The Cove, Four Years On

dolphinIn 2009 The Cove was filmed, an Oscar-winning documentary that depicts a heart-wrenching phenomenon: the dolphin slaughter off the coast of Taiji, Japan, where the ocean waters literally turn bright red with mammalian blood.

They’re apparently killed for their meat. Few people had ever witnessed the mass killings. They take place in a cove that’s closed off to the public. But a heroic team of dolphin advocates finally brought the horror to light. Risking life and limb not to mention arrest, they managed to slip into the cove in the dead of night and install high-def camcorders disguised as rocks in and around the area. (Full disclosure: Joe Chisholm, my cousin, was part of the team and is depicted in the film. Way to go Joe!)

It’s a powerful film, and seems to have had an effect. Prior to the film some 1,500 dolphins were killed each year. Last year that number was down to about 900. That’s a lot of progress, but still 900 too many.

This topic opens up deep philosophical questions. Why are we so concerned about the slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in Japan, when in America and elsewhere billions of cows, pigs and lots of other animals are slaughtered each year for their meat? Do dolphins have more inherent “worth” or specialness than other animals? Dolphins are considered to be one of the smartest non-human animals, but so are pigs, crows, rats and squirrels.

Maybe it’s dolphins’ “cuteness” that makes them so special to humans. And/or maybe it’s because they bond with humans so well, like dogs. After all, we react with equal revulsion when mass slaughters of dogs are carried out. Of course, those animals’ ability to bond with humans doesn’t make them any more “special” than other animals on an objective level – only from a human’s point of view.

But that’s OK. It’s better save the lives of some animals than none at all. And after all, perhaps after activists succeed in preventing the killing of dolphins, they’ll turn to saving the lives of other animal species.

Meantime, assume that all animals have equal inherent worth. In that case the mass killing of other animal species is just as horrible as the mass killing of dolphins. Yet it still goes on by the billions.

For most of humankind life has been nasty, brutish and short. For almost all of animalkind that still holds true, the dolphin slaughter being but one example. But hey, we managed to eliminate for the most part that nastiness, brutishness and shortness for a large portion of us humans. We should try to do the same for a certain portion of animals as well. Dolphins are a good place to start.

National Geographic’s Pseudo-Scientific Centerfold

natgeo-risingseasWhile plausible arguments can be made that anthropogenic global warming is happening, many proponents thereof often resort to demagoguery and pseudoscience. Hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods, for example, are demagogued to death as signs of global warming, even though the same has been happening since time immemorial.

National Geographic just pulled a whopper in the demagoguery department. Its current feature article is on rising sea levels. There’s a fold-out map, called “If All the Ice Melted,” on what the world would look like if all polar and glacial ice melted – with sea levels some 200 feet higher than present.

The map – which many families will no doubt post up in their homes and many teachers post up in their classrooms – is groundless and very unscientific fear-mongering.

It conveys the impression that if we continue on our current course, the world will look like that at some future date. In fine print they say it could take 5,000 years for all of the ice to melt. But even this is absurd. For one thing, it is estimated that it would take anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 years for all of the ice just on Greenland to melt – and that would raise sea levels by just 20-25 feet. Antarctica, which holds the most ice, isn’t even melting; perhaps that’s because even if global temps rise a bit, it’s so cold there that temps will still remain well below freezing.

More significantly, within a couple of thousand years, we’re due for another ice age. It’s been about 11 or 12 thousand years since the last one and ice ages have been the norm over the past 2.5 million or so years, with “interglacials” such as the one we’re in now lasting around 12,000 years. And with a new ice age, sea levels would drop several hundred feet as happened during the last one.

While someone could speculate that mankind will delay the next ice age due to increased CO2 emissions, the NatGeo article doesn’t go near that – probably because it’s so speculative.

So the NatGeo map is depicting an absurdity.

A scientifically grounded map would depict the likeliest scenario: an ice age a few thousand years hence, with ocean water levels a few hundred feet lower, not higher. In that case they could have mentioned the far less likely scenario of all the ice melting, but then they would have had to argue that mankind will prevent or delay the next ice age through carbon emissions. And they certainly don’t make that argument.

