Archive for July, 2009

[Update] Gene Callahan, objectively unreal: If a blog comment is deleted, did it ever exist? And is the indignation I feel based on a moral code that has an "objective" existence?

July 16th, 2009 No comments

Your foolish reporter, having rushed in where even angels like Bob Murphy fear to tread, now reports the latest “unreal”, or at least the rather unbelievable, turn of events (and non-events), at Gene Callahan`s Crash Landing blog.

Readers may recall my earlier report regarding  Mr. Callahan`s blog post on the intriguing topic of whether “morals are objectively real”, which blog post oddly “disappeared” and was subsequenty resurrected (after my report here).

The latest news is that our philosopher king has, rather startlingly, slammed shut and bolted the windows and doorson the subject blog post, after uttering a stream of grumpy and dismissive comments,  “The Doctor Is In” sign has been yanked, and replaced with the sign

“New comments have been disabled for this post by a blog administrator.”

Comments are now closed on THIS thread – even though they remain open on ALL OTHER posts by Gene, from as far back as June 8.

That the proprietor added a parting shot (misdirected at a strawman, of course) after yours truly responded to prior comments is not particularly surprising, but what is very stunning is that my response itself has been DELETED, so that it appears as if, after being castigated by my superior,  I sinply tucked in my tail and slinked off.

[Update:  I note that I was alerted to the fact that comments had been turned off when Bob Murphy kindly sent me and email (cc`d to Gene) that indicated Bob`s willingness to take up  this subject on his own blog; when I asked why he hadn`t made this offer on the blog thread, he replied that he coul dn`t as comments had been closed.]

It was only after Mr. Callahan declined to respond to my email request for an explanation that I decided to remark here on this rather sad  state of affairs.]

This type of behavior may lead some to question Mr. Callahan`s maturity and sense of honor.  Is this how one treats “friends” or other invited guests, especially someone purportedly interested in a conversation about “truth”, simply because one does not like what others have to say?

Others may simply ponder whether Gene, fuelled not by dispepsia by by a fit of youthful good fun on a post regarding the “objective” nature of morals, has simply playfully tried to raise the questions of (a) whether blog comments, if removed by the blog proprietor, indeed ever existed, (b) if not, whether judgments as to his`s behavior can have any objective basis whatsoever and, of course (c) whether morals themselves have any objective reality.

But while others may disagree on how to evaluate such behavior (I have my own conclusions, but insist there is no objective moral order that makes me right and Gene and others wrong), I am confident, at least, that my now non-existent comment was objectively real.  For the benefit of others, I post below my complete comment (typos and all), in precisely the form I received it in my Inbox from “”, Gene`s blogging platform (one gets these little messages by suscribing:to the comments on particular posts)..

This、I hope, demonstrates that thoughts, however evanescent, are real.

Which leaves inquiring minds to ponder just what, if anything, Mr. Callahan hope to accomplish or demonstrate by his apparently petulant and ungentlemanly behavior, and whether he is satisfied with the results.  (Discussions of whether there is an objective moral order – one not relative to man or to particular societies and individuals – will have to be left to another day and, alas, a venue other than Crash Landing, which sems to be crashing and burning.)

Here`s the comment (which was initally posted before Gene`st last word); readers can check the blog post itself for context.

from TokyoTom <[email protected]>
to [email protected]
date Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 3:09 PM
subject [Crash Landing] New comment on Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is….
TokyoTom has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

“As thoughts?! And thoughts consist of mass and energy?”

There are no diembodied thoughts. “Thoughts” is a word that describes
our perception of physical activty in our brain. We might record or
communicate our thoughts, which communications also have a physical

“No, Tom, he’s speaking of mental age”

Is he your sock puppet, or are you dissing me on your own?

“most people get through their materialist stage by about 20.”

I disagree – most people never seriously think about thinking. And all cognitive scientists are older than 20.

“”discussion” doesn’t exist since it’s not made of matter and energy”

says? Not me. Discussion and dialogue – communication – definitely
exist and have a material basis. Is the “freshman philospohy BS” I`m
parroting so difficult that even you can`t follow it?

