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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Meet Cass Sunstein: Your "Choice Architect"

Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs.

Ayn Rand, "The Monument Builders", The Virtue of Selfishness, 1962

There is a frightening intellectual movement being carried from the "stuffy ivory towers" of the intellectuals to the "bloody fields of practice" as it has evidently found an adoring admirer in the White House. It is a movement that represents evil, but not garden variety evil - rather, it represents Ellsworth Toohey-Dr. Floyd Ferris level evil. In other words, it is not the typical brute political opportunism of, say, the Clinton-Ted Kennedy variety, but a movement that threatens a profound abrogation of freedom, deliberately and willfully wrapped in an erudite, pseudo-scientific package.

Cass Sunstein, author of
Nudge and Republic.com 2.0, is a major figure in this movement. Now, normally, the predictable rantings of a left-wing law professor known for his "libertarian paternalism" who advocates a government imposed "fairness doctrine for the internet", claims that animals should be able to bring lawsuits, and supports civility checks for emails, would hardly be newsworthy. However, given that Obama has nominated him to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, we should take notice. Secondly, Sunstein's ideas are hardly original and he is part of a larger movement that must be exposed and refuted. His ideas are a hybrid of every irrational philosophic movement since Plato, and as such, represents a cashing-in on modern philosophic trends.

Nudge, in which Sunstein and Thaler discuss "choice architecture" was reviewed by Eric Daniels (see below for links and discussion of Daniel's review and see previous link for Amazon interview with authors...). I began going through Republic.com 2.0 and quickly became overwhelmed as virtually every paragraph is quotable in the sense that it exemplifies a disturbing level of evil. To truly and properly analyze this book and offer a first rate refutation would take months so I will offer a few points that may be insightful and hopefully this will serve as another wake up call in addition to those offered by others who have written on this topic [update: see C. August's post on Sunstein at Titanic Deck Chairs]. Essentially, I believe that Sunstein's ideas embody three principal philosophies: Platonism, pragmatism, and determinism.

First, in true Platonic form (excuse the pun), Sunstein relies on a distinction between what he calls the "consumer" and "the citizen" arguing that our behavior as consumers differs from our behavior as "citizens". In other words, as "consumers" we act selfishly and might indulge in the inane mindlessness of "infotainment" or "sports" news whereas when we act as "citizens" we adopt the high minded aspirations of the thinker busily considering such monumental topics as "environmental protection" or "antidiscrimination". Note the Platonic separation of the world into a sort of "imperfect" realm of immediate, brute reality which we approach as a "consumer" and the higher, idealized realm of "the citizen" [all emphases mine]:

Consumers are not citizens, and it is a large error to conflate the two. One reason for the disparity is that the process of democratic choice often elicits people’s aspirations. When we are thinking about what was as a nation should do-rather than what each of us as consumer should buy-we are often led to think of our larger, long-term goals. We may therefore hope to promote a high-quality communications market even if, as consumers, we seek “infotainment.” Within the democratic process, we are also able to act as a group and not limited to our option as individuals. Acting as a group, we are thus in a position to solve various obstacles to dealing properly with issues that we cannot, without great difficult, solve on our own.

So, where does Sunstein go with this distinction? Sunstein is concerned not just about too little information but about too much information, that is, information that is not properly filtered by a Platonic Philosopher King such as himself:

When people’s preferences are a product of excessively limited options, there is a problem from the standpoint of freedom, and we do freedom a grave disservice by insisting on respect for preferences. When options are plentiful, things are much better. But there is also a problem, from the standpoint of freedom, when people’s past choices lead to the development of preferences that limit their own horizons and their capacity for citizenship.

In other words, too many options lead the "consumers" astray, "limits their own horizons", and may lead them not to make "proper" choices in their role as "citizens". What is the remedy for that?:

These points obviously bear on a number of questions outside of the area of communications, such as environmental protection and antidiscrimination law. In many contexts, people, acting in their capacity as citizens, favor measures that diverge from the choices they make in their capacity as consumers. Of course it is important to impose constraints, usually in the form of rights, on what political majorities may do under this rationale. But if I am correct, one thing is clear: a system of limitless individual choices with respect to communications is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government, and efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not to be rejected in freedom’s name.

And just what would such an "effort to reduce the resulting problems" mean in practice? He doesn't say. Sunstein not only decries too much information, but he is concerned that the internet just makes it too darned easy to indulge in "consumption" that behaviorists have shown do not really make us happy:

For present purposes my conclusions are simple. The Internet unquestionably makes purchases easier and more convenient for consumers. To this extent, it is a genuine boon for most of us. But it is less of a boon than we usually think, particularly to the extent that it accelerates the consumption treadmill without making life much better for consumers of most goods. If citizens are reflective about their practices and their lives, they are entirely aware of this fact. As citizens, we might well choose to slow down the treadmill, or to ensure that resources that now keep it moving will be devoted to better uses. And insofar as citizens are attempting to accomplish that worth goal, the idea of liberty should hardly stand in the way.

This is a frightening statement. How could "liberty" stand in the way of an individual making a choice since choice is dependent on liberty. Of course, Sunstein is veiling his actual meaning: that the government has a moral imperative to "ensure that resources..be devoted to better uses." Whose "resources" and how will he determine "better uses" exactly? He doesn't say.

Additionally, Sunstein worries that too much selfish consumption could make us "inert" as "citizens" and furthermore, that the freedom to choose or consume news or information related to important topics in public affairs will close off the "citizen" from more "diverse" points of view and render him an unidealized citizen:

In fact Brandeis can be taken to have offered a conception of the social role of the idealized citizen. For such a citizen, active engagement in politics, at least some of the time, is a responsibility, not just an entitlement. If citizens are “inert,” freedom itself is at risk. If people are constructing a Daily Me that is restricted to sports or to the personal lives of celebrities, they are not operating in the way that citizenship requires. This does not mean that people have to be thinking about public affairs all, most, or even much of the time. But it does mean that each of us has rights and duties as citizens, not simply as consumers. As we will see, active citizen engagement is necessary to promote not only democracy but social well-being too. And in the modern era, one of the most pressing obligations of a citizenry that is not inert is to ensure that “deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary.” For this to happen, it is indispensable to ensure that they system of communications promotes democratic goals. Those goals emphatically require both unchosen exposures and shared experiences.

What exactly is an "unchosen exposure"? He does not say, but I assume it is the premise behind his advocacy of a fairness doctrine for the internet or communications in general. This implies that he advocates the use of government force to compel private owners of media to provide a platform for "opposing" viewpoints which would represent a heinous violation of individual rights. But, not to worry. You see, according to him, the "abstraction called government" shouldn't "move preferences" unless the public desires the government to "counteract the adverse effects of consumer choices" in which case, we should not "disparage" "government meddling":

None of these points means that some abstraction called “government” should feel free to move preferences and beliefs in what it considers to be desirable directions. The central question is whether citizens in a democratic system, aware of the points made thus far, might want to make choices that diverge from those that they make in their capacity as private consumers. Sometimes this does appear to be their desire. What I am suggesting is that when this is the case, there is, in general, no legitimate objection if government responds. The public’s effort to counteract the adverse effects of consumer choices should not be disparaged as a form of government meddling or unacceptable paternalism, at least if the government is democratic, and reacting to the reflective judgments of the citizenry.

