Category Archives: Social Commentary

Peter Thiel And Global Warming

Why he’s skeptical:

“Whenever you can’t have a debate, I often think that’s evidence that there’s a problem,” Thiel said on The Glenn Beck Program. “When people use the word ‘science,’ it’s often a tell, like in poker, that you’re bluffing. It’s like we have ‘social science’ and we have ‘political science,’ [but] we don’t call it ‘physical science’ or ‘chemical science.’ We just call them physics and chemistry because we know they’re right.”

Thiel said no one will be upset if you ask questions about the periodic table, because it is actually science. But referring to man-made climate change as “science” tells you “that people are exaggerating and they’re bluffing a little bit,” Thiel said.

“The weather has not been getting warmer for the last 15 years. The hockey stick that Al Gore predicted in the early 2000s on the climate has not happened,” he remarked. “And I think as this monolithic culture breaks down, you can have more debates.”

Yes.

Violence Against Women

It’s great, as long as it’s against the “right” women:

The anchor went on to say “sit back and enjoy,” before playing the audio, in which Bristol says she confronted a man who had allegedly pushed her little sister, only to have him shove her to the ground, then drag her by her feet while calling her an obscene name I cannot republish here that refers to the female anatomy.

Costello commented, still grinning, after the audio that “the long bleep” was her favorite part. She ended the segment by saying “you can thank me later.”

Costello is the same anchor who was enraged by the NFL’s apparent lack of concern for the wife of former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice, who was punched by the football player in an Atlantic City elevator in February.

Obviously, Bristol Palin isn’t a “real” woman. She wouldn’t even murder her unborn child.

[Update late morning]

Costello apologizes.

Fighting The Left’s Fire With FIRE

Instapundit has some ideas for dealing with the war on college men:

You could add some street-theater when prospective freshmen tour the campus by putting up posters and passing out leaflets telling them that the campus is a “rights-free zone” for men or some such, too. And maybe demand that the admissions people warn admitted men that they won’t have due process, and then making a big stink when they won’t.

Yes, time to take back the campuses. Make all those administrators earn their money.

The Welfare State Of West California

Moving on in our examination of Tim Draper’s six Californias, from Nuevo Colorado (aka Central California), we come to the new state of West California. It’s ironic that it’s shown as green on the map, considering that it will be born into pension and welfare poverty.

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Why The CDC Is Failing

It’s forgotten and diffused its mission:

…as the impact of communicable diseases has lessened, public-health medicine—which concerns itself with community-wide solutions to health problems—began to look more intensely at treating and preventing conditions that don’t originate with germs. The focus of researchers and doctors turned especially to conditions thought to underlie cardiovascular disease. But unlike battles against germs, isolating the key cause of such problems has proved elusive, because multiple factors—from genetics to diet to personal habits, like smoking—are all potentially contribute.

Advocates like Frieden have plunged ahead anyway, sometimes proposing simplistic solutions to complex problems, often without much data to back up their claims. As New York City’s health commissioner, Frieden engineered a law requiring food chains to post calorie counts on menus, though there was no evidence that the availability of such information has any effect on eating habits. Frieden also led a campaign to cut salt consumption despite studies that had shown, in fact, that some individuals fared poorly on a salt-restricted diet. Frieden’s campaign led one world-renown hypertension expert to proclaim that New York was attempting to engineer a giant uncontrolled experiment. As time passed, Frieden’s practice of recommending sometimes outrageous solutions to health problems based on few facts grew more disconcerting. In 2007, he even proposed a campaign to persuade uncircumcised adult men in New York to get circumcised to reduce their risk to HIV; a study in Africa had concluded that the practice helped lower infections there. But Frieden’s proposal was widely derided and quickly dismissed because of the vast differences between the two populations and the preliminary nature of the research.

Read the whole thing. This is a microcosm of the more general problem of government getting involved with things that it both has no business doing, and at which it is monumentally incompetent. A small step to fix it would be to can Frieden, and explain why, and refocus the CDC on germs, but that’s far beyond this president’s ideology or ken.

[Update a while later]

Will ebola be good for the CDC?

Public health experts were, in a way, too successful; they beat back our infectious disease load to the point where most of us have never had anything more serious than Human papillomavirus or a bad case of the flu. This left them without that much to do. So they reinvented themselves as the overseers of everything that might make us unhealthy, from French Fries to work stress.