“I know, there is no “point” to anything, as it’s all just a bunch of atoms colliding”.

might know this, but I certainly don`t. I appreciate the helpful
attitude, but maybe you can let me put my own thoughts in my own mouth?

really is no sense trying to “discuss” … things with “someone” …
who can keep such rubbish in their head is really quite “pointless””

get your drift despite the grammar, but if all of this is so easy AND
pointless, why do you have such difficulty actually describing what I
say (that freshamn philosphy BS), why didn`t you dispose of it months
adgo on your peaen to Danny Shahar (who seems to agree with me, BTW),
why did you even bother with post, and why have you still, after all of
this time, failed to respond to my questions above (about whether the
objective order is something that exists apart from mankind, and is
universal to all men and all life)?

Too easy? Too boring? Too pointless?

I had thought that if I came here, I would get to kill the English. Have I come to the wrong place, then?

“I hope your electrons thrive in the future, Tom!”

thayks; that`s the nicest thing I`ve heard all day. Not to look a gift
horse in the mouth, but electrons don`t thrive – and even though they
may be get excited, they never get disappointed!

Post a comment.

Unsubscribe to comments on this post.

Posted by TokyoTom to Crash Landing at 2:09 AM


A further remaining question is whether Charlie Brown will ever again accept Lucy`s invitation to kick a proffered football.


A Human-Precipitated Mass-Extinction?; a libertarian discussion of preferences about things unowned

July 16th, 2009 No comments

For the benefit of the curious and/or idle reader, I`m cross-posting from my little-used personal blog a short post on the above topic and the ensuing conversation.

(I note that my inaugural post at this LvMI-hosted blog covered a related topic:   “Too Many or Too Few People? Does the market provide an answer?“.)


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Planet’s First-Ever Mass-Extinction Precipitated by Humans

Should we be alarmed at the current massive die-offs being noted in the animal and plant kingdoms? After all, new species arise and old species die off all the time. Its just nature taking its course, right? Not necessarily. What’s different about this die-off is that this is the only such event precipitated by a biotic agent: humans.

read more

posted by TokyoTom at 1:35 AM
James Rothfeld said…
Wrong. One of the largest extinctions in the history of our earth was when oxygen from photosynthetic life forms began to reach levels that were toxic for anaerobic life forms. Granted, the victims were mostly bacteria and some other simple life forms, but – extinction is extinction.

So, humans are not the first biotic agent to lead to massive extinctions.

4/23/2009 01:43:00 AM  


TokyoTom said…

James, thanks for honoring me with a visit and comment.

Of course, I mainly blog at LVMI – – and I`m not really quite sure what I did that caused this post (which is the intro to a longer piece that I didn`t write) to go up, but in any case I appreciate the engagement.

You have a valid point about the great switch from anaerobic to aerobic life, which many people seem to forget about, but:

– obviously the main comparison is which other great extinction events (caused by meteors/ volcanic/ climate events) that affected complex vertebrate and other life, not archaea or bacteria;

– the event you speak of actually CONTRIBUTED to the development of more complex life;

– there is plenty of anaerobic life still around and being discovered (even in rocks miles down), and we really have very little idea as to whether the switch to aerobic life caused any kind of massive loss of anaerobic species; and

– what we are now doing to the oceans – via “dead zones” resulting from fertilizer run-off and further changes expected from warming and pH changes will result in areas not “dead”, but occupied by less complex abearobic bacterial communities.

4/23/2009 03:20:00 AM  


James Rothfeld said…
Now you are weaseling out, Tom! You did not specify that you were only referring to complex vertebrae, but only seemed to talk about extinctions in general. I think this is arbitrary and obfuscates the point: the point is that extinctions are caused by all kinds of events, and at the time of the event, they are not horrible for most life forms (horrible being a function of going extinct).

The argument that the aerobic extinction contributed to more complex life forms does not really get us anywhere, since there is no reason to assume that higher life could not emerge out of anaerobic life. What can be said is that the aerobic extinction contribute to the emergence of complex aerobic life, but that’s simply proving the assumption, or whatever logical fallacy we are dealing with here. The likely reason anaerobic life is rather simple these days is that it is forced to live in rather confined environs, including the gut of aerobic life.

