31 July 2008

The UN's IPCC: More Inbred Than an Appallachian Hog Holler Cousin Orgy

Moonshine is the drink of choice at IPCC gatherings such as the upcoming meeting in Hawaii--where everyone knows everyone else. Moonshine soothes frayed tempers, and cannot confound your global warming model like too-variable sunshine might. Something to remember when choosing the drinks for late night closed curtain meetings of the closed cabal of climate.
This small community of climate scientists is controlling the agenda with respect to the assessment of climate change. This is an oligarchy....Without new scientists leading the IPCC process as LAs and CLAs, the next IPCC report is doomed to continue to be completed by an oligarchy that is using its privileged position to advocate for a particular perspective on the role of humans within the climate system [the third hypothesis above]. The next IPCC report will not be a balanced assessment, but continue to be policy advocacy in the guise of a scientific framework. _ClimateScience
The Climate Science article linked above is discussing an upcoming meeting at a remote location of the inner circle of climate hell modeling. These cloistered connoisseurs of catastrophe are meeting far from prying eyes in order to get their climate ducks in a row before presenting further prognostications to the increasingly skeptical public.

Why is the public increasingly skeptical, you ask? For many reasons.

  1. The oceans appear to be cooling instead of warming.
  2. Satellite temperature readings indicate global warming stopped ten years ago.
  3. The "greenhouse signature" in the tropical atmosphere is missing (PDF).
  4. Ice cover in Antarctica is growing, and even arctic sea ice appears to be contradicting the wildly alarmist predictions made pre-summer.
  5. An American Physical Society publication has opened their presses to a genuine climate debate.
  6. Both the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation appear to have shifted (PDF)to a cooler phase.
  7. The Sun's surprisingly extended quiet period between cycle 23 and cycle 24 is causing considerable questioning of the expertise of NASA solar physicists. Debate over the sun's effect on climate is heating up.
And there are more reasons besides those few. The iconic leaders of climate catastrophe are being hounded by careful auditors of the scientific method to provide their data! Weasels such as James Hansen, Phil Jones, Michael Mann, etc. are hiding their data away from the prying eyes of science auditors. What are they afraid of?

The secretive oligarchy will be huddled together on the balmy Hawaiian Isles, attempting to get their stories straight concerning these and many other issues that are keeping the warlords of weather awake at night. It is a crisis for the oligarchy, a possible tipping point.

Stay tuned.

H/T Icecap

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30 July 2008

Alzheimer's Progress: Two New Drugs

In the UK, a new drug called Rember appears to target "Tau tangles" in the portion of the brain most active in memory formation.
The drug, Rember, targets the build-up of tau protein tangles which form inside the brain nerve cells of people with Alzheimer's. These tangles destroy nerve cells linked to memory, causing forgetfulness.

Professor Claude Wischik of Aberdeen University in northeast Scotland, who co-founded the company which created the drug, hailed the results as "the most significant development in the treatment of the tangles since Alois Alzheimer discovered them in 1907".
Meanwhile at the Alzheimer's conference in Chicago (ICAD 2008) new results for a drug designated Al-108 were announced.
One Phase II trial, of a compound called AL-108, targeted early abnormal brain changes in a protein called "tau" in a condition related to Alzheimer's called mild cognitive impairment (MCI: 24.15, -0.43, -1.74%). The researchers saw improvement on various measures of memory....

"Twelve weeks of AL-108 treatment given intranasally by spray resulted in a statistically significant, dose-dependent and durable improvement on measures of short-term memory, including visual, verbal, and auditory working memory, which is a type of memory function that deteriorates throughout the progression of Alzheimer's," Schmechel said.

"This makes AL-108 the first drug to validate in humans the importance of the 'tangle' or 'tau' pathway in Alzheimer's. Based on these results in MCI, there are plans for further development of AL-108 in Alzheimer's," Schmechel added.
Other studies presented at the Chicago conference suggested that diabetes drugs including insulin may reduce the size of Alzheimer's brain plaques.

In addition to the above new drugs, the antihistamine Dimebon and the anti-arthritis drug Etanercept are being studied intensively after early promising research findings. Chana de Wolf presents more information on the TNF-alpha modulation effect of etanercept at Depressed Metabolism blog.

This progress comes at a time when some studies indicate that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is far more common than previously thought, often beginning in the 50's, and progressing to dementia over a period of years or decades.

Brian Wang has more on Al-108


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29 July 2008

You Don't Have to Be Nuts to Believe in Peak Oil Doom, But It Helps!

If all the citizens of Planet Earth were polled, it is likely that most citizens believe in one doomsday cult or another. Peak oil doom is a highly addictive, though irrational, doomsday cult. Like the climate catastrophe doomsday cult, it is a quasi-scientific religion, with just enough factual bits included to snare the unwary.

The first problem one confronts when trying to come to grips with the cult of peak oil, is finding a definition of the phenomena which is both widely held among adherents, and clear enough to be falsifiable. Here is a short explanation from Matt Savinar of Life After the Oil Crash (as quoted by Fabius Maximus)
In practical and considerably oversimplified terms, this means that if 2005 was the year of global Peak Oil, worldwide oil production in the year 2030 will be the same as it was in 1980. However, the world’s population in 2030 will be both much larger (approximately twice) and much more industrialized (oil-dependent) than it was in 1980. Consequently, worldwide demand for oil will outpace worldwide production of oil by a significant margin. As a result, the price will skyrocket, oil dependant economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode.

The issue is not one of “running out” so much as it is not having enough to keep our economy running. In this regard, the ramifications of Peak Oil for our civilization are similar to the ramifications of dehydration for the human body. … A loss of as little as 10-15 pounds of water may be enough to kill him. In a similar sense, an oil based economy such as ours doesn’t need to deplete its entire reserve of oil before it begins to collapse. A shortfall between demand and supply as little as 10 to 15 percent is enough to wholly shatter an oil-dependent economy and reduce its citizenry to poverty. … _FabiusMaximus
Fabius Maximus analyses Savinar's claims line by line at the link above, and explains in several ways why the peak oil cult is massively overblown, and suitable only for people with nothing important to do or think about. Take one of Savinar's points: oil production follows a bell curve. Does that actually hold up in reality? Not really. Think rather of a curve with a long plateau at the top (yet to be reached) and a gradual skew to the right over decades.

JD at Peak Oil Debunked blog has an interesting recent post explaining how a drop in demand for oil such as we are seeing now, can completely change the equation. Here is more on the demand slump in the US.

New supplies--even new wells that will not produce for 5 or 10 years--will also have a downward effect on oil prices and a re-shifting in markets. Producers who are holding back production will be inclined to sell more at current higher prices before later new supplies kick in. See this non-OPEC outlook (PDF), and consider the coming oil rush to the offshore and the arctic.

In China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and many other emerging economies, governments are subsidising petroleum costs for residents. This is incredibly expensive for those governments. Some of them are already tapering their supports, and others are making definite plans to do so. The loss of those subsidies will trigger a demand destruction in those countries similar to what we are seeing in North America and Europe. It is like a dimmer switch: high cost of a commodity affects how that commodity is used, and promotes substitution of all kinds. This is one of the many things that peak oil cultists fail to comprehend.

It is very likely that high oil prices (above $90 a barrel) will continue to stimulate massive investment in oil exploration, production, and improved refinement--particularly of heavy, sour, and unconventional oils. It is also virtually inevitable that the headlong rush to develop bio-energy solutions will not only continue but will accelerate--as long as oil stays above $90 a barrel.