If Homeland Security shows up at your door and says it is coming in to "counteract the adverse effects of consumer choices" don't worry - apparently, it is just an abstraction holding a pistol to your head.

In arguing that too much choice actually represents a lack of freedom, Sunstein exposes his two other core premises: determinism coupled with pragmatism. Consider the following quote:

Similar points hold for the world of communications. If people are deprived of access to competing views on public issues, and if as a result they lack a taste for those views, they lack freedom, whatever the nature of their preferences and choices. If people are exposed mostly to sensationalistic coverage of the lives of movie stars, or only to sports, or only to left-of-center views, and never to international issues, their preferences will develop accordingly. If people are mostly watching a conservative station – say, Fox News-they will inevitably be affected by what they see. Whatever one’s political view, there is, in an important respect, a problem from the standpoint of freedom itself. This is so even if people are voluntarily choosing the limited fare.

Note the implication that people need merely be "exposed" to information in order to be influenced. In other words, if Fox News says that 2+2=4 and CNN says that 2+2=5, whoever watches Fox will believe the former and the viewer of CNN the latter. In his view and the view of the behaviorist, people have no ability to discern truth for themselves, i.e., "they will inevitably be affected by what they see." I believe there is a deeper root. As a pragmatist, Sunstein believes there is no actual truth and therefore no principles to induce from facts. Human beings are like lab rats chasing cheese around a maze. And so why should he care what we do? As a pragmatist, Sunstein has accepted the default philosophy of mainstream academics which, in his mind, is unquestionably true, i.e., the ideology of the modern left: Marxism, environmentalism, animal rights, etc. He must get the rats to go Left for the cheese.[update: for more on Sunstein's pragmatism, see Dr. Tara Smith's essay in TOS.]

Also, note how Sunstein's determinism leads him to conclude that "consumers" are somehow "deprived of access to competing views" by virtue of "their lack of taste". In other words, since people are determined by what they see, they will adopt whatever beliefs are offered to them, i.e., by whatever ideas are floating about in the "environment". Therefore, since people are determined in this way, they are by their nature "deprived access to competing views" and "lack freedom, whatever the nature of their preferences and choices." In other words, by our nature, we lack true "freedom" and so Mr. Sunstein must see to it that you have access to competing views (by force if necessary) so you can truly be free!

As a Platonist, Sunstein views himself as a Philosopher King able to divine the ideal forms of morality and politics which he and the chosen few must convey to the masses otherwise distracted by celebrities and sports news. As a pragmatist (or regulator), he must execute concrete actions to bring about the ideal world as revealed to the Left. As a behaviorist, his plans are predicated on the idea that humans must be herded like cattle to partake in "shared experiences" and "unchosen exposures" which will transform them into "ideal" citizens.

Eric Daniels has written two excellent pieces in The Objective Standard regarding this movement. One piece is a book review of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. The other is a book review of Thaler and Sunsteins Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Daniels thoroughly analyzes this movement and I highly recommend reading these two pieces for more on the philosophy underlying this movement. One excellent point he makes really helped me to understand the fundamental problem in these popular behaviorist books, viz., their flawed understanding of the nature of rationality. In his Ariely review, Daniels writes:

This contradiction between determinism and free will, or fatalism and optimism, is the result of a deeply flawed understanding of rationality. Ariely never explicitly defines rationality, but he claims that being rational means that “we know all the pertinent information about our decisions, that we can calculate the value of different options we face, and that we are cognitively unhindered in weighing the ramifications of each potential choice” (p. 239). Although he believes his experiments show that our irrational behaviors are “systematic and predictable” (p. 239), his working definition of rationality is not that people are capable of making rational choices, but that they do so infallibly. Because people are not infallible, he concludes, they must be inherently irrational. But rationality does not mean infallibility; it means that one is capable of choosing to observe the available facts and go by logic and that one does so. Nor does it preclude the possibility of mistakes; rather, it is the means of detecting and correcting mistakes.

In other words, these behaviorists quote all sorts of studies that show that on average, people will make "sub-optimal" decisions or decisions that are not necessarily in their self-interest as defined by the scientists. They use these observations to claim that human beings are inherently irrational. Many of these studies now form the core of behavioral economics and other fields. Of course, Daniels point is that all these studies show is that people are fallible. "Rationality" is a capacity - it does not necessitate omnipotence. If you would have asked people 2,000 years ago if the earth was flat or if they should use leeches to suck the evil spirits out of their bodies you would have received the wrong answer on average. This reflected people's ignorance at the time. Or, even if people are "hard wired" at some level, meaning that they act partially on the basis of sub-conscious factors, the fact that people can change their behavior and learn from their mistakes is proof of rationality and free will.

Politically, this article points to a site http://www.stopsunstein.com/ in which you can submit petition signatures to the U.S. Senate. I encourage you to stop "consuming" for a minute, be a good "Citizen", and write your Senator opposing the nomination of Cass Sunstein.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Speech Under Attack

As I have argued in past posts, I think freedom of speech is the most important political issue facing advocates of individual rights. In the midst of the Obama administration's fascist takeover of the United States economy, a Supreme Court case related to "indecency" might not move many people's mental dial, but, it should - as this post by Don Watkins at ARC makes clear.

Watkins discusses the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold FCC bans on "indecency":
According to the Court, free speech is not an absolute. It must be balanced against other “interests,” such as the state’s “interest” in the “well-being of its youth." (No, that’s not a typo: its youth.)
Consider, that without the right to speak which is equivalent to the right to think, there can be no other rights. As I documented in this post, which analyzed prohibitions on criticizing religion on the grounds of so-called "hate speech codes", and in this post, which discussed bans on political criticism via the campaign finance laws, freedom of speech is under attack. As with all profound losses of fundamental rights, the state will not overthrow the first amendment overnight. It will chip away at it in principle until the logic of precedent can be use to justify further, more dramatic encroachments. I agree with Watkins conclusion:
The principle endorsed by “indecency” regulations is that the state gets to decide what Americans can and can’t say. You cannot oppose that policy by haggling over what speech Washington decides is off limits this week–you have to challenge the notion that the government can make any speech off limits. You have to stand for a different principle: that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

An Injustice of Injustice: Bossnapping vs. Capitalist Logic

In past posts, I have argued that, logically, socialism must lead to chaos, violence, and tyranny (e.g. see Capitalism, Chapter 8: Socialism, Economic Chaos, and Totalitarian Dictatorship). Socialism rests on philosophical premises that contradict human nature and therefore it must lead to injustice and misery – for everyone. Well, it took about 2 weeks to see this play out in reality. For example, last month, the WSJ reported:

Vandals attacked the Edinburgh home of Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of the now state-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, in a sign that public outrage over the financial crisis could be taking a dangerous turn.

"We are angry that rich people, like him, are paying themselves a huge amount of money, and living in luxury, while ordinary people are made unemployed, destitute and homeless," the email, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, read. "This is a crime. Bank bosses should be jailed. This is just the beginning."

The attack reflects a virulent strain of social unrest that is appearing across Europe. Workers at a factory operated by the U.S. industrial conglomerate 3M Co. held their boss, Luc Rousselet, captive for more than 24 hours to protest planned layoffs. He was released on Thursday after a deal was reached, according to Reuters. Mr. Rousselet left his office early on Thursday morning to boos from about 20 workers.

Another article from The Times Online describes militant workers who are resorting to "radical tactics":

It was the second time in a week that blackouts had hit the Paris region as striking gas and electricity workers adopted radical tactics to support their call for a 10 per cent pay rise and an end to outsourcing of jobs.

They are denounced as industrial saboteurs by the Government and face disciplinary action and prosecution, but say they are determined to press ahead with what they portray as a struggle against free-market forces.

In the following, note what they regard to be "free market forces":

After failing to prevent the partial privatisations of EDF and GDF, the gas supplier, they believe that the tide has turned in their favour because of the recession.

Redundancy plans have caused violent protests in private sector companies, left-wing students have blocked universities and unions are planning a demonstration on Labour Day. “There is a risk of revolution,” Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister, said.

For Stéphane Miliadis, a representative of the Confédération Générale du Travail union at the EDF plant in Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, near Montigny-lès-Cormeilles, it offers a golden opportunity.

“The Government is losing control,” he said. “So now is the moment to push back the capitalist logic which has crept into the company.”

Furthermore, according to this article:

"Bossnapping” has become a popular technique in French labour disputes. Striking workers take their bosses hostage until they agree to demands

In certain cases where bankers have received "bailouts", taxpayers are right to be outraged to have their money expropriated and redistributed to business owners. This is an injustice and has been met with violent protests (widely regarded as an appropriate reaction by the MSM). However, consider that when the process is reversed, when business owners are stripped of their property rights, when the so-called rich are robbed of over half their income in taxes to fund the welfare state, when businessmen are routinely harassed and regarded as guilty until proven innocent, there is not a whisper of outrage much less a violent protest. Imagine the reaction if a business owner took his employees hostage or vandalized their homes in order to force them into a labor contract? Such an occurrence would rightly be regarded as an injustice and would certainly lead to unimaginably violent protests or riots. Where is the outrage when businessmen suffer the same fate and what is the root cause of this double standard?

Notice that it is not business owners who are perpetrating acts of violence in protest of egregious violations of their property rights, it is the employees who are protesting. Apparently, they have a moral right to "their job” but the owners do not have a moral right to their business. In this case, employment is not regarded as a voluntary contract between two parties: the owner of a business and someone who willingly sells his labor. Employment is regarded as an entitlement to be provided by the business owner.

In reality, individuals create a business in order to offer a product to others in an attempt to profit. The businessmen rightfully own their product and may or may not seek out others with whom to contract for labor. In other words, in reality, justice demands that each person respects the rights of others trading value for value in accordance with what Ayn Rand dubbed the trader principle:

A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. He does not treat men as masters or slaves, but as independent equals. He deals with men by means of a free, voluntary, unforced, uncoerced exchange—an exchange which benefits both parties by their own independent judgment. A trader does not expect to be paid for his defaults, only for his achievements. He does not switch to others the burden of his failures, and he does not mortgage his life into bondage to the failures of others.

Under socialism, this process is inverted. Businesses are regarded as the given - they simply exist, and their purpose is to provide employment to those in need. But what is the root cause of such an inversion? What moral theory provides the justification for the unjust violation of individual rights coupled with the further injustice of blaming its primary victim for the consequences? Altruism is responsible for this injustice of injustice.

What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Under the doctrine of altruism, one who pursues his own self-interest or is motivated by profit, is regarded as an evil monster to be throttled by the state - his every move to be regulated and his profits to be expropriated and redistributed for the unearned benefit of others.

The events taking place in Europe exemplify the morality of altruism. This doctrine leads men to regard businessmen as sacrificial lambs, and, therefore, the idea that a businessman would actually be the recipient of welfare is regarded as a monumental injustice. But, the expropriation of wealth is not the object of protest - it is the particular recipient of the loot that is being protested. Rather than fighting for the principle of individual rights or the trader principle, which would entail opposing government welfare both to businessmen and to the poor, these militants only attack the businessmen. And what about the French radicals who are cutting off power to customers? What is the alleged injustice they are fighting? They are fighting for a "pay rise" and an end to "outsourcing" - in other words, they want an increase in pay and the right to a job for which no one is willing to pay.

The "struggle against free market forces" is a struggle against the nature of reality - the same struggle implied by the morality of altruism. Altruism demands that one give up value for a lesser value. By demanding sacrifice, altruism represents a negation of life itself, i.e., it sets a standard that if consistently applied would literally result in death. Altruism necessitates the treatment of one party as slave and the other as master - it is a philosophy of misery, stagnation, and death - it is a philosophy that leads to regulation, taxation, corporate welfare, broken windows, power outages, "bossnapping", and slave labor camps.

If man is to survive and to prosper, our nature requires freedom of thought and freedom of production. Nature requires each man to pursue his own self-interest and to respect the rights of others, i.e., man's nature requires egoism, individual rights, and capitalism.

What the socialists are really fighting is the realization that "capitalist logic" is redundant.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama's Leap To Socialism (and The Republican Trampoline)

In an op-ed titled Obama's Leap To Socialism Dick Morris writes:

President Obama showed his hand this week when The New York Times wrote that he is considering converting the stock the government owns in our country’s banks from preferred stock, which it now holds, to common stock.

This seemingly insignificant change is momentous. It means that the federal government will control all of the major banks and financial institutions in the nation. It means socialism.

Morris goes on to detail the minutia related to both the Bush administration's TARP intervention under which the banks were given taxpayer money and the Democrat's demand that the government take stock in the companies which received it. Morris then decries Obama's recent demand to convert to common stock which would give the government voting rights, labeling such a demand as tantamount to socialism. Originally, Morris writes:

...to avoid the issue of a potential for government control of the banks, everybody agreed that the stock the feds would take back in return for their money would be preferred stock, not common stock. “Preferred” means that these stockholders get the first crack at dividends, but only common stockholders can actually vote on company management or policy. Now, by changing this fundamental element of the TARP plan, Obama will give Washington a voting majority among the common stockholders of these banks and other financial institutions. The almost 500 companies receiving TARP money will be, in effect, run by Washington.

What a shock. Imagine that.

As I explained in more detail in my post Why Republicans Keep Failing, Republicans like Morris are exactly why we are losing our freedom. Note the distinction that Morris makes: "to avoid...government control of the banks, everybody agreed that the stock the feds would take back in return for their money would be preferred stock, not common stock". Wait, back up. So, the Republicans expropriated taxpayer money and gave it to the banks in exchange for preferred stock but they wished to "avoid...government control of the banks." So, evidently, back when we had a capitalist utopia under Bush, the fed's were only asking for "insurance"or "preferred stock" in exchange for subsidizing corporations with loot stolen from taxpayers. But, according to Morris, now that Obama is asking for "common stock", he has really "shown his hand" as a "socialist".

