Sen Inhofe Denounces Alarmism
The Huff has a discussion of Sen. James Inhofe's passionate campaign to protect us from the Global Warming myth.
This blog is my effort to puzzle out the world. I'll write whatever comes into my head, but probably return frequently to my obsessions. I seem to be interested in the workings of democracy, economics, the functioning of social groups, the future of humanity, scientific concepts, statistical concepts, logical thinking, nuclear power, evolution, space, the environment and most everything else. I'll try to post only when I think I have my own angle on something.
The Huff has a discussion of Sen. James Inhofe's passionate campaign to protect us from the Global Warming myth.
I am reposting this message for Xeloda users which I first posted 15 months ago. I just traveled to visit my friend yesterday and earlier today. She has been up and down over these 15 months, but mostly up. She has continued to take Xeloda off and on and has made a point of enjoying life. She has also held down a job until just 3 weeks ago, helped to take care of her elderly mother, and lived to celebrate her own 60th birthday. Since her birthday she has developed severe edema. Her doctor has managed to get it under control using albumin, which has been another story in her well-storied life. When I saw her yesterday she had lost forty pounds of water weight in two weeks and she was "holding court" with an audience of family and friends. Once again, each day is a gift. After being unable to take it for a while, she has recommenced her Xeloda regimin as of today.
Many people have feelings toward objects. When I see beer cans, crack vials and used condoms in a playground, as has happened, I have a strong visceral response. It lowers my opinion of the neighborhood to say the least. This reaction, I don't think is unreasonable. It is relying on objects as the traces of likely events, sort of a poor man's CSI. Broken glass is an indicator that you should park your car somewhere else.
When I see a collection of old weapons, or Nazi paraphenalia, it doesn't disturb me. Some of it might interest me, but certain other folks might find it frightening. They won't want to touch it. I wonder, what does it represent to them? Do they consciously believe that the presense of such historical material indicates the imminence of danger? Are flags of the CSA indicators that whips and bloodhounds are close by? I have already mentioned my reaction to a modern, automatic weapon that my friend showed to me. Was my revulsion rational?Looking at the positive side, I remember that my brother had a favorite Teddy bear when he was a toddler. I don't think I did, although I was quite fond of him. I also remember being surprised once when he tripped over a stone ... and then came back and kicked the stone as if to exact some sort of revenge! Which of us is normal? My children show the same differences.
Professor Bruce Hood has been poking at the boundaries of superstition. He thinks that there are very few rationalists in this world. To prove it he offers to his students a chance to wear a sweater, washed and folded, formerly worn by someone else. He'll even give them 10 quid to do it. There are lots of volunteers until he tells them who the former owner was. For me, it made no difference, but then again I didn't know the name. I probably wouldn't wear the shirt at that price because I'd consider it beneath my dignity [ed: cantankerousness maybe], but I would have nothing against it in principle. I've been trying to think what criminal, or other person, might make me reluctant to wear a thoroughly laundered garment.
9/22/2006 5:25 PM
OK, I admit it. I have hated Wal-Mart for years. I shop there from time to time when it's convenient, but only because the relevant retail stores in my own neighborhood have gone out of business. However, I am conceding here that George Will is a pretty persuasive guy. His paean to the Big W is annoying because it is mostly correct. I was also impressed, as I noted in an earlier post, with Wal-Mart's massive philanthropic efforts to assist people after Katrina and with Wal-Mart's recent green initiatives.
George Will has pointed out that the store creates 100 new, more productive, jobs for every 50 jobs that it erases among the competition. I am certainly in favor of this. Unions are against it, but I am ambivalent about unions as they exist today. I believe that the small and repeated sacrifices that we make in the US, as an economic entity, are our insurance against obsolescence. It might not seem like a small sacrifice to the person who gets laid off, but it would be a lot worse if we delayed such dislocations until a crisis took place. Just look at the old Soviet Union.
Having second thoughts is a good thing, yes? Nevertheless, in the final analysis, I still have big problems with Wal-Mart for two overriding reasons. First, Wal-Mart is too big. It creates havoc regionally, sucking the local money out of every small shop and drug store and bakery and deli and corner grocery for miles around. The jobs it creates are cookie cutter, assembly-like jobs. The dislocation caused destroys local culture, and the jobs it replaces are those of middle-class, neighborhood-oriented people who, in turn, would spend their money locally. I'm sure George Will used reliable calculations, but I'm not sure he accounted for the cultural multiplier of having local people with honored positions.
The competition that Wal-Mart faces, aside from the fast-fading local businesses, is what? Target and Home Depot, maybe? As long as these remain viable I suppose Wal-Mart won't become a monopoly. That's some comfort, I suppose. However, I don't really trust a Republican administration to watch for the price-fixing shenanigans that will begin to occur when economic power becomes too concentrated.
The second objection that remains is that Wal-Mart is unnatural. Plainly it depends on the suburban automobile culture. The physical footprint is huge and environmentally disastrous, but the bigger problem is that the dependence on cheap oil makes us much more vulnerable to oil shocks. Congested traffic and global warming are part of the externalities generated. Wal-Mart also gains its productivity by putting all its customers to work. What work is that? -- The untold hours spent behind the wheel.
I am in favor of any tax structure that puts a penalty on unsustainable trends, particularly unnecessary transportation. I don't think we should ban such things, but I do think we should have a forward-looking national policy that discourages sprawl, dependence on individual travel and the use of fossil fuels. The amount of discouragement should be determined with an eye toward facilitating the development of sensible economic alternatives. If we had a high fuel tax and Wal-Mart were still able to prosper, then I would be willing to agree that its productivity advantages were real.
Thanks to Jane Galt for the George Will reference. I'm sorry that I must continue to disagree with such a distinguished triumvirate.
9/18/2006 6:07 PM
I'm glad I'm not the only Democrat remaining who thinks that the war in Iraq is necessary, and that the wavering will of the US is dangerous for many reasons.
Ed Koch, who is the wise and witty former mayor of New York City, has always been on my most-admired list. I wish he were president. His comments on RealClearPolitics have provided a little respite from that feeling of doom you get when you realize that your team is wavering. He is asking Democrats to put the nation before the Party.
… [S]eeking as some do to make our involvement in Iraq a partisan issue and characterizing the President's efforts to protect the homeland from terrorists in an adversarial manner is endangering the country at a moment in time when we are facing an existential threat to our very survival as a nation.
Of course, the President, Vice President and Secretaries of Defense and State have made monumental mistakes in the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Great mistakes in handling the war against terror were also committed by prior administrations. Now is the time for everyone to acknowledge the enormity of the danger we face and for reasonable people in both parties to join together to formulate a unified approach …
What a concept. Band together and give the Administration room to govern. He's a little old, I guess. He got his political education before Tom Delay and the advent of Fight Club politics. It seems to me that the terrorists would know what to do with people like him. RINOs and DINOs would be tortured and beheaded, while the rest would just lose their heads.
When Koch was just a Democrat, the Left thought he was a pretty smart guy. People should be wondering why a smart guy sees this as an "existential threat".
9/18/2006 12:03 AM
I was watching a discussion on PBS of the religious interpretation of 9/11. How did your view of God change after the event? was one question the various speakers addressed. Another was about the "face of evil", challenging the speakers to express their reaction in terms of this unseeable force that seems to love suffering. This was where I had to stop watching. It’s not that it disgusts or frightens me, though it does. It’s just that I feel its existence so thoroughly that I cannot tolerate the viewpoints of the rationalists. I am a thoroughgoing rationalist myself, or try to be, so such obtuseness in my fellows embarrassed me. This painful internal conflict drove me to respond, and a flash of inspiration gave me the words, I think, to explain to them how to sense what I’m sensing. …
Memes, ancient creatures that they are, come in strains with intensively selected, highly structured characteristics. Some important attributes are 1) fecundity, 2) cost/gain patterns, 3) intensification trends. The first is capacity for replication, ease or likelihood of being copied. The second represents what a meme does for you, your family, society and third parties. The third attribute refers to the field preparation induced by an established meme. What other memes does it make room for?
Evil, easily recognized by most people whose IQs have not exceeded the maximum for usefulness, is a meme series that leads to an intensifying series or cascade of domino-memes where successive generations increase the ratio of damage done to out-group vs. in-group parties. Can you parse what I’m saying here? Any fool knows that choices lead to other choices, and some choices lead to progressively more damaging results. Any fool knows that bad company rubs off, as do bad thoughts.
Think about the Plague. The symptoms are predictable, distinctive and progressive. There are somewhat different results depending on the individual. There are different outcomes depending on the medical support system, but it is still an evil thing. We know that Science can unravel its mysteries, help control its propagation, but Science cannot change the emotional reaction we have when we hear the word nor change its very nature.
Evil can be seen as a destructive meme-contagion. It’s not as easy to discover the progression of symptoms. It’s not as predictable or as visible, but it is, nevertheless discoverable, identifiable, subject to analysis, and ultimately seeable.
Maybe some folks are just born evil -- we’ve heard people say that. I would suggest that such hosts are merely more susceptible, that perhaps an unfortunate early exposure combined with a peculiar pattern of neurotransmitters led them into a negative cascade, culminating with an implacable and destructive attitude. Or maybe the absence of eumemes leads to the same result.
Whatever. I’m not taking credit for any particular sensitivity to this affliction, but some of us can recognize it for what it is. Some of us can also detect many cases with our olifactory system, as Hamlet implied of Denmark.
9/12/2006 12:25 AM
Frank Warner has a post on the new Chevron discovery under the Gulf of Mexico. He is generally pleased about it, and so am I. Oil availability is a good thing for us considering our present precarious position. If we use it as a funding source and an insurance policy while transitioning briskly to a less destructive energy paradigm, then it will have been a godsend. Unfortunately, as you might guess, it may end up just enabling our oil addiction. Anyway, here's what I had to say:
Free markets are wonderful at increasing supply when the price is right. People often underestimate that power. All of a sudden we're getting huge "new" deposits, such as the Athabasca oil sands, which just wouldn't exist at $10. If the price went high enough, people would find a way to make oil from banana peels and parking tickets.
The thing that markets won't do for you is control externalities, byproducts that no one pays for. Since CO2 is one of those, it's important to ascertain the long-term cost (or conceivably benefit) of that byproduct to society and impose said cost on the producers. (We can keep the benefit.) If we impose that cost reliably, producers will invent a way to handle it, which could work out well for everyone.
Personally, I would prefer that we have a coherent energy policy that would lead to a sustainable future. The way to do that is to simply overtax less desirable energy sources in order to advantage more desirable ones. IMO, the biggest untapped energy supply in our present economy is conservation. The most important transition source is nuclear energy, which should be subsidized, and the most important ultimate source is energy from nuclear fusion. Alternative energy can play a supporting role.
I'm glad we have new oil from an American source. It will help with the political issues, but in the long run, cheap oil is harmful to sensible planning.
Loading the externalities onto oil prices is a good idea. Unfortunately, one easy way for the providers to avoid such costs might, I'm hypothetical here, be to preferentially release methane rather than CO2. Another way might be to sequester CO2 in such a way that it isn't released until later, creating a problem for the future, but providing a net present benefit to the producer. Undsoweiter. When you squeeze the tube hard enough, toothpaste will come out of all the holes.
All these things would be secondary externalities related to the tax structure. The complexity becomes such that you have to tax the net-present-greenhouse-impact, which would be hard to do. Since you can't practically impose the greenhouse cost on the producers -- they will find a way around it -- the government needs to establish a comprehensive energy policy that will direct economic activities toward a reasonable future. You may have noticed that there is some argument over what that reasonable future might entail. It would be nice if annual increases in fossil fuel consumption, as presently projected, were part of a reasonable future scenario, but it is not so, at least not without some major technical innovations.
Free markets will, in all probability, lead us into a workable future, but the consequent dislocations could be painful. The US population could drop dramatically, as it did in Russia during the transition from Communism. Transitions can be tough. It's best to plan for such a transition ahead of time, which brings us to another failing in free market systems. Money moves toward the best strategy based on net present value. The market is unconcerned about an uncertain future collapse that must be coming, as long as it can make money before that collapse. Development was taking place in New Orleans right up until the evacuation.
Only insurance companies bother themselves about such stuff. And insurance companies look out for number one. Please note that insurance companies have not taken it upon themselves to rebuild New Orleans. If we expect them to dig us out after some world-wide ecological catastrophe, we are seriously deluded. OK, OK, I know. We are seriously deluded anyway.
9/7/2006 11:49 AM