The US Democratic Party controlled congress will try to continue to cut off energy supplies to the US by banning offshore drilling, arctic drilling, shale oil exploration and development, coal to liquids and coal to gas technologies, nuclear fission power plants, etc. That is political peak oil which we have plenty of. If Barak Obama is elected, he has suggested that he may even ban Canadian oil sands from being used anywhere in the US--political peak oil in spades!

But the US Democratic Party functionaries such as Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer are playing with fire, considering the mood that US consumers, taxpayers, and voters are in. There will be a reckoning, and the Pelosis, Boxers, and Obamas may not enjoy the final tally. Political peak oil is a useful scam for temporarily wrecking an economy only as long as you can blame the carnage on your political opponents. Once the voters begin to see who is really responsible, an intelligent political crook should know when to back off. It is not clear that the cronies leading the political peak oil charge in the US are intelligent.

Even the election of John McCain will not help the energy equation very much, since McCain is actually a believer in climate catastrophe--and probably peak oil doom--at heart. Much of his current posturing is merely a savvy reading of the electorate's mood.

What we are seeing now is a race between the political peak oilers who are trying to shut the US energy supply down via prohibitions, regulations, and bans, and the energy entrepreneurs, engineers, wildcatters, inventors, and innovators--who want to see continued economic growth based upon ever cleaner and more abundant energy. Who are you cheering for?

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28 July 2008

New York Times Screws Up Again: Yes, Virginia, There Certainly Is a Gender Gap

A recent NYT report falsely claimed that there is no gender gap in mathematics between males and females in the US. The Wall Street Journal report on the same research was far more accurate and informative.
The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, didn't find [a difference in average scores AF] between girls' and boys' scores. But the study also found that boys' scores were more variable than those of girls. More boys scored extremely well -- or extremely poorly -- than girls, who were more likely to earn scores closer to the average for all students.

One measure of a top score is achieving the "99th percentile" -- scoring in the top 1% of all students. Boys were significantly more likely to hit this goal than girls. _WSJ_via_StatModeling_via_MarginalRevolution
In fact, the higher in difficulty you choose to look, the higher is the ratio of males to females.

As Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution shows, apart from the WSJ report, the media coverage of this research is abysmally inaccurate and misleading. Research looking at gender or racial differences in aptitude is often mis-reported in this way in the public media, due to overt bias among journalists, and the willingness of many scientists to play along with that bias out of politically correct multicultural hyper-egalitarianism.

There is no Nobel Prize for mathematics, but according to Wikipedia, the Fields Medal, the Wolf Prize, and the Abel Prize, the top international prizes granted for mathematical achievement, have never been awarded to a woman, although over 100 men have been honoured with the various prizes since the Fields Medal was first awarded in 1936.

The Nobel Prize in Physics, the closest thing to a Nobel Prize in mathematics, has seen only two female prize winners--in 1963 and 1903. As you can see, although access to physics and mathematics departments is unrestricted, and large sums of money are spent yearly to steer women in that direction, there does not appear to be a trend toward more women at the extreme upper levels of achievement in either mathematics or physics.

H/T to Aschwin de Wolf

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Does Google Be Making Us Stupid?

Joanne Jacobs comments about a growing phenomenon: kids who refuse to read books. They only read online.
A would-be English major, 15-year-old Nadia doesn’t like to read books.

On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author’s vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends.

...Some traditionalists warn that digital reading is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. . . . Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds, they say, distracts more than strengthens readers.

Nationally, teens’ reading scores are flat or declining as fewer youths say they read for fun. But some say reading tests don’t measure the “digital literacy” skills young people are developing online. _JJ
The Atlantic goes a bit further and asks: Is Google Making Us Stupid?
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.

...I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”

Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.” _Atlantic
How about you? When surfing on the web, it is easy to lose track of time. Time that might have been spent reading books or dissecting research can easily go to more superficial "skimming" on an incredibly broad range of topics. Are we sacrificing depth for breadth? Or worse yet, are we sacrificing both depth and breadth for the illusion of breadth?

We have spent a lot of time on this blog discussing the topic of "psychological neoteny"-the lifelong persistence of learned adolescent helplessness and cluelessness. What if important developmental milestones--critical periods of development--are being missed by current methods of child-raising, education, and recent childhood/adolescent leisure activities?

Substituting video games, the internet, and electronic chatting for reading, physical play, and face to face communication, cannot help but have consequences. Perhaps something is gained to compensate for what is lost? Difficult to say. It deserves a close look.

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27 July 2008

The Making of a Dying Caste

Inequality of innate ability is a fact of life. We see the inequality in athletics events such as the Olympics or the Tour de France. We also see the stratification in academic and professional achievement.
....our cognitive elites are increasingly inbred. Doctors used to marry nurses, professors used to marry their secretaries, business moguls used to marry starlets. Now doctors marry doctors, professors professors, moguls moguls, lawyers lawyers, etc. Those “modest origins” of our meritocratic elites are less modest by the year. We might be drifting towards a caste system, except that meritocracy requires some openness, some vacuuming-up of high-I.Q. outliers from the lower classes, some dumping of low-I.Q. duffers from the elites.

...The rich man is in his castle (actually, more likely, his gated community or doorman apartment complex) and the poor man is at his gate. They can’t really talk to each other because the poor man is almost certainly a couple of standard deviations below the rich man in I.Q. score. They don’t want to anyway, because they don’t much like each other....

I wish these … elites had a little more color and dash. I wish they were not so academic. I wish there were some sign of a Churchill among them, or a Roosevelt (Teddy for preference), or an Andy Jackson. I wish they had stronger opinions. I wish they showed more evidence of having courage. I wish, above all, that there were fewer of them. But do I have an alternative to meritocracy? Do I think these [elite college] kids are unspeakably awful, and will drag western civilization down to perdition? Would I prefer my own kids not have a shot at joining them, if they decide they want to? No, and no, and no.

Human society stumbles on forward, from imperfection to, one hopes, lesser imperfection. Our cognitive elites are not lovable. Every so often their arrogance and condescension will come breaking through the surface. It’s a pity there isn’t some way to forcibly mix them with their fellow citizens at some point in their cosseted young adulthood, so that they might at least have a shot at learning how to talk across the I.Q. gap; but in a free society, there is no way to do that. Absent that kind of social engineering, there is nothing for it but to lie back and let them rule us. They’ll probably make a pretty good job of it. They are, after all, the brightest and the best … however much we dislike them. _NR
IQ stratifies people in different occupations and professions. A caste comprising very high IQ individuals may be emerging. But as long as opportunity societies exist, high achieving and wealthy people will emerge frequently from the mid-level castes.

One of Derbyshire's glaring mistakes is in not analysing the birthrates of his new uber-elite. They are un-breeding themselves out of existence. Another mistake he makes is in neglecting the possiblity that genetic science will prove to be an "IQ equalizer", in the near future. At least in affluent countries. Sperm banks can certainly mix up the genetic combinations.

Derbyshire also neglects the phenomenon of psychological neoteny--the incompetence of a pampered adolescence that extends throughout a person's lifetime. An elite composed of neotenates is a particularly fragile elite. It cannot abide contradiction or challenge, and will not endure a close examination.


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Doing The Carbon Boogey

A number of influential people in Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam say the planet is now entering a 30-year cooling period, the second half of a normal cycle driven by cyclical changes in the sun's output and currents in the Pacific Ocean. Their theory leaves true believers in carbon catastrophe livid.

