September 13, 2007 10:01 AM
Treehugger.com's quote of the day comes from Grist.org's April '06 interview with Elizabeth Kolbert—the lit. major-turned armchair scientist (or “climate journalist” as the Grist calls her) who published a verbose, 3-part narrative in the New Yorker; her take on the on the coming climate catastrophe. In the Grist interview Liz asserts her theory on why people could possible deny the idea of man-made global warming. The first reason is the “cry-wolf” syndrome: people have heard about the end of the world forever with nothing to show for it. Her second theory is that people think “If this were really as bad as you say, I would feel it by now”. Last, Liz asserts that people find it easier to deny global warming exists than deal with the consequences or the innumerable suggestions for mitigation.
I would argue that one or more of these reasons probably hold true for at least some skepticism (which is large enough that warming proponents feel the need to deal with it), but all of it? Come on Liz, it couldn't be caused by anything more substantial than that—perhaps scientific evidence? Despite the media's constant hammering that “the majority of scientists agree,” there doesn't actually seem to be much of a consensus. According an article posted on Dailytech.com last month, less than half of the scientific community seems to join into a consensus. Elizabeth Kolbert might just argue that those scientists are stubborn, ignorant, or jaded; it's actually a pretty effective way to avoid honest dialogue about a complicated subject.
September 13, 2007 9:13 AM
When the sun swells into a red giant in about 5 billion years, "Earth Might Survive Sun's Explosion," observational evidence of other star systems suggests. Our engulfed neighbors Mercury and Venus won't be so lucky, but Earth has a fighting chance. Not so sure about homo sapiens, though.
When our own Sun begins to graduate from a hydrogen-burning “main sequence” star to a red giant, two effects will compete to determine the Earth's fate, the astronomers explain. On one hand, as the Sun blows off mass in order to conserve angular momentum, the Earth will retreat to a more distant, safer orbit. But at the same time tidal forces between the Earth and the expanding star will try to drag the planet inward where it could be engulfed. The latter effect, in particular, is difficult to compute.
September 13, 2007 8:58 AM
At my temple last night the rabbi's sermon started off beautifully, examining Rosh Hashanah as the birthday of the world. But it quickly turned into a "go green" lecture: global warming, wasteful consumption, the need to conserve energy, etc. etc. As the sermon went on and on, I turned to my daughter and suggested that, in order to actually conserve some energy, we find the light switches for the temple and turn them off. Her response: "And the mike too."
September 13, 2007 8:18 AM
I am always cautious when someone utilizes the “do it for the children” argument. Usually it signals a lack of rational justification and the necessity to appeal to the base emotional level in order to achieve certain ends. There seems to be a rash of that lately (i.e., the TV commercials where children lecture about the dangers of climate change). Big-eyed innocence can go a long way. But don't trust those little rug-rats (they'll say anything if you dangle a Hershey bar in front of them).
The latest example of this emotional exploitation is California's continued attempts to infringe on the individual rights of its citizens. Hiding behind the little children, CA regulators are attempting to pass a law banning smoking in cars; for the sake of the children. Beside the fact that this law broadly oversteps the boundaries of government, I don't see it being particularly useful. Unless they are the children of long-distance truckers, or part of a traveling circus, I assume the amount of time kids spend in cars with smoking parents is fairly limited. I probably get more second-hand smoke exposure walking past a row of bars with all the smokers forced to light up outside. Based on CA regulators' logic, I say they ought to make a law prohibiting parents of small children from living in cities with high levels of smog (such as L.A.). My advice: if you're a parent, for the sake of the children, get out of California.
September 12, 2007 7:41 PM
In the current issue of Commentary, City Journal contributing editor Kay Hymowitz criticizes libertarianism as fatally flawed by some internal "cultural contradictions" (this essay may gain greater attention than your typical Commentary article due to its being picked up by OpinionJournal Federation).
When I hear someone cite "contradictions" in social criticism, I usually expect either a rehashed Marxist criticism of whatever modern ill capitalism hath wrought most recently, or a Schumpeterian eulogy for the capitalism that will destroy itself by creating a resentful intellectual class. My expectations were partly right: Hymowitz's piece provides the latter. And, like Schumpeter, she is only half right.
Schumpeter's contention that capitalism, by creating the prosperity that allows for pursuits that extend beyond mere survival, gives rise to an intellectual class that, while well-educated, provides little that other people want, and therefore aren't compensated as well as, say, an industrialist would be. Thus, the intellectuals become disillusioned with the system that begat them because it isn't "just." However, the socialist intellectuals did not triumph. They've done plenty of evil, but capitalist society still survives and, in some areas, thrives.
In similar fashion, argues Hymowitz, bourgeouis virtues, by allowing capitalism to flourish, give rise to the kind of libertinism that can only arise once the discipline imposed by the hard work of struggling for survival is removed.
