Tuesday, August 02, 2011

News items and comments


Tim Blair – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (11:47 am)


The golden toad which, according to environmental groups, was the first casualty of global warming


Tuvalu: Global Warming’s first casualty


CWI supports frontline research in the Canadian Arctic to protect polar bears from becoming the first casualty of global warming.


The first casualty of global warming is India’s mangrove island on the Bay of Bengal, Lochachara ~ it is now gone.


[The Maldives are] also renowned for being the likely first casualty in any serious increase in global warming.


Water could be the first casualty of global warming.


Australia Could Become First Major Casualty Due To Global Warming.


Losing winter: as climate change takes hold, our coldest season is the first casualty.


First Casualty of Global Warming? Rare breed of possum may be extinct.


The world’s natural heritage, including polar bears and other wildlife, is global warming’s first casualty.


The Alaskan village of Newtok is the first casualty of climate change.


UNEP had also recently declared that coral reefs, which support the majority of marine life, will be thefirst casualty of climate change.


Brunt of climate change perceived in India; small Himalayan glaciers first casualty.


Were my damaged pride and chilly shins the first casualty of of global warming?


In India … agriculture is the first casualty of climate change.


Will the Marshall Islands be the first casualty of global warming on a national scale?


Sled Dogs: The First Casualty of Global Warming


Climate change and food insecurity: Africa is the first casualty.


PNG Attitude has referred to the Carteret Islands being the world’s first casualty to global warming


First casualty of global warming? Pants.


Surface water sources are the first casualty of global warming.


The [Aldabra] snail has been declared not just extinct, but the first casualty of global warming.


California Mussels: First Warming Casualty?



Tim Blair – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (06:27 am)

Professor Bunyip reviews last night’s Q & A, featuring seething Stephen Mayne and tormented Tanya Plibersek.Click to discover the source of their annoyance.

(Incidentally, should you ever wish to present your own live Q & A-style fun at business events – and possibly hen’s nights or children’s birthday parties – SnowConeTone is available.)

UPDATE. The program is here.



Tim Blair – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (05:31 am)

Jeff Young interviews Maggie Fox, President and CEO of Al Gore’s latest scam, the Climate Reality Project:

FOX: I think the notion of Vice President Gore as a divisive figure is a bit of a hoax, just like the people who are denying climate change. It’s a pre-frame, it’s a fabrication that suits those who want to keep the status quo. So if you have a prophet, if you have someone who has woken up to a particular challenge in the world and that person speaks, if that disrupts things, who is going to be and what are the voices going to be that say that person doesn’t have credibility? Those voices that don’t want that change … There are so many more voices clamoring to hear what he has to say that his right to speak and need to speak is more than made clear virtually every day.

YOUNG: Did you just refer to him as a prophet?

FOX: I think he is a prophet on climate change. I think he woke up to this issue in his earliest years, expected as other people learned about it that they would also wake up to its significance ... His presumption as a young man was that once you heard the information the world would shift and start getting its act together, and that hasn’t happened.

Don’t despair, Maggie. The world’s shift is happening one black Audi at a time.



Tim Blair – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (05:01 am)

The West Gate Bridge collapse in Victoria 41 years ago led to Australia-wide changes in industrial law. Consider what might now happen in the wake of an inquiry’s interim report on January’s deadly Queensland floods:

The Bligh government faces potentially huge damages claims from flooded residents and businesses after a finding by the Queensland floods inquiry that the operator of Wivenhoe Dam “breached” the official manual over the releases of water into the river system.

Premier Anna Bligh, who received the royal commission-style inquiry’s interim report yesterday, acknowledged the breach by the flood engineers who were managing the dam’s water releases “may well be ultimately tested in the courts”.

The inquiry also pinpointed a lack of flood preparedness by the Queensland government, systemic dysfunction and confusion across bureaucracies involved in water management, a failure of the Water Minister, Stephen Robertson, to ensure timely risk-management before the flood, and other problems.

Flood overview and further news.



