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October 31, 2006

if only we could do something about all this prosperity

A report by the British Government found that global warming could create an economic catastrophe on the scale of not only the Great Depression, not only World War I but World War II.

Yes, you read that right: Global warming is now “as bad as Hitler.” 

But then you saw that coming.

Next thing you know, they’ll be comparing it to the Holocaust.

Oops, they already did.

It’s tough to stay on top of the hyperbole curve these days.

Prime Minister Tony Blair called this latest report, “the final word.” How can he be so sure regarding a report that addresses the notoriously complex and dynamic field of climate study?

He had an economist do it.

Sir Nicholas Stern, Blair’s chief economist, brought a unique perspective to the subject. For instance, he carefully examined the “environmental damage inflicted by the consumption and production patterns of others” and developed a formula that calculates the manner in which consumption increases the risk of human extinction (noting that it is “remarkable” we’ve lasted this long).

So, where exactly is all this deadly and wanton consumption taking place? 

You know your teenager? The one with the cell phone, iPod, closet full of clothes and 1999 Honda Accord? Think of him as the new Hitler Youth of global warming.

But then, Stern dismisses views of prosperity based “narrowly on the bundles of goods and services (people) consume” and instead focuses on “the capabilities and freedoms of individuals to live a life they have reason to value.”

This works great, unless you happen to value bundles of goods and services (which often include such sundries as food, clothing and shelter).

At least we can take comfort that those who support the view that man is responsible for global warming (and that drastic actions need to be taken immediately to avert catastrophe) are so confident of their arguments that they are willing to not only  demonize those who oppose them, but to also make arguing with them against the law.

You see, disagreement is one thing.

Heresy, quite another.

 J.

October 31, 2006 at 10:36 AM in Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2006

come ‘n listen to my story ‘bout a man named jed… electron gold, transparent tea.

How did oil become the preeminent choice to power essentially all our transportation needs?

Oil provides an astonishing amount of energy in a relatively small volume that is easily transportable?
Too straightforward.

Oil has long been abundant and relatively inexpensive to procure and process?
Too factual.

Individuals have, through the expression of free choice over many years, been instrumental in shaping our entire transportation infrastructure including an expressed preference for the specific advantages offered by petroleum products?
Too respectful of individuals.

No, there is only one possible answer:

Decades of manipulation by governmental and corporate interests greedily oppressing hapless, ignorant people almost every one of whom is not nearly as smart as Edwin Black.

Such is the premise of Edwin Black’s latest book, “Internal Combustion.” He concedes that “petroleum possessed one cherished characteristic that towered over all power alternatives. In the first decade of the twentieth century, oil was a highly concentrated and immensely cheap power.”

But that wasn't enough: “The first primitive electric car was invented around 1830. The first hydrogen fuel cell was invented in about 1839. Yet the economic forces that became wedded to the petroleum solution supplanted those good ideas and many others by predatory economic tactics, collusion, bribery and contrived legislation bought and paid for.”

In other words, oil did not triumph because it was cheap and powerful (that’s just what they want you to think) it triumphed only because competing power sources were mercilessly crushed despite being more costly and inferior.

And what became of electric cars and hydrogen fuel? “In fact, virtually none of the solutions are futuristic,” observes Black, “most of them are more than a century old and the victim of concerted action to subvert their success.” While today we struggle to make progress despite access to breathtaking advances in materials science and digital technology (direct products of our petroleum-fueled affluence), just imagine what early-twentieth century scientists could have come up with had their research not been artificially suppressed. Why, we’d likely have cars powered by 500-mile batteries made of wool, pot metal and liniment oil, and hydrogen being produced cheaply from decorative wood carvings and candle wax.

But we must note that many reviewers have raved about Internal Combustion, saying that, “Black covers a lot of ground in what critics say is a well-researched book that avoids falling into the conspiracy theories or alarmist prose that this subject can elicit,” and “Black is not an alarmist or conspiracy buff and succeeds in maintaining an apolitical and objective distance from his material.”

This is apparent from such non-conspiratorial  passages as, “For decades, corporate combines, armies of lobbyists and vested politicians created a cavalcade of Manhattan Project-style enterprises to guarantee that the world became tethered to oil fields, and to ensure that the alternatives remained unviable.” Wait, wrong excerpt. How about this completely non-alarmist one: “Now all the polluted clouds have gathered and created the petropolitical and ecocidal thunderstorms that overshadow the twenty-first century.”  Shoot. Give me a minute. Okay, here’s something wholly apolitical and objective: “This enabled me to expose a century of lies about internal combustion that arose from a millennium of monopolistic misconduct in energy.” Well, that wasn’t quite what I was looking for either (mad props for alliteration, however).

Black takes an historical perspective to his subject matter calling attention to the Newcastle coal barons as the “first corrupt energy cartel” and describing the coal on which their fortunes were made as an “even more distasteful alternative” to the peat fuel it replaced suggesting had it not been for such evil machinations we would quite possibly today be talking about how may “bogs per mile” our “clean-peat” cars were getting.

But in fairness, we should point out that Black views his book as a kind of holistic piece of art and we did ignore his plea: “I fervently ask all readers do not skip around, do not read out of order. If you cannot read this entire book in order, don't buy it, don't read it at all. Put it down and ask someone else.”

Okay.

J.

October 29, 2006 at 08:33 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2006

careful, this is all secondhand news

Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine yesterday signed an executive order banning smoking in state buildings and automobiles.

Keenan Caldwell of the American Cancer Society (celebrating our 93rd year not curing cancer) was pleased with the move noting that, “This past July, the Surgeon General of the United States issued a report saying there are absolutely no safe levels in secondhand smoke.”

“Holy cow!” you are probably saying to yourself. “No safe levels?” For those interested, here are some things for which the government believes there ARE safe levels:

But secondhand smoke? You might as well put a bullet in your head. Well, a small one. Really slowly.

On what basis does the Surgeon General claim that there are no safe levels of secondhand smoke? One example is the assertion that between 22,700 to 69,600 deaths a year in the United States are due to heart disease attributable to secondhand smoke. About 1,000,000 people a year overall die of heart disease from all causes out of about 300,000,000 Americans. 

Based on this zero-tolerance approach to risk, here are some other things for which there is “no safe level:”

Plus think of all the other ancillary risks out there, such as secondhand driving and secondhand foreign policy. It’s enough to make you want to stay at home.

If only it wasn’t so damn dangerous.

J.

October 27, 2006 at 01:12 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 26, 2006

“gosh, grandpa, were there really three branches of government back when you were growing up?”

Some of you are old enough to remember a time when movies cost a nickel, children could walk the streets alone in safety, and state legislatures were in charge of legislating.

Today, movies cost nine bucks ($47 including a small drink and popcorn), children can't walk the halls of Congress alone in safety, and (in New Jersey at least) the courts are now in charge of legislating, mandating that a law be written within 180 days establishing either gay marriage or equivalent rights under a civil union  (although in fairness, they are allowing the legislature to write the law all by themselves and even vote on it, in a kind of adult version of “playing pretend.”)

Long-time readers probably already suspect that we here at Planet Moron don’t much care who marries whom, whether it’s men wanting to marry men, women wanting to marry women, or  Thetans wanting to marry Katie Holmes.

However, we do have a kind of nostalgic affection for elected legislators doing most, if possibly not all, of the actual legislating.

Some will argue that the court is merely upholding the constitution and in fact, in its decision it specifically argues that:

“The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes.”

Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey state constitution reads:

“All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.”

What?  You don’t see it? Why, it’s right there in the penumbra, where all the really important parts of constitutions are kept. So important in fact, that the framers of these constitutions DARED NOT ACTUALLY WRITE THEM DOWN!

Because, you know, who knows what would have happened then.