The world’s oceans seem to have passed through a number of anoxic events, and those life forms that made it through the malaise probably did quite nicely as competition was greatly reduced. I’m sure life as such will make it quite nicely through the next one as well. Whether we humans will make it through it remains to be seen, though I am actually quite optimistic (pessimistic??) that they will. In smaller numbers, but nonetheless.

I think it is too early to judge whether or not the current extinction will in fact be a disaster. I am in fact not even convinced we are really going through a particularly dramatic extinction – the claim about dozens or even hundreds of species going extinct is based on some pretty speculative reasoning.

As far as I know, there have only been about 300 or so documented extinctions in the last few centuries. I also don’t think the the extinction of species limited to very small local habitats should really be counted: if the only place you can find a particular animal is a small island or a specific mountain, I suggest the species is done for no matter what.

I also don’t think that anybody has yet established a relationship between species extinction and human survival (and don’t start with the buffalos – the populations at First Contact were human artifacts).

But, back to the dead-zones in the oceans: I am amused that few ecologists have yet made the link between agricultural subsidies and fertilizer run-off. The link is so blatant and in your face, this oversight is almost telling.

In any case, I came by your blog because that’s where clicking on your name at Crash Landing gets me.



4/23/2009 06:32:00 AM  


TokyoTom said…
James, I was not weaselling out, but expanding on a point that you also acknowledged: “Granted, the victims were mostly bacteria and some other simple life forms.”

The fact that remains that if there is a wave of extinctions underway as a result of the rise of opportunistic and technological man (with various man-related extinctions starting millenia ago), this is clearly different from prior catastrophic extinctions, which resulted from external physical impacts on the planet. That`s the comparison being made, and reference to the initial shift to oxic life forms is interesting, but irrelevant.

“there have only been about 300 or so documented extinctions in the last few centuries. “

This of course tells us little, since even now we have no comprehensive catalog of life.

“I also don’t think the the extinction of species limited to very small local habitats should really be counted: if the only place you can find a particular animal is a small island or a specific mountain, I suggest the species is done for no matter what.”

I fear you are right as to the “no matter what”, but your conclusion that the extinction of localized species “shouldn`t count” is a value judgment. Good Austrians will recognize that others have equally valid preferences. Biologists and others familiar with the dimishing diversity of life express a deep sense of loss.

4/23/2009 11:50:00 AM  


James Rothfeld said…
Tom – I was just teasing about the weaseling in any case. What I am trying to get at is your last point: whether or not any of this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. Every activity has externalities – whether good or bad depends on the judgment of those affected, physically or otherwise, including emotionally.

So, yes, localized species extinction is certainly not good for the species affected or those who care about them. Maybe the world would be a better place with dodos and woolly mammoth in it, but maybe not. Who can tell?

I’m sure nomads think settled societies with their strict geographic borders stink, but farmers have little sympathy for dirty herders and their stomping herds.

Will the world be worse off if the only life forms to survive are those that serve human needs? Aesthetically, I would say no, but then again, those who will live in such a world will hardly miss what they have never known.

I don’t lose sleep because there are no more Aurochs, even though I think they were really amazing animals. I also don’t miss the dinosaurs, though other might differ.

In the end, it’s all a question of preference – and who am I to say that my preferences are any more worthwhile than those of others.

Here’s another question I was wondering about, by the way, and it’s serious – if a change in technology would bring about economic ruin for a particular region and its population, simply because it would make their only product useless, would the inventor/users of this technology have to compensate the people who were damaged? Would the users of word processing software have to compensate print employees for lost jobs? Would users of the internet have to compensate newspaper workers for lost jobs? I’m not being funny, it’s an important question that is directly relevant for the question of property rights in the context of environmental change. I am sure you see the relevance. I have no real answer to this (except gut opinion). Any thoughts?

4/24/2009 05:48:00 AM  


TokyoTom said…
“Maybe the world would be a better place with dodos and woolly mammoth in it, but maybe not. Who can tell?”

I agree completely that this is a question of human judgment. However, we should acknowledge that we are bumping some species off the planet and squeezing others drastically (and many to a completely unknown degree).

“Will the world be worse off if the only life forms to survive are those that serve human needs?”

Are you confident that the species that don`t survive don`t serve human needs? Many we simply have no clue about, while others, such as whales, dodos, passenger pigeons, Steller sea cows and numerous crashed/crashing fisheries have been extinguished and are threatened not because of lack of utility, but simply because nobody owned them.

