Friday, August 27, 2010

Accountants join the climate conspiracy

After “climategate” exposed the massive conspiracy by scientists, politicians, economists, the summer heat, and plants and animals to fabricate global warming, we deniers thought we’d finally been vindicated. It was a total coup.

More confirmation of the conspiracy came as investigation after investigation after investigation after investigation cleared the scientists of any wrong-doing and reaffirmed support for the science of global warming. If so many independent investigations found no wrongdoing, the logical conclusion is not that there was in fact no wrongdoing, but that all these investigators are colluding to cover up the facts. So convinced are we of this that we’re launching an investigation of the investigations—this one by one of our own to make sure it says what we want!

But if the lack of any evidence of a conspiracy isn’t enough proof that there is one, we now have the clearest evidence yet: noted socialist behemoth KPMG has just completed an audit of the IPCC chief’s finances—and surprise surprise, it cleared him of any wrongdoing.

As a result, the newspaper that had published the original smear against the IPCC retracted its story and apologized to the IPCC chief.

So even accounting firms are in on the global warming conspiracy? At this point, the only thing that could prove to me that there is no conspiracy to make up global warming is for scientists to say that it isn't happening. Only then could we trust them.

Clearly, the possibility that global warming is, in fact, real is far too simple an explanation.


Riddle me this: who's the king climate conspirator?

The silver bullet proving there's no climate conspiracy

The history of global warming science: where did the conspiracy start?

Follow the money trail to the global warming conspiracy? It leads straight to 1211 Avenue of the Americas

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Riddle me this: who's the king climate conspirator?

Imagine you're an FDA regulator, and a pharmaceutical company is trying to get your approval for a new drug that they think will generate $4 billion in sales annually for 10 years. But you've only got two scientific studies to go by. The first is a university study, and concludes that the drug has dangerous side effects that will cause brain damage or death in 5% of people who use it. The second study is industry-sponsored - and it concludes that links between the drug and health problems are "inconclusive."

Who you gonna believe? I thought so.

Now, here's a second riddle for you. Which one of the following is the most likely scenario:

1. There's a vast conspiracy among the world's scientists to fabricate massive amounts of evidence about the functioning of the earth's climate so they can impose socialist world government on all of humanity.

2. There's a vast conspiracy by a multi-trillion dollar industry to cover up science that threatens its profits.

Any takers?

Of course, I guess there's a third option: that the vast majority of the world's scientists have been simultaneously and spectacularly wrong, wrong in the same direction, and getting more wrong over the last 40 years. But really, pretending that we're smarter than scientists isn't quite as fun as pretending they're conspiring against us.


The silver bullet proving there's no climate conspiracy

The history of global warming science: where did the conspiracy start?

Follow the money trail to the global warming conspiracy? It leads straight to 1211 Avenue of the Americas

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Emboldening the terrorists"

Last week I argued that "the right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero is the very essence of what America means and is." Similarly, I argued that the mosque would actually be a strong signal against the power of terrorism to change us, rather than a sign of weakness that would embolden terrorists:

True weakness isn't giving in to Muslims who want to build a mosque, but in giving into our basest tribal fears of outsiders - the very fears that give "terrorism" its name. After the two towers came down, I said, "Build them back!" Far from a memorial, I wanted to tell the terrorists, "we won't be defined by this tragedy - you knock these towers down, we build them right back up." Similarly, a mosque at Ground Zero of the terrorists' handiwork is not a sign that they've won, but a monument to how little their handiwork has changed us - proof that their best efforts to sow fear has not shaken our commitment to freedom... for ALL Americans.

As usual, I've been proven right. From the Wall Street Journal (!), evidence that opposition to the mosque not only undermines American values of religious freedom, but directly aids terrorists in drumming up anger towards America and inspiring new recruits:

Islamic radicals are seizing on protests against a planned Islamic community center near Manhattan's Ground Zero and anti-Muslim rhetoric elsewhere as a propaganda opportunity and are stepping up anti-U.S. chatter and threats on their websites.

