August 2009

I agree with him on many points – green tech is great, cleaning up the planet is a fantastic idea, but carbon credits? Bad idea

My study is NOT as a climatologist, but from a completely different prospective in which I am an expert.

Complex data from disparate sources can be processed and presented in very different ways, and to “prove” many different theories.

For decades, as a professional experimental test engineer, I have analyzed experimental data and watched others massage and present data. I became a cynic; My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product who’s merits are dependent on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”. That is true whether the product is an airplane or a Carbon Credit.


Via Breitbart:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A New Jersey blogger facing charges in two states for allegedly making threats against lawmakers and judges was trained by the FBI on how to be deliberately provocative, his attorney said Tuesday.

Hal Turner worked for the FBI from 2002 to 2007 as an “agent provocateur” and was taught by the agency “what he could say that wouldn’t be crossing the line,” defense attorney Michael Orozco said.

“His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest,” Orozco said.

Prosecutors have acknowledged that Turner was an informant who spied on radical right-wing organizations, but the defense has said Turner was not working for the FBI when he allegedly made threats against Connecticut legislators and wrote that three federal judges in Illinois deserved to die.

“But if you compare anything that he did say when he was operating, there was no difference. No difference whatsoever,” Orozco said.

Special Agent Ross Rice, a spokesman for the FBI in Chicago, said he would not comment on or even confirm Turner’s relationship with the FBI.

I’ve often assumed that local jihadi hatemongers like “The Islamic Thinkers Society” were informants for the FBI. The cops are always watching their protests, but they also protect them from New Yorkers who are justifiably angry about their jihadi rants.

The Feds seemed to tolerate Turner too, but apparently he went a bit too far. I wonder if they pay enough attention to the jihadis.

In any case, I wish they’d stop calling this idiot a blogger. He was more of a radio shock jock.

Benjamin Kerstein describes our compulsive tendency to imagine the worst outcome in any endeavor:

We are living in an age of catastrophic thinking. Our social and cultural discourse on any number of subjects—the environment, the economy, public health, technology—is defined by a vocabulary and a worldview that can only be described as apocalyptic. The world, we are constantly told, is in a state of mortal crisis, and unless we act fast enough to stop it, we are all facing disaster and oblivion. Everything, it seems, is swiftly accelerating toward a terrible end….

…While technology has almost ceased to be regarded as a means of engineering a better future for mankind, it has certainly not lost its capacity to terrify us. Scientific and medical breakthroughs that would once have inspired the human imagination are now routinely met with suspicion and even outright, unreasoning terror. A striking case of this occurred with the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a massive particle accelerator built on the Swiss-French border. The scientific community greeted the event with unreserved enthusiasm. Indeed, many physicists claimed that the LHC would lead to major scientific breakthroughs that might grant them unprecedented insight into the origins of the cosmos. As the world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking explained,

“The LHC will increase the energy at which we can study particle interactions by a factor of four. According to present thinking, this should be enough to discover the Higgs particle, the particle that gives mass to all the other particles…. Their existence would be a key confirmation of string theory, and they could make up the mysterious dark matter that holds galaxies together. Whatever the LHC finds, or fails to find, the results will tell us a lot about the structure of the universe.”

A great many people, however, were convinced—or convinced themselves—that the LHC would, upon ignition, destroy the Earth. MSNBC correspondent Alan Boyle reported “fears that the experiment might create globe-gobbling black holes or never-before-seen strains of matter that would destroy the planet.” One opponent referred to the device as “a cosmological bomb billions of times more powerful than the atomic bomb.” The assurances of noted physicists that the LHC was perfectly safe did little to assuage the sense of dread, which spread through the media and quickly took on a life of its own…

…Certainly, fear of impending disaster is usually seen as a negative emotion. In fact, however, it has unquestionably positive aspects. First and perhaps foremost, it is exciting. In a world given over to comfort and entertainment, in which we are more and more interconnected while having less and less to say, fear provides a profound antidote to boredom and stasis. It motivates people and convinces them that their lives are important and meaningful. This is especially true if catastrophic thinking is combined—as it almost always is—with the belief that the disaster can be averted. All of today’s popular apocalyptic scenarios make the claim that if we act now, and above all act together, there is a chance of preventing the end. The task of prevention, in turn, provides a sense of purpose, however misguided it may be. Moreover, it gives people the feeling that they have power over their surroundings, that they can influence the world around them for the better through conscious action. In many ways, this bears a strong resemblance to the religious impulse, especially in its need to proselytize.

It also serves to ameliorate another universal source of distress: the sense of alienation that haunts the modern world. Indeed, Dr. Chan reflected this malaise when she spoke of potential disaster as “an opportunity for global solidarity.” As she correctly perceived, the fear of a worldwide calamity unites us by putting us all under the same threat and, thus, in the same boat. It provides a very real sense of global brotherhood and the feeling that one really is a part of all humanity. And, it must be said, this feeling is not entirely an illusion. People who join activist groups, political parties, and religious organizations usually do exhibit a communal spirit that is lacking in other aspects of their lives. Even in the face of calamity—perhaps especially so—comradeship can be forged between strangers. Indeed, apocalyptic trepidation may well be the only way that many people today can even conceive of a single destiny for all of mankind.

It is difficult, however, to be entirely sanguine about the phenomenon as it exists today. Panic is not only a cheap and somewhat dishonorable way of motivating people. It is also a dangerous one. Fear, especially irrational fear, can be easily harnessed for nefarious purposes, as the history of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century amply demonstrates. People in the grip of apocalyptic terror are quite often willing to take extreme measures in order to prevent or even hasten the end they are certain is coming. The enthusiasm generated by catastrophic thinking can motivate people to do good, but it can just as easily give license to evil.

The most harmful aspect of all this, however, is that, while such thinking may bring us closer, in certain ways, to other people, it also fundamentally cuts us off from life. A life lived in fear, after all, is a wretched thing…

I wonder if this mass neurosis is responsible for the lunatic red vs. blue partisanship we’ve been seeing lately? Many Democrats and Republicans believe that when their side loses an election, it’s the end of the world as we know it. From 2000 ’till 2008, the left believed that Bush was a proto-Hitler. Now it’s Obama’s turn. Republican political pundits, who are paid to obsess about these things, can immediately predict the ripple of evil that will result from the continued existence of Democrats. Democrats do the same, encouraging a sectarian divide that makes Lebanon look united in comparison.

In any case, a quick look at Fox News or MSNBC confirms that living in fear is indeed a wretched thing.

.. and he’s not going to take it anymore

But now we have to listen to self-appointed experts on airplanes frightening their seatmates about the profession I have practiced for more than 30 years. I’d had enough. I turned around and politely told the lecturer that he ought not believe everything he reads. He quieted and asked me what kind of farming I do. I told him, and when he asked if I used organic farming, I said no, and left it at that. I didn’t answer with the first thought that came to mind, which is simply this: I deal in the real world, not superstitions, and unless the consumer absolutely forces my hand, I am about as likely to adopt organic methods as the Wall Street Journal is to publish their next edition by setting the type by hand…

…Critics of “industrial farming” spend most of their time concerned with the processes by which food is raised. This is because the results of organic production are so, well, troublesome. With the subtraction of every “unnatural” additive, molds, fungus, and bugs increase. Since it is difficult to sell a religion with so many readily quantifiable bad results, the trusty family farmer has to be thrown into the breach, saving the whole organic movement by his saintly presence, chewing on his straw, plodding along, at one with his environment, his community, his neighborhood. Except that some of the largest farms in the country are organic—and are giant organizations dependent upon lots of hired stoop labor doing the most backbreaking of tasks in order to save the sensitive conscience of my fellow passenger the merest whiff of pesticide contamination. They do not spend much time talking about that at the Whole Foods store.

The most delicious irony is this: the parts of farming that are the most “industrial” are the most likely to be owned by the kind of family farmers that elicit such a positive response from the consumer. Corn farms are almost all owned and managed by small family farmers. But corn farmers salivate at the thought of one more biotech breakthrough, use vast amounts of energy to increase production, and raise large quantities of an indistinguishable commodity to sell to huge corporations that turn that corn into thousands of industrial products…

When they had to choose between respecting sharia law…


.. and respect for basic human rights and freedom of speech..


…Yale Press chose to respect the hand-choppers. Gawker and Hot Air report on Yale’s disgrace.

The New York Times also attempts to report on the controversy without showing the cartoons, of course. In 2006, the New York Times, like most US media outlets, justified their refusal to respect freedom of expression and basic human rights with this statement

The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation’s news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.

Both the New York Times and Yale note that the cartoons “can easily be found on the internet.” Well, if people can find all the news that “reasonable” media outlets are too scared to print on the net, it’s no surprise that no one buys newspapers anymore.

Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin:

You might think half a muffin over an entire day wouldn’t matter much, particularly if you exercise regularly. After all, doesn’t exercise turn fat to muscle, and doesn’t muscle process excess calories more efficiently than fat does?