How much more shall we destroy, for want of investment in property rights/commons management?

” would say no, but then again, those who will live in such a world will hardly miss what they have never known.”

Only partly true, as some of the world that we have been losing has been and will be documented.

“would the inventor/users of this technology have to compensate the people who were damaged?”

Not in a libertarian order. But I fail to see the relevance to “environmental” problems, either those that involve activities that damage the persons or property of others, or damage resources that are communally owned or are owned under regimes that fail to protect the resources. Care to clarify?

5/19/2009 01:04:00 PM  


James Rothfeld said…
My basic point is that every action has effects at least one person would perceive as injurious to their well-being, and would prefer that it rather not happen. If we were to refrain from all such actions, we would probably lose the freedom to act at all. Fundamentally, I want to argue that a ‘negative externality’ that cannot be dealt within a libertarian order has to be simply accepted as a given along the lines of ‘shit happens’.
If we cannot find a non-libertarian solution to an environmental problem, than so be it. That’s my only point. Nothing more, nothing less. Which is why I agree that in a libertarian order it’s your tough luck that you lose your job because somebody else is smarter. It also means that if, for example, people using a specific aquifer cannot agree on a libertarian solution to its management simply have to suck it up. Or that if I live on a nice piece of land with a pretty view, and my neighbor erects an ugly building with garish design elements spoiling my aesthetic enjoyment, I’ll have to suck it up – unless the two of us can agree on a solution.
I think some environmental problems have no libertarian solution. I don’t know which they are, but maybe we simply have to accept that.
For example, there may be no libertarian solution to fighting asteroids about to hit our planet. Maybe we could collectively deal with it, but maybe not enough people can be bothered – or believe in it – and so the few who care simply have to deal with the fact that they will die, well-knowing that a solution was at hand.

To repeat the point: in my hierarchy of needs, freedom comes before security. If the price of freedom is to live in a world that will experience dramatic changes in climate, and if the only way to avoid is were to give up my personal freedom – then I’ll accept the dramatic changes in climate.

That’s my only point.

5/20/2009 09:55:00 AM  


TokyoTom said…
Thanks for the clarifications, James.

I`m not so far away from you, but come to different conclusions: where there are obvious commons problems, those who care about the problem should obviously work to resolve them.

This includes libertarians who are personally most interested in individual freedom, freedom that is imperilled by the state-heavy “solutions” that often underlie the problem (to the benefit of entrenched insiders) in the first place.

Far from leaving the field of battle to others, libertarian ought to be proactively trying to mediate, lest what they value most highly be trampled.

5/20/2009 10:51:00 AM  


 James Rothfeld said…
Seems we ran out of disagreements 🙂
5/20/2009 09:47:00 PM  

Atlas Does Not Shrug at Climate Change: Exxon, Rob Bradley's favorite "principled entrepreneur", embarks on $600+ million biofuels venture

July 15th, 2009 No comments

A little birdy told me this story yesterday, which I think I was the first to ”Tweet”.

ExxonMobil has announced a $600+ million venture with Craig Venter’s advance genomics firm to develop fuels from algae.  An Exxon scientist noted:

“the potential advantages and benefits of biofuel from algae could be significant. Among other advantages, readily available sunlight and carbon dioxide used to grow the photosynthetic algae could provide greenhouse gas mitigation benefits. Growing algae does not rely on fresh water and arable land otherwise used for food production. And lastly, algae have the potential to produce large volumes of oils that can be processed in existing refineries to manufacture fuels that are compatible with existing transportation technology and infrastructure.” “

Exxon, whose scientists contributed directly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has made a steady stream of policy announcements and investments related to climate change over the past five years, and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has specifically called for governments to establish regulatory frameworks that provide investors and consumers with incentives to find ways to reduce GHG emissions, with Exxon favoring carbon taxes over cap-and-trade policies.  (Tillerson has said: “It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in the business community and beyond will come to share.”)

