Warming Globes

For some reason, I find myself drawn into these long rambling arguments on other sites. I feel a little guilty about this because I write these long dissertations buried in the comments of other sites instead of pulling my weight at ChicagoBoyz.

Instead of rewriting the comments into a post, I think I will be lazy and just link to the comments themselves. So, anyone interested in my perspective on politicization of science and global warming should read my comments to this post over on Science Blog.

[Note that the way ScienceBlog does its comments is last first.]

Ideological Warfare

The Cold War has been over, or so we’re told, for over a dozen years now. Why then is it that our political discourse sometimes still sounds like Marx vs. Gladstone? Eric S. Raymond examines the history of ideological warfare, from its roots in the Cold War, to the modern manifestation in the seeming clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

The essay does wax a bit … pretentious, if I may. But all the name-dropping (in terms of philosophers, writers, and memes) is exactly the sort that ivory tower types might be most excited by.

The essay also seems to adopt what Richard Hofstadter has called the “paranoid style”. Now, I’m not big on conspiracy theory or religion, which share some traits. Still, the temptation to adopt conspiracy theory is a basic human impulse, and in this vein, one could do worse than to read what Raymond has to say. You don’t have to agree with his conclusions, but what he states should be interesting, and a thought-provoking examination of the source of your beliefs.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Breaking News: Tourists Shun Hot, Humid Weather!

Hurricanes Don’t Stop Tourists in Florida is the headline of this AP article linked by the ever-analytical Drudge.

Tourists visited Florida in record numbers last year, apparently undeterred by four hurricanes that lashed the state and caused widespread damage, officials announced Monday.

The tourists know what the author of the article doesn’t seem to, namely that Florida’s hurricane season is May through November while its main tourist season extends from approximately November through May.

Next: Oil Drilling Thought Responsible for Dearth of Alaska Winter Tourism

UPDATE: I should have made clear that the author of the AP piece missed two points that should have been obvious: 1) there isn’t much overlap between tourist season and hurricane season (the point I made) and 2) the 2005 hurricanes occurred late in the year and therefore could not have affected tourism during the preceeding nine months.

Rothko & Edna at Sea

Lex’s post asks what drives demography and notes Spengler’s answer. They seem often right and provocative. (More.) Surely, those who refuse to defend themselves & choose not to reproduce themselves are troubled. And Lex & Spengler demonstrate at least for some it may be a lack of faith. That lack reverberates in the center of the Rothko Chapel, where the ecumenical becomes negation.

As the mother of three daughters, I, like everyone else, has always been pulled by the the nurturer & the bitch, the submerged & the awakend self; I like to talk about the alienation of twentieth century modernism from the biological as Lex sees it solipsistically moving from the spiritual. Or, as my children say, there Mommy goes again – its all life force & castration with her.

Read more

One Chicagoboy says this photo reminds him of a Johnny Cash song:

Recorded by Johnny Cash
Written by W. Kemp

[F] Well, I left Kentucky back in ’49
An’ [Bb] went to Detroit workin’ on a ‘sembly line
The C] first year they had me puttin’ wheels on cadil- [F] lacs
Every day I’d watch them beauties roll by
And [Bb] sometimes I’d hang my head and cry
‘Cause I [C] always wanted me one that was long and [F] black.

One day I devised myself a plan
That should be the envy of most any man
I’d sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
Now gettin’ caught meant gettin’ fired
But I figured I’d have it all by the time I retired
I’d have me a car worth at least a hundred grand.

Read more

Black History Month

I really hate the idea of setting aside a month for one aspect of American history over the others, but let’s make the most of it. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James W. Johnson is a short piece of fiction that is still a little uncomfortable to read today, nearly a century later, but fascinating. The author later became the president of the NAACP.

Categories USA

Demography is Destiny — But What Drives the Demography?

“Spengler” offers a radical answer, which is plausible at least for the developed world.

“The personal is political,” said the feminists of the 1960s. They were on to something. Countries go to war because those who inhabit them cannot bear their individual lives. Entire cultures die out because the individuals who comprise them no longer wish to live, not because (as author Jared Diamond claims) they cut down too many trees. Bulgaria and Belarus have plenty of trees, yet we observe in such countries a demographic catastrophe unseen in Europe since the Thirty Years’ War.

Birth rates rise and fall with religious faith People do not have babies because religious doctrine instructs them to procreate, though, but because religion makes them happy. With the end of traditional society, religion becomes a personal, not a communal, matter, and the fate of nations is fought out at the level of individual souls. Communism suppressed religion in Eastern Europe, and the demographic data in consequence seem to bear out the cliche of the melancholy Slav. By mid-century most of the Eastern European countries will lose 20-40% of their people and be left with a geriatric remnant.

US Christians, by contrast, have one of the highest birth rates in the West. Conservative, mostly evangelical Christians have a plurality, soon to be a majority, in US politics. Their burgeoning power stems from a personal message that has made converts of tens of millions of liberal Protestants. Evangelicals are political only when circumstances force them into politics, for example proposals in several US states to legalize same-sex marriage. Their identification with Israel has drawn them into foreign policy … .

The Devil’s Sourdough and the Decline of Nations , by “Spengler”. (See also Why Europe Chooses Extinction, Death by Secularism: Some Statistical Evidence, Power and the Evangelical Womb and It’s the Culture, Stupid.)

Chris Masse on Prediction Markets

Chris’s RSS feed is easily readable here.

Chris is a one-man news and commentary agency on prediction markets topics. Now that he has coaxed me into using Google’s feed reader to check out his RSS feed I will be much better able to keep up with him.


Classified Stupid

It is not so much the major media’s biases that bother me as it is their sheer incompetence. The New York Times story, “U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review” by Scott Shane is laced with both.

The lead graph:

In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

and later:

Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents — mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war. He found that eight reclassified documents had been previously published in the State Department’s history series, “Foreign Relations of the United States.”The stuff they pulled should never have been removed,” he said. “Some of it is mundane, and some of it is outright ridiculous.”

Gosh, how weird, why reclassify stuff that is already publicly available? I’m sure our intrepid reported will soon tell us.

Read more

Sweet Energy, Sour Politics–Update

Several days ago, I posted about an improved variant of sugarcane, designed for use as a fuel and developed by Barbados. The post also discussed the irrationality of the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff that the US currently imposes on imports of ethanol.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an editorial “What’s Wrong with Free Trade in Biofuels?” which amplifies the point. Excerpt:

Brazil has already established itself a low-cost producer of cane-based ethanol churned out in large volume at the oil-equivalent price of $25 a barrel without any heroic biogenetics involved. Its example is already inspiring copycat behavior by other Latin, Caribbean, African and South Asian countries, with similar conditions that make them potentially prolific exporters of biofuels.

Unfortunately, against the danger that poor countries might find profitable new niches for themselves as energy producers, rich countries have been busy erecting trade barriers to kill off the incipient competition to their own farmers. The U.S. imposes a 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on Brazilian ethanol, to discourage competition with domestic ethanol, which receives a 54-cent subsidy from taxpayers. The European Union just slapped new duties on Pakistani ethanol.

This should lay bare the fraud that what’s going here has anything to do with energy security. It has only to do with the agricultural lobby masquerading its interests behind foolish and misleading rhetoric about energy security.

Take the pressure for flex-fuel mandates, requiring auto companies to build cars capable of running on 85% ethanol. Unmodified cars can already burn fuel comprised 10% of ethanol. If we were honestly keen on diversifying supply and squeezing out imported oil, we’d throw open our dense coastal markets to ethanol producers in Brazil, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Thailand, displacing perhaps 10 billion gallons of current gasoline use without any vehicle modification or taxpayer subsidy at all.

I don’t think the $25/bbl number for Brazilian cane-based ethanol is right; at least it’s not consistent with the $.87/gallon number quoted in the Farm Bureau article (linked from my earlier post)…but even with the $.87/gallon number (cost after ocean shipping charges $1.01/gallon) and considering the lesser energy in a gallon of ethanol vs a gallon of gasoline, the cane-based ethanol sounds like a winner. The tariff should go.

What Ivory Tower?

The Ivy League has lost another one. Larry Summers has resigned.

Over his time at Harvard, Summers has brought the university back into public light, and tried to make the university more accessible. Unfortunately, he has made unfortunate comments such as this:

He offered three possible explanations, in declining order of importance, for the small number of women in high-level positions in science and engineering. The first was the reluctance or inability of women who have children to work 80-hour weeks.

The second point was that fewer girls than boys have top scores on science and math tests in late high school years. “I said no one really understands why this is, and it’s an area of ferment in social science,” Summers said in an interview Saturday. “Research in behavioral genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialization weren’t” due to socialization after all. This was the point that most angered some of the listeners, several of whom said Summers said that women do not have the same “innate ability” or “natural ability” as men in some fields.

Asked about this, Summers said, “It’s possible I made some reference to innate differences. . . I did say that you have to be careful in attributing things to socialization. . . That’s what we would prefer to believe, but these are things that need to be studied.”

Of course, at the bastion of liberal sensibilities that is Harvard, that comment did not go down well, as there’s no possibility that a white male could have any purpose in mind other than to degrade, denigrate, and disregard womyn. Right.

And now, the flickering light of sanity that Summers was trying to bring to the ivory towers of the Ivy League is to be extinguished. And Summers isn’t completely coy about his reasons:

Working closely with all parts of the Harvard community, and especially with our remarkable students, has been one of the great joys of my professional life. However, I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard’s future. I believe, therefore, that it is best for the University to have new leadership.

(Hat-tip: Mad Minerva)

Look for the “liberals” now to proclaim that the hens have chased the fox out of their house. Of course, never having been out of the coop, it may be easy to mistake a guard dog for a fox.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Quote of the Day

Regular soldiering with its grumbling rhythm of fatigues and leaves, its alternation of activity and inertia was not up his street, but the war was different. How it was different must be precisely stated; there are few slights more cruel than the careless condescension of posterity. It is too easy to imagine that the war came just in time to give meaning to the lives of a generation of misfits. This was exactly the stereotype from which my father and his generation tried so hard to escape. They hated the prospect of bloodshed; they hated the reality; above all they hated the glorification of it. Their anti-heroism was not just a modish pose, like that of schoolboys pretending to have done no work for an exam; it went down deep. They were wary to the bottom of their boots; they searched out bombast and cant with the professional mistrust of a customs officer; they touched patriotism only with a bargepole; nor did they expect to find personal redemption in battle. Even now most of them do not speak of their experiences, except glancingly as of something it would be affected to avoid speaking of; they are whippet-quick to forestall the boredom of the young by changing the subject. Ordinary veterans of the last war do not go in for pushing pepper pots around to illustrate the dispositions at Alamein; that is for the generals.

Ferdinand Mount, The Man Who Rode Ampersand

Why You Love the Internet

I still remember when I got my first adult library card, & could take out books from upstairs without my mom signing. It was an oaktag card with a little sheet metal plate bent around two slots in the card. The metal plate had my number on it. The ka-CHUNK as the machine stamped the card was musical to me. My greatest disappointment was that I could not sign out the Encyclopaedia Britannica & instead had to sit and read it in the library.

The library is much bigger now. Google, the Gutenberg Project, Wikipedia, Blogger, … Even better, if I had wanted to read a foreign newspaper, or even one from out of town, I would have had to go into the nearest big city (Hartford at the time) and use their library. Of course, I would never have known if there was something I wanted to read until I got there. When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, the New York Times retracted an editorial from 1920 that had said that Dr. Robert Goddard’s invention would never work in space because “there was nothng to push against.” I was such a fan of space exploration that I took a bus into Hartford just to read it myself. Now, except for the squishy brown rotten parts of the New York Times, I can read the whole thing online for free. The cost of information has plummeted.

Why do you care?

You care about this because it is going to make your life better. You will have more money. Your children will have a library card that is close to the one the angels have in their wallets.

Read more

Fishing for Meaning with the Mullahs

Stanley Fish was the consummate “star” of the eighties and nineties; rumors are he is the model for the irritating American professor of David Lodge’s quite funny Changing Places. He defined the way academics approached literature during these decades; well, maybe not literature so much as power: how to build a “star” faculty, how to demonstrate one’s superiority to the great old guys like Shakespeare (who were, of course, hopelessly sexist & racist), how to prove all is meaningless, how to obtain & exert power, how to make the big bucks. He built the high-flying Duke English department, considered the best during those years. He was, of course, easily seduced by departments that offered more money and free time. Long a voice for post-modernist criticism & always one to hold his finger to the wind, he now argues against “liberalism.” This has been a position for quite a while, There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech And It’s a Good Thing, Too states this turn clearly.

Read more

We’re All Gonna Die!


The idea that all of mankind is in mortal danger, which can be averted only by repentance and radically mending our ways, is not a new one. It actually precedes Al Gore and “Earth in the Balance,” believe it or not. Do you doubt it? Here is an example from 1014 by St. Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester.

Old English:
Leofan men gecnawað þæt soð is: ðeos worolde is on ofste & hit nealæcð þam ende. & þy hit is on worolde aa swa leng swa wyrse, & swa hit sceal nyde for folces synnan fram dæge to dæge, ær antecristes tocyme, yfelian swyþe. & huru hit wyrð þænne egeslic & grimlic wide on worolde. Understandað eac georne þæt deofol þas þeode nu fela geara dwelode to swyþe, & þæt lytle getreowþa wæran mid mannum, þeah hy wel spræcan. & unrihta to fela ricsode on lande, & næs a fela manna þe smeade ymbe þa bote swa georne swa man scolde, ac dæghwamlice man ihte yfel æfter oðrum, & unriht rærde & unlaga manege ealles to wide gynd ealle þas þeode.

Modern English:
Beloved men, know that which is true: this world is in haste and it nears the end. And therefore things in this world go ever the longer the worse, and so it must needs be that things quickly worsen, on account of people’s sinning from day to day, before the coming of Antichrist. And indeed it will then be awful and grim widely throughout the world. Understand also well that the Devil led this nation astray for very many years, and that little loyalty has remained among men, though they spoke well. And too many crimes reigned in the land, and there were never many of men who deliberated about the remedy as eagerly as one should, but daily they piled one evil upon another, and committed injustices and many violations of law all too widely throughout this entire land.

Sweet Energy, Sour Politics

Barbados has developed a new breed of sugarcane which is specifically intended for use as fuel. “Developed” is probably not the right word, though…selective sugarcane breeding has been conducted on the island for generations in an effort to improve the crop’s value for sugar production. Happily, intermediate breeds have been kept in a museum, and one of them turned out to be excellent for its fuel value.

Primary use of the “new” sugarcane will be boiler fuel for an electric power plant; it is also usable for ethanol production.

Read more

The Standard of Excellence in Canadian Media

Last week I received a curious Email from the Canadian magazine The Western Standard. The publisher, Ezra Levant, was asking for my personal help by sending out a form letter in a mass Emailing.

And what was troubling TWS? It seems that Mr. Levant published the Danish cartoons that have offended so many Muslims of late, and retailers across Canada were refusing to stock the magazine. Not only that, but a “Calgary Muslim leader” (as Mr. Levant puts it) reported the magazine to the police and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, accusing Mr. Levant of hate crimes.

Read more

With Media Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

Davids Medienkritik takes Der Spiegel to task for again pandering to the addiction to anti-American innuendo.

Torture in the name of freedom? Since when has America advocated torture as a means of promoting freedom? When someone is tortured or abused in a German jail in violation of established standards, does that mean the German government is torturing in the name of democracy as well? When illegal immigrants suffocate or commit suicide in German custody is that also in the name of democracy? It is as if the United States had never addressed the issue. It is as if the McCain bill torture ban had never been passed by Congress and signed by the President.

This is a dangerously cynical equation of two concepts. Particularly in a Europe where the general public is already so jaded that many no longer believe in the concept of freedom. Why? Because instead of reporting on the systematic violation of human rights in nations like North Korea and Iran the German media finds it necessary to exploit two year old photos of Abu Ghraib for profit (again and again). Never mind that Saddam’s Abu Ghraib was a thousand times worse or that hundreds of thousands are starving to death in Kim Jong Il’s gulags. There is no need for context in the world of asymmetric journalism.

I don’t doubt that torture is a blight on America’s good name, and it is a sin that needs to be rooted out. Many are of the opinion that torture is not, in fact, effective. (It must seem ironic to anti-Americans that John Yoo, who has written in support of the idea that the Constitution grants the executive expansive powers in times of war, happens to think that “answers extracted under torture might not be reliable” [answer to question 11] — but that won’t, of course, stop the demonization.) In fact, American policy appears to have gradually shifted away from reliance on torture. However, due to the slowness of the process of discovery, some of the worst abuses did not emerge until some time after they had been committed, and (hopefully) dealt with.

In the United States, one of the foremost critics of torture, who writes eloquently and usually does not fly off the handle, is Andrew Sullivan. Sadly, he is one of only a few who backs up his critiques by looking for facts to support his accusations. The rest, unfortunately, seem to regard torture less as reprehensible in itself, than as a vehicle by which to score political points against the current Administration. While Sully’s writings sometimes may seem to lean in that direction (and some have accused him of ulterior motives), they are nonetheless well thought-out, and do not get in the way of his desire to see the West triumphant. His aim primarily is to have the West win as cleanly as possible, and however idealistic, it is a worthy goal.

I regretfully observe, though, that it is far too easy for media outlets to capitalize on the market for sensationalist reporting. Not that Der Spiegel is really regarded as a font of serious writing (which does not mean that it’s never published thought-provoking material). In fact, I doubt Der Spiegel is any more highly regarded as a serious policy journal than, say, Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone.

But as Ray D. notes:

The irony of it all is that publications like SPIEGEL would not even have the freedom to print this exploitative trash had it not been for the massive sacrifice in lives, blood and toil of American soldiers to liberate Germany from Fascism and defend it from Communism.

No context. No differentiation. Shock value. Manipulation. Emotionalism. Sensationalism. And then the same publication dares lecture us on the dangers of anti-Americanism.

That’s legacy media for you right there. Well, it’s not Davids Medienkritik for nothing!

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Human Nature in the Open Marketplace

Right now, the blogosphere is the wild & wooly West. It is open to anyone who wants to talk about anything. Guys with guns move through our territory, but it remains an inviting & pleasant place: this is cause for celebration. It doesn’t pay. (A topic being discussed now by Anchoress, Riehl, & Instapundit) But it isn’t very risky: it may waste time but it doesn’t waste much money. For this moment anyone who wants a soapbox can have one.

Read more

Chicago Boyz Reader Survey Results

Here are the results to date. I cleaned them up as best I could, but you should still interpret the data with a skeptical eye. At the least there are probably a few duplicate responses. Unfortunately the formatting below is not very good, but it’s not difficult to understand the answers once you get the pattern. Note that free-form answers are generally listed under “other.”

The results are interesting and should help us to improve the blog. Thanks to all who participated, and particularly to those respondents who left kind remarks.

I will leave the survey running for as long as it continues to accumulate responses.

Read more

Getting Shot

Vice President Dick Cheney’s shooting of a hunting partner reminded me of an incident from my childhood.

When I was a teenager I went out one summer afternoon to do a little target shooting with a .22 rifle.

Read more