To judge by actions, not words, the carbon-warming view hasn't come close to persuading a political majority even in nations considered far more environmentally enlightened than China and India. Europe's coal consumption is rising, not falling, and the Continent won't come close to meeting the Kyoto targets for carbon reduction. Australia is selling coal to all comers.
China already mines and burns more coal than any other country. Together, China and India control more than one-fifth of the planet's vast coal reserves. Dar predicts--very plausibly, in my view--that the two countries may fire up a new coal plant as often as once a week for the next 25 years, adding about twice as much coal-fired generating capacity as the U.S. has today. Persian Gulf states are planning significant coal imports, because coal generates much cheaper electricity than oil or gas.

... "The U.S. and Japan will not tell Asia and Africa to choose poverty, disease, hunger and illiteracy over electricity." Europe might, but nobody will listen. It won't have moral authority until its own citizens are emitting less carbon than Bangladeshis. That won't happen soon.

..."Contingency planning should entail strategic responses to a warming globe, a cooling globe and a globe whose climate reverberates with laughter at human hubris." __http://www.forbes.com/opinions/forbes/2008/0811/094.html
Anyone who is committed to a massive overhaul of global economies, technologies, and governmental/intergovernmental policies based upon preliminary mixed signals from the infant science of climatology, is irresponsible. Science is just beginning to understand the mechanisms behind climate dynamics. Let science work.


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26 July 2008

The Amazing Oprama Brings In a New Age

Without Oprah, Obama would still be playing second fiddle to Hillary, forced to dream of a 2016 comeback. Barak owes Oprah. There could be no better vice president in the Obama administration, than Oprah. With that much goodness and charisma controlling the US ship of state, surely a new age must be dawning?
...the striking thing about [a] charismatic leader is the extent to which his followers regard him as a healer of wounds, an alleviator of pain. In this sense, surely, Senator Barack Obama is charismatic. The carefully knotted ties and the dark, conservatively tailored suits only accentuate the exoticness of his shamanism; he has entered the American psyche not as a hero but as a healer....He is not the first politician to argue that politics can redeem us, but in posing as the Adonis who will turn winter into spring, he revives one of the more pernicious political swindles: the belief that a charismatic leader can ordain a civic happy hour and give a people a sense of community that will make them feel less bad.

...Obama’s charisma...is closer to what critic Camille Paglia has identified with today’s television talk-show culture, in which admissions of weakness are offered as proof of empathetic qualities. Talk-show culture is occupied with the question of why we feel so bad, when it is our right under the liberal dispensation to feel eternally good. The man who would succeed in such a culture must appear to sympathize with these obscure hurts; he must take pains, Paglia writes in Sexual Personae, to appear an “androgyne, the nurturant male or male mother.”

Obama, in gaming this culture, has figured out a new way to bottle old wine....Studiously avoiding the tough-hombre style of earlier charismatic figures, he phrases his vision in the tranquilizing accents of Oprah-land. His charisma is grounded in empathy rather than authority, confessional candor rather than muscular strength, metrosexual mildness rather than masculine testosterone. His power of sympathetic insight is said to be uncanny: “Everybody who’s dealt with him,” columnist David Brooks says, “has a story about a time when they felt Obama profoundly listened to them and understood them.” His two books are written in the empathetic-confessional mode that his most prominent benefactress, Oprah, favors; he is her political healer in roughly the same way that Dr. Phil was once her pop-psychology one. The collectivist dream, Obama instinctively understands, is less scary, more sympathetic, when served up by mama (or by mama in drag).

...the very images of frailty that undermine the masculine leader’s pose of strength help the practitioner of the new post-masculine charisma, whose object is to appear human—all too human. Softness has become an asset for candidates who have molded themselves on the exhibitionist model of the Oprah matriarchy. _CityJournal
Obama has tapped into the essence of Opravity. But he is, after all, just a man. He is bound to stumble from time to time. Who better to stand behind him, to make sure his Opravity remains pure, than Oprah herself? If the public begins to doubt Obama's sincerity, Oprah herself can look America in the eye to assure them that Obama is still the one.

It is difficult to comprehend the qualitative change in the nature of government that is approaching. Obama is a community activist and community healer at heart. He will be the first US President who comes to power with that approach. His new community will be not only America, but the entire world. By himself, the challenge to heal the world might prove too daunting. But with Oprah by his side, they become the amazing Oprama. Once the world's pains are soothed by Oprama, there is simply no going back.

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25 July 2008

A University Model For High Schools

This diagram comes from this PDF file from blogger Bruce Hall. Bruce has devised an impressive solution to many of the most pressing problems of the public high school system in the US.

Public high schools are a significant monetary drain upon communities, but are not providing a useful education to most students who attend. Growing numbers of students drop out before completion, and an increasing number of high school graduates are not qualified for either work or higher learning. Universities and employers are forced to devote ever larger budets to remedial education for high school graduates who cannot read, write, spell, punctuate, do basic arithmetic, formulate a valid argument, or recognise logical fallacies in everyday life.

Most proposals aimed at improving secondary education amount to throwing more money at the problem by doing more of the same. The educational establishment simply wants to intensify its efforts within areas proven previously not to work. Bruce's proposal is not only a bold departure from the hackneyed approaches of "professional educators", it may actually work!
Perhaps it is time for educators to realize that the present high school education may be archaic for today's world. After all, it is organizationally and content-wise [3Rs etc.] little changed over hundreds of years... even though schools have gotten larger.
Rather than recognizing the opportunities available with larger schools, the educational system forces larger schools to conform to the small school model and wonders why it doesn't work. Let's get a little creative in our thinking. Instead of thinking of a large high school as a bloated version of a small high school, why not organize it into the university model? Take advantage of the large number of teachers with a variety of interests and skills. Create small high school "colleges" within the large high school "university."

...In four-year high schools, the organization could be changed so that incoming freshmen receive the traditional compulsory courses. Then students can choose a "major" [that could be changed once at the end of their sophomore year] where more of their courses fall within the major curriculum... increasing each year until their senior year when all of the courses fall within that "major."

...It is designed to appeal to the varied interests of students while having sufficient academic challenges in the areas of reading and language skills, mathematics, and science within each "college". Certainly, this is meant as a concept for further work and refinement, but I have long felt that the traditional organization of high school was for the convenience of the educators as opposed to the education of the students. Don't construe the "colleges" as isolated; students would still have the opportunity to take courses within those other units that they felt [along with counselors] augmented their primary coursework.

....The world is changing... perhaps it is time for high schools to change. __PDF_BruceHall_UniversityModelforHighSchools
The modern methods of child-raising and education are failing badly. High school graduates should possess skills that would allow them to earn at least twice minimum wage. Vocational school graduates with one year completed after high school should be able to start a job at close to three times minimum wage. Two year college or vocational school graduates should be able to start at nearly four times minimum wage--and progress on from there.

In the real world, it is the ability to get the job done that counts. Western nations currently suffer from a perennial shortage of skilled craftsmen and tradesmen, along with an abundance of dropouts-without-useful-skills, due to the catastrophic failure of high schools to prepare students for the real world. Schools try to force all students into the same cookie-cutter program, regardless of interest or aptitude.

Bruce Hall could teach the educational system quite a lot about how to solve many if its largest problems. Unfortunately, the educational-industrial complex is in it for the money. The last thing it wants to hear is that it needs to make fundamental changes that might upset the apple cart.

