Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A President runs a war.

Here are some comments on the book "Tried by war" about the way President Lincoln run the Civil War, mostly about the military side.
Let's start with Donald Rumsfeld's remark "You make war with the army you have" - yes - and with the President you have. Lincoln didn't have any military experience at all, neither did he have any army. The Federal Army counted just 16,000 troops, deployed on western forts. The General-in-Chief was Winfield Scott, famous hero of the Mexican war, but 75 years old, and frail of health, he didn't help much and retired soon.
An army of 637,000 volunteers was raised, equipped and trained by April 1862, one year after the start of the war. You need also Generals, 583 Generals were commissioned during the war, many by political patronage, a method as good as any. General Grant was sponsored by Elihu B. Washburne, chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee and General Sherman by his brother John, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, without it they might have languished in obscurity.
For the post of commander of the Army of the Potomac (the biggest and most important army) Lincolm found the natural, proffesional, candidate 34 year old George B. McClellan, ranked second in his class at West Point, energetic, charismatic, adored by the soldiers, a good organizer, a good trainer of troops. Newspapers at the time called him "Young Napoleon". He was named to his command in July 1861, and soon after (November) General-in-Chief too. The only trouble with him is - he didn't like to fight. He was never ready, he always needed more troops, more horses or something. He never innitialized any battle, and never won one.
In July 1862 Lincoln named Henry W. Hallek General-in-Cheif (McClellan staying with the army of the Potomac). Hallek had written some books and was known as "Old Brains", he had a good administrative ability, but he was indecisive, and lacked the power to take control, impose his way and run things. Lincoln said he was a good clerck, and he needed him, so he kept him to the end of the war. In 1864, General Grant was named General-in-Chief, but Grant prefered to locate his headquartes in the field, near the army, so Hallek stayed on in Washington, as Chief-of-Staff.
It is remarkable how Lincoln couldn't find any military figure to run the war, and had to do it himself, single handed (at least until 1864, when he found Grant).
The problem wasn't solely the incompetece of the generals - there was plenty of that, but it also was much deeper - philisophical - about the aims of the war, the means to acheive them - derived from the aims. Lincoln believed you must seek out the enemy's army, engage it in battle and never let up until you destroy it. McClellan understood it would be an extreemly cruel, bloody enterprise. He had no stomach for such a total war of annihilation against fellow Americans. In the end, as presidential candidate in 1864, McCllelan embraced a settlement with the Confederacy. But Lincoln's aims were clear and firm, and undebatable: no independence to southern states and an end to slavery. He wouldn't settle on anything less, so no settlement was possible, and the bloodbath inevitable.
General Grant pursued the war as Lincoln wanted, not so much with brilliance, but with tenacity. He never rested, never let up, and the results followed - victory, but slowly - he suffered some bad settback at first - and at a terrible cost. Some called Grand a butcher. For example - in one two week period there were 30,000 casualties; in his first two months on the Potomac - some 90,000 (like McClellan suffered in 2 years). At first there weren't many gains to show for all these losses, and the impatient public seemed to sway toward the settlement.
Another interesting point is the question of strategy: the war's aims can, maybe, also be acheived by the indirect approach, by attacking not the enemy's main army, but his soft spots, untill you throw him off balance. This way you can acheive your aims with less losses. General McArthur employed this approach in WW2, he called it "hit them were they ain't". The approach wasn't known, or considered by Lincoln and his Generals, but was employed anyway, thanks to the brilliant initiative of General Sherman, who took an army of 60,000 veterans on a raid from Atalanta, Georgia, 287 miles, to the sea, at Savannah. Sherman raided the heart of the Confederacy hiterland, it's base of supply and economic and moral support. He renounced the securing of supply lines, lived off the country cut off from the Union, destroyed everything in his path. He outmaneuvered and outrun the enemy's army that was trying to stop him, he didn't seek battles, but rather succeded in avoiding them, acheiving his purpose without battles. He suffered almost no losses, but civilians in his path did suffer, mostly material losses. No wonder Sherman was the most intensly hated person in the South (maybe second only to Lincoln). Some say Sherman's raid was the decisive factor in ending the war.
The story of how Lincoln the inexperienced, unprepared politician run the whole war, including the military part, by himself, almost unaided, is fascinating.