Yes, although the muscle-fat relationship is often misunderstood. According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle — a major achievement — you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that.

Fundamentally, humans are not a species that evolved to dispose of many extra calories beyond what we need to live. Rats, among other species, have a far greater capacity to cope with excess calories than we do because they have more of a dark-colored tissue called brown fat. Brown fat helps produce a protein that switches off little cellular units called mitochondria, which are the cells’ power plants: they help turn nutrients into energy. When they’re switched off, animals don’t get an energy boost. Instead, the animals literally get warmer. And as their temperature rises, calories burn effortlessly. (See TIME’s health and medicine covers.)

Because rodents have a lot of brown fat, it’s very difficult to make them obese, even when you force-feed them in labs. But humans — we’re pathetic. We have so little brown fat that researchers didn’t even report its existence in adults until earlier this year. That’s one reason humans can gain weight with just an extra half-muffin a day: we almost instantly store most of the calories we don’t need in our regular (“white”) fat cells.

All this helps explain why our herculean exercise over the past 30 years — all the personal trainers, StairMasters and VersaClimbers; all the Pilates classes and yoga retreats and fat camps — hasn’t made us thinner….

…The problem ultimately is about not exercise itself but the way we’ve come to define it. Many obesity researchers now believe that very frequent, low-level physical activity — the kind humans did for tens of thousands of years before the leaf blower was invented — may actually work better for us than the occasional bouts of exercise you get as a gym rat. “You cannot sit still all day long and then have 30 minutes of exercise without producing stress on the muscles,” says Hans-Rudolf Berthoud, a neurobiologist at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center who has studied nutrition for 20 years. “The muscles will ache, and you may not want to move after. But to burn calories, the muscle movements don’t have to be extreme. It would be better to distribute the movements throughout the day.”

This tends to work for me. I exercise because it helps keep back problems at bay, and because it’s just fun to run fast every once in a while. But changing my eating habits permanently is the only way I’ve ever been able to lose weight.

Nicholas Kristof offers advice on how to hike and camp in the NY/NJ area and not get eaten by bears:

Here’s how to pry yourself and your family off the keyboard and venture into the wild — without feeding a bear. In the same way that you recharge your BlackBerry from time to time, you also should recharge your soul — by spending part of August disconnected from the Web and reconnected with the universe.

In short: Go take a hike! Backpacking is the cheapest of vacations, and it links you intimately and directly to the world around you. It reminds us that we are just a part of the natural order, not lord of it, and that humble acknowledgment is the first step to improve our stewardship.

Backpacking means you take on your shoulders everything you need to hike and camp. The key is to carry very little, say 10 pounds not including food and water. I frequently see tortured backpackers stumbling along as they lug gargantuan packs that dangle frying pans; in their torment, they gaze enviously at my small pack and mistake me for a day-hiker.

So here’s a basic how-to guide:

1. Follow Robert Frost and take the path less traveled by, for that makes all the difference. In the evening, camp where no one else is around. You don’t need a campground: just stop anywhere that is flat. Indeed, the ground in the woods and fields is much softer than the packed dirt of campgrounds. But when you leave in the morning, make sure that you leave no trace.

2. Wear an old pair of running shoes, not a new pair of hiking boots that just give you blisters. One way to tell neophyte weekend hikers from Mexico-to-Canada through-hikers is that the beginners have huge packs and heavy boots, while the through-hikers have sneakers and tiny packs.

3. Try the “ultralight” gear that is revolutionizing backpacking. My beloved basics are the 1-pound G4 pack from Gossamer Gear, with a sleeping pad that doubles as pack frame, and a 1-pound, 13-ounce Ultralite sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering that is warm to 20 degrees.

4. Skip a tent. To keep off rain, carry an ultralight tarp that you tie between two trees and stake to the ground, like a pup tent. But if there’s no rain, sleep under the stars. God made stars so that humans could fall asleep admiring them.

5. A tiny backpacking stove can boil water for freeze-dried dinners that are unpalatable at home and delectable in the field. My kids’ favorite food is “anything cooked in the woods.”…

I used to cook hot dogs and smores in the campfire (when I was able to get a good fire started). Food that doesn’t need to be cooked, like tabouli, hummus and pita is also good. If all else fails, it’s good to keep a supply of power bars & rice krispie treats.

Bugs are also a big part of any effort to get in touch with nature. Long-sleeved light shirts, bug repellent and some mosquito netting under the tarp can really improve your attitude towards the wild.


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