Likewise, their cover graphic of water levels reaching halfway up the Statue of Liberty – some 200 feet above current levels – depicts an absurdity as well.

— update – four months later —

NatGeo finally ran letters to the editor regarding the above cover story. Despite a letter from this observer echoing the above, and I’m sure letters from others making similar points, the magazine had zero letters critical of their cover story. Only only positive letters were featured. Now that’s shoddy journalism.

WaPo Journalist a 150 WPM Typist?

fasttypeFormer vice president Al Gore recently allegedly told Washington Post columnist/blogger Ezra Klein that, “The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.”

Turns out that no such additional category is in the works. Klein attributes the misstatement to his transcription error. He writes,

But this was also a segment of the interview in which I remembered struggling to keep up with Gore, and when that happens, some nuance can get lost. (A note on methods: In most cases, including this one, I transcribe these interviews in real time, with a tape recorder as back-up. I also, as is always mentioned in the introduction to the interviews, lightly edit for length, clarity, and redundancy). I’m out-of-town and so away from my tape recorder. So I asked Gore’s staff about the line and they have Gore saying: “The scientists are now adding category six to the hurricane…some are proposing we add category 6 to the hurricane scale that used to be 1-5.”

Knowing a thing or two about transcription and audio recording myself, this is what I posted in the comments section of his blog:

Surely Ezra you must not use an ancient tape recorder – it’s got to be a digital recorder, correct? So why would you have staff listen to it and re-transcribe it – why not just have them e-mail you the link to the audio file so YOU can do the transcribing? Better yet, why not have someone handy with audio editing simply create an audio excerpt of the section in question, post it on your site, and let us readers/listeners decide what Gore said?

Moreover you said you transcribe your interviews in real time. That’s surprising. Because extremely few people can type at 150 words a minute, which is about how fast most people speak. It means either that you know shorthand, or that you know stenography (and use a stenotype machine). I would thing both are very unlikely. So tell us Ezra, what’s your secret to such fast typing skills?

(End comment.)

It’s possible that Mr. Klein does know shorthand – way back when, before the age of electronic recorders, most journalists knew shorthand and a few of them still know it (I recall Walter Isaacson mentioning that he knows it). But if it turns out that Mr. Klein cannot in fact write or type at 150 words a minute, and only types anywhere from 40 to 70 WPM which is more likely, then I would recommend to him that he bases crucial statements in his articles on the transcribed recordings of the interview, and not on his own “transcription,” which is probably more like his notes.

Unleaded Gasoline May Reduce Crime

Who would have thought that getting lead out of gasoline would have had such an apparently positive impact on reducing crime?

According to a WSJ article, rising levels of lead in the environment from the 1950s through 1970s, in large part due to leaded gasoline, was correlated with rising crime 20 years later. This is because toddlers, who often put their fingers in their mouths, ingested dirt contaminated by air pollution. By the time they were in their late teens and early twenties – the age when violence tends to peak – crime had risen.

Then in the 1970s came the prohibition of leaded gasoline. The article states, “As lead in the environment fell in the ’70s and ’80s—thanks in large part to the regulation of gasoline—violence fell correspondingly. No other single factor can account for both the inexplicable rise in violence in the U.S. until 1993 and the precipitous drop since then.”

It would be interesting to find out if the scientists and policymakers back then knew of the correlation between lead and crime. Probably not. Little did they know of the unintended positive effects of their actions.

Warmer Winters? Global Warming. Colder Winters? Global Warming.

Warmer-than-normal winters? Must be evidence of global warming. Colder-than-normal winters? Must be evidence of global warming.

So say the global warming alarmists.

An example of the first sentiment is an article in today’s Washington Post – lamenting the warmer-than-normal winter we’ve been having so far.