As “luck” would have it, we have a constitutional gay marriage ban amendment on the ballot this year here in Virginia. Those who are fighting the ban marshal five arguments against it: 

  1. Gay marriage is already banned, so why bother? 
  2. It would ban gay marriage, so, you know, just in case point number one changes (which it won’t) you don’t want to do this (even though it doesn’t matter) because it could some day (but really never). 
  3. Hey, you can still get married in church, it’s not like that’s going to change. 
  4. It’s unfair! 
  5. Everyone else thinks it’s unfair so you should too.

So, as you can see, the New Jersey decision probably wasn’t the shot in the arm these folks needed.

There are those who claim that the New Jersey ruling is just another example of liberal judges out of control. Liberal? Is that what you call the GOP’s biggest “get out the vote” booster this election cycle?

Forget Karl Rove. If Republicans hold on to Congress, call the New Jersey Supreme Court “The Architect.”

J.

October 26, 2006 at 03:11 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2006

we’re shocked, shocked – part 2

College Drinking: Changing the Culture, a creation of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing alcohol consumption among college students. Most of these facets involve the issuing of reports that emphasize the grave importance and urgent need for the issuing of additional reports. The overall result of this tireless report-writing is a dramatic non-change in drinking patterns.

“What poor dumb sucker is paying for all this stuff?” you might be asking yourself.

That would be you.

Today, we examine the section called “Alcohol Myths” in which NIAAA researchers explore seven popular “myths” and juxtapose those with “facts.” To that, we have added our own “reality.”

Myth 1: I can drink and still be in control.
Fact: Drinking impairs your judgment.
Reality: This is true and explains such things as ordering a round of Jägermeisters at 1 AM, flirting with your boss’s underage daughter, and deciding on New Year’s Eve to sign a bill creating the forest-ravaging National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Myth 2: Drinking isn’t all that dangerous.
Fact: One in three 18- to 24-year-olds admitted to emergency rooms for serious injuries are intoxicated.
Reality: There is no getting around this disturbing statistic. At a rate of two out of three, sobriety is the leading cause of admissions to hospital emergency rooms for 18- to 24-year-olds. So, you have to ask yourself a question: Is it worth the risk? Well, is it?

Myth 3: I can sober up quickly if I want to.
Fact: It takes 3 hours to eliminate the alcohol content of two drinks.
Reality: Heck, we can eliminate that alcohol content of two drinks inside of a minute if someone’s putting money on the table. Wait, that’s not what they meant, is it? 

Myth 4: It’s okay for me to drink to keep up with my boyfriend.
Fact: Women process alcohol differently. If you drink the same amount as your boyfriend, you will be more intoxicated and more impaired.
Reality: Who are these women and where do they live? 

Myth 5: I can manage to drive well enough after a few drinks.
Fact: The risk of a fatal crash for drivers with positive BAC’s increases with increasing BAC.
Reality: Based on personal observations, the risk of a fatal crash also increases with the increasing number of cosmetics you are trying to apply as does increasing the number of children you are trying discipline in the back seat of your weaving minivan. As for BAC, at low levels there is little correlation. You want zero tolerance for drinking? Not before we get zero tolerance for fiddling with your CD changer while making a left-hand turn and finishing off your morning latte. 

Myth 6: I’d be better off if I learn to “hold my liquor.”
Fact: If you have to drink increasingly larger amounts of alcohol to get a “buzz” you are developing tolerance. Tolerance is actually a warning sign that you’re developing more serious problems with alcohol.
Reality: The more serious problem being IT TAKES MORE MONEY TO GET DRUNK. Don’t let this happen to you.

Myth 7: Beer doesn’t have as much alcohol as hard liquor.
Fact: A 12-ounce bottle of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a standard shot of 80 proof liquor.
Reality: Here’s another fun fact, a 12-vehicle serving of Hyundai Accent has the same amount of cargo volume as a single serving of Chevy Tahoe. (Hey, now there’s a bar bet waiting to happen.)

One final myth left curiously unaddressed by the researchers:

Myth: The production of a never-ending stream of reports has absolutely no effect on drinking rates.
Fact: This is an absolute falsehood and defames the hard work of countless researchers in the field. These reports have clearly had an effect on young women.

They drink more now.

J.

October 25, 2006 at 02:48 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 24, 2006

we’re shocked, shocked to find that drinking is going on in here!

In a breakthrough study sure to turn conventional wisdom “on its head” the following was found:

  • College students like to get drunk.
  • They like to save money. 
  • And have sex. 

Called “pre-gaming” by some, college students like to gather in small groups in their rooms in relative safety and comfort so as to drink inexpensively and get a nice buzz going.  

Here at Planet Moron, we don’t call that pre-gaming, we call that, “now.”

The paper was presented at the US Department of Education’s 20th Annual National Meeting on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention...

INTERMISSION: Feel free to use this time to stretch your legs or get some refreshments. We will continue with the rest of the conference title in a few moments.

…in Higher Education Creating Safe and Healthy Campuses: Effective Strategies for Comprehensive Prevention.

~~THE END~~

Beyond getting drunk inexpensively, college students also hope these gatherings will lead to having sex. It should be noted however that the only thing college students don’t hope will lead to having sex is hitting the showers in the locker room with the possible exception of those indulging in alternative lifestyles such as serving in Congress.

“I don’t think it’s that new of a problem,” observed John Steiner, a health educator at the University of New Mexico “... but it wasn’t that frequent.”

Perhaps we missed something (we’re a little behind on the papers this week), but did they add an extra day to the week? Because that’s the only way we can think of that the phenomenon of college students sitting around getting drunk and hoping to have sex could have become more frequent.

That aside, how could such drinking become more prevalent in the face of efforts by (deep breath now) The US Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention? Particularly considering their launch this year of “A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at US Colleges” which promises to bring a rigorous, scholarly approach to the problem as clearly evidenced by the task force’s initial recommendation that university officials address the issue on three distinct yet interrelated levels: 

  1. Everyone in college.
  2. Everyone around the college.
  3. Individuals in college.

How does one come up with a list so rife with genius it’s almost scary? By assembling “a group of distinguished alcohol researchers, top higher education administrators, and college students.”

God help us all.

To be cont’d…

J.

October 24, 2006 at 10:39 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 20, 2006

legality gone wild

There is a growing controversy over renewed efforts by law enforcement personnel to engage in rampant and widespread law enforcing.

The objection is to a federal program that provides training and resources to local law enforcement officers so that they can aid in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Some question whether it is wise to have local police expend resources on what is clearly a federal responsibility particularly in the absence of any reciprocal agreements. You’d think it would only be fair if FBI agents started helping out with zoning compliance issues. And what about that guy up the street who always leaves his garbage cans out on the curb for more than 24 hours? While our cops are rounding up illegal immigrants, how about we get shown a little love and have the CIA go all covert on the guy, okay?

But we digress.

Latino civil rights organizations, while fully in support of enforcing immigration laws, object to this federal deputizing of local police. They also object to secure IDs. And building a fence.

But this does not mean that they don’t support get-tough measures and in fact have proposed a four-point plan that would all but stamp out illegal immigration: 

  1. Require that illegal immigrants currently in the country be made legal. 
  2. Require that illegal immigrants entering the country also be made legal. 
  3. Make everyone’s family members legal too.
  4. Grant immigrants who are not citizens the legal protections of those who are.

It is not clear these measures are tough enough as Americans by large majorities tell pollsters that they oppose illegal immigration and believe current immigration levels in general are too high.

How do they demonstrate this opposition? By relentlessly, and without hesitation, providing them with as much work as they can possibly handle.

You’d think that would have scared them away by now.

J.

October 20, 2006 at 03:40 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

guess we’re going to go with a pound of cure instead

As we first reported in July, the Pentagon is moving forward with plans to close NORAD’s impregnable nuclear-blast-hardened mountain command center and move those operations to a pregnable pizza-delivery-guy-hardened office park command center at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.

