Not “Global Warming” Anymore; It’s the Global Climate Crisis!

Holly Lisle posted about a link to an article on the recent global warming data blunder, and her take on it.

There are actually four separate questions to global warming: 1. Are world temperatures rising? 2. Are humans causing it? 3. Can we do anything to stop it? 4. Should we do anything to stop it?

First, you have to get past #1, which you can, because we have indeed measured a gradual increase in temperature over the past 100 years or so. This is not a steady rise, year after year. It is a long-term trend, like the stock market, 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

But even if one gets past #1, that doesn’t imply #2, which is where many advocates go awry, because science simply can’t tell us the answer. And #2 doesn’t imply #3. And #3 doesn’t imply #4. On this last, if we could do something to stop it, that doesn’t mean we ought to. So what if the waters rise? A Cato Institute paper, for example, pointed out that it would be cheaper to move all ocean-front houses 100 miles in-land than to try to reduce CO2 emissions enough to make a difference.

The “global climate crisis,” as I understand it, comes from the fact that some people fear that global warming will bring upon a new ice age. (Plus, it has the word “crisis” in it, which tends to make ordinary voters act stupid, so that’s always a plus.) It may or may not be a crazy theory. What I do know is that it is pure speculation. Now, if you want to run around shouting about the world coming to an end, that would be one thing. But I choose to do something more constructive.

Anyhow, some evidence suggests that global temperature is largely out of our control, because humans only have a small (if any) effect on it. Most global temperature change is caused by natural causes such as the sun shining. So unless you have a grand plan to block out the sun in order to reduce global temperature, we should probably redirect our efforts toward adapting, rather than panicking.


P.S. A more level-headed (less sexy) article on Scientific American gives a more circumspect view of the so-called data blunder.

7 Warning Signs of Bogus Politics (and Science)

An article back from January 2003, but still being linked to from various blogs, and with good reason. Robert Park presents 7 warning signs that a claim might be B.S. (instead of science).

Some of these signs revolve around how the scientist himself approaches the claim, such as whether he submits it to rigorous study and peer review or whether he issues press releases and runs paid advertisements. Obviously, just because a claim is mentioned in a press release doesn’t mean it’s bogus, but valid claims will usually be subjected to peer review, because most scientists want the badge of honor that comes after their discovery has been proven by their peers.

Other signs deal with the kind of evidence presented, the quality of the evidence, or whether the claim is consistent with already-understood science.

What struck me is that these signs also apply to political discourse. Briefly, you should suspect a political argument if:
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In a Truly Free Market, Small Businesses Would Rule

Another interesting post on the Cato Institute blog, this time by Timothy B. Lee, commenting on an essay by Roderick Long, which argues that corporate welfare, government-imposed barriers to entry, and the like favor big business, and businesses would be smaller in a truly free economy.

What caught my eye about Long’s article was his claim that in a genuinely free market, businesses would be significantly smaller than they are today. He points out that large, hierarchical businesses are subject to many of the same inefficiencies that plague government bureaucracies. The executives of the largest corporations cannot possibly have enough knowledge to make good decisions about the thousands of different projects various parts of their companies are undertaking, and so it’s inevitable that large companies will suffer from inefficiencies greater than those that afflict smaller firms.

For example… the Internet’s success depends on the fact that it isn’t owned or managed by any single entity. Back in the 1990s, when the Internet was competing with proprietary online services like AOL and Compuserve, the Internet’s lack of centralized control turned out to be its most important strength. The hierarchical decision-making processes of the AOL and Compuserve companies simply couldn’t keep up with the spontaneous order of millions of Internet users acting without central direction.

Lee goes on to partly agree and partly disagree. On the one hand, you have Microsoft, who started as a small, entrepreneurial, innovatively disruptive company and has grown up into a struggling, bumbling behemoth. (My words, not his.) On the other hand, you have Google: “The reason Google is so profitable, in a nutshell, is network effects. Google sits at the center of a vast network of users, website operators, and advertisers who are locked in a virtuous circle.”

Fascinating topic, and one that I haven’t yet thought much about in those terms.


Feeling Sorry for the “Impeach Barack Obama” Group Creator

I really felt for Ellen Finnigan, because of her recent article on the “Impeach Barack Obama” Facebook group that she created. I mean profanity-laced hate-email is one thing, but when the jerk sunk to calling her a “Republican,” them’s fightin’ words. I honestly felt bad for her, felt offended on her behalf.


P.S. Ellen is also a member of the “Impeach George W. Bush” group. And she created the “Impeach John McCain” group, just in case he were to have won the presidency.

FEAR of Failure, Success, and Obama

Jim Edwards posted a video about 6 weeks ago all about fear. (This is actually part 2 of a 2-part video.)

As you may know, I wrote about fear in my October newsletter (PDF), and our thoughts overlapped.

Watching Jim’s video, however, I began to think about the fear some of my friends have of the new president-elect. They’re convinced that he’s going to bring the country to its destruction. Or even worse (I imagine), that he’ll turn the country into a Garden of Eden.

Go read the newsletter and watch the video. Then answer these questions:


Marshall Fritz Passes Away

Marshall Fritz, founder of the Advocates for Self-Government and of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, and creator of the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz, passed away on election day, Tuesday, November 4, 2008. He died at the age of 65, after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Marshall founded the Advocates in 1985 to help libertarians become successful communicators of the ideas of liberty.

In 1987, Marshall invented the now world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz. The Quiz expanded on a chart created by Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan. Marshall refined Nolan’s chart and added ten simple questions on political issues. In doing so, he created a Quiz that almost instantly tells takers which political group they are most aligned with, while also introducing them to a far more diverse, and accurate, multi-spectrum portrait of American politics.

The Quiz was an overnight sensation.
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Trampling on Liberty

Back in July, Barack Obama promised he would if elected president rescind any executive orders that “trample on liberty.”

As I tell my kids, don’t believe a single thing a politician says during the campaign, because–unlike the way things work out here in the real world–you can’t sue a politician for not making good on his promises.

David Boaz, at the Cato Institute’s blog, makes a short list of executive orders Obama could rescind, in order to show that he was actually sincere, and not just pulling BS out of his butt.


Yeah, That’s What I Think of the Election

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Are We Scared Yet?

I’m experimenting with a new newsletter, starting just through the holidays. I’m actually mailing this to people, but I’m also posting back-issues online. Here’s the first, the October 2008 issue, all about fear.


Political Bytes from the Blogosphere

First, shameless self-promotion: If you haven’t already, click here and sign up for a chance to get a free copy of my upcoming book.

Some interesting, angering, and inspiring tidbits I ran across this weekend:

Do you think that Sunni and Shi’a fight, have fought since forever, can do nothing except fight? Think again! Guest blogger at Informed Comment, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, author of The Muslim Next Door: The Qur’an, the Media, and That Veil Thing, posts an eye-opening article: Sunni and Shi’a have not historically fought; in fact, they have more respect for each other than some Christians and Jews.

Video! I’m a huge fan of Penn and Teller. Half-ashamedly love their show Penn and Teller: Bullshit!, especially the political episodes. (Even the one on Mount Rushmore.) Penn Jillette posted a “Penn Says” video talking about Bob Barr and Wayne Root, and why he probably would not be formally supporting them, and someone called him on his cell phone right in the middle of filming. And if that doesn’t convince you to watch, he also has no shirt on.
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