Saturday, January 29, 2011

Looking at the SOTU speech

I remember thinking more than once during that speech that it was so far removed from reality as to be "not even wrong." Jerry Pournelle has been writing about it. Three parts so far: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. "[W]ind, solar, and biofuels won't support a first world economy."

Ace has a long, thoughtful post looking at Obama's tendency to vote "present," then take credit for whatever happened next, and how well or poorly this approach works for an executive: Obama the Passive-Aggressive Coward.

Obama gives a speech studded with claims about his own "boldness" while punting on all the important issues and only offering cute-sounding, poll-tested anecdotes about the wonders of government intervention. Solar shingles! Fuel made from sunlight and water! High speed trains!

None of these address the central problem this nation faces, which is that we are going bankrupt and in fact stand on the edge of a financial precipice.

It's so much easier to address made-up problems than to deal with real ones.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nabokov was right about those butterflies

In the NY Times: Nonfiction: Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution Is Vindicated.

Vladimir Nabokov may be known to most people as the author of classic novels like “Lolita” and “Pale Fire.” But even as he was writing those books, Nabokov had a parallel existence as a self-taught expert on butterflies.

He was the curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and collected the insects across the United States. He published detailed descriptions of hundreds of species. And in a speculative moment in 1945, he came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves.

Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right.
I wonder why the professional lepidopterists didn't take his ideas seriously? I suspect credential-related snobbery, a form of argument from authority. Looking at the science is more important than looking at the degrees of the scientists.

Update: more about VN and butterflies here. And: Neo-neocon has a thoughtful post on this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What happened to Greenpeace, and the environmental movement along with it

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore has written a book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist. (No reviews at Amazon yet; I anticipate a lot of 5's and 1's from those on opposite sides.) In a similarly titled article at the Vancouver Sun, he describes some of the history of the organization and the evolution of his beliefs and program. An excerpt:

Some activists simply couldn't make the transition from confrontation to consensus; it was as if they needed a common enemy. When a majority of people decide they agree with all your reasonable ideas the only way you can remain confrontational and antiestablishment is to adopt ever more extreme positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in favour of zero-tolerance policies.

The collapse of world communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall during the 1980s added to the trend toward extremism. The Cold War was over and the peace movement was largely disbanded. The peace movement had been mainly Western-based and anti-American in its leanings. Many of its members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their neo-Marxist, far-left agendas. To a considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas.

I don't blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to both civilization and the environment.

The group was infiltrated and taken over by enemies of Western civilization, following the Gramscian paradigm. I would call myself a conservationist, and many others, I'm sure, who are in favor of the continuation and advancement of industrialized civilization would as well. We are not in favor of pollution or environmental destruction, but we do not want to go back to living in huts and reading manuscripts written by hand on parchment.

One way to tell genuine environmentalists, or conservationists, from the enemies of civilization is by their attitude on nuclear power. Energy is the sine qua non of civilization. An abundance of cheap energy is what provides the leisure for all the pursuits of civilization, such as art, science, debate about law and government, and everything else beyond wresting a bare living from the land. Patrick Moore is in favor of nuclear power. How many current Greenpeacers are in favor of it? I'd venture to say very few.

Most of the movement followers are dupes, of course, not consciously enemies of Western civilization. People don't follow through their thinking. If we put the coal companies out of business, if we don't allow new nuclear plants, if we don't allow drilling for oil, all to follow the green mirage, then our energy supplies will dwindle, and we will be on the verge of a new Dark Age, certainly an end to prosperity. But the useful idiots of environmentalism don't think far enough ahead to see their own doom in the policies they espouse.

A contributor at AoSHQ has linked the article in the post State of Fear, 2011. Contributor Andy has worthwhile observations of his own to add, and some videos of Michael Crichton. The whole thing is worth the click.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Preview of the State of the Union speech

There's a first draft of the speech posted at Professor Jacobson's place, which I've recently added to the "recommended reading" list over in the sidebar (it's the one with the dots, Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion). Funny stuff, if you can stand some bitter truths with your funny.

Also, a post on "why people like me, who currently are open-minded as to the field of potential candidates in the absence of knowing who will run, will not support any Republican candidate during the primaries who attacks Palin." That goes for me, too. She is an example of the best in America. Her principles are American principles. Knowing the name of the prime minister of Tadjikistan is of far less importance than having the right principles.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Andrew McCarthy sums up Feisal Rauf

In the process of defending Sarah Palin against a false charge leveled by Henry Payne, McCarthy puts enough info on Rauf into his short article to take care of all you need to know about the leader of the Ground Zero mosque plan. Thank you Mr. McCarthy. And thanks to Neo-Neocon commenter expat for pointing out the article.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Republic, updated for the Tea Party and Sarah Palin

I was thinking that the Tea Party needed some songs.

The smugness of the comments at Youtube must be seen to be believed.

Update: I see there is some discussion at Althouse.