Star Trek’s “Infinite Diversity” and the Endless Frontier

Spock understood the importance of innovation for life and prosperity by RICHARD LORENC …

Last Friday, millions of Star Trek fans were saddened by the news that Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the iconic character Spock on the series, had died at the age of 83 after a brief hospitalization.

I was among the multitude on social media who paid tribute to Nimoy by posting pictures, sayings, videos, and eulogies in remembrance of the man who brought “Live long and prosper” to the world.

The classic Vulcan farewell is not the only thoughtful gift from Nimoy and Spock. Another idea shared by the quintessential Vulcan was his people’s concept of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations,” or IDIC.

IDIC was the Vulcans’ subdued, yet profound, appreciation for diversity. They wore pendants representing IDIC and posted it like a religious icon in their homes, temples, and starships. It became the de facto symbol of the Vulcans and their intensely logical ways. It was as if they were saying, “Difference is essential to the universe, and we’ve seen far less than actually exists. We’ll never see the end of it – and that’s a good thing.”

That idea didn’t always sit well with space cowboys Kirk and McCoy, who wanted more concrete answers. But then humans are illogical. What else could Spock expect?

Like Star Trek generally, IDIC had a big impact on me. It’s an idea that still motivates and delights me when I think of the possibilities for humanity today, and particularly the opportunities for difference and diversity offered by markets.

If you view the market process as one of discovery – discovering new ways to combine old ideas, and imagining how to apply those ideas in service to others – you can see how it begins to reveal IDIC. With nothing holding back individuals’ creative energies, there’s no telling what orders and ideas might emerge, and there’s no end in sight to the frontiers of social and economic innovation.

The next time you walk a city street and gawk at the skyscrapers, or wander a supermarket and marvel at fresh strawberries in the winter, or gaze through a glowing box to see friends across the planet, take a moment to remember IDIC. Because of it, for the first time in history, our species truly can “live long and prosper.”

It’s fascinating – but it’s only logical.

ABOUT RICHARD LORENC

Richard N. Lorenc is the Chief Operating Officer of FEE.

The Climate Complex Strikes Back

Was the New York Times piece against Willie Soon a hit job? by MAX BORDERS…

Climate-change skeptic Willie Soon may be an unethical, corporate-bought climate-change denier or the latest casualty of the Climate-Industrial Complex’s immune response.

The New York Times’s Justin Gillis and John Schwartz write:

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

Something’s fishy here. Because all researchers get money from somewhere, it’s strange that none of the “eight” journals required Soon to disclose as a condition of publication. Given his reputation as a skeptic, didn’t they even think to ask? And, indeed, if there really is a universal ethical standard, aren’t the journals that published Soon also in violation of the ethics?

To find out whether Soon acted inappropriately and outside of research ethics, we really have to know whether that disclosure standard applies across the board. In other words, of the hundreds of journal articles published over the last few years, how many authors disclosed their funding sources — public, private, corporate, or nonprofit?

If there is indeed a known ethical standard of disclosure to which the vast majority of researchers adhere, then it might be appropriate for the Times to single out Soon for a failure to disclose. (The Times offers no such context, no such data.) However, if a majority does not disclose its funding sources, then there is clearly no well-defined ethic of disclosure and the Times is simply inventing an impropriety to ruin a man’s career as a scientist.

Now, some might argue that people should only be required to publish their funding sources if those sources are private or corporate. After all, they’ll argue, government money is used because government grantors only want to find the truth, whereas private grantors only want to bias the process and to obfuscate the truth.

The idea that a government grant comes with no agenda should be preposterous on its face. After all, who has more to gain from “action on climate change” than the very people providing the research dollars and their solar-powered cronies? The members of the Climate-Industrial Complex have enormous incentives to hide the decline, cook the books, and keep the funds flowing into their department coffers and crony projects. And those with taxing authority — that is, those who hold the government purse strings — have an even bigger incentive.

To put this into perspective, consider the following, reported by Climate of Corruption author Larry Bell in Forbes:

According to the GAO, annual federal climate spending has increased from $4.6 billion in 2003 to $8.8 billion in 2010, amounting to $106.7 billion over that period. The money was spent in four general categories: technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, science to understand climate changes, international assistance for developing countries, and wildlife adaptation to respond to actual or expected changes. Technology spending, the largest category, grew from $2.56 billion to $5.5 billion over this period, increasingly advancing over others in total share. Data compiled by Joanne Nova at the Science and Policy Institute indicates that the U.S. Government spent more than $32.5 billion on climate studies between 1989 and 2009. This doesn’t count about $79 billion more spent for climate change technology research, foreign aid and tax breaks for “green energy.”

These sums are only what the US government is spending. Global spending is simply staggering.

More generally, anyone who funds anything is almost always looking for a certain kind of result. Therefore, any standard of disclosure must apply to any and all scholars equally, no matter the funding source.

That government money shouldn’t corrupt is just another application of the Unicorn Fallacy so common among well-meaning greens. Unfortunately, because so many people are under the illusion that “public” money is not a corruptive influence in science, it may be that those who receive it are far more willing to disclose a government grant than a private one — whatever the quality of the research. Or, it might be that journal committees simply don’t require researchers on the government dole to disclose. (The Times offers us no such context in the case of the journals Soon contributed to.)

Here is some more eel-like journalism from the Times:

Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.

“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Dr. Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”

Notice the weasel phrase “disclosure standards of some journals.” Some? Isn’t this supposed to be a standard that applies to all? And how should Alcock handle the purported violations of some of the journals? We don’t know because we are only seeing the part of the conversation the Times wants us to see, to infer something, ur, uh, “inappropriate.”

Still, what if it is both true that Soon violated accepted norms of disclosure relative to peers, and that he did so because he was afraid that to disclose his sources would lead to accusations of bias? Then we have to separate questions about Soon’s integrity from questions about his research.

In the former case, there is an army of fanatical climate-change activists ready to pounce on anyone who presents any evidence that runs counter to their apocalyptic narrative. (Remember, professional climate-change activists have a huge stake in the outcome of this debate, too. Climate-change donations are quite the gravy train, and that Prius isn’t going to pay for itself.) Indeed, if climate-change heretics like Soon can only get research funding outside the Climate-Industrial Complex, should we expect researchers with unpopular findings to erect billboards advertising their sources?

For us to ask such questions is not meant to absolve Soon or anyone else of abandoning generally accepted disclosure standards; it is merely to say that the very climate-change activists who wrote the Times piece know full well that this is the sort of incentive they create when they go on witch hunts for “deniers.” Climate-change science has become a hostile environment for skeptics. Science itself becomes the casualty of such hostility, which brings me to the latter point — that is, the quality of Soon’s research.

Even if we found evidence that Soon was the most avaricious villain and corporate toadie the world had ever seen, would any purported wrongdoing invalidate his actual scholarship?

Anyone who has ever had a course in logic knows the unequivocal answer is no. Research is either accurate or inaccurate, whatever the source.

Notice that at no point in the Times article did the authors — or anyone quoted by the authors — actually attack Soon’s specific scholarship. Sure, the Times makes vague innuendo, as with this quote:

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.

Many experts like whom? The only quote they provide is from Gavin Schmidt of the activist website RealClimate.org, who says, “The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless.” In other words, this Gavin Schmidt:

We don’t want, like the Times, to import an ad hominem fallacy. But of all the innuendo, why are we being asked to believe only that of the world’s foremost climate activists? Innuendo is convenient, but it is not conclusive.

Maybe Soon’s research is bad or misleading or somehow just wrong. But in science, this is where the rubber hits the road. And the Times fails to deliver in demonstrating that Soon’s scientific work is incorrect, wherever he got his research money. And that makes this Times piece just the sort of agitprop we have come to expect from the Grey Lady.

Now, what if Soon is right, for example, about the relative effects of the sun (versus humans) on the climate system? There are thousands of jobs, thousands of reputations, billions in funding, and trillions of future carbon tax revenues at stake. You think they’re going to let this flea continue to irritate the hide of Leviathan?

But let us be clear: the point of the Times article was never to find out whether Soon’s research was correct. The point is to use innuendo to push a heretical researcher to the margins of science — or perhaps out altogether — so that the powers behind the Climate-Industrial Complex can get to that multitrillion-dollar pot at the end of the rainbow.

The Times goes on to say: “The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as ‘deliverables’ that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.”

The most apparently damning evidence that Soon acted inappropriately and was prepared to bias his research for his corporate masters comes in the accusation that he referred to his research as a “deliverable,” and that on another occasion, he referred to his congressional testimony as a “deliverable”?

As everyone knows, deliverables are work products. Sometimes deliverables are paid for by companies, sometimes by governments, sometimes by NGOs. But as someone who has worked in the nonprofit sector for a long time, I can tell you that any time someone gives you a grant, they are expecting you to do some work. And, indeed, they may specify just what sorts of work products you are responsible for producing as a condition of receiving the grant. In other words, they will want deliverables.

