Average Joes or Klauses or Jeans work out that the cosy retirements they’re all working toward are under threat and that those people blowing up innocent Londoners and Berliners and Parisians are actually driven by something other than supposedly being victims of some capitalist and/or American policy.

HUNDREDS of British non-Muslims have been recruited by al-Qaeda to wage war against the West, senior security sources warned last night.

As many as 1,500 white Britons are believed to have converted to Islam for the purpose of funding, planning and carrying out surprise terror attacks inside the UK, according to one MI5 source.

Lord Carlile, the Government’s independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, said many of the converts had been targeted by radical Muslims while serving prison terms.

Security experts say the growing secret army of white terrorists poses a particularly serious threat as they are far less likely to be detected than members of the Asian community.

Which poses the question – if racial profiling is taboo then why are white terrorists going to be harder to detect? It’s a tricky one for the multi-culti-relativists to deal with. Luckily, they find comfort in cognitive dissonance.

Since the 7/7 and 21/7 London bombings, police and intelligence services have had considerable success in identifying, disrupting and stopping extremist plots. As a result, groups such as al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen have been forced to change tack. Converting white non-Muslims has been one response.

Which supports my previous point that racial profiling is going on even if it’s formally denied.

The trend is well established in the United States. American-born Adam Gadahn is one of the FBI’s top 10 most-wanted terrorists after converting to Islam and rising through al-Qaeda’s ranks to become a prominent spokesman.

One British security source last night told Scotland on Sunday: “There could be anything up to 1,500 converts to the fundamentalist cause across Britain. They pose a real potential danger to our domestic security because, obviously, these people blend in and do not raise any flags.

“The exact figure of those who have converted to Islam and turned to terror is not precisely known. Not everyone who converts becomes radicalised and it may be that just two-fifths go down that path, but it remains a significant and dangerous problem.”

‘Just’ two-fifths? 40%? What other religion do people convert to and become radicalised? Christianity? Nope. Buddhism? Nope. Hinduism? Nope.

Carlile said he was not aware of specific numbers, but confirmed to Scotland on Sunday that Whitehall was aware of the new threat and was actively tackling it. He said: “These people are an issue and are potentially very dangerous. There have been cases of non-Muslims converting before, and of these, Richard Reid, the so-called Shoebomber, is the most obvious example.

“They are more difficult to detect and the security services are right to place some focus on this issue.”

Carlile said the majority of converts were targeted when they were in prison: “These (converts] are outside the standard type of profile which most police forces would have of a terrorist, which is male, young, and of Middle Eastern or Asian appearance. That is why they are so potentially dangerous.”

Carlile added: “The Home Office has a lot of money, millions of pounds, which is being put forward for communities and fighting radicalisation. There is no question how tackling this issue is best achieved: it is achieved at a community level.”

When this fails, which it surely will, then Average Joe, Klaus and Jean will call for some other way to solve the problem. Politicians that support this position will get increasing support as is already being seen with the BNP and Vlaams-Belang.

Security experts say radical Muslims in prison have become adept at identifying potential new recruits to their cause. Those in custody for the first time, the young and the lonely are particularly susceptible.

Initially, the approach is made to comfort, console and support, with very little reference, if any, to religion.

However, after several ‘chats’, the conversation will be turned towards the subject and, gradually, over a period of weeks or months, it is possible to complete the conversion.

Soooooo, a separate prison for Muslims?

Robert Leiken, director of the Immigration and National Security Programme and a specialist on European Muslims based at the Nixon Centre in Washington DC, said: “To me, the figure of 1,500 seems reasonable as many, perhaps less than a third, will actually go on to become radicals.

“New religious recruits always tend to be more zealous than those who have grown up with that specific religion.”

Edwin Bakker, a Dutch-based security specialist, has studied at length the issue of radical conversions. He said: “The question is relevant and timely. Newcomers to Islam are extra-sensitive to perceived discrimination of Muslims and Islam-bashing.

“They feel they have to defend Islam – one of the essential concepts of Jihad – and they feel they have to prove themselves as newcomers.”

But one of Scotland’s leading Muslims disputed the claims of radicalisation, saying Islam’s strict moral code made it unattractive to many westerners.

Bashir Maan added: “I do not know of any Islamist terror group in Scotland and, considering as a Muslim a person must pray five times daily, abstain from drinking (and] sex outside marriage, adhere to strict dietary and many other rules, it is impossible to convert to Islam a young person brought up in this very liberal society.