What is the difference in principle between the government receiving common stock as against preferred stock in exchange for subsidies? Yes, there is a minor difference in form, but in principle, both plans concede that the government can and should intervene into the economy. Both parties concede that there is no such thing as property rights since the state can force businesses to do anything and retains the unlimited power to expropriate and redistribute the earnings of the productive. In principle, sanctioning any type of subsidy implies an inversion of the proper relationship between the government and the individual. Instead of the state acting to protect or secure individual rights, corporate welfare necessitates the legalized extortion of the taxpayer.

Once this premise is conceded, is it really a shock when the fed's go on to claim a right to common stock as opposed to preferred? Is it a shock that the fed's want a say in running the corporations they are subsidizing? Will it be a shock when the government decides who sits on the board, who manages the company, and sets salary and bonus caps as they have already done? Is it a shock to anyone that the government has already stopped firms who received TARP money from hiring anyone on an H-1B Visa meaning that highly educated professional immigrants are being fired en masse? If a man concedes that it is alright for another man to have an intimate relationship with his wife, would it be shocking if the other man went from holding hands to kissing to worse? Would you sympathize with the husband if he exclaimed: "Hey, this has gone too far!"?

When this is the kind of unprincipled opposition that the left faces, is it shocking that Republicans keep losing and America marches left?

Maybe It's The Sun Part III

In Part I (March 2007) and Part II (Feb 2008), I discussed scientific evidence that the sun has something to do with the earth's temperature (imagine that) and the conclusions reached by some that this evidence actually points to a coming "cooling period." At the very least, I argued, these facts and the uncertainty surrounding the role of the sun vis-a-vis climate, should cause "skepticism as to the validity of their computer models which extrapolate their current understanding and attempt to predict the weather over the next 100 years." Here is a recent BBC article that provides yet more evidence related to the sun's current activity which shows that "there are no sunspots, very few solar flares - and our nearest star is the quietest it has been for a very long time" - a finding that is apparently "baffling astronomers".

The Sun normally undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity. At its peak, it has a tumultuous boiling atmosphere that spits out flares and planet-sized chunks of super-hot gas. This is followed by a calmer period.

Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.
My past posts also discussed this phenomenon and the so called Maunder Minimum "an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century." The BBC article also references this theory:
"Others are suggesting we'll be going into another minimum period - this is a big scientific debate at the moment."

In the mid-17th Century, a quiet spell - known as the Maunder Minimum - lasted 70 years, and led to a "mini ice age".

This has resulted in some people suggesting that a similar cooling might offset the impact of climate change.

So do you think "a big scientific debate" surrounding data that is "baffling astronomers" and that in the past was associated with a "mini ice age" might give the climate scientists some pause before asserting unequivocally that a catastrophic warming is occurring?

According to Prof Mike Lockwood of Southampton University, this view is too simplistic. "I wish the Sun was coming to our aid but, unfortunately, the data shows that is not the case," he said.

"...If the Sun's dimming were to have a cooling effect, we'd have seen it by now."

What? I thought the cycle could last a hundred years. How do we know how much of an effect this could have?

Professor Lockwood believes that as well as the Sun's 11-year cycle, there is an underlying solar oscillation lasting hundreds of years.

He suggests that 1985 marked the "grand maximum" in this long-term cycle and the Maunder Minimum marked its low point.

"We are re-entering the middle ground after a period which has seen the Sun in its top 10% of activity," said Professor Lockwood.

"We would expect it to be more than 100 years before we get down to the levels of the Maunder Minimum."

He added that the current slight dimming of the Sun was not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

"What we are seeing is consistent with a global temperature rise, not that the Sun is coming to our aid."

How can he state this with certainty? He just said that over the next one hundred years the sun could continue cooling until it reaches the Maunder Minimum. Isn't that the same time over which we are supposed to roast to death? Why is he alleging that these facts are "consistent with global temperature rise"? Don't expect such questions to be asked by the modern day Council of Nicaea (the IPCC). The article reiterates the Council's orthodox decree:

...the IPCC projects that the world will continue to warm, with temperatures expected to rise between 1.8C and 4C by the end of the century.

So despite iron clad assurances that these observations should not change orthodoxy, the article fittingly ends with scientists giddy over a "unique opportunity":

No-one knows how the centuries-long waxing and waning of the Sun works. However, astronomers now have space telescopes studying the Sun in detail.

According to Prof Richard Harrison of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, this current quiet period gives astronomers a unique opportunity.

"This is very exciting because as astronomers we've never seen anything like this before in our lifetimes," he said.

"We have spacecraft up there to study the Sun in phenomenal detail. With these telescopes we can study this minimum of activity in a way that we could not have done so in the past."

Well, I guess it is "very exciting" that "we have spacecraft up there" to study that enormous ball of gas in the sky since "no one knows" how the "waxing and waning of the sun works". Given that the scientists are baffled and have never seen anything like this before in their lifetime, can we shut the computer model down for a bit and ,uh, check out this whole "sun" thing before we destroy the economy in order to save ourselves?

Additonally, let me submit that although these scientists are baffled, I am 100% certain that the most dangerous scientific phenomenon facing man today is the computer model which codifies and extrapolates massive philosophical errors, viz., an invalid process of induction on the part of these climate scientists and the anti-human ideology of environmentalism.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recycling Blog Posts to Conserve Energy

Evidently, my blog has not led to a global philosophical revolution because I continue to be admonished to "conserve" and "recycle" (kids shows are rife with environmentalism!). So in the spirit of conservation and recycling I am going to recycle some posts from my past that unfortunately are still relevant. Now, I have linked to them, but I want you to conserve your own energy and not have to waste extra electricity on the key strokes so I am reprinting them. Here is a post from August 2007:

"A Simple Question For Environmentalists"

Here is an article contending that environmentalists are now hating bottled water because of the er, well, bottles. Apparently, too many bottles are bad and they need to be added to the ever growing list of stuff we are not supposed to use.

So, here is my simple question for any environmentalist to answer: Where should the bottles be (or cans, etc.)?

Think about it for a minute. Let's say there is some aluminum sitting in the ground in Colorado. Consequently, I have nothing but air in my hand. Now, someone shapes the aluminum into a can and I obtain it. Now, I have the aluminum in my hand and there is air in Colorado (where the can used to be.) But you see, there is no net gain or loss of aluminum because aluminum is matter (in fact, its one of the elements in the periodic table) and matter can not be created or destroyed.

So what does it matter if the aluminum is sitting in the ground in Colorado, or sitting in my hand while I drink something from it, or sits in my garbage can, or sits in the ground in another state in a garbage dump. The aluminum has to be somewhere!! Why is it better in the ground in Colorado doing nothing?

It's as if when we use a bottle, there is a net gain of earth material in such a way that at some point there will be too much earth which will pile up. But, in reality, there is a finite amount of earth. If there is some more earth over here, then there must be less earth somewhere else. The only possible problem would be if we literally shipped the aluminum by space craft to another planet or something. Would that make the environmentalists happy? Or, would if we just took the cans back to the mine where they originally came from and used the mine as a dump? The environmentalists could then just pretend that nothing ever happened!

That goes for the plastic bottles too. The plastic is made of material. To the extent that the material in the bottle is in my house or at the dump it therefore implies that that material is not somewhere else. And on top of this, the plastic in the bottle is practically inert. It literally does nothing but sit there for eons. (in fact, would if we just turned the whole earth into one giant bottle - then nothing could change which I think is what they want, right?)

