Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Throwing a bit of ice on some AGW claims

Lots of stuff coming in under the oil spill and McChrystal radar. For instance, Antarctic ice melt (“PIG” refers to Pine Island Glacier, to which some scientists have attempted to attribute melting to man made sources – i.e. AGW):

Many scientists have theorised that the PIG’s accelerating flow is due to global warming. However, recent research – including surveys beneath the bottom of the floating, projecting ice sheet by Blighty’s Autosub robot probe – indicate that this may not be the case.

It appears from the Autosub’s under-ice surveys that the PIG’s ice flow formerly ground its way out to sea across the top of a previously unknown rocky underwater ridge, which tended to hold it back. Many years ago, however, before the area was surveyed in much detail, the glacier’s floating outflow sheet separated from the ridge top which it had been grinding away at for millennia and so picked up speed. This also allowed relatively warm sea water to get up under the sheet and so increase melting and ease of movement.

“The discovery of the ridge has raised new questions about whether the current loss of ice from Pine Island Glacier is caused by recent climate change or is a continuation of a longer-term process that began when the glacier disconnected from the ridge,” says Dr Adrian Jenkins of the British Antarctic Survey.

Really? There’s debate about whether a rock ridge might protect it from warmer sea water and thus when it broke away from it, what was then in the sea melted faster?

If there is debate, it’s face-saving debate. Instead why not admit to the fact that the theory its melting was driven by AGW was flawed because the information being used for the hypothesis was flawed (inaccurate and incomplete). Those that did the study conclude “the glacier would have shown the same acceleration and thinning it has shown since the 1990s with or without climate change.”

Moving on, this time to Arctic ice. A new study, using a new technique to measure ice thickness and distribution in the polar region (where we’ve been consistently told by the AGW crowd we’d be ice free soon) yielded these results:

Overall the researchers conclude that the distribution of old Arctic ice has changed little since 2007 and what changes there have been are well within the range of natural variability. They speculate that the large ice loss seen in 2007 may have been offset by weather patterns since then that prevented further ice loss.

“There is still hope for the ice,” said Christian Hass, adding that in many ways thje ice is in better shape entering the melt season than it has been for years. He dismisses suggestions that a “tipping point” may soon be encountered that will result in catastrophic, runaway ice loss. Extreme melts there may be, but he considered they would be compensated for by rapid recoveries.

Al Gore call your publicist. It seems that 2007 may have been an anomoly, but not one that was outside of the range any credible scientist would dismiss as “natural”.

And that also applies to Swiss glaciers as well – another favorite of the AGW crowd:

Matthias Huss and colleagues gather about 10,000 observations of glaciers in the Swiss Alps (daily ice melt, snow accumulation, ice and snow volume) made over the past 100 years and used them to create a computer model of some 30 glaciers.

Visible in the data was the influence of the very poorly understood Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) – a regular change in sea surface temperatures on timescales of up to 60 years or more.

The glaciers studied generally lost mass during the 20th century although there were brief periods of mass gain in the second decade and in the 1970’s. In the 1940’s and since 1980 mass has been lost as more precipitation fell as rain rather than snow.

Last December, Huss published a study that showed that Swiss glaciers melted at a faster rate in the 1940’s than they do nowadays, and that glacier melting is influenced by long-term changes in solar radiation.

You know, that big yellow hot thing that hangs in the sky every day? Yeah, that. Note too that glaicer melt was more pronounced in the ’40s than now.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Swiss Alps now join Mt Kilimanjaro as having had a misleading press. We now know that Mt Kilimanjaro’s dramatic shrinkage of its summit glacier is due to decadal fluctuation in air moisture and not man’s effects. The changes seen in the Swiss Alps likewise seem to have a greater natural, perhaps even dominant, variation than has recently been reported. Glaciers are highly sensitive to many environmental factors, most of which cannot be laid at the door of man-made climate change.

All that to say you should be “cool” to any further suggestions by the Al Gore set that man is melting the ice caps and glaciers. Seems, as usual, to be a “misinterpretation” (one I see as deliberate) of natural phenomenon.