“I agree that the security services must be vigilant and keep their eye on everybody, but I think in this case they seem to be over-reacting.”

If I had to bet my house on wheter Bashir Maan was a supporter of radical Islam then I’d take short odds that he is. To say that Islam is unattractive to many westerners dodges the issue. It sounds like a page right out of the Tariq Ramadan playbook.

Religions should not be judged on scripture or laws but on the actions of its followers. In this regard Islam has a lot of problems and Muslims are the only ones who can clean it up.

As a follow on, a plot has been uncovered in France to blow up the Eiffel Tower and in Germany they’re wetting their pants over fears of terror attacks on judicial buildings.

Clearly, blowing up the Eiffel Tower is a rational response to American foreign policy or the great Zionist conspiracy.

The populations of Western Europe look increasingly likely to reap the full consequences of the multi-culti, kumbaya seed they have sown.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Europe, Islam

>Sunday night rock ‘n’ roll

January 13, 2008 Leave a comment

>Golden Earring is a Dutch Hard rock/pop/Heavy metal band, founded in 1961 in The Hague as the Golden Earrings (the ‘s’ was later dropped). They had international chart success with the songs Eight Miles High in 1969, Radar Love in 1973, and Twilight Zone in 1982. In their home country, they had over 40 hits and made over 30 gold and platinum albums. Current members of Golden Earring are Barry Hay (vocals, guitar, flute and saxophone, member since 1968), George Kooymans (vocals and guitar, founder of band), Rinus Gerritsen (bass and keyboard, founding member), and Cesar Zuiderwijk (drums and percussion, member since 1970).

Golden Earring has released music worldwide and enjoyed brief international superstar status in the Seventies when the single version of Radar Love, from the album Moontan became a hit in both Europe and the USA. A non-nude album cover was distributed for the North American release. Moontan itself was awarded a gold record in the US. Radar Love has its own website http://www.radar-love.net listing hundreds of covers of the song, voted “best car song ever” by readers of USA Today in 2005 and second best “greatest driving song” in a poll of BBC’s program Top Gear, after Don’t Stop Me Now from Queen. The Twilight Zone, written by Kooymans in 1982, brought Golden Earring a second international round of success. The song was accompanied by one of the first rock videos, directed by Dick Maas. As MTV had just launched their music television channel in 1981, the airplay helped The Twilight Zone secure a Top Ten hit in the States.

Everyone knows Radar Love. A lot may know Twilight Zone. To get an idea of how big a songbook these guys have listen to the other two, both great songs.

Radar Love

She Flies On Strange Wings

Mad Love Is Comin’

Twilight Zone

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Music

>Mathematical models and their climate change reliability

January 11, 2008 4 comments

>American Thinker’s Jerome J. Schmitt has as much trouble with climate models as I do.

I’ve asked this question before – If someone built a financial model that was the result of massive back-fitting and had never been accurate in forecasting then would you entrust the nation’s economy to its predictions?

Modelling climate is akin to modelling the human mind and trying to work out what someone is thinking in 2050. This stuff is complex.

I just don’t understand American liberals and their attitude toward mathematical models. The left places an inordinate amount of faith in untested models predicting man-made warming of the global climate, while ignoring time-tested mathematical models in another important field important to all Americans.

Embracing Untested Models

Global warmists place unquestioning faith mathematical models of anthropogenic global warming, declaring their predictions to be settled science, as if the models completely and flawlessly took account of all significant variables in one of the most complex systems ever studied, the earth’s atmosphere.

Yet experience teaches us that modeling atmospheric phenomena is an uncertain business, even in atmospheres much less complex than the planetary system. Far simpler artificial atmospheres or “climates” are routinely created and modeled in the semiconductor industry. Working in sealed vessels within which chemical vapor deposition (CVD) forms nanometer-scale thin solid films on silicon wafer surfaces, in order to produce integrated circuits and many other semiconductor products. Last year I wrote about the many difficulties these simple atmospheric models encounter:

Closed systems are also much easier to model as compared to systems open to the atmosphere (that should tell us something already). Computer models are used to inform the engineering team as the design the shape, temperature ramp, flow rates, etc, etc, (i.e. the thermodynamics) of the new reactor.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that 1) the chemical reactions are highly studied, 2) there exists extensive experience with similar reactors, much of it recorded in the open literature, 3) the input gases and materials are of high and known purity, and 4) the process is controlled with incredible precision, the predictions of the models are often wrong, requiring that the reactor be adjusted empirically to produce the desired product with quality and reliability.