I would rather have plastic bottles than something natural like poison ivy or snakes or mosquitoes in my yard. Plastic doesn't itch or hurt or bite or anything!

So, to all environmentalists, tell us, where should stuff be?

[update: I keep hearing things like "diapers don't decompose for 70 years or twinkies have a half life of 5,000 years, etc. ... isn't that good? If they are effectively inert (like plastic), then they won't hurt us.)


The second post from July 2008 was titled:

What Does Conservation Really Mean?

I keep hearing calls for more conservation as a "solution" to the so-called energy crisis. But what does "conservation" mean? Here is the definition according to the Oxford Dictionary:

• noun 1 preservation or restoration of the natural environment and wildlife. 2 preservation and repair of archaeological, historical, and cultural sites and artefacts. 3 careful use of a resource: energy conservation. 4 Physics the principle by which the total value of a quantity (e.g. mass or energy) remains constant in a closed system.

So, if the environmentalists are calling for conservation does this mean they want us to "preserve" crude oil deposits? Do they mean that we should "preserve" them so that little children who now ride bikes will someday be able to access them? In other words, are they saying that they are not against consumption of crude oil per se but only present consumption? Are they saying they are all for consuming crude oil as long as it is not us doing the consuming? Do they really believe that people that do not yet exist should be the ones who consume it? Why should we save it for people that don't exist yet? Why not just use it? If we run out, the price will increase and people will find another source of energy.

Of course, this is not what the environmentalists mean by "conservation." A more accurate term to describe what environmentalists mean by "conservation" would be the term "destruction" or better yet "sacrifice".

They want us to live more like cavemen than modern man. In other words, they want us to use less earth to survive. But, humans can only survive by using the earth. Therefore, to argue that we should use less earth to survive is tantamount to arguing that we should live a poorer quality of life now. Furthermore, they do not want us to live poorer so that future men can live better as the term "conservation" implies. They want humans to adjust to simply living a poorer quality of life which in turn will lead to less humans. This is entirely consistent with the philosophy of intrinsic value. The environmentalist sees nature as intrinsically valuable, i.e., valuable apart from man's standard of living and therefore, man's nature is the logical enemy of the environmentalist as man must alter nature to survive.

It is time to challenge the Orwellian term "conservation" and force the environmentalists to define their terms explicitly.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cripples vs. Gibraltar

In his 2008 Letter to Shareholders, Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffet notes how the government's policies are making it difficult for the best corporations to borrow while making it relatively easy for the "financial cripple":

Funders that have access to any sort of government guarantee –banks with FDIC insured deposits, large entities with commercial paper now backed by the Federal Reserve, and others who are using imaginative methods (or lobbying skills) to come under the government’s umbrella – have money costs that are minimal. Conversely, highly-rated companies, such as Berkshire, are experiencing borrowing costs that, in relation to Treasury rates, are at record levels. Moreover, funds are abundant for the government-guaranteed borrower but often scarce for others, no matter how creditworthy they may be.

This unprecedented “spread” in the cost of money makes it unprofitable for any lender who doesn’t enjoy government-guaranteed funds to go up against those with a favored status. Government is determining the “haves” and “have-nots.” That is why companies are rushing to convert to bank holding companies, not a course feasible for Berkshire.

Though Berkshire’s credit is pristine – we are one of only seven AAA corporations in the country – our cost of borrowing is now far higher than competitors with shaky balance sheets but government backing. At the moment, it is much better to be a financial cripple with a government guarantee than a Gibraltar without one.

This represents the essence of altruism in theory and in practice. In theory, when the able are forced to sacrifice for the unearned benefit of the unable - when the "need" of the borrower is the only standard by which to determine who is to be the recipients of sacrifice, a monumental inversion of justice must occur. In practice, the most irresponsible are encouraged to continue and expand their activities while the most responsible are impeded.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. In a Forbes article titled, Ayn Rand Rises Again, John Tamny documents how corporations are lining up to suck at the public teat.

With Washington having signaled that it is open for business through various "stimulus" measures and corporate aid programs, all manner of private entities have lined up for handouts.

He notes "that life insurance companies will be the latest recipients of TARP funds. Having "gamed" the system through the purchase of banks, insurers are now eligible for their own government funding" and "having seen how successful the housing industry has been in terms of procuring government subsidies, the commercial real estate industry is presently trying its hand. With the Federal Reserve already offering short-term loans through its "TALF" program, commercial real estate firms are now lobbying for the Fed to offer longer-term low-interest loans in order to avoid a wave of commercial property defaults." He even quotes Alcoa president Klaus Kleinfeld who is not worried despite a 41% drop in sales since the federal government's "current stimulus programs that target infrastructure and energy efficiency will create a demand" for aluminum.

Probably the most disturbing examples of companies seeking taxpayer funds are the companies that once exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit:

Intel Chairman Craig Barrett told reporters that stimulus packages being rolled out by governments around the world should lead to recovery in the next 6 to 18 months.

Gregg Stahl, a technology administrator for the North Carolina Court System, has lately had to suspend a $9 million project that would have given its courts a Cisco phone system. No problem there: The company employs grant writers skilled at crafting applications for federal stimulus funds. Stahl told the Wall Street Journal that "companies like Cisco have a tendency to spend time with lobbyists."

According to the same article in the Journal, over the last four weeks "Microsoft has trained its U.S. education sales staff to identify eligible stimulus funds and apply for them." This month Oracle plans to "hold an event for customers offering advice on how to tap stimulus funds."
Tamny, after discussing the "crowding out" effect such subsidies have on private capital, rightly concludes:

Much ink has already been spilled by commentators on the economic paralysis being caused by a bailout culture that seemingly has no endpoint. What's unknown, however, is the kind of destruction massive government outlays will bring to the healthy companies in our midst. The answer is still to be determined, but if our best and brightest firms increasingly author their growth through connections to the state, they'll have nothing to show for it when the truly productive shrug and the once-generous state ceases to be generous.

Incidentally, see Thrutch for a truly inspiring story of a phenonmenal businessman who rejected government money and of the "absurdity and injustice of our regulatory landscape."

Meanwhile, for banks that want to pay back capital they have "borrowed" from the taxpayers, the Financial Times reports that the U.S. government isn't so sure that it is a good idea:

Strong banks will be allowed to repay bail-out funds they received from the US government but only if such a move passes a test to determine whether it is in the national economic interest, a senior administration official has told the Financial Times.

“Our general objective is going to be what is good for the system,” the senior official said. “We want the system to have enough capital.”

In other words, the government will now enforce its "deal with the devil" by keeping banks under their thumb by not allowing them to pay back the money.

Lest you might be tempted to call Obama a "tax and spend" liberal - here is some evidence that he intends to actually "cut" the size of government - by $100 million! Now, the ratio of $100M to $4 Trillion (the government's 2009 budget) is 0.000025 so that would be like asking a millionaire to cut his expenditures by $25 so I have a better idea - instead of spending $4,000,000,000,000, just spend $3,999,900,000,000. [update: Gus Van Horn addressed this very nicely here.]