An example of the second sentiment is an article in the Washington Post from a few weeks ago. According to Washington Post weather blogger Andrew Freedman, global warming paradoxically is supposed to cause colder winters in mid-latitudes. With melted ice in the arctic resulting in open water, Freedman writes,

the dark ocean surface absorbs more incoming solar radiation than sea ice does ….warmer air leads to higher atmospheric pressure surfaces over the Arctic Ocean, and this can weaken the high-altitude winds that circle the North Pole from west to east, known as the ‘polar vortex.’ A weaker polar vortex can provide greater opportunities for Arctic air to flow southward, into areas like the U.S. and parts of Europe, while the Arctic experiences warmer-than-average conditions.

So based on the above observation, a warmer-than-normal winter here must mean a colder-than-normal winter in the arctic. But under the global warming theory, the arctic is supposed to be warming, resulting in colder winters here (because warm air up there pushes the cold air southward).

According to the above theory, our hitherto warmer-than-normal winter here is inconsistent with global warming. So maybe you can rest easy after all.

I say maybe because no one seems to have any definitive answers regarding man-made global warming. Even the scientists admit that there are huge unanswered questions; and most meteorologists only concern themselves with weather forecasts 10 days out. It’s incredible that so many non-scientists are so smugly sure of themselves on man-made global warming pro- and con. Yet they know know next to nothing about the science of weather. I bet if you asked them basic questions of weather, like what causes clouds, what causes precipitation, what causes storms, what causes wind, what causes dew, and even how a barometer predicts weather, nine out of ten wouldn’t know the answers. And if they don’t know answers to basic questions of weather, how can they be so smugly sure of themselves on a topic vastly more complicated – i.e. climate change?

Having said that, just from anecdotal evidence within my own narrow vantage point, I’d be inclined to think that winters in North America are a bit warmer than in the past. Back when I was a kid in northern Minnesota (Grand Rapids. No, not Michigan.), we were usually skating by Thanksgiving, i.e. the lakes were usually frozen by then. These days, however, my sister, who still lives there, tells me that they usually can’t skate by Thanksgiving. Then I looked to find out if there’s an official record of ice freezes and thaws in Northern Minnesota. I found this one – of Detroit Lake. (No, not Michigan. Minnesota.) It shows that in the 2000’s, the ice freezes have been only slightly later than in previous decades – although substantially later than in the early part of the 20th century (when it sometimes froze in October).

But in fact, the above-referenced ice freeze record is probably inconsistent with the man-caused theory. Based on the logic of the man-caused version of events, the 2000’s ice freezes should be substantially later than the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – i.e. the 2000’s should be substantially warmer than those decades – because during the second half of the 20th century so much of the third world industrialized. Much more carbon likely (I say likely because I don’t have time to research it right now – remember that this is just a think-out-loud blog) was pumped into the atmosphere during the second part of the the century than the first due to factories and cars proliferating everywhere around the world – like China and India and Mexico and Brazil – not just primarily North American and Europe. With accelerating levels of carbon going into the atmosphere in recent decades – much more so than in the pre-WWII era – you’d think that average temperatures should have likewise accelerated upward during the post-WWII timeframe. But they haven’t.

But who knows. There are tons of variables involved. Again, climate science is so inexact. Unanswered questions galore. As a nonscientist, any speculation from me on the matter is feeble. Same with other nonscientists – as well as scientists who don’t study long-term weather trends (which means most scientists). Even the conclusions of some weather scientists should be suspect – e.g. those with an agenda and/or who get global warming funding.

In any case the earth – or at least North America – may well be warming, but the big question is whether it’s man-caused. After all, there was the medieval warming period, which definitely wasn’t caused by industrial emissions.

If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the earth’s climate sometimes warms, sometimes cools, regardless of the influence of mankind.

And a History Channel special, How the Earth Was Made, points out that in the end, the ice always wins out. I.e., even if the earth is warming now, it’s only temporary. We’re living during an interglacial period, which are said to last around 10,000 years whereas ice ages are said to last around 100,000 years. (And evidently it’s been around 10,000 years since the last ice age.) Someday the climate will be so cold that the northern part of what’s now the United States will be covered in ice two miles thick.

But that’s way beyond any of our lifetimes. Probably hundreds or, more likely, thousands of years hence.

You’re To Blame for the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster

There’s a lot of blame going around for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and of course BP is getting most of it.

