21 December 2009

Economists, part of the problem

I'm going to interrupt my rant on climate change to tell a great joke I heard years ago.

After shipwreck, three world-renowned academics find themselves marooned on an island with a case of canned food. As they start to get hungry, they brainstorm on problem of opening the cans.

The first academic, a chemist, says, "If we leave a can in the sun, Boyle's Law tells me that the contents will increase in pressure and the can will burst."

The second, a mathematician, says, "We'll need to know about the how the can is made so that we can determine how best to locate it so that it will burst in the shortest period of time while spilling the least amount of contents."

The third, an economist, says "Let's just assume that we have a can opener..."

The point here is to illustrate that economists, especially academic ones, make a lot of horribly flawed assumptions about the state of things, specifically considering variables as constants for the purposes of evaluation.

Now, consider the impact that economists have on government.

15 December 2009

It is about the green, just not the green you think

About a year ago, I created a monster. I introduced my son to YouTube.

Now, unlike his dad, he does not care to search for nostalgic content that allows him to relive his youth, nor is he looking for the latest political satire, he's a 5-year old on a mission: He wants nature programming, damnit!

I can tell you that, since we started roaming through YouTube, I have watched quite a bit about whales (most notably blue whales and sperm whales), squid (mostly the giant variety), and, recently, dinosaurs. Now, I learned a lot about whales and dinosaurs when I was a kid. Not being allowed to watch a lot of TV, I spent a lot of afternoons as a kid reading every sort of educational book I could get my hands on. However, there was always one thing that always struck me as kinda strange, in everything I read about dinosaurs (and all of the other large reptilian life) and the era in which they lived, it always referred to them living in jungles and swamps. There was never any talk about dinosaurs living in deserts or even temperate climates -- the only habitats that are ever mentioned are tropical and sub-tropical ones. Why is that?

The answer is that, 65 million years ago, the Earth's climate was much warmer. In fact, the average temperature on the planet was 4° C (7.2° F) warmer than modern temperatures. This, in turn, raised the humidity levels on the planet as well.

Now, a funny thing happened between now and then. In fact, it's happened several times: the Earth's temperature dropped, drastically, causing periods of extended glaciation over areas beyond the polar circles. We call these periods "Ice Ages", the last of which ended roughly 10,000 years ago. This leads to two simple questions.

The first is obvious, "Why did the ice age end?" The answer being that it ended because the Earth's temperature rose significantly, thereby causing the ice sheets which were covering large amounts of the northern hemisphere to melt.

The second question should then be the obvious, "What caused the Earth's temperature to rise?" The answer being that we really don't know what caused it. However, we certainly know that we can rule out human activity -- 10,000 years ago, humans had wood-fueled fire for energy, they did not have petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines or coal-fired power plants.

So, where am I going with this? I am trying to prove something that you don't hear very often, if at all, from the "global warming" movement and that is this: the Earth's climate has been changing since the planet was formed and that it will continue to change in the future, with or without the impact of humans. This runs directly counter to the rhetoric of the "global warming" movement which would have you believe that human activity is the dominant operant in climate change and that humans are currently on a path which will irreparably destroy the planet's ecosystem, thereby making life on Earth improbable at best.

Why I'm skeptical of this is simple, I just don't believe the message I'm being given because A) I don't trust the science that I'm being told justifies it, and B) it's too alarmist. To me, when you synthesize the message down to its basic point, it doesn't seem very different from "Repent, the end is near", something you hear from a lot religious movements, especially those which spread disinformation in order to not only sell their ideas but to speed up their adoption. Maybe that's why Michael Crichton wrote about the Cult of Global Warming. As such, I really feel a need to question the motivations behind the movement.

As I wrote last year, altruistic movements like saving the planet do not gain traction without there being a chance for someone to make a significant financial gain. Well, last month, the BBC (of all sources) gave me the answer I was looking for: Al Gore is a partner in a venture capital firm which invests heavily in alternative energy companies. Regardless of how Gore wants to defend his actions, the fact is that the man is lobbying governments around the world to change their energy policies and he's seeking to profit from these changes. That makes him a lobbyist. Nothing more.

So, as I said, it is about the green, just not the green they want you to think of...

12 December 2009

Banks as stores?

I just went to my bank's web site to find the location of an ATM. As I was browsing the page, I had the thought "where's the Store Locator link?". That got me thinking, what are banks, really, other than stores where you take out or put in money? There's the fact that they have an implied responsibility to take care of your money, but, when you think about it, a transaction at a bank is really no different than a transaction with a clerk at a store.

09 December 2009

Congratulations, Joe!

He did it! My friend Joe Kennedy got his name on the ballot for the US Senate special election to replace Ted Kennedy.

Joe is a Libertarian running as an independent candidate in this election. If you live in Massachusetts, I urge you to go to his web site (http://joekennedyforsenate.com/) and review his platform. Help take back government from the special interests and make it accountable to the people.