Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapse: A Drop in the Ice Bucket?

Last week the first story I heard while turning on the TV was about a portion of the Antarctic ice shelf collapsing. As usual the newscaster read this story in somber tone while citing unnamed scientists who claim this is further proof of alarming global warming, caused by humans of course. Below is an excerpt of an analysis from ICECAP.

Mar 25, 2008
Misleading Reports About Antarctica
By Joseph D’Aleo,

Last year when Antarctic set a new record for ice extent, it got no
media attention. They focused on the north polar regions where the ice set record low levels. This summer when unprecedented anomalous cover continued in the Southern Hemisphere again no coverage. Then this report in the news today. You probably saw it on your favorite network or internet news site (pick one, anyone).

Icecap Note: Let’s put this in perspective. The account may be
misinterpreted by some as the ice cap or a significant (vast) portion is
collapsing. In reality it and all the former shelves that collapsed are small and most near the Antarctic peninsula which sticks well out from Antarctica into the currents and winds of the South Atlantic and lies in a tectonically active region with surface and subsurface
volcanic activity.
The vast continent has actually cooled since 1979.

The full Wilkins 6,000 square mile ice shelf is just 0.39% of the
current ice sheet (just 0.1% of the extent last September). Only a small portion of it between 1/100th-1/200th of Wilkins has separated so far, like an icicle falling off a snow and ice covered house. And this winter is coming on quickly. In fact the ice is returning so fast, it is running an amazing 60% ahead (4.0 vs 2.5 million square km extent) of last year when it set a new record. The ice extent is already approaching the second highest level for extent since the measurements began by satellite in 1979 and just a few days into the Southern Hemisphere fall season and 6 months ahead of the peak. Wilkins like all the others that temporarily broke up will refreeze soon. We are very likely going to exceed last year’s record. Yet the world is left with the false impression Antarctica’s ice sheet is also starting to disappear.

Here is the link to the information on the active volcanoes in the Antarctic.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Some Suggestions

We’re confronted daily with competing demands and claims of people from opposite points of view. Conservatives rail against liberals and vice versa. Creationists fight Darwinists. Pro-life wrestle with pro-choice advocates. How do we decide? There isn’t a foolproof method that ensures everyone will come to the same conclusion. A lot of factors affect our ability to be objective. Since the theme of this blog is about thinking objectively I thought I’d share some ideas on how I try to practice what I preach. In essence I recommend taking the effort to check both sides. (In some cases there are more than two prominent positions.)

  • How do they argue? Do they confront the opposition’s positions head on or do they skirt the issues?
  • Do they fairly represent the arguments of the other side or do they “refute” these arguments by setting up easily-refuted straw men?
  • Do they try to build a cogent argument based on empirical data or do they simply state their final conclusions?

For example, if you’re considering whether global warming is caused by humans or by other causes (assuming there is warming), you could go to a site such as which provides links to global warming advocates and skeptics.

Let’s say you want sort out the creationism-evolution debate. This web page at Cal State Fullerton - - provides links to various sites on both sides of the issue.

On general political issues, check publications such as National Review for conservative viewpoints, The New Republic for the left and maybe Reason magazine for the libertarian perspective. For detailed analysis of policy issues you can go to The Cato Institute (libertarian), The Brookings Institution (liberal), the American Enterprise Institute (conservative), or The Atlas Society (Objectivist).

Another good source of information is The main articles usually refer to other sources on both sides of an issue and provide links to articles in the media and links to related web sites. Be sure to click on the “discussion” tab to see the dialog among the various contributors to the wiki entry.

As I said at the beginning, checking these sources won’t automatically provide you with answers. Nor will it make everyone agree with each other. What I have found, however, is that people who honestly and fairly look at more than one viewpoint before settling on their own tend to be more reasonable than those who only look at sources with which they already agree. If we are confident in our ability to think critically and objectively we won’t be threatened by exposing ourselves to opinions that might differ from ours. At the very least going through this exercise will better prepare you for counter-arguments to yours.

My main point, which is a theme running through this blog, is that maintaining objectivity isn’t easy! It involves hard work and resisting jumping to conclusions. If you come to conclusions about issues like health care, global warming, abortion, and intelligent design by carefully listening to and evaluating the different viewpoints out there, you should be able to defend yourself more effectively. Who knows? You might end up changing your mind? THAT, I believe, is the threat of checking your premises: the possibility of abandoning a position and even disagreeing with friends who share your overall beliefs. Objectivity doesn’t have the sexy appeal as being an ardent advocate of [insert the label of your favorite “ism” here]. To me that’s the exciting part of trying to be objective!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Obama Drama

Local Boston radio talk shows are devoting lots of air time to the Obama speech on racism and the inflammatory sermons of his minister. As usual Robert Bidinotto has an insightful post on the Obama speech about his relationship with Jeremiah Wright. Look under March 18, "An Elegant Farce." Lest we be accused of being racially biased (i.e., a white guy cannot understand a black's perspective) here is a column from Thomas Sowell titled "Obama's Speech." In another column, "The Audacity of Rhetoric," Sowell reveals that Obama makes a habit dating back to his college days of hanging out with radical left spokesman. Whether or not you agree with his choice of political friends the basic issue is that he cannot claim he was unaware of Wright's polemics. In fact, it's obvious that Obama agrees with Wright despite his claims to the contrary.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Global Warming Quiz

Or should I use the newer lingo and call it a "Climate Change Quiz"? A friend send me this link. Give it a shot. (I got a 100%, not that I'm bragging.)

Global Warming Quiz

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oil for the People from the People? Part 2

Thanks to Robert Bidinotto who provides this link to a news story about gas stations who are converting to Marathon Oil because customers are boycotting Citgo in protect to the antics of Hugo Chavez.

2008 International Conference on Climate Change

The Heartland Institute hosted the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change as a alternative to the recent conference that was held in Bali to decry man-made climate change (the new buzz words to replace global warming, probably because for the last 8 years or so the global temperatures have been stable and in 2007 the earth's average temperature dropped by at least half a degree). The Heartland conference hosted many scientists who disagree with Gore and his minions and claim that global warming, if it is occurring, is driven more by the sun and other natural factors than it is by humans.

On the web site covering this conference is a document produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), "an international coalition of scientists convened to provide an independent examination of the evidence available on the causes and consequences of climate change in the published, peer-reviewed literature – examined without bias and selectivity. It includes many research papers ignored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), plus additional scientific results that became available after the IPCC deadline of May 2006."

It's a nice summary of an alternative view, which the mass media assidously avoids representing.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Links on the subprime mess

During my recent weekly doubles tennis match one of the fellows in our group launched into a rant about the pending collapse of the real estate market with the potential for a domino effect on other financial markets due to the subprime lending fiasco. I haven't paid much attention to this subject other than to notice the frequent buzz about this in the news. My teammate's panic-stricken comments spurred me to look into the subprime situation. Rather than regurgitate what I found I decided to provide some links. As usual the news media and our demagogue elected officials who want to make political hay off of this artificially created predicament got it wrong yet again.


Don't Waste Your Time If You Can't Pay the Prime

Sub-Prime Politicians and Mortgage Loans By People Buying Homes by Thomas Sowell

Subprime Economics
by Alan Reynolds

The Subprime Crash
by Arnold Kling

The Morality of Moneylending: A Short History by Yaron Brook