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A Story of the Blessed One, the Annointed

Senator Obama from Illinois is rapidly becoming a phenomenon. Having served barely half a US Senate term, with virtually no record of accomplishments, he has risen through the ranks at record speed--to the brink of the Presidency of the only world superpower. Obama is a veritable magnet for emotion. Perhaps that is because he appeals almost exclusively to emotion. Times Online writer Gerard Baker has captured the essence of the Obama phenomenon:
...The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow...

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the

Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over. _TimesOnline
Go to the link and read the whole thing. To a rational person, it reads like a caricature. To an Obama disciple, it probably sounds like gospel.

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24 July 2008

Bogus Bias: Feminasties Attack US Science

Ideologically brain-bound feminasties are attacking American science, trying to dismantle and destroy the most productive scientific establishment in the world, attempting to invent a fictitious bias to justify the carnage. Title IX has already plowed a destructive swathe through college athletics--now the feminasties want to wreak similar collapse in university science departments. But where is the bias?
You’ll find sweeping assertions of discrimination in academia against female scientists if you read the executive summary of the National Academy of Sciences’ 2006 report, which was issued by a committee led by Donna Shalala. But if you look in the report for evidence of bias, you find studies showing that female graduate students in general (and those without children in particular) are as likely as men to finish their studies, and that they’re as likely to have mentors and assistantship support.

...Although I don’t think the data show widespread bias against women studying for Ph.D.’s and faculty jobs, there are obstacles that keep women from wanting to study science in graduate school or pursue a career in academia. Along with Lab readers like Tamara and Oliver Young (and some of the Title Niners), I suspect the chief one is the difficulty of balancing their careers with with family responsibilities, particularly childrearing. _NYT
Politically motivated feminasties are taking a wrecking ball to everything they can touch. Far from wanting to maximise productivity and creativity for US science, these whining women of politicized science want to achieve power they have not earned. Affirmative action is all about placing unqualified, inexperienced people into positions they are not suited for.

Such political gender-mandering "bull-in-the-china-shop" shenanigans will only make it more difficult to do good science and engineering in the US. It might be unkind to suspect that the leftist backers of such measures may actually wish to reduce the quality of US science, but since that will be the end result of their ham-handed interference, it is an easy suspicion to happen upon.

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Make College Free Like High School? Bad Idea

There is no magic point at which a genuine college-level education becomes an option, but anything below an IQ of 110 is problematic. If you want to do well, you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education. And yet more than 45% of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges. Adjust that percentage to account for high-school dropouts, and more than 40% of all persons in their late teens are trying to go to a four-year college--enough people to absorb everyone down through an IQ of 104.
Doing well in college requires an IQ of 115 or better. To do well in the professions one should have at least an IQ of 120. To succeed at the leading edges of science and technology, an IQ of over 125 is recommended. More people who start college are failing to complete a course of study. That is fine for the college, which rakes in the money regardless of completion rates. For students, parents, and everyone else who pays, it is usually a waste of time and money.

Two Harvard economists are now displaying their abysmal ignorance of the real world by recommending that society provide universal access to college, just like high school.
"Education has not kept pace," says Katz. "In the early 20th century, we created almost universal access to high school. We have not done the same with college..." _Chronicle
The Harvard professors do not understand what they are talking about. If we want to make college into the economic waste-bucket and dumbed down training environment for delinquents that high schools have become, then universal college is the right approach.

A far more intelligent approach is to enlarge opportunities in two year colleges and vocational training. The developed world suffers a shortage of skilled tradesmen, which should give vocational training a higher priority than it currently has. And a two year associates degree will give most job applicants the opportunity to acquire the rudimentary skills in writing, reading comprehension, basic technical competence with computers, and the beginning research skills necessary in a more demanding modern workplace.

Four year degrees are more frequently squandered on areas of study such as gender studies, queer studies, ethnic studies, basket weaving, and any other number of "recreational, no brain required" degrees. Of that group, basket weaving develops the only truly useful skill.

You expect college professors to lobby for more societal spending on academia. Tenure breeds contempt for the chumps who are actually paying their generous salaries and benefits packages, and sitting through their lectures. Expect such sinecured quasi-nobility to promote an outlandish and counter-productive expansion of privilege.

Society cannot afford to squander money on today's dysfunctional academic atmosphere of time wasting and indoctrination.


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Nazis In Control of Netherlands, Much of Europe

The Netherlands was once a freedom loving country, with a healthily irreverent intellectual atmosphere. Now, sadly, the country is going to the Nazis.
On a sunny May morning, six plainclothes police officers, two uniformed policemen and a trio of functionaries from the state prosecutor's office closed in on a small apartment in Amsterdam. Their quarry: a skinny Dutch cartoonist with a rude sense of humor. Informed that he was suspected of sketching offensive drawings of Muslims and other minorities, the Dutchman surrendered without a struggle.

"I never expected the Spanish Inquisition," recalls the cartoonist, who goes by the nom de plume Gregorius Nekschot...

...How to handle Muslim sensitivities is one of Europe's most prickly issues. Islam is Europe's fastest-growing religion, with immigrants from Muslim lands often rejecting a drift toward secularism in what used to be known as Christendom. About 6% of Holland's 16.3 million people are Muslims, and nearly half of Amsterdam's population is of foreign origin. Some predict the city could have a Muslim majority within a decade or so.

The contrasting Danish and Dutch responses "show that there is a serious struggle of ideas going on for the future of Europe," says Flemming Rose, a Danish newspaper editor who commissioned the drawings of Muhammad in Jyllands-Posten. At stake, he says, is whether democracy protects the right to offend or embraces religious taboos so that "citizens have a right not to be offended."

...If formally charged and taken to court, Mr. Nekschot risks up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of €16,750, or about $26,430, says his Amsterdam lawyer, Max Vermeij. He thinks the odds on his client being prosecuted are better than even but draws some comfort from recent Dutch court rulings in discrimination cases that mostly came down on the side of free speech.

Mr. Nekschot himself is very worried. "I'm afraid of getting a judge who doesn't have a sense of humor," he says. _WSJ
The trend to sacrifice freedom of speech in deference to violence-prone Muslim sensitivities, is a troubling development across Europe. Whether in the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, or the Netherlands, gestapo-style suppression of freedom is being used to shield Islam and Muslims from all hint of offense.

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23 July 2008

Growing Scandal: US Democratic Congress Keeping Fuel Supply Artificially Low to Raise Price of Oil and Gasoline, Political Peak Oil

[Leftists (AF)] in particular have insisted for years that the world is approaching — or has passed — the point of "peak oil." This is the idea that we've hit the maximum rate of global oil extraction, so the supply will steadily diminish, causing prices to rise. I'm not personally convinced — ...Ronald Bailey, may be right that we've reached the point of "political peak oil," which is to say that various [intentional (AF)] political inefficiencies mean we can't keep up with demand.

Either way, [leftists (AF)] should be rejoicing. High oil prices...lend credence to the "peak oil" argument that we need to wean off petroleum... _Source

We at Al Fin have been subtly suggesting that the US Democratic Party controlled Congress has an agenda to create political peak oil, and artificially raise the price of energy. We suggested that the Boxer and Pelosi congress does this, knowing full well that the US economy will suffer as a result. Here is early confirmatory evidence that Al Fin's viewpoint is not only correct, but probably understated:
In an interview with Bloomberg TV's "Money and Politics" last night, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., explained Democrats don't want to increase supplies of oil and gasoline because they want to wean Americans off of petroleum products.

Asked point-blank if Democrats in the Senate would consider how increasing the supply of oil would lower the prices that are pinching U.S. consumers, Cantwell replied: "Oh, we definitely want to move beyond petroleum. And so there will be a supply side offered by the Democrats and it will include everything from battery technology to making sure that we have good home domestic supply, and looking, as I said about moving faster on those kind of things like wind and solar that can help us with our high cost of natural gas."

The point was underlined by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who said Democrats are not even permitting debate on legislation and amendments designed to increase the supply of oil and gasoline to U.S. consumers.

"Today, the appropriations markup that was going to include amendments that would open up the outer continental shelf and maybe even shale in Colorado and Utah was canceled," she told the same Bloomberg interviewer. "It wasn't postponed, it was canceled. So that indicates to me that the majority is not going to try to have an open debate, but I hope I'm wrong. If they have an open debate, and we're allowed to have amendments, and we have a balanced plan that includes production in all the sectors, then I believe we can meet this problem in a bipartisan way, and that's what we should be doing for America." _Source_via_TomNelson
Al Fin is as much in favour of weaning the world off of petroleum- jihad juice -as anyone. But these things must be done in a rational, measured way. The US Congress of Boxer and Pelosi want to force the US off of petroleum "cold turkey." Such a plan is designed to cause the maximum pain and economic damage as possible.

The fact that this Democratic Party "scorched earth" policy toward the US economy is taking place in the runup to a US Presidential election, should tell US voters about the main motivations of the Democratic Party in their country.

Boxer, Pelosi, and the rest are hoping that US voters will not notice what they are doing. They are hoping that Senator John McCain is too much of a gentleman to press the point in the remaining months of the campaign. Well, actually, they are hoping that McCain will not change his stance, which until recently was aligned with Boxer and Pelosi's anti-oil platform.

Voters in democracies have very short memories. As Audacious Epigone points out frequently, in a multicultural, multiracial society, voters do not vote on the basis of issues. They vote instead on the basis of race, culture, religion, etc. Democracies are not very intelligent. That is why politicians such as Boxer and Pelosi find it so easy to feather their nests, secure in the belief that no one will ever bring them to an accounting.

Al Fin and Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK] would like to see them proven wrong.


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22 July 2008

Oil Supply, Demand, Speculation, Expectations

Conventional wisdom tells us that the price of oil has rocketed skyward due to increasing demand from the emerging world, coupled with a slow decline of all the world's oil fields. This is peak oil pessimism, which adds the ominous warning that all the big oil fields have been discovered long ago.

But what if increasing demand has been exaggerated, and the decline in oil fields overstated? What if supplies are growing, demand is slowing, and there are sounds coming from the henhouse suggesting foxes are about? There is a lot more going on than demand from China and India.
Oil prices have increased by 1,400% in the last decade and have now reached a level that is threatening to drag global economy to a grinding halt....The US and other developed countries attributes this rise in oil prices to the fact that the global oil supply by producing nations has not been able to keep pace with ever increasing demand from consuming nations, more so the emerging countries like India and China.

The mainstream media continues to glorify the view that the world oil demand continues to be robust but in reality the world oil demand growth has been slowing over the last four years. The total consumption is expected to grow by only 0.3mbpd this year which will be easily absorbed by the new production coming into the system. Important to note is that the new supply is coming into the system at a time when the global economy is likely to slow down....At current prices the demand for oil, which we normally assumed to be inelastic, may well drop over the long run. Much of the inelasticity stems from the subsidies enjoyed by populations of many countries. However as governments starts aligning prices of oil to market levels, as recently being witnessed in Egypt, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and others, the demand will rationalize, consumption will fall and result in an increase of supplies as domestic oil companies capitalize on higher prices.

While the growth of emerging markets is cited as one of the key reason that oil prices will continue to rise in future, ignored is the fact that many countries are witnessing aging populations and many countries will see zero or negative population growth for many years to come. For instance, of the top 15 oil consuming nations, 10 of them will see negative or zero population growth for the next decade. This will severely restrict any significant increase in overall oil consumption...

...Most of the recent speculative activity in commodity prices in the US is being channelled through a relatively unregulated mechanism. Energy futures, which were earlier traded through exchanges such as New York Mercantile Exchange regulated by The Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC] are now traded on the OTC electronic market. They were removed from jurisdiction of the CFTC in 2000. As of the end of last year, the total outstanding contract value on the OTC commodity exchange stood at $9 trillion, up by $1.9 trillion over the previous year. Assuming oil constitutes around 70% of the contracts, the new money being poured into oil contract would be $1.33 trillion. This amount is large enough to justify the theory that speculation could be behind up to 60% of the increase in oil prices in the last 12 months. _SeekingAlpha
How low could oil go, should there be a speculative bubble, which happens to burst? I doubt oil can drop a lot more than $20 from current levels, perhaps $30--to around $100 a barrel. At that level economies and industries that rely heavily on liquid fuel will be able to relax a bit. The inflationary pressure from high oil prices would continue, but at a level easier to absorb.

Previously published at Al Fin Energy


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20 July 2008

Welcome to the Persian Gulf: Where Coal(!) Is King

New coal plants are being built in Abu Dhabi, Oman, Dubai. Even oil rich Russia is building 30 new coal plants within the next 2-3 years. China commissions a new coal plant every week to week and a half. What is going on?
They have opted for coal for a single compelling reason: cost. They can produce a megawatt-hour of electricity using Australian coal, Der Spiegel calculates, for $17.49 (U.S.). Using natural gas, the cost rises to $41.34. Using oil, the cost rises further to $79.50. At the same time, they can sell their oil on the global market for something approaching (or occasionally exceeding) $140 a barrel. _GlobeandMail
So even in the oil-saturated Persian Gulf, the economics of energy production favours coal over oil and gas--significantly. Of course, the fuel for a megawatt-hour of nuclear fission energy will cost you around $8 or so. So really, if you have your nuclear plant already built, nuclear is the way to go.

In the US, the Congress and environmental regulations/lobbies have made it almost impossible to generate power from any source whatsoever. Whatever compromises the Pelosi/Boxer Congress eventually reaches, you can be sure it will cost consumers and taxpayers at least double or triple what it should have cost. The joys of nanny state government--cradle to grave mismanagement.

H/T istockanalyst


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New Adventure Toys for Better Fun

The ICON A5 amphibious 2-seater sport plane just made its maiden test flight on a California lake.
Designed to be predictable and easy-to-fly, the ICON A5 features a high-strength, lightweight carbon fiber airframe and is powered by a reliable, 100-hp Rotax http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotax 912 ULS engine that runs on both auto and aviation gasoline at an estimated top speed of 120 mph. Besides the folding wings, more unique features specific to the ICON A5 include an intuitive, sports car-like cockpit with MP3 port, and patent-pending Seawing platform for easy access and docking on water.

The estimated price of the ICON A5 standard model is USD$139,000 _
The test pilot was pleased with the first flight, and declares the plane ready to fly "out of the box."

The Aqua one-person submersible watercraft is shaped like a dolphin for optimal underwater maneuvering.
This concept is a one-manned submersible watercraft that can sail both on and under the surface of water. It was developed for the day when, due to increased crowding and pollution, humans will be living on and under the oceans. Then, people will need a new type of underwater transportation, like a submersible craft. The Aqua has a dolphin-like shape that is ideal for moving under the water. The design also explored controlling buoyancy, supplying oxygen and how to protect the driver from water pressure. _BW_via_gizmowatch


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30 Years of Global Cooling Coming Right Up!