I’ll leave the “why” up to you, but the big three that come to mind for me are power, money and control. I’d also add that it appears that real science is finally beginning to prevail and show the AGW scare to be the big scam most of us skeptics thought it to be from the beginning.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-25

Democrats simply cannot keep their hands off my wallet, and Republicans can't keep their hands off my penis.

Ummm…I mean…you know. #

Note toTexas GOP: if I'm not physically harming the person or property of a non-consenting adult, hows about you STFU? Limited government? #

Looking over the Texas GOP platform, I'm utterly unsurprised to see that Republicans are just as totalitarian as Democrats. #

HCR Redux: Chris Dodd says we'll have to wait until it's implemented before we know how the FinReg law will work. Surprises are fun! #

Dem official in WI calls for AZ boycott, says immigration law might be understandable if AZ was a border state. # Moron http://bit.ly/axIJci #

The iPhone 4 can have its signal blocked by the user's hand. Not that the Apple cultists care, but that's bad design. http://bit.ly/bkMfHE #

Russia's Duma considers giving the FSB, formerly the KGB, more sweeping powers. That's worked out so well in the past. http://bit.ly/9dyTyz #

The six million dollar cat. http://bit.ly/ahYItk #

ICANN is set to approve the .xxx domain for porn, something that should have been done a decade ago. http://bit.ly/c28Hw7 #

The home-buying tax credit not only inflated home sales artificially, it inflated the amount of fraud and abuse. http://bit.ly/aDqORx #

Jurors weigh cop's word against 5 felons in police torture trial. Sadly,I assume the felons are telling the truth. http://bit.ly/ajTHqe #

1Q GDP revised down to 2.7%. Not only is this well below post-recession trends, it's below the normal, long-term 3%. http://bit.ly/d5v702 #

Pakistan will monitor/block web sites for blasphemy, to prevent fright or confusion among the populace. http://bit.ly/b0mz6v #

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Why governments are dangerous

When government doesn’t want to pay a bill, you have little recourse except the courts in most law abiding countries.

In the dictatorship that is Venezuela, not only does the government not pay the bill, but it takes you means of livelihood to boot for daring to attempt to collect what you’re owed. Such is the fate of one American owned country which tried to collect on its debt.

Venezuela will nationalize a fleet of oil rigs belonging to U.S. company Helmerich and Payne, the latest takeover in a push to socialism as President Hugo Chavez struggles with lower oil output and a recession.

[…]

The 11 drilling rigs have been idled for months following a dispute over pending payments by the OPEC member’s state oil company PDVSA. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Wednesday the rigs, the Oklahoma-based company’s entire Venezuelan fleet, were being nationalized to bring them back into production.

The reason they weren’t presently in production is the Venezuelan government refuses to pay them for $49 million for past services.

Of course the government of Venezuela has devised an excuse for what would be grand theft in any other law abiding society:

Ramirez said companies that refused to put their rigs into production were part of a plan to weaken Chavez’s government,

“There is a group of drill owners that has refused to discuss tariffs and services with PDVSA and have preferred to keep this equipment stored for a year,” Ramirez told reporters in the oil producing state of Zulia. “That is the specific case with U.S. multinational Helmerich and Payne.”

Interestingly, we here have the opposite problem. Venezuela’s government is trying to get drilling rigs into production and has resorted to nationalized theft to do it.

We have a government trying to take drilling rigs out of production, and is prepared to ignore court rulings to the contrary and do so by executive fiat.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – forget what I said the first time edition

Coinciding with and probably as a result of the McChrystal firing, a lot of questioning has been directed toward the Obama administration about its previously announced decision to begin the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2011. That was originally announced by the President when he outlined his new strategy about a year ago. Since then, as administration officials have been questioned about the date, mixed messages have been the result. VP Joe Biden has said the date is “firm”. SecDef Robert Gates has said it would be based on “conditions on the ground”.

Critics have rightfully said that announcing a firm withdrawal date is a strategically self-defeating thing to do. It gives the enemy a finish line they simply have to survive long enough to make. It also isn’t great for the morale of those US soldiers there now fighting in this war.

So it was interesting to hear the president – who originally announced the withdrawal date for next year -deny it was what he said it was:

“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” Obama said. “We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.”

Well that’s not exactly how it was interpreted then (light switching and door closing were certainly implied). Nor was that interpretation of the date then ever denied by the president or his staff – until now.

The announcement above is actually a change. White House spinmeisters will most likely characterize it as a “clarification”. But the bottom line is, the “firm” July 2011 withdrawal date announced by the president last year is much less “firm” with this “clarification”.

And, if I know my wars, the ANA and Afghan government are far from being ready to “transition” into taking “more and more responsibility”.

That, in fact, is why critics in the Senate are telling the president that the problem lies not with the military side of the house, but with the civilian/State Department (and other Departments) side of the house.

Until a credible and competent diplomatic staff is assembled in Kabul and is able to begin to do what was done in Iraq, there will be nothing to which to hand this “transition” off.

Yes, there’s corruption. Yes, we don’t like it. But Afghanistan isn’t the US and corruption and the like have been an integral part of their lifestyle for centuries. Is our goal to make them a mini-US, or to have them develop a functioning government and security apparatus that can hold the country and keep terrorists from basing there and threatening the US?

Two things to take from this – this is a mild presidential rebuke to the “this is a firm date” crowd (*cough* Biden et al *cough*). That may have further implications down the road. And it is also a case where strategic ambiguity – at least in this specific area – is a help and not a hindrance.

~McQ

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How hungry are governments for tax revenue?

Hungry enough to tax minimum wage employees for their “free” (or reduced cost) restaurant meals in Michigan:

Although it may be “free,” that’s not stopping some legislators from attempting to tax it. State Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, has introduced House Bill 6214, which would tax free meals employees get while working at restaurants and food establishments.

Can anyone think of a better example of a tax which would hit those that can afford it least? One of the few benefits of working what is usually a minimum wage job is the server or worker is allowed one free or reduced cost meal a day. When working for the wages the restaurant industry usually pays – especially in fast food establishments, that helps a bit.

Making them pay the sales tax on the meal probably won’t break them, but it is a direct tax on what Democrats always call “the working poor”. The party that contends they’re the champions of this class are taking a run at squeezing a few more pennies out of their pocket – at least in Michigan.

It also places another collection and book keeping demand on the business. That isn’t “free” either.

Michigan, of course, is a state in which government has essentially failed, is significantly in debt and is looking for any sort of revenue it can scare up.

What’s next, taxing the dead for the privilege of being buried in the state?

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-24

The government required BP to use flawed models to create their accident contingency plans for oil spills. http://bit.ly/bjn3Qy #

There's not a lot of happiness about the Feds' response to the Gulf spill. REALLY not happy. Mutiny-level unhappiness. http://bit.ly/cEecZp #

Medvedev thinks Russia could have a hi-tech economy. Maybe rural electricity and plumbing would be a good start. http://bit.ly/cRZ9ZX #

NYC exhibit shows shiny, green utopian cities in 2030. Like people in the 1930's imagined we'd have flying cars today. http://bit.ly/aEzjxX #

Shoddy disposal work mars Gulf spill cleanup. http://bit.ly/9E4ZGI #

RT @dmataconis @CalebHowe @CO2HOG @TejasKat Is BP burning sea turtles alive? | Yes, but then you crack them open and have yummy turtle soup. #

RT @dmataconis: Americans Love Their Country, Fear Their Government. | But not quite enough to eliminate the things that make gov't fearful. #

In the worst idea since direct election of senators, the electoral college is on the verge of being eliminated. http://bit.ly/cCo46e #

There's a good chance that BP will declare bankruptcy. File in London, get relief from spill liability. http://bit.ly/biUBU7 #

Venezuela nationalizes some US-owned oil rigs. This is how poor countries tell the world, "Never invest here again." http://bit.ly/929IAF #

RT @GayPatriot @FloridaJayhawk: $540 Massage? What Kind of Massage Did Al Gore order? | I believe it's known as a "Happy Ending". #

RT @JoeNBC SOCCER GAME: For me, it was as exciting as any sports event since Lake Placid. | Seriously? Since Lake Placid? #

Hey, Belarus, all your gas are belong to us! #MedvedevTweets http://bit.ly/9L4k0t #

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Obama DoJ to take AZ to court over immigration law – Mexico joins suit, AZ Dems scream

That’s right folks, instead of fixing the problem, the Department of Justice, at the behest of President Obama, has chosen to sue a state trying to protect itself.

And guess who thinks it is a good idea and wants to join in the fun?

Mexico on Tuesday asked a federal court in Arizona to declare the state’s new immigration law unconstitutional, arguing that the country’s own interests and its citizens’ rights are at stake.

Like the “right” to illegally enter another country? When I see Mexico take down its border stations and yell, “come on down” in Spanish, then I might think it has a moral leg to stand on. But in this case, it’s just hypocritical nonsense.

More interesting than even Mexico joining the law suit is the fact that AZ Democrats are livid about the DoJ suit:

Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) on Monday sent a sharply worded letter to President Barack Obama urging him not to sue.

“I believe your administration’s time, efforts and resources would be much better spent securing the border and fixing our broken immigration system,” the two-term congressman wrote in the letter. “Arizonans are tired of the grandstanding, and tired of waiting for help from Washington. … [A] lawsuit won’t solve the problem. It won’t secure the border, and it won’t fix our broken immigration system.”

Heh … change a few words and he could be talking about the effort in the Gulf.

Mitchell isn’t the only Democrat upset with Obama. Facing tight races in AZ this year, a number of Democrats see this as an unnecessary and even foolish effort by the Obama administration.

“Congresswoman [Gabrielle] Giffords wants more federal agents on the Arizona border, not federal lawyers in court arguing with state lawyers about a law that will do nothing to increase public safety in the communities she represents,” C.J. Karamargin, a spokesman for the congresswoman, told The Hill.

Well there’s your bi-partisanship. All in opposition to the administration’s decision to sue AZ.

My favorite quote comes from Democratic Rep. Ann Kilpatrick though:

“I am calling on the president and the attorney general to abandon preparations for a lawsuit against Arizona, and to recommit to finding a national solution to fixing this national problem,” the freshman lawmaker said in a statement released Monday. “The administration should focus on working with Arizona to put together a long-term strategy to secure our borders and reform our immigration policy. … The time for talk is over, and the time for action is here.”

With this president, the “time for talk” is never over. And the “time for action?” Well they haven’t sued yet, have they? Or closed Gitmo. Or pulled out of Iraq. Or ended DADT. Or …

~McQ

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McChrystal wasn’t the problem in Afghanistan

Of course the irony is thick – Gen. David Petraeus, the man the left labeled "General Betrayus" and then Senator Hillary Clinton essentially called a liar about Iraq, has now been called upon to pull the presidential bacon out of the fire in Afghanistan.

If winning in Iraq was a tall order, winning in Afghanistan is a giant order. We’re not much closer now than we were 9 years ago, we’re operating under a strategy that takes time and massive manpower, yet we’re dealing with a “firm” withdrawal date of next year, and the civilian team in country has been less than successful.

It is on that latter point that I wish to dwell. Before going there though, as I stated yesterday, changing “firm” to “conditions based” will go a long way toward heading off dissent and disillusionment by the Afghan people and government. The massive manpower, of course, has to come from the Afghan government (and army/police). There’s no reason for an Afghan to join those security forces if we’re leaving next June. The commitment from our government to their cause has got to be what is “firm” – not a withdrawal date.

If we’re not able to make that commitment, then we need to withdraw – completely.

But assuming our goal there is to leave a relatively intact, democratic and functioning country, that in-country civilian team needs to be challenged to do a much better job than it is or be replaced. And that begins with Amb. Eikenberry.

The basics of COIN say the military/host country forces clear/hold/protect. That protection is key and the obvious goal of the military is to turn that job of clear/hold/protect over to the ANA. However, the civilian side of things comes into play during and after that military goal has been accomplished.

First a functioning national government must be in place. The job of the civilian side of the house in the sort of nation building COIN calls for is to be intimately involved in helping the national government function properly.

The one way you don’t do that in an honor/shame society, is go on yelling rants against the president of the country as it has been reported both Eikenberry and Biden have done. Whether or not one thinks the man is corrupt or not doing enough is irrelevant – once shamed like that, his cooperation has been lost. That is the sort of toxic relationship now existing there.

Gen. Petraeus, other than his military success in Iraq, had a very close working relationship with Amb. Crocker. It was that relationship, plus the military side of things (plus the awakening and surge) that spelled success in that country.

McChrystal and Eikenberry had a very hostile and adversarial relationship (Eikenberry is not lamenting the fact that McChrystal is gone). It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see the same sort of relationship begin to develop between Petraeus and Eikenberry, given the latter’s mode of operation. If that happens, it would be Eikenberry who would likely go down. Obama can’t afford to change generals again and Petraeus is seen by the vast majority of Americans as a winner.

Anyway, back to COIN – once clear/hold/protect is in place, government has to be extended into those areas and the people have to see the benefit of that connection. Enough so that they reject the insurgent once and for all.

That’s a very difficult and so far unobtainable goal for the civilian side of the house. Marjah is the perfect example. “President” Karzai is really the mayor of Kabul. Until he or the leader of a subsequent government is seen as and acknowledged as the president of the country in the outlying provinces of Afghanistan, the “country” will always be a collection of tribal areas, overlaid with a single religion and no real governing power.

That’s the civilian side of the house and apparently there’s a move afoot within the Senate to use the Petraeus hearings to address that problem. This is probably the most pressing need to address at the moment.

“The civilian side, in my view, is completely dysfunctional,” said Graham.

Lieberman said the magazine article “revealed what we have known, that there is not the kind of unity in Afghanistan between our civilian and military leadership” that is necessary.

Though none of the senators would name specific civilian leaders who should be replaced, McCain suggested “re-uniting the Crocker-Petraeus team,” a reference to former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who served in Baghdad while Petraeus headed up military operations in the country.

The current ambassador to Afghanistan, retired Gen. Karl Eikenberry, had a notoriously rocky relationship with McChrystal.

If this situation isn’t addressed and addressed quickly and forcefully, it isn’t going to matter much what the military does in Afghanistan. If the civilian team isn’t functional and working in harmony with the military toward the commong goal, then that goal won’t be reached.

Obama made the right decision about McChrystal, but not for these reasons. Now he needs to listen to the Senate, review the progress, or lack thereof, on the civilian side of the effort, and sack and replace those who aren’t serving him well in the critical positions there. And that would include Amb. Eikenberry.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-23

Italian researchers report that stem cell therapy returns sight to people blinded in accidents. http://bit.ly/bDNbjl #

Journalist who says bad things about me has had terrible, horrible accident. Must be karma, da? #MedvedevTweets #

Hello everyone! I go to Vladimir's house. He has television and American blue jeans! #MedvedevTweets #

Another call to use explosives to close the oil leak. We know it'll work at 5000ft and 2000psi pressure how, exactly? http://bit.ly/d6QXDe #

It just hit me that the last time new home sales were at 300k for a month was the year before I was born. #

Rumblefish will allow YouTube users to purchase royalty-free music for $1.99, for lifetime use in non -profit videos. http://bit.ly/cPzru8 #

On the bright side, Obama now has the opportunity to appoint yet another official that Hamid Karzai hates. More of that smart diplomacy. #

RT @EdMorrissey: If our entire national policy is based on one "irreplaceable" general, then we truly are screwed, and not just in A-stan. in reply to EdMorrissey #

RT @dmataconis @jstrevino: Re:soccer, Eurovision, annihilating Israel, Nutella, appeasement. | One of those things is fantastic! #

With a 77 seat majority in the house and 18 in the senate, and no filibuster possible, the Democrats are still unable to pass a budget? #

New-home sales plunge 33% to 300k, vice expectations of…450k?…Really? Anyway, that's pretty bad. http://usat.me?38981184 #

Canada's spy chief says that a number of Canadian politicians are owned by foreign governments. Hmmm. Who owns ours? http://bit.ly/cjBeza #

Now Mexico is challenging Arizona's immigration law? How about we adapt Mexico's law & watch them freak out. http://bit.ly/cJqH0a #

Watching FOX NEWS, I see a commercial, clearly directed at the ' seeds, for something called the Creation Museum. That's an oxymoron. #

RT @Amuk3 Happy Birthday Joss Whedon! | Feh. Until he brings Firefly back, he's dead to me. But I'm not bitter. #

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