A recent statement by Exxon explained its climate change views as follows:

“As was recently summarized in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the risks to society and ecosystems from increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are significant. Meeting the enormous energy demand growth and managing the risk of GHG emissions are the twin challenges of our time.We all must engage in the search for solutions if we are to succeed at mitigating these risks. Progress can be achieved through climate change policy frameworks that enable countries to pursue economic progress while promoting the development of technologies necessary to generate and use energy more efficiently. As the largest publicly traded international energy company, the energy ExxonMobil produces meets 2 percent of the world’s needs. We share the responsibility to take action with scientists, citizens, and governments around the world and are doing so in several substantive ways.”

(emphasis added)


As an aside, I note that despite Rob Bradley’s deep admiration for Exxon (including several posts noting Exxon`s reluctance to invest in “green” energy), Exxon has specifically stopped funding Rob Bradley‘s Institute for Energy Research and similar public policy research groups, on the grounds that these groups’ “position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”  Does Exxon, despite an apparently strong policy disagreement with Bradley, still have his respect?



Categories: climate change, Exxon, Rob Bradley, Tillerson Tags:

Bob Murphy on James Hansen and the "Civil War on the Left" over Waxman-Markey; where is criticism of pork for coal?

July 15th, 2009 No comments

James Hansen, a leading climate scientist at NASA (head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) and Columbia University, last week`published a scathing criticism of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in the Huffington Post, and Bob Murphy noticed.

Bob offers a rather schizophenic view, expressing both:

  • admiration of (a) Hansen`s insistence – despite pressure from others on the left to dampen his criticism – that, given the risks posed by emissions of greenhouse gases, the Waxman-Markey bill is far from adequate and (b) Hansen`s criticism of the driving role provided by rent-seeking fossil fuel interests; and
  • amusement at the “fireworks” on the left that Hansen`s criticims will set off.

Oddly, it doesn`t seem to occur to Bob that Hansen`s criticism, despite flack from others, that Waxman-Markey is too weak in in the face of the risks that Hansen perceives, lends further credibility to Hansen and his concerns.  If Hansen takes his concerns THIS seriously, then perhaps othes should take him more seriously as well.  (Though to his credit, Bob does link to Hansen`s latest attempt to explain his understanding of climate risks).

It`s also odd that Murphy completely fails to explore Hansen`s criticisms of all of the subsidies to coal that the Waxman-Markey bill gives away, and ignores Hansen`s strong recommendation of a much leaner carbon-pricing strategy, rebated carbon taxes, of the type actively supported by Exxon and many others (not solely on the left).  Why is that libertarians refuse to criticize the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, while refusing to support carbon taxes?  For some at least, it appears that there is a decided lack of interest in biting the hand that feeds them, but wouldn`t a push against subsidies for coal and for a more transparent and less-burdensome climate still be salutary?  In a blog post that addresses Hansen`s stance, the Wall Street Journal asks the same question.  The NYT covers Hansen`s position as a news story.

I copy below a few remarks that I left at Bob`s blog (light editing):

Bob, it`s nice to see you respect Hansen for sticking to his gunds, but
it sounds like you`re mainly expressing schadenfreude, with the hope
that he might forestall W-M.

But Hansen is not taking his own
“rhetoric” seriously, but his own views of the SCIENCE. And those
views, while they hopefully turn out to be wrong, are no laughing
matter. (Presumably you know how to check Hansen`s website directly for
his scientific publications.)

On policy, as I have pointed out a number of times, Hansen has come out strongly in favor of pork-lite, rebated carbon taxes;
too bad that libertarians have showed so little interest in pushing for
carbon policies that are least damaging, but instead, but fighting
everything tooth and nail have instead contributed (inadvertently?) to
massive subsidies for coal.

You might also enjoy the sight of Dennis Kucinich, for reasons similar to Hansen, voting against Waxman-Markey.

But pork aside, I think that Joe Romm, in his response to Hansen, has the better arguments. On the question of pork, I note the continuing lack of criticism of old King Coal [by yourself and by Rob Bradley].

[Updated] Are blog posts by Gene Callahan Objectively Real? Perhaps not

July 13th, 2009 No comments

[Update:  Happy news!  The subject blog post, once non-existent, has (been) resurrected!  Discussions, with a decided acerbic philosopher-king, continue!]

[Update part Deux: Unfortunately, as noted elsewhere, our ill-humored host has closed out his blog post, after deleting my response to a string of comments and adding a coda of his own.]

In a blog post in mid-May, libertarian wisdom-lover Gene Callahan articulated the thesis that there is an objective moral reality.  I copied here my discussion on the comment thread with Gene.  In the ensuing months, Gene has maintained strict radio silence, despite a few subsequent efforts by me to engage him.

At last however, it seems that on July 10, Gene posted a follow-up post, entitled “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is …”.

“It seems”, I say, because the blog post, which I distinctly recall, no longer exists.  Google reports faint emanations from the post in various web pages, including the following cache of the apparent post:

Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…

My friend laughed. “If morals
are objectively real, where are they?”

“Hmm,” I thought, good point. “So, the only things that are
objectively real are those located in space and time.”

“But, wait… the physical universe is not located in space and time,

“The physical universe is not objectively real!”

posted by Gene Callahan @ 3:35 PM

(emphasis added)

The contents of the non-post, and the lack of its current existence, lead me to wonder, as I wander out under the sky, the thoughts pondered in my post title.

I note that my Gmail inbox contains messages from the Twilight Zone, which indicate that I, Bob Murphy and Gene might have made the following comments on Gene`s non-post:

TokyoTom has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

Gene, thanks for revisiting this topic, but it doesn`t seems you`re
really exerting yourself, other than to make light of what you purport
to take seriously.

You might be the only guy chasing his tail who fooled himself into thinking he caught it.

existence is proof that the universe exists in space and time. But
where do morals objectively exist, apart from the individuals thinking
about them? Do other species have “morals” that govern their behavior,
or is there no objective moral order apart from man? Is the human
“objective” moral order universal, for all individuals, across all

Inquiring ants want to know!


Bob Murphy has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

TT, I don’t think most physicists (at least most cosmologists) would agree with you. The physical universe itself does not have particular space-time coordinates; relative to what?

rather than giving such a grandiose example, can’t you pick something
easier, like the Pythagorean Theorem or a pun? I grant you, no matter
what you pick, TT or other critics will find some reason to throw out
your remark as silly, but still it might be helpful.

For the
record, folks, I used to be a materialist and Gene talked me down from
the ledge. I didn’t even realize how much importance I was vesting with
the physical world until I debated him about it on anti-state.


TokyoTom has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

Bob, the fact that the universe itself is not a turtle sitting on the
back of another doesn`t mean that the universe and matter/phenomena
within it are not OBJECTIVE.

question, assuming Gene is not asserting the lack of objectivity of the
universe, is just what the heck Gene MEANS by “objective”, and just how
it is that there is an moral order to the universe that exists just as
objectively as, say, Saturn, the Tokugawa bakufu ot Gitmo.


Gene Callahan has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

“Our existence is proof that the universe exists in space and time.”

that’s ridiculous. Think about what you’re saying — the universe
cannot be “in” space! Just where in space do you think it’s located?


Gene Callahan has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

“Bob, the fact that the universe itself is not a turtle sitting on the
back of another doesn`t mean that the universe and matter/phenomena
within it are not OBJECTIVE.”

Exactly right, Tom — the fact that something is not located in space and time does not mean it’s not objective.

Gene`s implication appears to be that, just as the universe does not
exist in space or time, but is objective, so there exists an objective
moral order, that does not exist in space or time. 

If so, inquiring minds want to know (1) whether the objective moral
order is a part of the universe, (2) what methods can we apply to
confirm the existence of and explore the objective moral order, (3)
whether such methods are distinct from the scientific method, and (4)
just what the heck Gene means by “”objective”, anyway.

I`m not half as smart as I think I am, but I am now thoroughly
befuddled, not only as to what Gene believes is “objective”, but also
how to continue a non-existent discussion.

Thorough defense by Joe Romm of Waxman-Markey against "carbon tax + dividend" James Hansen; where is "Principled Entrepreneurship" Bradley on fat subsidies for coal?

July 12th, 2009 No comments

Joe Romm`s defense of Waxman-Markey against climate scientist James Hansen (who prefers rebated carbon taxes and a faster phase-out of coal) is effective and worth a read.

