Posts tagged ‘UK’

The Key Disconnect in the Climate Debate

Much of the climate debate turns on a single logical fallacy.  This fallacy is clearly on display in some comments by UK Prime Minister David Cameron:

It’s worth looking at what this report this week says – that [there is a] 95 per cent certainty that human activity is altering the climate. I think I said this almost 10 years ago: if someone came to you and said there is a 95 per cent chance that your house might burn down, even if you are in the 5 per cent that doesn’t agree with it, you still take out the insurance, just in case.”

"Human activity altering climate" is not the same thing as an environmental catastrophe (or one's house burning down).  The statement that he is 95% certain that human activity is altering climate is one that most skeptics (including myself) are 100% sure is true.  There is evidence that human activity has been altering the climate since the dawn of agriculture.  Man's changing land uses have been demonstrated to alter climate, and certainly man's incremental CO2 is raising temperatures somewhat.

The key question is -- by how much?  This is a totally different question, and, as I have written before, is largely dependent on climate theories unrelated to greenhouse gas theory, specifically that the Earth's climate system is dominated by large positive feedbacks.  (Roy Spenser has a good summary of the issue here.)

The catastrophe is so uncertain that for the first time, the IPCC left estimates of climate sensitivity to CO2 out of its recently released summary for policy makers, mainly because it was not ready to (or did not want to) deal with a number of recent studies yielding sensitivity numbers well below catastrophic levels.  Further, the IPCC nearly entirely punted on the key question of how it can reconcile its past high sensitivity/ high feedback based temperature forecasts with past relative modest measured warming rates, including a 15+ year pause in warming which none of its models predicted.

The overall tone of the new IPCC report is one of declining certainty -- they are less confident of their sensitivity numbers and less confident of their models which have all been a total failure over the last 15 years. They have also backed off of other statements, for example saying they are far less confident that warming is leading to severe weather.

Most skeptics are sure mankind is affecting climate somewhat, but believe that this effect will not be catastrophic.  On both fronts, the IPCC is slowly catching up to us.

Words That Have Been Stripped of Any Meaning: "Spending Cuts" and "Austerity"

I have already written that the supposed European austerity (e.g. in the UK) is no such thing, and "austerity" in these cases is being used to describe what is merely a slowing in spending growth.

Apparently the same Newspeak is being applied to spending cuts in the US.  How else  can one match this data:

With these words from President Obama (my emphasis added)

"If we're going to raise revenues that are sufficient to balance with the very tough cuts that we've already made and the further reforms in entitlements that I’m prepared to make, then we’re going to have to see the rates on the top two percent go up"

Seriously?  The only small reductions in the budget were because some supposedly one-time expenses (like TARP bailouts, war costs, and stimulus spending) were not repeated.  Allowing one-time costs to be, uh, one-time does not constitute "tough cuts."

Tough cuts are when we knock government spending back down to 19-20 percent of GDP.  Clinton level spending in exchange for Clinton tax rates.   That's my proposed deal.

OMG -- More Smoke!

Kudos to a reader who pointed this one out to me from the Mail online.  It is a favorite topic of mine, the use by the more-scientific-than-thou media of steam to illustrate articles on smoke and pollution.

Check out the captions - smoke is billowing out.  Of course, what they are likely referring to -- the white plumes from the 8 funnel-shaped towers -- is almost certainly pure water.  These are cooling towers, which cool water through evaporative cooling.  These towers are often associated with nuclear plants (you can see that in the comments) but are used for fossil fuel plants as well.  There does appear to be a bit of smoke in the picture, but you have to look all the way in the upper left from the two tall thin towers, and one can see a hint of emissions.  Even in this case, the plume from the nearer and smaller of the two stacks appears to contain a lot of water vapor as well.  My guess is the nasty stuff, to the extent it exists, is coming from the tallest stack, and it is barely in the picture and surely not the focus of the caption.

The article itself is worth a read, arguing that figures from the UK Met office show there has not been any global warming for 16 years.  This is not an insight for most folks who follow the field, so I did not make a big deal about it, but it is interesting that a government body would admit it.

Things You Didn't Know About the European Debt Crisis

Apparently the most important issue is not the unsustainability of deficit spending, lack of fiscal responsibility, or the tough problems of balancing expensive bailouts with expensive defaults.  It is making sure the timing of a Greek default does not negatively affect Obama's re-election.  From the Independent (UK) entitled, "Obama asks eurozone to keep Greece in until after election day"

American officials are understood to be worried that if they decide Greece has not done enough to meet its deficit targets and withhold the money, it would automatically trigger Greece's exit from the eurozone weeks before the Presidential election on 6 November.

They are urging eurozone Governments to hold off from taking any drastic action before then – fearing that the resulting market destabilisation could damage President Obama's re-election prospects. European leaders are thought to be sympathetic to the lobbying fearing that, under pressure from his party lin Congress, Mitt Romney would be a more isolationist president than Mr Obama.

 

I Find This Impossible to Understand

Most of you are familiar with the razor and blades strategy:  Give away or sell the razor below cost to ensure years of profitable razor blade sales.  We had a great example of this at AlliedSignal (later Honeywell) Aerospace where we pretty much gave Boeing the brake assemblies for the aircraft plus a free spare plus I think we put some cash in the box as well, all to get decades of guaranteed high price brake replacement business (courtesy in part to government regulation which made is extraordinarily difficult to the point of being impossible for anyone else to produce aftermarket parts).