What I missed in this book is a more objective approach to Lincoln, pointing out his mistakes, his missjudgements (if any). The Civil War was a very important, fundamental event, possitively: it abolished slavery, and maintained the Union. But it was also a terrible tragedy - more than 600,000 losses, and Lincoln presided over that too.
The book is an easy and absorbing read, it doesn't go into any details of military operations, but shows the events at the intersection between Lincoln and the military.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Obama and the communist program

The communist parties, these days, have changed. They no longer advocate the things they used to: nationalizing all means of production, or at least "key" industries, violent revolution, or the dictatorship of the proletariat. (As recent as 1980, Francois Miterand, socialist president of France nationalized many industries, which have been re-privatized since, and Neil Kinock, leader of British Labor party advocaqted nationalizations too).
Nowadays the communist have an updated program. See the election flyer of the CPUSA (communist party of USA). They advocate:
Massive public works job creation, major clean energy developement projects (by government, of course), forced worplace unionization, government health insurance (i.e. - nationalization of health care services).
The sweetness & light blog concludes correctly:
Sound familiar?
Remember, this is the agenda of the Communist Party of the United States.
And Barack Obama’s.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What caused the crisis

An incredible tale from an insider about the clueless, scandalous, ignorant way the banking system works.
"The era that defined Wall Street is finally, officially over. Michael Lewis, who chronicled its excess in Liar’s Poker, returns to his old haunt to figure out what went wrong."

"I’d never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable. Sooner rather than later, someone was going to identify me, along with a lot of people more or less like me, as a fraud. Sooner rather than later, there would come a Great Reckoning when Wall Street would wake up and hundreds if not thousands of young people like me, who had no business making huge bets with other people’s money, would be expelled from finance."
"I thought I was writing a period piece about the 1980s in America. Not for a moment did I suspect that the financial 1980s would last two full decades longer or that the difference in degree between Wall Street and ordinary life would swell into a difference in kind. I expected readers of the future to be outraged that back in 1986, the C.E.O. of Salomon Brothers, John Gutfreund, was paid $3.1 million; I expected them to gape in horror when I reported that one of our traders, Howie Rubin, had moved to Merrill Lynch, where he lost $250 million; I assumed they’d be shocked to learn that a Wall Street C.E.O. had only the vaguest idea of the risks his traders were running."

"Then came Meredith Whitney with news. Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for Oppenheimer Securities who, on October 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day, she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It’s never entirely clear on any given day what causes what in the stock market, but it was pretty obvious that on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. By the end of the trading day, a woman whom basically no one had ever heard of had shaved $369 billion off the value of financial firms in the market. Four days later, Citigroup’s C.E.O., Chuck Prince, resigned. In January, Citigroup slashed its dividend."

An amazing, long, story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vaclav Klaus against warm-mongers.

An important speech by Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czhech Republic.

...the well-known Oregon petition which warned and keeps warning against the irrationality and one-sidedness of the global warming campaign. Rational people know that the warming we experience is well within the range of what seems to have been a natural fluctuation over the last ten thousand years. We should keep saying this very loudly. ...
I will try to argue and to convince you that even the global warming issue is about freedom. It is not about temperature or CO2. It is, therefore, not necessary to discuss either climatology, or any other related natural science but the implications of the global warming panic upon us, upon our freedom, our prosperity, our institutions and our legislation. It is part of a bigger story....
The explicitly stated intentions of global warming activists are frightening. They want to change us, to change the whole mankind, to change human behavior, to change the structure and functioning of society, to change the whole system of values which has been gradually established during centuries. These intentions are dangerous and their consequences far-reaching. These people want to restrict our freedom. It is our duty to say NO....
I know that its propagandists have been using all possible obstructions to avoid exposure to rational arguments and I know that the substance of their arguments is not science. It represents, on the contrary, an abuse of science by a non-liberal, extremely authoritarian, freedom and prosperity endangering ideology of environmentalism....
In the past, the market was undermined mostly by means of socialist arguments with slogans like: “stop the immiseration of the masses”. Now, the attack is led under the slogan: stop the immiseration (or perhaps destruction) of the Planet....
For the same reason I consider environmentalism to be the most effective and, therefore, the most dangerous vehicle for advocating large scale government intervention and unprecedented suppression of human freedom at this very moment.....

Read the whole hing.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Artists toe the party line.

That's the name of an article in the NYTimes about an art exhibition in NY showing art from China's past, from the time of the murderous rule of Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse Tung as we knew him).

The painter Chen Danqing, active as a young artist during the revolutionary era, does not exaggerate when he says in the show’s catalog, “At the time I felt there was no difference between me and the Renaissance painters: they painted Jesus; I painted Mao.”
There is a difference.
Under totalitarian regimes you couldn't say what you wanted, you had to parrot the party line. And you couldn't paint as you wanted. You had to paint as they told you, in both substance and style. Those who tried to do otherwise were sent to "reeducation" camps. The communists had no use for art unless it served for propaganda. Any other kind was forbidden (a waste of time...).

Under Reneissance painters painted what they wanted. Some did Jesuses out of religious conviction, or because that's what their patrons (mostly the clergy) wanted and paid for. Others painted scenery, or portraits of other patrons. No painter was burned at the stake by the Inquisition, as far as I know (at least not for "incorrect" painting).

Still, a beautiful painting.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bolivia and coca

An article in the NY Times says (in the headline): "Bolivia is an uneasy ally as US presses drug war".
False. Here is a letter I sent the NY Times reporter Simon Romero, author of the article.

