Gore’s Non-science Reality 3

The problem with just 0.8 degrees C of warming of the last century, is that it is too small. It just can’t be everywhere at once. This is why the littany of disasters must be combined from multiple years. There was a heat wave and drought in Russia and Brazil last year, but this year it is the Texas and China. Before hurricanes Irene and Lee caused flooding this year, you had to go all the way back to Katrina and Rita.

When a temperature trend is imperceptible to humans within the noise of natural variation and urban heat islands, it just can’t be warmer everywhere at once, and some places miss global warming entirely.


Gore’s Non-science Reality 2

I just checked in on the live video stream again.  This time there was color pallete deceit.   A map showing levels of drought this summer had the Pacific Northwest in hot red, even though this was a wetter than normal summer due to La Nina.   Al Gore spoke about the signature of CO2 warming in the stratosphere, without disclosing that the signature doesn’t indicate what percentage of the warming CO2 is responsible for.  The signature would be present even if the warming was mostly natural and CO2 responsible for less than a third of the warming.   Of course, he leaps from that to the assumption we should swallow the model projections of future warming.

It reminds me of those Christian door to door proselytizers,  who assume that if they can get you to believe in God with various arguments and “proofs” that you will then accept the whole pantheon of supernatural beings including Christ, Satan, angels, etc.    They don’t seem to realize that we might also demand proofs for the existence of Satan.


Gore’s Non-science Reality

I just looked in on Al Gore’s 24 hour reality project at:

http://climaterealityproject.org/

What I saw is a littany of the droughts, flooding and wildfire problems that are currently going on in the world. The emphasis was on fear. Any science linking them to global warming was totally absent.   For a presentation ostensibly about climate science, there was a lack of climate perspective,  such as comparable events in previous years.

The presenter goes on to project how droughts will be worse in the future, however, he doesn’t note that the models that made the projections have been documented to include less than half the INCREASE in precipitation actually OBSERVED in association with the recent warming. See this article by Wentz published in the journal science:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/317/5835/233

I highly recommend these sites for getting open discussion of the current climate science controversies and advances:

http://wattsupwiththat.com
http://climateaudit.org

My favorite site for getting historical perspective on current weather events and seemingly prescient long range projections of the weather based upon historical data from years where the oceans and polar circulation were in a comparable state to today:

http://www.weatherbell.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism?

“23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” is a book by Ha-Joon Chang, an economist at Cambridge.   I haven’t read the book, but I just saw a talk by the author on booktv (cspan2).  I think it is important to understand the view of economics that he is advocating.  Unfortunately, I don’t currently have time to read his book and comment in detail, but you might want to catch his talk when it is repeated or becomes available online at the booktv.org web site.

He makes some persuasive and valid points, but I also got the impression that his book is a bit of an intellectually disingenuous hatchet or spin job.

His first chapter is about how “free” markets aren’t really free because of things like child labor laws and prohibitions on slavery.   But this argument attacks a strawman, because free market advocates in today’s societies are not arguing for zero intervention or regulation, but pointing to the wisdom of working with and appreciating the value of emergent market phenomena, and how many of the faults blamed on market capitalism are really due to ill-advised interventions or perverse incentives.

In another chapter he argues that making the rich richer doesn’t help the poor, but, at least in the talk, his example was the increased share of the economic pie held by the top 1% in the United States since the 1980s.   My question for him, especially in light of his comment about barriers to immigration in rich countries, is why on this particular example, he only analyzed wealth creation and investment on a national basis, as if the huge middle classes lifted out of poverty in China and India didn’t matter.   Perhaps an unkind way for me to frame this, is, if he is going to argue against the “disproportionate” share allocated to those that produce wealth in a free market society, wealth that he claims is undeserved because it is really built upon a community generationally created social infrastructure, why is he taking a national socialist macro-economic perspective rather than an international socialist one?  If he truly cared for the worlds poor,  shouldn’t he want to appreciate the contrubtions of the productive rich to their well being, instead of mocking and criticizing them in an intellectually dishonest attempt to influence domestic US politics?   Shouldn’t he appreciate the how the US helps more poor people by having porous borders with Mexico than by having a European style welfare state?  Shouldn’t he appreciate how the US helps more poor by participating in and advocating globalization than by protectionist policies protecting low skilled local jobs?

In Ha-Joon Chang’s criticism of the idea that corporations should serve the shareholders, he notes that the shareholders have been getting a larger share of the profits in the form of dividends and stock buybacks  in recent decades, and that shareholders have become increasingly short term and less committed to a particular company.   One result of this is that companies are investing less in research, development and employee training, in order to increase short term shareholder value, at the expense of future growth.  However, he didn’t mention in his talk, how much his analysis is dependent upon tax policy.    While a higher percentage of  “profits” are being returned to shareholders, margins are lower due to competition and efficient markets so the total share of revenue going to profit may be less, and he isn’t considering the share of “profits” that go to bondholders and the share of  “profits” that are paid as taxes to government entities, because these are deductible costs, that under tax and accounting rules are not part of “profits”.  While blaming reduced investment in future growth on the focus on shareholder value, he neglects the fact that even these supposedly short sighted shareholders,  are willing to value companies that are growing and investing at prices that are much higher multiples of their earnings, and they are willing to do so despite tax policies that will double tax the earnings before they see any of the profits.  I would argue that because of tax policy, many corporations are investing too much rather than too little and the economy would grow faster if the double taxes were eliminated so that capital could more easily flow to where it would earn the highest returns.

Perhaps the most egregious argument Chang makes is that voters should not let their ignorance of economics, keep them from voting for economic regulation, because they vote out of ignorance for regulation, on other issues, such as drugs and the environment.  Besides, as he explains, economics is 95% common sense, just read his book, and I guess, start voting just as ignorantly in the area of economics.


I Will Honor the (fiat) Dollar!

Ron Paul and many of his supporters in the tea party want a return to the gold standard and the elimination of the Federal Reserve.  The argument is that the supply of gold is limited and thus governments are constrained in their ability to inflate a gold backed currency.   Gold has traditionally been highly valued by humans and thus able to serve as a store of value.   But golds limited supply is also its weakness, and the human desire to hold gold in times of uncertainty causes its value to be volatile.  Gold’s value can move independently of other values in the economy, especially during times of uncertainty.  If your currency is on the gold standard, then your debts are denominated in gold, when a speculative rise occurs in the value of gold, then your level of debt has increased.  The value your employer or the economy places on your work may not have  increased with your level of debt, in fact, employers are unlikely to hire and may have to layoff employees in times of uncertainty, and may prefer holding gold to employing your labor during times when the value of gold is high.  The gold standard is one of the factors that contributed to the great depression.  The uncertain international financial situation caused a rush to the safety of gold and currencies like the dollar that were denominated in gold.   Prices of goods had to fall in gold terms and this price deflation is much harder to economies to adjust to, especially when debt is denominated in gold.

Is gold really a reliable store of value?  How valuable is gold, and what would be the effect of forcing currencies to be backed by gold?   Gold has been a remarkably consistent store of value over the ages, but that ignores its volatility.   The price of gold was over $700 in the late 1970s,  but was back down to around $300 for a couple decades after that, and is now priced at over $1400.    Gold’s high prices limit its economic usefulness.  As a good conductor of heat, it would be useful in pots and pans and computer heat sinks, but it is too expensive for those uses.  Very small amounts of gold coatings can protect materials such as electronic connectors from corrosion, but most gold is used in dentistry and jewelry and as a store of value.   At high prices, even its usage in dentistry and jewelry is reduced or deferred in the hope of lower prices.

An economy or culture that values gold highly will expend effort and resources to produce or obtain more.  Is an economy that devotes more resources to mining, refining or trading gold a better economy?  Which economy is more likely to grow more rapidly, one that invests in gold, or  one that invests in capital equipment that increases the productivity of labor, or invests in research and development?  Isn’t an investment in gold, really an admission that you can’t find a more productive use for your money?

The high value of gold is subjective and speculative.    A cultural recognition in India for instance, that it would be better off investing in capital equipment, could flood the market with gold.

But what is the value of a fiat currency?  Doesn’t just printing more steal value from those that already hold it, and cause prices to rise?  What backs a fiat currency?  It’s value seems less intrinsic and even more subjective than that of gold?   Yes, the value of a fiat currency is mainly symbolic, its value is the fact that so many are willing to honor it.  Ultimately, it is legal tender for paying the taxes of the  issuing state.  The dominate roll of the US dollar in the world economy gives it a privileged position as the worlds reserve currency.   Many countries keep reserves of dollars to back their currencies, and set or manipulate the value of their currencies relative to the dollar.

So what backs the value of the dollar?  All the people that will honor it.   In the current economic situation in the United States, there are 20 million un- and under- employed workers willing to honor the dollar.  China and Europe are keeping the value of their currencies low or stable relative to the dollar, so they are willing to honor it.


Tea Party diversity and the centrist compromise

I will probably be viewed as a Tea Party heretic,  so I might as well embrace the identity.   The tea party movement is diverse, and perhaps more diverse than the typical conservative participant appreciates.   They know there are libertarians in the movement, but perhaps don’t know much about them.  For instance, most libertarians, probably two-thirds, are atheists or agnostics.   My anecdotal experience is that about 30% of tea party participants are libertarians; that would mean about 20% of the tea party is atheist or agnostic.  Even if I grant that that the libertarian tea party participants are drawn more from the Christian libertarian element, that would still leave a 10-15% figure that would probably come as a surprise to the tea party majority.

Why is the “majority” unaware of the atheists among them?  Attend a tea party event and you will see socially conservative signs taking pro-life, traditional marriage and religious positions and practically none taking socially liberal positions.   Libertarians, like the rest of the country, are split on abortion, those that view the fetus as a human with rights,  see a role for even much a more limited government in protecting those rights.  Most libertarian atheists are small “a” atheists, their atheism isn’t their identity.  They don’t evangelize it like the capital “A”, atheists of the progressive secular  humanist ilk.  While the libertarians might have no objection to homosexual, polygamous or polyandry marriage, they also don’t see a role for government licensing of marriage.   Given these characteristics, the more socially liberal libertarian activists stick to the central tea party compromise on the financial and constitutionally limited government issues that constitute most of the tea party rhetoric and signs.

While liberals have tried to paint the tea party movement as racist, (undoubtedly in a movement of its size there may be some racists), the explicit compromise has nothing to do with racism, and the libertarian component of the movement effectively inoculates the movement against a generalization of the tea party members as racists.  There is no less racist group than the libertarians, and there is no group that even if they were racist, would be less likely to support racist policies.    Given the constitutional orientation of the conservative participants, even they would be philosophically constrained from implementing any race based policies.

With a president that attended a black liberation theology church for more  than a decade and identifies blacks, latinos and women as constituencies, and with progressives that embrace divisive critical theory race and ethnic identity politics,  the liberals can only play the race card as a first strike diversionary tactic.  It is the tea party movement that transcends race and is more diverse than even most of its participants realize.


Pseudointellectuals 00

I must give thanx to tamino at tamino.wordpress.com.   His pretentiously intellectual “Open Mind”, found it necessary to censor me when I showed him up a bit when he called me a liar.   This inspired me to finally get off my duff and start my own blog. 

Here is the post he censored:

Tamino,

“This is the type of stuff I should censor, and just might, because your snide insult of Gavin Schmidt is an unjustified detestable lie. “

If you can get somekind of public agreement from Gavin & Co. not to censor my posts, I will be happy to discuss these model failings and their implications there. I recently tried again at the behest of knockgoats @ the pharyngula site. He too had a high opinion of them, an image that is easier for them to maintain if they can avoid being confronted with certain issues. You are jumping to conclusions regarding the facts of the matter. Unfortunately just one uncensored post at realclimate.org would not be enough, lets get them to agree to respond in good faith, so that they can be pinned down rather than spin and censor.

I will accept even a private assurance they give to you, if you will then let me complete any discourse with them by posting here anything they censor. Don’t worry,  I don’t engage name calling or ad hominem.   I don’t make general characterizations that I can’t back up.    I don’t see them as valid arguments.

“Your “scientific” nonsense is babble.”

This is the sort of characterization that is difficult to respond to unless you can be more specific? I try not to say things I can’t back up.   I have been assuming some familiarity with the literature.

The post and thread that this is in regard to is http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/old-news/#comment-33560

I have noticed that true believers in the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis have the impression realclimate.org is open and intellectually fearless.   Evidently, some that know what realclimate.org really is, think it is  important to suppress and deny the truth.   What might their motives be?


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