Notably, however, Romm makes no attempt to justify all of the pork now in the bill, including the huge subsidies to coal (Congressman Ed Markey: “We have in huge subsidies for clean coal. Huge. Much more than we have in for renewables.”), which are one of the reasons why Greenpeace has wtihdrawn its support for the bill.

Hope springs eternal that Rob Bradley, in his “free-market” MasterResource energy blog, his Institute for Energy Research or their more blatant PR arms like “grass roots” American Energy Alliance (or side-kick Bob Murphy) will criticize past or ongoing rent-seeking  (“political capitalism”) by King Coal, but so far it looks very much like the piper is calling the tune – to the extent that Rob Bradley bans commentators who note the lack of balance in the application of “Principled Entrepreneurship” (which Bradley has trademarked!).


Rot at the Core: Contaminated Kansas town begs for EPA buyout; where are owners of abandoned mines?

July 11th, 2009 No comments

Surely there`s no reason for the Ameriican people as a whole to be bailing out the last residents of this lead and zinc mining Kansas-Oklahoma border town, but do the original mining firms really get to skip town so easily, leaving everyone else holding the bag?

Isn`t that precisely what the state grant of limited liability is for, anyway?

Categories: limited laibility, pollution Tags:

Climate/Oceans: A brief reminder to Ron Bailey that, even though models aren`t always right, the atmosphere and oceans remain open-access commons

July 6th, 2009 No comments

Ron Bailey, science correspondent for ReasonOnline, on July 1 noted in a Hit & Run post that “Models Aren`t Always Right“.

I left the following comment, which I copy here since I didn`t see it post:

“Ron, of course models aren`t always right, but;

1. even Lindzen is arguing for net positive feedbacks;

2. even with the apparent recent temperature plateau, the climate system and oceans are very noticeably changing;

3. we know that there is tremendous inertia in the climate system and that our forcings will play out over centuries;

4. we know that the atmosphere and oceans are open-access commons that will require widespread agreement and cooperation to manage effectively; and

5. there are wide mismatches between those whose investments/activities generate climate risks and those who face the greatest risks.

While haste may make waste, none of these points counsels a do-nothing approach.

Running irreversible, planetary-wide experiments is hardly a conservative or libertarian endeavor.”

In the face of these factors and the rapid pace at which atmospheric levels of CO2 and other GHGs continue to grow, it is hardly reassuring that, as physicist Russell Seitz has noted, “variables as critical as the sensitivity of the climate to the doubling
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have failed to converge on
uncontroversial values”. 

While MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen may think that climate “sensitivity” (mean temperature response to CO2 doubling) is as low as 0.5 degrees centigrade only a month and a half ago all of his colleagues disagreed with him in a publication trumpeted by MIT“New projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius [9 degrees F!] by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees [6.3 to 13.2 degrees F!]. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees [and the temps reported are averages, with many places warmer].”


[Updated] Bob Murphy: Rob Bradley's "IER Calls for End to All Energy Subsidies" – Not

July 6th, 2009 No comments

[Update at bottom.]

Bob Murphy, Austrian economist and part-time consultant for Rob Bradley`s Institute for Energy Research, asserted in a recent blog post that “IER [has] Call[ed]  For End to All Energy Subsidies”.  I took a closer look at the recent commentary at IER that Bob pointed to as support for his position, and came away unimpressed.

I posted the following comments to Bob in response a week ago; since I have heard nothing further from Bob, I think it`s worth copying them here (with editorial comments in brackets):

Bob, I`m sorry, but where does IER (or MasterResource) actually CALL “for an end to all energy subsidies”? They certainly don`t do so expressly in this op-ed. I`d be thrilled if you could point the way to other places where Bradley`s various enterprises specifically call for an end to subsidies and other regulatory favors for coal.

By bashing WaPo`s inconsistent concerns about “clean coal” subsidies [in an interesting editorial about rent-seeking by coal firms that ignores other rent-seekers] – and bashing clean energy interests while refusing to criticize rent-seeking by coal – it seems fairly apparent that IER remains a friend of big coal, and of the big thumb that government has long placed on the scales in its favor.

“That would at least make them intellectually consistent. But it appears there is no room for logic and consistency when you have an agenda to advance.” [from Rob Bradley`s commentary]

Such apt words!

Categories: Bob Murphy, Coal, IER, Rob Bradley Tags: