Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Carly Fiorina Destroys Katie Couric on Climate Change


It’s from May but — just in case you missed it — it’s here for your viewing enjoyment:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The EPA’s Flawed Clean Coal Plan


shutterstock_296570639“On August 3, President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change.” So begins the Environmental Protection Agency’s homage to the President and itself. The harder question is whether it is true. On this point, there is a sharp division of opinion between the traditional supporters and traditional detractors of these sorts of measures, with few (if anyone) occupying a middle ground that finds some merit but expresses real concern over the structure and function of the plan. Nonetheless, it is better to back off for the moment from extravagant claims that the end is near if we don’t (or do) embrace this particular plan.

Let’s put aside the EPA’s shaky legal authority and concentrate on the plan itself. A sensible approach divides the regulatory inquiry into two halves. The first asks about the best institutional framework to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), most notably carbon dioxide. The second asks how to assess, on empirical grounds, the severity of the carbon dioxide problem that the EPA purports to tackle. The EPA falls short on both counts. I shall take them up in order.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Ethical Dilemma


shutterstock_68073163The folks at Planned Parenthood and its defenders are trying to mitigate their public relations nightmare by reminding us that fetal tissue played a vital role in the development of vaccines, including polio. Their main points are:

  • We are doing vital work in saving lives.
  • If you received the vaccination and you don’t have polio you are already an accomplice, so get over it.

Where then, do you draw the line?


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. How to Insult Friends and Not Influence People


Obama PipelinesIf there is a perfect microcosm of President Obama’s foreign policy, it is the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed oil pipeline would stretch from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, essentially duplicating pipelines already in existence or under construction. It would deliver much-needed crude oil in a cost-effective way to the great refineries of Texas and Louisiana and — at a stroke — reduce American dependence on hostile foreign sources while also giving an economic boost to America’s closest ally. All this makes Keystone XL the foreign policy equivalent of a no-brainer. The crude will come into America whether or not Keystone XL is approved, either in existing pipelines or via an overstretched rail system. There would simply be less crude and likely at a significantly higher cost. Even if one accepts the global warming theories peddled by the Obama Administration, the crude that would flow through Keystone XL would have only a marginal impact. In a world where China is building coal power plants at a record pace, a few hundred thousand barrels of Canadian heavy crude is dust in the balance.

So why has the Obama Administration blocked Keystone XL since almost the moment it entered office? While the issue is a minor one in domestic politics, it is of disproportionate importance to a small group of Democratic donors. These wealthy activists have accepted the tenets of the Greenista creed and regard industrial civilization with contempt. They do not view the extraction of resources – or the constructions of great pieces of infrastructure – as tools that allow ordinary people to live richer and better lives. They view industrial civilization as a threat to the goddess Gaia; the common man be damned.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Controlling The Narrative: Climate Change


It’s always interesting to watch how the media tailor news to support their favored agenda, and The Washington Post provided an excellent example just last week. Written by Chris Mooney, “Alaska’s scorched summer” carried the subtitle “A state already affected by climate change has seen 5 million acres – an area larger than Connecticut – burned by wildfires.” The article continued on to the last page of the front section, where it took up the entire page.

Mooney is an environment and energy reporter for the Post. He is also author of the best-selling The Republican War on Science, writes frequently on the importance of the proper framing for narratives in support of his views on environmental issues, and is a prime example of what Instapundit refers to as “Democratic operatives with bylines.” He is a man with a mission to convince you to take action.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Ron Bailey: The Anti-Malthusian


As conservatives, we’re dispositionally inclined to worry about the things we might lose — or have already lost — and it sure feels like we’ve been on the losing side of things of late. And, heck, even if all goes well in 2016, it’s going to be devilishly difficult to undo the damage that’s been done. In short, there’s no shortage of legitimate reasons to feel down about some very important issues.

On the other hand, there’s also plenty of reason for optimism and hope, and Ron Bailey’s new book The End of Doom showcases some of the most promising trends of the next century. Specifically regarding population growth, access to commodities such as food and energy, medical advances, and the likelihood that we’ll be able to adapt to innovate our way out of the challenges of Climate Change.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Die Gedanken sind frei, But That’s About it


Privacy-spyThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Kentucky ruled this week that a person who dials another party by sitting on his cell-phone doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy if he is overheard.

In what is presumed the first “butt dial” ruling in a federal court, Judge Danny J. Boggs found that what you say over your cell phone is equivalent to standing naked in front of your bedroom window and expecting passersby not to sneak a peek:


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. I, Robot, Am Not Taking Over any Time Soon


NoRobots-300x277In “Conservatives are Too Quick to Dismiss the Rise of the Robots,” James Pethokoukis worries that whereas in the past, technology has given rise to new jobs to replace those lost to innovation, this time it may be different.

James provides us with an excellent specimen of the kind of thinking that constantly causes macroeconomists, politicians, and other self-styled high-level thinkers to make serious errors when analyzing changes to economies and human societies. I’m not picking on James, who’s an otherwise excellent analyst, but on this error, which is so common that it really needs to be discussed.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Introducing: The Tone Analyzer


IBM Watson has sent out a press release, herewith dutifully reproduced by Gizmodo:

Taking a break from treating cancer and making cocktails, IBM’s Watson is now turning its attention to how people write. The supercomputer has been trained to judge the tone in people’s written messages—and can even give feedback about how to change it.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Red, White, and Pluto


At the very moment the New Horizons probe whizzed past Pluto, something rather beautiful happened at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, from where the craft is controlled (click “read on” to see it):


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. You’re From The Government? Come In!


shutterstock_148619159“Encryption” generally conjures up images of clandestine communication between spies, saboteurs, hackers, and the mildly paranoid, often typing away furiously on a keyboard in a dark room until someone says “I’m in!”

The truth, however, is far more mundane. Almost everyone in the West — and certainly everyone reading this — uses some kind of encryption technology on a weekly, if not daily, basis. You may not be aware that you’re using it, but you’re using it nonetheless. If you like buying things on Amazon, doing your banking from home, or paying your bills from your computer, you rely on ubiquitous, relatively inexpensive, and strong encryption. Companies also use it in a myriad of other, equally mundane, ways that are essential to their business. Encryption makes the world go ’round.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Misremembering History: The Scopes Monkey Trial


Rather than the often repeated adage that the victors write the history of an event, the story of anything is actually determined by the unswerving adoption of one version of it, and the telling of that version by a determined cadre of writers. In time, the version with the most persistent adherents becomes the “truth.” – David & Jeanne Heidler in Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010)

I still recall my entire family getting in the car for the drive to Hartford, Connecticut. It was the late 1950s, and my father was taking us to pick up a monkey. My father had a small role as an Italian organ-grinder in a play put on by a local community theater group. The director wanted to use a prop monkey, but dad insisted on the real thing. We housed that monkey for the next week; I remember it as nasty and mean-tempered, but the audience loved it and my father in his bit part (he always had a knack for showmanship). The play was Inherit The Wind. Last week was the 90th anniversary of the start of the trial (July 10, 1925) on which the play was based, an event that became popularly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. How are Tech-Libertarians Made?


180px-Nolan_chartJohn Walker left this comment in yesterday’s thread about modifying the Constitution:

One of the reasons operating system designers of my age tend to be the harder-edged kind of libertarians or anarchists is that we have seen, from our own experience, how top-down systems which try to plan and allocate resources among competing interests fail, in the same ways, every time they are tried. Set up a cost in which there is one or more step functions, and you will, in short order, see all kinds of schemes to game the system and unintended (though entirely predictable) consequences emerge. To operating system designers, a large amount of the dysfunction in social welfare schemes and phenomena such as the explosion of part-time work after the adoption of Obamacare were entirely foreseeable, because we’ve seen it all before.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. On the Scene, with Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever


shutterstock_72959515Last week, I attended the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany as a member of the American delegation of young scientists. The purpose of the meeting was to promote the scientific exchange of ideas between nations and generations. Throughout the week, students from around the world discussed research in physics, chemistry, and medicine with each other, as well as the dozens of laureates in attendance.