Tim Blair – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (04:05 am)

A number of comments arrive in support of Perth-based sky-selling company Earthcaire:

• I commend Mr Clarke for his concept, perhaps the details need some fine tuning but obviously here is an individual who is concerned enough about the environment to devise a way for people to try and understand that each individual is responsible for polluting our atmosphere. By associating it with a place on earth that the person has an affinity with perhaps this will assist people to understand that the air above is just as valuable as the ground below. I don’t think the majority of people who have commented on this have bothered to look at the content on the website as I just have – MIranda of Coogee

• OMG - someone who cares about the environment! Yes that is truly amazing in this country! Just keep on polluting the airways and see how far that gets us - a lot less further than caring for it will but clearly this country has no concern for the fact that our pollution levels are 4 times greater than the world average. Perhaps you all need to take a trip to industrial China and breathe in the air there, if it wasn’t for the fact this country is largely unpopulated we would be experiencing the same right here. When your great grandchildren know what it’s like to never see blue sky as many children in the world do because of pollution levels, perhaps they wont think this was such a whacky, out there idea! Nigerians or not - anyone who is promoting care for the environment deserves to be applauded not bagged. I bet none of you support a carbon tax either - right?? – peter of wollstonecraft

• It’s such a pity that when such an organization tries to actually do something for the planet so many badly informed (to say the least) people jump to throw with rocks. GET INFORMED first and then judge! – Sera of Perth (Reply)

• Hey, why on earth the first thing that comes on your minds is that they are trying to do a bad thing?!!! If I knew for a fact that buying a tile would actually help preserve the planet, i would do it in a blink. My 3 daughters have the right to breathe and I want to make sure I did everything possible they do 50 years from now. We have the duty to protect what we have been given! Instead, not only we take everything for granted but mock the ones who try to make a difference – Michelle of Sydney

The messages from “Miranda of Coogee” and “peter of wollstonecraft” were both sent from an identical Perth IP address, while “Sera of Perth” and “Michelle of Sydney” are apparently posting from Targoviste in Romania.



Tim Blair – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (03:18 am)

Artist Andrew Mezei explains why Australia’s former chief scientist Penny Sackett was the subject for his entry in this year’s Archibald Prize:

She responded to scepticism about climate change with eloquent reasoning in spite of the historical depiction of women as emotional beings, and reason as being a purely male domain.

Her warm humanist approach inspired me to portray her as an allegory of reason. I wanted to show her femininity as perfectly compatible with her impeccable focus on facts …

I also wanted to portray professor Sackett’s calm and steady personality.

We now unveil Professor Sackett, allegory of reason.

(Via TT)

UPDATE. Correllio reports an art outbreak on Wall Street:

Metro says this was an art project called “Ocularpation,” which is “the result of years of trying to understand the lack of transparency in the financial world.”

Actually, it was just naked people trying to freak the squares. One reviewer registered no alarm:

Angelo Sarango, 32, a window cleaner from New Jersey was working on Wall Street when he saw the performance.

“It didn’t look like art,” Sarango said. “People do that all the time on the subway.”


Bloody Keynesians



Reading Russ’s latest post, in which he quotes Paul Krugman, reinforces the impression that I’ve always had of Keynesian economics and continue to have to this day: it mistakes a symptom for an underlying problem and then proposes to treat the symptom.

It’s as if a person who is bleeding to death because of a gunshot wound in his stomach is brought to a physician. The physician correctly realizes that the patient is losing massive amounts of blood and, also, correctly understands that such blood loss is dangerous to the patient’s health.

So the physician prescribes massive infusions of blood, period. If the patient doesn’t recover, the physician orders that the volume of blood-infusions be increased. If the patient dies, the physician will forever blame himself for not increasing the volume of blood-infusions even further.

If the patient does recover, the blood-infusions will be praised for saving the patient.