As with the steel mills, these problems are not necessarily amenable to the organizational tools used to tackle tuberculosis. The more the public and private health system are focused on these problems, the less optimized they will be for fighting the war against infectious disease. It is less surprising to find that they didn’t know how to respond to a novel infectious disease than it would have been to discover that they botched a new campaign against texting and driving.

Don’t get me wrong: Fighting infection is still one of the things that the public health infrastructure does, and though I hope it doesn’t come to that, I expect that our system will do a much better job next time. But the CDC did not botch the job because there’s something wrong with Barack Obama, or government, or the state of Texas, or private hospitals. They dropped the ball because the public health system no longer needs to work so many miracles, and consequently hasn’t had much practice. We shouldn’t have let public health give us such an inflated belief in the power of government. But we also shouldn’t forget that with the right task and the right tools, government is still capable of doing some wondrous things.

Only if it is focused on what it does well, and the right incentives are in place. That is not the case for much of the current federal government.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

First California, and now some people in south Florida want to split with Tallahassee. The reason is sort of hilariously stupid, though:

Harris told the commission that Tallahassee isn’t providing South Florida with proper representation or addressing its concerns when it comes to sea-level rising.

“We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee,” Harris said. “I don’t care what people think — it’s not a matter of electing the right people.”

Mayor Philip Stoddard agreed with Harris’ reasoning, saying he’s advocated for secession for the past 15 years but never penned a resolution.

“It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean,” Stoddard said. “They’ve made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that.”

If there weren’t enough reasons for me to leave Boca, living in a state dominated by south Floridians would seal the deal.

Nuevo Colorado

Continuing our tour of the six new Californias proposed by Tim Draper, this new state would be the only one with no Pacific coastline. Nonetheless, it has tremendous potential that is currently being hamstrung by Sacramento (or rather, the coastal voters who dominate the legislature). It would have a population of a little over four million, equivalent to Kentucky, and about a million fewer than Colorado. But as I’ll explain, its red depiction on the map below is appropriate, because it could be viewed as another Colorado in the making, except one only a couple-hour drive from the ocean.

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The New State Of Silicon Valley

Continuing my series (I now have four states up at Ricochet), the next state is Silicon Valley.

Unlike North California, Silicon Valley would be the new state with the most geographically misleading name. Shown in yellow on the map, it would encompass the current Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County, but it would also include all else on that peninsula, including San Francisco, and the East Bay all the way up to Oakland and Berkeley in Alameda County and the bedroom communities of Contra Costa County, all of which is quite densely populated. And beyond that, it would also extend south, all the way down into the Big Sur coast, to the southern Monterey County line. It would be the third largest of the new states, with a current population of almost seven million, like Arizona, Washington or Massachusetts.

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The Bioethics Of Mars Settlement

An interesting article over at Slate that raises similar concerns to mine:

If we send heterosexual astronauts, of different sexes and of reproductive age, on extended space missions, then the possibility of pregnancy looms. To ward that off, could it be ethical to demand sterilization for any potentially fertile astronauts in a mixed-sex crew? Radiation exposure may eventually take care of the issue by causing infertility, but some pregnancies could happen before infertility occurs. Is conception even possible in the zero-gravity of space, or in the low-gravity, high-radiation habitats on Mars? If so, would a fetus develop normally?

We don’t know, since it would seem patently unethical to even conduct these sorts of experiments today in space or anywhere else, at least with human subjects. Again, the physical and psychological dangers of procreating and living outside of Earth can seem inhumane, especially for involuntary subjects (the children). Yet many plans for space exploration already take it as a foregone conclusion that humans will reproduce in space. For some, it’s a crucial part of the business plan, as in the case of Mars One’s goal of moving toward a “permanent human settlement.”

As I noted:

What I would suggest to the Mars One people, though, is given that they’re planning to spend billions on this project, and the long-term goal is to have true human settlement of the planet, which necessarily involves offspring of the settlers, they devote a modest amount of their budget funding research that NASA has completely neglected for decades, but that others have privately proposed, to establish a variable-gravity laboratory in orbit where we can start to understand these issues. The fact that NASA (or Congress) have never given such research any priority whatsoever is eloquent testimony to how unimportant both consider the goal of spreading humanity into the solar system. But until we do, young people who want to go off to barren (at least initially) worlds will have to continue to face the prospect of remaining barren themselves.

Space really isn’t important, politically. Just “space” jobs.