IPCC models do not properly take into account the multi-decadal oscillations of ocean temperatures and currents. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) hold enormous power over the ongoing climate of Earth. At this time, both the PDO and the AMO appear to be shifting into extended "cold phase."
The announcement by NASA that the (PDO) had shifted from its warm mode to its cool mode (Fig. 1) is right on schedule as predicted by past climate and PDO changes (Easterbrook, 2001, 2006, 2007) and is not an oddity superimposed upon and masking the predicted severe warming by the IPCC. This has significant implications for the future and indicates that the IPCC climate models were wrong in their prediction of global temperatures soaring 1°F per decade for the rest of the century.

Unlike El Niño and La Niña, which may occur every 3 to 7 years and last from 6 to 18 months, the PDO can remain in the same phase for 20 to 30 years. (NASA image by Jesse Allen, AMSR-E data processed and provided by Chelle Gentemann and Frank Wentz, Remote Sensing Systems. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey, adapted from a press release from NASA JPL).Instead of a rise of 1°F during the first decade of this century as predicted by IPCC climate models (Fig 2), global temperatures cooled slightly for the past nine years and cooled more than 1°F this year (Fig 3). Global cooling over the past decade appears to be due to a global cooling trend set up by the PDO cool mode and a similar shift in the Atlantic. The IPCC’s prediction of a 1° F warming by 2011, will require warming of about 1° F in the next three years and unless that happens, the IPCC models will be proven invalid. _IceCap_(PDF)
The convergence of an extended solar minimum, shifts in both PDO and AMO to cooling phase, and the possibility of extended weak solar cycles beginning with either cycle 24 (still delayed) or cycle 25, should make for some interesting climate watching over the next several years.

The triumphal march of Al Gore and the wholly warmer orthodoxy through the gates of Oslo and Hollywood may have been slightly premature. The Earth is a tiny part of the Cosmos, and its planet is affected by events taking place far from Earth. On the surface of our planet, the titanic forces of ocean, biosphere, and atmosphere hold sway.


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19 July 2008

Europe: Between the Riots and the Black Death

...only 48% of non-Western immigrants are gainfully employed [in Sweden], which is 30 percentage points below the average. For this group, originating from places such as Turkey, Chile, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and North Africa, welfare dependency is nine times higher than for native Swedes. _WSJ
Low fertility rates in Europe are having the slow effect of depopulating the continent--a slow-motion "black death." Salon writer Andrew Leonard believes a little black death might be good for Europe--give it some lebensraum as it were. Like many leftists, Leonard is stuck in the 70s mindset, still afraid of an overpopulated Earth. Yet when Leonard was forced to read Russel Shorto's NYT piece "No Babies" in preparation for a column, Leonard seemed to "get religion" fairly quickly. Now he accepts the need for more immigrants to Europe, although it leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

But what if the new immigrants end up on welfare instead of contributing to European productivity? Europe could easily be compounding its population woes in the effort to fix them.
No doubt, a generous welfare system initially helps many immigrant families, cushioning the transition to a new country. However, the combination of high taxes, a regulated labor market, the world's highest union-imposed minimum wages and the lavish transfer programs effectively keeps out immigrants from the labor market.

...High unemployment among immigrants is of course not confined to just Sweden or Scandinavia. Throughout Europe, governments have found that well-intentioned social insurance policies can lead to lasting welfare dependence, especially among immigrants. Belgium is the European country with the highest difference in employment rates between the foreign-born and natives. The images of burning cars in the suburbs of Paris that were broadcast around the world illustrate the kind of social and economic problems France is facing with its restive immigrant population.

...The high unemployment rate [48%] is not only a drain on public finances. It also removes the most efficient path to integration. Permanent welfare addiction has an adverse and long-lasting effect on immigrant communities and their norm formation....When many adults in a neighborhood no longer work for their living, the younger generation is less likely to acquire necessary work ethics. If their role models are unemployed, chances are that they'll remain on the fringes of the host society as well. This can set off a vicious cycle of social tensions.

Immigrants may interpret their lower social standing as caused by racism and discrimination. Many natives in turn may interpret the low employment rates of foreigners as a sign of their sloth. That's an explosive mix of misperceptions and social failings. _WSJ
The problem is not as bad in the US and Australia, remarks a successful Iraqi immigrant/entrepreneur to Los Angeles in the article above. Those societies reward hard work and entrepreneurship. But in Europe there is something distasteful abou the independent entrepreneur--much like having babies is considered in poor taste among Europe's smart set.

But if a population is shrinking from a shirking away from babies, and is unwilling to welcome immigrants into an opportunity society--preferring instead to maintain a welfare nanny state--the options begin to shrink, and tend not to look so good.

Cutting off immigration and turning to automation--like Japan is doing--might work for some European countries, such as Germany and Scandinavia, that are more technologically advanced. But Europe seems to be bringing in very fecund immigrants, putting them on welfare, and keeping them there for lack of opportunities that fit the type of immigrant being imported. Did the Europeans ever ask whether illiterate, uneducated immigrants from MENA and SSA were the best immigrants to maintain a highly technological society and keep the social welfare systems printing those cheques?

Torn between the less affluent lebensraum of depopulation, and the growing cultural conflict of unassimilable and unemployable immigrants. What's a Europe to do?


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Fertility Rates Vary By Region and SES

The chart above is from the Economist. It illustrates the general rule that wealthier women tend to have lower fertility. It does not display the fertility for the middle 20% of women, which might be of interest when looking for a threshold effect.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the gap between rich and poor fertility rates were the smallest. This suggests to me that fertility rates for women from that part of the world who move to Europe will be less subject to radical decrease in the new, wealthier environment. In other words, something in the Muslim culture encourages higher fertility--even at higher levels of income.

For immigrants from many parts of the world, fertility rates can fall rapidly after the first generation, toward the fertility rate of the women already in the receiving country. It will be interesting to observe these drops in fertility rates for immigrants originating in various parts of the world. Judging strictly by the graph, one would expect the greatest drop in TFR after immigration in immigrants from East and Central Asia and Eastern Europe. The least drop in TFR would be expected in immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and from MENA.

The South Asia component would quite possibly show differences between Muslim and non-Muslim populations, if broken down into sub-groups.

H/T Fat Knowledge blog

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18 July 2008

Global Catastrophic Risks Conference: TEOTWAKI

This weekend's Global Catastrophic Risks conference at Oxford (17-20 July) offers a full menu of global doom.
The savants gathered here in Oxford will consider a wide variety of potentially apocalyptic risks. For example, Michelangelo Mangano from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will explore the possibility that certain scientific research—e.g., the Brookhaven Lab's high energy experiments that might produce a black hole—could inadvertently destroy the world. Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology will discuss how the advent of molecular manufacturing could lead to massive economic and social disruptions, including a new arms race, the spread of tyranny, and dangerous environmental degradation. At the cosmic level, the Technion Institute's Arnon Dar will look at the devastation that a nearby supernova could wreak, and astronomer and author William Napier will evaluate the chances that the earth might soon suffer an asteroid strike. Whether future advanced artificial intelligences will think of us as pets or pests will be pondered by Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence research fellow Eliezer Yudkowsky.

In addition to the more exotic risks noted above, the conferees will also be discussing the prospects for nuclear war and nuclear terrorism. _Reason
Of course, it's usually the doom you don't expect that gets you in the end. But that shouldn't keep anyone from enjoying the contemplation of any number of disasters that suit their palate. If you are a peak oil punkass or a global warming freak, you would almost certainly be welcome in the pubs of Oxford this weekend, to commiserate about the various impending dooms of humanity.

