Wednesday, April 30, 2008

TigerHawk sees a "plague of process"

Or a "cult of procedure," but "plague of process" is better. He has touched a nerve with this post, and commenters are hashing it out. Every time I have tried to write about this, I have been side-tracked by the word "bureaucracy." Get the language right, and the reasoning goes more easily. Kind of like having a better map.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Social history of TV, and where it's headed

Or, why TV is like gin, and what may happen if the world starts metaphorically drinking Red Bull instead.

A while back I put up a post called "Natural History of TV." Here's Clay Shirky taking a look at the social side of the thing that takes up more of the time of more of the people than seems possible, until you look at numbers. Reminds me of the time years ago a friend borrowed a TV set to look at some particular thing, and gave it back a couple of months later, saying, "It's a cute little monster, but I can't afford to feed it."
I think Shirky is seeing, and talking about, the approach of the Singularity. The Singularity, if and when it arrives, is likely to turn out to have been seen coming from many different directions, and to have looked like many different things to different observers. We may not even notice its arrival, but look around one fine day and discover that things have become very different.

This comes from Making Light, where there are comments.

Update: a "lightly edited transcription" can be found at Clay Shirky's blog, Here Comes Everybody. Thanks to Lynn at Violins and Starships for the pointer.

The Rather Difficult Font Game

That's the name of it: The Rather Difficult Font Game. It's a game, with fonts. Faces, actually, but even the pros don't insist on the distinction much any more. At the end you get a score. Mine was 28. If I try it again, it will probably be something different. By way of Making Light.

Messed up climate numbers

Patrick Michaels in the WSJ:

Our Climate Numbers Are a Big Old Mess

President George W. Bush has just announced his goal to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025. To get there, he proposes new fuel-economy standards for autos, and lower emissions from power plants built in the next 10 to 15 years.

Pending legislation in the Senate from Joe Lieberman and John Warner would cut emissions even further – by 66% by 2050. No one has a clue how to do this. Because there is no substitute technology to achieve these massive reductions, we'll just have to get by with less energy.
We'll get along somehow? Maybe the US can just stop using autos altogether. Everyone on the bus! How communal, uh, communitarian, uh, community-oriented.

There's a lot more politics than there is science in this global-warming business. Now that's it is becoming the unquestioned, assumed background to more legislation that will damage the economy and hence the country, it must be fought. We are overdue for another ice age, if you look at the cycles. So a whole lot more data should be gathered and integrated before major coercive action is taken. The proposed legislation is not going to benefit the country. It's well-intentioned foolishness.

Michaels concludes this article with
the ultimate question: Why is the news on global warming always bad? Perhaps because there's little incentive to look at things the other way. If you do, you're liable to be pilloried by your colleagues. If global warming isn't such a threat, who needs all that funding? Who needs the army of policy wonks crawling around the world with bold plans to stop climate change?

But as we face the threat of massive energy taxes – raised by perceptions of increasing rates of warming and the sudden loss of Greenland's ice – we should be talking about reality.
Read the whole thing to see why the perceptions that raise the threat of the taxes are questionable. It's politics and self-interested rent-seeking all the way down.

Here earlier: Energy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

For Earth Day, the Heidelberg Appeal


The Heidelberg Appeal was publicly released at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. By the end of the 1992 summit, 425 scientists and other intellectual leaders had signed the appeal. Since then, word of mouth has prompted hundreds more scientists to lend their support. Today, more than 4,000 signatories, including 72 Nobel Prize winners, from 106 countries have signed it. In spite of this spontaneous and growing support from the world’s scientific community, the Heidelberg Appeal has received little media attention.

Neither a statement of corporate interests nor a denial of environmental problems, the Heidelberg Appeal is a quiet call for reason and a recognition of scientific progress as the solution to, not the cause of, the health and environmental problems that we face. The Appeal expresses a conviction that modern society is the best equipped in human history to solve the world’s ills, provided that they do not sacrifice science, intellectual honesty, and common sense to political opportunism and irrational fears.

The Heidelberg Appeal

We want to make our full contribution to the preservation of our common heritage, the Earth.

We are, however, worried at the dawn of the twenty-first century, at the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development.

We contend that a Natural State, sometimes idealized by movements with a tendency to look toward the past, does not exist and has probably never existed since man’s first appearance in the biosphere, insofar as humanity has always progressed by increasingly harnessing Nature to its needs and not the reverse. We full subscribe to the objectives of a scientific ecology for a universe whose resources must be taken stock of, monitored and preserved.

But we herewith demand that this stock-taking, monitoring and preservation be founded on scientific criteria and not on irrational preconceptions.

