Monthly Archives: September 2014

Anthropogenic Climate Change

I’m can’t be the only person out there who is exhausted by climate change, or global warming, or whatever it’s called at the moment.  As a person who understands mathematical models, and as a consumer who was completely taken in by the whole “fat is bad” error/lie, I’m not willing to just take “97% of scientists” at their word, not ever again.

We have a lovely example showing the effectiveness of vaccinations going on right now, in the US and England with childhood vaccines, and in Africa with polio.  This is where a model predicts what will happen under varying circumstances, and then those varied circumstances ALL occur.  So, vaccinate, diseases are reduced.  Stop vaccinating, diseases begin to spread again.  Turn off, turn back on.  Classic experimental design.

This can’t happen with climate change.  Unless we suddenly begin removing carbon from the atmosphere, we are going to have to modify models as data comes in, for anything that occurs that does not match existing models.  That does not give me particularly warm and fuzzy feelings about the models.  Most recent data, and this is from Scientific American, which I’m pretty sure is not one of the groups trying to disprove the climate change thesis:

Blistering heat waves recorded around the globe in 2013 were linked to human-caused global warming, according to a broad survey of studies on extreme weather events published yesterday.

But the studies could not link climate change as clearly to heavy rainfall, droughts and storms. For instance, the link between the three-year-long California drought and climate change remains to be deciphered by future research.

That last sentence is pretty sanitized.  The models, in fact, predicted that California would get a higher level of precipitation than normal.

Please note:  I am not saying that climate change is not happening.  I’m not saying that it is not caused by human caused increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  I’m saying that I don’t trust the models.   And to be honest, I just find myself unable to be interested enough in them to really look at it.  I’m not a climate scientist, and I never will be.

I still think, regardless of climate science, that we need to stop using finite resources for energy, including all fossil fuels, and we need to do it RIGHT NOW.

Do we really need to know how much our climate will change going forward, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?  Isn’t it enough that the activity to produce the fossil fuels is, in itself, deadly (coal mining)?  Or that it ruins the beauty of our natural world (drilling, mountaintop removal, oil spills)?  Or that use of fossil fuels is deadly (power plant emissions, China)?  Or that control of finite reserves of this stuff is causing endless war?  Or that, we will at some point definitely run out anyway?

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Solar Material

Love seeing new developments in non fossil fuel energy sources.  Here’s one from WSJ:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/perovskite-offers-shot-at-cheaper-solar-energy-1411937799

Oh, how I wish a small portion of the money we are collectively spending right this instant on bombs aimed at goat herders could be spent here on additional research instead.  The good news is that our government labs must not be as incompetent as the rest of our government:

Game Changer?

If it pans out that way, researchers say, perovskite could play a crucial role in the future of solar power.

It can be made into stand-alone solar cells or layered on top of silicon solar cells to boost energy production by grabbing light from a part of the spectrum that silicon can’t capture.

“Perovskite does seem to promise to be a high-efficient, low-cost material,” says Jao van de Lagemaat, center director for chemistry and nanoscience at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, which is doing perovskite research for an undisclosed chemical company.

“This might be one of the materials that is going to change the game,” he says.

So a private sector company is paying the government for research.  I wonder how much we could add to that before it starts to become a bloated bureaucracy.

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Animal Behavior

I saw a segment on the Daily Show recently about pit bulls:

Tia Torres on Daily Show

Jon and Tia discussed how sweet these dogs are, and it reminded me of the Facebook never ending meme of the same idea.

These are ridiculous and dangerous ideas to disseminate.

Have you seen the adorable photos of the polar bears playing with chained up sled dogs?  There’s even a National Geographic video about it:  Polar Bears and Sled Dogs

But often, the dogs get EATEN by the bears.  Of course.  Someone who lives near the man featured in that NatGeo video wrote a counterpoint:  http://mytraveltales.com/2008/11/13/update-on-polar-bears-and-dogs/

Most of the sled dog companies here lose no more than 1-2 dogs per year (usually due to the elements or illness).  The man who owns that property for “bear tours” loses an average of 20 dogs per year — all due to bear attacks.

What does this have to do with pit bulls?  Polar bears are wild animals, and pit bulls are domesticated pets, right?