Now, does that mean that the “deliverable” in question was research that had packaged into it a specific, predetermined result? Of course not. We should be under no illusions, however: if Soon’s deliverables suddenly started containing messages that did not comport with what the grantors want to hear, the grants might very well dry up. But this is no less true for scientists who fail to produce results that jibe with the “consensus” message that government grantors and climate NGOs are fond of. So why should questions about financial influence only be applied to skeptics?

We should very well expect that the Climate-Industrial Complex and its handmaiden, the Grey Lady, will be looking for blood wherever they can find it. And if we want to talk about bias being bought and paid for by corporate masters, one need look no further than the authors of the Times article — whose omissions and double standards are so bald that Balance, that fair goddess of journalism, weeps.

ABOUT MAX BORDERS

Max Borders is the editor of The Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also co-founder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

It’s an Ice Age for Sure

Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire.
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate.
To say that for destruction ice Is also great.
And would suffice.

— Robert Frost, American poet.

Cover - Not by FireRobert W. Felix borrowed from the poet Robert Frost for the title of his book, “Not by Fire, But by Ice”, first published in 1997 and devoted to the science of magnetic reversals and the Earth’s ice ages. I read it first in 2010 and was absolutely floored because Felix makes a very strong case for a reversal that would lead to a widespread extinction of life at some point in the future. In the near, more predictable future, he said the Earth was heading into a new ice age.

“What would happen if a magnetic reversal occurred right here?” asked Felix. “The same things that happened in the past. Earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, giant snowstorms, rising land, plummeting sea levels—you name it—tectonic activity would go bonkers.” Don’t believe him? Think about the disappearance of the dinosaurs some 65.5 million years ago.

The Earth had been in a cooling cycle that began in 1996 when the sun entered a cycle of reduced radiation. Such cycles were well known and most dramatically tied to the mini-ice age that occurred between 1300 and 1850. Solar observers had noticed many centuries ago that when there were few sunspots—magnetic storms—on the surface of the Sun, the Earth got colder.

This has become especially dramatic because, on February 17 a post on http://thesiweather.com/category/climate-info/ called for a discussion of the fact that “The Sun has gone quiet again during the weakest solar cycle in more than a century.” The post says, “If history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a negative impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere—and where we all live.”

“There have been two notable historical periods with decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The first is known as the ‘Maunder Minimum’, named after solar astronomer Edward Maunder, and it lasted from 1645 to 1715. The second one is referred to as the ‘Dalton Minimum’, named for the English meteorologist John Dalton and it lasted from 1780 to 1830.” Together they are referred to as the “Little Ice Age.”

There are quite a few scientists forecasting a new ice age. The last ice age began approximately 1.6 million years ago in the Pleistocene epoch. We are currently in the Holocene epoch that began about 11,000 years ago and is regarded as an interglacial period of general warmth.

Cover - Dark WinterIn his book, “Dark Winter: How the Sun is Causing a 30-Year Cold Spell”, John L. Casey, a former White House national space policy advisor, says that whatever warming has occurred has ended as the result of “solar hibernation”, a term he applies to the reduction of energy output of the Sun. The “climate change” that is occurring is a long-term reduction in the Earth’s temperatures with, says Casey, “a high probability of increased earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.”

In “Cold Sun”, another book by Casey, his says that “The most likely outcome from this ‘solar hibernation’ will be widespread global loss of life and social, economic, and political disruption. You must prepare for this life-altering event now!”

In January 2012, Matt Ridley, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, noted that “The entire 10,000-year history of civilization has happened in an unusually warm interlude in the Earth’s recent history. Over the past million years, it has been as warm as this or warmer for less than 10% of the time, during 11 brief episodes known as interglacial periods.”

Those who kept warning of a “global warming” with dire results misinterpreted the climate. Ridley noted that “It’s striking that most inter-glacials begin with an abrupt warming, peak sharply, (and) then begin a gradual descent into cooler conditions.” That is what is occurring now.

None of this has anything to do with carbon dioxide, ozone, or any other element of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is entirely the result of the lower solar radiation of heat.

The United States should be taking steps to ensure a sufficient supply of electricity to cope with the lower temperatures, but has been wasting billions to support “renewable” energy, wind and solar, that is costly and ineffective. The U.S. Energy Department projects that solar power will make up 0.6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2015. Wind power which is funded in part by taxpayer subsidies to stay in business has received $7.3 billion over the past seven years, but produces a minimal amount of electricity to justify its cost.

At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on coal” has forced many plants providing electricity to close. A significant disruption of electricity over an extended period of time will cause many deaths due to the cold weather. It is inevitable.

At the same time, instead of providing a source of food, tons of corn are being turned into ethanol in the name of reducing carbon dioxide even though CO2 plays no role whatever in a “global warming” that is not happening.

It’s not just another typical winter. The U.S. and much of the northern hemisphere is experiencing increased cooling that is seen in record-breaking and record-setting new amounts of snow and ice. This is a trend tied to the Sun’s and the Earth’s cooling cycle.

That is of no concern to those who are using “global warming” and “climate change” in order to bring about a transformation in the global economic system from capitalism, the most effective creator of growth and wealth, to socialism, a pathetic, failed system of income redistribution controlled by a central government. Directed out of the United Nations, their absurd claims are supported by the media and many deluded politicians.

Is the U.S. government responding in a sensible way? No. When President Obama speaks of “climate change” he means “global warming.” The result over the past three decades has been the waste of billions for “research” and other schemes tied to this huge hoax.

Real climatologists, meteorologists, and scientists paying attention to both the past and to present events are forecasting more intense and longer winters—for now a Little Ice Age.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

The Reluctant Visionary

Nanotechnology – driven manufacturing will change our world in fundamental ways—but we shouldn’t get too worked up about it by PHIL BOWERMASTER:

In 1959, Richard Feynman delivered a lecture with the provocative title “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” Speaking at a meeting of the American Physical Society at Caltech, the Nobel-laureate-to-be speculated about the possibility of manipulating matter at the atomic level via exquisitely small machines. Would it be possible, Feynman asked, for such machinery to configure atoms themselves, producing atomically precise outputs? Might we one day have billions of submicroscopic factories working in parallel to produce anything and everything we need?

It was a profound and exciting idea, and yet one that received very little serious attention in the years that followed, until an MIT student named K. Eric Drexler took up the cause in the 1980s. Working within Marvin Minsky’s MIT Media Lab, Drexler earned a Ph.D. in molecular nanotechnology—the first such degree ever awarded anywhere. Along the way he wrote the bestselling Engines of Creation (1986), which outlined his vision of nanotechnology for non-technical audiences, and the technical treatise Nanosystems (1991), which got into the nuts and bolts of nanotech.

Engines of Creation kicked off a worldwide nanotechnology craze. Corporations and universities began sponsoring research. Governments formed committees to develop technology roadmaps. Speculation in the media and popular culture grew ever wilder and more colorful, promoting images of tiny robots that could keep our clothes stain-free and our arteries unclogged, provided they didn’t go into an unstoppable feeding frenzy and reduce the entire world to a quivering mass of goo. Along with this buzz grew skepticism as to when and if we would ever see such technology, and whether molecular nanotechnology as described by Drexler was even possible.

Atomically Precise Manufacturing

Now, more than 25 years after the publication of Engines, Drexler returns to the subject of nanotechnology with Radical Abundance. Eschewing as tainted both by hype and bureaucratic mismanagement the word he introduced to the world, Drexler refers in his new work to “atomically precise manufacturing” (APM), which he says reflects the concepts he originally introduced.

Drexler devotes an early chapter to the functioning of a typical APM environment, a small factory roughly the size of a garage that produces, appropriately enough, automobiles. At the top or front of this fully automated factory, full-size automobile parts are assembled to produce a finished product. One step below or behind this level, smaller components that make up the auto parts are assembled from still smaller components. And so the system regresses all the way to the molecular scale. Each preceding level produces components of roughly half the size of the next and, because of the tremendous advantages of scale, operates at about twice the speed.

This small factory can produce a car in a matter of minutes, which doesn’t sound all that extraordinary when compared to today’s fully automated assembly lines. But there is really no comparison. Today’s assembly lines can produce a finished car from premanufactured parts in a relatively compact space and in an impressively short period of time, but where did those parts come from? How long did it take to make them, and the materials they were made from? And what is the origin of those materials?

In his classic essay “I, Pencil,” economist Leonard E. Read outlines the unexpectedly widespread origins of a humble wooden pencil. Trees from Oregon, graphite from Sri Lanka, clay from Mississippi, factice (the eraser) from Indonesia, and many other components come together to provide this simple everyday object. Imagine conducting such an analysis for something as complex as a modern automobile. A car that takes a few minutes to assemble actually takes years to build if we add together all the effort required to produce the (finally) ready-to-assemble parts from earlier components traced all the way back to raw materials.

But Drexler’s APM factory produces a finished car directly from raw materials, cutting years down to minutes and shrinking a globe-spanning supply chain to the size of the (remarkably small) factory. In his essay, Read notes that the knowledge required to make a pencil is distributed as widely as its constituent parts. In a strangely prophetic passage, he writes (speaking as the pencil):

Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

In Drexler’s vision of atomically precise manufacturing, the production of material goods becomes an instance of information technology: The finished car is a digital product comparable to a movie burned onto a DVD. All of the know-how required to turn a few basic materials into a working automobile is written into the software that governs the operation of the APM factory, which begins its assembly process by quite literally putting molecules together.

It’s Different Down There

It is that first step of the APM process, molecular assembly, that is by far the hardest to pull off. The question of whether and how molecular assembly could be accomplished is at the crux of the ongoing controversy concerning nanotechnology. There is little dispute that a very small factory can be built that operates in essentially the same way as a full-sized factory, or even that a microscopic factory can be built to operate essentially the same way as the very small one. But as Feynman pointed out all the way back in 1959, and as Drexler goes to some length to explain, once we begin to approach the atomic scale, the rules are quite different. Gravity becomes much less of a factor, surface tension and friction become much more significant factors, and something has to be done about the fact that molecules are always vibrating. The portion of the APM system that operates at the molecular scale would therefore have to be very different from the rest of the system.

That first step has had no shortage of detractors, including the late Richard Smalley, himself a Nobel laureate for his discovery of buckminsterfullerene (“bucky balls”), one of the top scientific contributions to the field of nanotechnology. Drexler describes Smalley as “the leading critic of what were wrongly said to be my views,” citing multiple examples of inconsistency on Smalley’s part concerning both Drexler’s ideas and Drexler himself.

The two men famously debated the issue of molecular assembly in the pages of Scientific American and Chemical and Engineering News. As recounted in the footnotes to Radical Abundance, Drexler portrays Smalley as a primary contributor to many prevalent misunderstandings that surround nanotechnology, in particular the fear of deadly swarms of “nanobots.” Concerning molecular assembly, Drexler notes that Smalley’s major objection was the so-called “fat-finger” argument, which states that it would be impossible to make a stable and usable pair of molecular fingers (or pincers) that would be able to grasp a single atom in order to put it into place.

This argument is a straw man, says Drexler, with little bearing on anything that he has ever proposed or any of the likely paths to atomically precise manufacturing. He devotes a chapter to cataloging the different disciplines that currently achieve atomic precision. These include chemistry, genetic engineering, materials processing methods, and work that is being done with crystals. While skeptics argue that we are no closer today to nanotechnology than we were when Drexler wrote Engines of Creation, contributors to these fields—none of which is considered to be part of “nanotechnology” per se—are rapidly, if quietly, laying the groundwork for that first step of the APM process.

The Fourth Major Revolution

The significance of turning the production of physical goods into an information technology would be difficult to overstate. Drexler puts APM in context as the fourth major revolution after agriculture, the Industrial Revolution, and the digital revolution. APM borrows from and builds upon each of its predecessors, and has the potential to be as disruptive as each of them.

Consider how disruptive the move to the digital realm was for the music industry. In the analog world, recorded music was relatively scarce. Although the means existed by which we could produce our own copies of commercially manufactured recordings—remember the mix tape?—those technologies weren’t much of a threat to the recording industry. Most of the music people owned, they had purchased at a record store or other retail outlet.

Then along comes digital. Suddenly, creating a perfect copy of a commercially produced recording is as easy as copying and pasting text in an email. Music becomes “free” to anyone who has a Napster account. The music industry is shaken to its core and, although it fights back against the new model with some success, ultimately its survival requires that it morph into something very much like the model that is killing it.

Where music is concerned, we already live in an age of radical abundance. Similar transformations have occurred in book publishing and in film and video production. But those transformations are nothing compared to what will happen when that same “copy and paste” paradigm can be applied to essentially any manufactured good. As with recorded music, the cost of producing such goods will drop to a fraction of what it currently is, while much of the infrastructure currently required to produce these goods will become obsolete.

But in this case, that obsolete “infrastructure” is, essentially, the entire world economy of physical goods, from the extraction of raw materials to the production of precise machine tools to the manufacture of finished products. So we have, on the one hand, a superabundance of everything we could want or need, and on the other hand, the complete destruction—it might be fair to call it the “creative destruction”—of the economy as we have known it. Drexler describes this scenario as one of “catastrophic success.”

That same catastrophic success is what hit the music industry a few years back. In the end, we can expect a worldwide physical infrastructure for the production and distribution of goods as different from what we currently have as iTunes is from the old record-store model. Of course, as painful as that transition may be, there is no doubt that we would be immensely better off for having made it, enjoying the same kinds of economic benefits that we gained in moving from an agrarian society to an industrial one.

In fact, we should expect those benefits to be significantly greater than the ones provided by the previous revolutions, seeing as this revolution is effectively the culmination of all of them. We are talking about a world where people can make their own stuff, anything they want or need, and even produce their own energy. Drexler doesn’t get into many specifics about how very bright that future might look, however. On the contrary, at this point he issues an unexpected warning about abundance of a particular kind. He sees little advantage to an abundance of enthusiasm.

There’s something that I feel I must say to some of my readers, and I hope that they will understand a somewhat counterintuitive message and take it to heart. If you find these ideas about prospective technologies compelling, convincing, and exciting—if you imagine vistas far beyond any I’ve outlined, or see solutions to urgent global problems and feel the urge to share the full measure of your excitement—then please lie down until the urge passes. In the world as it is, this kind of excitement triggers a negative response, and for reasons that usually make sense; almost all grand ideas proclaimed by excited proponents turn out to be wrong and are generally discounted without consideration. If you want to make a positive difference, please help to keep fundamentals first, help to correct mistaken ideas, and join the conversation without shouting.

It seems that decades of clearing up misconceptions about fat fingers and swarms of lethal nanobots have taken their toll. Drexler is apparently tired of those arguments, tired of the hype, and tired of the true potential of this technology being, in his view, overlooked. He makes a sober and articulate case for why we should expect to see APM technologies become a reality in the near future. The impact of those technologies will be enormous.

So let’s talk about it, says Drexler. Quietly.

It will be interesting to see whether he gets his wish. It is possible that APM will arrive in full force after we have had the chance to deliberate, to plan, to prepare ourselves for the shock. But if the previous revolutions are any indication, we can expect the real dialog about catastrophic success and radical abundance to take place even as we are being overwhelmed by those changes.

ABOUT PHIL BOWERMASTER

Philip Bowermaster is a blogger and futurist, and co-host of the popular Internet radio series The World Transformed.

CLICHÉS OF PROGRESSIVISM #45 – “Robots and Computerization Cause Unemployment” by WENDY MCELROY

Report Suggests Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Are Vulnerable to Computerization,” screams a headline. The cry of “robots are coming to take our jobs!” is ringing across North America. But the concern reveals nothing so much as a fear—and misunderstanding—of the free market.

In the short term, robotics will cause some job dislocation; in the long term, labor patterns will simply shift. The use of robotics to increase productivity while decreasing costs works basically the same way as past technological advances, like the production line, have worked. Those advances improved the quality of life of billions of people and created new forms of employment that were unimaginable at the time.

Given that reality, the cry that should be heard is, “Beware of monopolies controlling technology through restrictive patents or other government-granted privilege.”

Actually, they are here already. Technological advance is an inherent aspect of a free market in which innovators seeks to produce more value at a lower cost. Entrepreneurs want a market edge. Computerization, industrial control systems, and robotics have become an integral part of that quest. Many manual jobs, such as factory-line assembly, have been phased out and replaced by others, such jobs related to technology, the Internet, and games. For a number of reasons, however, robots are poised to become villains of unemployment. Two reasons come to mind:

1.Robots are now highly developed and less expensive. Such traits make them an increasingly popular option. The Banque de Luxembourg News offered a snapshot:

The currently-estimated average unit cost of around $50,000 should certainly decrease further with the arrival of “low-cost” robots on the market. This is particularly the case for “Baxter,” the humanoid robot with evolving artificial intelligence from the U.S. company Rethink Robotics, or “Universal 5” from the Danish company Universal Robots, priced at just $22,000 and $34,000 respectively.

Better, faster, and cheaper are the bases of increased productivity.

2.Robots will be interacting more directly with the general public. The fast-food industry is a good example. People may be accustomed to ATMs, but a robotic kiosk that asks, “Do you want fries with that?” will occasion widespread public comment, albeit temporarily.

Comment from displaced fast-food restaurant workers may not be so transient. NBC News recently described a strike by workers in an estimated 150 cities. The workers’ main demand was a $15 minimum wage, but they also called for better working conditions. The protesters, ironically, are speeding up their own unemployment by making themselves expensive and difficult to manage.

Compared to humans, robots are cheaper to employ—partly for natural reasons and partly because of government intervention.

Among the natural costs are training, safety needs, overtime, and personnel problems such as hiring, firing and on-the-job theft. Now, according to Singularity Hub, robots can also be more productive in certain roles. They “can make a burger in 10 seconds (360/hr). Fast yes, but also superior quality. Because the restaurant is free to spend its savings on better ingredients, it can make gourmet burgers at fast food prices.”

Government-imposed costs include minimum-wage laws and mandated benefits, as well as discrimination, liability, and other employment lawsuits. The employment advisory Workforce explained, “Defending a case through discovery and a ruling on a motion for summary judgment can cost an employer between $75,000 and $125,000. If an employer loses summary judgment—which, much more often than not, is the case—the employer can expect to spend a total of $175,000 to $250,000 to take a case to a jury verdict at trial.”

At some point, human labor will make sense only to restaurants that wish to preserve the “personal touch” or to fill a niche.

The tech site Motherboard aptly commented, “The coming age of robot workers chiefly reflects a tension that’s been around since the first common lands were enclosed by landowners who declared them private property: that between labour and the owners of capital. The future of labour in the robot age has everything to do with capitalism.”

Ironically, Motherboard points to one critic of capitalism who defended technological advances in production: none other than Karl Marx. He called machines “fixed capital.” The defense occurs in a segment called “The Fragment on Machines” in the unfinished but published manuscript Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy).

Marx believed the “variable capital” (workers) dislocated by machines would be freed from the exploitation of their “surplus labor,” the difference between their wages and the selling price of a product, which the capitalist pockets as profit. Machines would benefit “emancipated labour” because capitalists would “employ people upon something not directly and immediately productive, e.g. in the erection of machinery.” The relationship change would revolutionize society and hasten the end of capitalism itself.

Never mind that the idea of “surplus labor” is intellectually bankrupt, technology ended up strengthening capitalism. But Marx was right about one thing: Many workers have been emancipated from soul-deadening, repetitive labor. Many who feared technology did so because they viewed society as static. The free market is the opposite. It is a dynamic, quick-response ecosystem of value. Internet pioneer Vint Cerf argues, “Historically, technology has created more jobs than it destroys and there is no reason to think otherwise in this case.”

Forbes pointed out that U.S. unemployment rates have changed little over the past 120 years (1890 to 2014) despite massive advances in workplace technology:

There have been three major spikes in unemployment, all caused by financiers, not by engineers: the railroad and bank failures of the Panic of 1893, the bank failures of the Great Depression, and finally the Great Recession of our era, also stemming from bank failures. And each time, once the bankers and policymakers got their houses in order, businesses, engineers, and entrepreneurs restored growth and employment.

The drive to make society static is a powerful obstacle to that restored employment. How does society become static? A key word in the answer is “monopoly.” But we should not equivocate on two forms of monopoly.

A monopoly established by aggressive innovation and excellence will dominate only as long as it produces better or less expensive goods than others can. Monopolies created by crony capitalism are entrenched expressions of privilege that serve elite interests. Crony capitalism is the economic arrangement by which business success depends upon having a close relationship with government, including legal privileges.

Restrictive patents are a basic building block of crony capitalism because they grant a business the “right” to exclude competition. Many libertarians deny the legitimacy of any patents. The nineteenth century classical liberal Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk rejected patents on classically Austrian grounds. He called them “legally compulsive relationships of patronage which are based on a vendor’s exclusive right of sale”: in short, a government-granted privilege that violated every man’s right to compete freely. Modern critics of patents include the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard and intellectual property attorney Stephan Kinsella.

Pharmaceuticals and technology are particularly patent-hungry. The extent of the hunger can be gauged by how much money companies spend to protect their intellectual property rights. In 2011, Apple and Google reportedly spent more on patent lawsuits and purchases than on research and development. A New York Times article addressed the costs imposed on tech companies by “patent trolls”—people who do not produce or supply services based on patents they own but use them only to collect licensing fees and legal settlements. “Litigation costs in the United States related to patent assertion entities [trolls],” the article claimed, “totaled nearly $30 billion in 2011, more than four times the costs in 2005.” These costs and associated ones, like patent infringement insurance, harm a society’s productivity by creating stasis and preventing competition.

Dean Baker, co-director of the progressive Center for Economic Policy Research, described the difference between robots produced on the marketplace and robots produced by monopoly. Private producers “won’t directly get rich” because “robots will presumably be relatively cheap to make. After all, we can have robots make them. If the owners of robots get really rich it will be because the government has given them patent monopolies so that they can collect lots of money from anyone who wants to buy or build a robot.”  The monopoly “tax” will be passed on to impoverish both consumers and employees.

Ultimately, we should return again to the wisdom of Joseph Schumpeter, who reminds us that technological progress, while it can change the patterns of production, tends to free up resources for new uses, making life better over the long term. In other words, the displacement of workers by robots is just creative destruction in action. Just as the car starter replaced the buggy whip, the robot might replace the burger-flipper. Perhaps the burger-flipper will migrate to a new profession, such as caring for an elderly person or cleaning homes for busy professionals. But there are always new ways to create value.

An increased use of robots will cause labor dislocation, which will be painful for many workers in the near term. But if market forces are allowed to function, the dislocation will be temporary. And if history is a guide, the replacement jobs will require skills that better express what it means to be human: communication, problem-solving, creation, and caregiving.

Summary

  • The use of robotics to increase productivity while decreasing costs works basically the same way as past technological advances, like the production line, have worked. Those advances improved the quality of life of billions of people and created new forms of employment that were unimaginable at the time.
  • Compared to humans, robots are cheaper to employ—partly for natural reasons and partly because of government intervention. Natural costs include training, safety needs, overtime, and personnel problems such as hiring, firing and on-the-job theft. Unnatural, non-market costs stem from cronyism dispensed by governments.
  • An increased use of robots will cause labor dislocation, which will be painful for many workers in the near term. But if market forces are allowed to function, the dislocation will be temporary.

For further information, see:

“Technology and the Work Force: Work Will Not End” by Donald Jonas

“Good Economists, Bad Economists, and Walmart” by Lawrence W. Reed

“The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830” by Raymond J. Keating

If you wish to republish this article, please write editor@fee.org.

ABOUT WENDY MCELROY

Contributing editor Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is an author, editor of ifeminists.com, and Research Fellow at The Independent Institute (independent.org).

EDITORS NOTE: 

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is proud to partner with Young America’s Foundation (YAF) to produce “Clichés of Progressivism,” a series of insightful commentaries covering topics of free enterprise, income inequality, and limited government. See the index of the published chapters here.

The Marijuana Report: If we can see the difference, why can’t we speak the difference?

The green tubes in the picture above contain a cannabinoid, one of more than 100 components scientists have identified in the marijuana plant. This particular cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), or Epidiolex, which GW Pharmaceuticals extracts from the marijuana plant, purifies, and mixes in oil to treat children with rare forms of epilepsy. Some 98% of this medicine is CBD with trace amounts of other cannabinoids, including less than 0.2% of THC, the cannabinoid that produces a “high.” Epidiolex is in FDA clinical trials in the US and is expected to be approved soon. If it is, doctors will be able to prescribe it for children who suffer intractable seizures. No laws will need to be changed.

Pictured below Epidiolex is a marijuana plant. Add another 400 chemical components to the cannabinoids it contains. Few have been studied. Legalization advocates, and marijuana growers, processors, and distributors who stand to make fortunes, have convinced most Americans that this whole plant is medicine, or “medical marijuana.”

marijuana plant
But the promise for medicine lies in the plant’s cannabinoids, not the whole plant itself. That promise is being investigated by scientists who are studying cannabinoids in test tubes or in animals but, with rare exceptions, not yet in humans. That hasn’t stopped legalization advocates from claiming that the whole marijuana plant itself can produce a result in humans that a specific cannabinoid has produced in a test tube. But a test tube result is not a fact; it’s an indication that a scientist should take the next step in the research process. And a finding that a single cannabinoid has a specific effect in a test tube cannot be applied to the whole marijuana plant consumed by a human.
 
At the 2015 annual meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Science (NAAS) last Saturday, researchers conducted a symposium titled “Cannabis and Medicine: A New Frontier in Therapeutics.” According to materials promoting the symposium and press accounts of it, the researchers used the terms “medical marijuana” and cannabinoids interchangeably, an odd thing for scientists, for whom precision matters, to do.
 
One, Dr. Igor Grant of the University of California, San Diego, asserted, “‘There is no evidence for long-term damaging effects [of marijuana use] in adults,’” according to an account of the symposium written for Science Magazine, the publication of the NAAS. “Preliminary data linking marijuana use to an increased risk of schizophrenia have not been supported by further studies.”
 
That was Saturday. Yesterday, The Lancet published a study by 23 scientists who found that daily use of high-potency marijuana (about 16% THC and no CBD) quintupled the risk of developing a schizophrenic-like psychosis and weekend use tripled the risk among people ages 18 to 65. A major finding of the study is that potency and frequency of use are critical to determining the effect of marijuana on mental health, factors, according to one report, that are often overlooked by doctors.
 
