Sunday, June 14, 2009


I just got around to watching Slumdog Millionaire over the weekend. What a great movie. The glimpse of Indian life, the music, the story, the acting, the cinematography - everything was superb. Or am I just too uncritical and too easy to please? What did you think about the film?


Lots More Land

Don't lose any sleep over this, but the ice sheet covering Greenland is melting faster than expected:

Study results indicate that the ice sheet may be responsible for nearly 25 percent of global sea rise in the past 13 years. The study also shows that seas now are rising by more than 3 millimeters a year--more than 50 percent faster than the average for the 20th century.

UAF researcher Sebastian H. Mernild and colleagues from the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark discovered that from 1995 to 2007, overall precipitation on the ice sheet decreased while surface ablation--the combination of evaporation, melting and calving of the ice sheet--increased. According to Mernild's new data, since 1995 the ice sheet lost an average of 265 cubic kilometers per year, which has contributed to about 0.7 millimeters per year in global sea level rise. These figures do not include thermal expansion--the expansion of the ice volume in response to heat--so the contribution could be up to twice that.

Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or neither? It certainly has consequences. The sea level is apparently rising due to melting ice around the globe, and that has implications for coastal cities and agriculture. The oceans will get somewhat less salty which will have implications for marine ecology, but no one really knows how these things are going to play out. One thing that we do know, though, is that if the ice covering Greenland continues to recede, far more land is going to become available for use not only by humans but also by plants and animals. Vast tracts of land in Greenland could within a century or so become habitat for all sorts of creatures which are currently confined to more restricted ranges.

More land will also be available for agriculture, mining, and who knows what all else. This is true not just of Greenland but also North America and Russia. The idea that a changing climate is a global disaster is rather short-sighted. It's more likely to be, like most things, a mixed bag. The point is we just don't know yet.


Hearts vs Minds

This is bound to upset a lot of liberal stereotypes: Yahoo News reports on a pair of studies which conclude that conservatives are more open-minded to opposing views than are liberals. Here's a quick summary:

People with stronger party affiliation, conservative political views, and greater interest in politics proved more likely to click on articles with opposing views, according to the Ohio State study. "It appears that people with these characteristics are more confident in their views and so they're more inclined to at least take a quick look at the counterarguments," Knobloch-Westerwick noted.

Among the political blog readers, a similar trend emerged in which "liberals read almost exclusively liberal blogs, but conservatives tend to read both," Davis said.

The article offers several possible explanations for this finding, including genetic disposition, the success of talk radio, etc., but I suspect that the biology-based explanation is closest to the truth. I think, but couldn't possibly prove, that conservatives are generally more left-brained, logical and analytical. They want to find the best arguments to support their views. In other words, for most conservatives a position or idea has to make sense.

Liberals, on the other hand, tend to be more right-brained, subjective and intuitive. If a particular view makes them feel good, if it's compatible with the way they'd like the world to be, then they have no need of argument. In fact, they often find contrary opinions to be unsettling and often think that someone who questions liberal dogma must be lacking in compassion or have some other pernicious character flaw.

Or maybe this theory and the studies cited above are all a bunch of horse-puckey.


That Seventies Show

Economist Arthur Laffer has some gloomy tidings for us in the Wall Street Journal:

With the [economic] crisis, the ill-conceived government reactions, and the ensuing economic downturn, the unfunded liabilities of federal programs -- such as Social Security, civil-service and military pensions, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, Medicare and Medicaid -- are over the $100 trillion mark. With U.S. GDP and federal tax receipts at about $14 trillion and $2.4 trillion respectively, such a debt all but guarantees higher interest rates, massive tax increases, and partial default on government promises.

But as bad as the fiscal picture is, panic-driven monetary policies portend to have even more dire consequences. We can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years, and a concomitant deleterious impact on output and employment not unlike the late 1970s.

What monetary policy is he talking about? The picture below is worth a thousand words. It shows the massive increase in the money supply undertaken by the Federal Reserve to pay on the enormous debt the current administration has buried us under.

The more you have of something the cheaper is its value. It's as true of money as it is of anything else, and the unprecedented infusion of cash into the economy means that the value of the dollar will inevitably sink which means we're headed for double digit inflation just like, or worse than, we had in the seventies.

Russian blogger Stanislav Mishin writing in the newspaper Pravda, of all places, offers(courtesy of the Washington Times)the following commentary on our current precarious economic condition:

It must be said that like the breaking of a great dam, the American descent into Marxism is happening with breathtaking speed, against the backdrop of a passive, hapless sheeple. Excuse me dear reader, I meant people.

True, the situation has been well-prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past 20 years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia, and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.

Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls to the whims of their elites and betters.

The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more than another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Weimar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.

In other words, President Obama's policies could well turn the U.S. into a third world country, but, hey, didn't he and Michelle look so cool together on their New York date night.