If you actually want to live through most of the scenarios being discussed, you should probably join the nearest chapter of the Society for Creative Apocalyptology ®.

Update 20July08: Here is Ronald Bailey reporting from the conference with a roundup of catastrophic risks from space.

Update 24July08: This is Ron Bailey's final installment from the conference, with some not so reassuring looks at nuclear proliferation.

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Obscure Russian Antihistamine May Point to Key Weakness of Alzheimer's Disease

183 Russian Alzheimer's patients were studied for a year to compare the safety and efficacy of Dimebon, an obscure antihistamine that is not on the market anywhere in the world. The study was conducted by Baylor College of Medicine researchers, and published in the Lancet.
In the study, the authors noted that Dimebon is the first drug for Alzheimer's disease that demonstrated continued improvement in patients over a 12 month period. Other approved drugs do not have this effect.

Half of the 183 patients in the Russian study received Dimebon; the other half were given a placebo or an inactive pill. Clinicians at the study sites then monitored the patients' progress over the next year on five different outcomes. All of those in the study had mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

"What we saw in the clinical trial is that people on the medication continued to improve over time," Doody said. "Those on placebo continued to decline."

Researchers believe the medication works by stabilizing mitochondria, the cellular components that produce energy, and possibly by inhibiting brain cell death. Researchers evaluated patients' thinking and memory ability, overall function, psychiatric and behavioral symptoms, and ability to perform daily activities.

"Usually at this point in a drug's development, we are happy to see improvement in one of the outcome measures," Doody said. "We saw improvement in all five." _SD
The study was reportedly well-designed and conducted. The significant and ongoing improvement of the drug group over the placebo group for at least a year, is quite impressive. Rights for the drug are owned by Medivation, Inc. (Nasdaq: MDVN), which has enjoyed a recent boost in stock price.

Update: A Washington Post article from today's edition has more about this study, as well as updates on other research approaches to treating AD. Excerpt:
The study was done in Russia because dimebon had been approved there as an antihistamine. Dimebon is made by the San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company Medivation. Doody is on the Scientific and Clinical Advisory Board of Medivation and has stock options in the company.

Another phase III trial has just started, Doody said. This six-month trial is being conducted in the United States, Europe and South America and is now in the process of recruiting several hundred patients, she noted.


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17 July 2008

The Greatest Economic Crisis of All Time

Are we really living through a depression? Are these truly the worst economic times in North America since the 1930's era? Many bankers and financial analysts seem to think so. But what do the numbers say?
In the past few weeks, US industrial production, consumer spending and trade figures have all come in much stronger than expected and now point unambiguously to accelerating economic growth, rather than a further slowdown. On Tuesday the Federal Reserve Board published a sharply upgraded estimate of 2008 growth. The near-recession growth range of 0.3 to 1.2 per cent predicted in April is now seen as a much more respectable 1.0 to 1.6 per cent. Even the gloomiest private economists on Wall Street now expect second-quarter GDP figures to show a strong recovery to growth of around 3 per cent.

Looking at the recent indicators, the clouds are now much darker over Britain and the eurozone than the US. The correction in housing, which has now been running for almost two years in America, started in Europe only a few months ago. The main effects of the slowdown, in terms of falling house prices, lost jobs and weak consumer spending, are only just starting to be felt in Europe _Timesvia_KimduToit
What has changed about the banking and financial sector to create a "disconnect" between financial reality in the real world, and financial reality in the financial world? In a word, "hyperfinance."
In the old world before the arrival of “hyper-finance”, if a family wanted a £100,000 mortgage, they would simply go to the Halifax and borrow £100,000. Now consider what happens in the new financial world. The family would borrow £100,000 from Northern Rock, which would sell £100,000 of bonds to hedge funds, which buy these with £100,000 borrowed from Bear Stearns, their prime broker, which would raise this money by selling £100,000 of commercial paper to Citibank, which would then borrow £100,000 through the inter-bank market from Halifax.

So now the original £100,000 mortgage transaction has created £500,000 of new debts.

In principle, this entire chain of transactions could be squeezed, like a concertina, back to the original £100,000 transaction between the householder and Halifax, reducing the total amount of credit in the banking system by 80 per cent. This huge reduction in credit would do no great harm either to the homeowner or the ultimate lender, but eliminating all those intermediate transactions would devastate jobs and profits within the banks. _Times
Sure, ordinary people feel the pinch of the dampening effects of high energy costs and the credit crunch--not just bankers and brokers. But because of hyperfinance, bankers and brokers live "higher than high" in good times, and can suffer more than most during economic corrections.

Not a depression, no. Not even a recession by the correct definition of recessions. Rather, sluggish growth caused by a weaker dollar and higher overhead costs, with a hint of inflationary pressure. The bailouts of Fannie and Freddie will not help the situation. The economic impact from that particular government action will hit the US taxpayer and the US dollar much in the same way the S&L bailout hit them back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Of course, if the cost of oil gets pushed over $200 by a war with Iran, all the economies of the world will be in trouble--for a while.


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America Crumbling and In Decline

If you consume a lot of European or Russian media, the title of this post will be old hat to you. Of course America is crumbling! We read about it in the papers and see it on the TV news every day, it's pounded into our heads. It must be true! And since human nature deplores a power vacuum, what power bloc is poised to step into the void left by the decline of America?
In contrast to the declinists’ arguments and analyses, America boasts a position of unmatched preponderance. No single country or even grouping of countries has emerged as a plausible counterpart or peer competitor, and apart from the very long-term possibility of China, none is likely to do so.

...Europe faces steep obstacles in achieving anything resembling a common foreign and security policy. Its cumbersome institutions, public demands for enormous rates of domestic expenditure, hamstrung attempts at political integration, as well as its Hamlet-like uncertainties about the use of force and military spending, give Europe a global impact far less than its size and wealth would otherwise dictate...With the passage of time as well as the coming to power of Atlanticist leaders in Germany (Merkel), France (Sarkozy), and Italy (Berlusconi), there appears to be, if anything, even less inclination to stand in America’s way.

...Russia remains overwhelmingly dependent on the current boom in energy and commodity prices—and correspondingly vulnerable in the event of their decline. The country suffers from pervasive corruption, with a ranking from Transparency International that puts it at 121 among 163 countries in this category. Its population, already less than half that of the U.S. and plagued with alcoholism, chronic violence, a decrepit health-care system, and a male life expectancy of fewer than 60 years of age (lower than that of Bangladesh), shrinks by some half a million people per year.

Japan...only recently recovered from the effects of its economic collapse in the early 1990s. Moreover, as a result of China’s newfound economic weight and military power, Japan has moved into a closer embrace with the United States than ever before. This has meant greater cooperation from military logistics through to the strategic realm, and it has even included logistical and personnel support in Iraq. The Japanese case offers a basic reminder of something declinists too often forget: When assessing a rising power such as China, one ought to consider the near-historical certainty that the rising power will provoke a counterbalancing of its own.

...India’s substantial shift toward the United States, made partly in response to China’s awakening, offers another example of “bandwagoning” with us rather than balancing against us.

...China may indeed emerge as a great power rival to the United States. But this seems very, very unlikely in the near or medium term.