Ironically underscoring the need to be precise in our language is a dispute reported today in Oregon where medical marijuana growers have asked a legislator for a bill that will ban the growing of hemp in counties with large medical-marijuana grows. They fear hemp will pollinate their high-THC marijuana and turn it into low-grade, 60s pot. “It basically makes the medicine worthless,” one grower said.
 
Click here to read an account of the NAAS marijuana symposium.
Click here to read an account of The Lancet study.
Click here to read The Lancet study itself.
Click here to read the Oregon story.

ABOUT THE MARIJUANA REPORT:

The Marijuana Report.Org is published by the Marijuana Studies Program, a project of National Families in Action and its partners. The report is a news aggregator website that links browsers to daily news coverage of the marijuana issue. A one-page e-newsletter highlights key issues for subscribers each week. We are grateful to Monte Stiles, Derek Franklin, the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, and others who contribute stories to this website.

The EPA’s Ozone Nightmare

Putting aside its insane attack on carbon dioxide, declaring the most essential gas on Earth, other than oxygen, a “pollutant”, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently engaged in trying to further regulate ozone for no apparent reason other than its incessant attack on the economy.

In late January on behalf of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), Dr. Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D, filed his testimony on the proposed national ambient air quality standard for ozone. The EPA wants to lower the current ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 70 to 65 ppb, and even as low as 60 ppb.

“After promulgation of the current ozone standards in 2008,” Dr. Cohen noted, “EPA two years later called a temporary halt to the nationwide implementation of the standard in response to the severe recession prevailing at the time.”

In other words, it was deemed bad for the economy. “Now, EPA is proposing a new, more stringent standard even before the current standard has been fully implemented and even though, according to the EPA’s own data, ozone concentrations have declined by 33 percent since 1980.”

AA - Ozone molecule

Ozone molecule.

According to Wikipedia: “Ozone is a powerful oxidant (far more so than dioxygen) and has many industrial and consumer applications related to oxidation. This same high oxidizing potential, however, causes ozone to damage mucous and respiratory tissues in animals, and also tissues in plants, above concentrations of about 100 ppb. This makes ozone a potent respiratory hazard and pollutant near ground level. However, the so-called ozone layer (a portion of the stratosphere with a higher concentration of ozone, from two to eight ppm) is beneficial, preventing damaging ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth’s surface, to the benefit of both plants and animals.”

So, yes, reducing ozone in the ground level atmosphere does have health benefits, but the EPA doesn’t just enforce the Clean Air Act, it also seeks to reinterpret and use it in every way possible to harm the economy.

As Dr. Cohen pointed out, “the Clean Air Act requires EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee to produce an evaluation of the adverse effects, including economic impact, of obtaining and maintaining a tighter standard. Despite repeated requests from Congress, (the Committee) has not produced the legally required evaluation. By ignoring this statutory mandate, and moving ahead with its ozone rulemaking, EPA is showing contempt for the rule of law and for the taxpayers who provide the agency’s funding.”

Since President Obama took office in 2009 he has used the EPA as one of his primary tools to harm the U.S. economy. In a Feb 2 Daily Caller article, Michael Bastasch reported that “Tens of thousands of coal mine and power plant workers have lost their jobs under President Obama, and more layoffs could be on the way as the administration continues to pile on tens of billions of dollars in regulatory costs.”

The American Coal Council’s CEO Betsy Monseu also testified regarding the proposed ozone standards, noting that the increased reductions would affect power plants, industrial plants, auto, agriculture, commercial and residential buildings, and more.

Citing a study undertaken for the National Association of Manufacturers, “a 60 ppb ozone standard would result in a GDP reduction of $270 billion per year, a loss of up to 2.9 million jobs equivalents annually, and a reduction of $1,570 in average annual household consumption. Electricity costs could increase up to 23% and natural gas cost by up to 52% over the period to 2040.”

In a rational society, imposing such job losses and increased costs when the problem is already being solved would make no sense, but we all live in Obama’s society these days and that means increasing ozone standards only make sense if you want to harm the economy in every way possible.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Hating Humanity by Opposing Science

They don’t want to admit it, but we know it’s true. There are countless organizations that hate humanity enough to do everything in their power to put a stop to anything that might benefit it. Their focus is on the use of science to improve and protect our lives.

A recent example is the discussion over the need to ensure youngsters are vaccinated against measles. When I was a child, the great fear parents had was polio and, when the vaccine was created against it, it ceased within my lifetime to be a major health threat. Measles, too, went from being a common disease in my youth to where it occurred rarely.

Even so, some idiots keep spreading the lie that vaccinations can cause autism. That was enough for some parents to fail to vaccinate their child. In other cases, children brought here from foreign nations where vaccination is not as widespread as here can and do cause outbreaks like the one at a California amusement park. It is occurring in other states as well. A disease like measles exists with a life force of its own to spread as widely and rapidly as possible.

FOE (2)On February 14, the Wall Street Journal carried an article, “First Genetically Modified Apple Approved for Sale in U.S.” The previous day I received an email from Friends of the Earth (FOE) citing the apple and bewailing the fact that “Like other GMO’s, this apple won’t be labeled and regulators are relying on assurance from the company that made the apple that it’s safe for human consumption and the environment.”

Why won’t it be labeled? Because it poses no harm to anyone’s health.

What FOE wants to do is create obstacles to genetically modified foods, but the World Health Organization is on record saying that “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

Listen to what a farmer has to say about GMOs. Larry Cochran is the president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. “Most people don’t even know what GMO stands for, but for me as a farmer it’s just another way of speeding up the breeding process. I have a boss, Mother Nature, who does her own form of GMO breeding, whether it’s new races of disease or insects that have evolved. She’s always changing the rules. If we in agriculture want to be able to feed the world’s population, we have to be able to grow more food on less land, and I believe GMOs can help me do that.”

In a December 31, 2014 commentary posted on the Daily Caller, Mischa Popoff, an expert on the organic food sector, the author of “Is it Organic?” and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, pointed out that “GMOs meanwhile have NEVER caused any health problem at any level.”

Popoff’s book reveals what a scam organic farming is and, if you have had a choice between organic or not in the supermarket, you will instantly realize organic is much more expensive. Why? Because it does not use GMOs or other means to protect their crops against drought, weeds, or insect predation.

“The real goal for organic activists,” says Popoff, “is to ban GMOs outright the way DDT was banned in 1972, a terrible move by these very same activists which resulted in more deaths from mosquito-borne malaria in the Third World than were cause by both world wars.”

Fear of GMOs is spread monthly by countless articles condemning genetic modification. As Amy Paturel notes in an article on WebMD.com, “The World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all say these crops are safe as, and often safer than, foods changed the old-fashioned way, such as when a new plant is bred from two different types.”

The irony of all the efforts to scare people in the fashion that the Friends of the Earth and comparable groups are trying to do—calling for labeling of GMO foods—is that the new apple has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The producer has voluntarily asked the Food and Drug Administration to likewise determine its safe consumption. What’s new about it? It does not turn brown after you cut it into slices by shutting off the enzyme that initiates the browning process. It also resists bruising. All good news for consumers.

It is essential that companies that purchase large quantities of food products not fall prey to the anti-GMO lies. A biotech potato, Simplot, is also less susceptible to black spots from bruising and has lower levels of sugar and asparagine. Despite DOA approval, McDonald’s decided not to use it and it is a company that buys 3.4 billion pounds of potatoes a year.

If farmers and ranchers are going to be able to feed the Earth’s human population of seven billion and growing, GMOs hold the key to avoiding widespread hunger while at the same time offering products like Golden Rice that would prevent a half million kids from going blind and dying every year due to Vitamin-A deficiency in the Third World.

As Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace co-founder who left the organization when he realized it was operating from an anti-science, anti-capitalism agenda, warns, “There is now an anti-intellectual element that doesn’t care about people. There is no logic or science involved—only ideology and ignorance.”

People live longer, healthier lives these days because of the discoveries of science. Genetic modification is just one of them. Vaccines are another. The Friends of the Earth and others who oppose such advances want you to die because they believe humans are a plague on the Earth.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Obama: Media overstates terror threat as opposed to “longer-term problem of climate change”

Obama’s timing couldn’t be worse. First there was this:

“The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever,” by Christopher Booker, the Telegraph, February 7, 2015:

When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically “adjusted” to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified.

Two weeks ago, under the headline “How we are being tricked by flawed data on global warming”, I wrote about Paul Homewood, who, on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog, had checked the published temperature graphs for three weather stations in Paraguay against the temperatures that had originally been recorded. In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming….

But Obama is entirely oblivious. He readily agrees with Matthew Yglesias’ contention that “the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease.”

