28 September 2010

CO2's effects on warming and our oceans

Dunbar has an excellent talk on global warming and ocean acidification--something that any remaining warming skeptics should watch.

27 September 2010

Etzioni on yardstick for success in Afghanistan

An excerpt from the article:

To measure progress on this front one, would have to know, for instance, that, if following the last election, the public does feel that the Karzai government is more representative and less fraudulent? Hardly. Does the public feel that the Karzai government and its local representatives, including the police and army, are less corrupt? No indication to this effect. Do they feel minimally secure in their homes and public spaces? Evidence shows to the contrary; the Taliban has been spreading in the northern, non-Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and holding on to most of the Southern ones. According to the Afghan NGO Safety Office, Afghanistan is more dangerous now than at any time since 2001. Four years ago, insurgents were active in only four Afghan provinces. Now, they are active in 33 of 34. Last August, insurgents carried out 630 attacks. This August, they carried out 1,353. The International Security Assistance Force recorded 4,919 “kinetic events” (small-arms fire, bombs and shelling, etc.) in August, a 49% increase over August 2009. Thus a proper set of measurements would show a retrogression rather than progress.

23 September 2010

Heading for the waterfall? Answer: Row faster

I just skimmed through the Republicans' Pledge to America and must confess that I nodded off more than a few times. It basically calls for reducing government by cutting social programs, helping business, beefing up the trappings of the security state, and spending on defense--essentially a continuation of policies that we've been following for decades (including under Obama). So if you believe the U.S. has been going in the right direction for the last couple decades, the pledge provides comforting assurance that we'll stay in the center of the river as we head for the waterfall.

13 September 2010

Peak coal

Could we really be at peak coal next year? It sounds audacious. But if true, it would mean a double whammy as the world comes to terms with peak oil.

6 September 2010

Shout, shout, let it all out

Now here's a disturbing thought: people will tend to believe more in an assertion simply because they here it repeated. This was originally discussed in a paper by Hasher, Goldstein, and Toppino (1977). A more recent discussion can be found in this 1997 paper. This helps explain why repeated canards (like the "Obama's a muslim" meme) eventually results in vast swaths of the population reporting the same opinion in national polls. As Napoleon is said to have said (and I've heard this repeated many a time), the only rhetorical device needed for serious topics is repetition.

1 September 2010

Paul Roberts on the state of the economy

Paul Roberts has a good discussion of the U.S. economy over at Counterpunch. I especially like the following two excerpts:

If one overlooks the real world and the need of life for sustenance, one can become engrossed in this debate. However, the minute one looks out the window upon the world, one realizes that cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and housing subsidies when 15 million Americans have lost jobs, medical coverage, and homes is a certain path to death by starvation, curable diseases, and exposure, and the loss of the productive labor inputs from 15 million people. Although some proponents of this anti-Keynesian policy deny that it results in social upheaval, Gerald Celente’s observation is closer to the mark: “When people have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

And that most taboo of all topics, the sacred military budget:
“Fiscal consolidation,” the new term for austerity, could save the dollar. However, unless starvation, homelessness and social upheaval are the goals, the austerity must fall on the military budget. America cannot afford its multi-trillion dollar wars that serve only to enrich those invested in the armaments industries. The U.S. cannot afford the neoconservative dream of world hegemony and a conquered Middle East open to Israeli colonization. Is anyone surprised that not a single proponent of the “let them eat cake school” mentions cutting military spending? Entitlements, despite the fact that they are paid for by earmarked taxes and have been in surplus since the Reagan administration, are always what economists put on the chopping bloc.