As before, cost considerations figured into the decision as it would take an estimated $250 million a year to keep the underground facility open. That is enough money to fully fund our forces in Iraq well into tomorrow, maybe even taking us through to the first commercial break in CSI (which coincidentally roughly mirrors the Democrat’s preferred timeline for an orderly “redeployment” of our troops in Iraq).

NORAD commander Adm. Timothy Keating, seeking to comfort those of us who are uneasy about abandoning such a secure facility in a time of general global hostilities observed that, "In today's netted, distributed world we can do very good work on a broad range of media right here," suggesting that future military operations will be coordinated through a combination of podcasts, YouTube uploads and texting air defense commanders:

omg 911 wru

shopn wu

cyr boss tmb

np gtg

Admiral Keating does concede that a well-placed jumbo jet could take out the new command center, but as he points out: "How unlikely is that?"

So much so, that it could even be called, “unrealistic.”

J.

October 18, 2006 at 02:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2006

there are way too many people in the united states. well, not before i was born. you know, some time after that.

Environmentalists have identified possibly the greatest threat to the survival of humans ever discovered:

Humans.

Heightening this concern is the expectation that the population of the United States will reach 300 million people some time Tuesday morning (a ceremony is planned at an undisclosed location along the Rio Grande where the lucky illegal immigrant representing the 300 millionth American will be personally awarded with a “path to citizenship” by President Bush).

The first problem with this is just the sheer number of humans. Sure, environmentalists like humans as much as anyone, but much like ouzo, Robin Williams, and other people’s children, they’re really only good in small doses. As Victoria D. Markham of the Center for Environment and Population notes with great alarm (you can tell she's alarmed because she used italics), “the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world still experiencing significant population growth.”

Clearly this “crisis of desirability” must be addressed.

But having a country where people actually want to live is only part of the problem. We are also affluent and prosperous, consuming far greater resources per capita than countries where people don’t want to live.  

The solution? We need fewer people. And we need them poorer.

That, however, has never proved to be a real winner when it comes to fund-raising drives, which is why environmentalists are careful instead to promote the concept of “smart growth.” What is smart growth and how would it help? Well, first, it addresses our profligate lifestyle by encouraging us to live in smaller houses, crammed closer together, and to have fewer cars and drive them less.

How does it take care of the problem that so many people want to live here?

By encouraging us to live in smaller houses, crammed closer together, and to have fewer cars and drive them less.

J.

October 16, 2006 at 11:37 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 13, 2006

it’s insanity. just not the way they think it is.

Which of these two symptoms is a sign of a mental disorder?

  1. Having a conversation with your jewelry.
  2. Shopping. 

If you chose item #2, you just might have a career as a highly credentialed psychiatric professional. (Item #1 is merely a form of “therapy.”)

In a study led by Lorrin M. Koran, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, and published in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, a team of psychiatrists found that shopping too much may be a kind of mental disorder treatable by handing over large sums of money to psychiatrists.

“Hey, wait a second,” you are probably saying to yourself. “Isn’t this just another attempt to justify poor behavior and hold people blameless for their actions?”

Absolutely not, say the editors of the American Journal of Psychiatry in a piece in the very same issue. In no way would a diagnosis of compulsive shopping relieve someone of their responsibilities such as, say, being required by a court of law to seek treatment by handing over large sums of money to psychiatrists.

Based partly on this study, compulsive shopping is now being considered for inclusion in the latest update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-V. This is important as the DSM re-categorizes existing non-lucrative behavior into behaviors that are sources of large sums of money for psychiatrists, kind of like if your landlord started charging you for air.  

Now, let’s see what you’ve learned. Examine the following symptoms: 

  • Arguing with adults
  • Losing temper
  • Blames others for his own mistakes or behaviors 

What do these symptoms describe? 

  1. Bill Clinton
  2. Oppositional Defiant Disorder treatable by handing over large sums of money to psychiatrists

Sorry, trick question.

J.

October 13, 2006 at 11:03 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack