Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where Does Intelligence Come From

No, really. Where does it?

It's Important to Consider Opportunity Costs

I fell for a stupid article and turned off my home PC last night. The article says that Americans who leave computers on overnight are wasting $2.8 billion on energy costs per year.

It ignores the cost of turning computers off — and having to turn them on again the next morning. Let’s say that process takes five minutes per day, and one does it 250 days per year. That’s 1,250 minutes, or more than 20 hours per person per year.

Read the whole thing to find out why that matters.

New York's Problem is America's Problem

Rush Limbaugh: Now, remember Mayor Bloomberg, who opposed this at one point -- I don't know where he stands on it now, but Mayor Bloomberg way back -- said (summarized), "Look, we got eight million people that live here, there are 40 or 50,000 taxpayers -- families, what have you -- that pay so much in tax that they essentially support the city -- and if they start to leave, we've got a big problem." He said, "Even if 5,000 of them leave, we've got a huge problem. We just can't run out there and keep raising taxes on the rich." The governor, Mr. Paterson, didn't hear him. "It's not just people earning over $500,000 a year that are going to get hit. A lower-tier tax increase would increase taxes by 14-1/2 percent for single people between 250 and $500,000 a year, and for married and joint filers earning 300,000 to 500,000. Taxpayers now hit the current top rate of 6.85% when their incomes reach $65,000. The Paterson plan would tax top-tier earners at 8.97%, the second-tier earners at 7.85%.

I know, I know--it's more difficult to up and leave America than NYC. But the rich don't have to leave, necessarily, to achieve the same result. If a few of them decide to simply "Go John Galt", the effect will be the same.

Larry Kudlow:

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), probably the most knowledgeable man in Congress about the car bailout, and someone who argued months ago in favor of a pre-planned government-sponsored bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler, calls the Wagoner firing "a major power-grab by the White House on the heels of another power-grab from Secretary Geithner, who asked last week for the freedom to decide on his own which companies are 'systemically' important to our country and worthy of taxpayer investment, and which are not." Corker calls this "a marked departure from the past," "truly breathtaking," and something that "should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise."

Decoding Brain Waves

Honda Motor Co. (HMC) has developed a way to read patterns of electric currents on a person's scalp as well as changes in cerebral blood flow when a person thinks about four simple movements - moving the right hand, moving the left hand, running and eating.

Honda succeeded in analyzing such thought patterns, and then relaying them as wireless commands for Asimo, its human-shaped robot.
In a video shown Tuesday at Tokyo headquarters, a person wearing a helmet sat still but thought about moving his right hand - a thought that was picked up by cords attached to his head inside the helmet. After several seconds, Asimo, programmed to respond to brain signals, lifted its right arm.

How not to measure temperature...

...part 86.

Our Present Climate Models...

assume much positive feedback. Is that assumption justified?

More here.

I Wouldn't Have Thought It

A research study showed that playing first-person shooters like Unreal Tournament 2004 and Call of Duty 2 improves vision.


A cheap five-in-one pill can guard against heart attacks and stroke, research suggests.

$399 DNA Kit

Three years later, their company,, gives anyone with $399 to spend a host of information about his or her genetic markers; from traits like whether you’re a natural sprinter to whether you might be at risk for Parkinson’s disease. You order the kit online, get it in the mail, spit in the cup and mail it back. A few months later, you get your results via email. It’s as easy as getting a movie from Netflix.

More here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Freeman Dyson:

The disagreement about values may be described in an over-simplified way as a disagreement between naturalists and humanists. Naturalists believe that nature knows best. For them the highest value is to respect the natural order of things. Any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil. Excessive burning of fossil fuels is evil. Changing nature’s desert, either the Sahara desert or the ocean desert, into a managed ecosystem where giraffes or tunafish may flourish, is likewise evil. Nature knows best, and anything we do to improve upon Nature will only bring trouble.

The humanist ethic begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature. Through human minds the biosphere has acquired the capacity to steer its own evolution, and now we are in charge. Humans have the right and the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both survive and prosper. For humanists, the highest value is harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. The greatest evils are poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, disease and hunger, all the conditions that deprive people of opportunities and limit their freedoms. The humanist ethic accepts an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a small price to pay, if world-wide industrial development can alleviate the miseries of the poorer half of humanity. The humanist ethic accepts our responsibility to guide the evolution of the planet.

Color me a humanist.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

James Hansen:

James Hansen, a climate modeller with Nasa, told the Guardian today that corporate lobbying has undermined democratic attempts to curb carbon pollution. "The democratic process doesn't quite seem to be working," he said.

Speaking on the eve of joining a protest against the headquarters of power firm E.ON in Coventry, Hansen said: "The first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash.

"The democratic process is supposed to be one person one vote, but it turns out that money is talking louder than the votes. So, I'm not surprised that people are getting frustrated. I think that peaceful demonstration is not out of order, because we're running out of time."

Well, Jim, if the "democratic process" is the "first action" that countries should take, and if it "doesn't quite seem to be working", then what's next?

Just come out and say it, Jim.

Friday, March 27, 2009

This Sounds Curious:

The study of 300 throat cancer patients and 571 healthy people found that those who drank hot tea (65-69 degrees Celsius, 149-156 degrees Fahrenheit) were twice as likely to develop throat cancer as those who drank warm or lukewarm tea. Those who drank very hot tea (at least 70 C, 158 F) were eight times more likely to develop throat cancer than those who drank warm or lukewarm tea.

The findings were published Friday in the BMJ.

The Peculiarities of UK Law

The Prime Minister admitted the centuries-old laws, which give men a greater claim to the throne than their older sisters and prevent those in the line of succession from marrying Catholics, are a source of controversy.

But he said the public expects such prejudice to be removed in the 21st century, and insisted the historic moves would not affect the position of the monarchy or lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England.

However any changes to the 1701 Act of Settlement would have to be agreed by all 15 of the foreign Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is the head of state.
There is concern that if the issue were debated in the parliaments of Australia and Canada, where there is strong anti-monarchist sentiment, it would be the "thin end of the wedge" that could be used as a way for those countries to become republics.

Freeman Dyson v. Jim Hansen

These guys really don't like each other. They could hardly disagree more on the issue of global warming and climate change.

My money's on Dyson.

Change You Can Believe In:

FOR a guy who talks so much about wanting a new era of re sponsibility, President Obama spends an awful lot of time blaming Republicans for all the wild and reckless spending he crammed into his own budget.

After running a campaign against the $1 trillion deficit he "inherited" from President Bush and the Republicans, Obama quickly matched it. During his first 50 days in office, he and his Democratic-controlled Congress spent $1 billion an hour.

Under Obama's proposed budget, the overall national debt doubles in five years and triples in 10.

Not exactly "moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest," as he promised.

How does Mr. Responsibility explain the disconnect between this reality and his absurd claims? By insisting that Republicans were worse.

Ayn Rand v. Ward Churchill

Ayn Rand's view of money and profit is summarized here.

Here's Ward Churchill's: "When you bring your skills to bear for profit, you are the moral equivalent of Adolf Eichmann."

I prefer Rand's view. But then...I would.

You Can't Just Come Out and SAY It!

A United Nations document on "climate change" that will be distributed to a major environmental conclave next week envisions a huge reordering of the world economy, likely involving trillions of dollars in wealth transfer, millions of job losses and gains, new taxes, industrial relocations, new tariffs and subsidies, and complicated payments for greenhouse gas abatement schemes and carbon taxes — all under the supervision of the world body.

Sounds Like He Panicked

On Sunday, March 15, Verle Wiita, 64, an instrument-rated private pilot with about 320 total hours flying experience, became disoriented soon after leaving Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Md. Automated weather equipment reported an overcast ceiling of 400 feet with two miles visibility at the surface, although the pilot reported the cloud layer began at about 800 feet agl. He deployed the airframe parachute on his Cirrus SR22 at the base of the clouds, and the airplane came down less than a half-mile from the airport.

No one on the ground was injured, and Wiita walked away from the accident without so much as a bump or bruise. But his airplane, a normally aspirated 2008 model with the Garmin G1000-based Perspective avionics suite, was destroyed. To date, there have been 18 parachute deployments on Cirrus aircraft, and the occupants have survived 16 of them.

This is shy Cirrus aircraft are so expensive to insure.

Silly professor, only US Senators are permitted to say such things:

Professor suspended over 'hanging bankers' remarks.

UPDATE:> Glenn Reynolds offers the professor a little advice:

I would suggest, though, that professors of anthropology might want to think twice before stirring up violent populist mobs inflamed with class resentment. . . .

"I'm with the government, and I'm here to help...

manage your health care."

Because, you know, we manage everything else so well.

The Dust Factor

About 70 percent of the Atlantic's warming since 1980, at an average per-decade rate of a half-degree Fahrenheit (a quarter-degree Celsius), was due to less dust blown from African dust storms or to volcanic eruptions, scientists wrote in the journal Science.

Circumcision Reduces Spread of at Least Three STD's:

Male circumcision, already shown to reduce the incidence of H.I.V. infection in men, also reduces transmission of both herpes simplex virus Type 2 and human papilloma virus, a study has found.

"I'm with the government, and I'm here to help you... cars."

Because, you know, we're really good at that.

The "Obama Girl" Interviews Obama:

As a Private Pilot, I Think This is Bogus:

The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to keep secret from travelers and the public its vast records on how frequently and where commercial planes are damaged by hitting flying birds.

The agency's formal secrecy proposal came just after FAA officials had said they were going to release the huge database to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

As President Barack Obama promises a more open government, the FAA says it needs to expand secrecy to cover this safety data because if the public learned the information then airports and air carriers wouldn't report damage from birds.

Daniel Hannan Tears Gordon Brown a New One:

Instapundit chronicles some thoughts on the significance of the above video. Perhaps more important than the video's substance is its means of distribution, which evidences the continued rise of the New Media.

UPDATE:> More than 1.1 million views so far.

Anne McKinney's "Ballad of Timothy Geithner":

Thursday, March 26, 2009

YouTube Goes Dark in China

ZDNet: As of Monday, YouTube is unavailable in China, an unexplained move apparently made in response to the existence of a video of Chinese soldiers beating Tibetan monks, says the BBC.

I think the Chinese government is fully justified. I mean, the video was clearly one-sided and unbalanced in that it failed to present the soldiers' side of the story. This was a clear violation of the fairness doctrine, no doubt.

We often need the government to remind us what is fair. The Chinese understand this more than most. They are right to insist on fairness.

[tongue in cheek]

The Evolution of Facebook

Wired: Facebook (and other social networks) has been skewing older for a while, but the trend has been "massive" in the past six months, according to In the past two months alone the number of new members over 35 has doubled. Marketers take note: the median age is now over 25, and the largest single group 35 to 44.

"I'm with the government, and I'm here to help...

...make sure that you drink wine responsibly."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tempe Sunset

From last month's trip to Tempe, Arizona. We stayed at the Tempe Mission Palms. It was lovely.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

At a time when the federal government is spending billions of stimulus dollars to stem the tide of U.S. layoffs, should that same government put even more Americans out of work by buying cheaper foreign products?

In this case, Chinese condoms.

That's the dilemma for the folks at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has distributed an estimated 10 billion U.S.-made AIDS-preventing condoms in poor countries around the world.

But not anymore.

In a move expected to cost 300 American jobs, the government is switching to cheaper off-shore condoms, including some made in China.

(via Instapundit)

The Media Starts to Turn on Obama

It was only a matter of time, I suppose.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Those Amazing Stem Cells (cont.)

The Independent: A major research project is to be announced this week that will culminate in three years with the first transfusions into human volunteers of "synthetic" blood made from the stem cells of spare IVF embryos. It could help to save the lives of anyone from victims of traffic accidents to soldiers on a battlefield by revolutionising the vital blood transfusion services, which have to rely on a network of human donors to provide a constant supply of fresh blood.

A $2,000 New Car?

Yep, but I'm not sure how it's possible.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Darwinian Explanation for Male Homosexuality

Psychology Today: Camperio did not quite know at first what to make of these results—or how they might help him understand the Darwinian paradox of homosexuality. Then one day, he was driving through the forest with his daughter, on the way to their country house. Their tradition was to play mathematical games to keep themselves entertained. This time, he began talking about a different puzzle. "I began explaining my research," Camperio recalls. "I explained to her that we found out that homosexuals come from large families. I told her that there is an inheritance from the mother—she's giving the homosexual genes to her son. I said, 'This is impossible—how can they be surviving?'"

His daughter, 15, replied, "But Dad, did you check if this factor that makes sons homosexual is not the same factor that makes the mother produce more children and have big families?"

Read the whole thing.

Is Intelligence Genetic

In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Feb. 18, UCLA neurology professor Paul Thompson and colleagues used a new type of brain-imaging scanner to show that intelligence is strongly influenced by the quality of the brain's axons, or wiring that sends signals throughout the brain. The faster the signaling, the faster the brain processes information. And since the integrity of the brain's wiring is influenced by genes, the genes we inherit play a far greater role in intelligence than was previously thought.

I think the influence and significance of genes is under-appreciated by most.

We Can Sleep Better Now

France rejoins NATO.

iPhone is Also a Medical Device?


Why Do I Find Myself Rooting for WaMu?

Washington Mutual’s holding company is suing federal regulators for billions of dollars, saying the firesale of the bank’s assets to JPMorgan Chase violated its rights. The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which seized the Seattle-based savings and loan in September. It was the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

Lawyers for the holding company, Washington Mutual Inc., argue that the bank was worth more than the $1.9 billion JPMorgan paid for it in a deal arranged by the FDIC. The lawsuit argues that if WaMu’s assets had been liquidated prudently, they would have been worth more than that.

If You're Conservative or Libertarian... might be a terrorist.

Bart Ehrman Has a New Book Out:

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)

If it's anything like his others, I'm sure it's excellent.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson...

contemplates how Obama's first couple months would be covered by the press if Bush did it.

Hehe. Sad thing is, he's right.

The Power of the Puff Piece

This would have been evidence of Bush's aloofness. But, with respect to Obama, it evidences his great compassion:

Every weekday, President Obama sits behind his big desk in the Oval Office or settles into a comfortable chair in his East Wing residence and opens a purple folder containing some very important material--10 letters from the outside world. The correspondence is chosen by his staff as a sampling of the 40,000 letters he gets every day. The letters are selected to give him an idea of the public's cares, concerns, suggestions, and critiques of how he's doing.

Sometimes, Obama will read a letter or two during the day, to fill a lull in the seemingly endless series of meetings that dominate a president's schedule. Often, he will take the folder home and peruse the letters at night. He will respond to one or two with handwritten notes. Sometimes, the letters prompt him to inquire about a specific problem or to pass along an interesting idea or poignant story to his policymakers, advisers say. He recently gave senior adviser David Axelrod and other aides copies of a letter from an Arizona woman whose husband lost his job and had to take a big pay cut from his next employer, resulting in the family having serious trouble making mortgage payments. It was a heart-wrenching story that illustrated the pain that Americans are enduring during the economic downturn. "We need to help folks like these," Obama told an aide.

Khamenei re Obama Admin:

They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We haven't seen any change.

A Dallas Bookstore Makes a Freudian Slip?

Or maybe it was a simple mistake. Regardless, it's funny because it contains an element of truth.

I Always Wondered How Something Like This Would Play Out

BoingBoing: DNA evidence from a multimillion-euro jewelry heist in Berlin leads to twins with a criminal record, but since the evidence could point to either one, German law says that neither can be convicted.

Twitter Continues Explosive Growth

I checked it out months ago, and honestly, I really don't get it. Clearly, I'm missing something.

Measuring Temperature

Climate Skeptic: Apparently, Jones et al found recently that a third to a half of the warming reported in the Hadley CRUT3 database in China may be due to urban heat island effects rather than any broader warming trend. This particularly important since it was a Jones et al letter to Nature years ago that previously gave the IPCC cover to say that there was negligible uncorrected urban warming bias in the major surface temperature records.

Interestingly, Jones et al can really hs to be treated as a hostile witness on this topic. Their abstract states:

We show that all the land-based data sets for China agree exceptionally well and that their residual warming compared to the SST series since 1951 is relatively small compared to the large-scale warming. Urban-related warming over China is shown to be about 0.1°C decade−1 over the period 1951–2004, with true climatic warming accounting for 0.81°C over this period

By using the words “relatively small” and using a per decade number for the bias but an aggregate number for the underlying warming signal, they are doing everything possible to downplay their own finding (see how your eye catches the numbers 0.1 and 0.81 and compares them, even though they are not on a comparable basis — this is never an accident). But in fact, the exact same numbers restate this way: .53C, or 40% of the total measured warming of 1.34C was due to urban biases rather than any actual global warming signal.

Since when is a 40% bias or error “relatively small?”

So why do they fight their own conclusion so hard?


"It actually is a wonderful thing to get to 100," says physician and researcher Thomas Perls. He adds many younger people don't understand what living to 100 is really like.

"A lot of people ask, 'Gosh, who would want to live to 100?' because they get this idea of 'the older you get, the sicker you get,' when in fact, what we've found is very opposite to that," he says. "Centenarians, they markedly delay the onset of any kind of disability well to their early- to mid-90s. It's almost as if, if you have any kind of disability, it's much tougher to get to that age. So instead of it being a matter of 'the older you get, the sicker you get,' it's much more of the case, 'the older you get, the healthier you've been,' which is really a very optimistic view of aging."

Mark Lange:

GENERATING efficiency in the health-care market will be one of President Obama’s greatest challenges. To do this, he will have to create meaningful competition between drug companies, and between public and private plans. Congress’s attempt at market-driven health care offers good instruction in what not to do.

Simple Question: Since when has government "created meaningful competition" in anything? Government action and meaningful competition are all but mutually contradictory ideas. The whole problem with our current healthcare system, and the very reason we don't have meaningful competition, is excessive government action and regulation.

Consider, for example, those specialties where so-called health "insurance" and government programs, like medicare and medicaid, play only a minor role--e.g., plastic surgery, optometry, veterinary care, dentistry. In these specialties, where we have actual competition, prices have been comparatively stable. Breast enhancement surgery doesn't cost much more today than it did 20 years ago. Many physicians offer LASIK surgery for about a third of what they charged 10 years ago. The cost of basic dental services has increased far less than healthcare expenses in general over the last 20 years.

Where we have less government and less so-called "insurance" (really just prepaid healthcare), we have more competition and stable prices.

Respectfully, Mr. Lange's proposed solutions will do very little to enhance competition and reduce costs for the simple reason that they rely on additional government "demands" and "mandates", the exact opposite of what it needed.

Karen Youso Contemplates the Singularity:

Whether the singularity will be good or bad depends on whom you ask. Some see it as a breakthrough event, the time we solve stubborn problems such as pollution, energy, climate change and hunger. Enhanced brains and bodies would lead to a better life for all, an almost nirvana-like state of peace and plenty for the planet. Others see danger: institutional control, no privacy, a new kind of pollution by nanoparticles, more deadly terrorist attacks, even the end of human life.

Like all progress, technological singularity -- if, indeed, we get there -- will have two sides, bringing benefits as well as risks.

"It's exciting, but also scary," Moravec said.

Progress always is, no matter how fast it happens.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Selfish Bastards. How Dare They!

For the first time in Gallup’s 25-year history of asking Americans about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

2007 Births More Than During Baby Boom

Well, at least in absolute terms.


AFP: The discovery of a petite, plant-eating dinosaur with primitive plumage could mean that the dinosaur from which all others evolved had feather-like protrusions, according to the latest study.

The find in northeastern China is a scientific bombshell, further shattering the once axiomatic view that feathered birds and scaly reptiles developed along different evolutionary paths.

Oh Geez

Insurance companies must tell regulators about financial risks brought on by climate change, according to a new mandate from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

I'm not sure how they can bet expected to quantify such risks, but I'm pretty sure the cost of insurance will be going up as a result of such silliness.


Dr. Helen: If Ms. Hicks wonders why men have no interest in a "stable marriage," or commitment, she need only look as far as her own dripping disdain for men and her lack of insight into a culture that holds men responsible, portrays women as victims, and then sets up a "council" to correct a problem that women spend over 30 years in the making. A council on women is about expanding their opportunities. A council on men is about controlling them.

Remind me never to piss off Dr. Helen.

This Could Prove Handy

AppleInsider’s uncovered what appears to be a new feature called "Find My iPhone". It’s unknown exactly what the feature does, but the name suggests some way of getting the phone’s location remotely via MobileMe—if you happen to be a subscriber of Apple’s paid service, of course.

Astrologers Rejoice

A recent study suggest that the state of the sun at one's birth can influence life expectancy. Specifically:

If you were born in a peak solar year, then your life expectancy is 1.5 years less than than those born in non-peak years.

We're currently in a solar minimum, so people born this year are good to go.

I seem to recall...

...a study that came out a few years ago which suggested that being a little overweight may actually increase life expectancy. This study, however, suggests otherwise.

Is Google Chrome the Most Secure Browser? During a contest at the CanSecWest event, security researchers competed to exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers. Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer were all successfully compromised, but Chrome was able to withstand the first day of the competition.

I've been using Chrome since it was first introduced. I particularly like its speed and start page.

The Flying Car Has Arrived?

This is way cool.

Google Adds "Undo" Option to Gmail

But, it has limitations.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Americans Less Christian Seventy-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was 86 percent.

As I note in my book, Christianity must begin to offer something more if it hopes to survive the technological revolution.

Forbe's Updates Its List of Billionaires

Forbes has published its annual listing of the world's billionaires. After reviewing this list, observations that I've noted previously still hold true:

1) The vast majority of American billionaires are self-made.

2) A significant majority of France's billionaire's inherited their wealth.

3) When looking at other countries, the percentage of billionaires who are self-made varies in relation to how "free" a given economy is. More socialist countries, like France, have very few self-made billionaires as a percentage of their total, while less socialist ones, like the US, have a much higher percentage. Moderately socialist countries, like the UK, fall in between.

One may reason from these correlations that socialist economies are less dynamic and less innovative, and therefore that they favor "old" wealth at the expense of the new, locking in the "status quo." Perhaps this helps explains why so many billionaires are socialists.

But the numbers are even more telling if we consider things in dollar terms rather than in terms of the number of billionaires. In dollar terms, US billionaires alone account for nearly half of the combined wealth of all the world's billionaires. If we consider the fortunes of all the world's self-made billionaires and compare it to the fortunes of those billionaires who inherited their money, the self-made ones account for the vast majority of the world's wealth. Perhaps I'll take the time to do the actual calculation at some point, but giving the list a quick "once over", I'm betting that better than 80% of the wealth accounted for by the Forbes list is self-made money, and the vast majority of it was made in non-socialist countries.

Thus, if Ayn Rand is right and self-made money measures one's contribution to others, then these self-made men and women have contributed much indeed.

Ayn Rand on Money:

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco D’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim our product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor—your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is that what you consider evil?

“Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions—and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of the goods produced and of all the wealth that that has ever existed on earth.

“But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made—before it can be looted or mooched—made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.

“To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you in his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not for their loss—the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery—that you must offer them values, not wounds—that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but th exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason: it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade –with reason, not force, as their final arbiter—it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability—and the degree of man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is that what you consider evil?

“But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality—the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: Money will not give him a code of values, if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

“Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth—the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to him money, it served him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do no think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

“Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men’s vices or men’s stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment’s or a penny’s worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you’ll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

“Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

“Or did you say it’s the love of money that the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It’s the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money—and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

“Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another—their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

“But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich—will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt—and of his life, as he deserves.

“Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard—the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money—the men who are the hitch-hikers of virtue. In a moral society, those are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law—men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims—then money becomes its creator’s avenger. Such looters believe it is safe to rob defenseless mend, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull rather than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary seller of values. Gold was an objective value, and equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’

When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, ‘Who is destroying the world?’ You are.

You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it’s crumbling around you, while you’re damning its life-blood—money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men’s history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, whose names changed, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers found, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about th evil of money which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves—slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody’s mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force and wealth obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer. Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers—as industrialists.

“To the glory of mankind there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money—and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time man’s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared for the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being—the self-made man—the American industrialist.

“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose—because it contains all the others—the fact ht they were the people to create the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before. Men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity—to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. American’s were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.

“Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters’ continents. Now the looters’ credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide—as, I think, he will.

“Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which mean will deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips, and guns—or dollars. Take your choice—there is no other, and your time is running out.

--Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged [emphasis added]

Helen Smith on the Left's Criticism of Those Who Advocate "Going John Galt":

It strikes me as odd that if you work and make money, you're a selfish bastard and if you stop working hard and making money, you're a selfish bastard. Which is it?

Helen Smith on Alec Baldwin:

Supply-side economist?

Megan McArdle Has Buyer's Remorse:

Our sister publication asks analysts whether the administration's economic forecasts are too optimistic. They would have gotten a more interesting discussion if their query had been "Is the Pope Catholic?" Of course they're too optimistic. In fact, the word optimistic is too optimistic. A better choice might have been "insane". Like Greg Mankiw, I would love to find a sucker investor who is willing to take the other end of a bet that both growth and revenue will fall short of the administration's predictions.

Having defended Obama's candidacy largely on his economic team, I'm having serious buyer's remorse.

Suddenly, Obama insists "things are not as bad as we think."

Glenn Reynolds explains Obama's pivot: We must distinguish between “bourgeois truth,” which is concerned with sterile facts, and “revolutionary truth,” which is concerned with what will promote the revolution.

The World Wide Web Turns 20

The World Wide Web (WWW) on Friday marked its 20th anniversary and its founders admitted there were bits of the phenomenon they do not like: advertising and "snooping."
"Back then there were 26 web servers. Now there are 10 to the power 11 pages, that's a many as the neurones in your brain," said Berners-Lee, who still has an active hand in the web's development.

This is Not What AGW Theorists Predicted

Hurricane activity at its lowest in at least 30 years.

Of course, when these observations undermine the predictions of global warming models, we are assured that its just "weather." "Climate change" only happens when observations agree with the models.

UPDATE: For instance, last year's Atlanta tornado wasn't due to "weather", but rather climate change.

Color me skeptical.

Glenn Reynolds on the Potential Longevity Dividend:

But even much more modest progress--extending healthy middle age from 60 to, say, 80--would permit significant shifts in retirement ages and allow for a longevity dividend that could go a long way toward preventing the looming pension meltdown. Greater progress might make the problem go away entirely. So perhaps it would make sense to steer some of the federal money currently going to research on treating the diseases of old age--an approach that leads to older, but frailer, people who are a drain on public resources and whose quality of life is iffy--to research on slowing or reversing the damage that aging does, leading to healthier old people who can work (and pay taxes) longer, while feeling better and enjoying life more.

Makes sense to me, but I imagine the politics of such a change to be pretty tough.

Finding Longevity Genes in Humans

PR Newswire: Prolexys Pharmaceuticals announced today the publication of the discovery of genes that are likely to have a role in the aging process of humans. The findings result from research on the human equivalents of proteins from simple animals which confer long life in those species. The evidence suggests that these proteins are more likely to interact with other proteins in a large atlas of mapped interactions. Furthermore, the investigators were able to show that the protein associations also correlate with differences in gene expression between young and old humans. Though the existence of longevity-extending genes has been known for experimental organisms such as yeast, roundworms and flies, this is the first demonstration that similar genes have a role in the aging process of humans.

Giving Up Names

Reuters: The decision today goes to the legal root of Switzerland's lack of cooperation with other countries -- the distinction between tax fraud and tax evasion.

Under Swiss law, tax fraud is a criminal offence that involves forging documents to hide income from the tax man. Tax evasion, which is defined as not fully declaring one's income to the Swiss tax authorities, is an administrative offence, punishable with a fine only.

The key change is that Switzerland will now cooperate in cases of suspected tax evasion too, at least once double taxation agreements are renegotiated with other countries.

Previously, the world's biggest offshore center would only cooperate with foreign authorities when they could prove tax fraud, which has hindered U.S. access to client data of Switzerland's biggest bank UBS in a tax probe.

Google Earth now includes...Mars

PCWorld: Google Earth 5.0 is a fun and free way to waste time, and now it’s even better with the updated Mars in Google Earth, a 3D mapping tool that lets astronomy buffs and armchair astronauts roam the Red Planet.

Google Voice Debuts

Cnet: Google's new Google Voice has a few rough edges but for many users, it could be a life-changing experience.

The service, a relaunch of GrandCentral, which Google bought in 2007, allows you to choose a local number, which will simultaneously ring up to six phones such as your cell phone, home phone, office phone, and the phone at that vacation home that most of us can only dream about.

Decoding The Brain Researchers tracked brain activity related to "spatial memory" as volunteers moved about inside a virtual reality setup. Their new study challenges previous scientific thinking by showing that memories are recorded in regular patterns.

"Surprisingly, just by looking at the brain data we could predict exactly where they were in the virtual reality environment," said Eleanor Maguire, a neuroscientist at the University College London in the U.K. "In other words, we could 'read' their spatial memories."

Battery Breakthrough

UPI: MIT researchers Byoungwoo Kang and Gerbrand Ceder are patenting a new process that improves recharging time by nearly 90 percent over existing lithium-ion batteries, AutoWeek reports.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Seek the truth—come whence it may, cost what it will.

--Motto of Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Obama Nominees Quit Before They Are Even Hired US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is practically alone on the job, working night and day to cope with the worst economic downturn in decades.

Of the 15 key Treasury Department positions that require Senate confirmation, only one has been filled. Stuart Levey, a leftover from the previous administration, who as under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, is not central to the crisis management however.

Unemployment figures which revealed Friday that 651,000 jobs were lost in February, showed the recession is running ever deeper, but Geithner, who started work in late January, has no deputy secretary, no under secretaries for international affairs and no deputy under secretaries.

Annette Nazareth, who had been expected to be chosen as deputy secretary -- Geithner's top aide -- has withdrawn her name, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition, citing people familiar with the matter.

The former Security Exchange Commission head "withdrew in large part because of the long vetting process" President Barack Obama has put in place to choose members of his government, the daily said.

Geithner's choice for undersecretary for international affairs, Caroline Atkinson, also took her name out of the running, only weeks ahead of the April 2, Group of 20 developed and developing nations summit in London.

A News Broadcast From 1981:

My how far we've come!

Nanotech Bathing Suit

Simply shake to dry.


You've heard of the mythical paperless office? (mine's pretty close, actually).

Well, we're moving more and more toward a paperless society.


EYEBORG-- The Two Week Trial from eyeborg on Vimeo.

Statins and Sex The greater the drop in cholesterol from taking statin drugs, the more sexual pleasure is reduced, suggests a study due today at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Chicago.

Hmmm. I'd never heard this before.

Crazy Talk

Sharon Begley: It is no coincidence that some of the dirtiest industrial operations are falling victim to the global recession. Over the past two decades, much of the world's manufacturing moved to where pollution standards are little more than mild suggestions. Since small, corner-cutting, inefficient facilities tend to both flout pollution laws and be most vulnerable to a sudden drop in demand, the global recession has hit such operations especially hard. Thousands of factories in China's Pearl River Delta have shut their doors since late last year, for instance; output of autos, electronics and other goods from factories in Mexico's Ciudad Juárez, Monterrey and Toluca has fallen so sharply that the amount of cargo trucked across the U.S. border has dropped 40 percent. In India, enough small steel-rolling mills around Delhi have closed that levels of sulfur dioxide (which forms acid rain) fell 85 percent in October 2008 compared with a year earlier. The recession is bringing a green dividend in the developed world, too. Reduced economic activity is projected to cut Europe's emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief man-made greenhouse gas, by 100 million tons in 2009, and the United States' by about the same amount.

Recession is not exactly a long-term environmental strategy, obviously. The challenge is to use the downturn to deemphasize manufacturing in favor of cleaner economic activity, and to reengineer what survives so that when the economy revs up it's not at the environment's expense.

Can someone explain what that last sentence means? The paranoid fear of manufacturing is really getting out of control in some quarters. The simple fact is that industrialization improves the human condition, including life expectancies, most everywhere it occurs. In a recent post I noted how the much maligned city of Beijing, a place so polluted that one often can't see from one building to the next, has experienced a 30 year increase in life expectancy just about a half century!

The Chinese realize that such improvements are the result of the benefits of industrialization, even if we don't.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that we couldn't make manufacturing better or cleaner, but the idea of "deemphasiz[ing] manufacturing in favor of cleaner economic activity" is crazy talk, at least if we value our computers, TV's, furniture, iPods, cell phones, prescription medications, automobiles, etc.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Going Galt?

More on the "going John Galt" phenomenon.

Vatican Snubs Creationists

AP: Organizers of the five-day conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University said Thursday that they barred intelligent design proponents because they wanted an intellectually rigorous conference on science, theology and philosophy to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species."

While there are some Darwinian dissenters present, intelligent design didn't fit the bill, they said.

"We think that it's not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one," said the Rev. Marc Leclerc, the conference director and a professor of philosophy of nature at the Gregorian. "This makes a dialogue very difficult, maybe impossible."

Good for them. Whatever "intelligent design" may be, it doesn't satisfy the definition of science (though I find it curious that the Vatican doesn't think it even qualifies as theology).

Christopher Hitchens:

The Muslim religion makes unusually large claims for itself. All religions do this, of course, in that they claim to know and to be able to interpret the wishes of a supreme being. But Islam affirms itself as the last and final revelation of God's word, the consummation of all the mere glimpses of the truth vouchsafed to all the foregoing faiths, available by way of the unimprovable, immaculate text of "the recitation," or Quran.

If there sometimes seems to be something implicitly absolutist or even totalitarian in such a claim, it may result not from a fundamentalist reading of the holy book but from the religion itself. And it is the so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who are now demanding through the agency of the United Nations that Islam not only be allowed to make absolutist claims but that it also be officially shielded from any criticism of itself.

Why Have We Not Had Another 9/11?

Timothy Noah offers eight theories.

Drug Legalization

Is legalizing most drugs the "least bad" alternative. The Economist thinks so.

I'm beginning to.

David Gibbs...

...on the evils of robot love.

Obama's Side of the Budget Story

David Brooks chronicles the administration's view of Obama's very controversial first budget.

Well, if you put it that way....

Macroeconomic Irrelevance?

Vox: Standard macroeconomic theory did not help foresee the crisis, nor has it helped understand it or craft solutions. This columns argues that both the New Classical and New Keynesian complete markets macroeconomic theories not only did not allow the key questions about insolvency and illiquidity to be answered. They did not allow such questions to be asked. A new paradigm is needed.

Well, Harry Dent's demographic-based paradigm saw this coming about 20 years ago.

I Didn't Realize This

Five of the last seven presidents have been left handed.

On Coal, Carbon and Life Expectancies

WUWT: As the above figure shows, US life expectancy at birth increased by 30.5 years, from 47.3 years to 77.8 years, between 1900 and 2005, while coal usage more than tripled. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2005 were nearly nine times the 1900 levels. And, of course, the climate has also gotten warmer (not shown). To appreciate the magnitude of this improvement in life expectancy, consider that the approximate life expectancy in pre-industrial societies varied from 25-35 years.

While the increase in life expectancy is not directly due to greater coal use or CO2 emissions, much of it was enabled in one way or another by the prosperity fueled in large part by coal and fossil fuel consumption....

Another Scientist Denier

Transcript of Princeton Physics Professor William Happer's testimony before US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee given on February 28, 2009:

Madam Chairman and members, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee on Environment and Public Works to testify on Climate Change. My name is William Happer, and I am the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University. I am not a climatologist, but I don't think any of the other witnesses are either. I do work in the related field of atomic, molecular and optical physics. I have spent my professional life studying the interactions of visible and infrared radiation withgases - one of the main physical phenomena behind the greenhouse effect. I have published over 200 papers in peer reviewed scientific journals. I am a member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Physical Society and the National Academy of Sciences. I have done extensive consulting work for the US Government and Industry. I also served as the Director of Energy Research at the Department of Energy (DOE) from 1990 to 1993, where I supervised all of DOE's work on climate change. I have come here today as a concerned citizen to express my personal views, and those of many like me, about US climate-change policy. These are not official views of my main employer, Princeton University, nor of any other organization with which I am associated.

Let me state clearly where I probably agree with the other witnesses. We have been in a period of global warming over the past 200 years, but there have been several periods, like the last ten years, when the warming has ceased, and there have even been periods of substantial cooling, as from 1940 to 1970. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased from about 280 to 380 parts per million over past 100 years. The combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, has contributed to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. And finally, increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause the earth's surface to warm. The key question is: will the net effect of the warming, and any other effects of the CO2, be good or bad for humanity?

I believe that the increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind.
I predict that future historians will look back on this period much as we now view the period just before the passage of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution to prohibit "the manufacturing, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors." At the time, the 18th amendment seemed to be exactly the right thing to do - who wanted to be in league with demon rum? It was the 1917 version of saving the planet. More than half the states enacted prohibition laws before the 18th amendment was ratified. Only one state, Rhode Island, voted against the 18th amendment. Two states, Illinois and Indiana, never got around to voting and all the rest voted for it. There were many thoughtful people, including a majority of Rhode Islanders, who thought that prohibition might do more harm than good. But they were completely outmatched by the temperance movement, whose motives and methods had much in common with the movement to stop climate change. Deeply sincere people thought they were saving humanity from the evils of alcohol, just as many people now sincerely think they are saving humanity from the evils of CO2. Prohibition was a mistake, and our country has probably still not fully recovered from the damage it did. Institutions like organized crime got their start in that era. Drastic limitations on CO2 are likely to damage our country in analogous ways.

But what about the frightening consequences of increasing levels of CO2 that we keep hearing about? In a word, they are wildly exaggerated, just as the purported benefits of prohibition were wildly exaggerated. Let me turn now to the science and try to explain why I and many scientists like me are not alarmed by increasing levels of CO2.

The earth's climate really is strongly affected by the greenhouse effect, although the physics is not the same as that which makes real, glassed-in greenhouses work. Without greenhouse warming, the earth would be much too cold to sustain its current abundance of life. However, at least 90% of greenhouse warming is due to water vapor and clouds. Carbon dioxide is a bit player. There is little argument in the scientific community that a direct effect of doubling the CO2 concentration will be a small increase of the earth's temperature -- on the order of one degree. Additional increments of CO2 will cause relatively less direct warming because we already have so much CO2 in the atmosphere that it has blocked most of the infrared radiation that it can. It is like putting an additional ski hat on your head when you already have a nice warm one below it, but your are only wearing a windbreaker. To really get warmer, you need to add a warmer jacket. The IPCC thinks that this extra jacket is water vapor and clouds.

Since most of the greenhouse effect for the earth is due to water vapor and clouds, added CO2 must substantially increase water's contribution to lead to the frightening scenarios that are bandied about. The buzz word here is that there is "positive feedback." With each passing year, experimental observations further undermine the claim of a large positive feedback from water. In fact, observations suggest that the feedback is close to zero and may even be negative. That is, water vapor and clouds may actually diminish the already small global warming expected from CO2, not amplify it. The evidence here comes from satellite measurements of infraredradiation escaping from the earth into outer space, from measurements of sunlight reflected from clouds and from measurements of the temperature the earth's surface or of the troposphere, the roughly 10 km thick layer of the atmosphere above the earth's surface that is filled with churning air and clouds, heated from below at the earth's surface, and cooled at the top by radiation into space.

But the climate is warming and CO2 is increasing. Doesn't this prove that CO2 is causing global warming through the greenhouse effect? No, the current warming period began about 1800 at the end of the little ice age, long before there was an appreciable increase of CO2. There have been similar and even larger warmings several times in the 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age. These earlier warmings clearly had nothing to do with the combustion of fossil fuels. The current warming also seems to be due mostly to natural causes, not to increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Over the past ten years there has been no global warming, and in fact a slight cooling. This is not at all what was predicted by the IPCC models.

The climate has changed many times in the past with no help by mankind. Recall that the Romans grew grapes in Britain around the year 100, and Viking settlers prospered on small farms in Greenland for several centuries during the Medieval Climate Optimum around 1100.
People have had an urge to control the climate throughout history so I suppose it is no surprise that we are at it again today. For example, in June of 1644, the Bishop of Geneva led a flock of believers to the face of a glacier that was advancing "by over a musket shot" every day. The glacier would soon destroy a village. The Bishop and his flock prayed over the glacier, and it is said to have stopped. The poor Vikings had long since abandoned Greenland where the advancing glaciers and cooling climate proved much less susceptible to prayer. Sometimes the obsession for control of the climate got a bit out of hand, as in the Aztec state, where the local scientific/religious establishment of the year 1500 had long since announced that the debate was over and that at least 20,000 human sacrifices a year were needed to keep the sun moving, the rain falling, and to stop climate change. The widespread dissatisfaction of the people who were unfortunate enough to be the source of these sacrifices played an important part in the success of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

The existence of climate variability in the past has long been an embarrassment to those who claim that all climate change is due to man and that man can control it. When I was a schoolboy, my textbooks on earth science showed a prominent "medieval warm period" at the time the Vikings settled Greenland, followed by a vicious "little ice age" that drove them out. So I was very surprised when I first saw the celebrated "hockey stick curve," in the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC. I could hardly believe my eyes. Both the little ice age and the Medieval Warm Period were gone, and the newly revised temperature of the world since the year 1000 had suddenly become absolutely flat until the last hundred years when it shot up like the blade on a hockey stick. This was far from an obscure detail, and the hockey stick was trumpeted around the world as evidence that the end was near. We now know that the hockey stick has nothing to do with reality but was the result of incorrect handling of proxy temperature records and incorrect statistical analysis. There really was a little ice age and there really was a medieval warm period that was as warm or warmer than today. I bring up the hockey stick as a particularly clear example that the IPCC summaries for policy makers are not dispassionate statements of the facts of climate change. It is a shame, because many of the IPCC chapters are quite good. The whole hockey-stick episode reminds me of the motto of Orwell's Ministry of Information in the novel "1984:" "He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." The IPCC has made no serious attempt to model the natural variations of the earth's temperature in the past. Whatever caused these large past variations, it was not due to people burning coal and oil. If you can't model the past, where you know the answer pretty well, how can you model the future?

Many of us are aware that we are living in an ice age, where we have hundred-thousand-year intervals of big continental glaciers that cover much of the land area of the northern hemisphere, interspersed with relative short interglacial intervals like the one we are living in now. By looking at ice cores from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, one can estimate past temperatures and atmospheric concentrations of CO2. Al Gore likes to display graphs of temperature and CO2 concentrations over the past million years or so, showing that when CO2 rises, the temperature also rises. Doesn't this prove that the temperature is driven by CO2? Absolutely not! If you look carefully at these records, you find that first the temperature goes up, and then the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere goes up. There is a delay between a temperature increase and a CO2 increase of about 800 years. This casts serious doubt on CO2 as a climate driver because of the fundamental concept of causality. A cause must precede its effect. For example, I hear my furnace go on in the morning about six o'clock, and by about 7 o'clock, I notice that my house is now so warm that I have too many covers on my bed. It is time to get up. It would never occur to me to assume that the furnace started burning gas at 6 o'clock because the house got warm at 7 o'clock. Sure, temperature and gas burning are correlated, just like temperature and atmospheric levels of CO2. But the thing that changes first is the cause. In the case of the ice cores, the cause of increased CO2 is almost certainly the warming of the oceans. The oceans release dissolved CO2 when they warm up, just like a glass of beer rapidly goes flat in a warm room. If not CO2, then what really causes the warming at the end of the cold periods of ice ages? A great question and one of the reasons I strongly support research in climate.

I keep hearing about the "pollutant CO2," or about "poisoning the atmosphere" with CO2, or about minimizing our "carbon footprint." This brings to mind another Orwellian pronouncement that is worth pondering: "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." CO2 is not a pollutant and it is not a poison and we should not corrupt the English language by depriving "pollutant" and "poison" of their original meaning. Our exhaled breath contains about 4% CO2. That is 40,000 parts per million, or about 100 times the current atmospheric concentration. CO2 is absolutely essential for life on earth. Commercial greenhouse operators often use CO2 as a fertilizer to improve the health and growth rate of their plants. Plants, and our own primate ancestors evolved when the levels of atmospheric CO2 were about 1000 ppm, a level that we will probably not reach by burning fossil fuels, and far above our current level of about 380 ppm. We try to keep CO2 levels in our US Navy submarines no higher than 8,000 parts per million, about 20 time current atmospheric levels. Few adverse effects are observed at even higher levels.

We are all aware that "the green revolution" has increased crop yields around the world. Part of this wonderful development is due to improved crop varieties, better use of mineral fertilizers, herbicides, etc. But no small part of the yield improvement has come from increased atmospheric levels of CO2. Plants photosynthesize more carbohydrates when they have more CO2. Plants are also more drought-tolerant with more CO2, because they need not "inhale" as much air to get the CO2 needed for photosynthesis. At the same time, the plants need not "exhale" as much water vapor when they are using air enriched in CO2. Plants decrease the number of stomata or air pores on their leaf surfaces in response to increasing atmospheric levels of CO2. They are adapted to changing CO2 levels and they prefer higher levels than those we have at present. If we really were to decrease our current level of CO2 of around 400 ppm to the 270 ppm that prevailed a few hundred years ago, we would lose some of the benefits of the green revolution. Crop yields will continue to increase as CO2 levels go up, since we are far from the optimum levels for plant growth. Commercial greenhouse operators are advised to add enough CO2 to maintain about 1000 ppm around their plants. Indeed, economic studies like those of Dr. Robert Mendelsohn at Yale University project that moderate warming is an overall benefit to mankind because of higher agricultural yields and many other reasons.

I remember being forced to read Voltaire's novel, Candide, when I was young. You recall that Dr. Pangloss repeatedly assured young Candide that he was living in "the best of all possible worlds," presumably also with the best of all CO2 concentrations. That we are (or were) living at the best of all CO2 concentrations seems to be a tacit assumption of the IPCC executive summaries for policy makers. Enormous effort and imagination have gone into showing that increasing concentrations of CO2 will be catastrophic, cities will be flooded by sea-level rises that are ten or more times bigger than even IPCC predicts, there will be mass extinctions of species, billions of people will die, tipping points will render the planet a desert. A few months ago I read that global warming will soon bring on a devastating epidemic of kidney stones. If you write down all the ills attributed to global warming you fill up a very thick book.

Much is made about tropical diseases like malaria and yellow fever devastating the populations of temperate climates because of the burning of fossil fuels and the subsequent warming of the earth. Many people who actually work with tropical diseases, notably Dr. Paul Reiter, a specialist on tropical diseases, have pointed out how silly all of this is. Perhaps I can add a few bits of history to illustrate this point. One of the first military expenditures of the Continental Congress in 1775 was $300 to purchase quinine for the Continental Army and to mitigate the effects of malaria. The Continental Congress moved from the then Capital of the United States , Philadelphia, to my home town of Princeton, New Jersey, in the summer of 1783 for two reasons. The first was that the Congress had not yet paid many soldiers of the Revolutionary War their promised wages, and disgruntled veterans were wandering up and down the streets of Philadelphia. Secondly, there were outbreaks of malaria in cities as far north as Boston. The Congress knew you were less likely to catch malaria in Princeton than in Philadelphia. In 1793 there was not only malaria, but a horrendous outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia. Many thousands of people died in a city with a population of about 50,000. And I should point out that Philadelphia was a bit cooler then than now, since the little ice age was just coming to an end. Controlling tropical diseases and many other diseases has little to do with temperature, and everything to do with curtailing the factors that cause the spread - notably mosquitoes in the case of malaria and yellow fever.

Many of the frightening scenarios about global warming come from large computer calculations, "general circulation models," that try to mimic the behavior of the earth's climate as more CO2 is added to the atmosphere. It is true that climate models use increasingly capable and increasingly expensive computers. But their predictions have not been very good. For example, none of them predicted the lack of warming that we have experienced during the past ten years. All the models assume the water feedback is positive, while satellite observations suggest that the feedback is zero or negative.

Modelers have been wrong before. One of the most famous modeling disputes involved the physicist William Thompson, later Lord Kelvin, and the naturalist Charles Darwin. Lord Kelvin was a great believer in models and differential equations. Charles Darwin was not particularly facile with mathematics, but he took observations very seriously. For evolution to produce the variety of living and fossil species that Darwin had observed, the earth needed to have spent hundreds of millions of years with conditions not very different from now. With his mathematical models, Kelvin rather pompously demonstrated that the earth must have been a hellish ball of molten rock only a few tens of millions of years ago, and that the sun could not have been shining for more than about 30 million years. Kelvin was actually modeling what he thought was global and solar cooling. I am sorry to say that a majority of his fellow physicists supported Kelvin. Poor Darwin removed any reference to the age of the earth in later editions of the "Origin of the Species." But Darwin was right the first time, and Kelvin was wrong. Kelvin thought he knew everything but he did not know about the atomic nucleus, radioactivity and nuclear reactions, all of which invalidated his elegant modeling calculations.

This brings up the frequent assertion that there is a consensus behind the idea that there is an impending disaster from climate change, and that it may already be too late to avert this catastrophe, even if we stop burning fossil fuels now. We are told that only a few flat-earthers still have any doubt about the calamitous effects of continued CO2 emissions. There are a number of answers to this assertion.

First, what is correct in science is not determined by consensus but by experiment and observations. Historically, the consensus is often wrong, and I just mentioned the incorrect consensus of modelers about the age of the earth and the sun. During the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia the medical consensus was that you could cure almost anything by bleeding the patient. Benjamin Rush, George Washington's Surgeon General during the War of Independence, and a brave man, stayed in Philadelphia throughout the yellow fever epidemic. He worked tirelessly to save the stricken by bleeding them, the consensus treatment of the day. A few cautious observers noticed that you were more likely to survive the yellow fever without the services of the great man. But Dr. Rush had plenty of high level-friends and he was backed up by the self-evident consensus, so he went ahead with his ministrations. In summary, a consensus is often wrong.

Secondly, I do not think there is a consensus about an impending climate crisis. I personally certainly don't believe we are facing a crisis unless we create one for ourselves, as Benjamin Rush did by bleeding his patients. Many others, wiser than I am, share my view. The number of those with the courage to speak out is growing. There may be an illusion of consensus. Like the temperance movement one hundred years ago the climate-catastrophe movement has enlisted the mass media, the leadership of scientific societies, the trustees of charitable foundations, and many other influential people to their cause. Just as editorials used to fulminate about the slippery path to hell behind the tavern door, hysterical op-ed's lecture us today about the impending end of the planet and the need to stop climate change with bold political action. Many distinguished scientific journals now have editors who further the agenda of climate-change alarmism. Research papers with scientific findings contrary to the dogma of climate calamity are rejected by reviewers, many of whom fear that their research funding will be cut if any doubt is cast on the coming climate catastrophe. Speaking of the Romans, then invading Scotland in the year 83, the great Scottish chieftain Calgacus is quoted as saying "They make a desert and call it peace." If you have the power to stifle dissent, you can indeed create the illusion of peace or consensus. The Romans have made impressive inroads into climate science. Certainly, it is a bit unnerving to read statements of Dr. James Hansen in the Congressional Record that climate skeptics are guilty of "high crimes against humanity and nature."

Even elementary school teachers and writers of children's books are enlisted to terrify our children and to promote the idea of impending climate doom. Having observed the education of many children, including my own, I am not sure how effective the effort will be. Many children seem to do just the opposite of what they are taught. Nevertheless, children should not be force-fed propaganda, masquerading as science. Many of you may know that in 2007 a British Court ruled that if Al Gore's book, "An Inconvenient Truth," was used in public schools, the children had to be told of eleven particularly troubling inaccuracies. You can easily find a list of the inaccuracies on the internet, but I will mention one. The court ruled that it was not possible to attribute hurricane Katrina to CO2. Indeed, had we taken a few of the many billions of dollars we have been spending on climate change research and propaganda and fixed the dykes and pumps around the New Orleans, most of the damage from Hurricane Katrina could have been avoided.

The sea level is indeed rising, just as it has for the past 20,000 years since the end of the last ice age. Fairly accurate measurements of sea level have been available since about 1800. These measurements show no sign of any acceleration. The rising sea level can be a serious local problem for heavily-populated, low-lying areas like New Orleans, where land subsidence compounds the problem. But to think that limiting CO2 emissions will stop sea level rise is a dangerous illusion. It is also possible that the warming seas around Antarctica will cause more snowfall over the continent and will counteract the sea-level rise. In any case, the rising sea level is a problem that needs quick local action for locations like New Orleans rather than slow action globally.

In closing, let me say again that we should provide adequate support to the many brilliant scientists, some at my own institution of Princeton University, who are trying to better understand the earth's climate, now, in the past, and what it may be in the future. I regret that the climate-change issue has become confused with serious problems like secure energy supplies, protecting our environment, and figuring out where future generations will get energy supplies after we have burned all the fossil fuel we can find. We should not confuse these laudable goals with hysterics about carbon footprints. For example, when weighing pluses and minuses of the continued or increased use of coal, the negative issue should not be increased atmospheric CO2, which is probably good for mankind. We should focus on real issues like damage to the land and waterways by strip mining, inadequate remediation, hazards to miners, the release of real pollutants and poisons like mercury, other heavy metals, organic carcinogens, etc. Life is about making decisions and decisions are about trade-offs. The Congress can choose to promote investment in technology that addresses real problems and scientific research that will let us cope with real problems more efficiently. Or they can act on unreasonable fears and suppress energy use, economic growth and the benefits that come from the creation of national wealth.

William Happer is the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University where his main areas of focus have been on atomic, molecular and optical physics. His professional work has been in studying the interactions of visible and infrared radiation with gases -- one of the main physical phenomena behind the greenhouse effect.

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