One jihadist site vowed to conduct suicide bombings in Florida to avenge a threatened Koran burning, while others predicted an increase in terrorist recruits as a result of such actions.

"By Allah, the wars are heated and you Americans are the ones who…enflamed it," says one such posting. "By Allah you will be the first to taste its flames."[...]

Jarret Brachman, director of Cronus Global, a security consulting firm, and author of the book Global Jihadism, said al Qaeda and other groups have long used imagery from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to recruit new members. But the U.S. position has been that those wars are not against Islam and that the U.S. has Muslim allies in the fight.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S is different, since jihadists can use Americans' words to make the case that the U.S. is indeed at war with Islam. The violent postings are not just on al Qaeda-linked websites but on prominent, mainstream Muslim chat forums, Mr. Brachman said.

"We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup," with the Islamic-center controversy, said Evan Kohlmann, an independent terrorism consultant at Flashpoint Partners who monitors jihadist websites.

You read that correctly.  Even the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal recognizes the truth on this one: every protest against the mosque directly increases the chances that another terrorist attack will happen. It's an irony that's true from schoolyards to street corners to international conflagrations: many conflicts stem not from rational defense of self-interest, but from the emotional overreaction to an affront which in turn escalates an imagined threat to a real one.

As even more evidence that it's not just bleeding-heart liberals who support religious freedom, both the NYPD and FDNY have strongly condemned ads by NY gubenatorial candidate Rick Lazio opposing the mosque:

Unions representing the city’s firefighters and police officers immediately demanded that Mr. Lazio pull his most recent ad, calling it an affront. Ed Mullins, the head of the city’s police sergeants’ union, called the ads “as irresponsible as they are reprehensible.”

Tea Party protesters and New York City fire fighters clearly have different opinions over whether a mosque at Ground Zero is insensitive. I think I know who to side with in this affair.


A pox on shock jocks who talk to block mosques: the case for building the mosque at Ground Zero

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Enough ado about hockey sticks: the worst is yet to come

Global warming deniers are making another attempt at discrediting the famed "hockey stick" graph, based on a paper (McShane and Wyner 2010) that purports to show mistakes in its statistical methods. While I don't have the statistical chops to assess the validity of either party's math, I did want to make two observations.

First, as others have noted, even if you assume that the new paper is the "correct" version, it doesn't look much different from other hockey stick graphs - if anything, the hockey stick shape in the new study is more pronounced.

More importantly, the hockey stick graph ultimately matters very little for what we should do about CO2, since it only measures past temperatures up to around the year 2000. What we really care about isn't the past temperature increase we've already observed, but rather the much larger future increase that's still to come assuming we do nothing about CO2. And that isn't accounted for in any existing hockey stick graph. I've taken the liberty of (unscientifically) adding this onto the McShane and Wyner hockey stick graph, using a simple average of the IPCC's low-end (1.1 degrees C) and high-end estimates (6.4 degrees C) for 21st century temperature increase:

Looks more like a hockey skate! Despite deniers' strange obsession with the past and lack of concern for the future (perhaps by virtue of their conservatism), the bottom line is this: the reliability of past temperature reconstructions matter very little compared to what we have in store... and it's about to get a whole lot hotter.

If this looks familiar, here's why:


The only thing you need to know about global warming

The cold logic of hockey sticks

Monday, August 16, 2010

A pox on shock jocks who talk to block mosques: the case for building the mosque at Ground Zero

When I was 18 and stranded in JFK airport for 7 1/2 hours on a high school trip to Europe, my English teacher Mr. Parris Bushong pointed to a group of three people--a dark-bearded Hasidic Jew, a suit-wearing white woman, and a paraplegic black man--all in a circle talking and laughing quietly together. "That, right there, is America," he said.