The fact that these artificial “climates” are closed systems far simpler than the global climate, have the advantage of the experimental method, and are subject to precise controls, and yet are frequently wrong, should lend some humility to those who make grand predictions about the future of the earth’s atmosphere.

So serious are the problems, sometimes, that it is not unheard of for an experimental reactor to be scrapped entirely in favor of starting from scratch in designing the process and equipment. Often a design adjustment predicted to improve performance actually does the opposite. This does not mean that process models are useless, for they undergird the engineer’s understanding of what is happening in the process and help him or her make adjustments to fix the problem. But it means that they cannot be relied upon by themselves to predict results. These new adjustments and related information are then used to improve the models for future use in a step by step process tested time and again against experimental reality.

Although there is no record of accurate prediction for the totally unproven and skepticism-worthy models of the warmist climatologists, liberals are convinced that there is a “scientific consensus” over an impending Anthropogenic Global Warming Crisis that requires undertaking immediate extreme measures including increased carbon taxes as well as new “private sector” solutions such as carbon-trading and selling of carbon-credits.

Ignoring Time-Tested Models

Actuaries are mathematical professionals who build statistical models of human populations in order to plan for life-insurance, health-insurance and pension benefits. The accuracy of their models can have far reaching consequences. Errors might cost their private sector employers’ millions and even billions of dollars. Fortunately, the actuarial profession’s record in accurate prediction is quite good, particularly since their relatively simple statistical models are informed with reliable data collected from census figures as well as hospital and mortuary records. While predicting one individual’s healthcare needs and time-of-death is impossible, when averaged across millions of people, such statistics can be quite reliable.

Today, a consensus of actuaries agrees that the Social Security system is in need of major overhaul otherwise it will experience debilitating financial shortfalls in a few decades as more and more “baby-boomers” retire with full benefits. In the face of this consensus however, liberals demur and minimize the importance of this crisis, undercutting President Bush’s attempts to draw attention the problem as his prelude to proposing reforms. Unpopular measures such as cutting benefits, needs-based benefits, raising retirement ages or increasing payroll taxes are not to even discussed according to liberals. Furthermore, President Bush’s proposals to increase investment returns on the Social Security trust fund are met with universal derision by liberals as unholy “privatization” unworthy of this New Deal institution, although one glance at the incredible returns being achieved with professional management of university endowments shows the enormous potential of this approach to solving the actuarial “crisis”. Al Gore famously said the Social Security Trust Fund should be kept in a “lock-box”, the financial equivalent of stuffing cash in a mattress for safe-keeping.

Do not attempt to understand the inconsistency over when liberals will heed a professional “consensus”. It will only give you a headache.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Climate Change

>Western Europe is training its own cultural assassins

January 10, 2008 1 comment

>I currently have the UK at the head of my betting market on which European nation will be the first to embrace fascism. Germany is one of the other favourites due to the increasing power of the left across their political landscape. In a post last August I point out that fascism is actually a left wing political construction that has been recast as a child of the right in order to cleanse the left (and particularly Europe’s leftist elites) of any association with the Holocaust.

In this great article (h/t: Tim Blair) by Foreign Policy’s Stefan Theil one can start to fully understand the peril that Europe faces with a generation or two of workers entering the market with an entitlement attitude rather than a responsibility attitude.

Fast forward 10-20 years to a Germany, for example, with a massive entitlement culture and ‘progressive’ cultural relativist immigration policies in which millions of rent-seekers have descended on the nation, as they have in France. In an environment with a shattered economy and falling living standards, which is going to be blamed for the problems – the entitlement economy or the immigrants? There is a reason why there’s a rising nationalist sentiment in Europe. In my view, people are not reacting to the impact on their culture but the impact on their social programs and how it will affect them personally.

Last time I checked, socialism plus nationalism is what gave Germany the National Socialists – aka the Nazi Party.

I have had arguments on left wing websites before about the power of the free market and how command and control economies must, inevitably, fail. The example I use is this – in a socialist, command and control economy how does a Playstation come about?

The fact is that a Playstation – or, indeed, any item in our culture – represents the current result of an evolutionary investment process in which millions upon millions of dollars have been risked by non-government individuals in order to develop a product that people will buy. Each processor in a Playstation follows this law. Each hard disk, network adapter, graphics chip and display device are the result of entrepreneurs putting their money on the line. In a non-capitalist economy who decides where risk will be taken? Is it even moral to spend the nation’s money on high-risk projects?

I wonder whether it ever dawns on the children of Europe that the terribly immoral, divisive, culturally destructive sin of free market capitalism is what brought them their mobile phone, their laptop computer, their games console or any other of a myriad of items that they would consider vital to their lives?

Millions of children are being raised on prejudice and disinformation. Educated in schools that teach a skewed ideology, they are exposed to a dogma that runs counter to core beliefs shared by many other Western countries. They study from textbooks filled with a doctrine of dissent, which they learn to recite as they prepare to attend many of the better universities in the world. Extracting these children from the jaws of bias could mean the difference between world prosperity and menacing global rifts. And doing so will not be easy. But not because these children are found in the madrasas of Pakistan or the state-controlled schools of Saudi Arabia. They are not. Rather, they live in two of the world’s great democracies—France and Germany.

What a country teaches its young people reflects its bedrock national beliefs. Schools hand down a society’s historical narrative to the next generation. There has been a great deal of debate over the ways in which this historical ideology is passed on—over Japanese textbooks that downplay the Nanjing Massacre, Palestinian textbooks that feature maps without Israel, and new Russian guidelines that require teachers to portray Stalinism more favorably. Yet there has been almost no analysis of how countries teach economics, even though the subject is equally crucial in shaping the collective identity that drives foreign and domestic policies.

Just as schools teach a historical narrative, they also pass on “truths” about capitalism, the welfare state, and other economic principles that a society considers self-evident. In both France and Germany, for instance, schools have helped ingrain a serious aversion to capitalism. In one 2005 poll, just 36 percent of French citizens said they supported the free-enterprise system, the only one of 22 countries polled that showed minority support for this cornerstone of global commerce. In Germany, meanwhile, support for socialist ideals is running at all-time highs—47 percent in 2007 versus 36 percent in 1991.

It’s tempting to dismiss these attitudes as being little more than punch lines to cocktail party jokes. But their impact is sadly and seriously self-destructive. In Germany, unemployment is finally falling after years at Depression-era levels, thanks in no small part to welfare reforms that in 2005 pressured Germans on the public dole to take up jobs. Yet there is near consensus among Germans that, despite this happy outcome, tinkering with the welfare state went far beyond what is permissible. Chancellor Angela Merkel, once heralded as Germany’s own Margaret Thatcher, has all but abandoned her plans to continue free-market reforms. She has instead imposed a new “rich people tax,” has tightened labor-market rules, and has promised renewed efforts to “regulate” globalization. Meanwhile, two in three Germans say they support at least some of the voodoo-economic, roll-back-the-reforms platform of a noisy new antiglobalization political party called Die Linke (The Left), founded by former East German communists and Western left-wing populists.

Many of these popular attitudes can be traced to state-mandated curricula in schools. It is there that economic lessons are taught that diverge substantially from the market-based principles on which the Western model is based. The phenomenon may hardly be unique to Europe, but in few places is it more obvious than in France and Germany. A biased view of economics feeds into many of the world’s most vexing problems, from the growth of populism to the global rise of anti-American, anti-capitalist attitudes.

Economics à la carte

“Economic growth imposes a hectic form of life, producing overwork, stress, nervous depression, cardiovascular disease and, according to some, even the development of cancer,” asserts the three-volume Histoire du XXe siècle, a set of texts memorized by countless French high school students as they prepare for entrance exams to Sciences Po and other prestigious French universities. The past 20 years have “doubled wealth, doubled unemployment, poverty, and exclusion, whose ill effects constitute the background for a profound social malaise,” the text continues. Because the 21st century begins with “an awareness of the limits to growth and the risks posed to humanity [by economic growth],” any future prosperity “depends on the regulation of capitalism on a planetary scale.” Capitalism itself is described at various points in the text as “brutal,” “savage,” “neoliberal,” and “American.” This agitprop was published in 2005, not in 1972.

When French students are not getting this kind of wildly biased commentary on the destruction wreaked by capitalism, they are learning that economic progress is also the root cause of social ills. For example, a one-year high school course on the inner workings of an economy developed by the French Education Ministry called Sciences Economiques et Sociales, spends two thirds of its time discussing the sociopolitical fallout of economic activity. Chapter and section headings include “Social Cleavages and Inequality,” “Social Mobilization and Conflict,” “Poverty and Exclusion,” and “Globalization and Regulation.” The ministry mandates that students learn “worldwide regulation as a response” to globalization. Only one third of the course is about companies and markets, and even those bits include extensive sections on unions, government economic policy, the limits of markets, and the dangers of growth. The overall message is that economic activity has countless undesirable effects from which citizens must be protected.

No wonder, then, that the French default attitude is to be suspicious of market forces and private entrepreneurship, not to mention any policies that would strengthen them. Start-ups, Histoire du XXe siècle tells its students, are “audacious enterprises” with “ill-defined prospects.” Then it links entrepreneurs with the tech bubble, the Nasdaq crash, and mass layoffs across the economy. (Think “creative destruction” without the “creative.”) In one widely used text, a section on technology and innovation does not mention a single entrepreneur or company. Instead, students read a lengthy treatise on whether technological progress destroys jobs. In another textbook, students actually meet a French entrepreneur who invented a new tool to open oysters. But the quirky anecdote is followed by a long-winded debate over the degree to which the modern workplace is organized along the lines imagined by Frederick Taylor, the father of modern scientific management theory. And just in case they missed it in history class, students are reminded that “cultural globalization” leads to violence and armed resistance, ultimately necessitating a new system of global governance.

This is a world apart from what American high school students learn. In the United States, where fewer than half of high school students take an economics course, most classes are based on straightforward, classical economics. In Texas, the state-prescribed curriculum requires that the positive contribution of entrepreneurs to the local economy be taught. The state of New York, meanwhile, has coordinated its curriculum with entrepreneurship-promoting youth groups such as Junior Achievement, as well as with economists at the Federal Reserve. Do American schools encourage students to follow in the footsteps of Bill Gates or become ardent fans of globalization? Not really. But they certainly aren’t filling students with negative preconceptions and suspicions about businesses and the people who run them. Nor do they obsess about the negative side effects and dangers of economic activity the way French textbooks do.

French students, on the other hand, do not learn economics so much as a very specific, highly biased discourse about economics. When they graduate, they may not know much about supply and demand, or about the workings of a corporation. Instead, they will likely know inside-out the evils of “la McDonaldisation du monde” and the benefits of a “Tobin tax” on the movement of global capital. This kind of anticapitalist, antiglobalization discourse isn’t just the product of a few aging 1968ers writing for Le Monde Diplomatique; it is required learning in today’s French schools.

Learning to love the dole

Germans teach their young people a similar economic narrative, with a slightly different emphasis. The focus is on instilling the corporatist and collectivist traditions of the German system. Although each of Germany’s 16 states sets its own education requirements, nearly all teach through the lens of workplace conflict between employer and employee, the central battle being over wages and work rules. If there’s one unifying characteristic of German textbooks, it’s the tremendous emphasis on group interests, the traditional social-democratic division of the universe into capital and labor, employer and employee, boss and worker. Textbooks teach the minutiae of employer-employee relations, workplace conflict, collective bargaining, unions, strikes, and worker protection. Even a cursory look at the country’s textbooks shows that many are written from the perspective of a future employee with a union contract. Bosses and company owners show up in caricatures and illustrations as idle, cigar-smoking plutocrats, sometimes linked to child labor, Internet fraud, cell-phone addiction, alcoholism, and, of course, undeserved layoffs. The successful, modern entrepreneur is virtually nowhere to be found.

German students will be well-versed in many subjects upon graduation; one topic they will know particularly well is their rights as welfare recipients. One 10th-grade social studies text titled FAKT has a chapter on “What to do against unemployment.” Instead of describing how companies might create jobs, the section explains how those without jobs can organize into self-help groups and join weekly anti-reform protests “in the tradition of the East German Monday demonstrations” (which in 1989 helped topple the communist dictatorship). The not-so-subtle subtext? Jobs are a right to be demanded from the government. The same chapter also details various welfare programs, explains how employers use the threat of layoffs as a tactic to cut pay, and concludes with a long excerpt from the platform of the German Union Federation, including the 30-hour work week, retirement at age 60, and redistribution of the work pie by splitting full-time into part-time jobs. No market alternative is taught. When fakt presents the reasons for unemployment, it blames computers and robots. In fact, this is a recurring theme in German textbooks—the Internet will turn workers into “anonymous code” and kill off interpersonal communication.

Equally popular in Germany today are student workbooks on globalization. One such workbook includes sections headed “The Revival of Manchester Capitalism,” “The Brazilianization of Europe,” and “The Return of the Dark Ages.” India and China are successful, the book explains, because they have large, state-owned sectors and practice protectionism, while the societies with the freest markets lie in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa. Like many French and German books, this text suggests students learn more by contacting the antiglobalization group Attac, best known for organizing messy protests at the annual G-8 summits.

One might expect Europeans to view the world through a slightly left-of-center, social-democratic lens. The surprise is the intensity and depth of the anti-market bias being taught in Europe’s schools. Students learn that private companies destroy jobs while government policy creates them. Employers exploit while the state protects. Free markets offer chaos while government regulation brings order. Globalization is destructive, if not catastrophic. Business is a zero-sum game, the source of a litany of modern social problems. Some enterprising teachers and parents may try to teach an alternative view, and some books are less ideological than others. But given the biases inherent in the curricula, this background is unavoidable. It is the context within which most students develop intellectually. And it’s a belief system that must eventually appear to be the truth.

Can old Europe do new tricks?

This bias has tremendous implications that reach far beyond the domestic political debate in these two countries. These beliefs inform students’ choices in life. Taught that the free market is a dangerous wilderness, twice as many Germans as Americans tell pollsters that you should not start a business if you think it might fail. According to the European Union’s internal polling, just two in five Germans and French would like to be their own boss, compared to three in five Americans. Whereas 8 percent of Americans say they are currently involved in starting a business, that’s true of only 2 percent of Germans and 1 percent of the French. Another 28 percent of Americans are considering starting a business, compared to just 11 percent of the French and 18 percent of Germans. The loss to Europe’s two largest economies in terms of jobs, innovation, and economic dynamism is severe.

Attitudes and mind-sets, it is increasingly being shown, are closely related to a country’s economic performance. Edmund Phelps, a Columbia University economist and Nobel laureate, contends that attitudes toward markets, work, and risk-taking are significantly more powerful in explaining the variation in countries’ actual economic performance than the traditional factors upon which economists focus, including social spending, tax rates, and labor-market regulation. The connection between capitalism and culture, once famously described by Max Weber, also helps explain continental Europe’s poor record in entrepreneurship and innovation. A study by the Massachusetts-based Monitor Group, the Entrepreneurship Benchmarking Index, looks at nine countries and finds a powerful correlation between attitudes about economics and actual corporate performance. The researchers find that attitudes explain 40 percent of the variation in start-up and company growth rates—by far the strongest correlation of any of the 31 indicators they tested. If countries such as France and Germany hope to boost entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic dynamism—as their leaders claim they do—the most effective way to make that happen may be to use education to boost the cultural legitimacy of going into business.

The deep anti-market bias that French and Germans continue to teach challenges the conventional wisdom that it’s just a matter of time, thanks to the pressures of globalization, before much of the world agrees upon a supposedly “Western” model of free-market capitalism. Politicians in democracies cannot long fight the preferences of the majority of their constituents. So this bias will likely continue to circumscribe both European elections and policy outcomes. A likely alternative scenario may be that the changes wrought by globalization will awaken deeply held resentment against capitalism and, in many countries from Europe to Latin America, provide a fertile ground for populists and demagogues, a trend that is already manifesting itself in the sudden rise of many leftist movements today.

Minimal reforms to the welfare state cost former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder his job in 2005. They have also paralyzed modern German politics. Former communists and disaffected Social Democrats, together with left-wing Greens, have flocked to Germany’s new leftist party, whose politics is a distasteful mix of anticapitalist demagoguery and right-wing xenophobia. Its platform, polls show, is finding support even among mainstream Germans. A left-leaning majority, within both the parliament and the public at large, makes the world’s third-largest economy vulnerable to destructive policies driven by anticapitalist resentment and fear of globalization. Similar situations are easily conceivable elsewhere and have already helped bring populists to power in Latin America. Then there is France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to “rupture” with the failed economic policies of the past. He has taken on the country’s public servants and their famously lavish benefits, but many of his policies appear to be driven by what he calls “economic patriotism,” which smacks of old-fashioned industrial protectionism. That’s exactly what French schoolchildren have long learned is the way the world should work.

Both the French and German cases show the limits of trying to run against the grain of deeply held economic ideology. Yet, training the next generation of citizens to be prejudiced against being enterprising and productive is equally foolhardy. Fortunately, such widespread attitudes and the political outcomes they foster aren’t only determined by tradition and history. They are, to a great extent, the product of education. If countries like France and Germany hope to get their nations on a new economic track, they might start paying more attention to what their kids are learning in the classroom.


Categories: Culture, Europe