Monday, July 14, 2008

European Air Too Clean, Causing Warming?

GOODBYE air pollution and smoky chimneys, hello brighter days. That's been the trend in Europe for the past three decades - but unfortunately cleaning up the skies has allowed more of the sun's rays to pierce the atmosphere, contributing to at least half the warming that has occurred...Cleaner skies explain surprise rate of warming, New Scientist: Environment, 7/9/2008

Now that's what this writer calls irony. What's the answer? Import coal dust and smoke from China? Obviously an entrepreneur is called for.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Phil Gramm and Loral Langemeier on Whining

Much fuss is being made over recent comments by former Texas Senator Phil Gramm concerning the current state of American economic affairs. Now a Veep of Swiss banking giant UBS (which itself has been taking it on the chin lately), Gramm has been an economic advisor to the Presidential campaign of John McCain. In an interview with the Washington Times, Gramm made the following observation:
[He] expects Mr. McCain to inherit a sluggish economy if he wins the presidency, weighed down above all by the conviction of many Americans that economic conditions are the worst in two or three decades and that America is in decline.
Gramm, though, like your friends Wonker and Luther, knows the primary reasons WHY Americans seem to feel that our current economic plight is so desperate:

Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy's problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers' biggest assets.

"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."

This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. Gramm is a former economics professor. He's as smart as a whip and Conservative, too, a fact gleefully ignored by the MSM which is happy to portray him as a country-bumpkin ignoramus due to his famously thick and glue-y Southern/Southwestern accent. He knows that if you trumpet untruths long enough and loud enough, they become the truth in the minds of the people who are hearing them over and over again.

Gramm's conclusion, which comes mid-article, however, has caused that same MSM to gleefully seize upon it to deflect attention away from the entire thoughtful interview. Taking it out of context, they, and their pet Presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama (Socialist-IL), have been hammering the McCain campaign for a multitude of alleged sins, ranging from ignorance to callousness. Here's the quote:

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.
Republican spin? A little, sure. The economy, while not dead, is not exactly robust these days.
Consequently, unemployed workers in Cleveland, say, will be in a high dudgeon when they read this quote out of context in the Plain Dealer. But that's why socialist media organs take such quotes out of context and spin them leftward. They don't intend to engage in debate, which they'll invariably lose. They just like to set up neat little villains and then shoot them down with their popguns before anyone can grasp the context or the argument. Gramm's soundbite was tailor-made for this approach. Already, the McCain camp has pretty much disowned him, at least for now.

Gramm, in fact, is completely correct. We, or at least those who vote left, HAVE become a nation of whiners. Which is why I've offered a personal contrast in the blog entry below this one. Entrepreneur Loral Langemeier, in an apparently unrelated commentary on her blog, further explains how real Americans have historically reacted to perceived calamity:

Last week I ran across an article entitled ‘Lessons From the Great Depression’ written by Jim Jubak, an MSN Money contributor. It got me thinking about how many of us sit around and gripe about the current economy and allow the media to sway us into panic mode....

While we are in an economic downturn, looking back at the experiences of Americans in that day makes me feel as if we have nothing to complain about. Where is the spirit of true resilience?

We have abundant opportunities! We all have the power to create wealth even in the current economy. We must remember to ask ourselves what we can do today to create wealth.

Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Disney all started during economic downturns as did more than half of the 30 companies that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average. ( article ‘10 Reasons to Love a Recession’)

Come on folks! Let’s get real. These companies all started when times were tough. The entrepreneurial spirit is awakened in times like these. It’s that spirit of resilience that creates the change in the economy.

American NEVER used to be a nation of whiners. But it is fast becoming one, feeding off the nonstop socialist propaganda successive generations have been getting in mass quantities first in the public schools and then in the media. People are more docile and easily controlled by the elites if they become dependent on those elites for more and more things.

But Americans don't NEED the government to help them. If anything, they need to get the government, largely run by Democrat functionaries known as bureaucrats, off their backs, not ask them for help. (Who, after all, is preventing essentially ALL new drilling for oil in the continental and offshore U.S. oilfields, for example?)

But hey, never mind. Let's whine and complain. And let's shoot Phil Gramm for pointing out the pointlessness of this genuinely un-American behavior.

Flash! Wonker Becomes Victim of Bush Economy!

Hey, how's that for a headline that could only have been written by a Democrat?