When I think of America, I don't just think of waving corn fields and dusty roads with pickup trucks: I also picture immigrants getting off the boat in New York City under the shadow of skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty, opening Italian delis and Irish churches and Jewish textile shops, grimy beret-wearing kids carousing in the city streets shouting "youze guys wanna play some stickball?" - all in search of opportunity and freedom in the bubbling cultural milieu that is America.

So when a group of Muslims wants to build a mosque near Ground Zero, I say let them! - not because I begrudgingly accept their freedom to do something I disagree with, but because the right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero is the very essence of what America means and is. My image of America, of people coming together from all parts of the world to live and prosper together, is undermined less by the terrorists who flew planes into that great melting pot of a city than by the crazed hoards who now descend upon it, demanding that the very freedoms they say the terrorists want to destroy be revoked.

How are we even having this debate? What is the argument against the mosque - that it would be "insensitive" of people who share the same religion as the terrorists to build a mosque close to the site of the tragedy? But wouldn't that sort of depend on most Muslims being terrorists? Let me put it a different way: if you do not believe that most Muslims are terrorists, is it still possible to make a logical case for being offended by a mosque? Timothy McVeigh grew up Catholic and was both a Republican and NRA member - must cathedrals, elephant statues, and NRA ranges keep their distance from Oklahoma City?

In any case, whether or not I'm offended is kindof a moot point, as the Bill of Rights doesn't contain a right to not be offended. The freedom of religion, on the other hand, is protected not just by the First Amendment, but by the first words of the First Amendment. If we think it's fine to throw that away just because a religious building hurts our feelings, how can we even call ourselves Americans?

True weakness isn't giving in to Muslims who want to build a mosque, but in giving into our basest tribal fears of outsiders - the very fears that give "terrorism" its name. After the two towers came down, I said, "Build them back!" Far from a memorial, I wanted to tell the terrorists, "we won't be defined by this tragedy - you knock these towers down, we build them right back up." Similarly, a mosque at Ground Zero of the terrorists' handiwork is not a sign that they've won, but a monument to how little their handiwork has changed us - proof that their best efforts to sow fear have not shaken our commitment to freedom... for ALL Americans.

Opponents of the mosque say they are protecting "our way of life," but in America, that very phrase is a contradiction - for the American way of life (such that it exists) is defined by there not being a singly-defined American way of life. Whether someone wants to burn a flag or pledge allegiance to it, to build a mosque or a church or an organic garden, our freedom to do those things--not our opinions on their appropriateness--is what defines us as Americans.

Which is why when Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich and the swarming masses, pulsating and waving signs with grotesque energy like some stepped-on ant colony, say that Muslims don't have a right to build a mosque at Ground Zero, they aren't just wrong: they stab at the heart of what it means to be an American. Restricting the right of a group of citizens to build a mosque in the name of protecting freedom is literally bringing Orwell's cryptic words to fruition: that all animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

The freedom of religion has always been America's first freedom, and a few raggedy terrorists hiding in caves aren't going to change that - that can only be done by those whose reptilian brains the terrorists whip into a fight-or-flight hysteria against outsiders.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The greatest Onion article ever

The article speaks for itself:

"Millions Of Barrels Of Oil Safely Reach Port In Major Environmental Catastrophe"

PORT FOURCHON, LA—In what may be the greatest environmental disaster in the nation's history, the supertanker TI Oceania docked without incident at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port Monday and successfully unloaded 3.1 million barrels of dangerous crude oil into the United States.

According to witnesses, the catastrophe began shortly after the tanker, which sailed unimpeded across the Gulf of Mexico, stopped safely at the harbor and made contact with oil company workers on the shore. Soon after, vast amounts of the black, toxic petroleum in the ship's hold were unloaded at an alarming rate into special storage containers on the mainland.

From there, experts confirmed, the oil will likely spread across the entire country's infrastructure and commit unforetold damage to its lakes, streams, and air.

"We're looking at a crisis of cataclysmic proportions," said Charles Hartsell, an environmental scientist at Tufts University. "In a matter of days, this oil may be refined into a lighter substance that, when burned as fuel in vehicles, homes, and businesses, will poison the earth's atmosphere on a terrifying scale."

"Time is of the essence," Hartsell added. "If this is allowed to continue, the health of every American could be put at risk."


"Our fear is that we'll start seeing this stuff in tanker trucks headed to gas stations all over America," Environmental Protection Agency official Ralph Linney said. "And once they start pumping it into individual cars for combustion, it's all over."

"How can we possibly contain this after it's spread to 250 million vehicles, each one going in a different direction?" he added.

Experts are saying the oil tanker safely reaching port could lead to dire ecological consequences on multiple levels, including rising temperatures, disappearing shorelines, the eradication of countless species, extreme weather events, complete economic collapse, droughts that surpass the Dust Bowl, disease, wildfires, widespread human starvation, and endless, bloody wars fought over increasingly scarce resources.


Noting that they have acted in strict accordance with U.S. laws and complied with the orders of federal regulators, representatives from ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Chevron have all denied responsibility for the disaster.

Nice to see at least The Onion is covering the impacts of global warming.


The Onion Reports the Truth on Health Care

A shocking moment of honesty from Big Oil: ConocoPhillips CEO says offshore oil isn’t economical without big government support, demands bailout

What happens when we delve too greedily and too deep - maybe Gandalf can stop the gusher

Why I'm not even mad at BP

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

There's hope for the world

Nickelback may have been the top selling band of the Bush era, but the world isn't quite over yet. The Arcade Fire's transcendent third album, The Suburbs, just hit #1:

They did it, folks-- more people bought Arcade Fire's third album, The Suburbs, than any other album in the United States last week. The news comes courtesy of their label, Merge, and label mates Spoon, who Tweeted, "Let the record reflect that Merge Records is the NUMBER ONE LABEL IN THE USA! Here's to Arcade Fire and Merge: #1 -- 156k copies sold." This comes after news of the group triumphing over the UK album charts this week as well, according to Billboard.

This is the band's first chart-topping album in the U.S. Their last LP, Neon Bible, debuted at number two. Independent rock music is pretty popular now, apparently!

For a little while at least, everything is just in the music world.


30 million Nickelback albums and the decade from hell

Monday, August 9, 2010

Marceaux-Palin 2012

The hardest thing about writing that headline was figuring out who to put at the top of the ticket.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A shocking moment of honesty from Big Oil: ConocoPhillips CEO says offshore oil isn’t economical without big government support, demands bailout

One of the complaints free marketeers frequently level against renewable energy is that it can’t survive without government support, whereas dirty fuels are economical in their own right. So when a major oil company CEO admits that offshore oil is only economical because of government support, that should cause any so-called libertarian to reconsider his beliefs.

We already knew that fossil fuels hardly compete solely on their own merits. Far from it: subsidies for dirty fuels dwarf those for clean energy. From 2002-08, the US spent about seven times as much subsidizing dirty energy than it did renewables. And an analysis by Bloomberg found that worldwide, governments spend twelve times more subsidizing dirty energy: $557 billion per year for fossil fuels vs. only $43-$46 billion for renewables. Government-dependent indeed.

But those are just the explicit subsidies: cash directly given to companies, or requirements to use specific fuels. The true shocker here is how heavily offshore oil development depends on anti-market protection from liability in order to be profitable. At least, that’s what ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva unwittingly declared the other day. In an article entitled, “Unlimited liability for Gulf oil spills would kill development,” the Financial Times reports:

Jim Mulva, ConocoPhillips’ chief executive, says that the unlimited liability some are proposing in Congress to punish operators for further spills in the Gulf of Mexico is inappropriate. That would raise the question of how many of the smaller companies operating in the Gulf could afford to get back out there to work following the lifting of the moratorium and even whether the risk reward equation would favor going out into the waters again for the biggest of companies. He said to analysts:

We will not develop the resources if we have that situation.

It may have sounded like a threat, but it is also a realistic assessment of the situation.It is true that an increasing number of companies have been looking to the Gulf for prospects, given that it has been a good source of oil and natural gas over the years and new technology has made it even more so. But they will not risk their entire futures to get at the resources.

Mulva’s intent, of course, was to argue against imposing unlimited liability for oil spills. But assuming his statement was more than bluster, his implicit admission is that the risks of oil spills are so great that in a free market, the costs of paying for spill damages would outweigh the benefits of developing the resources.

Of course, the situation in the Gulf is hardly a free market, and neither oil companies nor Congressional Republicans have any interest in creating one (corporate welfare is good for the shareholders). Liability for damages from oil spills is capped at $75 million, which means that oil companies do not have to account for the full costs of oil production in their resource planning. It’s an implicit subsidy (or more accurately, a bailout): no matter how bad the damages to the tourism industry, the fishing industry, and the intrinsic value of the coastal ecology, oil companies will only ever have to pay $75 million to compensate them. Either the taxpayer picks up the tab, or the non-oil industries are just left with losses, while Big Oil gets bailed out.

In other words, when Jim Mulva or coastal congressmen say, “lifting the liability cap will hurt production and kill jobs,” what they’re actually saying is, “offshore production only occurs because of market-distorting protections that insulate companies from the consequences of their decisions and lead to overproduction of a resource.” Would making oil companies responsible for damages they cause reduce oil production and oil jobs? Probably. But jobs and money are not reasons to subsidize irresponsibility. There’s no constitutional right to drill for oil: if paying for the full cost of oil spills would make offshore drilling unprofitable, then offshore drilling probably shouldn’t be happening, and it’s not the government’s job to make it profitable.

And let’s not forget that for every offshore driller who’s hard at work, there’s also a fisherman whose fishing grounds are ruined by oil, and a hotel worker whose rooms are empty of tourists. If oil companies are insulated from liability, it means that drilling is necessarily happening in an economically inefficient manner, which likely means that the jobs destroyed by oil are greater than the jobs created by it.

If companies have rights just like people, then they also have responsibilities. Personal responsibility is not just for individuals.


I actually agree with Rand Paul... sort of

What happens when we delve too greedily and too deep - maybe Gandalf can stop the gusher

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Could Paul Ryan’s plan to abolish Medicare actually make sense?

Rep. Paul Ryan wants to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid, and replace them with vouchers to buy health insurance. In conservative circles, the idea is quietly ignored because it could be unpopular. In media circles, the idea has christened him as the intellectual leader of the Right (not because it’s a good idea, but because it’s an idea—a rare sight amount today’s Right). And in liberal circles, the idea has been lambasted as one which would gradually result in poor people unable to afford health care.

People poo poo the Ryan plan because his vouchers would increase more slowly than health care expenses currently are. So it stands to reason that over time, the voucher would buy less and less health care.

Of course, the key assumption here is that health care costs would continue rising at the same rate after Ryan’s plan were passed. But that’s not necessarily a safe assumption, because our willingness to pay a lot for health care isn’t just a result of high health care costs—it is also a cause.

Part of the problem with Medicare is that because it pays for unlimited health care, providers and medical technology manufacturers have little incentive to control costs. If the trough of health care dollars is ever expanding, just line right up and drink.

But if instead of unlimited insurance dollars, people were given a fixed voucher, health care providers would have to compete for a limited pool of health care dollars. Patients would be more hesitant to consume health care, and when they did consume it, they would be more likely to shop around for lower costs (assuming information on quality and costs were available to them). This would give providers a strong incentive to keep costs down. In this sense, it’s possible that the Ryan plan could bring down the rate of increase in health care spending so it’s more in line with the money available to pay for it.

Moreover, experience in developing countries suggests that lack of money to pay for health care doesn’t discourage innovation—it simply shifts innovation And in poor countries where people DON’T have unlimited Medicare money to spend on health care, companies like GE are innovating low-cost medical technologies that deliver 50% of the benefit for 10% of the cost of similar technologies in the West. From a previous post:

Check out what GE Healthcare is doing in India. Conventional wisdom holds that with a per capital GDP only 5% that of the United States', India would be a poor market for a company that makes million-dollar imaging machines, but that's exactly where GE Healthcare decided to invest. And the risk paid off. The need to serve people without much money to spend on health care has produced a $1,000 electrocardiogram device and a $15,000 PC-based ultrasound machine - roughly 15% the price of the top-end devices sold in the US. And costs keep falling. In fact, today GE is finding markets in the United States for these "50% solutions at 15% prices":

Consider GE’s health-care business in the United States. It used to make most of its money on premium computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging machines. But to succeed in the era of broader access and reduced reimbursement that President Obama hopes to bring about, the business will probably need to increase by 50% the number of products it offers at lower price points. And that doesn’t mean just cheaper versions of high-tech products like imaging machines. The company also must create more offerings like the heated bassinet it developed for India, which has great potential in US inner cities, where infant deaths related to the cold remain high. And let’s not forget that technology often can be improved until it satisfies more demanding customers. The compact ultrasound, which can now handle imaging applications that previously required a conventional machine, is one example.

Anticipating the effects of health care reform, GE recently announced a plan to invest $3 billion to invent 100 more low-cost medical solutions in the US. Reading the article, I can scarcely contain my optimism over companies' abilities to innovate if given the right carrots (or sticks).

In other words, we don’t have to accept the current rate of health care cost increase as a given. If it is true that the availability of health care dollars is a cause of the increase in health care costs, reducing those dollars would bring down the costs as well, making health care more affordable than many liberals anticipate.


Bullish on the Baucus Bill: Why I won’t be bummed if we don't get a public option

Cap-and-trade opponents sound like 6-year old Calvin complaining about cleaning his room

If businesses affected by global warming legislation would shut up, stop whining, and get to work cleaning up their act, they'd probably find that it wasn't as bad or expensive as they thought.


Calvin must be advising companies that do offshore drilling

Calvin & Hobbes on how to solve the climate crisis

Monday, August 2, 2010

I actually agree with Rand Paul... sort of

Extremist Senate candidate Rand Paul is back in the headlines again, asserting that just because a mine explosion killed 29 miners the other month—a mine run by anti-government fanatic Don Blankenship—nonetheless doesn’t mean that government has any business regulating the mining business. According to The Hill:

Reform-minded lawmakers in both the House and Senate are pushing legislation to bolster the work-safety protections for miners working underground. But don't try to convince Rand Paul.

The Republican running to replace outgoing Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) in the coal-mining hub of Kentucky said recently that Washington has no business formulating mine safety rules.

"The bottom line is: I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules," Paul said at a recent campaign stop in response to questions about April's deadly mining explosion in West Virginia, according to a profile in Details magazine. "You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs."

"I know that doesn't sound ... I want to be compassionate, and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?"

And you know what? Contrary to blogger Steve Benen, I agree with Paul… to a point. Elected officials AREN'T qualified to decide which technologies a business should implement. But that doesn't mean that government shouldn't be involved at all. The solution is simply to impose enormous liability for accidents on the mining companies, giving them an incentive to invest in better safety equipment to reduce the risk of massive lawsuits. That is, rather than require that specific accident-preventing methods be used, government should simply raise the cost of accidents and let business figure out the best methods to prevent them.

Incidentally, this is also why cap-and-trade should really be called capitalism-and-trade. In contrast to a regulatory approach that mandates specific carbon-reducing technologies, cap-and-trade is a market-based approach that gives businesses a target for carbon reductions and then allows them to figure out how to get there. A regulatory approach is uniform, costly, and sometimes hampers innovation, while a market-based approach is flexible, cheap, and spurs innovation.

The broader point speaks to the proper role of government: while government shouldn’t prescribe specific methods which business must adopt to achieve goals, it certainly has a role in determining which goals are necessary to achieve—whether a safer workplace, healthier communities, or reduced carbon emissions.