March 2013 Archives

The Economist has long article explaining that the climate may be much less sensitive to carbon emissions than previously thought.

OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth's surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, "the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade."

Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models (see chart 1). If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models' range within a few years.


This is great news. Civilization has spent trillons of dollars on carbon emission reduction and climate mitigation, and this expense has been a huge drain on the global economy. If climate change isn't as big a worry as previously thought then we can eliminate a lot of these policies and expenses.

This news isn't a surprise to any software engineers who took the time to look at the climate modeling code that was leaked back in 2009. The software models were garbage, so of course they started to diverge from reality.

(HT: Power Line.)

You will be disgusted to watch this Planned Parenthood representative advocate that mothers and doctors should be allowed to murder a baby born alive after a botched abortion.

"So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I'm almost in disbelief," said Rep. Jim Boyd. "If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?"

"We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician," said Planned Parenthood lobbyist Snow.

How horrible is that? This isn't a medical issue, it's a moral issue.

Rep. Daniel Davis then asked Snow, "What happens in a situation where a baby is alive, breathing on a table, moving. What do your physicians do at that point?"

"I do not have that information," Snow replied. "I am not a physician, I am not an abortion provider. So I do not have that information."

How is this even a hard question? Any human being who sees a baby "struggling for life" should do everything possible to connect that baby with the best medical care possible.

Planned Parenthood gets hundreds of millions of dollars every year from your taxes.

Everyone in the world with a bank account broke into a cold sweat when they learned about the EU and the Cypriot government raiding private bank accounts to bailout the banks. That could never happen here, right? Well, what's happening in the United States is much more subtle and also much more sinister. Thomas Sowell describes how inflation is worse than stealing bank deposits.

Does that mean that Americans' money is safe in banks? Yes and no. The U.S. government is very unlikely to just seize money wholesale from people's bank accounts, as is being done in Cyprus. But does that mean that your life savings are safe? No. There are more sophisticated ways for governments to take what you have put aside for yourself and use it for whatever politicians feel like using it for. If they do it slowly but steadily, they can take a big chunk of what you have sacrificed for years to save before you are even aware, much less alarmed.

That is in fact already happening. When officials of the Federal Reserve System speak in vague and lofty terms about "quantitative easing," what they are talking about is creating more money out of thin air, as the Federal Reserve is authorized to do -- and has been doing in recent years, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a month.

When the federal government spends far beyond the tax revenues it has, it gets the extra money by selling bonds. The Federal Reserve has become the biggest buyer of these bonds, since it costs them nothing to create more money.

This new money buys just as much as the money you sacrificed to save for years. More money in circulation, without a corresponding increase in output, means rising prices. Although the numbers in your bank book may remain the same, part of the purchasing power of your money is transferred to the government. Is that really different from what Cyprus has done?

The Fed has been printing money at a breakneck pace for five years now and we haven't seen a lot of inflation, right? Well, except for food and energy, which are conveniently excluded from "core inflation". Health care, ammunition and guns have gone up a lot, too. What's more, prices for goods that should be declining due to information technology improvements may instead be staying level, but that's a net level of inflation that's hard to measure.

Inflation has numerous advantages over stealing bank deposits:

1. Inflation lets the government tax everyone in the world who uses dollars. All dollars everywhere are devalued, which basically let's us "tax" all the countries and organizations who hold trillions of dollars in their foreign reserves. The Chinese can't just divest themselves of all those dollars, but they do complain a lot.

2. Inflation reduces the value of our national debt and deficit. This is the reason that I'm convinced that inflation is a goal for our government. There's simply no other way to pay off the debt we're accumulating. This is a good reason to be a borrower right now, as long as you can borrow at a fixed interest rate.

3. Equities and capital assets can float with (moderate) levels of inflation.

4. A weaker dollar enables greater US exports of all kinds.

5. Inflation helps moderate sticky economic factors, like wages and house prices. Unemployed people are very hesitant to accept jobs with a lower salary than their previous job. Homeowners are very reluctant to sell their house for less than they paid. Inflation allows salary and house price numbers to go up even though the value is going down.

So what's my advice?

1. Borrow at low fixed interest rates. Pay off your loans as slowly as possible, because future dollars will be worth much less than current dollars.

2. Don't sit on a lot of cash. Be fully invested in equities and hope they float with inflation.

3. Don't lose your job.

Glenn Reynolds outlines the legalities of asteroid mining.

Asteroids are certainly available, and they're valuable. More than 750,000 asteroids measure at least 1 kilometer across, and millions of smaller objects are scattered throughout the solar system, mostly in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Even a comparatively small asteroid is potentially quite valuable, both on Earth and in space.

A 79-foot-wide M-type (metallic) asteroid could hold 33,000 tons of extractable metals, including $50 million in platinum alone. A 23-foot-diameter C-type (carbonaceous) asteroid can hold 24,000 gallons of water, useful for generating fuel and oxygen. Even 1 gallon of water, at 8.33 pounds per, can cost tens of thousands of dollars to launch into Earth orbit. Prices will probably come down now that SpaceX and other private launch companies are in the game. But the numbers would need to improve a lot for water launched from Earth to compete with water that's already floating in space.

Larger asteroids could be worth as much as the GDP of a superpower. Asteroid 1986 DA is a metallic asteroid made up of iron, nickel, gold, and platinum. Estimates of its value range between $6 and $7 trillion. Something that size won't be retrieved anytime soon, but the figure gives some idea of just how much wealth is out there.

Ok, so that's just a quote about how valuable asteroids are. If you're interested in the existing legal issues go read the article, but the bottom line is that anything you can move is up for grabs.

Pro-lifers and pro-choicers often disagree on terminology, but who can deny that Kermit Gosnell is a baby murderer?

The trial testimony is graphic, and should make "choice" advocates sick to their stomachs. Again, see the AP: "A medical assistant told a jury Tuesday that she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies during unorthodox abortions at a West Philadelphia clinic, at the direction of the clinic's owner."

Later, AP mangled the medical facts: "Abortions are typically performed in utero." When babies are killed over a toilet, as alleged in this trial, this is not an "unorthodox abortion" of a "fetus." This is a baby who is born and then murdered. Liberals claim to revere "science," but this trial is not about tiny "zygotes." It's about viable babies.

It gets more grotesque at every turn. Clinic assistant Adrienne Moton testified she took a photo of the child described as "Baby A" with her cell phone before Dr. Gosnell took the baby out of the room. "I just saw a big baby boy. He had that color, that color that a baby has," Moton said in court. "I just felt he could have had a chance....He could have been born any day."

Another Gosnell assistant said the abortionist joked about one child he murdered: "This baby is big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus stop." But AP reported that Gosnell sits serenely in the courtroom, undisturbed by the accusations.

Is this kind of atrocity acceptable within the pro-abortion community? Is it common? Do pro-choicers have their heads buried in the sand to avoid the horror they've wrought?

James Taranto characterizes feminism as a failure of wit.

Now think of the traditional 1950s household with an employed father and a stay-at-home mother. The mother is able to devote her full efforts to the children and the home. The father may have some secondary household duties--taking out the trash and playing ball with Junior--but most of his time is spent away from home, doing a boss's bidding, in order to raise money to meet the family's needs.

Let's stipulate that in the latter scenario, the mother could do the father's job just as well as he can. Would that be the highest use of her time? Only if one thinks that office work is intrinsically superior to the development of the next generation.

In some sense the prefeminist understanding of the family was based on the supposition that it was. The father, after all, was the "head of the household," a dominant figure, even if most of what he did for the household involved submitting to another man in an office. We'd like to suggest that this was a useful fiction that helped encourage social cohesion by meeting both the male need for respect and the female need to look up to her mate. In reality, it was Mom's house; Dad just lived there.