The big hole in the patient’s stomach is called a “micromedical” problem. It might well be a significant problem, the physician concedes, but our physician is trained to diagnose and cure one specific “macromedical” problem only, which is the problem of bleeding. Micromedical problems are fundamentally distinct from the macromedical problem, which is insufficient blood coursing through the patient’s body. (Blood, after all, is vital to a person’s vitality and vigor.) When a patient who had until recently been quite healthy begins losing blood, the consensus of many physicians is that by far the most important treatment – certainly a necessary one, and, generally, a sufficient one – is to keep pumping more and more new blood into the patient until his health is restored.

Questions of precisely why, where, and how the patient is losing blood aren’t as important as is the realization that the patient is losing blood. “A bite by a spirited animal” is the famous phrase that is typically used to explain the mysterious bleeding.

It’s very simple, really.


Like any analogy, this one isn’t perfect. For example, in economies repairing the microeconomic wounds goes a long way by itself toward restoring demand for goods and services, while in wounded human beings (to whom mortality come much more quickly than it does to economies) blood transfusions often are necessary, even though they are seldom a successful treatment for the underlying problem that caused the loss of blood to begin with.

(I thank George Selgin for helping me with this analogy.)


The power of the polemical



Here is Krugman on what is wrong with the budget deal:

We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond.

The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

Slash government spending? A bit strong don’t you think? Let’s call it an exaggeration. There is no evidence that the deal slashes spending. There isn’t any evidence that it cuts it. It might cut the rate of growth. We’ll see.

But my favorite bit of polemicism is Krugman’s attack on the “confidence fairy”:

…that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

Unfortunately, Krugman doesn’t provide a link to those “many studies” of the historical record. Maybe he was busy or simply didn’t have room to provide them. But I will just mention that in 1946, federal spending fell about 55% when the war ended. The Keynesians predicted a horrible depression. Yet despite the release of 10 million people into the labor market with demobilization private sector employment boomed and the economy thrived. That’s a great natural experiment. I am eager to read any of the alleged many studies of the historical record.

Alberto Alesina would also disagree. Here is a defense of his work and some other studies of the historical record that fail to find the effects Krugman claims.


Here are six links to scholarly work (including videos starring my GMU Econ colleague Alex Tabarrok) supporting the presumption that markets will more reliably protect people against harm on the pharmaceutical front – harm both from pharmaceuticals that people actually consume and harm from the failure or inability to consume pharmaceuticals:

A cornucopia of resources, assembled by my colleagues Dan Klein and Alex Tabarrok, of materials on the F.D.A.

The first of a series of videos of Alex discussing the F.D.A.

An EconTalk podcast with Sam Peltzman (and see the links that Russ includes at the EconTalk site).

Robert Higgs’s 1995 paper on the F.D.A.’s lethal regulation of medical devices.

Charles Hooper and David Henderson on the F.D.A.’s war on drugs.

Also, my GMU colleague Jack High – now in GMU’s School of Public Policy – wrote several papers about 20 years ago on the not-so-reassuring origins of the Pure Food Act. See, for example, Jack’s paper with Clayton Coppin entitled “Wiley and the Whiskey Industry: Strategic Behavior in the Passage of the Pure Food Act,” Business History Review (Summer 1988), Vol. 62, pp. 286-309.


The aftermath



One of the complaints this morning after the debt deal is that we won’t be able to “stimulate” the economy any more. Yet, there is no evidence that the stimulus worked. When I tweeted something similar this morning (follow me as EconTalk on Twitter here, Cafe Hayek tweets are here), someone accused me of confirmation bias, noting that the CBO had found that the stimulus created 3 million jobs. Actually, the CBO has never estimated the job effects of the stimulus other than to assume a particular relationship between government spending and job creation. That is simply assuming the results that you are trying to discover. More here if you missed it the first time.

By the way, I was careful to say that there is no evidence that the stimulus worked. We don’t have very good evidence that it didn’t work. But we have no evidence that it did.


Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

F.D.A. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg writes that “Despite common criticisms that our agency impedes innovation by being slow and bureaucratic, we actually play a proactive role in promoting innovation by ushering new products through the approval process and to market – while making sure they meet the standards of safety and effectiveness that have served the American people well” (“America’s Innovation Agency: The FDA,” August 1).

Orwell would be impressed.

For an F.D.A. commissioner to brag about that agency’s “proactive role” in “ushering new products through the approval process and to market” is like an armed troll who, having seized a bridge in order to extract tribute from all who seek to cross, brags that he plays a “proactive role” in seeing people safely to the other side of the river.

And just as that troll has no business second-guessing the reasons that inspire people to seek to cross the bridge, the F.D.A. has no business second-guessing the risks that each American chooses to bear when deciding which foods and medicines to ingest.

Donald J. Boudreaux


That vast and creative region of reality, Technologia, continues to export to us its products – and, in doing so, ‘destroys’ jobs. (HT Mark Perry) (See also this little monument to human ingenuity.)

While we’re tapping in to Mark Perry’s contributions to our knowledge and understanding, here’s Mark’s explanation for why Americans’ fear of a U.S. trade deficit is misplaced.

Larry Ribstein understands the dangers of occupational licensing.

Writing in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, the always-astute Nicole Gelinas proposes a free-market fix for today’s housing-market woes.

Here’s Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman on the debate over raising Uncle Sam’s debt-ceiling. And here’s the take of Cato’s David Boaz.

George Selgin justifiably finds unintended humor in the many barbs – some quite vicious – directed against him by “Rothbardians.

Doug Bandow calls out John McCain for the war-monger that McCain is.


But the rains came back

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (12:20 pm)

I wonder whether global warming theory - and predictions of permanent drought - influenced this assessment at all?

During periods of very heavy rain and with more forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology, the [Wivenhoe dam] engineers made relatively low releases based on a “no further rainfall” model instead of the manual’s requirement to be using “the best forecast rainfall”.

(Thanks to reader Alan RM Jones.)


The invasion of Europe

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (11:37 am)

Another 25 asylum seekers dead in a boatload of 300 trying to reach Europe, and riots among Africans already there and held in camps. The flood risks turning into something that will look to some as an invasion, with even the idea of Europe in danger.

The years are turning Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints into a masterpiece as prophetic - more - as Animal Farm.


Troublemaker excluded

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (11:21 am)

Well, here I am sitting in the News Ltd conference, so imagine my distress at discovering I am not among those of us who can stay on for this meeting:

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard will meet with editors from News Limited’s Australian newspapers later today.

News Ltd CEO John Hartigan invited her to address a gathering of editors and executives, she said.

“Such meetings have been addressed by prime ministers and opposition leaders in the past so when I was invited by Mr Hartigan I accepted the invitation,’’ Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

A meeting with editors of the News Ltd empire accused by her government of engaging in “regime change” and having “hard questions” to answer ... How to smuggle myself in?


When did an Australian government attract such contempt?

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (07:12 am)

You can’t steal an election with a lie and expect voters to just take it. Nor will they - especially when the thieves are so incompetent:

WITH gold trading at new records, above $US1600 an ounce, and with new projects rushing to come into production, you’d expect to hear few complaints in the booming West Australian goldmining town of Kalgoorlie. But on the opening day of the Diggers & Dealers talkfest yesterday, it became quickly clear that hostility towards the Gillard government’s mining and carbon taxes would dominate discussion among more than 2200 delegates who flew in from around Australia and the world.

Diggers chairman Barry Eldridge set the tone within the first five minutes when he launched a blistering attack on the “extreme” and “superficial” policies of Labor and the Greens, during his opening address. Even Tony Abbott wasn’t spared, with Mr Eldridge predicting a future Coalition government would be unlikely to axe the mining tax, as promised, because it would be reluctant to forsake such a big revenue hit.

In his presentation, Integra Mining chief executive Chris Cairns paraphrased former Beatle Ringo Starr when he said: “Everything the Gillard government touches turns to crap.”