Except that it was just written by a Conservative. Moi. (These days, I'm not entirely sure I want to be called a Republican, although that's how I'm registered.) And of course, it's ironic.

Yep, the swinging axe, the fickle finger of fate has finally fingered Wonker whose skill sets have become redundant, as the Brits quaintly say, insofar as his current employer is concerned. Kinda sad really, since I've been here for 12 years. But the company, a government contractor seemingly snakebitten, contract-wise, is simply not growing, so Tuesday is my last day here.

So it looks like Wonk has become a bona-fide victim of Bush-o-nomics. NOT. Upturns and downturns come and go. The current mess, largely due to the kind of financial de-regulation started, oddly enough, during the Carter years. This was a de-regulation I have never agreed with due to the incurable incompetence of the morons who run financial institutions. We paid the price first in the S&L debacle of the late 1980s, followed rather quickly by the commercial real-estate decline circa 1989-1992. Followed, in subtle ways by the 1999-2000 dot-bomb, exacerbated by 9/11. And now followed again by the collapse of the consumer real estate and lending bubble, currently ongoing. And followed again by the fossil fuel bubble which will blow off spectacularly within 6 months or less.

All this is what happens when a government meddles with things it shouldn't be meddling with while pursuing things it should leave alone. The Securities Acts of the early 1930s put the financial systems in a functional box where they could rarely damage the economy as they did in the 1920s. While irritating to some of the libertarian bent, those acts created a financial system with enough checks and balances to function well in good times and bad. When the various financial institutions were allowed to start mixing and matching again, beginning in the very late 1970s, the seeds were being sown for serial destruction, which we've been witnessing over the last decade and a half.

Added to this has been the perversity of Democrats who, trying to score points with the eco-freaks and Euro-elites, have debilitated the entire energy systemm upon which the U.S. runs. Now the mess in the financial system has gone into the mixmaster with the anti-energy policies of the 'Rats to put the U.S. economy, still the engine of the world no matter what anyone says, into a series of deeper and deeper tanks. Still no sign of intelligent life out there in politics-land, though, except maybe for a few very devious socialist Democrats who are gleefully licking their chops as more and more Americans lose their homes and/or become unemployed. Which, in the current, carefully defined terminology, makes them "victims" who desperately need "their government" to bail them out. (For the latter term, simply substitute "socialists" and you'll see where this Democrat-favored narrative is going.

Which gets us back to the soon-to-be-unemployed Wonker. Here's the deal: I am levered as hell to 8 mortgages which currently are paying zero rents (most are student housing which is empty in the summer, two are my own houses, two are other houses currently in search of new tenants). One of the rental properties is currently undergoing not one but two kitchen tear-down renovations. Another has just developed a backed-up sewer and attendant mold problem. I lent a chunk of coin to the company that's showing me the exit, and am not sure that I'll get it back. Mrs. Wonker and I have been, like most Boomers, dealing with dead or dying parents for the better part of 4 years now which is not only taxing but financially draining.

In short, we're doomed, fated for bankruptcy, will be selling apples on the street corner, or worse, will shortly become homeless people, right? Please, Mr. Government, help! Help!!

Guess again.

In my America, people can pause a moment and shed a tear over their wretched luck. Maybe even take a quick shot of hootch to calm their nerves. They get a good night's sleep, wherever. Then they wake up the next morning, take charge, move ahead, and don't stop until they're better off than before. Because defeat is not in their lexicon. One only has to contrast the thousands of midwesterners flooded out of their homes, with waters still high in many places, in the most disastrous floods in memory; vs. the Democrat-inspired whiners in New Orleans still crying for the Feds to bail them out.

You watch. The midwesterners will get little or no press and little or no help as they buck up and get their situation fixed while New Orleans and its largely left-liberal-populist politicians continue to whine and moan and look for Federal largesse. (Although dynamic governor Bobby Jindal promises to turn this attitude around.)

The midwesterners won't need thousands of formaldehyde-emitting trailers in which to live, because they'll take care of themselves, using anything from tents to barns to house themselves while they do a mass-rebuild of their communities. Little if any of this will make the news. Because it will just get fixed. By the people themselves. Yeah, maybe a few low-interest loans from the government, sure. But those are still loans. The people will do it themselves, because that's what Americans do.

Flyover country is where I'm from. And I'm flat-out guaranteeing you that my current predicament, described above, not only will not put me out of business. It will serve as the basis of future prosperity for the Wonker household.

Am I concerned about my own current mess, particularly in the context of our current serial economic disasters and fossil fuel dependence? Sure.

Am I afraid? Am I doomed? Am I gonna ask Big Brother to save me? No way. Real Americans, along with their friends, neighbors, and community, can help themselves. That's why they're Americans.

I'll keep you posted on my own economic adventures as I join the unemployment rolls. I'm actually viewing this as my greatest opportunity ever. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Oil: While Americans Slept

Action entails risks and consequences. Mere thinking doesn't. In our litigious society, as soon as someone finally does something, someone else can become wealthy by finding some fault in it. Meanwhile a less fussy, more confident world abroad drills, and builds nuclear plants, refineries, dams and canals to feed and fuel millions who want what we take for granted...In our present comfort, Americans don't seem to understand nature. We believe our climate-controlled homes, comfortable offices and easy air and car travel are just like grass or trees; apparently they should sprout up on their own for our benefit...The Can't Do Society, Victor Davis Hanson, 7/2/2008

Hanson, in writing about the mindboggling refusal by all of us, voters, investors, parents, workers, citizens, to acknowledge the requirements for sustaining the world we and our ancestors have built, would never suggest he was being original. His thought, as a classicist and historian, is richly informed by the ur concepts of our civilization, founding ideas, one of the most important of which is that the human world is created, protected, and sustained by artificial structures we raise to shape and control nature and thereby enhance our lives. The other side of that coin is that if we fail to sustain these structures and, as significantly, if we refuse to evolve those systems to fit a world which still moves in directions we can't control, the result will be ruin.

In 1930, Ortega Y Gasset saw this as a manifestation of mass consciousness.

The common man, finding himself in a world so excellent, technically and socially, believes that it has been produced by nature, and never thinks of the personal efforts of highly-endowed individuals which the creation of this new world presupposed. Still less will he admit the notion that all these facilities still require the support of certain difficult human virtues, the least failure of which would cause the rapid disappearance of the whole magnificent edifice...Revolt of the Masses, Ortega Y Gasset, 1930

In an increasingly metropolitan country -- fewer than 3% of the population supplies the American banquet to ourselves and to the world, it doesn't strike this writer as surprising that such thinking would arise. Anecdotally, who hasn't heard, or made, remarks about the stupid tedium of agricultural life? A few of the current generation, and a great many of the prior two generations of Americans, left the farm for the city. This is all well and good. Extraordinary advances in technology and management, and especially in genetics, mean that it's not that difficult for two or three people to run a large, productive farm or ranch. Where hand labor is still required, there is no shortage of itinerant labor. Where capital equipment is too expensive, companies have been formed that buy and operate such things as combines (grain harvesters) on a contract basis.

Unfortunately, one result of the separation of life support systems, whether farms or oil wells, from the vast majority of those supported, is the emergence of an urban perception that the city is a paradise occasionally dirtied by the presence of those responsible for keeping it alive. This was wonderfully illuminated by H.G. Wells in The Time Machine. The "cost of living" in Wells' dystopian future was that, occasionally, some of the entitled were eaten by the creatures who provided them with urban comforts.

That kind of arrogance probably destroyed the first city, Uruk, and has put every city built since at risk. As an entire society becomes metropolitan, including suburbs and cities, a consensus may develop that this kind life is a birthright. The horn of plenty in the grocery store, dollar a gallon gasoline, the isolation from the dirty and the ugly are considered natural. On this plane of existence, increasingly divorced from the contingent, serious struggles may develop to pit the urban delusion of ominipotent superiority against increasingly restrained systems that, in a paradox familiar to any anthropologist, uphold the urban citizen's sense that he or she is beyond such rude concerns. Consensus has real power. When was the last time a powerplant was built in your city?

As they say in the United States: "to be different is to be indecent." The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. (Revolt of the Masses, Ortega Y Gasset, 1930

Writing in 1930, Ortega Y Gasset knew very well that mass consensus was a deadlier force than any head of state had ever possessed. Catastrophes and mass war from 1914 to 1991, when the hammer and sickle were pulled down over the Kremlin, have restrained the effect of mass consensus, to be sure, but it still exists. Now, those on the outside of consensus are the targets of character assassination, false accusation, and, often enough, of pseudo science -- not quite murder, but just as effective in eliminating the opposition. Look at what's happened to those scientists, and there are many, who've pointed out the misuse of data by global-warning Cassandras such as Al Gore. Look at some of the summation speeches by former Senator Edwards in lawsuits. It's as if mass murder has been replaced by mass cults.