We stress that many essential human activities are carried out either by manipulating hazardous substances or in their proximity, and that progress and development have always involved increasing control over hostile forces, to the benefit of mankind.

We therefore consider that scientific ecology is no more than extension of this continual progress toward the improved life of future generations.

We intend to assert science’s responsibility and duties toward society as a whole.

We do, however, forewarn the authorities in charge of our planet’s destiny against decisions which are supported by pseudoscientific arguments or false and nonrelevant data.

We draw everybody’s attention to the absolute necessity of helping poor countries attain a level of sustainable development which matches that of the rest of the planet, protecting them from troubles and dangers stemming from developed nations, and avoiding their entanglement in a web of unrealistic obligations which would compromise both their independence and their dignity.

The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, and not Science, Technology, and Industry, whose instruments, when adequately managed, are indispensable tools of a future shaped by Humanity, by itself and for itself, overcoming major problems like overpopulation, starvation and worldwide diseases.
More at Michelle Malkin's place.

Oh, and -- Happy Lenin's Birthday.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Latvian smoked sprats

A propos of nothing at all, something very tasty:

You want to look for that round black can. Sometimes available at Shaw's, always at the Russian deli in Ocean City, MD. (That's the OC Party Market, 300 S. Baltimore Ave. , corner of Dorchester St. Also Russian beer, chocolate, many varieties of caviar and smoked fish, and so on.) Also Zabar's, and the Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn. The pic is a link, also. And there's a list, not complete, but better than nothing.

I like to throw them on top of a pile of what the local markets call German potato salad, which has potatoes, onions, parsley, not much else, and microwave the whole thing for about a minute and a half. The potatoes and vinegar help to cut the oiliness. Gosh, do you think that pouring off a little of the oil might help to "cut the oiliness?" Hmm. Something else to think about. Might be even better in the skillet. What a wonderful world, that contains such possibilities.

I have not been paid by any Latvian fish canners for this endorsement. I just ate some a few minutes ago, and was so pleased by the experience that I wanted to say something about it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Big boats, little boats

So David Geffen's yacht is nearly twice the size of Saddam Hussein's? My word. And him a Democrat. He'll really feel the repeal of the tax cuts. Might have to fire a couple of deckhands or stewards. But they will surely be all right. The Democrats are looking out for them, just as in 1990. Remember the tax bill that the first President Bush signed, the one that got him in such trouble for not remembering his own lip-reading remark? Passed by a Democratic congress: House vote, Senate vote. Including the luxury tax on boats costing over $100,000, which led to this:

According to a recent The Wall Street Journal editorial, the Labor Department estimates that in Florida, the nation's leading boat building state, builders laid off 5,000 out of 18,000 laborers by the end of 1990 and these layoffs are not isolated. Retailers, manufacturers, and services aligned to the boating industry are simultaneously affected. To provide even the slightest justification for these job losses, the government should at least be realizing substantial revenue gains. Nevertheless, according to the same editorial, the Joint Committee of Taxation has released collection estimates of which only $3 million were attributable to boats in 1991. Where is the justification?
This brings to mind Barack Obama's remark last night to the effect that the capital gains tax should be raised "for purposes of fairness," without regard to raising revenue. (Full debate transcript here.) The Law of Unintended Consequences will not be flouted.

In other boating news,
A ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court in California could snare boaters in a bureaucratic net of permits and regulations if a consequent court-ordered deadline is not thrown overboard.

… as of Sept. 30, recreational boaters will no longer be exempt from greywater discharges, including normal discharge from marine engines, laundry, shower and galley sink wastes, or any other discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel.

Because the court's decision is not limited to vessels with ballast water tanks, the court order could impact motor boats, sailboats, dinghies, kayaks and even canoes.…

Under current regulations, the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) requires that all sea going vessels be registered with the state. That means canoes, kayaks, dinghies and paddleboat owners would all be required to obtain an EPA permit.

Paperwork bonanza on the way.

Kristen Byrnes on NPR

I mentioned Kristen Byrnes and her thorough debunking of An Inconvenient Truth here a while back. Now I see that she has been interviewed on the radio by NPR. There is a link to the audio at that page.

This comes by way of a good, newish climate-science blog, Watts Up With That, which goes on the sidebar right now.


Nothin' for a week here, might as well put these up.