Also, it is not surprising that in an interview devoted entirely to foreign policy, Obama never once mentions Islam, or even “Islamist.” He does refer to “violent extremism,” which seems to be his euphemism of choice these days, as it is also the name of his Countering Violent Extremism summit, which should be renamed Countering the Threat We Dare Not Name.

Worst of all, he refers to “violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” No one was randomly shot in that “deli in Paris.” It was a kosher supermarket, and the people who were murdered there were murdered because they were Jews. They were murdered by people who were animated by the Qur’an’s relentless Jew-hatred and labeling of the Jews as the worst enemies of the Muslims (5:82). But that, too, is a threat that Obama dares not name.

It’s also significant that he gave this massive, detailed, extensive interview to Vox, a far-Left publication that just last Saturday was claiming that those who took issue with Obama’s reprehensible moral equivalence regarding the Crusades were just looking for an excuse to hate Muslims. That is the milieu from which Obama comes, and in which he is most comfortable. That is, almost certainly, his world view as well: that those who believe that Islam uniquely teaches and justifies violence in a way that Christianity and other religions do not are motivated solely by hatred of Muslims. This is the line that Hamas-linked CAIR and its henchmen have promoted for years. In the White House today, they have their most powerful champion ever.

“Obama: The Vox Conversation,” Vox, February 9, 2015:

Matthew Yglesias

Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?

Barack Obama

Absolutely. And I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that’s the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. There’s just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there’s been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields. 7 It’s not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.

7 The little-noticed “Feed the Future” initiative has reached about 7 million people already, and introduces farmers in poor countries to more advanced technologies and management practices to boost crop production.

Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that — the same way a big city mayor’s got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive. But we also have to attend to a lot of other issues, and we’ve got to make sure we’re right-sizing our approach so that what we do isn’t counterproductive. I would argue that our invasion of Iraq was counterproductive to the goal of keeping our country safe.

And despite the incredible valor of our troops — and I’m in awe of them every single day when I work with them — you know, the strategy that was crafted in Washington didn’t always match up with the actual threats that were out there. And we need to make sure that we’re doing the right things and doing those well so that we can also deal with future threats like cybersecurity or climate change or different parts of the world where there are huge opportunities, but [that] before I came into office, we had neglected for quite some time, Asia Pacific being a perfect example. Or our own backyard, the Western Hemisphere, where there’s been real progress in Latin America and we’ve got the opportunity to strengthen our relationships. But there are also some big problems like Central America where, with a relatively modest investment, we could really be making a difference and making ourselves safer. 8

8 This is not necessarily directly relevant to “our safety,” but it’s worth noting the horrific conditions documented by NGOs that have looked at the lives of Central Americans sent back to their homes by US officials. Here’s what the administration is doing now in Central America.

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Montana’s Fight in the War on Coal by Taylor Rose

Looking into the coal industry in Montana gives us a strong insight into the present state of affairs of American coal.  Montana generally ranks around fifth in terms of coal output in the United States, while having the largest amount of reserves, roughly 25 percent of U.S. reserves, or 120 billion tons. Montana’s coal output is currently larger than Canada’s and roughly the same size as India.

In 2008, then senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama declared war on the coal energy sector of the American economy.  Today, his ongoing war on coal is being waged aggressively through Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates.  President Barack Obama’s vision is a world where coal production and use is virtually non-existent.

Though Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are typically regarded as the icons of American coal production, looking into the coal industry in Montana gives us a strong insight into the present state of affairs of American coal.

Montana generally ranks around fifth for coal output in the United States, while having the largest amount of reserves, roughly 25 percent of all U.S. reserves, or 120 billion tons. Montana’s coal output is currently larger than Canada’s and roughly the same size as India.

Speaking with Bud Clinch, the Executive Director of the Montana Coal Council noted how the “need for coal is decreasing in the United States because of emission restrictions, but worldwide the demand is strong, especially in China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Serbia.”

Though for the moment, the anti-coal president has yet to cause a significant dent in the U.S. coal industry, thanks to the massive increase in global demand. Yet, Montana and the United States will struggle to meet the growing demand for two reasons: lack of port expansion and government regulation. The common denominator between these two obstacles is the radical environmentalist lobby.

In other words, the American inability to meet global coal demand is self-imposed.

With regard to government regulations, according to Clinch, “EPA regulations are forcing plants to close because they cannot meet EPA regulations.” Therefore it is not so much that coal production is the major problem, but rather “the EPA and air quality on emissions from a power plant are where the problem is at.”

This is keeping consistent with President Obama’s plans to restrict carbon emissions.

At present, Clinch says that Montana’s “annual production is fairly stable over the last decade of around 42 million tons of coal per year,” however, “this is subject to change as power plants pull back thanks to regulations on CO2 regulations.”

Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association appearing before Congress testified,  “In 2008, President Obama said, ‘If someone wants to build a new coal-fired power plant they can, but it will bankrupt them because they will be charged a huge sum for all the greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.’”

To further exacerbate the problem, “environmentalists are blocking coal port construction,” Clinch said, explaining that “at the moment there are no ports in the Western USA that export coal…. the only port is in Vancouver and the Canadians are very willing to find ways to expand coal production.”

Though these coal specific ports in Canada function for the time being, the problem is that “ports in British Columbia are operating at capacity and it is difficult for other products to come into port…”

Clinch warns that “if these regulations persist, coal exports to other nations will have to increase…South Korea and China have massive demands….they will find ways to get coal one way or another from Australia or the USA.”

In looking at the future of coal development, Clinch observes that main-stream “Democrats have been temporarily stopped by the GOP and pro-coal Democrats…but nothing advantageous has been passed” and is unlikely to be passed, as long as Obama is in office.

Montana Democrats have even taken a leadership role on this issue, where  last year, Senator Jon Tester and former Senator John Walsh “pushed Senate Finance Committee to include the Indian Coal Production Tax Credit in the next round of tax legislation.”

Even former Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer has advocated for increasing coal production, as a means to help eliminate poverty and improve America’s national security.

Their reasoning being that “reauthorizing the Indian Coal Production Tax Credit is critical to the financial stability, self-sufficiency and self-determination of several Tribes,” Tester and Walsh said. “Not only does responsible resource development have the potential of reducing unemployment on reservations, it also promotes Tribal sovereignty.”

This echoes Senator Steve Daines’ commonly known statement that Obama’s “war on coal is a war on the Crow people of Montana.”

Senator Daines has taken a leadership role in fighting back against the Obama Administration’s harmful anti-coal policies. In March 2014, when Senator Daines was a Congressman, he introduced the “Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act,” which “would save American jobs and taxpayer dollars by preventing the Obama Administration from continuing a wasteful process to develop new job-destroying coal regulations.” The bill passed overwhelmingly with bi-partisan support, although then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tabled the bill and refused to bring it up for a vote.

Clinch says that at present “90 percent” of coal produced in the United States is used within the United States. However, with the rising power of environmentalists, a gradual shift towards natural gas will become more inevitable.

If no federal legislation is passed to either improve the ability of the American coal industry to meet global demand or at least reign in the EPA’s bureaucratic power, the Montana coal industry will decline and come to resemble the impoverished and high unemployment lands of Appalachia.

Regardless of whatever actions the EPA and Obama Administration take to restrict coal production and use, the global demand will still be there and continue to grow. Either the United States and working class families can benefit from Republican led efforts to restrict the EPA’s authority and expand coal production, or many of these blue-collar areas will languish in indefinite poverty.

(To read more about Obama’s EPA policies toward coal, a detailed account is provided on pp. 24-36 in a paper entitled American Energy Independence: A Policy Review published by the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.)


Taylor Rose is a graduate of Liberty University with a B.A. in International Relations from the Helms School of Government. Fluent in English and German he has worked and studied throughout Europe specializing in American and European politics. He is a prolific writer and author of the book Return of the Right an analysis on the revival of Conservatism in the United States and Europe. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

Food Fight in Sarasota County Public Schools

The Sarasota County School Board some time ago voted to have Meatless Mondays, much to the chagrin of parents and students. At the February 3rd, 2015 school board meeting one school board member, after listening to parents and students, offered the board the opportunity to rethink its decision to dictate what students should and should not eat, making a motion to end Meatless Mondays (see video below). Three members of the school board rejected that motion. Why?

Wendy McElroy in her column “Eating Right: Your freedom to choose your food is sacred” writes:

Political correctness now drives the civics of food with bountiful nations attempting to dictate what people can eat and how much. Why? For their own good.

The public debate revolves around whether a particular food choice is healthy or not. The real debate is, “Who should choose: you or someone else?” The defense of food freedom needs to turn on the right of people to express themselves through dietary choices that reflect not only their preferences but also their judgment. Food is self-expression as much as music or literature is. If the government can control the flavors of life you choose to swallow, then it can control everything else.

The three school board members who believe that “government can control the flavors of life you choose to swallow” are Caroline Zucker, Jane Goodwin and Shirley Brown. Because of this food freedom died in Sarasota County’s public schools.

VIDEO: Sarasota County School Board Votes Against Student (Lunch) Choice:

But why is food freedom important to our children and parents? Because food is much more than a health matter.

McElroy notes, “The State uses two basic arguments to justify the micromanagement of what people eat. First, laws are necessary to force people to make healthy choices. This argument assumes that politically motivated bureaucrats know what is best for people better than they do themselves. Second, people’s unhealthy choices make them tax burdens on the socialized medical system. Having “relieved” or deprived people of the responsibility for their own medical maintenance, the State uses their dependence as an excuse to impose social control. It is important to counter both arguments, but doing so often ignores an equally essential point.”

“Food is not merely a matter of health or sustaining life. It is one of the main ways people express themselves in terms of culture, ethnicity, religion, psychology, family history, and pure preference. Food choices are personal; they define our identity as surely as choices in attire or music do,” writes McElroy.

The government’s increasing interference in food choice is often viewed as benevolent, because it is discussed in terms of health benefits. Food regulation is anything but benevolent. The government is not only trying to define who and what you are; it is, at the same time, trying to convince you that the denial of freedom is “for your own good.”

If you are what you eat, then food laws are an attempt to control your identity.

Meatless Monday is “local control of your child’s identity” courtesy of Sarasota County School Board members Zucker, Goodwin and Brown, nothing more and nothing less.

ABOUT WENDY MCELROY

Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is an author, editor of iFeminists.com, and Research Fellow at The Independent Institute (Independent.org)

Obama Disses Alaska

Fifty million Americans who live in the northeast will experience what is predicted to be a historic blizzard from Monday evening through Tuesday. Cities and towns will virtually or literally close down. People will be told to stay indoors for their safety and to facilitate the crews that will labor to clear the roads of snow.

In other words, welcome to Alaska, a place that is plenty cold most of the year and which is no stranger to snow and ice.

Alaska, however, has something that the whole world considers very valuable; oil and natural gas. Lots of it. In 1980 a U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Coastal Plain could contain up to 17 billion barrels of oil and 34 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In 1987, the U.S Department of Interior confirmed the earlier estimate, saying that “in place resources” ranged from 4.8 billion to 29.4 billion barrels of oil. Recoverable oil estimates ranged from 600 million barrels at the low end to 9.2 billion barrels at the high end.

A nation with an $18 trillion debt might be expected to want to take advantage of this source of revenue, but no, not if that debt was driven up by the idiotic policies of President Barack Obama and not if it could be reduced by the same energy industry that has tapped similar oil and natural gas reserves in the lower 48 states by drilling on private, not public lands.

Instead, on Sunday President Obama referred to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as “an incredible place—pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears” and other species and, guess what, tapping its vast oil and natural gas reserves would not interfere in any way with those species despite the whopping lie that “it’s very fragile.”

At Obama’s direction, the Interior Department announced it was proposing to preserve as wilderness nearly 13 million acres of land in ANWR’s 19.8 million-acre area. That would include 1.5 million acres of coastal plains that Wall Street Journal reported to be “believed to have rich oil and natural gas reserves.”

Not a whole lot of people choose ANWR as a place to vacation. It is a harsh, though often beautiful, area that only the most experienced visitor might want to spend some time. I would want to make every environmentalist who thinks any drilling would harm the area have to take up residence in its “pristine” wilderness to confirm that idiotic notion.

AA - Alaska and Caribou

Alaska caribou near oil drilling site.

They would find plenty of caribou, polar bears and other species hanging out amidst the oil and gas rigs, and along the pipe line. The Central Arctic Caribou Herd that migrates through the Prudhoe Bay oil field, just next to ANWR has increased from 5,000 animals in the 1970s to more than 50,000 today. There is no evidence than any of the animal species have experienced any decline.

The Coastal Plain lies between known major discovery areas and the Prudhoe Bay, Lisburne, Endicott, Milne Point and Kuparuk oil fields are currently in production In 1996, the North Slope oil fields produced about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day or approximately 25% of the U.S. domestic production. Alaska is permitted to export its oil because of its high levels of productivity.

So why has Obama’s Department of the Interior decided it wants to shut off energy exploration and extraction in a whopping 13-million acres of what is already designated as a wildlife refuge and along its coastlines on the Beaufort and Chukchi seas? The answer is consistent with Obama’s six years of policies to deny Americans the benefits of the nation’s vast energy reserves, whether it is the coal that has previously provided 50% of our electrical energy—now down by 10%–or access to reserves of oil and natural gas that would make our nation energy independent as well as a major exporter.

The good news is that only Congress has the authority to declare an area as wilderness. It has debated the issue for more than 30 years and in 12 votes in the House and 3 votes in the Senate it has passed legislation supporting development and opposing the wilderness designation.

And guess who is the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee? Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican. She also heads up the appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Interior Department!

This latest Obama ANWR gambit is going to go nowhere. It does, however, offer the Republican Congress an opportunity to demonstrate its pro-energy credentials.

“I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska,” said Sen. Murkowski when informed of Obama’s latest attack.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

What Does a Warm 2014 Say about Climate Change?

The answer to this important question depends on which of the three camps in the global warming (a.k.a. climate change) debate one belongs.

The first camp is comprised of those like Al Gore, the Obama administration, the United Nations, major environmental organizations, and lastly, the main stream media that has helped this camp communicate its message so comprehensively. Their well known theme is that mankind controls changes in climate by the emission of industrial greenhouse gases, primarily CO2.

The second camp is the rapidly growing opposition to the science and the politics of everything the first camp is doing. It includes the courageous Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), his new ally Senator Ted Cruz, the Heartland Institute, CFACT, and a host of truth-seeking scientists and meteorologists. Their own theme has been the exposing of the deep flaws of the greenhouse gas theory and the first camp’s attempts to take CO2, a minor though beneficial trace gas, and turn it into a dangerous global threat.

However, in their battle against each other, both groups have missed what a third and smallest camp, the ‘global cooling camp,’ says about the climate. This group is one to which I and a number of international climate researchers belong. We believe we have proven over many years, that the best climate science and best track record in climate prediction comes from following how the Sun, not mankind, controls climate variations.

So was 2014 the warmest year on record as the President and the U.S. government’s “best” science organizations, NOAA and NASA, say?

According to the results from several leading climate data bases that we follow at the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC), 2014 was DEFINITELY NOT the warmest ever recorded, as we have been told by the US government. The SSRC uses multiple data sets to compile its bi-annual Global Climate Status Report (GCSR). Two of those most reliable data sets show that 2014, though unusually warm, was still somewhere between number three and number six warmest since 1979. However, at the SSRC we did note a small but important temperature spike from 2013 through 2014. In any case, the record of eighteen-plus years without any significant growth in global temperatures remains intact. I will restate for those who have not yet heard it; there is no global warming. Additionally, in the GCSR, fifteen of twenty-four climate indicators now say the world has entered a new cold climate. Only three are still displaying a warming trend.

The two scenarios for the Earth’s climate for the next three decades determined from using the best science and most accurate climate theories available, predict a much colder world ahead. They will be either a dramatically colder climate similar to the period of 1793 to 1830, or one even worse like the “Little Ice Age” from 1615 to 1745. Both scenarios forecast massive global crop losses, civil strife, and substantial loss of life. Our Russian colleagues say the Little Ice Age is the more likely future. If they are correct, the global upheaval and loss of life will be ‘biblical’ in scale! The milder scenario predicted by the SSRC will be bad enough.

Still, the first two camps are at a loss as to an explanation for why 2013 to 2014 produced the warming spike that it did. To the global cooling camp, it is no mystery at all.

The December 10, 2014 edition of the GCSR discloses the details including charts that compare the previous past solar cycles that presaged a coming cold climate with our present 11-year solar cycle. The Sun has sent us an important message via a brief period of warmth during this particular solar cycle #24, that it is about to “pull the rug out from under” the planet, sending it into decades of extreme cold.

The climate camp of the U.S. government and the United Nations and the well intended members of the camp that oppose them, both continue to avoid using the best science and climate models available.

The long history of science advises that sometimes the ‘smallest’ voice can have the most important message.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Weak sun could offset some global warming in Europe and U.S. – study

Britain faces FREEZING winters as slump in solar activity threatens ‘little Ice Age’

No, 2014 wasn’t the ‘warmest year in history’ – By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe

RELATED VIDEO: The Sun Dictates Climate Change Not Man – John Casey Lecture at the Greater Orlando TEA Party:

West Virginia: ClimateDepot’s Marc Morano loses effort to stop brainwashing of children on Climate Change

student supporters of climate debate

Supporters of allowing climate debate in West VA schools.

This column has audio from a January 14, 2015 Board of Education meeting in Charleston, West Virginia. The meeting was being held to discuss providing balance to the district’s K-12 climate science curriculum.

According to JunkScience.com, “Unfortunately, warmists won this skirmish as the Board of Education voted to remove balance from the K-12 climate science curriculum.”