Ivar Giaever — who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for experimental discoveries characterizing electron tunneling — used the occasion to discuss global climate change. His remarks have recently been discussed by Dennis Prager, and shown up in various news stories. The content speaks for itself and, if you wish to listen for yourself, Giaever’s full, half hour lecture can be viewed below.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Fun with Bubbles: How Elon Musk and the Government are Recreating the Housing Crisis


BubbleFor all the arguments between liberals and conservatives on economic issues, most boil down to one core point of contention: conservatives realize that government doesn’t do a lot of things very well. One of those things government is not very good at, compared to the private sector and free individuals, is learning hard lessons. Case in point: bubbles.

The government loves blowing bubbles more than a small child. The difference is that when a child’s bubbles pop, they don’t erupt with enough force to shake the economic foundations of entire industries, regions, or the planet.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Book Review: “StarTram”


“StarTram” by Powell, Maise, and PellegrinoMagnetic levitation allows suspending a vehicle above a guideway by the force of magnetic repulsion. A train using magnetic levitation avoids the vibration, noise, and rolling resistance of wheels on rails; and its speed is limited only by air resistance and the amount of acceleration passengers consider tolerable. The Shanghai Maglev Train, in service since 2004, is the fastest train in commercial passenger service today, and travels at 431 km per hour in regular operation. Suppose you were able to somehow get rid of the air resistance and carry only cargo, which can tolerate high acceleration. It would appear that if the technical challenges could be met, the sky would be the limit. In this book the authors argue that the sky is just the start.

They propose a space launch system called StarTram, to be developed in two technological generations. The Generation 1 (Gen-1) system is for cargo only, and uses an evacuated launch tube 110 km long in an underground tunnel. This sounds ambitious, but the three tunnels under the English Channel total 150 km, and are much larger than that required for Star Tram. The launcher will be located at a site which allows the tube to run up a mountain, emerging in the thinner air at an altitude between 3 and 7 km. There will be an extreme sonic boom as the launch vehicle emerges from the launch tube at a velocity of around 8 km per second and flies upward through the atmosphere, so the launcher will have to be located in a region where the trajectory downrange for a sufficient distance is unpopulated. Several candidate sites on different continents are proposed.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Bit of a Cyber-Coincidence?


CJZ15QgUwAAhRWmFirst United’s flights are halted owing to a “glitch,” and now the NYSE?

Trading in all securities were halted on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday following earlier reports of technical difficulties, although NYSE-listed issues was still trading on other exchanges.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. How Green Was My Fracking


turbine_county_fracking_county_scrIn The Telegraph, Christopher Booker points out that being Green means you are willfully murdering wildlife:

When Professor David MacKay stepped down as chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) last year, he produced a report comparing the environmental impact of a fracking site to that of wind farms. Over 25 years, he calculated, a single “shale gas pad” covering five acres, with a drilling rig 85ft high (only needed for less than a year), would produce as much energy as 87 giant wind turbines, covering 5.6 square miles and visible up to 20 miles away. Yet, to the greenies, the first of these, capable of producing energy whenever needed, without a penny of subsidy, is anathema; while the second, producing electricity very unreliably in return for millions of pounds in subsidies, fills them with rapture.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Environmental Imperialism


shutterstock_146843426The western Left has determined that people around the world must severely restrict their use of fossil fuels. Doing so would condemn billions of people to endless poverty. The “free” biomass fuels — wood, peat, and animal dung — that impoverished people in developing countries are forced to use exact terrible costs: the destruction of whole forests and jungles, loss of habitat and the attendant loss of flora and fauna, and respiratory problems and shortened lives from breathing smoke and fumes. As economist Deepak Lal stated in Poverty and Progress:

The greatest threat to the alleviation of the structural poverty of the Third World is the continuing campaign by western governments, egged on by some climate scientists and green activists, to curb greenhouse emissions… To put a limit on the use of fossil fuels without adequate economically viable alternatives is to condemn the Third World to perpetual structural poverty.