My favorite recent story has to be the so-called "stress tests" that are apparently being secretly conducted by the federal government on banks to determine their viability "considered one of the key components of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and President Barack Obama's plan to fix the financial system." First of all, aren't we told everyday that the problem was a lack of "transparency" that can only be solved by more government intervention ostensibly to make information more public (despite the fact that the banking industry is the most heavily regulated industry in America)? Yet, the whole premise of these stress tests is that they must remain secret lest the public wish to divest from a company that is bankrupt. So, the heavily regulated banks which have been chastised for their lack of regulations which evidently would have made the public more informed are now being secretly examined by bureaucrats with strict instructions not to make the results known to the public? Got it?

But that is not all - apparently, the result of these examinations led to a big surprise for the bureaucrats:

the most surprising result from the stress tests and related discussions may be this: bankers continue to appear oblivious to the nation's insistence that regulations be put in place to keep banks from ever again putting the economy at such risk. "I just don't think they get it," the official says, referring to bankers' unwillingness to take responsibility for past behavior. "Bankers seem to have no understanding how much damage their actions have done to their and their bank's reputation," the official says.

You mean the federal government showered paper money on the banks, underwrote mortgages by purchasing them through GSA's, forced banks to lend to unqualified borrowers through the Community Reinvestment Acts and then redistributed taxpayer money to them at the slightest sign of "stress", and yet the bankers are not learning to take "responsibility"? The federal government is accusing the banks of not taking responsibility for past behavior?

Here is the lesson: let us alone and reality will see to it that each person take's responsibility.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To Regulate or Legislate, That Is EPA's Question

In keeping with the environmentalist religion's inexorable march towards the abrogration of freedom and economic destruction, the EPA's has released their unsurprising "finding" that we are all going to roast to death along with their ultimatum that Congress must pass laws to curtail "emissions" or they will regulate them:
WASHINGTON – The EPA on Friday declared that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases sent off by cars and many industrial plants "endanger public health and welfare," setting the stage for regulating them under federal clean air laws. The action by the Environmental Protection Agency marks the first step toward requiring power plants, cars and trucks to curtail their release of climate-changing pollution, especially carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

"The (EPA) decision is a game changer. It now changes the playing field with respect to legislation," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., whose Energy and Commerce subcommittee is crafting broad limits on greenhouse emissions. "It's now nolonger doing a bill or doing nothing. It is now a choice between regulation and legislation."
Here is the EPA's press release and here is an EPA page that links to the two public hearings that will be held in May in Arlington, VA and Seattle, WA.. The public can also submit in writing. I encourage anyone able and willing to submit in writing or attend a hearing. I doubt it will help stop this freight train, but we can try. On a positive front, here is a post on ARC that provides some details about Dr. Keith Lockitch and Dr. Willie Soon's recent UCLA panel event to debunk climate change.

Start setting some money aside. This is going to cost you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We're Not Laughing

The news that the news doesn’t take the news seriously is not news. Drudge posts several links that document the mainstream media’s offensive dismissal of the tea party protests, e.g., see here and here and prepare to be infuriated.

Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, said the media coverage was "insulting," reacting specifically to CNN reporter Susan Roesgen's combative interviews with Illinois demonstrators in which she declared that the protests were "anti-CNN" and supported by FOX News. She left the teabagging jokes to her colleagues, though.

"I've never seen anything like it," Bozell said. "The oral sex jokes on (CNN) and particularly MSNBC on teabagging ... they had them by the dozens. That's how insulting they were toward people who believe they're being taxed too highly."

Echoing my post from yesterday, this phenomenon has a deeper philosophical cause. To the extent that modern intellectuals dismiss thinking in principle or the objectivity of knowledge, they must regard any normative principle as being either a matter of opinion (subjectivism) or the result of an argument from authority (dogmatism). Therefore, they dismiss anyone who asserts a principle as “dogmatic” or “simplistic”. To them, the protesters are comically naïve simpletons from the fly-over states not attuned to the more sophisticated modern dialectic. Furthermore, the more vehement the protest the more likely they are to regard it as “extremism” and brush it off as kooky. In other words, they regard an advocate of reason in the same way they would regard a brainwashed religious cult member. To them, philosophically, they are equivalent.

Jenny Beth Martin, a Republican activist who helped organize one protest in Atlanta, said she's not too worried about the protests being dismissed by some media outlets. She estimated 750,000 people attended more than 800 protests in all 50 states, and that at the very least the local media and community newspapers documented it.

"Our message definitely got out where it needed to get," she said.

Indeed. And as I concluded in a previous post in which I argued that an important milestone had been reached in the battle for freedom:

It is fifty-two years after the publication of Atlas Shrugged. We are going through the "how can we take these people seriously" stage while Objectivism is making major in roads into academia and a grass roots movement of people who have had fifty-two years to think about Ayn Rand's philosophy is starting to emerge. Reason is on the side of freedom and capitalism and the left is intellectually bankrupt. Let's make the next ten years, the "amendments and acts" stage which we can lovingly call "The Good Deal".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Obama to 'tea-bag' protesters: I simply want to rule you

In response to the tax day protests, Obama offered the following:

Americans need a "government that is working to create jobs and opportunity for them, rather than simply giving more and more to those at the very top in the false hope that wealth will trickle down," Obama said.

In his remarks, Obama decried the use of taxes as a political wedge issue "to scare people into supporting policies that increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams."

"We start from the simple premise that we should reduce the tax burden on working people, while helping Americans go to college, own a home, raise a family, start a business and save for retirement," Obama said. [emphasis mine]

This is prime Obama pragmatism on display. Notice that he claims to start from a "simple premise": Marxism. Evidently, it is the government's function to "help" with college, buying a house, the kids, career, retirement, i.e. to intrude on every aspect of an individuals life from the cradle to the grave. Furthermore, he actually implies that the government "gives" money to "those at the top" as if the government is responsible for the wealth of the producers not vice versa! Then, in an ode to Marxist class warfare, he cites the proverbial burden of "working people" failing to recognize that the top earners pay over 90% of the taxes and that the very taxes and regulations on "those at the top" that he supports destroys capital and thus decreases the real wages of the "working people" with which he claims to be so concerned.

Note that he asserts this casually as a matter of fact. In other words, Marxism represents his default philosophy not to be proven or questioned but rather - assumed. What about the principle of individual rights? Where will he get the money to "help"? Won't such a policy necessitate the theft of the earnings of the productive? Is this just? To the pragmatist, there are no principles to be proved or debated. He accepts the moral and political philosophies of the culture and seeks to act. Simple.

This gives rise to another premise in the quote. He "decries the use of taxes as a political wedge" that might "scare people", i.e., he rejects the idea that anyone who questions or opposes taxes could be motivated by principles, morality or justice. Again, to him there are no principles, morality, or justice. Therefore, disagreement or protests can only be attributed to "politics" or appeals to emotion. This premise is why the pragmatist is so eager to negotiate and compromise and so ready to denigrate anyone who stands on principle as an "ideologue" or "extremist".