Who else should get a lot of the blame?

Look at yourself in the mirror – i.e. you, me and anyone else who chooses to consume oil and oil-derived products.

We all love oil – even those who profess to hate it and the companies that produce it. They love oil too, or else they wouldn’t keep choosing to consume it all the time.

We the consumers of oil rely on other people to extract it from the ground for us. While we expect them to extract it flawlessly, that’s not always realistic. With such vast and sophisticated extraction operations, fraught with methane and other flammable liquids and gases at every turn, there are bound to be occasional accidents and oil spills. Without you generating the demand for oil, there would be no oil wells. And no oil spills. So the ultimate responsibility for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster lies with you.

Yes, that includes Prius-driving, Big-Oil condemning, snowmobile-loathing people who call themselves environmentalists. Chances are, they’re among big oil’s best, most loyal, and most dedicated customers as well. They’re constantly using their product – every day, many times a day; every time they drive their car, grease their bike, turn on their oil heater, moisten their lips with Vaseline, ride the bus, fly to their destinations, and buy their food that was transported to the grocery store in oil-consuming trucks. They hate Big Oil but love its product. Without it, their well-being, comfort level, and happiness would be severely compromised. They’d be living in abject poverty.

So you think that driving a Prius will reduce the demand for oil and thus help prevent oil spills? Nonsense – driving a Prius will help prolong our supplies of oil. We’ll keep extracting it for a longer time than we otherwise would have. So driving a Prius may even increase the potential for oil spills in the long run.

BTW, I’ve got nothing against buying a Prius at all. I’m all for prolonging our supplies of oil and saving people money.

In fact for my next car I’m thinking of a Civic hybrid (Priuses to me look nerdy). But because it’s about $5,000 more expensive than a regular Civic, I calculated that, assuming $2.80/gal. gas, I’d have to drive it for about 10 years in order for it to pay off in terms of money saved thanks to the higher gas mileage. That’s a let-down. And there’s no tax credit for Civic hybrids anymore.

Prius is the New Volvo


Assumption: Prius drivers disproportionately lean to the left, just as Volvo drivers lean left – or at least used to. I don’t have statistics verifying that but it seems to be the case.

Why? I think it has just as much to do with the body style than it does with the gas mileage. The Prius body style to me looks nerdy. Likewise, Volvo body styles, with their boxy look, used to be nerdy (now they’re more mainstream). And for some reason, people who like the nerdy look tend to lean left.

As far as the high gas mileage aspect of the Prius, righties should be just a likely as lefties to be attracted to that. Granted, lefties more than righties likely would be attracted to hybrid cars because they think* they’re helping the environment. But righties would be more likely than lefties to be attracted to hybrid cars based on the reason that they think they’re saving money in the long run (assuming the purchase price isn’t overwhelmingly higher than a non-hybrid equivalent). Savers tend to be righties and spenders tend to be lefties, both when it comes to personal finances and national finances.

So in the end, the reason you saw more Obama bumper stickers than McCain bumper stickers on Priuses has got to be the nerdy body style.


* “Think” is the operative word. They may think they’re helping the environment, but they’re harming it. Anytime you drive around a half-ton machine that requires the laying of thousands of square miles of pavement and associated destruction of trees and natural habitat, that requires the construction of habitat-destroying and energy-consuming automotive factories, that requires the extraction and distribution of oil and other natural resources, that emits pollutants into the air, that generates a bit of noise pollution, and that to some observers generates sight pollution (i.e., the nerdy look), you’re not helping the environment at all. While you may be harming it a little less than, say, an SUV, it’s microscopically less. And you’re destroying the environment much more than the ever-hated (by lefties) snowmobiles and four-wheelers, which don’t require the paving over of natural habitat.

If you really want to help the environment, then don’t buy a Prius. Or any car.

Bill Nye: PG, or Perhaps PG-13?

What a hassle it’s going to be. Bill Nye the Science Guy now requires parental guidance! Whoda thunk that the guy has had an agenda all this time, foisting it on his impressionable young viewers.

Believe me, if you allow yourself to appear on the far left’s Rachel Maddow’s TV show, and you call anyone who questions man-caused global warming unpatriotic, as Bill did the other day, then you have an axe to grind.

This means that whenever your kids watch reruns of his show (the PBS series ended) or more recent presentations, try to watch with them in order to provide commentary in response to any claptrap that ole’ Bill Nye spews.

Now hopefully he talks about noncontroversial things most of the time, like how magnets work or what not, but when he treads on hot political topics of the day like global warming, then you’d better be there to present to your kids the opposing point of view. And if you can’t watch with them, then talk about opposing viewpoints with them when you can. Have them check out websites like the Cassiopia Project including their video on global warming. They seem to really know their stuff when it comes to science – certainly more so than Bill.

I’m not saying I know for sure whether global warming exists and if so, whether man is causing it, but when it comes to something as controversial as that, be wary of guys like Bill; his opting to appear on Rachel’s show, and spew what he spewed, just blew away any appearance of objectivity on his part.

Global Cooling Caused by Global Warming?

You know it had to be coming. Blame cold weather on – what else? – global warming.

That’s what they did in an article on Peru’s mountain people, who reportedly are fighting for survival amid a bitterly cold winter. The reporter cites rapidly melting glaciers, which “may” be the reason for the cold.

A surprising statement like that deserves a lot of back-up. But none was given. That should make any reader skeptical of such a claim, especially given that it was coming from the left-wing, global-warming-agenda-driven Guardian newspaper.

At the time of this writing, there are record low temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It even hit 32 degrees in Miami.

Another ice age coming on? Whatever is causing these low temps doesn’t have anything to do with the alleged ultimate cause of ice ages: variations in the tilt of the earth’s axis. While the tilt is decreasing, causing the Northern Hemisphere to be a bit farther from the sun during summer (it’s said that ice ages happen when snow fails to melt during summer), that decrease is happening too gradually for any one person to notice changes that result from it during his or her lifetime. The tilt variations happen in 40,000 year cycles.

To see a great video animation describing this tilt and other fascinating characteristics of the earth’s position vis-a-vis the sun, click here.

The producer of that video, the Cassiopia Project, also has an interesting video on global warming. They say variations in the amount of radiation coming from the sun have been the main cause of the colder temps over the past decade.

They also attempt to demonstrate that global warming isn’t caused by humans.

Based on their dozens of other videos, they seem to know a heck of a lot about science, so you certainly can’t dismiss their claims.

That’s the thing about global warming. We laymen only can rely on what the scientists tell us, because without a science background, never in a million years would any of us know what’s causing global warming, or whether it’s happening at all. It’s amusing to see folks like Al Gore project themselves as some sort of authority on global warming. As a layman, he’s no more qualified to pontificate on global warming than any other of us laymen. Even the scientists have profound disagreements on the causes. If you research the subject a little, you see why: there are so many factors, so many variables that determine the climate, many of which are unknown or unmeasurable, that even modern science can’t get a handle on it. Chaos theory galore.

So you just have to look at all the evidence and do your best to come up with your own judgment. And lately, in the wake of Climategate and the freezing cold temps, it seems the global warming “skeptics” are getting the upper hand.

Global Warming Alarmists’ True Motive?

The most outrageous story of the week: the cheers, applause, and ovations that Hugo Chavez received at the Copenhagen climate change conference, during his capitalism-bashing speech. On the surface it shows that global warming alarmists are ultimately motivated by a desire to overthrow or impede capitalism. In my mind it’s a huge blow to the global warming movement; is it possible that the movement is nothing more than a disguised attempt to squelch capitalism?

I say “on the surface,” because before reaching such a conclusion I’d have to find out the composition of the audience, and whether the cheers and applause came from all of the audience or just a vocal minority. If it was a general audience composed of the participating countries’ main delegates, and if most of them applauded, then we have reason to worry.

If on the other hand the audience was mainly composed of a minority of delegates from countries in Africa and other third world locales where radical leftism is par for the course, then there’s less reason to worry.

Unfortunately, the news report gave no indication of the composition of the audience. If you have any information on that, please contact me.