31 May 2007

Don't Let Your Morality Get In The Way Of Doing What's Right

Bryan Appleyard steers a middle course on anthropogenic global warming, which both sides see as treason to the human race. I'm mostly an agw skeptic, although I'm willing to admit that it is possible that the globe is warming (mean global temperature is a completely meaningless concept), that it is our "fault" (although I can't imagine what difference that makes to anyone for whom the environment is not a religion) and that it is bad (although in actual human experience, warmer has always been better). The problem is that, once you've jumped through the hoops necessary to conclude that agw is happening and is bad, you're forced to conclude that it's inevitable. If our relatively small contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gases has taken us over the tilting point, there really is nothing we can do to stop the cascade now.

We can, of course, always make it worse by trying to help, which brings us to Kyoto.

There are those of us who suspect that the acceptance of agw by a certain portion of the population relies less on careful weighing of the science and more on a desire for a weapon with which to attack the west, liberal capitalism and, very specifically, the United States of America. Even if agw is true, clearly there were people predisposed to believe in it because they believe that a majority will believe that it must be fought and that fighting it requires adopting the political program urged in any event by the predisposed. Among these people are the Greens and the French [must not make joke about daily bathing] who saw Kyoto as a handy vehicle for running over the Americans.

To its credit, the Clinton Administration, and Al Gore specifically, fought back. Where Kyoto says, "Thou shalt throttle thy economy," the Administration tried to substitute relatively painless methods that might actually make a difference. These were, briefly, we should be able to buy credits from the former Communist nations, whose economies had been throttled already, we should get credit for reforesting and we should get credit for funding pollution controls in the Third World. (We've discussed these previously here.) The first two are kind of silly. Being able to buy credits from Russia was useful in bribing Russia to participate, but -- since their industries had already collapsed -- didn't subtract any CO2 from the atmosphere. Reforestation not only is happening anyway, but is a questionable means of taking CO2 from the atmosphere.

But funding air pollution control in the Third World is easy, cheap and beneficial even if agw is nonsense. We know how to do it, we've proven the technology on ourselves and our air is cleaner than its been in ages. The health benefits of clean air are clear and widespread. In the absence of these programs, China is about to overtake the US as the world's greatest source of greenhouse gases while the US has become more energy efficient (that is, it takes us less energy every year to produce each dollar of GDP).

There is only one catch: cleaning the air of particulate matter makes global warming worse.

30 May 2007

Baltimore Sucks?

After this weekend, it's going to be time to stop paying attention to the Yankees and start worrying about whoever's number 2 in the Division.

People Care What The Voters Think?

All the cool kids are discussing voting and irrational voters and the fact that no single vote ever decides anything. (I once had a law professor who put it this way: My chances of getting hit by lightening while walking to the polling place is greater than the chance that my vote will matter, so voting is suicidal.) These discussions seem to break down into two different positions, both of which I always thought were platitudes: that the people decide things correctly and that the point of voting is to make sure that your point of view wins.

The point of voting is to create and demonstrate the consent of the governed to the legitimacy of the government.

The idea that the people, through voting, can pick out the best policy on some complicated technical issue is just nuts. I believe in the special providence, but I don't think we're supposed to rely on it to that extent. The voters are good, though by no means perfect, at choosing the better person but, more often than not, the issues we think are important in the run up to the election are not the issues that we end up obsessing over during the term. No one asked Bush or Gore what they would do after terrorists flew hijacked airplanes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Immigration was an issue in the 2004, but not much of one. And, as my law professor pointed out, the outcome is going to be the same regardless of whether I vote.

Massachusetts Runs The Experiment

As we argue past each other on immigration, it's worth noting that Massachusetts, and the northeastern states generally, have run the experiment that the anti-immigrationists use for their horror of horrors. We have close to our shore a large population of Spanish speaking people, relatively poor and relatively less educated, who have a right to move freely into the Commonwealth and a right to receive immediately any welfare benefit available to those born in the United States. The trick, of course, is that this population was born in the United States -- in Puerto Rico. Nonetheless, Massachusetts boasts a per capita income higher than the US average and Puerto Ricans in Massachusetts, though they make, on average, less than other citizens in the Commonwealth, make much more than Puerto Ricans still on the island.

28 May 2007

So I Can Refer To It Over At The Daily Duck

The yield curve on US Treasuries as of 5/25/07.

This chart shows the 6 month, 1, 2 and 3 year rates daily from January 3, 2005 through May 30, 2007. The inversion first occurs at the end of December 2005, widens throughout 2006 and now seems to be closing.

Two Stories In The News

Scientists create remote-controlled pigeon (Via the Daily Duck)

Bush Hit By Bird Droppings At News Conference

We report. You decide.

27 May 2007

Old Arguments

I've noticed on a couple of blogs arguments about Florida 2000. This seems odd to me, unless agents from Gore 2008 have been lurking in blog comments, but what's bothersome is that even the basic facts don't seem to be accepted.

1. Al Gore won the popular vote.

2. More Floridians woke up on election day intending to vote for Al Gore.

3. More Floridians actually voted for George Bush.

26 May 2007

This Is Why This Blog Is Secret

I am often asked, as I fantasize about being asked questions about the blog, why "secret." What is secret about the blog? One answer is that I don't worry about whether anyone, other than fantasy interlocutors, care about what I write.

So, what do I think about the immigration bill?

As long time friends of the blog know, I'm pro-immigration. We don't have nearly enough immigrants and should take more by an order of magnitude. In fact, we do -- we just pretend that we don't want them here. The downside of this arrangement is that we don't have control of who crosses our borders. In the midst of a assymetric war in which the enemy purposely targets civilian populations, control of the border would be a nice thing to have.

But here we have completely confused two different issues. We could have much better control of the border with much more immigration, if we spent resources on the border while changing the immigration laws to welcome immigrants. That's the law I want but not the law I'm getting. I would prefer the status quo to the proposed bill, and I might get that. But even if the bill passes, I won't be too upset; it will be a failure and not much will change, but the current illegals will be legal.

Also, it's always worth remembering that the 9/11 terrorists entered the country legally. Perfect control of the Mexican border would have made no difference at all.

25 May 2007

Not To Step On Brit's Toes ...

... but "And sniff me out like I was tanqueray" is a ludicrously good lyric.

And I Thought That I Was Good At Procrastinating

When I posted below about US carbon emissions falling last year, I refrained from making fun of John Kerry. After all, what's the point? But his quote from the article has been bugging me and I finally figured out why:
"This is more proof that this President just doesn't get it when it comes to combating climate change," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday. "The house is on fire, and he's trying to douse the flames with a watering can. The science tells us that we need to reduce our emissions by 60-80% by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic damage."
Now, let's say that you were a United States Senator, your party's last nominee for President and married to a billionairess. If you really believed that our only chance to avoid a "catastrophe" was to up-turn civilization in the next 40 years, wouldn't you, you know, do ... something?

24 May 2007

Support Our Moonbats

James Taranto points us to this utterly obtuse comment on the Democrat's cave-in on caving-in by a proponent of a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq:
Some activists had privately feared that Democratic leaders were losing their resolve to stage a protracted fight with the White House over wartime funding. Pelosi had announced earlier that the House would not leave for the Memorial Day recess without a new funding bill, a signal to some of a looming defeat.

"When they put out that deadline, people realized that we were going to lose," said an aide to an anti-war lawmaker. "Everything after that seemed like posturing."
If setting a deadline in Iraq is supporting our troops by getting them out of a war they can't win, what does this mean?

Quotas Can Be Good

Having spent too much time on why quotas for women are not needed and a bad idea, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I strongly favor affirmative action for blacks for the reasons expressed by Richard Posner here. Even so, quotas would be a bad idea. Note that this is consistent with my long-time objection to institutional feminism, which is that it is a tool of white backlash against black advancement.

If Only All Problems Were This Intractable

The government announced yesterday that US carbon dioxide emissions fell last year despite a growing economy. The reasons, according to President Bush:
"We are effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong economic investment," Bush said in a statement. "New policies at the federal, state, and local levels -- such as my initiative to reduce by 20 percent our projected use of gasoline within 10 years -- promise even more progress." A number of factors helped reduce emissions last year, according to the government, including weather conditions that reduced heating and air-conditioning use, higher gasoline prices that caused consumers to conserve, and a greater overall reliance on natural gas. [Emphasis added]
In other words, global warming results in a more temperate climate that reduces energy consumption.

22 May 2007

The Horror

Forget your flooding, your droughts, your famines. Forget your polar ice caps. We now see the real horror of global warming:
Britain's astounding April, the warmest on record, has produced an astounding effect in the natural world, with at least 11 species of butterfly making their earliest recorded appearances this spring in what will be seen as the most remarkable demonstration yet of the effects of climate change on Britain's wildlife.

For several years biologists have been watching warming temperatures affect living organisms, with leaves opening, birds nesting and insects emerging earlier. But what has happened in 2007 with butterflies has been quite exceptional....

Butterfly Conservation's experts are confident that only global warming can explain the changes. "Butterfly data, collected by hundreds of UK recorders, definitely points to climate change," Mr Warren said. "Species are not only emerging early, but several species are extending their geographic range northwards. The small skipper, the comma and the holly blue butterflies have all crossed the border into Scotland in the past few years, very probably as a result of the changing climate."
When will the Sheeple awake to this catastrophe?

21 May 2007


If abortion law settles down to on-demand in the first trimester for women who are of age, otherwise only with parental consent, and not allowed thereafter except where the pregnancy threatens physical harm to the mother or in cases of rape or incest, is that a pro-life result or a pro-choice result?

20 May 2007


Over at Daily Duck, Oroborous has come out in favor of quotas for government employees. The main focus of the post, based upon recent doings in France, is quotas for women. I was going to respond in the comments, but then realized that formatting was involved.

I'm not sure that there's much of a problem here that needs fixing. According to BLS, in 2004 there were 6,365,000 civilian government employees in the US, 45.7 of whom were female. Here's a detailed breakdown:

In 2004, the non-institutionalized, civilian population was 50.7% female and the civilian workforce was 46.5% female. So, compared to the total civilian workforce, women are slightly overrepresented in the government and, compared to the population, they are slightly underrepresented. I just don't see that there's much to be accomplished by quota hiring.