I lived for a while in Bolivia.

Your article on Bolivians fighting the coca is incorrect.
Bolivia has always produced and sold coca, and always will. It's maybe the main source of income, not only for those in the trade, but for politicians and military people as well.

Mr. Morales is correct and sincere in his anti American rhetoric.

Bolivia has always taken and will always take any money the gullible, crazy yankeys are willing to give them but they will never raise a finger against the coca.
Those Leopards are putting on a show. They never seek, and never destroy any coca labs, unless the owner failed to pay his bribes to them. They will put on a show for any visiting reporter or government inspector. They probably have build mock labs for just this purpose, in collaboration with their cocaine producing chums.
The US embassy staff in La Paz should know better, but the US is probably short on Spanish speaking diplomats, and they send political cronies there (Goldbeg !). They are clueless. A pity you take their word.

As to Bolivia, I love it. Wonderful country. Spent there some of the best years of my life. (And never even tasted cocaine...).
Best Regards,

Another fine article by the same reporter: "A month to conjure luck with sacrifices and fire".

Monday, August 4, 2008


Solzhenitsyn, Literary Giant who defied Soviets.

The above is the headline, in a good obituary in the NY Times.

Solzhenitsin was a giant of the spirit. A great writer, a great moralist, of outstanding courage and rectitude. A really great man.
He was the ONE single person most influential toward the defeat of the evil, murderous, insane empire.
One of the greatest, most influencial 20th century personages. His flaws were minor and insignificnat compared to the enormity of his personality.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Poverty and the environment

I found a fascinating article from September 2006, describing the problems with water and sewage in India, specifically: New Delhi. The caption:"Thirsty giant: In teeming India water crisis means dry pipes and foul sludge"
The description of the dire situation is very vivid and appaling. Maybe half the population doesn't have access to tap water, and those who have, have water only a few hours a day, maybe like 3 hours. Two thirds of the population, or some 700 million people have no sewage. Normal life in India is really beyond what a Westener can imagine - it's harsh, poor, and incredibly dirty, it's really a totally different world. Read the superbly written article by SOMINI SENGUPTA, in the NY Times (linked above). I have visited India and lived a while in "developing" countries, so it was no surprise for me. Still, it makes you think.
India doesn't lack water - as anyone who has experienced some of the mosoon rains there knows. Water pipe laying and sewage treatement isn't rocket science, neither does it cost terribly much. But that's the way the world is. Poverty and incompetence, there is no magic cure to it.
One lesson can be learned: there is no hope for the environment in a poor country. Poor countries are dirty, they can't afford to invest in a clean environment. India is incredibly dirty. Communist Russia was an environmental disaster. So are poor neighborhoods in all countries. You fight poverty, the environment takes care of itself, because affluent people demand, and pay for, a clean environment. Any "green" measures that hinder developement and perpetuate poverty will have a negative effect on the environment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The amount of CO2 driven warming is miniscule

Here is a quote from David Archibald, that makes sense, I think.

CO2-driven global warming in not totally wrong, but nearly so. It is only good for 0.3 degrees from here to eternity. Emissions to date are worth 0.1 degrees, there will be another 0.2 degrees to 620 ppm and then only a further 0.1 degrees to when the effect peters out due to the logarithmic effect you dread so much. … you might be able to tell the difference between having your car’s air conditioner set at 21 degrees and having it at 22 degrees. But I very much doubt that you could detect a 0.4 degree difference. So there you are. CO2 is one less thing …to worry about, because the effect is so miniscule.

From the comments at Warwick Hughes' site

Monday, May 12, 2008

5 year plan for energy.

Senator Lamar Alexander delivered a plan for energy independence (for the US). It's the usual blah... blah... - all nonsense, like politicians are fond of delivering. Sample:

- Make carbon capture and storage a reality for coal-burning power plants.
- Make solar more cost-competitive with the burning of fossil fuels.

The best reaction was in a comment by peterjackson:

Good Lord, now we've got Republicans proposing Five Year Plans and Seven Step programs like some 1930's Soviet Beet Kommissar. The last thing we need is the know-nothings in Congress pretending they have the expertise required to plan the future of a market segment as huge and critical as energy. They have no such knowledge because that knowledge doesn't exist anywhere as some type of accessible whole. It takes a market with millions upon millions of people, each with their own intimate knowledge of their own needs and capabilities, participating in an open energy marketplace with free prices to coordinate such an unimaginably huge, ever-changing body of knowledge and action. Gas prices have been elevated for several years now due to many reasons, and already the marketplace is responding with the millionth shipped hybrid, high mileage clean diesels, flex-fuel vehicles, and endless number of promising technologies from compressed air vehicles to hydraulic drive trains, all with ZERO input from Washington.