That may be, but so what? The fact that some, even many, libertarians celebrate the liberating effect of affluence upon realms of society that extend beyond the state doesn't make libertinism part and parcel of libertarianism. Reason magazine can defend porn at the same time that the Acton Institute defends traditional morality -- and both be libertarian.
Libertarianism is a philosophy of government -- and nothing more. Yes, many libertarians may have unconventional aesthetic interests, but that doesn't make those quirks defining aspects of libertarianism.
Part of Hymowitz's argument is citing outlier examples.
September 12, 2007 7:10 PM
OK going off topic. I just learned from a friend that one of my favorite musicians died Sunday nite, September 12. The great Hughie Thomasson of The Outlaws (a.k.a. the Florida guitar army). They're well known for this awesome version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "Green Grass and High Tides" (check out 1977 and 2006), "There Goes Another Love Song" (here's a recent live video), "Hurry Sundown" and so much more. Check out the clips and others on YouTube for some great guitar picking and vocals from Hughie and the band. Thomasson also shouldered axe duties in Lynyrd Skynyrd on recent tours before reforming The Outlaws just a couple years ago; I'm really glad I went to see them (twice). In lieu of flowers the family suggests contributions to two charities Hughie appreciated, The Angelus fund for severely handicapped, and the Heroes Fund for veterans' families. Will miss you Hughie.
September 12, 2007 4:09 PM
In The Washington Post, several Congressmen argue that although the Constitution says that Congressmen and Senators must represent "states," it does not really mean what it says, and that Congress therefore can give the District of Columbia a voting member of the House of Representatives.
Not troubled by inconsistency, they simultaneously argue that the District should be given a seat in the House, because they claim it is like a "state for constitutional purposes," and yet claim that doing so would not establish a precedent that could be used to give the District a vote in the Senate, where the Constitution guarantees each state two Senators.
They don't explain why Washington, D.C., which has only 500,000 residents (much less than the typical Congressional district), is entitled to a Congressman, while Puerto Rico, which has four million people, is not.
I have previously explained why there are serious problems with the bill, both in terms of fairness and because of its unconstitutionality.
September 12, 2007 4:09 PM
A story in today's Washington Post highlights the fact that with all the news about Chinese toy recalls, regulators are ignoring other, more serious risks. This is a real problem, but it is much larger than the recent problems with China. Environmental health and safety activists focus on politically selected risks — leading everyone else to ignore the more serious ones in many areas. Lately, conservatives have joined in to some extent because they don't like communist China. I share their disdain for communism, but I don't see any reason to jump on the green bandwagon or bash free trade.
Concern about lead paint in toys is a very big story because the greens have demonized lead exposure at any level. In reality, lead is only an issue when there is regular exposure to relatively high levels. These days lead problems are largely related to children eating peeling lead paint found in older homes. In severe cases, children can get lead poisoning. In less severe cases, lead exposure might impact IQ. Such effects may be temporary, but certainly should be avoided.
Intact lead paint on toys is most likely a very low risk. "A child really has to be able to bite off, or pick off and eat, pieces of paint to be significantly exposed," noted Dr. Micheal Shannon a pediatrician and toxicologist with the Children's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School in a Reuters news story. Can you imagine a child chewing long and hard enough to get a signficant amount of paint off a toy car? It would even be difficult to get much off a wooden toy, and he would have to do so regularly to suffer effects.
September 12, 2007 4:05 PM
Good news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today. Life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all time high of almost 78 years. The most recent figures, based on 2005 data, indicate that a child born in 2005 can expect to live to 78.
The death rates for the main killers — heart disease, cancer, and stroke — declined in 2005 from the year before. Here are some highlights of the report:
Life expectancy for the white population was 78.3 in 2005, unchanged from the record high of 2004. Life expectancy for the black population increased slightly from 73.1 years in 2004 to 73.2 years in 2005
The age-adjusted U.S. death rate fell to below 800 deaths per 100,000 population in 2005 — an all-time low.
The death rate from the three leading killers in the United States — heart disease, cancer and stroke — declined in 2005 compared to the previous year. The age-adjusted death rate from heart disease fell from 217 deaths per 100,000 in 2004 to 210.3 in 2005, while the age-adjusted death rate from cancer dropped from 185.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2004 to 183.8 in 2005. The age-adjusted death rate from stroke declined from 50 deaths per 100,000 in 2004 to 46.6 in 2005.
The age-adjusted death rates for the seventh leading cause of death, Alzheimer's disease, and the 14th leading cause of death, Parkinson's disease, both increased by approximately 5 percent between 2004 and 2005.
September 12, 2007 3:51 PM
In her August 31st post titled "Bush pulls a Hillary on Housing???" with its gratuitous punctuation, Michelle Malkin actually seems surprised by Bush's latest betrayal of conservative/republican ideals. However, this behavior is neither new, nor surprising when you look back on Bush's past. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post last May, Richard Cohen analyzed a few of his policies and applies the term “neoliberal”. The only thing new about Bush's liberalism is that he isn't calling himself liberalâ€¦but then again, liberals never do that either.