This is especially true since there are at least two costs to quota hiring. First, although there are things that the government must do that the private sector is forbidden (taking land without consent, killing, armed raids into homes, etc.), there isn't a sufficient trade-off here to compensate for having the government discriminate against men. In fact, since private citizens have at least a notional right of association and the government doesn't, having the government discriminate and the private sector forbidden to discriminate is backwards.

Second, quotas in practice mean that the best person is not chosen for each job. Incompetent public servants impose costs on the rest of us. Dealing with the government is unpleasant and costs more. Those costs hit women as much as men. In fact, because women are a greater percentage of the population, they hit women more often then men. So government hiring quotas (like all quotas) will harm those they are meant to aid.

19 May 2007

How Many Voters?

Prodded by a comment from Steve Sailer in my Immigration Footnote post, I wanted to look at the number of voters per Congressional district after the federal government was established. I wasn't able to find any pre-20th century election results on-line. The earliest results I could find were from 1920, as kept by the Clerk of the House. In 1920, the population of the US was 106 million and the House had reached its modern size of 435 Representatives. On average, each Representative had 240,000 constituents. In the 1913 reapportionment, each District was meant to have 212,000 constituents.

As one would expect, the number of voters was lowest in the South. I assume that this was due mostly to limits on the franchise, although it could also be that there was no real contest since only Democrats won in the South. In any event, the lowest number of voters came in the Third District of Louisiana, which elected WP Martin (Dem) unopposed (all of Louisiana's Representatives were elected unopposed) with 4201 votes. That is approximately 2% of his constituents.

At the other extreme, Representative Cleveland A. Newton (Rep) was elected from Missouri's Tenth District with 122,100 votes out of 199,729 cast.

Two other 1920 races are worth mentioning. In California's Tenth District, Republican Henry Z. Osborne beat Socialist Upton Sinclair 97,469 to 20,439.

Also, from 1913 through 1923, Pennsylvania had a number of at-large Congressional districts along with its 32 geographically defined districts. I believe, although I can't quite prove, that the top four at-large vote getters, Republicans who got between 1,140,836 and 1,108,538 votes, were elected to Congress from the 33rd through 36th Districts. Frankly, I did not know that a mixture of at-large and geographic districts was possible (it was apparently the result of a refusal or inability to redistrict after the 1910 census). However, this year Democrats are trying to expand the House by two seats, one to be elected from the District of Columbia and the other to be a fourth District in Utah to be elected at-large until the next redistricting in 2012. The bill has passed the House but without sufficient support to overturn a veto. The bill is still in committee in the Senate, but opponents claim that they can successfully filibuster it. The Bush Administration has suggested (but not promised) that it will veto the bill if it reaches the President's desk.

"Dickey: France's Crusading Foreign Minister"

If you ever read Slate, you might have noticed how, in the right hand margin, they have headlines from The Onion, the Washington Post and Newsweek. Have you ever noticed, though, that at first glance it can be hard to tell which headline comes from which source?

18 May 2007

Two Good Lessons

Smarter people earn more but aren't worth more:
Pop quiz! What factors help determine how wealthy you'll become in life? ... Ohio State economics professor Jay Zagorsky suggests different factors: "Staying married, not getting divorced, thinking about savings." Wow.

Not only did he not list intelligence, he went on to note that "intelligence really isn't one of the key driving forces. In fact, people at the middle of the smarts spectrum have the fewest money problems."

When I read about his findings from a study of 7,500 middle-aged Americans, I was surprised. It seems that the smarter you are, the more you tend to earn. For each IQ point you have above someone else's IQ, you'll earn between $200 and $600 more. As an example, he noted that someone with an IQ of 130 stands to make (on average) about $12,000 more per year than someone with an IQ of 100.

That's a promising start. We who are smarter than the average bear (I'm including myself and you) would reasonably assume, then, that smarter people would end up wealthier. But that was not suggested by the study. Instead, people with higher IQs and incomes tended to spend more, maxing out credit cards and paying bills late. At the end of the day, those with lower IQs often had a greater net worth.
1. Although we tend to confuse the two (and by "we" I mean those with a hankering for social engineering), income and wealth are two different concepts and are not as related as we think.

2. By intelligence we mean a talent for a few specific pursuits. Those are not necessarily the most important pursuits and they don't necessarily lead to happiness. Just as income is not wealth, intelligence is not wisdom.

An Immigration Footnote

In all the current foofaraw over immigration and whether it favors Republicans or Democrats, there is a point that I haven't yet seen made. The argument tends to focus on which party Latino citizens will vote for. But that is only relevant in the long term. In the short term and probably in the medium term, immigration favors the Republicans and, even more so, conservatives.

The Constitution does not apportion Congressional districts or presidential electors among the state based upon the number of citizens. It apportions districts and electors based upon the total population:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Article I, Section 2. "Free persons" includes immigrants, both legal and illegal but no State allows non-citizens to vote.

In other words, immigration increases the relative power of high-immigrant states without changing the electorate. With the exception of California, the states favored by immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, are Republican states. Moreover, although illegal immigrants count towards apportionment now, counting people legally in the country is much easier and more accurate than counting illegals. So legalization, greater immigration and even continued illegal immigration will necessarily increase Republican power in the federal government in the short term.

The medium term point is more subtle and less certain. Even after newly legalized immigrants become citizens and they and their children start to vote, the Republicans can still benefit even if they tend to vote Democratic. (Obviously, the Republicans benefit if the new citizens vote Republican.)

In the 2004 election, a historically high 44% of Latinos voted for George Bush. (This number is somewhat controversial, but is the best number available.) The Latino split between the parties is all over the place over time, but the Latino Republican vote varies between 20% and 40%. (Interestingly, the two Republican nominees who did best among Latinos are the two most conservative modern candidates, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.) People look at these numbers and think that this means that Latino immigration is great for Democrats. But that's because they don't think it through.

For purposes of this example, I'm going to look at the Texas vote in 2004 and assume that a Republican nominee with any chance at all will receive 40% of the Texan Latino vote. The point I'm making, however, doesn't depend upon the exact percentages and the following calculations can be run for any state and any percentage without changing the point. In 2004, George Bush got approximately 60% of the Texas vote. W beat John Kerry in Texas by 1.7 million votes and, because electoral votes in most states are winner take all, W got all of Texas' 34 electoral votes. Even if there had been 1.5 million more Latino Kerry votes, W still would have won the state and all of its electors. In fact, he would have won it handily, because 1.5 million more Kerry votes implies (assuming our 60/40 split) 1 million more Bush voters and a margin of 1.2 million votes. It's not until we add 7 million more Latino voters, 4.2 million voting for Kerry and 2.8 million voting for Bush, that Kerry even comes close to catching Bush. Very conservatively, 7 million more Latino voters implies 12-15 million new Latino citizens. Now, remember that the states currently get a new Congressional district and a new elector for every 650,000 people in the state. Suddenly, George Bush is not getting 34 electors for having won 60% of the Texas vote. He's getting 50-ish electors for having won just over 50% of the Texas vote. Moreover, because the vote for Representatives is also winner-take-all within each district, it is a good bet that most of the new Congressional districts also have a Republican congressman. If the Republicans can pick up even two or three net Congressional seats in each of the border states, they will have a lock on the House for the foreseeable future.

This specific example is ludicrously favorable to the Republicans. At this point, we've more or less doubled the Texas electorate and increased the population by 50%. George Bush is a Texas native son and did better among Latinos than any other Republican is likely to do for a while. But the general point should be clear: because of the way Congressional districts are apportioned; because of winner-take-all; because the Republican party is strong in the border states, immigration will aid Republicans in the short term and probably in the medium term even if new Latino citizens vote strongly Democratic.

In the long term, of course, we're all dead.


1. I've run the numbers for hypothetical state "T" with a population of 23,000,000, a voter to population rate of .35 that is consistent over all population sub-groups, a current Republican/Democrat split of 55/45 and a new Latino voter Republican/Democrat split of 20/80. In T, the Republicans will still squeak out a victory with an additional 1.3 million Latino voters. That implies a population increase of 3.7 million Latino "persons" and, thus, five additional Congressional districts and electors.

2. Given the country's overall demographics and given that Congressional apportionment is a zero sum game, the new Southern/Southwestern districts will come at the expense of Northern/Northeastern districts. In other words, each new district Republicans gain from immigration will most likely come at the cost of a Democratic district. Even if Republicans don't gain every new seat and Democrats don't lose every old seat, a shift from the North/Northeast to the South/Southwest would likely be a shift from a more liberal Representative to a more conservative Representative, moving the center of Congressional power to the right.

17 May 2007

Acting On My Theory That Peter Burnet Drives The Juddosphere

I've posted this at Bryan Appleyard's blog.

16 May 2007

You'd Think They'd Have The Decency To Volunteer

Via a comment at Bryan Appleyard's blog, I came to this post at a Canadian blog. In sum, the author proves that there are four or five billion more people on the planet than the planet can support long-term. It seems that there is going to have to be a massive die-off over the next 70 years so that we can get back down to the billion or so that rational people understand to be the proper population. This is not in any way a call to action. The time for action has already passed and, of course, since the carrying capacity of the planet is a scientific fact -- scientific, I tell you -- there's nothing to be done.

It's hard to say what's most endearing about this nonsense. The reduction of human population to a function with just one input (oil) is certainly striking. Apparently, once oil was discovered, the internal combustion engine, miracle drugs, increased food yields, better nutrition, etc., was a done deal.

There is also a certain endearing smugness from the Canadian commenters about the fact that they have plenty of oil and may be the one country in the world below it's carrying capacity. Because being an underpopulated, resource rich nation with no military to speak of situated just north of the United States just guarantees that Gaia loves them.

But the winner has to be how quickly they turn to Darwin for solace over the deaths of most of the rest of us. (Have I mentioned that they're Canadian and thus safe?) This is just the necessary culling of the herd so that the fittest can survive. A shame and all that, but what can you do?

12 May 2007

In Which I Coyly Don't Make An Announcement

Over at the Daily Duck, Oroborous posts on college as a financial investment. His conclusion is that college makes no sense except for those who can go cheaply and study practical subjects. The rest of us should just go to trade school.

On the underlying subject, I find myself torn. College degrees are much too common in the States, where college, at least partially, plays the role high school played in the past and still plays in many nations. As we've recently discussed, college degrees are required for jobs where they simply aren't needed. Non-graduates can do the job just as well.