Exactly. Anything the Government will try to do will turn out into a disaster, like the ethanol mandate. The best thing it can do is stay out of the whole mess. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Who finances UK (and US) universities.

The lefties love to declare that anyone sceptic of AGW must be financed by Exxon-Mobile.
Let's see who finances the left-leaning universities:

From an article in "The Australian" (hat tip: Instapundit):

... the Higher Education Funding Council for England held a special meeting to confront fears that Saudi donations were unduly influencing universities. Brunel University's Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies revealed that eight British universities, including Cambridge and Oxford, received more than $US465 million from Saudi and Muslim sources since 1995, mainly to fund Islamic study centres.
In 2005, a prominent Saudi businessman, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, was reported by The Washington Post to have donated $20million to Georgetown and Harvard universities in the US for the study of Islam and the Muslim world to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding.
At Scotland Yard, a security expert cautions that one of Islam's five pillars - Zakat - requires Muslims to give alms and that charity is considered virtuous and essential.
But Emerson, best-selling author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, says Saudi Arabia should be allowed to bankroll religious initiatives in the West only when it becomes open to the idea of religious reciprocity. "I think there should be a law requiring religious reciprocity for funding coming from regimes that restrict religious freedom on their soil," he says. "Saudi Arabia does not allow the practice of any other religion, bars the operations of churches, confiscates Bibles ... As such, there should be laws passed by Western governments prohibiting Saudi donations to universities until and unless Saudi Arabia operates a pluralistic religious environment.
"Absent such laws, I believe that universities should be required to register as foreign registered agents - a law we have in the US - that designates the Saudi donors and their recipients as agents of a foreign power.
"That would certainly stigmatise the grant giving and give pause before a university accepts such money."

I don't know why I just remembered the anti Israel boycott proposed recently by the British lecturers...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Congress: "We didn't know what we were doing".

Congress has second thoughts on the ethanol madness:

"The view was to look to alternatives and try to become more dependent on the Midwest than the Middle East. I mean, that was the theory. Obviously, sometimes there are unforeseen or unintended consequences of actions," Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, told reporters yesterday.

Only a year ago, Congress and President Bush seemed to view ethanol as a near magic solution to the nation's dependence on oil and counted on it to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans and Democrats together piled up the incentives and mandates that pushed farmers into planting corn for ethanol and consumers into buying gasoline blended with it.

"This is a classic case of the law of unintended consequences," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, who introduced a bill this week to end the entire slate of federal supports, including the mandates for blended gasoline, the tax credits for ethanol producers, and tariffs that keep out cheaper foreign ethanol.

"Congress surely did not intend to raise food prices by incentivizing ethanol, but that's precisely what's happened. A jump in food prices is the last thing our economy needs right now," Mr. Flake said.

If they are so terribly dumb that they understood nothing about ethanol, and had no idea what they were doing a year ago, maybe they should be prohibitted from passing any legislation at all.
It's incredible that they adopted this dumb legislation without the least study of the effects.
Throw out the bums.

Things every last person knows. Only congress-critters are surprised by the "unintended consequences" of their dumb act.

5 Myths About Breaking Our Foreign Oil Habit By Robert Bryce:

The new energy bill requires that the country produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels per year by 2022. That sounds like a lot of fuel, but put it in perspective: The United States uses more than 320 billion gallons of oil per year, of which nearly 200 billion gallons are imported. So biofuels alone cannot wean the United States off oil. Let's say the country converted all the soybeans grown by American farmers into biodiesel; that would provide only about 1.5 percent of total annual U.S. oil needs. And if the United States devoted its entire corn crop to producing ethanol, it would supply only about 6 percent of U.S. oil needs.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Food and fertilizer scarcity vs ethanol madness.

There is a new article in the NY Times about fertilizer shortages. Fertilizer is essential to getting good crop harvests, but demand outpaces supply and prices have risen sharply.

Interesting figures:
From 1900 to 2000, worldwide food production jumped by 600 percent. Scientists said that increase was the fundamental reason world population was able to rise to about 6.7 billion today from 1.7 billion in 1900.

Then this:
“This is a basic problem, to feed 6.6 billion people,” said Norman Borlaug, an American scientist who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his role in spreading intensive agricultural practices to poor countries. “Without chemical fertilizer, forget it. The game is over.”

How on earth our "beloved" leaders in the West think it is a good idea to burn our food, and how they think we have agricultural resources (land, water, fertilizer) to spare, is beyond me. These people are crazy, stark crazy. There is no other way to explain the fact that they passed legislation mandating the use of 10%-15% ethanol (produced from our food crops) in the fuel.

As UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler said: "this is a crime against humanity". (A very rare ocasion when I am able to quote a UN person approvingly).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The decadence of Academia in the West

A good article by British academic Fabian Tassano on the nonesense and idiocy that much of Western Academia has become.