What has happened to the free-flow of ideas in our public school classrooms? Are school boards more interested in political correctness than they are about science?

Click here for more background on this failed effort.


Submitted Written Testimony of Marc Morano, Publisher of Climate Depot & former staff of U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Presented to West Virginia Board of Education Meeting Charleston West VA on January 14, 2015 – West Virginia’s changes to the National Next Generation Science Standards

Charleston West VA, – January 14, 2014 – Morano: I want to thank the school board for hosting this public hearing on the changes to the climate curriculum in West Virginia schools. (Media coverage of Climate Depot herehereherehere here.)

These changes are accurate, factual and should not be controversial. I will proceed point by point on each revision. (National Journal Features Climate Depot’s Morano warning of ‘indoctrination’ in testimony to W.VA Board Of Education Meeting – Board Votes To Reconsider Standards That ‘Cast Doubt’ On ‘Climate Change’)

First, I am here to applaud the West Virginia (skeptical) changes to the curriculum. Even if you are not a global warming skeptic, these changes are basically fostering an open debate and they are against indoctrination. We must not tell kids there is no debate and no dissent is allowed. So even if you believe the UN and Al Gore, these changes made by the West Virginia board are accurate and scientifically valid. The proposed (climate skeptical) changes by this board were perfectly reasonable.

With regards to the alleged ‘97% consensus’ – a lead UN author Dr. Richard Tol testified to the U.S. Congress that the 97% figure was “pulled out of thin air.”That is a nonsense figure meant to intimidate when we have thousands of scientists out there openly dissenting – including Nobel Prize winners like Dr. Ivar Giaever, who actually endorsed President Obama, but he is a major global warming skeptic now. Every day more and more scientists are speaking out…scientists who used to believe that are changing their view.

The science on virtually A-Z at this point is failing and in many instances the claims are moving in the opposite direction. The global warming movement is suffering the scientific death of a thousand cuts.

We are going on 18 plus years with no global warming according to satellite data. You may hear about 2014 being the ‘hottest year’, but it is based surface data and hundredths of a degree difference between years.

There were three basic changes that West Virginia made to the curriculum,

1) Changing it to read ‘rise AND Fall of temperatures. That is perfectly valid revision made by West Virginia. We have actually had a rise in temperatures since the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850, but temperatures fell from 1940-through the 1970s then we increased from the late 1970s to late 1990s. Now we are in a standstill. Temperature go up and down. Studies show the Earth has probably dropped seen a temperature drop the Medieval Warm Period.

2) In terms of the West Virginia changes adding the language to the curriculum about the accuracy of climate models, A study in Nature. (See: Study in journal Nature Climate Change: 114 out of 117 climate model predictions from 1990′s wildly overestimated global warming)

So the West Virginia revisions on models questioning their accuracy are valid.

3) In terms of natural factors the revisions were accurate as well. All three of West Virginia’s revisions should be embraced even by those who agree with the UN and Al Gore. Even if you are not a global warming skeptic, the proposed changes by this board were perfectly reasonable and scientifically valid.

There is nothing controversial here except the idea that we should allow open debate and not tell kids that they have to think a certain way. The original standards teach no debate. I urge you to keep the revisions, let science win out here in the end and do not suppress dissent.

The Northeast Nanny-staters Who are and the Blizzard that Never Was

Call it the Blizzard of Oz. The “Snowstorm of the Century” Monday was supposed to be historic.

All we got was histrionics.

It turned out that the real blustery wind was hot air — and the worst accumulation was the knee-deep nanny-state politicians who think some snow warrants a travel ban.

In New York, the little man behind the curtain was Governor Andrew Cuomo, who, as usual, provided more bluster than any storm ever could.

I knew the blizzard would be a relative bust. How? Because they often are. Everything is over-hyped today, from the weather to entertainment to sports to hopey-changey politicians.

And we’re getting change alright, the kind effected by, as C.S. Lewis put it, “omnipotent moral busybodies” who “torment us for our own good [and] will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

As to this, a statewide travel ban in Connecticut began at 9 p.m. (ET) Monday, ordered by Governor Dannel Malloy. In my sorry state, the Peoples Republic of Nueva York, Il Duce II (hat tip: the late Bob Grant, who famously christened Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario, Il Duce) prohibited travel in a trove of counties, including mine, starting at 11 p.m. For snow? Really?

For the record, the total snowfall in Central Park, NYC was 5.5 inches.

And though it was heavier in some other areas, let’s get something straight: in a supposedly free country, you don’t tell people they can’t travel because of some snow.

(Good test run for martial law, though.)

Of course, this position finds plenty of opposition nowadays, conditioned as people are to be protected puppets of the state. But know that heavy snowfalls aren’t unusual. During my childhood in the early and mid-’70s — you know, back when they warned us in elementary school of an impending ice age — we had impressive blizzards.

No one thought of telling free people they couldn’t drive around.

But that was at a time when we actually were something approximating a “free” people.

It’s not as if the commoners — the “folks” as ’BamaCare Barry likes to say — can’t have good reason to have to travel. There could be on-call obstetricians who have to rush to deliveries (I know doctors in this field), or it could be someone having to help an elderly parent. And there could be other reasons, not to mention the tens of millions of dollars ill-conceived travel bans can cost the economy.

We have become a soft people. Kids once might walk great distances to school, men marched a hundred miles to fight bloody battles and, believe it or not, for most of history no one had modern medical care. Now a winter storm means we hunker down as if a Viking raid is nigh.

An even larger issue here is the safety-freak mentality sweeping our secular society and dominating the craniums of callow neo-communists coast to coast. It’s reflected in Michelle Obama’s food-Nazi agenda, the banning of trans-fats and big sodas, child-seat and helmet laws, and the new commandment, “Thou shalt ensconce thy progeny in bubble wrap.”

And, for sure, every other nattering-nabob, nanny-state notion today is “for the children.” People are especially incredulous when I dismiss, as I did above, child-seat and helmet laws. But spare me. Yeah, a five-mph national speed limit would save lives, too, but the real limit we need is on government meddling. I experienced the childhood joys of riding in the back of a station wagon with a bunch of other kids and rode my bike helmet-free. I survived. I know, I know, better safe than sorry, they say. What “they” miss is that you can be safe and sorry.

We’re also supposed to believe our omnipotent moral busybodies care about us — deeply. But I could echo here Rodney Dangerfield’s reaction after a loud exchange with a mentally unhinged professor in the film Back to School. Yeah, our leftist politicians really care.

About what, I have no idea.

Cuomo and the rest of his ilk are so concerned about our well-being they’re going to save us from ourselves.

These are the same people who can’t shriek loudly enough for the killing of intrauterine babies.

But don’t dare increase your child’s risk of death even one iota after he’s born by failing to use a child seat or not providing a bicycle helmet. That’ll be a ticketing. For your own good, we’re going to liberate some cash from your wallet.

That reminds me of what I now call police: revenuers. Yeah, I know there are “good cops.” I hear about them all the time. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m fair; I defended in print Ferguson officer Darren Wilson and other impugned police as much as anyone. And I thoroughly admire Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Oath Keeper crew. But don’t kid yourself: like most people, the average cop is a low-info voter. Just like the Nassau County, NY, police who obediently did their masters’ bidding and stole $100,000-worth of guns and ammo from a citizen — just like the New Orleans jackboots who seized firearms from law-abiding residents just when they really needed them in Hurricane Katrina’s wake — most cops vill follow zee orders vhen zey are handed down. Remember, too, the Department of Injustice has warned that constitutionalists can be a terror threat. And this Spokane officer who explained why his department needed military equipment certainly got the memo.

I would be remiss if I didn’t deepen my little rant by mentioning that all our problems stem from a loss of faith. Just consider our safety-freak mentality. Those who believe in an afterlife may certainly tend to the temple of the soul, but they usually don’t initiate themselves into the Cult of the Body. When people believe this world is all there is, however, they can become maniacally obsessed with staying in this world as long as possible. This phenomenon’s ultimate manifestation is “transhumanism,” the new movement and aspiration to use technology to transcend being human and extend “life” virtually indefinitely. Why, it has even been theorized that we may one day be able to upload our consciousness into a computer. (Of course, this would imply there’s something beyond the brain — namely the mind — which contradicts the dogma of atheistic psychologists who say there is no such thing. Yet if we’re not just the organic robots of secularist dreams, a question presents itself: why not just wait for your consciousness to be uploaded into the hereafter, hopefully Heaven? {The world’s Andrew Cuomos might understandably want to delay that upload as long as possible}. But now I’m getting way too deep for a rant.)

So that explains the popularity of a Dr. Oz. It also explains why we’re living in Oz, with the con man behind the curtain.

Or is our third-millennium location better described as Go Ask Alice, in Wonderland, when she’s 10 feet tall?

Whatever the case, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. And Middle America will continue shrinking until we as a people find a heart, a brain and some courage.

Contact Selwyn Duke, follow him on Twitter or log on to SelwynDuke.com