So what I don't understand is, why is this company proposing to sell only the razors while inevitably leaving the blade sales to someone else:

The UK's biggest bookstore chain has announced that it will start selling Kindles alongside other digital services from Amazon. Waterstones stores will let Kindle owners digitally browse books in-store and link up with special offers, tying into the chain's plans for substantial renovations that would also include dedicated digital book areas and free WiFi.

One buys the books right from the Kindle interface.  I understand the issue that browsing books online is less satisfying than in a book store (but much more convenient), but I am not sure how they are going to make money.  Are Waterstone Kindle's coded to give Waterstones a share of each purchase?  I can't find anything like that in the media reports, but I would certainly demand that at Waterstones.  If not, this is like selling gift certificates for your competitor.

I will confess to being a book store free rider.  I shop airport book stores but if I see something I like, pull out my iPad at the gate and buy it.  Yes, I understand the appeal of physical books and it frankly pulled at me for years.  But having just gone on a trip with 100 pages to read in the third Game of Thrones book, the relief I felt in having both the third and fourth books on my iPad rather than carrying both physically  (think 800 pages or so each) was great.

OMG, Austerity!

via here

The UK line is particularly interesting, since that is the country that Krugman has declared is austerity-izing itself into a depression. As I have pointed out before, real government spending in UK has been and is still rising.  The percent of GDP of this spending has fallen a bit, but there is nothing about Keynesian stimulus theory that says changes in the percentage of government spending is stimulative, only its absolute value.

Here is one thing I would love to here Krugman et. al. opine on -- at what percentage of government debt to GDP does additional deficit spending become counter-stimulative.   I imagine there is an inverse relationship for deficit-funded stimulus, such that it has a larger effect at lower debt levels with a zero to negative effect at higher interest levels.

Update:  From another source, here is the UK in real $

And We Climate Skeptics Get Called Evil

From the Gaurdian via Bishop Hill

The Guardian is reporting that UK climate change aid money has been used to fund forced sterilisation programmes in India.

Tens of millions of pounds of UK aid money have been spent on a programme that has forcibly sterilised Indian women and men, the Observer has learned...

Court documents filed in India earlier this month claim that many victims have been left in pain, with little or no aftercare. Across the country, there have been numerous reports of deaths and of pregnant women suffering miscarriages after being selected for sterilisation without being warned that they would lose their unborn babies.

Yet a working paper published by the UK's Department for International Development in 2010 cited the need to fight climate change as one of the key reasons for pressing ahead with such programmes. The document argued that reducing population numbers would cut greenhouse gases, although it warned that there were "complex human rights and ethical issues" involved in forced population control.

MF Global: Unethical, But Perhaps Not Illegal

Investors everywhere were shocked to see that MF Global seems to have lost over a billion dollars of their customers capital.  In most cases, this capital was cash customers thought was sequestered as collateral for their trading accounts.  MF Global took its customers money and used that money as collateral in making risky, leveraged bets on European sovereign debt, bets that fell apart as debt prices fell and MF Global faced margin calls on its bets that it did not have the liquidity to cover.

Certainly it strikes most folks as unethical to lose the assets in your customers' brokerage accounts making bets for the house.  But it turns out, it may have been entirely legal.  This article is quite good, and helps explain what was going on, what this "hypothecation" thing is (basically a fancy term for leveraging up assets by using them as collateral on loans), and why it may have been legal.

In short, the article discusses two regulatory changes that seemed to be important.  The first was a 2000 (ie Clinton era, for those who still think these regulatory screwups are attributable to a single Party) relaxation in how brokerages could invest customers' collateral in their trading accounts.  The second was a loophole where brokerages created subsidiaries in countries with no controls on how client money was re-used (in this case mostly the UK) and used those subsidiaries to reinvest money even in US brokerage accounts.

The increase in leverage was staggering.  Already, cash in most commodities trading accounts is leveraged - customers might have only 30% of the value of their trading positions as collateral on their margin account.  Then the brokerage houses took this collateral and used it as collateral on new loans.  Those receiving the collateral on the other end often did the same.

MF Global would be bad if it were fraud.  But it is even worse if MF Global is doing legally what every other brokerage house is still doing.

Here is the minimum one should do:  Diversify brokerage accounts.  We diversify between bonds and stocks and other investments, but many people have everything in one account with one company.  I am not sure anyone can be trusted any more.  My mutual funds are now spread across three firms and, if I grow my brokerage account for individual stocks and investments (right now it is tiny) I will split that as well.

Speaking of Government Science...

Thank God for the Left and their scientific approach to government decision making

EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration...

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

For three years a group of government employees actually got paid to come to the conclusion that drinking water does not prevent dehydration.  Congrats.

If you want an explanation, my guess is that this is part of the Left's war on bottled water.  For some bizarre reason, bottled water has been singled out as one of the evils of modern technology that will drive us into a carbon dioxide-induced climate disaster.  So I don't think the EU would have approved any label claim for water.  Since this is such an absurdly obvious claim that most consumers would just chuckle at (yes, consumers can be trusted to parse product claims), I almost wonder if some water company didn't just float this to make the point that no claim could be approved in the EU system.

Thoughts on the Greek Bailout / Debt Writedown

I am not at all a financial or Wall Street guy, but I had a few thoughts

  • I am amazed at the equity rally over this.   Writing down one country's debt, without fixing its underlying financial problem or dealing with all the other countries who have problems, seems a small win.  Particularly when this one country stretched European resources to the breaking point, and there are a lot of other lined up just behind Greece.
  • Its interesting to see how much everyone bent over backwards not to trigger payouts from credit default swaps (CDS).  If this is the wave of the future, I would be shorting sovereign debt at the same time I was writing CDS contracts on sovereign debt.    Maybe this is exactly why I am not a trader, but it strikes me that if you had an arsonist around burning down houses, while at the same time the government worked hard to let fire insurance companies avoid paying off on the fire damage, wouldn't you be shorting houses and long on fire insurance companies?
  • How smart does the UK feel right now for staying out of the common currency?  The anti-EU folks in the UK should be calling for that referendum on EU participation right now.   It would likely fail by a landslide.
  • The question that keeps nagging at me -- is it really worth as much as a trillion euros to keep Greece in the Euro?  Why?
Update:  Oh, and I left out the obvious take:  moral hazard
When sharing our kneejerk reaction to yesterday's latest European resolution, we pointed out the obvious: "Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy will promptly commence sabotaging their economies (just like Greece) simply to get the same debt Blue Light special as Greece." Sure enough, 6 hours later Bloomberg is out with the appropriately titled: "Irish Spy Reward Opportunity in Greece’s Debt Hole." Bloomberg notes that Ireland has not even waited for the ink to be dry before sending out feelers on just what the possible "rewards" may be: "Greece’s failure to cut spending and boost revenue by enough to meet targets set by the European Union and International Monetary Fund prompted bondholders to accept a 50 percent loss on its debt. While Ireland won’t seek debt discounts, the government might pursue other relief given to Greece, including cheaper interest payments on aid and longer to repay it, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to be identified as no final decision has been taken."

Al Gore Meets Movie Gore: Climate Alarmism Jumps the Bandersnatch

I suppose one cold say that climate alarmism jumped the shark years ago.  But they have certainly moved to a new level, one for which there is not even a term, in this video.  This video has everything - the government school teacher politically indoctrinating the kids, followed by bloody gory death dealt out to the kids who refuse to toe the government line.  I am not kidding.

When I first saw it, I was sure it was a skeptic satire, ala Jonathon Swift's 'A Modest Proposal,'  and I am still afraid that this may be some elaborate put-on because the video and its message -- that skeptics need to be killed -- is so obscene.   But apparently, according to this article at the Guardian, it is totally for real and includes contributions from some fairly prominent artists, as well as funding from the UK government and the 10:10 program  (a plea to reduce carbon emissions by 10% per year, eerily with a name probably purposely similar to 9-11).

Our friends at the 10:10 climate change campaign have given us the scoop on this highly explosive short film, written by Britain's top comedy screenwriter Richard Curtis, ahead of its general release....

Had a look? Well, I'm certain you'll agree that detonating school kids, footballers and movie stars into gory pulp for ignoring their carbon footprints is attention-grabbing. It's also got a decent sprinkling of stardust "“ Peter Crouch, Gillian Anderson, Radiohead and others.  But it's pretty edgy, given 10:10's aim of asking people, businesses and organisations to take positive action against global warming by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in a year, and thereby pressuring governments to act.

"Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody's existence on this planet? Clearly we don't really think they should be blown up, that's just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?" jokes 10:10 founder and Age of Stupid film maker Franny Armstrong.

But why take such a risk of upsetting or alienating people, I ask her: "Because we have got about four years to stabilise global emissions and we are not anywhere near doing that. All our lives are at threat and if that's not worth jumping up and down about, I don't know what is."

The latter claim is hilarious.  Over the next four years, CO2 levels will likely increase, if they stay on trend, from .0392% of the atmosphere to .0400% of the atmosphere.  I would love to see these so-called science-based folks demonstrate how the next .0008% shift in atmospheric concentration triggers the point-of-no return tipping point.  In actual fact, the have just latched onto the round number of 400ppm and declared, absolutely without evidence, that this number (which the Earth has crossed many times in the past) will somehow lead to a runaway chain reaction.

Anyway, I have teased it long enough,  here is the video.  Beware -- there is gore (no pun intended) here worthy of a zombie movie.

Wow, its sure good that the world has decided that skeptics are the mindless, thuggish, anti-science side of this debate, because if that had not already been made clear, we might think that key climate alarmism groups had lost their freaking minds.  It will be interesting to see if this gets any play in the US media -- my guess is it will not.  Magazines are happy to spend twenty pages dissecting the motives of the Koch family in funding skeptic and libertarian causes, but environmentalists get a free pass, even with stuff like this.

Lubos Motl is all over this, and has mirror sites for the video if (or more likely when) the video gets taken down. This is one of those propaganda offers that are the product of an echo chamber, with a group of like-minded people all patting themselves on the back only to be surprised at the inevitable public backlash.

I have mirrored the video here in case it gets a youtube takedown.

Update: As a reminder, this is not satire.  It is made by a group of true believers.  It was funded and approved and released by a climate alarmism group, which paid top dollar (including UK taxpayer funds) for a large professional team of actors, writers, and directors.  All interviewed participants, including the first little actor blown up, have stated how proud they were of the film and its contribution to educating people on the need for immediate action on global warming.

For the last hour, I have sat and tried to think if, as a skeptic, I had wanted to make a satire critiquing the excesses of global warming alarmism, could I have made a better video.  The only thing that might have made it better would have been if the final button-pusher was someone famous like James Cameron or Bono, who after then pushed the button climbed on their Gulfstream jet to fly home.  But that's just a quibble.   I have changed my opinion.  This may be the greatest skeptic video ever, and the Koch family didn't even have to pay a dime for it.  Thanks 10:10.

Update #2: This movie reminds me of nothing so much as Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards.  It is clearly not reality, but the author's fantasy.  Tarantino fantasizes about a group of jews kicking ass on the Nazi high command and ending the war early.  10:10 fantasizes about blowing up skeptics, in a video that, amazingly, is more blood-spattered than Tarantino's.

Update #3: The group pulls the video with a classic "I'm sorry you guys are so easily offended" apology.

Update #4: Unsurprisingly, Joe Romm (in the italics in this post) goes to the kindergarten argument of "he started it," arguing that the video is just the flip side of the stuff skeptics are doing all the time.  In making  his pitch, he shows the mindset that allowed this stupid film to get made.

I am not sure exactly what comparable films skeptics have produced that are similar, and the only example he can cite is Anthony Watt's blog post comments on the shooting of an eco-terrorist.  I did not even go back and look at Watt's comments, but I generally think that lots of people are too gleeful when suspected criminals, who are innocent before the law, are gunned down by police.

Never-the-less, its seems a stretch to equate  the offhand comments in real time of an independent blogger with a film involving probably a hundred people (including those who commissioned it in the 10:10 organization), commissioned in an official and thoughtful act (after all this had to be months in the works), and funded in part by the British government.  He takes the opportunity of his team's screw-up to launch this broadside on people like me (in bold no less).

None of this excuses that disgusting video.  But the difference is that those who are trying to preserve a livable climate and hence the health and well-being of our children and billions of people this century quickly denounce the few offensive over-reaches of those who claim to share our goals "” but those trying to destroy a livable climate, well, for them lies and hate speech are the modus operandi, so such behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Is anyone else getting tired of this working definition that "hate speech" is any speech by people who disagree with me, because I have the best interest of humanity in mind so clearly those who oppose me hate the human race?

Note you can see this right in his statement -- "for those trying to destroy a livable climate."  That's absurd.  Does he really think anyone is trying to destroy a livable climate?  I could say that through CO2 controls he is trying to impoverish billions of poor people in lesser developed countries by halting development, but I don't think that is really his motive.  I think that is an outcome of what he advocates, just as he thinks an unlivable climate is an outcome of what I advocate, but I can distinguish between motives and assumptions, but he apparently cannot.   This attitude is EXACTLY what causes this kind of unfortunate video to be made -- it is only a small step from believing, as he says he does, that skeptics are "trying to destroy a liveable climate" to making a movie that jokes about killing them all (or, to be frank, to feeling justified in acts of eco-terrorism).

I encourage you to watch my climate video and decide if folks like me are trying to thoughtfully decipher nature or are engaging in hate speech.

Update #5: Funny -- Gillian Anderson, actress from the 10:10 video, warning of Y2K dangers.

Update #6: I guess this was inevitable, but all the rats in the 10:10 ship are claiming that they had no idea what the video would be like and were appalled when they saw it.  Right.  An organization funds a major film production, including any number of high profile participants, and no one asked to see a script, screened the video before release, or even asked for some kind of written treatment of the concept?  Yeah, right.   No one in the 10:10 organization or who funded the video even peeked at it before it was released to the entire planet?  This is so utterly lame but will probably be enough of a fig leaf for most of the media to hide behind and allow them not to follow up on a video whose basic premises they likely agree with.

Awesome Takedown of Homeopathy

I have written about it before, but here is Matt Parker:

I have just purchased a packet of Boots-brand 84 arnica homeopathic 30C Pills for £5.09, which Boots proudly claim is only 6.1p per pill. Their in-store advice tells me that arnica is good for treating "bruising and injuries", which gives the impression that this is a very cost-effective health-care option.

Unlike most medication, it didn't list the actual dose of the active ingredient that each pill contains, so I checked the British Homeopathic Association website. On their website it nonchalantly states that to make a homeopathic remedy, they start with the active ingredient and then proceed to dilute it to 1 per cent concentration. Then they dilute that new solution again, so there is now only 0.01 per cent of the original ingredients. For my 30C pills this diluting is repeated thirty times, which means that the arnica is one part in a million billion billion billion billion billion billion.

The arnica is diluted so much that there is only one molecule of it per 7 million billion billion billion billion pills.

It's hard to comprehend numbers that large. If you were to buy that many pills from Boots, it would cost more than the gross domestic product of the UK. It's more than the gross domestic product of the entire world. Since the dawn of civilisation. If every human being since the beginning of time had saved every last penny, denarius and sea-shell, we would still have not saved-up enough to purchase a single arnica molecule from Boots.

The amazing thing to me is that the folks lining up to be fleeced by this industry, and who will vociferously defend that they are not being fleeced, are the types of folks who are typically the first to throw up the barricades in the street when gas prices rise by 5 cents.

By the way, Arizona has a state board of homeopathic examiners to check ... what, exactly?  To guarantee no active ingredient made its way into the product?

Here is a funny related video:

A Green Business Model

An enterprising UK resident has questions about starting a new green business:

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a check for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business....

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is "“ until this year, when he received a check for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?  I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department....

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tons of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?

I wonder if we adopted this in the US, if jobs not lost not growing grain to not feed to pigs that aren't reared  would count in the stimulus numbers?

via Tom Nelson

It's Official: Global Warming Alarmism is a Religion (at Least in the UK)

Via Anthony Watt, from the UK Telegraph:

An executive has won the right to sue his employer on the basis that he was unfairly dismissed for his green views after a judge ruled that environmentalism had the same weight in law as religious and philosophical beliefs.

In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that "a belief in man-made climate change "¦ is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations".

The ruling could open the door for employees to sue their companies for failing to account for their green lifestyles, such as providing recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel.

John Bowers QC, representing Grainger, had argued that adherence to climate change theory was "a scientific view rather than a philosophical one", because "philosophy deals with matters that are not capable of scientific proof."

That argument has now been dismissed by Mr Justice Burton, who last year ruled that the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore was political and partisan.

The decision allows the tribunal to go ahead, but more importantly sets a precedent for how environmental beliefs are regarded in English law.

Wow!  Its a  religion, not a scientific position.  I probably should be laughing, but I'm not.

Eeek! The Brits Have REALLY Lost Their Way

I am really left speechless by this.

The Children's Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.

They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

Around 2,000 families have gone through these Family Intervention Projects so far.

It actually undershoots the mark to call this "Orwellian," since in "1984" the government monitoring was aimed mainly at combating subversive thought and behavior.  But the Brits are going one better, monitoring families to make sure their kids are eating their vegetables and getting to bed on time.

Incredibly, the oppositions response is that this is... not nearly enough intervention!!!

But Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: "This is all much too little, much too late.

"This Government has been in power for more than a decade during which time anti-social behaviour, family breakdown and problems like alcohol abuse and truancy have just got worse and worse."

Is there any voice left for individual liberties in England?  Am I missing something here?  This seems simply horrible.  Is there at least due process involved, such that such measures can only be imposed as a result of a criminal conviction (I don't think so, from my reading of the story and comments -- I think this is like Child Protective Services in the US, with a lot of not-subject-to-due-process intervention powers, but maybe my UK readers can fill in more detail).

I liked this from the comments:

These cameras should be in MPs homes so we can see what the scumbags are up too.

Ditto for Congress.  And how about a Lincoln Bedroom cam?

Hat Tip:  Engadget

The Brits Are Really Losing It

Banning welcome mats...

Families living in a flat block have been told to remove welcome mats from their porches because they are a health and safety risk.

They have also been told to remove pot plants because they create trip hazards and fire risks.

Residents at the block in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs. say the items have never caused problems.

...and implementing Castro-style block watches

In partnership with regional chapters of the charity group Crimestoppers U.K., multiple local police forces have launched a program called "Too Much Bling? Give Us a Ring." The object of the program is to encourage people who suspect that a neighbor or acquaintance is living off the proceeds of crime to anonymously provide information about that person to the police...

A key component of the "Too Much Bling?" program is its effort to tap into any resentment and anger members of the public may feel toward suspected criminals.

In a release issued by the Sussex Police Department, which used the program to help seize more than £1.5 million between April and December of last year, Detective Sergeant Mick Richards said, "Members of the public are sick and tired of seeing people with no legitimate income living a lavish lifestyle. We are working hard towards taking the cash out of crime making use of all the powers granted to us under the Proceeds of Crime Act and other legislation.

"I am very aware that in these difficult times how disheartening it is to see people 'flashing the cash' when you know that it has come from a life of crime and that they appear to be 'getting away with it,'" he said.

If I Had to Leave the United States

There is a quote from Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor** that honestly reflects my opinion on the topic of leaving the US  (Redford is Joe Turner, running away from the CIA, while Joubert is an assassin-for-hire):

Turner: I'd like to go back to New York.

Joubert: You have not much future there. It will happen this
way. You may be walking. Maybe the first sunny day of the spring. And a
car will slow beside you, and a door will open, and someone you know,
maybe even trust, will get out of the car. And he will smile, a
becoming smile. But he will leave open the door of the car and offer to
give you a lift.

Turner: You seem to understand it all so well. What would you suggest?

Joubert: Personally, I prefer Europe.

Turner: Europe?

Joubert: Yes. Well, the fact is, what I do is not a bad occupation. Someone is always willing to pay.

Turner: I would find it"¦ tiring.

Joubert: Oh, no "” it's quite restful. It's"¦ almost peaceful.
No need to believe in either side, or any side. There is no cause.
There's only yourself. The belief is in your own precision.

Turner: I was born in the United States, Joubert. I miss it when I'm away too long.

Joubert: A pity.

Turner: I don't think so.

A great line, particularly in a movie steeped in cold war weariness.  Anyway, I was listening to some rant on NPR about leaving the US if McCain won the election, and I asked myself if I had to leave the US, what would be my rank order of countries to which I might move.  My list is highly influenced by language (at 46 I hardly feel like learning a new language) and by countries of which I am knowledgeable.  Here is what I came up with:

  1. Australia
  2. Bermuda
  3. UK
  4. Canada
  5. Singapore
  6. the Netherlands
  7. Switzerland
  8. Spain
  9. Germany / Austria
  10. Costa Rica

Here are some notes on the list, as well as some explanations of countries left off:

  • I have yet to meet an American who did not enjoy living in Australia (and many long to go back).  I came within about 5 minutes of living in Bermuda about seven years ago.  I have always liked the UK and have spent many summers there.
  • Ireland might belong high on the list, but I have never been there and am not that familiar with it.  But my sense is that if I really were to research it, Ireland would make the top 5.  I could also probably have rattled off a number of other British island colonies, but kept it to Bermuda.
  • Canada ... its like a whole other state   (this is a line I uttered at business school once, echoing the then-current "Texas ... its like a whole other country" advertising campaign.  It was not well-recieved by our northern neighbors.  I still think a few Canadians are trying to hunt me down up there
  • Been to Singapore a few times.  An odd place, but certainly a liveable one.  Last gasp of the English speaking choices on the list.
  • Netherlands and Switzerland are both fairly capitalist-friendly nations with good support for a displaced English speaker.  I have spent more time with the Dutch, so it is a bit higher, but Switzerland is freaking gorgeous.
  • Spain is on the list mostly as a language play.  Not a huge fan of the Spanish government, but I speak the language well enough to pick it up quickly.  Good beaches, and the south coast has many of the appeals of Provence without the prices (and the French).  A couple of years ago this probably would have been Argentina.  I really loved Argentina when I was there, but I am scared a bit by the current political and economic climate.
  • I like Austria, and Germany is OK.  Not America but perfectly reasonable places to live.
  • If I am really running not just form the US but the first world in general, I might pick Costa Rica.  A pretty good government, particularly for Latin America, beautiful, and plenty of places to be secluded (and/or hide, if the need were to arise).
  • I considered the Czech Republic.  Prague seems to be the white-hot destination for American tourists, and they certainly know their beer.  But I suspect that Eastern Europe has several more decades of work before the every day conveniences and creature comforts to which I have become accustomed in the US are prolific there.
  • Scandinavia is too freaking cold.  Maybe if I were single I might find some appealing reasons to reconsider...
  • There may be some country like Monaco that would suit me perfectly but of which I am wholly unfamiliar.

Readers are welcome to propose their own priorities in the comments.

** Postscript: Three Days of the Condor is one of my favorites, for a couple of reasons.  First, I always loved Faye Dunaway.  Second, and more important, I like thrillers that have a more languid pace.  I know that sounds weird to say, and if I were a film critic I might have the right words, but there is something about the music and the editing and the pacing that almost stands in contrast to the urgencies of the plot itself.  Despite being on the run through the movie, Redford never actually runs.  No car chases either.  Sort of the antonym to the shaky rapid-cut camera action of, say, the Bourne movies.  Other movies I would put in this same category are LA Confidential (maybe my favorite movie) and perhaps the newer version of the Thomas Crowne Affair. I might put Chinatown on this list too, but then since 3 of the 4 would include Dunaway, one might think my first rather than my second criteria was driving the list.

By the way, even action movies could learn something from this.  The first Indiana Jones movie was great in part because the action scenes were interspersed with quiet scenes.  The audience gets to rest from time to time, and the action is highlighted by the contrast.  You can even have some token character development.  Later Indiana Jones movies fell into the trap of going for non-stop adrenalin.

Our Bodies, Ourselves

I have written on a number of occasions that I thought it odd that the left (and women's groups in particular) don't see a contradiction between their support for government health care and their long-held abortion beliefs that people should be free of government coercion when it comes to decisions about their body and their health.  These views certainly don't seem compatible in England:

A cancer charity has today published research that shows doctors are keeping
  cancer patients in the dark about new treatments that could extend their lives.

Myeloma UK, which conducted the research, said a quarter of myeloma
  specialists questioned in a survey admitted hiding the facts about
  treatments that may be difficult to obtain on the NHS.

The main reason given was to avoid distressing or confusing patients.

Myeloma is a bone marrow cancer that affects around 3,800 people each year in
  the UK. Of these, 2,600 are likely to die from the disease.

False Sense of Certainty

Over at Climate Skeptic, I dissect the UK Met office's forecast a year ago for 2007 that the mean global temperature anomaly would be .54C and that we were 60% certain to exceed the 1998 record of .52C.  These two points allow me to infer a normal distribution for their forecast, and I find that the actual temperature anomaly for 2007 was in the bottom 0.00003% of the Met office's implied range of outcomes.

Really Awful Article on Dentistry

The NY Times outdid itself last week with a truly awful article on dentistry.  They started with just one fact:

Previously unreleased figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
show that in 2003 and 2004, the most recent years with data available,
27 percent of children and 29 percent of adults had cavities going
untreated. The level of untreated decay was the highest since the late
1980s and significantly higher than that found in a survey from 1999 to
2002.

They then apply the patented NY Times class-based story-generation model to assume a cause for this rise that is not supported by the study itself:

But many poor and lower-middle-class families do not receive adequate
care, in part because most dentists want customers who can pay cash or
have private insurance, and they do not accept Medicaid
patients. As a result, publicly supported dental clinics have
months-long waiting lists even for people who need major surgery for
decayed teeth. At the pediatric clinic managed by the state-supported University of Florida dental school, for example, low-income children must wait six months for surgery.

So is the rise in untreated dental problems concentrated in the poor?  Well, they don't say, and there is not data for that in the study, but that does not prevent the NY Times from just assuming it to be so.  In fact, the article itself contradicts this premise, by noting that the problem is not limited to the poor:

The lack of dental care is not restricted to the poor and their
children, the data shows. Experts on oral health say about 100 million
Americans "” including many adults who work and have incomes well above
the poverty line "” are without access to care.

By the way, how did they figure a 100 million don't have "access"?  I don't know, but the figure is suspiciously close to this one:

With dentists' fees rising far faster than inflation and more than 100 million people lacking dental insurance...

Anyone want to bet that the NY Times just made its usual logical fallacy of equating lack of insurance with lack of access?  And by the way, dental insurance is a HORRIBLE investment.  I have priced it many times myself and for a normal family, it is much cheaper to just pay the dental bills, particularly since there are not that many things in your mouth that can go wrong that will be bankrupting.  Trying to push everyone to dental insurance is a terrible idea.  Every time there is a dental procedure in our family, it turns out there are several options for fixing it at different prices.  We actually have the incentive to ask for these alternatives and make trade offs.  What do you think would happen if we had insurnace?

In fact, I can think of a LOT of reasons why people don't go to the dentist as often as they should.  One reason is that no one like the dentist.  Another is people's busy schedules.  And certainly rising costs are a factor -- As I mentioned before, our family makes very different decisions about treatment options than we used to with a fat corporate dental plan.  Which is as it should be. 

By the way, note the screaming socialism here:

The dental profession's critics "” who include public health experts,
some physicians and even some dental school professors "” say that too
many dentists are focused more on money than medicine.

"Most
dentists consider themselves to be in the business of dentistry rather
than the practice of dentistry," said Dr. David A. Nash, a professor of
pediatric dentistry at the University of Kentucky. "I'm a cynic about my profession, but the data are there. It's embarrassing."

I wonder.  Does Dr. Nash accept a salary for being a professor?  Then I guess he is focused more on the business of education than the practice of educating.

Oh, and by the way, how is socialism in dentistry working out?

In a survey of 5,000 people in the UK, six percent claimed that
they had done DIY dentistry, including yanking their own teeth and
fixing cracked crowns with glue. Apparently they resorted to such self
treatment because they couldn't get in to see a National Health Service
dentist "¦

One respondent in Lancashire, northern England, claimed to
have extracted 14 of their own teeth with a pair of pliers. In
Liverpool, one of those collecting data for the survey interviewed
three people who had pulled out their own teeth in one morning.

"I took most of my teeth out in the shed with pliers. I have one to go," another respondent wrote.

Climate Consensus - NOT!

This is an outstanding post that a reader sent me that offers a number of climate scientists in their own words taking issue with the climate consensus on CO2-driven anthropogenic global warming.  I won't convince you that man-made CO2 is not one cause for warming -- at this point in the science's development, that would be as big a mistake as declaring AGW theory "settled."  However, for those who get beaten about the head with "consensus" every time you ask a skeptical question about AGW, you should enjoy this article.  This is just one of the 13 vignettes on newly minted skeptics the author highlights:

Botanist Dr. David Bellamy, a famed UK environmental campaigner, former lecturer at Durham University and host of a popular UK TV series on wildlife,
recently converted into a skeptic after reviewing the science and now
calls global warming fears "poppycock." According to a May 15, 2005 article
in the UK Sunday Times, Bellamy said "global warming is largely a
natural phenomenon.  The world is wasting stupendous amounts of money
on trying to fix something that can't be fixed." "The climate-change
people have no proof for their claims. They have computer models which
do not prove anything," Bellamy added. Bellamy's conversion on global
warming did not come without a sacrifice as several environmental
groups have ended their association with him because of his views on
climate change. The severing of relations came despite Bellamy's long
activism for green campaigns. The UK Times reported Bellamy "won
respect from hardline environmentalists with his campaigns to save
Britain's peat bogs and other endangered habitats. In Tasmania he was
arrested when he tried to prevent loggers cutting down a rainforest."

Here is a copy of the petition sent to the Canadian government which several of the people in the article refer to.  One taste:

Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate
models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the
future. Yet this is precisely what the United Nations did in creating
and promoting Kyoto and still does in the alarmist forecasts on which
Canada's climate policies are based. Even if the climate models were
realistic, the environmental impact of Canada delaying implementation
of Kyoto or other greenhouse-gas reduction schemes, pending completion
of consultations, would be insignificant. Directing your government to
convene balanced, open hearings as soon as possible would be a most
prudent and responsible course of action....

While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policyformulation.
The study of global climate change is, as you have said, an "emerging
science," one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be
many years yet before we properly understand the Earth's climate
system. Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the
protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern
about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew
what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not
exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary....