But the biggest talking point among delegates yesterday was the large neon sign outside Kalgoorlie’s historic Palace Hotel that reads: “Carbon tax. Mining tax. Useless Independents. Gillard & Co have to go—ASAP.” The scrolling sign just below the top balcony of the famed watering hole is the most watched in Kalgoorlie as it has long displayed in bright-red print the gold price that has determined the town’s fortunes for the past 120 years.

Ashok Parekh, the local business identity who owns the hotel on the town’s main street, said yesterday he decided to display the blatantly political message because of the anger felt by Kalgoorlie’s residents towards the Gillard government, which he said had “lost the plot”.

“I think the average person who voted, if they voted for Gillard, they voted on the basis that she said there would be no carbon tax,” he said

(Thanks to reader Lorraine 111.)


Bravo, Brendan

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (06:55 am)

Exactly how impressive is Brendan O’Neill? How head and shoulders was he above everyone else of the Left onQ&A, and how telling in his attacks on those who would sell out our free speech?

I’ve spent hours arguing with this bloke, and left even more impressed than I was at the start.

(But I’m not “of the Right”, Brendan.)


Professor Bunyip particularly liked O’Neill’s exposure of Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek:

Tanya Plibersek was caught in hatchet-faced profile, narrowed eyes casting daggers at the tormenter who kept taking apart her fuzzy fascism, one euphemism for censorship at a time.

(Thanks to reader perturbed.)


Plibersek claims that if we don’t Do Something about global warming - like pay this useless tax - the country will be unable to feed itself.

Interesting that even warmist Tony Jones mocks this. After O’Neill scorns it silly.


Does anyone seriously believe warming alarmism?

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (06:36 am)

Niki Savva hears of yet another warming sceptic at the heart of Labor:

As despair sinks into depression, one cabinet minister recently revealed his desolation in a conversation with an acquaintance when he confessed political life had become near intolerable.

He acknowledged the carbon tax is destroying the government, yet they could not walk away from it. He could not see - or he was not prepared to admit it that openly yet - a way out and this only fed his frustration.

This prominent member of a government, which recites like a Gregorian chant the mantra that climate change is real, then admitted his grave doubts about the science. He didn’t use the word crock, but that was pretty much what this secret deniers’ camp follower was saying.

And no, this was not Martin Ferguson speaking…

This cabinet minister’s remarks were significant on two levels. First they lay bare the despair at the very heart of the government. Second it runs so deep that while they will not openly discuss one possible solution - the removal of the Prime Minister - they have begun to distance themselves from impending disaster, hoping they will escape censure later from whoever might replace her and from those who will cast judgment on her.

Hmm. The sceptics’ camp must be bigger than I suspected. But who could take over from Gillard and ditch her tax?

Even the owner of a favourite deli in Melbourne reports Simon Crean is angling for the job. That was made more interesting by the fact that Liberals’ war gaming shows Crean as Labor’s next best option, and that this small businessman has chummy photos of himself and Crean on his shop wall.


Alarmist bearded

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (06:30 am)

Is a “far-Left economist” an oxymoron? Michael Stutchbury on eco-alarmist John Quiggin.


Labor stuck in dead zone

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (12:04 am)

Essential Media has Labor back out to 44 to the Coalition’s 56. I suspect it will more or less stay there for a long time.


Botox? Pardon?

Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, August 02, 11 (12:01 am)

Big call from Tracey Spicer:

The root cause of Julia Gillard’s unpopularity is her hair colour. It has nothing to do with policy failures or the abandonment of Labor’s traditional base.

Nor is it related to her robotic delivery, insincere smile or excessive use of Botox.

Spicer might say it was a joke.