[Update a few minutes later]

Meanwhile, Kate Greene says that economics would dictate that a Mars mission consist of all women.

Here’s my problem with that. While of course mass is an important consideration, it isn’t the only one. I would argue that any Mars mission would have to be based on an affordable mission concept, and that if it is, mass won’t matter that much, and if it isn’t, no one will go. Beyond that, I think there’s a flaw in the logic here, or at least insufficient information:

Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways.

During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000.

We were only allowed to exit the habitat if we wore mock spacesuits. So many Martian hassles, so little glory.

The data certainly fit with my other observations. At mealtime, the women took smaller portions than the men, who often went back for seconds. One crew member complained how hard it was to maintain his weight, despite all the calories he was taking in.

She doesn’t say, but is it possible that maybe the men were doing more physical work? If so, it might be that if the women had to do all of the heavy lifting, their calorie consumption would increase too. In any event, if you just want to send people to Mars for the sake of sending people to Mars, a female crew would be fine, but if you want to settle the planet, there would be a problem…

[Tuesday-morning update]

There seems to be a lot of off-topic whining in comments about what will be “allowed.” I said nothing about government involvement. I simply expressed an opinion that, given current knowledge, it would be unethical to attempt to have children on Mars (or even in weightlessness). I stand by that opinion.

Safe Is Not An Option: A Review

Finally, someone at NASA is willing to take the book seriously enough to critically review it. Obviously, I will respond at some point (TL;DR version, he cherry picks and ignores much of what I have to say, but that’s to be expected, given his NASA-centric viewpoint), but it’s a bad week between taxes and ISPCS. Anyway, despite my disagreement with the review itself, I’m sincerely grateful to Mr. Fodrocci for finally acknowledging the book’s existence, rather than (as much of the industry, including IAASS, has) pretending it doesn’t exist and hoping it will just go away.

North California

Just to the south of Jefferson, the new state of North California (shown as purple on the map) would be much larger, with a population of almost four million, comparable to Oregon or Oklahoma.

There is no other state that would really be comparable to North California, in terms of geography and climate. Unlike any of the other new states, it would have very little desert. It would have some of the best wine country in the world, in Napa and Sonoma counties. It would have the coastal beauty of Marin as well, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and the rest of the new state of Silicon Valley to its immediate south. Like Silicon Valley, it will have ocean access via the Golden Gate, from San Pablo and other northern bays, so it would have the option of building its own new ports.

As it is now, western North California would be a bedroom community for the industry of Silicon Valley to the south. With towns like Vallejo, Sausalito, Benicia, Santa Rosa and others along the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay system and Sacramento Delta, access between the two states would continue to be via ferries and toll bridges to San Francisco and Oakland, and Concord in Contra Costa County. One point of contention in a breakup will be which state gets both responsibility for, and revenue from, which bridges.

The eastern part of the new state would be much more rural, with the northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, and Gold Country in the western foothills of the mountains, and its own wine region centered in Amador County. The foothills and mountains will offer recreational opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, and horseback, with skiing in the winter in south Tahoe. Gold Country, with its historical towns and sites, will continue to be a tourist draw. While not as high as the Sierras further south, there will be some snow pack in the northern mountains to feed the northern part of the delta, and provide water for the new state.

As with the current California, Sacramento would be a good candidate for state capital. The current Sacramento State would likely become the flagship of North California’s higher educational system, the University of North California. The campus of the University of California in Davis would probably have its focus broadened and strengthened from its current one of agricultural research, perhaps becoming North California State.

It will inherit a number of prisons, in Sacramento, Folsom, Vacaville, Mule Creek in Ione, and of course the infamous San Quentin, just over the Silicon Valley state line from San Francisco. As with Jefferson, it is possible that these will provide excess capacity for its own criminal needs (particularly if it, like Jefferson, were to legalize drugs), given that the majority of prisoners are likely generated by the big cities of Silicon Valley, and West and South California. So there may be opportunities for revenue from those states to continue to house their prisoners. Again, the new state may offer an opportunity for reform with an end to the guards’ unions.

With its current voters, North California will have a twelve-point voting edge for Democrats, 43% to a little over 31% for Republicans and almost 3% for the American Independent Party. But as with Jefferson, about twenty percent of those registered are unpartied, so the right Republican candidate and policies could potentially win the votes of the state for governor, senators and electors. A more libertarian Republican might do well there.

Next up, the city-state of Silicon Valley.