"Climate change is real" is a
meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public
that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause.
Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the
time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains
impossible to distinguish from this natural "noise." The new Canadian
government's commitment to reducing air, land and water pollution is
commendable, but allocating funds to "stopping climate change" would be
irrational. We need to continue intensive research into the real causes
of climate change and help our most vulnerable citizens adapt to
whatever nature throws at us next.

It is signed by scientific no-names like Freeman Dyson and Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology, Dept.
of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology

Politically Correct War Memorial

Until my visit to London, I would have said that a "politically correct war memorial" was an oxymoron, since political correctness nowadays seems to embrace a disdain for all things military.  However, I was proved wrong by this memorial:

Animals_in_war1

Yes, that is a memorial to all the fallen animals in British wars.  There are statues of dogs, donkeys, horses, and elephants.  Remember that the UK is a country that finds it politically uncorrect to build a holocaust memorial (though the Imperial War Museum has a holocaust exhibit) and may well abolish its annual holocaust remembrance day because its considered insulting to Muslims (my history here must be a bit rusty -- I don't remember many Muslims in the SS).  Well, never-the-less, we can all rest easier now that we know that the donkey's will be remembered.  I know this was supposed to be serious and solemn, but I must admit that the key "tag line" on the monument only got me laughing:

Animals_in_war2

Yeah, as if the human victims of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. did have a choice.

The Obesity Obsession

Via Liz Lightfoot in the Telegraph:

Nearly 60 per cent of girls aged 12 to 15 described themselves as
overweight when only 15 per cent met the medical criteria for excess
body fat.

The findings prompted the Schools Health Education Unit, which carries
out the annual survey, to issue an appeal for an end to the "obsession"
with skeletal body shapes in the media and fashion industry.

Yeah, I know this is the UK, but I bet you would get similar results in the states.  While the article points the finger at the media and fashion industry, how about government and academic know-it-alls who with their recent obsession on teenage obesity are reinforcing this message?  For example, remember this previous post about the Arkansas governor's new program:

I get email and comments from time to time that my language deriding
government's intervention into every aspect of our lives is overblown
and exaggerated.  My answer:  Oh yeah, well how about this:

Mike Huckabee, the Governor of Arkansas, now
requires annual fat reports. These are sent to the parents of every
single child aged between 5 and 17; a response, he says, to "an
absolutely epidemic issue that we could not ignore" in the 1,139
schools for which he is responsible.

I
just cannot craft any reasonable theory of government where this is the
state's job.   The "obesity" crisis in this country just amazes me.
"Experts" every few years broaden the definition of who is overweight
or obese, and suddenly (surprise!) there are more people defined as
overweight.  Even presuming it is the state's job to optimize our body
weights, is it really the right approach to tell everyone they are too
fat?  Having known several people who were anorexic, including at least
one young woman who died of its complications, is it really a net
benefit to get young people more obsessed with looks and body style?
And what about the kids that are genetically programmed to be
overweight?  Does this mean that years of taunting and bullying by
their peers is not enough, that the state's governor wants to pile on
now?

It is interesting to note that governor Huckabee apparently started
this initiative after his own personal battle with weight loss:

[Huckabee] lost 110lb after being warned that his
weight, more than 280lb after a life of southern fried food, was a
death sentence. A chair even collapsed under him as he was about to
preside over a meeting of state officials in Little Rock.

We
all have friends who have lost weight or gotten into homeopathy or
became a vegan and simply cannot stop trying to convert their friends
now that they see the light.  Now we have the spectacle of elected
officials doing the same thing, but on a broader scale and with the
force of law, rather than  just mere irritation, on their side.  One
can only imagine what report cards kids would be carrying home if
Huckabee had instead had a successful experience with penis
enlargement.  What's next, negative reports for kids with bad acne?
For women whose breasts are too small?  For kids who are unattractive?

Great Example of Zero-Sum Thinking

In perhaps the best example I have seen since Paul Ehrlich of zero-sum thinking, junkscience.com links to this article at the BBC:

A study by the New Economics Foundation (Nef) and the
Open University says 16 April is the day when the nation goes into
"ecological debt" this year.

It warns if annual global consumption levels matched the UK's, it would take 3.1 Earths to meet the demand.

How many times does this sort of stuff have to be wrong before it stops getting printed by "science writers" in the media.  Malthus made the same argument over a century ago, and Ehrlich has been making one bad prediction after another along these lines since the late 60's  The report relies on this concept:

The findings are based on the concept of "ecological
footprints", a system of measuring how much land and water a human
population needs to produce the resources it consumes and absorb the
resulting waste.

Of course, no one mentions that this "ecological footprint" number has changed dramatically with technology, not only in the last 200 years but even in the last 30.  For example, total US Farm acreage has fallen for the last fifty years, while agricultural production has grown between two and five times in the same period.   Its a stupid, meaningless analysis that says that if nothing else changed, and suddenly consumption went up, there would be a crisis.  It relies on the lack of imagination of both the authors (and to an extent, the audience), arguing that since they can't think of any way to grow production any further, it must not be possible.  I can just picture these guys as prehistoric man sitting in a cave making the same pronouncements of disaster for the species, all while their peers are busy outside playing with bone tools under the big black monolith.

More on the zero-sum fallacy here.