Obama has stated on several occasions that he is not an advocate of "big government." He is telling the truth. He does not consider his multi-trillion dollar fascist takeover of the U.S. economy to be big government. To him, his policies represent normal government, i.e., his policies are consistent with the given metaphysically unassailable premises of Marxism . Let's hope that he doesn't take a liking to big government.

I'm Sorry For Your Loss

Tax day gives me the same feeling as a funeral - the sense of a permanent loss.

Anyway, Beth over at Wealth Is Not The Problem posted some great tax day reading links. Check it out.

It's a little late but here is a national link for the Tax Day Tea Party protests.

If there is anything else I can do, just let me know...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Revisiting States' Rights

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed,will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

The Declaration of Independence
In the wake of the Texas resolution affirming state sovereignty under the 10th amendment, it is important to revisit the reasons why the United States was formed in the first place. I do not mean to explore the reasons why the colonists sought independence from Britain, but to revisit the reasons that drove the states to passage of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Continental Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation:
The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, commonly referred to as the Articles of Confederation, was the first constitution of the thirteen United States of America. The Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the 'Articles' in June 1776 and proposed the draft to the States for ratification in November 1777. The ratification process was completed in March 1781, legally federating the sovereign and independent states, allied under the Articles of Association, into a new federation styled the "United States of America". Under the Articles, and the succeeding United States Constitution, the states retained sovereignty over all governmental functions not specifically relinquished to the central government.
At this time, unlike today, each state was effectively like its own country. After the end of the Revolutionary War in 1782, the states continued to coexist under the Articles of Confederation. There were many problems that resulted from this arrangement related to commerce, legal disputes over land and contracts, the maintenance of a military, and how best to deal with foreign relations which prompted activists known as "the federalists" to advocate for a new constitution that would give the federal government more power. Naturally, there were grave concerns that any federation of the states might lead to the kind of tyranny the colonists had just fought in the form of the British monarchy.

In a previous
post ("It will wait upon the ladies at their toilett...") I wrote the following:
Some of the greatest writing in the history of political science occurred between 1787 and 1789 during the debate over the ratification of the federal Constitution. A series of famous essays known as the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay and expounded the principal arguments in favor of it. These writings have provided perhaps the most important primary source for constitutional interpretation. Not as widely known but just as important are the Anti-Federalist Papers, a collection of writings and speeches opposed to ratification authored by among others Robert Yates, Richard Henry Lee, George Clinton and Patrick Henry. Quoting the link:

"[The Anti-Federalist Papers] contain warnings of dangers from tyranny that weaknesses in the proposed Constitution did not adequately provide against, and while some of those weaknesses were corrected by adoption of the Bill of Rights, others remained, and some of these dangers are now coming to pass."

I recommend The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates edited by Ralph Ketcham to be read alongside the Federalist Papers (this link is an excellent way to understand the chronology and read the pros and cons). As I argued in my previous post, the writers of the Anti-Federalist Papers were incredibly prescient. In light of all that we know and although this may land me on the federal government's watch list, the entire purpose and function of the federal government needs to be revisited. If it is indeed necessary to have a federation of the states, the U.S. Constitution is in dire need of amendments to once again properly affirm and delimit the power of the federal government which has now clearly, egregiously, and dangerously overstepped the limited role for which it was intended by the Founders and by any rational standard of individual freedom.

Hopefully, with the action taken by Texas, a general movement towards reassessing the function of the federal government vis-a-vis the states will begin.

Gov. Perry Backs Resolution Affirming Texas' Sovereignty Under 10th Amendment

I saw this story linked on Drudge. Hopefully, other states will follow Texas' lead and issue similar resolutions. The video of the speech is here. Quoting from the press release:
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today joined state Rep. Brandon Creighton and sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 50 in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

More Hairspray Please

As a follow up to my recent post which discussed Obama's science advisor Holdren's call to artificially pollute the air in order to cool the earth, see C. August's post at Titanic Deck Chairs which provides more detail including a link to a post at Reality Talk. Reality Talk uncovers the genesis of Holdren's plan which appears to stem from a paper published last year that argued that the rise in temperature in Europe since 1980 is being caused by declining aerosol concentrations - yes, global warming is being caused by cleaner air! Quoting the paper's abstract:

The rapid temperature increase of 1°C over mainland Europe since 1980 is considerably larger than the temperature rise expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases. Here we present aerosol optical depth measurements from six specific locations and surface irradiance measurements from a large number of radiation sites in Northern Germany and Switzerland. The measurements show a decline in aerosol concentration of up to 60%, which have led to a statistically significant increase of solar irradiance under cloud-free skies since the 1980s. The measurements confirm solar brightening and show that the direct aerosol effect had an approximately five times larger impact on climate forcing than the indirect aerosol and other cloud effects. The overall aerosol and cloud induced surface climate forcing is +1 W m−2 dec−1 and has most probably strongly contributed to the recent rapid warming in Europe.
Weren't we told that the science behind global warming is definitive and that this fact entails "a huge reordering of the world economy"? Yet, evidently, we are at the stage where new research is revealing causes that are orders of magnitude greater than previously known. As I said in a previous post and again here related to recent evidence that the sun might actually have something to do with temperature:

I submit that if climate scientists are still at the point of saying things like "I think the main question is, how does the sun [in general] act on climate? What are the processes that are going on in the Earth's atmosphere?" then perhaps we should have some skepticism as to the validity of their computer models which extrapolate their current understanding and attempt to predict the weather over the next 100 years!!!!!
Of course, environmentalists are not really concerned with "warming" but with any human impingement on nature. As I stated in my post The Average Temperature of Eden in which I speculated as to what Environmentalist's might regard the "perfect" temperature to be:

...religionists and/or environmentalists both explicitly or implicitly postulate an Eden wherein “man” allegedly lived in “perfect harmony” with nature and/or God which has now been defiled by man’s essential nature which is flawed and profane.
Their real agenda is to protect the earth from man. As I noted in my post The Change to Climate Change, the usage of science by environmentalists is a facade and explains why environmentalists have been deftly changing their rhetoric from "global warming" to "climate change".

Environmentalists are not concerned with saving the Earth for man but saving the Earth from man. In other words, because man by his nature must use the Earth, the environmentalist who values nature "intrinsically" must in principle consider man to be only an enemy of the earth (which has now attained the status of a pseudo-god to be worshipped for its own sake.) Therefore, the scientific issue of "warming" is a smokescreen, i.e., a convenient claim carrying a pseudo-scientific veneer which can more easily confuse the ignorant public as to the movement's true aims. If "warming" were wholly disproved it would not temper the Environmentalist cause for a second as they would move on to something else as they are already doing with "climate change" or some to be determined apocryphal fantasy aimed at scaring the public into accepting sacrifice and global government decrees thwarting production and economic progress. Remember global cooling, acid rain, DDT, overpopulation, soil erosion, etc. etc.
Economic and scientific arguments are window dressing to the root premise of modern intellectuals: the morality of altruism, i.e., self-sacrifice upon which all of their claims are predicated. Note that socialists originally argued that socialism would outproduce capitalism (so they urged the producers to sacrifice for the proletariat). When socialism led to widespread misery and death, the socialists reversed their argument to the claim that capitalism is producing too much and destroying the planet (so they urge the producers to sacrifice for the sake of the planet). Now that we are discovering that clean air is leading to warming (excuse me, "climate change"), what will they claim? Well, of course, they will urge us to endure the suffering associated with polluting our own atmosphere and blocking the sun's rays. You see, as long as man is suffering, it is all good.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Great Step Backward

I think the next president should say to the world that the United States wants to be part of the solution to its problems not in part the maker of the problems. I think the president has to say very credibly and forcefully to the American people that to do that- what I just said - the American people have to think hard about their definition of the meaning of the good life - that the hedonistic, materialistic society of high levels of consumption - increasing levels of social inequality is not a society that can be part of the solution of the world's problems.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, 6/15/2007
Former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter
Foreign Policy Advisor to President Obama
In the 1980 science fiction film, "The Final Countdown", a modern American nuclear aircraft carrier goes through a supernatural storm which thrusts it back in time to 1941 just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, there have been some storms in my area recently, and I have the sneaking suspicion that we too have been thrust back in time - not to 1941, but to circa 1979 at the nadir of the Carter presidency.