Living is an art. An art comprises technique, the will to introduce a structure to embrace and shape chaos, and materials which may be dirty. The art of a metropolitan society cannot be sustained by citizens ignorant or disdainful of ideas, strength of purpose, and of getting their hands dirty. The options for civilizations whose citizens have refused that duty are limited. Ruins may look romantic in a movie or in a painting. Try living in them. There are only so many trees to burn in Central Park.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Arctic Ice: Startling Find Underseas, Volcanos

As reported in the June 26 edition of ScienceDaily, a research team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) has uncovered evidence of massive undersea volcanic eruptions deep beneath the ice-covered surface of the Arctic Ocean. "Explosive volatile discharge has clearly been a widespread, and ongoing, process," according to the WHOI team...Their first glimpse of the ocean floor 13,000 feet beneath the Arctic ice through visual and sonar images showed an ocean valet filled with flat-topped volcanoes over a mile wide and hundreds of feet high that remain active...Robert Sohn, WHOI geophysicist, chief scientist of the July 27, 2007, Arctic Gakkel Vents Expedition, estimates that exploding mixtures of lava and gas were expelled at speeds of more than 500 meters a second...Is it possible that these eruptions, part of an "ongoing process," have played a part in whatever melting there has been of the Greenland and Arctic ice sheets? Scientists at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory have put together a chart showing Arctic ice relatively stable until a precipitous decline began in 1999 — the very year the Arctic eruptions started....Are Volcanos Melting Arctic? Investors Business Daily 6/30/08

This very interesting finding, not surprisingly, was not included in the hysteria about the decline of Arctic ice to almost nothing. Nor was the following, even more important observation:

Icebergs breaking away and polar bears supposedly drowning are good theater, but they do not reflect reality. In April, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a study, based on last September's data, showing Arctic ice has shrunk from 13 million square kilometers to just 3 million...What the WWF didn't mention was that by March of this year the Arctic ice had recovered to 14 million square kilometers and that ice-cover around the Bering Strait and Alaska was at its highest level ever recorded. Ice freezes. Ice melts. That's what ice does...At the other end of Earth, we're told the Larsen B ice shelf on the western side of Antarctica is collapsing. That part is warming and has been for decades. But it comprises just 2% of the continent. The rest is cooling....(Are Volcanos...cont'd, IBD)

Precisely what Michael Crichton illustrated in State of Fear and discusses often on his Web site. Global warming based on manmade activity is a political hoax. Nature moves on regardless.


Oil: While Congress Connived: Iraq

It's too bad so many Americans have been conditioned by the powers of this country's media establishment into believing that oil is a filthy, diabolical substance — rather than the lifeblood of today's economy on which our national security and economic well-being depend. What the people of Iraq, through their free government, did this week is something both Iraqis and Americans can be proud of: Baghdad has invited foreign oil firms to bid on contracts to increase production in eight lagging oil fields...Baghdad is now able to begin to make full use of its oil reserves of as much as 112.5 billion barrels — after Saudi Arabia, the largest petroleum deposit in the world...But Iraq needs private rebuild its energy infrastructure...suffering under Saddam Hussein for so long....For prominent Democrats in Congress, however, Iraq's good fortune is no cause for happiness...Last week, Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Claire McCaskill of Missouri sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling on her to get the Iraqi government "to refrain from signing contracts with multinational oil companies" because Iraq "currently does not have in place a revenue sharing law" to divide the proceeds between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds....Let Iraq's Oil Flow, Editors, Investors Business Daily, 7/1/2008

You're not surprised, are you? With Harry Reid howling about how oil makes us sick, with the Senate and Congress blocking us from developing our own oil resources, with five years of demands that we accept "defeat with honor" from the same crew, could anyone be startled by a demand for preconditions to be met on the sale of another sovereign country's oil?

There is no outhouse pit deep enough to hold what comes out of the mouths of Barack Obama's allies in Congress.

Voters have a choice. Make one. Read the article in Investors Business Daily.