Monday, December 28, 2009

For Berkeley Liberals, Political Correctness Trumps Competitiveness

I literally nearly spilled my steaming cup of tea all over my hand and arm when I read this week's East Bay Express article about eliminating science labs in the Berkeley schools to free up money for "struggling" students.

How do they define a "struggling" student? It won't surprise you to find out that this word is a synonym for "black and Latino" students.

Apparently, the School Governance Council -- a community body which I hope has absolutely no say in the matter -- voted nearly unanimously to support this reallocation of resources.

I have a few opinions about this, but my most important observation concerns global competitiveness.

Does it never occur to those Leftists out there that our country is in competition with others around the world?

This may shock liberals, but the primary reason why the United States enjoys such a high standard of living is not because Martin Luther King gave such nice speeches, not because Roosevelt packed the court and not because labor unions fought for higher wages for menial work.

Just look around you at all the technological marvels which make your life so easy. Cars, computers and cellphones are all the product of basic research -- a significant part of which was funded by the government.

Basic research is one of the few areas where the government actually contributes toward an increase in relative GDP between one country and another. And, improved comparative GDP is the only reason why our country is considered part of the "first world" while much of the rest of the world lies in poverty.

The government's contribution is critical -- both in educating people and in funding research in promising new areas which are not yet clearly profitable investments.

This issue goes hand in hand with my general frustration about way education "battles" are cast these days in our country. People view education only as a way to raise up people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. While it can serve this purpose, it is vital to think of education instead as a way to raise the ladder as a whole.

So, I oppose cutting UC Berkeley's budget just as much as the students who protested there last month. Sadly, though, the signs those students held aloft said things like "Save Our Janitors' Jobs."

These students don't get it. The measure of our country's competitiveness does not lie with the wages we pay our least-educated people. It lies with the value we place on promoting our best and brightest.

So, we should not fight to fund community colleges. We should fight to fund programs for the smartest kids at the top universities.

Our secondary schools should not worry so much about troublemakers or the "special needs" kids. They should instead fight for magnet and Advanced Placement programs to ensure the most able among us can gain the skills they need to pull us along.

This news from Berkeley reminds me of a scene from a Douglas Adams novel, where it turned out the Earth was populated by middle-managers and "telephone sanitizers." There's nothing wrong with having such people in a society, but they do nothing to make that society great.

Don't these people understand that by closing science labs -- even in the spirit of promoting equality -- they are consigning everybody to a lower standard of living? It sounds to me like someone needs to re-read Atlas Shrugged.

These Leftists spend so much time working on solving the "racial achievement" gap, but I'd prefer just to call it what it is: racism.

After all, no one seems to mind when schools at every level throw untold millions of dollars at the best and the brightest athletes. For some reason, in the athletic sphere we seem to get it -- some people have the skills to get things done, and others can't make it.

Of course, in athletics, the racial mix is far different. I'll let you do the math on that one.

Academics should be no different. And, thank goodness, for the most part it remains a meritocracy.

While most universities have been forced to accept unqualified candidates through quota systems, such efforts are pretty pro forma. To see this for yourself, just compare the makeup of UC Berkeley as a whole to that of an upper-division math or physics lecture hall.

Still, this news from Berkeley is disturbing. If this is the direction we're heading I can't see how we'll continue to compete with other countries such as China, which are much more interested in cultivating their brightest minds than self-flagellating over past inequalities.

Friday, December 4, 2009

When Will the Rotting Corpse of the Global Warming Hoax Finally Begin to Stink?

As this is written, about a week has passed since the initial revelation of hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU). At first, the authenticity of such purloined correspondence was in serious doubt… that was until the University itself blurted out that they were, in fact, genuine.

Conservative media lunged into the fray. Meanwhile, the “lame” stream propaganda outlets have remained mostly mum… perhaps because they have been so heavily invested in the perpetuation of such a shabby and dangerous hoax.

A brief history: Back in the 1970s an unmanned space probe entered the atmosphere of Venus. Zounds! Venus was a lot hotter than expected. How could this be? Other than its proximity to the Sun… its atmosphere is really dense. It must be the atmosphere. Could this be a portent of impending disaster for us Earthlings?

Reasoned speculations of climate future have always fluctuated between warming and cooling. Climate is never constant… it has to always be trending towards either warming or cooling. Precipitation also trends up and down… but more locally than globally.

When the Democrats took back both houses of Congress in 2006, the hysterical assault on global economic vitality was fast-tracked in the American political arena. Absurd and obnoxious schemes to micro manage individual behavior and completely subvert macroeconomic processes were given new credence and support.

Through geology and paleontology we have learned of pre-historic ice ages. Not currently being in an ice age means that we are in an interstitial warm period. Within this warm period there have been both cooling and warming trends. Why? There are inconstancies in the primary influences in climate. The Sun warms and cools. The Earth’s orbit goes through a 180,000 year cycle. Volcanoes create temporary disruptions in “normal” circumstances. Global climate and weather are the result of incredibly complex interactions that are still barely understood… if at all.

What about the heat trapping effects of “greenhouse” gasses?
The atmosphere is a “soup” of different substances. Most are gasses, primarily nitrogen. Then oxygen and argon. Carbon dioxide is currently at 357 parts per million… that’s a whopping 0.04% of the atmosphere. The mechanics of heat trapping center around the “selective transparency” of different substances. Ultra violet radiation from the Sun passes through the atmosphere, hits the ground, heats the ground… which then re-radiates back up as infra red… which is trapped.

According to the hoaxers, this trapping effect is enhanced by the toxic byproducts of capitalism: CO2 and methane. Actually water vapor and clouds do the vast majority of trapping. Hoaxers contend that the Earth is in such delicate balance that the slightest alteration from the “natural” state can still be catastrophic.

Prosaic demonstrations of the impending doom associated with prosperity, typically by computer models (notorious for wide ranges of outcome resulting from miniscule changes in data input), tend to skip any detailed explanation of the actual physical and chemical goings on in the atmosphere. Hmmmmmm.

We are actually in the infancy of understanding climate trends in real time. We have some pretty neat toys such as satellites and computers. But we are dealing with the interaction of sunlight, wind, precipitation, ocean currents, dust, smoke, and (now wait for it) politics.

Such is extremely fertile ground for hoaxes.

Centuries ago an Italian proto-scientist named Bruno was put to death for deviating from established orthodoxy concerning the mechanics of what we now call the solar system. His colleague, Galileo, recanted and joined the orthodoxy… allowing him to enjoy his life for many more years. My presumption is that he knew what truth is. Unlike falsehoods, truth is immutable. It can be lost but is always rediscovered in exactly the same form.

As Copernicus, the first to develop the modern model of our solar system, lay dying, his sister burned his manuscripts in order to save his soul from eternal damnation. Yet, because of truth’s inherent durability, we still know that the Sun is the center of our world.