Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Earth Day – 1970

You may or may not remember the first Earth Day in 1970.  Let’s just say the “time was ripe” given the social upheaval going on in the US.  And so, a great “teach in” was conducted on April 22, 1970.

Fifth Avenue in New York City was closed to automobiles as 100,000 people joined in concerts, lectures, and street theater. More than 2,000 colleges and universities across America paused their anti-war protests to rally instead against pollution and population growth.

Yes friends, population growth was the “climate change” of the first Earth Day and with it, the usual doom and gloom:

Imminent global famine caused by the explosion of the “population bomb” was the big issue on Earth Day 1970. Then–and now–the most prominent prophet of population doom was Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich. Dubbed “ecology’s angry lobbyist” by Life magazine, the gloomy Ehrlich was quoted everywhere. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” he confidently declared in an interview with then-radical journalist Peter Collier in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

“Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Ehrlich in an essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe!,” which ran in the special Earth Day issue of the radical magazine Ramparts. “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

All of this was announced with great certainty and, frankly, a consensus of sorts.  The fact that it rested on theory and that science didn’t really support it seemed irrelevant.  It was, since the war in Viet Nam was winding down, the “next great cause!”  So the horrific prognostications were slung willy nilly and the press and activists ate them up.

Such beauties as:

In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

“Solid experimental and theoretical evidence”.  Solid … like the hockey stick.  Theoretical … like climate models.  Reality – nothing like the prediction.

Sound familiar?

Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

Because, you know … “science” says so!  Yet we’re awash in the stuff thanks to real science and technology.  Scientific progress applied in technology is always ignored by the prognosticators of doom.

Oh and in case we have forgotten:

Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

“Present trends?” Well, thank goodness for “climate change” then, huh?

No?!

Of course not … that’s what this gloom and doom Earth Day will be all about.  Check back in about 45 years to see how wrong the “consensus” is from tomorrow’s big meeting as thousands of activist use fossil fuel transportation to meet and tell us how we must quit using fossil fuel transports to  save the earth.

~McQ

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How to increase China’s influence and enable China’s global energy policy in two words

And those two words are “Barack Obama”.

I don’t know about you but I’ve gotten real tired of seeing the US play the dope on the world stage these last 6 years.  I’ve touched on this before, but it doesn’t get much coverage and is indicative of how much foreign policy damage this administration is doing.  I touched on this earlier, but I’m fascinated by how totally tone-deaf and inept this administration appears to be.

The story, as the administration wants it to unfold:

The US government has stepped up pressure on the World Bank not to fund coal-fired power plants in developing countries. In a letter sent to the World Bank United States Executive Director Whitney Debevoise said, “The Obama Administration believes that the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) have a potentially critical role to play in the future international framework for climate finance, and, in particular, to assist developing countries in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening their economies’ resilience to climate risks.” Following Debevoise’s controversial guidelines, the axe has already fallen on Pakistan’s Thar Coal and Energy Project on the grounds that “the limited financing available from the Bank should be directed toward investments that address energy supply shortfalls in an environmentally sustainable manner’’.

So there Pakistan?  No coal fired plants for you! We have spoken!

Oh, wait:

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to unveil a $46 billion infrastructure spending plan in Pakistan that is a centerpiece of Beijing’s ambitions to open new trade and transport routes across Asia and challenge the U.S. as the dominant regional power. The largest part of the project would provide electricity to energy-starved Pakistan, based mostly on building new coal-fired power plants.

It’s just blatant now … total disrespect for the US.  Even our ally in the region, Australia, has had enough.  Japan is tired of the posturing and pushing of ideology in support of something science doesn’t support much less prove.  More importantly, they’re not going to play ball anymore and aren’t making any bones about it.

Who do you suppose Pakistan is looking too for leadership in the energy sector now? Who do you suppose they might see as a champion of their economic growth?

The Geological survey of Pakistan reveals that 175 billion ton of coal is buried under the Thar Desert. These coal reserves alone are equivalent to total combined oil reserves (375 Billion Barrels) of Saudi Arabia and Iran. The coal deposits in Thar can change the fate of the country if utilised in a proper way. The coal reserves at Thar Desert are estimated around 850 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas, and are worth USD 25 trillion.  According to experts, if this single resource is used properly, we not only can cater to the electricity requirements of the country for next 300 years but also save almost four billion dollars in staggering oil import bills.