So I'm open to the idea that our high schools should step up and be more substantive. I'm open to the idea that not every child needs to go to college. I agree that a good trade school education could be better for both society and students than the current system. (I think that there might well be a nice analogy with Affirmative Action lurking around here. Not the least sin of AA is that qualified minority candidates get accepted to more rigorous schools than they would if they didn't receive points for their minority status. That is, after all, the whole point of AA. These students, who would do perfectly well in the schools they would have attended absent AA typically have a very hard time in the schools into which they are affirmatively admitted. Similarly, I've met any number of people who show up every day to an office job they hate rather than the trade job they would love. It only adds insult to injury that the trade jobs can be very well paid these days. According to this story, 37 Massachusetts State Troopers made more than $200,000 last year.)

But I am surprised that this argument is made by Oroborous on the Daily Duck. While it is not true of all bloggers, it is true of many bloggers -- and I think that of the entire post-Judd alliance plus OJ -- that blogging is a sympton of insufficient intellectual stimulation in real life. This seems so self-evident as to be almost definitional -- someone who blogs is someone who gets out of blogging something that he or she wasn't otherwise getting out of life. A sense of community, certainly. An opportunity to socialize with others you almost certainly wouldn't meet otherwise. But most clearly, an outlet for opinions that would otherwise be unexpressed and exposure to ideas that wouldn't otherwise be met.

People who blog, it seems to me, are largely people who should also enjoy college. Reading Shakespeare or studying history may be difficult to justify economically; the return on investment could even be negative. But it's a lot of fun and the rewards (although solipsistic) are real. This is the conclusion I've drawn about my own blogging -- it is a symptom of a real lack of intellectual stimulation.

In fact, based upon my blogging and my conclusions about what blogging means, I've turned my life completely upside down and set my life on a course that is, I think, surprising and completely impossible to justify economically.

Nuh, Uh

The New York Times writes about Leonard Nimoy's (yes, that Leonard Nimoy) latest show of photographs at the R Michaelson Gallery in Northampton. Nimoy's last show was of women posing sensually with Judaica, his new show is of fat nudes. In the course of the article, the owner of the gallery
"I am actually amazed at how little negative reaction there has been," said Mr. Michelson. "I attribute this in part to the gallery setting, and the fact that Northampton, Massachusetts, is perhaps the most liberal city in the most liberal state in the nation."
That isn't even close to true. California, Hawaii, Vermont and Wisconsin are probably more liberal than Massachusetts and Amherst and Cambridge are definitely more liberal than Northampton. People are fooled by the fact that Smith is here and that we have a considerable lesbian population. (Boy, that last phrase was a trap. I had to work my way through "large," "big" and "hefty" before I found considerable in the thesaurus.)

By the way, the most interesting thing in the article is that Nimoy designed the Vulcan handsign to mean, symbolically, G-d.

09 May 2007

It's Not Stealing, It's A Meme

I liked Monix's morning walk post so much, I decided to steal it. Here's my morning walk:

We start by putting the dog on the leash. Doesn't he look happy?

Then we head down the driveway.

Some of us take short cuts.

We then head up the hill,

and past the new construction going up on the site of an old quarry.

(To Be Continued)

A Walk, Interrupted

(We Continue)

We leave the road and head up Turkey Hill.

Turkey Hill is a big rock covered by a thin earth scrim.

This is the upper quarry, which is being decommissioned.

We watch the big machines for a while,

Then we look out over the valley to the Holyoke Range.

When we've had our fill, we turn around and retrace our steps, letting gravity do the work.

Lamb Chops

Pre-heat oven to 500.

Lay out chops in dark baking pan or on broiling pan.

Sprinkle on garlic salt and rosemary.

Turn chops over, sprinkle on garlic salt and spread Dijon mustard.

Cook at 500 for 4 minutes.

Without removing chops, turn heat down to 350 and cook for 15 minutes.


06 May 2007

First Hiroshima, Now Global Warming Denial

The Faithful Heretic: A Wisconsin Icon Pursues Tough Questions (Dave Hoopman, Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News, May 2007)
Reid A. Bryson holds the 30th PhD in Meteorology granted in the history of American education. Emeritus Professor and founding chairman of the University of Wisconsin Department of Meteorology—now the Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences—in the 1970s he became the first director of what’s now the UW’s Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies. He’s a member of the United Nations Global 500 Roll of Honor—created, the U.N. says, to recognize “outstanding achievements in the protection and improvement of the environment.” He has authored five books and more than 230 other publications and was identified by the British Institute of Geographers as the most frequently cited climatologist in the world.

Long ago in the Army Air Corps, Bryson and a colleague prepared the aviation weather forecast that predicted discovery of the jet stream by a group of B-29s flying to and from Tokyo. Their warning to expect westerly winds at 168 knots earned Bryson and his friend a chewing out from a general—and the general’s apology the next day when he learned they were right. Bryson flew into a couple of typhoons in 1944, three years before the Weather Service officially did such things, and he prepared the forecast for the homeward flight of the Enola Gay. Back in Wisconsin, he built a program at the UW that’s trained some of the nation’s leading climatologists.

How Little We Know

Bryson is a believer in climate change, in that he’s as quick as anyone to acknowledge that Earth’s climate has done nothing but change throughout the planet’s existence. In fact, he took that knowledge a big step further, earlier than probably anyone else. Almost 40 years ago, Bryson stood before the American Association for the Advancement of Science and presented a paper saying human activity could alter climate.