Yes.   All animals have 2 influences on their behavior:  Instinct, or the behaviors they are inclined to exhibit due to their genetics, and training, or the behaviors they learn from their environment.  Training in wild animals mainly takes the form of what we call bad habits – eating out of garbage cans, or frequenting areas where people leave a food source.  There is also Sea World, circuses, etc, where animals are trained in the more traditional sense.

Domesticated animals are generally unable to live without people to provide them with food, shelter, medical care, etc.  But they still have those 2 influences on their behavior.  And people have modified the genetic side of behaviors through animal husbandry.  This means that if you hook up a draft horse to something heavy, it is going to pull.  If you have ever seen a horse pull, you know that those horses don’t pull because they are afraid of the trainer, or looking for a treat, or anything else.  They love it.  Watch racehorses that are put out to pasture.  Even young weanlings.  What do they do for fun?  They race each other.  All day long.

I have never tried to train my Jack Russell terrier to do anything other than come when called.  But if she smells a rodent, there is no way to stop her.  She will kill it at the first opportunity, and chase it anywhere, down any hole, to get to it.  My springer spaniel?  Not interested in the rodents.  But she will run after anything that is flying.  She bites at flies.  Follows butterflies around.  Chases turkeys.  Not really trying to catch them (and always surprised when she ends up with an insect in her mouth).  And she seems unable to deliver a hard bite.  Even when she tries to help out the JRT with a groundhog, she often ends up with it hanging from her lip.  Then she goes home!

So, what is going to happen with a dog that is likely to have been bred to fight other dogs?  Well, I would suspect that dog would be born with a tendency to get into dog fights.  What about its behavior toward people?  I guess it depends, if you are a person who believes that dogs think all other animals are dogs, then a pit bull might seem even more dangerous than it does to me.  Personally, I just think that these dogs are more likely than non-fighting bred dogs to behave in an aggressive manner or to react to aggression with its own aggression, and what is even more important, I think that once a pit bull starts to behave in an aggressive manner, it’s not going to stop until it is physically restrained.

In addition to the logic for why pit bulls really can, and by human intention, should be the most aggressive breed, there are the statistics, from DogsBite.org (note:  this is an anti-pit bull group):

By compiling U.S. and Canadian press accounts between 1982 and 2013, Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, shows the breeds most responsible for serious injury and death.

The combination of molosser breeds, including pit bulls, curs, rottweilers, presa canarios, cane corsos, mastiffs, dogo argentinos, fila brasieros, sharpeis, boxers, and their mixes, inflict:

  • 81% of attacks that induce bodily harm

  • 76% of attacks to children

  • 87% of attack to adults

  • 72% of attacks that result in fatalities

  • 81% that result in maiming

  • Embody 9.2%+ of the total dog population

The ASPCA acknowledges the problem, but advises that each dog should be treated as an individual.

It seems to me that people should be encouraged to spay and neuter their pit bull type dogs, and not to pay a breeder to obtain one.  Breeding of dogs with these characteristics should be discouraged, not by law, but by society.  The breed should die out from lack of interest.

Oh, and just for the record, what Tia Torres is actually doing is a great thing.  She spays or neuters EVERY dog she takes in.  And her support for parolees is also a wonderful and humanitarian thing to do.  It’s just all the “sweet pit bull” talk that is objectionable, in my book.

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Herbicides and Pesticides are Bad for You

Not sure this is really news, but there are a couple of interesting data points here.  From Dr. Joseph P. Farrell:

The Ministry of Health in Córdoba, Argentina, reveals in a report that deaths from cancerous tumors are double the national average in areas where genetically engineered crops are grown and agro-chemicals are used.”

There are a bunch of assumptions that must be made, or investigated, before you can really conclude anything at all.

  1. The way that sentence is written it seems like in other areas of the country little or no chemicals are used in farming.
  2. It would seem that, unless these crops are consumed entirely within the areas where they are grown, the complaint or problem here is against the chemicals used with the GMO crops, and not the resulting GMO product itself.
  3. Argentina at this point has very little to lose, and so they are just bringing out all the complaints, even against the biggest of the big boys.  This might be really good news for everyone.

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More gut bacteria research

From the Weizmann Institute in Isreal.  It seems that although we do not metabolize artificial sweeteners, there are microbes that do, and some of those may be in our gut.  Then those microbe react as if they have digested sugar, and then our bodies react as if our gut bacteria have digested sugar.  Which apparently must be similar to how our bodies react if the gut bacteria digest real sugar.  Fascinating!

