Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy died.

Like many people, I remember vividly the moment when I first heard about JFK's assassination. As a teenager, I was impressed by JFK, and terribly saddened. I lost my enthusiasm for this family very fast.
Now Ted Kennedy, which I was never a fan of, died, and I stumbled upon this long profile of his, by Michael Kelly, published in 1990.
Perhaps this seems unfair. From all available evidence, God created our elected officials to drink and screw around. Arrogance, too, is common. So is sexual recklessness (witness Gary Hart, Robert Bauman and Barney Frank); power dements as well as corrupts. But Kennedy’s behavior stands out.
(Bold is mine).
Eye opening article, written by a Liberal, not a political rival.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Obama to nominate Bernanke.

Obama to nominate Bernanke for second term as Fed chairman. This is only natural. It's true, Bernanke is a Republican, and was nominated for his job by President G.W. Bush, but he is a RINO (republican in name only). I mean - if you didn't know his party affiliation you would never guess it from his policies. He fits like hand in glove with the Democratic credo of "print baby, print" more money.
Bernanke also did some succesful campaigning with his speech that said, modestly: "I, single handedly, killed the worst depression since the Great one". I think Ron Paul was more on the mark with this remark:
“The Federal Reserve, in collaboration with the giant banks, has created the greatest financial crisis the world has ever seen,” Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, said at a House hearing last week in which Mr. Bernanke testified about the state of the economy.
Republican lawmakers portray the Fed as the embodiment of heavy-handed big government, and have called for scaling back the central bank’s regulatory powers.
Exactly. Bernanke's policies are the same as the ones recommended by Paul Krugman, the rabidly liberal (lefty) columnist of the NY Times. So, there's no wonder Obama renominated him. There are other reasons too: you don't change horses in mid race, and if anything goes wrong (which is sure to happen) you have a handy fall man.
While many, including the doom prophet Nuriel Roubini, praise Bernanke for indeed saving us from a big depression, other depression specialists, like Anna Jacobson Schwartz (Milton Friedman's co-author on the depression) have a very detailed and professional critique of his policies:

Mr. Bernanke seems to know only two amounts: zero and trillions. Before 2008 there were only moderate increases in the Federal Reserve’s aggregate balance sheet numbers, but since then the balance sheet has exploded by trillions of dollars. The increase was spurred by the Fed’s loans to troubled institutions and purchases of securities.

Why is easy monetary policy such a sin? Because in such an environment, loans are cheap and borrowers can finance every project that they dream up. This results in excesses, and also increases the severity of the recession that inevitably follows when the bubble bursts.
Roubini, though, beside praising Bernankes handling of the crisis once it happened, also states that Bernanke failed to do anything to prevent the crisis in the two years he reigned prior to it's outburst, when many, including Roubini, were predicting it.
I'm not optimistic about the economic recovery.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


A compelling and lucid article claims that much of modern economics is quackery. Given the mad stampede of money printing that all governments are engaged in, nowadays, I don't see how anybody could believe otherwise.
Here are some quotes:
The 20th century was the century of quack everything. Perhaps most infamous was the great Soviet quack-geneticist, Trofim Lysenko.

No, the postwar Western university is our true Valhalla of quack. The sad fact is that almost everything studied and taught in Western universities today is quackery. The only exceptions are some areas of science and engineering.

And then there's economics.
Pretty much everyone thinks of 20th-century economics as a seething nest of quackery. Including most 20th-century economists. All they disagree on is who the quacks are

It is incontrovertible that quack economics is alive and well in the world today. It is possible that the Austrian, Chicago, George Mason, New Keynesian, and "post-autistic" schools of economics are all quack. It is certainly not possible that they are all nonquack.

So we can reframe our quack detector by declaring that there are two kinds of economists: those who believe that monetary dilution is essential, and those who believe it is inessential.

And this is why dilutionists are quacks. Dilutionists are quacks because it is impossible to imagine a way in which the systematic pilfering of wallets could somehow be essential to commerce and industry.

Basically, what we're looking at here is the harsh but necessary process of waking up from the last century. There is a reason that quackery, in economics and poetry and nutrition and painting and history and psychology and paleoclimatology and computer science and just about any other department you can name, did so well in the 20th-century university system. Reality knows no master, but quackery is useful. Sometimes it's even profitable.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The impossibility of perpetual forcing.

At a talk given by J. Hansen at the Climate Change Congress, “Global Risks, Challenges &Decisions”, Copenhagen, Denmark, March 11, 2009, he said (inter alia):

The planet’s present energy imbalance, at least to first order, determines the change of climate forcings needed to stabilize climate. Climate models, using typical presumed scenarios of climate forcings for the past century, suggest that the planet should be out of energy balance by +0.75 ± 0.25 W/m2, … (absorbed solar energy exceeding heat radiation to space).
If all other forcings were fixed, a reduction of CO2 amount to 350 ppm would restore the planet’s energy balance, assuming that the present imbalance is 0.5 W/m2. If fossil fuel emissions continue at anything approaching “business-as-usual” scenarios, it is not feasible to restore planetary energy balance and stabilize climate.

How Can Climate be Stabilized?
Must Restore Planet’s Energy Balance
Imbalance: +0.5 ± 0.25 W/m2
Requirement Might be Met Via:
Reducing CO2 to 350 ppm or less &
Reducing non-CO2 forcing ~ 0.25 W/m2

Dr. Hansen seems to me to be saying the following: The energy imbalance caused by CO2 (and other greenhouse gases [GHG]) – causes the earth to warm up. (So far, ok). As long as the imbalance continues – warming will continue – ad infinitum. (That is, as other alarmist say – until Earth turns into Venus – 900 deg. C hot). The only way to eliminate the imbalance is to reduce CO2 (and GHG) back to their pre-industrial levels (or to 350 ppm). All this based solely on GHG considerations – ignoring feedbacks. (Dr. Hansen doesn't mention feedbacks in the presentation.)

This seems to me fundamentally flawed – glaringly false – based on elementary, trivial, physical principles:
Forcing – or imbalance - is a relative term, relative to some previous state. It is not absolute. Suppose CO2 goes from 280 to 560 ppm. This will cause the earth to warm, due to the "forcing", but, in the new, warmer state, the earth will emit more IR radiation into space, until a new balance is reached and the "forcing" canceled. The earth will be warmer – but the forcing will stop, and no additional warming will occur (unless GHG keep growing). Infinite forcing is an absurdity.

This can be shown by an analogy: suppose we have a big pot of water, and a small flame under it. The flame forces the water to warm, until the amount of heat introduced by the flame is canceled out by the amount lost to the surrounding air. At this point the water stays at a constant temperature, and doesn't heat up more, despite the flame. Now, we increase somewhat the flame. An imbalance, or new forcing is introduced (relative to the previous state of balance). The water will warm up some more, until a new balance is reached, and then stop warming.

To "stabilize" the climate – all we have to do is stop the GHG increase. Once CO2 is stabilized, at whatever level, a new heat balance will be reached, and "forcing" will stop. Thus, reducing CO2 back to pre-industrial levels is not the ONLY way climate can be stabilized. I'm not discussing the temperature magnitude at the new balance level (climate sensitivity), only the fact that forcing cannot continue ad Venusum, or even until the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps have melted.

Also, due to the logarithmic heat absorption curve of GHG – temperature will stabilize at SOME level, even if GHG continue to increase – which makes the notion of perpetual forcing doubly absurd.
Dr. Hansen claims that the ONLY way to stabilize climate is to go back to 350 ppm of CO2 , else –> Venus. This seems bizarre to me.
I can't believe Dr. Hansen could make such a primitive mistake.

I know I'm talking about an extremely simplified scenario where there is nothing but GHG. I know there are feedbacks in the world, and there is big uncertainty about their magnitude and even their sign. But Dr. Hansen doesn't mention feedbacks. He seems to say that just GHG cause infinite forcing. This is impossible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not liberals, marxists.

Roger Simon is writing about TBDS - Tea Party Derangement Syndrome - the opposition of the liberals to the tea party protests. People are protesting the enormous waste of public money by Obama's "simulation" plan. Curiously, or not so curiously, many on the left can't understand that this is a legitimate and reasonable protest and are starting to cry "racists", "bigots", "fascists" and all their usual cuss words.

Remarkable is the following comment on that thread:
Victor Erimita:

The Left is no longer composed of liberals, for the most part, and I wish people like Rush would stop calling them that. They aren’t any more.

Today’s Left is composed of Marxists, conscious or unconscious, people whose unexamined, knee-jerk opposition to enterprise and individualism has mostly been absorbed by cultural osmosis, not thought or analysis. They wear their politics like jewelry. Mix that college dorm Marxism with narcissism and immaturity, and you get tantruming at the audacity of any other expressed views.

Another strain of contemporary leftism is an ironically quasi-religious contempt for humans and individual endeavor, a kind of New Age of asceticism (always to be practiced by others) expressed in “environmentalism,” the so-called animal rights movement, the hatred of automobiles, the suburbs and other symbols of individualism. Half-baked notions of “The Planet,” big government and collectivist symbols like mass transportation have replaced God and the spiritually transcendent in the unformed minds of these solipsistic rejectors of the only kind of organized religion they can see—like Bill Maher they can only see the rigidly formed worldviews of others, not their own, and certainly not their own metaphysical assumptions. Tea Parties are an expression of the celebration of individual endeavor, a sin against their secular god of the state (or The Planet,) so they see it as evil, beneath civilized discourse, which ironically they themselves are no longer capable of.

Lloyd Marcus and his American Tea Party Anthem.

An amazing story about the singer (and painter) Lloyd Marcus. He was 19 years an alcoholic, and 15 years homeless, and now he became the star of the Tea Party protest movement in the US.

Read the story, it is an amazing story of sudden personal success.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The meaning of Sarah Palin

An excellent article by Yuval Levin capturing the meaning and potential of Sarah Palin.

The reaction of the intellectual elite to Sarah Palin was far more provincial than Palin herself ever has been, and those who reacted so viscerally against her evinced little or no appreciation for an essential premise of democracy: that practical wisdom matters at least as much as formal education, and that leadership can emerge from utterly unexpected places. The presumption that the only road to power passes through the Ivy League and its tributaries is neither democratic nor sensible, and is, moreover, a sharp and wrongheaded break from the American tradition of citizen governance.

Either way, the Palin moment shed a powerful light on the power, the potential, and the ultimate inadequacy of a conservatism grounded solely in cultural populism. It also exposed the vulnerability of the Left to a challenge to its most cherished claims—as the sole representative of the interests of the working class and the only legitimate path to political power for an ambitious woman.

And, perhaps even more telling, it revealed the unfortunate and unattractive propensity of the American cultural elite to treat those who are not deemed part of the elect with condescension and contumely. (my bold).

The intense, visceral hatred with which Palin was treated by the liberals was amazing, surprising and shocking. I kept telling myself: these people are crazy. Yuval Levin does a good job of explaining it.