...The overall size and dynamism of [America's] economy remains unmatched, and America continues to lead the rest of the world in measures of competitiveness, technology, and innovation. Here, higher education and science count as an enormous asset. America’s major research universities lead the world in stature and rankings, occupying seventeen of the top twenty slots. Broad demographic trends also favor the United States, whereas countries typically mentioned as peer competitors sag under the weight of aging populations. This is not only true for Russia, Europe, and Japan, but also for China, whose long-standing one-child policy has had an anticipated effect.

...Over the years, America’s staying power has been regularly and chronically underestimated—by condescending French and British statesmen in the nineteenth century, by German, Japanese, and Soviet militarists in the twentieth, and by homegrown prophets of doom today. The critiques come and go. The object of their contempt never does..._WorldAffairsJournal
America has serious problems--most brought on by irresponsible and excessive government. Either Americans will learn to rein in the malignant bureaucracies and ballooning agencies of government, or they will continue to suffer from their excesses. If government is allowed to continue growing unchecked, the predictions of America crumbling will eventually occur. And if it does, the shaking will not subside for a very long time.

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Gender Jihad: Title 9 in Science, Forced Quotas for Women in Science and Engineering

Why does the US National Science Foundation want to force a gender quota system on one of the few areas of academia that still operates largely as a meritocracy? What will happen to science, if faculty and research positions are based upon gender rather than ability?
The members of Congress and women’s groups who have pushed for science to be “Title Nined” say there is evidence that women face discrimination in certain sciences, but the quality of that evidence is disputed. Critics say there is far better research showing that on average, women’s interest in some fields isn’t the same as men’s.

In this debate, neither side doubts that women can excel in all fields of science. In fact, their growing presence in former male bastions of science is a chief argument against the need for federal intervention.

Despite supposed obstacles like “unconscious bias” and a shortage of role models and mentors, women now constitute about half of medical students, 60 percent of biology majors and 70 percent of psychology Ph.D.’s. They earn the majority of doctorates in both the life sciences and the social sciences. They remain a minority in the physical sciences and engineering. Even though their annual share of doctorates in physics has tripled in recent decades, it’s less than 20 percent. Only 10 percent of physics faculty members are women, a ratio that helped prompt an investigation in 2005 by the American Institute of Physics into the possibility of bias.

...starting at age 12, the girls tended to be better rounded than the boys: they had relatively strong verbal skills in addition to math, and they showed more interest in “organic” subjects involving people and other living things. Despite their mathematical prowess, they were less likely than boys to go into physics or engineering.

But whether they grew up to be biologists or sociologists or lawyers, when they were surveyed in their 30s, these women were as content with their careers as their male counterparts. They also made as much money per hour of work. Dr. Lubinski and Dr. Benbow concluded that adolescents’ interests and balance of abilities — not their sex — were the best predictors of whether they would choose an “inorganic” career like physics.

A similar conclusion comes from a new study of the large gender gap in the computer industry by Joshua Rosenbloom and Ronald Ash of the University of Kansas. By administering vocational psychological tests, the researchers found that information technology workers especially enjoyed manipulating objects and machines, whereas workers in other occupations preferred dealing with people.

Once the researchers controlled for that personality variable, the gender gap shrank to statistical insignificance: women who preferred tinkering with inanimate objects were about as likely to go into computer careers as were men with similar personalities. There just happened to be fewer women than men with those preferences.

....the campaign for gender parity infantilizes women by assuming they don’t know what they want. She interviewed women who abandoned successful careers in science and engineering to work in fields like architecture, law and education — and not because they had faced discrimination in science.

Instead, they complained of being pushed so hard to be scientists and engineers that they ended up in jobs they didn’t enjoy. “The irony was that talent in a male-typical pursuit limited their choices,” Ms. Pinker says. “Once they showed aptitude for math or physical science, there was an assumption that they’d pursue it as a career even if they had other interests or aspirations. And because these women went along with the program and were perceived by parents and teachers as torch bearers, it was so much more difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that the work made them unhappy.” _NYT_via_Slashdot
Why do US government agencies wish to force more women into professions and careers that they would not otherwise choose for themselves? Because the abstract concept of "gender equity"--the perceived need for women to compose at least half the members of any high profile or high prestige group. Whether individual women wish to be part of this "grand gender crusade" or not.

Institutions of science and engineering are being forced into a position where valuable time is diverted to filling out reams of paperwork to satisfy government gender busybodies. But, of course, nothing will ever satisfy them. Until all successful and productive institutions are subjugated to the gender jihad, no one will have peace.

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16 July 2008

Look Who Oppresses Women Now: Feminasties!

Feminasties are academic, media, or think tank feminists who attempt to dictate to all women how they should live their lives. In many ways, these feminasties threaten to become worse oppressors of women than the patriarchy was.
I realised that Feminism today is no longer a social movement for gender equality, but a political movement driven by hate and revenge. This vicious hatred is not only directed towards men or even boys, but also towards women, who are related to (or support) men. _Source
Linda Hirshman is one such feminasty who tries to put women in their place according to Hirshman. She recently wrote a diatribe against mothers who raise their children called "Get to Work!"
Hirshman fires with both barrels (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) at today’s mommies, who are so busy sniffing the Martha Stewart paint chips that they have forgotten Friedan’s exhortation to get out and change the world....Hirshman considers all stay-at-home mothers fish in her barrel (think fish pedaling tiny aquatic bicycles). No target is too small: Hirshman even tears mercilessly into the sleep-deprived new mothers who’ve made the unfortunate decision to share their rambling thoughts on something called Bloggingbaby.com.

...According to [Neil] Gilbert, the debate over the value of women’s work has been framed by those with a too-rosy view of employment,

mainly because the vast majority of those who publicly talk, think, and write about questions of gender equality, motherhood, and work in modern society are people who talk, think, and write for a living. And they tend to associate with other people who, like themselves, do not have “real” jobs—professors, journalists, authors, artists, politicos, pundits, foundation program officers, think-tank scholars, and media personalities.

Many of them can set their own hours, choose their own workspace, get paid for thinking about issues that interest them, and, as a bonus, get to feel, by virtue of their career, important in the world. _Atlantic
The feminasties, in other words, are pseudo-intellectuals with sinecured positions, who condemn women for choosing to raise their own children, from the security of pampered princesshood--"divorced from normal discipline of everyday life in the marketplace". [Neil Gilbert]

Hirshman herself retreated from the rough and tumble of a legal career, into the pampered sinecure of academic Women's Studies. These feminasties have nothing to say to the real world concerns of real women, because they have never experienced a real woman's life. Hiding behind their tenure and faux moral superiority, they hurl invective at any woman who dares to write a life's script that diverges from the feminasty way.

Oddly enough, when it comes to the one large group of women in the world who are truly being oppressed--Muslim women--where are the feminasties? They are somewhere else. To oppose the deep innate misogyny of the Muslim world would require a moral courage that feminasties never acquired. Besides, there is no profit in it, and they might even get hurt. No, tenured princesses understand where their interests lie.

The true feminists of the 19th and 20th centuries who faced down the legal and social barriers to gender equality of opportunity, would have faced down the Muslim misogynists. But the feminasties are made of different stuff. They have their tenure, their security in numbers within the leftist multiculti establishment of academics, journalists, pundits, think tank divas, and politicians. As long as they keep well within the boundaries of current talking points, they are embraced by the community.

What about real world women who have to face the hard choices of give and take in life? The sooner they understand that the feminasties are not their friends, the better they will be able to feel about themselves for charting their own course in life--career, family, whatever.


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