Feminism was in part a failure of wit. It mistook fiction for reality and thought men really were dominant. Now, increasingly, men are redundant, women are overburdened, and what pass for families are producing fewer and worse-developed children.

I'm a man, and I'm making career decisions that will impact my children and my relationships with them forever. I definitely don't feel like I can "have it all", despite my wonderful and supportive wife. Everyone has to make trade-offs, and you should do it with your eyes open. I've spoken to a lot of older folks who only recognized the trade-offs they'd made decades after it was too late to change course.

After quickly checking to make sure that my bank is wholly owned in the United States I literally laughed at Europe's new bailout template.

The euro fell on global markets after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the eurozone, announced that the heavy losses inflicted on depositors in Cyprus would be the template for future banking crises across Europe.

"If there is a risk in a bank, our first question should be 'Okay, what are you in the bank going to do about that? What can you do to recapitalise yourself?'," he said.

"If the bank can't do it, then we'll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders, we'll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and if necessary the uninsured deposit holders."

As Willie Sutton explained with regards to his bank robberies: "because that's where the money is".

Dijsselbloem's assessment of the economic incentives is basically correct:

"If we want to have a healthy, sound financial sector, the only way is to say, 'Look, there where you take on the risks, you must deal with them, and if you can't deal with them, then you shouldn't have taken them on,'" he said.

So now depositors have to share risk with shareholders, bondholders, and taxpayers. Most depositors aren't interested in that kind of arrangement, and they'll start withdrawing their money. Reserve ratios will drop. Interest rates will increase. Eurozone deficit spending will get even more expensive. The end of the euro.

That's completely amazing, and the child looks very happy to boot. Makes me wonder if I should be tougher with my four-year-old.

(HT: James Altucher.)

An awesome choose-your-own-adventure where you play the sucker from the Secret One World Government who gets flown into fix the Cypriot banking crisis.

NASA administrator Gen. Charles Bolden was asked by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.):

"What would we do if you detected even a small one, like the one that detonated in Russia, headed for New York City in three weeks? What would we do? Bend over and what?" ...

"And so the answer to you is if it's coming in three weeks, pray," the NASA chief continued.

Reminds me of Ghostbusters, but Bolden goes beyond Mayor Lenny who declines to "call a press conference and tell everyone to start praying."

What does it mean to "consider the impact on global warming" before the federal government approves development projects?

President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.

The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.

"It's got us very freaked out," said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.

Stanley Kurtz says that Obama has found a way to shift blame for environmental restrictions from the government to environmental groups.

But let's concentrate on Keystone. The Bloomberg report makes it clear that Obama's order opens the way for further litigation and substantial delays on Keystone, whether the federal government officially blocks construction or not. That's because NEPA allows citizens and environmental groups to file claims against projects even after they win government approval.

So the Obama administration could green-light the pipeline, file a report that stops short of calling Keystone a major global-warming hazard, and still find the project delayed for years by environmental groups bringing court challenges under the new NEPA guidelines.

In this scenario, headlines loudly proclaiming Obama's approval of Keystone would shield him from Republican attacks. Simultaneously, the president could mollify the left by claiming credit for guidelines that effectively allowed his allies to stop the pipeline. And that would be right. Obama can publicly "approve" Keystone, while simultaneously handing the left the tool they need to put the project on semi-permanent hold. Environmentalists would take the political heat, while Obama would get off scot-free. Pretty clever.

By creating an opportunity for outside groups to challenge projects in court on global warming grounds Obama may have opened a can of worms. Will the most extreme environmental groups allow anything to be built without their blessing? What rents will they extract with their new standing to sue?

James Altucher interviews Alex Day who gives a first-person account of how to make success in the new economy.

I'll get to the meat of his story in a second. But basically, with no record label and mostly just the suppot of his YouTube fans, he released his latest album in the UK the same day Justin Timberlake did.

Here's the result:


Read the whole interview and then watch Alex's video about why record labels are rubbish.

I'm on the edge, but my kids will live entirely in this new economy.

Mo' money, mo' problems? Apparently the ideal salary isn't infinity, at least if you're trying to maximize your happiness.

Additionally, the trend data shows quickly diminishing returns on incremental salary as employees near the $200k mark. Across all industries, professionals reported being less happy the more money they made after $170,000 per year. Think about that: on average, professionals making $240,000 a year reported being slightly unhappier than those making $40,000.

So who is the prototypical happiest worker in the country? Drumroll please...our analysis shows that a city-dwelling techie, who works in the northeast during the spring months, and makes six figures (but under $200k) is the happiest employee in the country. Conversely, if you find yourself working a sales job in Sacramento, perhaps this research will persuade you to pack your bags and take a cross-country road trip this spring.

Of course, there are probably correlated factors that go along with higher salary that make people unhappy, and it might be possible to reduce those factors while still making a lot of money. In theory anyway!

I want to paperless. No more filing paper, no more storing paper, no more paper cluttering my desk, no more paper anywhere! (Except the bathroom.) Just imagine.

Have any of you done this?

Some good tips for beating your naive friends at rock-paper-scissors. Yeah, you know you can't resist.

While you're at it, here's an account of the Rock Paper Scissors World Championship.

(HT: Tyler Cowen.)

While comparing the layouts of the websites of The New York Times and the Daily Mail, John Pavlus coins a pithy description of what websites are for:

In pure machine-interface terms, The Daily Mail is "for" getting visitors to click a lot (to serve ad impressions), not read a lot. So the Daily Mail provides scads of affordances for clicking, often at the expense of those for reading. And it works like gangbusters (for now, anyway). That is all a technological interface has to do: work.

I'm still hoping that a free-to-use model emerges that doesn't depend on advertising, but so far the only example I can think of are cosmetic microtransactions for free-to-play video games.

I'm tired of reading about furloughed bureaucrats. How about something new: can we furlough President Obama and Congress?

James Galea performs an amazing card trick in the form of a story.

(HT: JK.)

This map shows the average commute time for neighborhoods all across the United States.

Lots of interesting and instructive survival information from Robert Wayne Atkins.

For example: on how to survive as long-term house-guests:

Before you move in with your relatives or friends, have your entire family spend two consecutive nights sleeping on the ground under a bridge (unless the health of someone in your family would make this impossible). Someone will need to remain awake, and armed, and on guard duty all night to protect the family from harm. This can be done in shifts if you have enough qualified people. After the second night everyone in your family will have a totally new perspective on the value of the tiny bedroom that you will all share at your relative's or friend's home.

If you skip this step then you will have reduced the chance of your family successfully blending in by at least 50 percent. If you skip this step and you are evicted from the home of the family that was your first choice, then sleep under a bridge for two nights before you approach another relative or friend.

There is a tremendous difference between textbook knowledge and real world experience. Actually sleeping on the ground under a bridge for two nights is a real world experience. Simply thinking about what it would be like to sleep under a bridge for two nights is nothing more than an intellectual exercise.

So Hugo Chavez looted $1 billion or more from Venezuela? Big deal! Moammar Kadafi stole $200 billion from the Libyan people during his 42-year reign.

I suspect there's at least one many who has outdone Kadafi, but we won't know for sure till he's dead.

Your sleeping habits affect gene expression in hundreds of ways that aren't yet well-understood, but sleeping too little sure seems bad.

So researchers at the University of Surrey analysed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples after a week of fewer than six hours a night.

More than 700 genes were altered by the shift. Each contains the instructions for building a protein, so those that became more active produced more proteins - changing the chemistry of the body. ...

... the key findings were the effects on inflammation and the immune system as it was possible to see a link between those effects and health problems such as diabetes.

Inflammation alone is has all sorts of negative health effects.

Key takeaway: give sleep as much priority as exercise and eating right.

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