As Gus Van Horn very nicely details, our president is gallivanting around the world apologizing and kowtowing to our enemies, blaming America for the world's problems, and "anachronistically" calling for nuclear disarmament while announcing cut backs in our own missile defense. Meanwhile, Iran threatens American interests with impunity, a hostage crisis tops the headlines, and the President's combination of Keynesian and Marxist economic policies destroy the economy inducing an environment of anger, confusion, and malaise. I fully expect Obama to reveal a beer guzzling brother named Billy and for the U.S. national soccer team to upset its superior competition in the upcoming World Cup, an outcome we could lovingly dub "The Miracle on Turf".

In a past post titled Carter, The Elders, and Treason related to Carter's end run "negotiations" with the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas, and his involvement in The Elders, a group of prominent socialists dedicated to a world government, I said:
The name "Jimmy Carter" has reached a rare level in my consciousness. It is a name that, for me, instantly provokes a visceral sense of disgust and apprehension similar to the reaction caused by the names: Hillary Clinton, Barbara Streisand, or Jane Fonda. I groan when I see a picture of him or see a headline with his name. His presidency and persona is rightly associated with a general aura of malaise, and he exudes a kind of mushy, self-righteous, amorality. Then, whenever you think he has been discarded into the trash heap of left-wing imbecility, he surfaces, like a pesky apparition to taunt you with his latest outrage.
Although Carter himself has been on the relative DL as of late, unfortunately, his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, appears to be directly involved in advising the administration and the Democratic Party at large on foreign policy. If you can stomach it and/or stay awake, I encourage you to trudge through the following Charlie Rose interview from last week in which he interviews two men who perhaps more than any others, exemplify the modern intellectuals' allegiance to the philosophy of pragmatism and who have haunted the American foreign policy establishment for over 40 years - Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger. (While watching them, the first thing that came to mind was Statler and Waldorf - the two old men in the balcony in The Muppet Show.) If you can isolate one statement in which either one says something that clearly means anything, I will give you "the reader of the week" award (which could also be changed to "masochist of the week" award).

One of Ayn Rand's brilliant insights was that under collectivism, technology and human progress actually regress. Unlike other dystopian novels such as Orwell's 1984, Ayn Rand's novella Anthem takes place in a future totalitarian Dark Age in which electricity must be rediscovered by the protagonist. As African pirates seize American ships, an occurrence which hearkens back to America's Barbary Wars, when North African pirates exacted tribute from American cargo ships and a relatively navy-less American military was powerless to stop them, and as Obama's science advisor dreams up science fiction "solutions" that dredge up the era of fatal central planning fiascoes like Mao's "Great Leap Forward", and as the American president replays the mistakes of America's recent Dark Age, we should be reminded of Rand's lesson.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Golf Clap for The "Dear Leader"

The World Tribune reports that according to North Korea's state controlled media, Kim Jong Il, the nations' maniacal communist dictator, possesses preterhuman golf skills:
Pyongyang media say Kim enjoys golf, having shot multiple holes-in-one during his first try at the game. He reportedly aced five holes and finished 38 under par on the golf course. The "Dear Leader" routinely shoots three or four holes-in-one per round, the government-controlled media reported.
I'll have to get the name of his instructor. Of course, this brand of bizarre, self-aggrandising propaganda is typical of all dictators. Associated with these megalomaniacal pronouncements is the notion that the dictator is a sort of omniscient caretaker, a Platonic philosopher king who alone can access truth. Such pretensions are the hallmark of the "central planner".

For example, a colleague sent me some links related to Chinese communist dictator Mao Zedong's "
Great Leap Forward", a plan to industrialize and collectivize agriculture in 1958. His plan, which resulted in the death of millions from famine, included the "Great Sparrow Campaign" under which "every person in China was given a fly swatter under the directive "Away with all pests!":

The Great sparrow also known as the Kill a sparrow campaign, and officially, the Four Pests campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962. The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows.

Sparrows were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, causing disruption to agriculture. It was decided that all the peasants in China should bang pots and pans and run around to make the sparrows fly away in fear. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed.

Unfortunately, this plan had a few problematic side effects:

With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward and adverse weather conditions, leading to the famine.

That wasn't the only problem. Another Mao "innovation" which exacerbated the starvation was the concept of "deep plowing":

On the communes, a number of radical and controversial agricultural innovations were promoted at the behest of Mao. Many of these were based on the ideas of now discredited Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko and his followers. The policies included: close cropping, whereby seeds were sown far more densely than normal on the incorrect assumption that seeds of the same class would not compete with each other; Deep plowing (up to 2m deep) was encouraged on the mistaken belief that this would yield plants with extra large root systems; Even more disastrously it was argued that a proportion of fields should be left unploughed.:

And how did the party officials react when the plan failed?:

Although actual harvests were reduced, local officials, under tremendous pressure from central authorities to report record harvests in response to the new innovations, competed with each other to announce increasingly exaggerated results. These were used as a basis for determining the amount of grain to be taken by the State to supply the towns and cities, and to export. This left barely enough for the peasants, and in some areas, starvation set in. During 1958–1960 China continued to be a substantial net exporter of grain, despite the widespread famine experienced in the countryside, as Mao sought to maintain face and convince the outside world of the success of his plans.

Note that rather than addressing the causes of the famine or actually taking real action to alleviate it, the leaders continually lied and focused on saving "face", i.e., blatantly evading reality in the hope that others would perceive them as having achieved something real. Sound familiar?

Keep this all in mind when you consider the following article which reports:

The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."

Given that meteorologists can not predict the weather accurately past about 24 hours, is anyone else nervous about shooting particles in the air to block the sun's rays? Holdren notes his concern:

But Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air—making an artificial volcano as one Nobel laureate has suggested—could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said.

So, this might result in "grave side effects" and would not "completely solve all the problems" but:

Still, "we might get desperate enough to want to use it," he added.

Can we look at Plan B?:

Another geoengineering option he mentioned was the use of so-called artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide—the chief human-caused greenhouse gas—out of the air and store it. At first that seemed prohibitively expensive, but a re-examination of the approach shows it might be less costly, he said

I'll just take a fly swatter and a pan.