And if Pakistan feels that way, what about India?

India is hoping a new China-backed multilateral lender will fund coal-based energy projects, an official said, putting it in direct conflict with the World Bank, whose chief has maintained that it would stick to its restrictions on such lending. A senior Indian official told Reuters the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), sponsored by China, is expected to allow funding of coal-fired power plants that the World Bank has almost totally blocked. “When you have 1.3 billion people starved of electricity access and the rest of the world has created a carbon space, at this point denying funding is denying access to cheap energy,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

So now “rich America” is trying to force developing countries to forgo cheap energy in the name of  … ideology.  Hey, wasn’t Obama the guy always apologizing for the way he felt America bullied other countries?

Well, at least he only bullies allies.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 17 Apr 15

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% both overall, and less food and energy, in March. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is unchanged at the headline level, and up 1.8% at the core.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose 2.9 points to 95.9 in April.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose only 0.2% in March following a downwardly revised gain of only 0.1% in February.


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A pox on both their houses

A couple of charts to keep in mind as the political season gets into second gear:

TaxDayGraphic4

The top one, of course, shows who does and who doesn’t pay the bulk of the taxes.  The “who does” is the top 1%.  So we have Ms. 1% promising to go after the “rich” as one of the promises of her campaign.  That after saying the Clinton Foundation plans to continue to take donations from foreign countries and that her campaign will indeed continue to accept corporate donations.  I mean, she’s gotten away with the email scam so why not this too?  Accountability – ha! They’re Clintons and accountability is for the “little people”.

The second shows the basic problem we suffer – our government spends more than it takes in.  Seems to me that should be a pretty easy problem to solve.  But obviously it’s not.

Alternate solution?  Well Jeb Bush thinks its a great idea to raise the Social Security retirement age, because, you know, they haven’t screwed retirees enough when it comes to Social Security, so lets see if we can out wait them.  He’s not alone.  Chris Christie thinks 69 is about right.

Talk of real reform and cutting spending, all redundant programs, the size of the bureaucracy and unneeded departments?  Yeah, these are big government guys no matter what lie they tell you.  Much easier to kick the SS can down the road by raising the retirement age and having a good portion of those who paid into it for 40 to 50 years die before they receive a penny.  Voila – savings!  Thank you “suckers”.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 16 Apr 15

Housing starts in March rose a disappointing 2.0%, following February’s -15.3 decline. Starts came in at an annualized 0.926 million. Housing permits, an indicator of future activity, were also disappointing, falling -5.7% to a 1.039 million annual rate. On a year-over-year basis, housing starts were down -2.5% while permits were up 2.9%.

The Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey rose 2.5 points in April to 7.5.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.3 points to 46.6 in the latest week.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 12,000 to 294,000. The 4-week average rose 250 to 282,750. Continuing claims fell 40,000 to a new 15-year low of 2.268 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.9 billion last week, with total assets of $4.485 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $4.4 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose a sharp $78.9 billion in the latest week.


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“Sustainability” – it marks the change from eduction to indoctrination in academia

Remember this?

Traditionally, academic disciplines conveyed a body of knowledge to students: chemistry, biology, history, literature, foreign languages, philosophy, economics and so on.

And what colleges and universities then did was teach critical thinking and the application of that knowledge taught in those traditional disciplines.

But no longer:

About 25 years ago, American higher education was swept up in the identity studies fad. A great many colleges and universities created courses, departments, degree programs, and related administrative posts in Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, Latina/o Studies, Queer Studies, and others.

Few college officials could resist the loud demands for that expansion even though it diverted funds from serious academic uses. Giving in demonstrated their fealty to a host of “progressive” notions about social injustice and oppression, while saying “no” would badly tarnish a college leader’s liberal halo. A Hobson’s Choice.

Giving in to that has led to this:

And now there is a new fad rampaging across the college landscape—sustainability. For the last ten years, this mania has been gathering momentum because, like identity studies, sustainability pushes the hot buttons for leftist academics: environmentalism, anti-capitalism, salvation through liberal activism, and the chance to hector all those wrong-thinking people. It’s almost irresistible.

The problem, however, is that sustainability isn’t an academic discipline, ” it’s an “ideology that unites environmental activism, anti-capitalism, and a progressive vision of social justice.” Like a religion (hence the reference to fundamentalism), sustainability never questions its tenets. It posits them and even has “pledges” for students and school officials to adhere to. And the courses that go into the sustainability curriculum are far more like preaching than teaching.”  Or so a study from the National Association of Scholars claims.

And yes, the study refers to “sustainability” as a sort of fundamentalism.

What other sorts of courses do students take in the sustainability curriculum? It’s a hodge-podge, including “trash studies,” “environmental poetry,” and my favorite, ”Small Spaces Studio” where students learn how best to live in mini-spaces. Frequently, courses link some “identity” belief with sustainability, such as that “patriarchy” is the enemy of sustainable life and therefore must be ended.

Most often, however, courses involve the supposedly unquestionable science of global warming and impending catastrophe. There are plenty of serious questions for academic study here. Wood and Peterson write:

“Is the climate really changing? In the direction of global warming? Because of human activity? And if the answers to these questions are ‘yes’ are the interventions proposed by sustainability advocates plausible responses? These are key questions, but the sustainability movement does not welcome them.”

The sustainability movement isn’t interested in the kind of analysis that scholars bring to controversies. It wants zealots, such as the “eco-reps” now employed on many campuses to push the agenda. Recycling, for instance, is always advanced as an imperative for saving the planet. There are trade-off questions about recycling that have caused many people to conclude that its costs often exceed its benefits, but students are not encouraged to think about them.

Sustainotopians (as the authors call them) don’t want doubts about their creed seeping in. As the report documents, when students dare to question the beliefs that undergird sustainability, they’re often treated in an uncivil, unscholarly fashion. That’s what happens when true believers take charge of education; a “you’re with us or you’re against us” mindset shoves aside reflective inquiry and discussion.

It’s bad enough that there are openly doctrinaire sustainability courses, but at least students can avoid them. Frequently, however, sustainability precepts are smuggled into other courses, where, Wood and Peterson write, “the unsuspecting student meets it not as a tenet to be discussed, but as a baseline assumption on which all subsequent scholarship and dialogue rests.”

George Will took notice of this study as well.

The word “fundamentalism” is appropriate, for five reasons:

Like many religions’ premises, the sustainability movement’s premises are more assumed than demonstrated. Second, weighing the costs of obedience to sustainability’s commandments is considered unworthy. Third, the sustainability crusade supplies acolytes with a worldview that infuses their lives with purpose and meaning. Fourth, the sustainability movement uses apocalyptic rhetoric to express its eschatology. Fifth, the church of sustainability seeks converts, encourages conformity to orthodoxy and regards rival interpretations of reality as heretical impediments to salvation.

As Will points out, this is simply political correctness repackaged.

He goes on:

They see [sustainability] as indisputable because it is undisputed; it is obvious, elementary, even banal. Actually, however, the term “sustainable” postulates fragility and scarcity that entail government planners and rationers to fend off planetary calamity while administering equity. The unvarying progressive agenda is for government to supplant markets in allocating wealth and opportunity. “Sustainability” swaddles this agenda in “science,” as progressives understand it — “settled” findings that would be grim if they did not mandate progressivism.

And progressivism  mandates authoritarianism.  It always has and it always will.  The point is to make it as palatable as possible until it can be established.  One way to do that is through indoctrination.  Sustainability is nothing more than that if you consider how it approaches the subject in a strictly unacademic way.  No one is taught to think for themselves or actually weigh “evidence” – the demand is they believe what they’re fed and act on it.

The very definition of propaganda.  And indoctrination.

However, not all is lost.  Will says there is a silver lining to this cloud:

There is a social benefit from the sustainability mania: the further marginalization of academia. It prevents colleges and universities from trading on what they are rapidly forfeiting, their reputations for seriousness.

I quit considering them to be serious quite some time ago.  What I am enjoying is the entertainment value as they increasingly are hoist on the petard of their own making concerning identity studies and now sustainability.  Both seem to be synonyms for abject stupidity masquerading as academic pursuits.  At some point, the whole house of cards has to come down – especially when consumers realize that they’re being robbed by colleges and universities who are supposed to be teaching real academics instead of this repackaged political correct ideology.

~McQ

 

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Economic Statistics for 15 Apr 15

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.3% last week, with purchases down 3.0% and refis down -2.0%.

The Empire State manufacturing index fell into negative territory at -1.19 in April, compared to 6.90 in March.

The Fed reports that industrial production fell -0.6% in March, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell -0.5% to 78.4%.

The Atlanta Fed’s Business Inflation Expectations survey held steady, in April, with businesses’ year-long inflation expectations at 1.7%.

The NAHB housing market index rose 3 points in April to 56.

The Fed’s Beige Book reported that economic activity in five Districts is expanding “moderately”, and is overall “modestly” positive but still sluggish.

Net foreign demand for long-term US securities rose $9.8 billion in February. Japan, for the first time since 2008, replaced China as the largest holder of US Securities.


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How disastrous is our foreign policy?

There are so many places to point to that illustrate the answer to the question (Libya, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, China, Russia … ad infinitum, ad nauseum), but there’s one that’s been going on sort of behind the scenes that illustrates it perfectly.

As we all know, our President has an ideological agenda item labeled “global warming” “climate change” that he is hell bent on forcing on not only us, but the world to his agenda.

Here’s the interesting part – much of the world is sympathetic with his agenda.  Just look at the UN and those who adhere to the UN line about climate change.  A smart guy – at least the guy who supporters claim is always the “smartest guy in the room” – would use that fact to try to fashion some sort of coalition and agreement that would advance his agenda.

Not our prez.  He’s an “all-or-nothing” sort of guy when it comes to things like this – science be damned.  And he likes to bully and shame people and countries into doing his bidding.

Except that never seems to work.  What am I talking about?

The Infrastructure Investment Bank – A China led initiative that not only extends China’s influence but will extend loans to developing countries to help develop their energy infrastructure – to include coal.

Well, Obama’s well known for his war on coal and his inflexibility about including it in future.  But if you’re actually trying to be a  diplomat – you know, foreign policy – you might end up understanding that you are at the extreme with the “no coal” position and see if you can’t influence the agenda via compromise.  Oh, and if you’re against China’s initiative, you gather allies to work against their goal and toward yours.  That’s if you have any savvy at all concerning diplomacy and foreign policy.

So, you have to ask, how did this happen?

Australia’s decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank follows a reversal of policy, revealed in The Australian this month, based on strategic ­arguments about China. The change followed a reassessment within government and intense talks within the G7 group of ­finance ministers and central bank governors.

Australia had been one of our allies, along with Japan, in resisting this effort by China.  What happened?

While Australia, Japan, South Korea and Britain have been cautious and aware of the US criticism, all are moving towards joining. Japanese industrialists keen to sell “ultra-super-critical coal-fired” electricity generators to India for more efficient use of brown coal are pushing for Tokyo to sign up.

Mr Obama’s administration has been tightening internat­ional funding for coal-fired ­generation but the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank is likely to be more sympathetic to the pleas of developing nations.

The expansion of coal-fired power generation is a boon to Australia’s coal exporters and represents a boost to the flagging Japanese economy.

So, knowing that, what did the bully-in-chief do? Well, if you know anything about him, you’re unlikely to be surprised.  Just think – “ally” and it will come to you:

Australia has joined forces with Japan in international ­forums to resist the US campaign of limiting lending to developing nations seeking more efficient coal-fired generation. The technology offers the promise of cheaper power. The moves follow Mr Obama’s climate change speech at the G20 summit in Brisbane last November. The US President’s remarks, which embarrassed Mr Abbott and angered his ministers, were seen as an ­attempt to push the administration’s climate change policies in Mr Obama’s final year in office.

Yup, condescension and embarrassment have a tendency to move things in a direction you don’t want – especially when you do it in the country of your ally.

Result?  Another in a long, very long line of foreign policy failures.  Australia joins with China in rebuffing Obama’s agenda.

On the whole, I’m quite pleased with that.  However, it does indeed demonstrate how badly this circus is being run by the clown-in-chief.  I’m sure, even now, that James Taylor is tuning up for a trip down under.

~McQ

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