“I was laughed off the platform for saying that,” he told Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News.

In the 1960s, Bryson’s idea was widely considered a radical proposition. But nowadays things have turned almost in the opposite direction: Hardly a day passes without some authority figure claiming that whatever the climate happens to be doing, human activity must be part of the explanation. And once again, Bryson is challenging the conventional wisdom.

“Climate’s always been changing and it’s been changing rapidly at various times, and so something was making it change in the past,” he told us in an interview this past winter. “Before there were enough people to make any difference at all, two million years ago, nobody was changing the climate, yet the climate was changing, okay?”...

Bryson mentions the retreat of Alpine glaciers, common grist for current headlines. “What do they find when the ice sheets retreat, in the Alps?”

We recall the two-year-old report saying a mature forest and agricultural water-management structures had been discovered emerging from the ice, seeing sunlight for the first time in thousands of years. Bryson interrupts excitedly.

“A silver mine! The guys had stacked up their tools because they were going to be back the next spring to mine more silver, only the snow never went,” he says. “There used to be less ice than now. It’s just getting back to normal.”

It's A Slamdunk

From Meet the Press with Tim Russert:
MR. RUSSERT: You open the book with these words: "Wednesday, September 12, 2001, dawned as the first full day of a world gone mad. As I walked beneath the awning that leads to the West Wing, [I] saw Richard Perle exiting the building just as I was about to enter. As the doors closed behind him, we made eye contact and nodded. I had just reached the door myself when Perle turned to me and said, `Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility.' I looked back at Perle and thought: Who has [he] been meeting with in the White House so early in the morning on today of all days?"

Perle yesterday sent MEET THE PRESS this statement: "George Tenet tells his readers that on
September 12," "`today of all days' I told him that Iraq was responsible for the attack of" September 11. "This false claim is an obvious attempt to escape the responsibility for the intelligence failures of the agency he headed. But more important, it shows that even five years later he fails to understand that the decision to remove Saddam was based on the danger posed by Iraq, especially Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction--the certainty of which was repeated in every intelligence report and briefing I received from the CIA and other intelligence agencies. I was out of the country on" September 11,
"unable to return until September 15. When I did run into Mr. Tenet at the White House a week later, we had already concluded that al-Qaeda was responsible for" September 11. "I never made the remark Tenet attributes to me, or anything like it."

MR. TENET: We, we, we had not concluded that al-Qaeda was responsible for September 11. That conversation may have, may have occurred days later. It is the conversation that I--that, that occurred, and I stand by what happened that day.

MR. RUSSERT: He said those words to you.

MR. TENET: Yes, he did. And so for him to say that we had concluded that al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11, well, I'd like to know who made that conclusion.

MR. RUSSERT: When you say "yesterday" and "today of all days"?

MR. TENET: Well, Tim, I, I obviously--this is a jumbled, very difficult period of time. I may be off by a few days. What he said seems to be corroborated by what he said to another journalist. Mr. Novak has said he was called on September 17, and Mr. Perle said something like, "Well, aren't enough--there aren't enough targets in Afghanistan; let's go to Iraq.' And it's--it also is corroborative of the fact that he sent a letter to the president on September the 20 that mirrors those feelings. So I may have been off on the day, but I'm not off on what he said and what he believed.


According to my Snapple cap:
Swimming pools in the US contain enough water to cover San Francisco.
And yet will we pull together for the common good?

Has The Media Ever Met Any People?

ABC's Washington Madam story has collapsed, with the network refusing to name names. Conservatives suspect that the refusal is more because not enough conservatives were found in her phone records, but that's neither here nor there. (Note that ABC specifically avoided acquiring her phone records from during the Clinton Administration.)

I am amused, though, that ABC thought that it had a scandal in part because one of the clients claimed to be a senior economist at the White House. In truth, he turned out to be a mid-level staffer at the Office of Thrift Supervision. Men lie about status even to prostitutes. It's enough to make a cynical old conservative smile.

05 May 2007

Bush = Conservative = Bad

A surprisingly even handed article in the New York Times (albeit one that should be headlined "Grandstanding Dems Weaken War Effort, Endanger Troops") contains this gem:
The proposal by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to repeal President Bush’s war authorization in October touched off a furious tussle on Friday among Democrats hoping to gain an upper hand with voters who oppose the war. It prompted other candidates to seek an even swifter end to the conflict, which was what some Congressional leaders had been trying to avoid as war-spending negotiations with the White House intensify.
President Bush's war authorization? I guess the nutroots are right. He really has usurped Congress' war powers.

By the way, what's up with "Hillary Rodham Clinton?" Mrs. Clinton has dropped the "Rodham," as she does periodically. Didn't the Times get the memo?

04 May 2007

Only I Get To Decide Which Tradition Is Out-Moded

I've been surprised that this hasn't been getting more attention on the conservative blogs. The Anglican Church in Africa is sponsoring some Episcopalian congregations in America that want to break away from the Episcopalian Church because of its acceptance of homosexuality and, in particular, the elevation of Gene Robinson to Bishop.

The American Episcopalian Church objects to this "poaching:"
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent Akinola a letter earlier this week asking him to stay away. His visit would, she said, not only show "division and disunity" but violate ancient church customs which prevent one bishop from poaching on another's territory.

Akinola, in a response published on his church's Web site, told Jefferts Schori the custom she cited was intended to protect flocks from false outside teachings, not the care and concern of another bishop.

"I also find it curious," he said, "that you are appealing to the ancient customs of the church when it is your own Province's deliberate rejection of the biblical and historic teaching of the Church that has prompted our current crisis."

Culture Is Like Soup

You can see someone else's soup and think that it looks good, but there's no way to turn your soup into their soup. Adding matzoh balls to Gazpacho doesn't make it matzoh ball soup.

03 May 2007

Has Any One Ever Seen OJ and James Taranto In The Same Room?

From today's Best of the Web: "This offended Dave Lee, a member of the class of 2007 who considers himself an athlete even though he plays soccer."

Also from today's Best of the Web, I couldn't help but laugh at this self-refuting description of NYT publisher "Pinch" Sulzberger: "[W]e talked about making quenelles de brochette. He seems normal enough."

If This Weren't A Secret Blog, I Wouldn't Post This

But since it is a secret blog, I'll post it in full:

The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim

King David, in Birmingham, is a state primary where the children learn Hebrew, recite Jewish prayers, eat kosher food and wave Israeli flags. So how come the majority of pupils are followers of Islam? Jonathan Margolis investigates
The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim The Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim

It's infant prize day at King David School, a state primary in Moseley, Birmingham. The children sit cross-legged on the floor, their parents fiddling with their video cameras. The head, Steve Langford, is wearing a Sesame Street tie.

A typical end-of-term school event, then. But at King David there's a twist that gives it a claim to be one of the most extraordinary schools in the country: King David is a strictly Jewish school. Judaism is the only religion taught. There's a synagogue on site. The children learn modern Hebrew - Ivrit - the language of Israel. And they celebrate Israeli independence day.

But half the 247 pupils at the 40-year-old local authority-supported school are Muslim, and apparently the Muslim parents go through all sorts of hoops, including moving into the school's catchment area, to get their children into King David to learn Hebrew, wave Israeli flags on independence day and hang out with the people some would have us believe that they hate more than anyone in the world.

The Muslim parents, mostly devout and many of the women wearing the hijab, say they love the ethos of the school, and even the kosher school lunches, which are suitable because halal and kosher dietary rules are virtually identical. The school is also respectful to Islam, setting aside a prayer room for the children and supplying Muslim teachers during Ramadan. At Eid, the Muslim children are wished Eid Mubarak in assembly, and all year round, if they wish, can wear a kufi (hat). Amazingly, dozens of the Muslim children choose instead to wear the Jewish kipah.

At the prize morning Carol Cooper, the RE teacher, says: "Boker tov," (Ivrit for "Good morning").

"Good morning Mrs Cooper," the children chant in reply. The entire school, Muslims, Jews, plus the handful of Christians and Sikhs then say the Shema, the holiest Jewish prayer, all together.

The Year Four violin club (five Muslims, two Jews) play "Little Bird, I Have Heard". Just as many prizes are being distributed to Hussains and Hassans and Shabinas as there are to Sauls and Rebeccas and Ruths. In fact, if anything, the Muslim children have beaten the Jewish ones. Thus does the Elsie Davis Prize for Progress go to a beaming little lad called Walid, the religious studies prize to a boy called Imran wearing a kipah and the progress prizes for Hebrew, to a boy called Habib and a girl called Alia.

Times being as they are, King David doesn't advertise its presence in a city where its pioneering multiculturalism could raise all kinds of unwelcome attention. There's a discreet signboard outside that reveals little about the school's unique nature. There are watchful video cameras high up on the walls, plus two electronic gates to pass through. Sadly, it is, to a significant extent, says Laurence Sharman, the (Christian) chairman of the PTA, "an undercover school".

The Muslim parents, however, are only too keen to talk in the playground about what might be seen by some in their communities as a controversial schooling decision.

"We actually bought a flat in the catchment area for the children to come here," says Nahid Shafiq, the mother of Zainah, four, and Hamza, nine, and wife of Mohammed, a taxi driver. "We were attracted by the high moral values of the school, and that's what we wanted our kids to have. None of us has any problem with it being a Jewish school. Why on earth should we? Our similarities as religions and cultures are far greater and more important than our differences. It's not even an issue.

"At the mosque, occasionally, people ask why we send the children here, but there is no antagonism whatsoever, and neither is there from anyone in our family. In fact, it was a big family decision to try and get them into King David. This is the real world. This is the way real people do things in the real world. All the violence and prejudice and problems - that's not real, that's just what you see on the news."

Fawzia Ismail (the mother of Aly-Raza, nine, and Aliah, six) is equally positive. "My nephew came here and my brother showed me the school, so it's a bit of a family tradition now. We're very, very pleased with the school. It's so friendly. All the kids mix and go to one another's parties and are in and out of each other's houses. They teach a bit about Israel, but we don't have any problem with that. There are such similarities between our people and our societies."

Irum Rashid (mother of Hanan, nine, and Maryam, four) says that a lot of people in Small Heath are considering moving to Moseley because of King David. "It's a very happy school, the behaviour is fantastic, the food is great - because it's kosher - and so are the SATs results."

But what about learning Hebrew and the Jewish prayers? "I think it's great. The more knowledge, the more understanding," says one of the mothers. "They learn all they need about Islam at mosque school. Actually, the kids often sing Hebrew songs in the bath, which is a bit confusing because we speak Gujarati at home, but I think it's great."

The Jewish parents and teachers I speak to are just as enthusiastic. "You know, in these difficult times in the world, I think we show how things should be done. It's really a bit of a beacon," says one teacher, whose three children all went to King David and ended up at Oxford University.

Parent Trevor Aremband is from South Africa. "In Johannesburg, we have Jewish schools, but they're 100 per cent Jewish, so we were a bit shocked when we first came here. But the integration works so well. It's clearly the way to go in today's world. My son is eight and has loads of Muslim friends."

The most important thing, I am told repeatedly, is that the cross-cultural friendships forged at King David last a lifetime. I hear a conversation about how a Rebecca is going to fly over from the States for a Fatima's wedding. I am told about a pair of lads, one Jewish, one Muslim, who became friends the day they started in the nursery, went to senior school together as well as to university and are now living close to one another with their wives and families and are currently on holiday together.

King David was not designed to be such a beacon of inter-faith cooperation and friendship. Founded in 1865 as The Hebrew School, it was 100 per cent Jewish until the late 1950s.

Then two things began to happen: there was a growth in the Muslim population in middle-income areas such as Moseley, and a shrinking of Britain's Jewish community, especially outside the main centres of London and Manchester. Muslim children started coming to the school in the early 1960s, but the current position, in which they are in the majority (Jewish children comprise 35 per cent, Muslims 50 per cent, Christians, Sikhs and other, 15 per cent) is very new.

"One of the things that surprises people about this school," says Langford, "is that it's not an especially privileged intake. Half of our kids have English as an additional language. But the amazing thing is how well it all works. We have a new little boy here from China, whose only English a few weeks ago was to ask for the toilet. He now speaks English - and can say the Shema perfectly.

"If you gauge success, for instance, by racial incidents, which schools always have to report to the LEA, we have at the most one a term. And that can just mean some harsh words with a racial slant used in the playground. At multicultural inner city schools where I've taught, there will be far, far more than that, possibly one or more a week."

In terms of SATs and Ofsted inspections, King David has also shone. It is rated as good - the second highest possible ranking - in all areas, and Ofsted made a special mention at the last inspection of the integration between children of different faiths and races. In the recent SATs results, the school also came in well above the national average in all subjects.

Steve Langford, a Warwick University economics graduate, is himself a bit of a paradox. He is Church of England on both parental sides and only became interested in Judaism when he worked in a Jewish summer camp in Massachusetts in his gap year. His interest paid off when he got a teaching job a King David. Now he is learning Ivrit at evening classes and goes to Israel for holidays.

The Rabbi of Birmingham's Singers Hill Synagogue, one of the financial backers of King David, is proud of Steve Langford and of the school's extraordinary interfaith record.

"King David School is amazing," says Rabbi Tann. "The reason I think it works well is that racism is engendered entirely by adults. Children don't have it within themselves. Their natural mode is to play happily with everyone. It's only when adults say, 'Don't play with him, he's black, or don't have anything to do with him, he's Muslim, that troubles begin.'

"We never have any racial or inter-faith problems at all. Not ever. In 20 years here, it's simply never happened in any significant way. We teach that if you don't like someone, you avoid them. Don't play with them. Go to the other side of the playground. I believe that if more people followed the lead of King David School, we'd have a much more peaceful world."
The Rabbi's theory is nonsense, but what a lovely story.

02 May 2007

Mission Accomplished

Yesterday was, of course, the fourth anniversary of the President's "Mission Accomplished" speech, now much beloved of the anti-warriors. It is useful to read the speech today and see what was said and what was not said. It was not triumphalist, it did not celebrate the new oil fields we had added to the Empire, nor did it assume that all the hard work was done.

But there is another point about that day that I never see being made: the White House's reluctance to give that speech and that, in giving it, they were accommodating the UN. The point of the speech was not (merely) to celebrate a great feat of allied arms. The main point of the speech was to declare the end of major combat operations. The White House was reluctant to make this declaration, the UN was insistent: it would not go into Iraq and take up some of the burden of reconstruction until major combat operations had been declared over.

The legal effect of the President's declaration was to change the United States military in Iraq from an invader into an occupier. The main difference is that an occupier is responsible for the governance of the country as a whole and the welfare of the population. An invader is not. The US felt it was too early to make that shift, but the UN and certain of our "friends and allies" who had sat out the war held out the promise that they would participate in reconstruction but not during the invasion. Of course, at the end of the day the UN and its ilk didn't do much anyway because, in fact, the situation on the ground was not sufficiently stable.

(This is our 350th post. We note that so that you will understand how humbly we congratulate the Ducks on their 500th post.)

01 May 2007

The Reverse Advice Column

Has digital camera technology sufficiently matured that it make sense to spend a wad on a digital camera?

This Won't Go Over Well

Listening to Amy slur her way through "Valerie," I finally realized who she reminded me of. She's the female Van Morrison.

His Second Favorite is "A New Hope -- The Novelization?"

Mitt Romney says that his favorite novel is Battlefield Earth? I've actually read Battlefield Earth and it's not awful, but even among trashy soft science fiction novels it's not that good. Romney's favorite book is the Bible (apparently, though, no one asked him "which one?").