Wikipedia is apparently completely unreliable on climate issues. (via)

Ron Bailey reviews Expelled, the movie about "intelligent design" with Ben Stein. Hey, that rhymes! Considering the response that An Inconvenient Truth received, Stein should be in line (another rhyme! Oh, I'm cookin' here) for a Nobel Prize next year. Who needs real science, when the fake stuff is so much more fun? The movie's full title is Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Does that mean,"Leave your intelligence in the lobby?" I know I'll have less respect for Ben Stein's intelligence in the future.
Update: Oh, look, a whole website devoted to Expelled, called Expelled Exposed. Thanks Charles. Glenn Reynolds has more on Ben Stein's view of science and scientists, and there's a wild comment thread going at The Volokh Conspiracy.
Another update: now there's a poem from lizard Winslow.
Yet another update: Much more discussion at Winds of Change.
And: John Derbyshire's merciless review: A Blood Libel on Our Civilization.

JFK and drugs. (via)

Professor Dutch's Top Ten No Sympathy Lines. (via)

If you search at Gateway Pundit for "Brrr," you'll get a lot of interesting posts on global whatever-it-is.

PrestoPundit has unearthed a paper by Barack Obama Senior, the father from whom the candidate received the dreams. It's called "Problems Facing Our Socialism." (via)

"Professional courtesy," my eye. You knew this was going on, but those who did it could deny it. Once some documents slip out, it's another story. Special license plates shield officials from traffic tickets. (via)

From CERN, where Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, comes "the grid." Coming soon: superfast internet. (via)

The Investigative Project on Terrorism's CAIR series is complete. 10 installments.

The war on Sharpies. "We've purged every permanent marker there is in this building," says the proud elementary school principal. [sarcasm] So that's why they call them "magic" markers! [/sarcasm] (via)

Friday, April 11, 2008


You hardly ever hear someone say, "Gee, I wish I wasn't so energetic. I'm sorry to have so much energy." Energy is the sine qua non of civilization, or even merely taking out the trash. It is not possible to achieve prosperity by conservation. Mind you, I'm strongly in favor of thrift. As we used to say in New England,

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.
That's just avoiding waste, making the most of what's available. But one of Vernor Vinge's points in Marooned in Realtime was that the further along we get, the more energy we can dispose. Blake at BitMaelstrom has a worthwhile post on this, inspired by this thread at Althouse. It's the same thread referenced below in the Paul Krugman … post; and contains the reference to Dexter cattle, which do well in all climates.

Alex Gregory, at The New Yorker:

Apocalypse? No!

That's the title of a new movie that you will not be seeing at the local Multiplex. The DVD is available from It's Lord Monckton's contra Al Gore slideshow, filmed live at the Cambridge Union Society, Oct. 8, 2007. I am strongly tempted to transcribe a whole lot of it. But I'll refrain, for now.

I think I'll donate a copy to my local library, if they will promise me that it will go into the collection. Highly recommended.

More Monckton here and here.

In other news from the AGW propaganda front, Morgan Freeberg and Gerard Van der Leun have played a round of blog ping-pong. The serve: The Climate Thugs and the No Balls BBC: Visual Aids. The return: I Made a New Word XV. The volley: Word o' the Day: bo•lus•te•mol•o•gy. All worth reading. The return post by Freeberg incorporates a General Theory of Everything that's wrong with journalism and media. I was just chatting with a reporter/columnist for the local daily who was saying that it's hard times for print media. "The New York Times has just laid off 200 people," he said. I said, "If they weren't a propaganda outlet for the Democratic Party, they might not be on such hard times." At which point, he went into moonbat mode, asking if the Washington Times or Fox News could be taken seriously. Which shows that even in a small town, the journalist swims in liberalism like the fish in the sea, taking it for granted as the normal environment.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cthulhu has a talk show

He's dead, he's sleeping, he's dreaming, and — he's on the air answering callers! Not just any Old One, a really Great Old One. Now for today's edition of Calls For Cthulhu. Folks, let's hear it for the mighty, unspeakable Cthulhu!

He also has a license plate. Or maybe the license plate belongs to a fan. Oh, yes, it would have to, since Cthulhu dwells in R'lyeh under the sea. Well, maybe not, it's a Virginia plate, and Virginia has a lot of shoreline, maybe R'lyeh is closer to shore than previously thought. It would have to be a fairly short cable run, for the TV show, and if someone, or something, wanted to come ashore, to scout around a little bit, checking on what to eat first, a car would be handy. Then again, too much contemplation of the Great Old Ones is itself dangerous, so it's time to end this now.

Paul Krugman agrees with Rolling Stone and me, and we're fast-tracking

Now there's an odd triple. In today's Grains Gone Wild, Krugman says that "We also need a pushback against biofuels, which turn out to have been a terrible mistake." Click the "biofuel" label for more on this here.

Krugman waits only until his next sentence to make one of those non-predicting predictions, the kind where he's right either way: "But it’s not clear how much can be done. Cheap food, like cheap oil, may be a thing of the past." Or, of course, maybe something can be done. It's not clear. Is anything clear? It's clear that using food as fuel is a mistake. Bio-diesel from stuff that would otherwise be garbage is one thing, but turning cropland over to raising fuel is another matter. So where can the pushback come from? The leftist environmentalist Democrats are in the bag on this. Congressmen of either party from corn-raising states are in the bag. Will these people ever admit to making a mistake, and sponsor repeal of their own legislation? Damn, it would be refreshing to see. Krugman is a Democrat, though, so he can see no way out, and is left with a conclusion based on a begged question. There's a hidden assumption in the last sentence, that "cheap oil, may be a thing of the past." Assuming nothing changes. And why would anything change? Surely all the oil fields have been discovered [Falklands? Brazil? Bakken? Anyone?], surely Iraq will never get their oil on line, surely things can only get worse.

All because of the war, of course. You gotta blame Bush. Whatever will the BDS sufferers do next year? And the global warming. Another quote: "[B]ad weather, especially the Australian drought, is probably related to climate change. So politicians and governments that have stood in the way of action on greenhouse gases bear some responsibility for food shortages." Note the weasel logic: "probably related"; but "politicians and goverments … [no "probably," not even a "might"] … bear some responsibility for food shortages."

The food shortages would be why we must get out of the way of giving the next president power for Fast-tracking climate policies. You knew this was coming. As the first commenter says,

Now that highly regarded scientists are getting the word out (although the press won't report it - any of it here at the D.C.?) these laws MUST be fast tracked before people realize what a fraud Global Warming is. It's about government control of people's lives, not "saving the planet." It's about becoming wealthy, as Al Gore has, on the issue. Data show that Earth has been in a cooling trend for the past ten years.
The increasing urgency of the warmingists reminds me of those offers you get in the junk mail: "Limited time only! Buy NOW before it's TOO LATE!"

There are comments on the Krugman column at Althouse.

Update: More on the Krugman column from Tom Maguire: The Eerily Prescient Professor Krugman, and Paul Krugman, Lying To Protect The Democrats.

Everybody's against green fuel this week: here's Ron Bailey, with a good quote from Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute, "Biofuels are purely and simply the biggest Green mistake we've ever made and we're still making it."

Friday, April 4, 2008


About time to release these into the wild.

John Derbyshire reviews American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau.

Annie Dillard goes furthest into the dark territory: "Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me … we are moral creatures, then, in an amoral world. The universe that suckled us is a monster that does not care if we live or die—does not care if it itself grinds to a halt … space is a beauty married to a blind man. The blind man is Freedom, or Time, and he does not go anywhere without his great dog Death.”

[…] to the degree that ordinary folk disengage from nature, we shall be less able to evaluate what we are told by the Al Gores of the world, nature’s self-appointed custodians, and their legions of tax-eating experts.
I just love Annie Dillard's writing. I don't know if I agree with her, or even understand her, a fair amount of the time, but my word, that woman can write.

Radley Balko: Standing Near Children Now a Crime.

Rand Simberg coins a word: ambit, v., from ambition. Like "aspire," only not so nice. "Her ambition is to…" = "She ambits to…"

Generations on welfare. "Six million Britons are living in homes where no one has a job and 'benefits are a way of life', according to a report by MPs." (via)

Youth crime in Britain. Johnathan Pearce, at Samizdata, links to Clive Barker and Time magazine. It's just getting worse. Parts of Britain are losing the status of civilization, and it's not the booze, either, it's the attitudes of invulnerability and entitlement among those with a ton of self-esteem and no self-respect. (via)

Ace says Want To Be Happy All of Your Life? Make an Ugly Woman Your Wife Dude Your Husband.

Striped icebergs.

LauraW, at Ace's place, calls this a Nifty Mashup. I don't disagree. Jim Morrison meets Debbie Harry for "Riders on the Rapture."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rainbow Quest

Pete Seeger had a TV show for a while in the 1960's, called "Rainbow Quest." Click over to PCL Link Dump for a list of many of them. A fair number of these are posted by YouTube user peglegsam, who should not be confused with Peg Leg Sam, or Peglegasus, either. These include performances by many wonderful folk and folk revival singers, among them Elizabeth Cotten, Jean Ritchie, Rev. Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, oh my it goes on.

Some of these Youtube clips have better sound than the old records; better than my old vinyl copy of the Folkways Anthology, anyway. Bob Lee Junior Blues, for instance. The sound is good on this version of Kokomo, with some surprising guests in the video.