Link to Weizmann Institute press release.

Link to Journal of Nature research article.

I have sent a question to the researchers asking about one detail.  Their study used mice to show the cause and effect, turning it on and off and back on again in various ways.  Then they did a small, 7 person, human trial, that only included one facet of the study.  They were able to alter 4 of 7 subjects’ insulin levels by feeding them artificial sweeteners at maximum recommended levels for a week.  My question is, what happened later, after that?  I hope to get an answer.

Update:  They didn’t check!

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Check your assumptions, Mauldin style

He calls them Presuppositions, but hey, tomAYto, tomAHto.  The assumptions he is challenging are basically the entire Keynsian economic juggernaut.  This is a great Krugman, Yellen, Bernanke et al smackdown.

And LOVE the phrase “trckle down monetary policy.”  So accurate, and undoubtedly a phrase that the purveyors of that particular kool-aid would find especially offensive.  From John Mauldin’s Thoughts from the Frontline:

The unintended consequences of government policies and manipulation of the markets are legendary. But often unseen.

Monetary policy as it is currently constructed is only marginally helping private markets and producers. Monetary policy as it is currently practiced is an outright war on savers, which sees them as collateral damage in the Keynesian pursuit of increased consumer demand.

It is trickle-down monetary policy. It has inflated the prices of stocks and other income-producing securities and assets, enriching those who already have assets, but it has done practically nothing for Main Street. It has enabled politicians to avoid making the correct decisions to create sustainable growth and a prosperous future for our children, let alone an environment in which the Boomer generation can retire comfortably.

It is a pernicious doctrine that refuses to recognize its own multiple failures because it starts with the presupposition that its theory cannot fail. It starts with the presuppositions that final consumer demand is the end-all and be-all, that increased indebtedness and leverage enabled by lower rates are good things, and that a small room full of wise individuals can successfully direct the movement of an entire economy of 300 million-plus people.

The current economic thought leaders are not unlike the bishops of the Catholic Church of 16th-century Europe. Their world was constructed according to a theory that they held to be patently true. You did not rise to a position of authority unless you accepted the truth of that theory. Therefore Galileo was wrong. They refused to look at the clear evidence that contradicted their theory, because to do so would have undermined their power.

Current monetary and fiscal policy is leading the developed world down a dark alley where we are all going to get mugged. Imbalances are clearly building up in almost every corner of the market, encouraged by a low-interest-rate regime that is explicitly trying to increase the risk-taking in the system. Our Keynesian masters know their policies and theories are correct – we must only give them time to more perfectly practice them. That the results they’re getting are not what they want cannot be their fault, because the theory is correct. Therefore the problem has to lie with the real world, full of imperfect people like you and me.

What our leaders need is a little more humility and a little less theory.

Somehow I missed it when Mauldin coined this phrase back in 2012, but it’s awesome.

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One ugly consequence of student loans

ht John Mauldin

John Burns Real Estate Consulting published a study by Rick Palacios Jr and Ali Wolf that makes some estimates as to how the student loans already made will impact the real estate industry.  The study has a great infographic, but I couldn’t get it to copy here in a readable format, so click through to check that out.

The analysis was quite complicated and involved a few assumptions, but we believe it is conservative, primarily because we looked only at those under the age of 40 with student debt.

At a high level, the math is as follows:

  • Student debt has ballooned from $241 billion to $1.1 trillion in just 11 years.
  • 29 million of the 86 million people aged 20–39 have some student debt.
  • Those 29 million individuals translate to 16.8 million households.
  • Of the 16.8 million households, 5.9 million (or 35%) pay more than $250 per month in student loans, which inhibits at least $44,000 per year in mortgage capability for each of them.
  • About 8% of the 20–39 age cohort usually buys a home each year, which would be 1.35 million transactions per year.
  • Using previous academic literature as a benchmark for our own complicated calculation, we then estimated that today’s purchase rate is reduced from the normal 8% depending on the level of student debt—ranging from 6.9% for those paying less than $100 per month in student loans to less than 1% for those paying over $1,300 per month. Other factors contribute to even less entry-level buying today.

This is a government policy issue, because since student loans are not discharged in bankruptcy, they are lower risk for the lender, and thus easy loans for students to take out.  18-22 year old kids are able to run up this massive debt at a time in their lives when many people are not particularly financially literate.

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