He did his job. And the victims who died did theirs.
STEPHEN Robertson has defended his performance as Queensland's Water Minister, saying he was the only person asking if dam levels should be lowered in the lead up to the catastrophic floods.
Over 5000 years ago, Moses said to Israel, "Pick up your shovels, mount your asses and camels, and I will lead you to the Promised Land." (when Welfare was introduced ) Roosevelt said, "Lay down your shovels, sit on your asses, and light up a Camel, this is the Promised Land." Today, the government has stolen your shovel, taxed your asses, raised the price of Camels and mortgaged the Promised Land to China...
Conservatives feared how an angry press might rejuvenate Obama
As we countdown to a resolution of the debt mess, Republicans have just handed President Obama a major platform on which to seek reelection.

It is all in the tail
At a time when dinosaurs ruled the land, mosasaurs, a type of swimming reptile related to modern Komodo dragons, came to dominate the seas. Within the span of roughly 27 million years, these predators transformed from an animal with limited swimming ability and limbs still meant for walking into a sleek, fishlike form.
Aim high
An MIT-trained computer scientist and entrepreneur is expanding his effort to safeguard and share knowledge by trying to preserve a physical copy of every book ever published.
Red Dragon can fly
Elon Musk -- the billionaire founder of PayPal and the man behind leading private spaceflight company SpaceX -- wants to get cargo (and people) to the Red Planet. And soon.
AGW believers
New research suggesting that cloud cover, not carbon dioxide, causes global warming is getting buzz in climate skeptic circles. But mainstream climate scientists dismissed the research as unrealistic and politically motivated.
Obama nightmare continues
THE fate of a massive US austerity plan is in the hands of Congress, where leaders have just hours to win over sceptical lawmakers.
Bradfield style scheme would be cheaper
PERTH'S record dry conditions have forced the Barnett government to spend $450 million to expand Western Australia's new $1 billion seawater desalination plant even before it is finished.
Hurray for audits
A VICROADS official is accused of helping a Melbourne crime family steal luxury cars to order.

My wife does nothing.
MEN are finally catching up with women in their contribution to the household chores.

An important issue Gillard shouldn't try to corrupt for cheap points
KATHY Breen already shapes life around her sister Emma, who has Down syndrome.

Incompetent Penis has plans
WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has agreed to make an appearance at the Sydney Opera House as part of the annual Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
Green supporter
A SMALL bowling club has become the site of what may be the world's dumbest robbery.
Another Gillard failure
THE UN High Commissioner for Refugees has distanced itself from the Gillard government's Malaysia Solution, saying it is too early to say if asylum-seekers will be protected properly under the agreeme...
Confidence trickster?
A MAN who claims to have been paid for sex by a Saudi prince has escaped immediate deportation because he fears he will be persecuted for being homosexual.
Like AGW models
AN independent hydrologist and floods expert, Mark Babister, has raised concerns over the process and accuracy of the model he was asked to rely on for his report for the inquiry.
Not true. It just won't involve a brain cell medium.
MAN has invented penicillin, space shuttles, computers, even artificial hearts ... so where will human intelligence go from here?
Cats are perfect companions for ADHD
CATS are not only the perfect "peaceful pet" but, with the right approach, they can also be the most playful and entertaining of companions.
Advertising works. Which is why I want the new Dyson vacuum cleaner even though I have a perfectly good one.
THE State Government is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote the state on commercial television travel programs.
A wild child but not without support from the big guy.
MILEY Cyrus has new ink, and it makes quite a fashion statement.

ALP can't implement anything
SWEATY armpits had alarm bells ringing at Sydney Airport yesterday with controversial full-body scanners baulking at perspiring passengers.
I hope the case fails. Even if they are right, it is the wrong attitude. The birth was a blessing. Life won't change for the money.
A WOMAN is suing one of the country's most respected obstetricians for her own birth, claiming her delivery more than 25 years ago was negligent because he did not follow her mother's wish for a caesa...
The players have deserved better
ONE of Sydney's oldest private boys schools has broken a 119-year sporting tradition in an attempt to stamp out alcohol-fuelled brawls at the most important schoolboy rugby match of the season.
ALP policy is to scare and intimidate
VIDEO of asylum seekers being loaded on to flights to Malaysia will be posted on YouTube and Facebook to scare off other refugees from coming to Australia illegally in boats.

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