The larger part of academia has become obsessed with jargon and formalism, at the expense of meaningful content....

The purpose of academia has changed from producing real insights to generating reinforcement for the preferred world view. Academics are encouraged to generate spurious legitimacy for anti-individualistic social trends such as the abolition of civil liberties, or the ‘rights’ of doctors and psychiatrists to make decisions about people’s lives.

According to the Chief Executive of HEFCE, "it was once the role of Governments to provide for the purposes of universities; it is now the role of universities to provide for the purposes of Governments."
While one can't expect academics to have no ideological biases, the collectivised way the academy is nowadays run was bound to generate a monolithic consensus. Once established, we end up with a kind of ideological closed shop, with dissenters refused entry or hounded out.

There are academic disciplines, such as applied chemistry or cell biology, where the criterion of generating testable hypotheses still dominates. As for the rest, you can more or less take it as read that they've been infected by left wing ideology and/or what I have called "technicality" - unnecessary (and often totally vacuous) technical complexity.

...even when it becomes impossible to suppress awareness that something is seriously wrong with some area of academia, the fallout is remarkably limited. Everyone seems to keep on going pretty much in the same old way. Another area which it has becomepositively fashionable in some quarters to deride (because it's easy to do so), but where the effect of the derision has been minimal, is postmodernist philosophy...

Quoting Robert Fisk:

It's a new and dangerous phenomenon I'm talking about, a language of exclusion that must have grown up in universities over the past 20 years; after all, any non university-educated man or woman can pick up an academic treatise or PhD thesis written in the 1920s or '30s and - however Hegelian the subject - fully understand its meaning. No longer.

The definition of e.g. philosophy has become, “whatever is done under that name at a recognised academic institution”. Certification has become more important than content, and quality is no longer seen as assessable by an untrained person. The fact that many of the key innovations in the history of knowledge were made outside universities is conveniently forgotten. Someone working outside a university today can be ignored, since by definition they cannot be doing research.

Massification of degrees is said to be inevitable because everyone now aspires to higher education. Fine, but instead of letting the market provide this extension to the old model, it’s taken to mean turning the university system into an arm of the welfare state, rather like the NHS. I.e. run by the state, with everyone having equal entitlement to a low grade product, and subsidy based on poverty rather than ability.

The fact that little of benefit is acquired by most undergraduates is concealed by ensuring that everyone receives a qualification at the end of the process.

The net result is that academics are being forced to become badly paid handmaidens to a system which will be primarily about promoting equality and inclusion, like state school teachers already are. They are now also required to comply with increasing levels of state bureaucracy, and are monitored and assessed by government auditors
I myself, though not an academic, was appalled by the huge amount of nonesense and gobbledygook that many of the academic papers I heppened to read are filled with. The Academia has been taken over by the ignorant barbarians.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Will President Bush join in the chorus of dead-end energy proposals?"

A good, forceful article by Dr. Roy Spencer on energy policy:

The fact is that there is simply nothing we can do — short of shutting down the global economy — that will substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Prosperity requires access to abundant, affordable energy. Thus, any mandated limits or taxes meant to slow the use of fossil fuels will limit prosperity as well, period.

While the developed countries take for granted conveniences like heating, air conditioning, refrigerated food, and the freedom to travel, our politicians continue to feed the myth that we have any realistic alternatives to carbon-based fuels. With the possible exception of a very slow (several decade) transition from coal-fired power plants to nuclear ones, there are simply no other options that will make any measurable difference for future global temperatures.

...and unless someone has the courage to stand up for the rights of humans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the momentum we have generated due to our irrational fears will cause us all to topple into the sea.

Read the whole thing (it isn't long). (Emphasis mine).

Dr. Roy W. Spencer is a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and is author of the new book, Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians, and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The credibility of UN's IPCC.

Here is a comment from the above Coyote blog post by Dr. T.
It sounds authentic to me, though I don't know who he is.

I thoroughly read the most recent IPCC report, and I conclude that it is total garbage. I'm a chemist and a pathologist, not a climatologist, but I certainly know how to read scientific reports. I have taught statistics, and I also understand mathematical models and their limitations. The IPCC report contained poor science, terrible models, and completely unsupported conclusions.

The CO2 issue is more complex than what Adiran and Pieter noted. Even if we assume that CO2 is a 'warming' gas in the atmosphere, its impact is small compared to water vapor (which, based on greenhouse studies, has 20 times the warming effect because of better solar heat absorption and higher concentration). Methane is also a 'warming' gas, but its concentration is too low to have any significant impact on global temperatures.

The positive feedback discussion by the IPCC and by Warren Meyer irks me. First, positive feedback is a psychology term about how an organism responds to good (positive) stimuli. The term the IPCC really wants is something like multiplicative effects or potentiation (when two or more things combined give an effect that is multiplicative rather than additive, such as ethanol and barbiturates). But, in chemistry and physics, examples of multiplicative effects are rare. The IPCC models are so bad that they can essentially apply their forcing factors to anything (too many people hopping on one foot) and claim it relates to global warming. I trust nothing from the IPCC, because the group is about keeping itself funded and influential with governments. The IPCC is not about climatology.

"the group [IPCC] is about keeping itself funded and influential with governments" - true, but I would add to it: it's also about spewing their (vile) ideological viewpoint.

The confidence I have in the UN's IPCC report is about the same I have in the UN's human rights comission, headed by Ghaddafi's (Lybia) representative.

Positive feedback in Global warming

Over at Coyote blog there is an important post, highlighting the issue of positive feedback which is at the core of the alarmist global warming scare.

Interestingly, the key to understanding this issue of the amount of warming does not actually lie in greenhouse gas theory. Most scientists, skeptics and alarmists alike, peg the warming directly from CO2 at between 0.3 and 1.0 degrees Celsius for a doubling in CO2 levels ... If this greenhouse gas warming was the only phenomenon at work, we would expect man-made warming over the next century even using the most dire assumptions to be less than 1C, or about the same amount we have seen (non-catastrophically) over the last century.

As I said before, man-produce greenhouse gases (CO2) may produce a small, minuscule, amount of warming, which is insignificant, quantitatively, among the natural variations. The catastrophic predictions aren't based on this minuscule warming. They are based on "positive feedback loops".

This theory hypothesizes that small changes in temperature from greenhouse gas increases would be multiplied 3,4,5 times or more by positive feedback effects, from changes in atmospheric water vapor to changing surface albedo.

Let me emphasize again: The catastrophe results not from greenhouse gas theory, but from the theory of extreme climactic positive feedback. In a large sense, all the debate in the media is about the wrong thing! When was the last time you saw the words "positive feedback" in a media article about climate?

Now, this positive feedback has absolutely no scientific base or proof, it's just a guess based on nothing - well, based on the ideological bias of the"scientists". It is not based on scientific data or theory.

Here is what Christopher Monckton writes about it:

The feedback factor f accounts for at least two-thirds of all radiative forcing in IPCC (2007); yet it is not expressly quantified, and no “Level Of Scientific Understanding” is assigned either to f or to the two variables b and κ upon which it is dependent....

Indeed, in IPCC (2007) the stated values for the feedbacks that account for more than two-thirds of humankind’s imagined effect on global temperatures are taken from a single paper. The value of the coefficient z in the CO2 forcing equation likewise depends on only one paper. The implicit value of the crucial parameter κ depends upon only two papers, one of which had been written by a lead author of the chapter in question, and neither of which provides any theoretical or empirical justification for the IPCC’s chosen value. The notion that the IPCC has drawn on thousands of published, peer-reviewed papers to support its central estimates for the variables from which climate sensitivity is calculated is not supported by the evidence.

As I said, there is absolutely no scientific basis to the alarmist scare mongering. The IPCC, including the dubious positive feedbacks, predicts (i.e. guesses) a rise of 2-4 deg C in temperature, and 60-100 cm in sea levels for the year 2100. Even these predictions aren't yet catastrophic.

The chief scare mongers, Al Gore and Dr. James Hanson speak of 8-10 degrees, 10 m sea level rise and "tipping points" within 30 years. This scare mongering is based on absolutely nothing, not even on the exaggerated IPCC numbers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ideological bias in scientists

The article "Usufruct & the Gorilla" by main climate alarmist scientist Dr. James E. Hansen is several months old, but worth mentioning and remembering.

An excrept:

Make no doubt, however, if tipping points are passed, if we, in effect, destroy Creation, passing on to our children, grandchildren, and the unborn a situation out of their control, the contrarians who work to deny and confuse will not be the principal culprits. The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point to joust with court jesters. They will always be present. They will continue to entertain even if the Titanic begins to take on water. Their role and consequence is only as a diversion from what is important. The real deal is this: the ‘royalty’ controlling the court, the ones with the power, the ones with the ability to make a difference, withthe ability to change our course, the ones who will live in infamy if we pass the tipping points, are the captains of industry, CEOs in fossil fuel companies such as EXXON/Mobil, automobile manufacturers, utilities, all of the leaders who have placed short-term profit above the fate of the planet and the well-being of our children. The court jesters are their jesters, occasionally paid for services, and more substantively supported by the captains’ disinformation campaigns.

This reveals a deep anti-capitalist, anti-human, vile ideology or mentality.
The "captains of industry" are people just like you and me, nay, they are more able and talented than average, and they provide us with all the food, clothes and goods we need for living. They provide what we need and want.

Now, scientists, like all people, are entiteled to their ideology, opinions and biases. But they should not try to let their biases influence their science, or to present their biases as science. Hansen is oblivious to the fact that what he has uttered above is the expression of his ideological bias. Two senteces later he writes:
I am puzzled by views expressed by some conservatives, .... It is a bit
disconcerting as I come from a moderately conservative state, and I consider myself a moderate conservative in most ways.
It's puzzling to me that he doesn't understand the deep ideological (anti-capitalist) nature of his rant, and sees it as normal, uncontroversial, self evident opinions.
I think that the ideological roots of the main AGW alarmist need to be exposed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Food security - biofuel madness.

The blog EU referendum has an interesting piece on "Food Security the coming crisis".

The NY Times also writes "A Global Need for Grain That Farms Can’t Fill "

“Everyone wants to eat like an American on this globe,”said Daniel W. Basse of the AgResource Company, a Chicago consultancy. “But if they do, we’re going to need another two or three globes to grow it all.
Food prices are rising sharply and fast, already causing difficulties, especially to the poor people in the world ... A tailor in Lagos, Nigeria, named Abel Ojuku said recently that he had been forced to cut back on the bread he and his family love.

Yet the governments of the EU and US continue with their totally insane policy of biofuel and ethanol mandates. Currently biofuels provide some 5% of automotive fuel, but under existing mandates, they should rise to 20% within a decade.
It won't happen. There simply isn't enough land and agricultural resources (water, fertilizers ) to provide the food we need, let alone biofuel.

Global Warming hasn't caused any tangible damage yet (and is unlikely to, in the future), but global warming hysteria is already harming the hungry people of the world today (not in 2050).
While we debate whether temparatures have risen by some 0.6 deg Celsius over the last hundred years, and whether they are going to rise by another degree or two in the next hundred years - food prices have risen by 40-60% in the last year alone, and that's a fact, not a prediction based on models.

The governments should reverse course, fast, and strictly prohibit the burning of any agricultural products (biofuel, ethanol) as fuel.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Richard Branson is nuts

Richard Branson, the famous aviation business mogul is nuts. That is - he is proposing to run planes on nut oil.

Virgin Atlantic Airways, the British carrier controlled by Richard Branson, tested a jumbo jet on Sunday that was partly powered by a biofuel made from babassu nuts and coconut oil, a first for a commercial aircraft.

“This pioneering flight will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels which will power our aircraft in the years ahead through sustainable next-generation oils, such as algae,” he said.

Someone tell Branson that all the babassu (whatever that is) nuts in the world won't produce the hundreds of tons of fuel needed for one lone transatlantic flight, let alone for the tens of thousands of daily commercial flights.

But that's ok. He has every right to pursue whatever dubious ideas he has, as he is spending his own money (not tax money), and it would be presumptuous for me to criticize him.
It's governments who mandate biofuels or ethanol or such that make me mad.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Biofuel madness revealed

Two new studies conclude that biofuels produce more greenhouse gases than the oil they replace:

“When you take this into account, most of the biofuel that people are using or planning to use would probably increase greenhouse gasses substantially,”

As I said many times, I don't care much about greenhouse gases, as I don't believe they are a major problem. The madness is the mere idea that it is possible, or advisable, to burn our food (burn as a fuel). Agricultural land is needed for food production, and for conservation. All available land is needed for these ends. There is no spare land (and water) available for fuel supply.

The fuel consuption is enormous, all the cultivable land in the world will never supply more than a negligible amount of fuel, as compared to our needs. And the costs of biofuels are also high, they would never be feasible without govwernment subsidies and mandates. Biofuels are economically a terrible waste of resources.
And all this - for no environmental benefit at all - on the contrary - there are more greenhouse gasses released by biofuels, as these studies show.

All this goes for ethenol as well except, maybe, ethanol or methanol produced from biowaste, but there are not yet any known processes of biowaste conversion.

The European Union has set a target that countries use 5.75 percent biofuel for transport by the end of 2008. Proposals in the United States energy package would require that 15 percent of all transport fuels be made from biofuel by

Madness, terrible, inexplicable madness of our governments and leaders, in the EU and US

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Flex-fuel mandates ? No !

The Instapundit has abandoned some of his libertarian tendencies and is vigorously pushing Bob Zubrin's idea of flex-fuel mandates. A poor cause to bend you basic principles for.

Rick Santorum, the ex GOP senator also favors government mandates:
What we need is a government mandate! We need to mandate that all cars sold in the United States, starting with the 2010 model year, be "flex-fuel vehicles" - that is, they should be able to run on a blend that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline (the so-called E85 blend), or even a coal-derived methanol/gas mixture. This mandate would cost a fraction of the new fuel economy standard with the added benefit of saving barrels more oil.
Seems than installing a flex-fuel kit on cars is a cheap affair - only about $100, so why not ? Especially, since, as Zubrin claims, "it will free us of our dependence on foreign oil".
Of course, this claim is pure hyperbole, there is no way to produce enough ethanol to reduce considerably the use of oil in transportation. It sounds like the cranks who have an instant cure to all our ailments. It's snake oil.

But, but... 100 bucks for a flex-fuel kit is small change, why not install it ? Why not, indeed? Go and install one on your car, if you feel like it. If enough customers will demand it, it will be installed by car producers. If it offers an advantage, it will be demanded by consumers.
Do we need government mandates ? No, we don't. Government mandates are needed to cram down out throats a medicine that we would not use on our own, because it's not beneficial to us. We don't need a "one size fits all" government imposed wisdom.

And, Ethanol is not our energy remedy. It's expensive, it uses up a lot of energy and water in it's production process, and uses up agricultural resources needed for food production. Not a good idea, by a mile.
But who am I to determine the future energy blend ? I'm not endowed with clairvoyant powers or superior wisdom (neither is Zubrin...). Let the markets decide. When oil is scarce, and therefore expensive, market forces will work out some alternatives that will be better. Let's let them work, they'll come up with the best solutions. Avoid hampering the free development of new solutions with government mandates or subsidies.

Friday, January 11, 2008

No Global warming in Israel

A Haifa University study found that local rainfall stats in Israel defy global warming fears. Local rainfall statistics have remained essentially unchanged in the 60 years they have been tracked. The researcher, Noam Halfon, concludes: "The common belief that weather events are becoming more extreme can therefore be attributed to greater press coverage of weather events, in particular extreme events, and not to an increase in these events"

Friday, January 4, 2008

Can the world support 72 billion people ?

Professor Jared Diamond publishes an essay on the NY Times op-ed page summing up the current view about excess consumerism.
He says
The estimated one billion people who live in developed countries have a relative per capita consumption rate of 32. Most of the world’s other 5.5 billion people constitute the developing world, with relative per capita consumption rates below 32, mostly down toward 1....
China’s catching up alone would roughly double world consumption rates. Oil consumption would increase by 106 percent, for instance, and world metal consumption by 94 percent. If India as well as China were to catch up, world consumption rates would triple. If the whole developing world were suddenly to catch up, world rates would increase elevenfold. It would be as if the world population ballooned to 72 billion people (retaining present consumption rates). Some optimists claim that we could support a world with nine billion people. But I haven’t met anyone crazy enough to claim that we could support 72 billion. Yet we often promise developing countries that if they will only adopt good policies — for example, institute honest government and a free-market economy — they, too, will be able to enjoy a first-world lifestyle. This promise is impossible, a cruel hoax: we are having difficulty supporting a first-world lifestyle even now for only one billion people.

Sounds convincing, doesn't it ? Can the earth support 72 billion people ?

The answer is - we don't know. The earth and mankind are too huge for us to fully grasp and predict their development over time.

Doomsday predictions are not new. The most famous is perhaps Thomas Robert Malthus, who published An Essay on the Principle of Population, in 1798 and predicted the world will not be able to support much more than the about 1 billion people alive then (at a infinitely lower level of consumption). Other such publications include Paul Ehrlich's "The Populations Bomb" published in 1968 predicted "in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death".
The Club of Rome raised much attention with its report Limits to Growth, which has sold 30 million copies, it predicted that economic growth could not continue indefinitely because of the limited availability of natural resources, particularly oil.

The one who best refuted these doomsday scenarios was economist Julian Simon. "His 1981 book The Ultimate Resource is a criticism of the conventional wisdom on population growth, raw-material scarcity and resource consumption. Simon argues that our notions of increasing resource-scarcity ignore the long-term declines in wage-adjusted raw material prices. Viewed economically, he argues, increasing wealth and technology make more resources available; although supplies may be limited physically they may be viewed as economically indefinite as old resources are recycled and new alternatives are developed by the market."

The fact is that, so far, the doomsday prophets have been proven terribly wrong. The world is too big and complicated, by far, for us to make predictions.

Jared Diamond concludes his essay with the weasel words:
The world has serious consumption problems, but we can solve them if we choose to do so.
They are weasel words because he refrains from stating his recommendation for the "we can solve" part. What he means is that government must impose consumption limits by mandate on people. Lefties have a universal solution to all problems - government forcing people to do as they, the lefties, think advisable. Because all people are dumb and greedy, and don't know what is good for them, only the lefties know, and their superior wisdom must be imposed by force, else the world ends.

Let the world and it's people develop in a natural, free way. No one is wise enough to impose his views on all people by force. Attempts at totalitarian rule have proven catastrophic, on a gigantic scale. Let's not try it again.

To the question "can the world support 72 billion people" - my answer is - I don't know. It is possible that it can't. In this case people will not reach these levels of population and consumption. They will not consume what isn't available, of this I'm sure. In the natural course of development some equilibrium will emerge between the number of people, their consumption and the resources available. No one can predict what it will be, and no one can manage world growth by decree. We don't need any totalitarian "solutions". Just let things run their natural, free, course. We can't improve on that.