Thursday, July 02, 2015

Outside Looking In

The latest and greatest from Prager University is a timely offering with Independence Day just around the corner:

This week's video is about something very dear to all of us...the United States of America. What makes it different? Is it really a great nation? If so, what distinguishes it from other societies? Outsiders tend to be the best judges of character, so we went to an outsider--best-selling Australian author Nick Adams--to get these answers.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

HWX: A Kinder, Gentler Machine Gun Hand

It’s a special Saturday edition of HWX, with Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golf Pants who reconvene to discuss the important issues of the day. Topics addressed include:

•The family favorite segment “What are you drinking?” and our potentially controversial libation choices.

•The recent Supreme Court decisions and what that august body can learn from the NBA draft.

•Review of “Jurassic World” and preview of the new movie “Jurassic Campaign: Hillasaurus Rex”.

•Donald Trump’s entrance into the Presidential sweepstakes and his unfortunate choice of a campaign theme song, with a dramatic reading from Paul Happe.

•Martin O’Malley appeals to broad ethnic stereotypes in his campaign theme songs.

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Keep it Smart Stupid

In the years since 9/11, I’ve traveled a fair amount. And while I haven’t been happy about some of their practices, I’ve been rather tolerant regarding the TSA. I haven’t been wont to howl in outrage that my civil liberties are being violated because I have to go through a body scan to board a plane. Something needed to be done to prevent further terrorist attacks in the air and while the effectiveness of some TSA measures to do so seemed rather dubious, I was for the part willing to go along for the greater good. My bigger problems with the TSA was the inefficiency of many their processes and the seemingly capricious nature of some of the rule changes which only created confusion and frustration for travelers.

However, a recent travel experience tested my patience and tolerance for the organization. My mother-in-law accompanied us on a trip to Colorado for a family gathering/vacation. Since I am part of TSA’s PreCheck program and they were traveling with me, my wife and three boys also received expedited screening privileges. And to their credit, the TSA decided that an eighty-two-year old grandmother (soon to be great) from a small town in Minnesota would also not have to go through the usual security rigmarole and so she too was PreCheck.

Okay, so far we have an eighty-two-year-old woman with PreCheck status who needs to go through security. Should be simple, right?

And it might have been if my mother-in-law hadn’t had both her knees replaced. She relayed that critical tidbit of information to the TSA screeners both when we left Minneapolis and on our return flight from Denver.

The experience in Minneapolis wasn’t bad. After she set up alarms going through the metal detector, they diverted her to the body scan machine. Once she passed that, she was good to go. It resulted in a few moments of confusion when we couldn’t figure out what happened to her and a slight delay for us in clearing security, but it was at most a minor inconvenience.

In Denver however things were a bit more complicated. After my mother-in-law rang the wrong sort of bells with the metal detector she was instructed to step aside and wait for a female agent who to perform enhanced security techniques. The agent who arrived was apparently not having a great day and it showed in her attitude. I’m not going to say bitchy because that would describe her perfectly (nod to Jim Gaffigan). Her lack of civility combined with her lack of common sense made for a perfect storm of the kind of mindless TSA behavior that drives people insane.

Which was exactly the impact it had on my wife. After we waited and watched the proceedings for a while, she finally got fed up and went over to see what was going on. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my travels it’s that the TSA doesn’t really appreciate such interventions even when done with the best of intentions. Knowing that and that my wife was frustrated that her mother was being treated rudely without reason I had visions of an incident brewing which would not only delay our return home, but also get the whole family placed on the permanent terrorist watch list.

Thankfully she resisted the urge to express her real emotions at that moment and managed to keep things under control. She soon rejoined us with her mother who apparently wasn’t such a threat after all.

I’m all for the assurances of security which the TSA is supposed to provide. As long as it’s done smartly.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Separated at Birth: Newsboy Cap Edition

Over the Hill rocker David Lee Roth of Van Halen, sporting a cap:
David Lee Roth Hits Up Nicki Minaj During Van Halen Performance
Over the Hill Rocker Brian Johnson of AC/DC, sporting a cap:
Eredeti fájl ‎ (2 169 × 2 165 képpont, fájlméret: 590 KB, MIME ...
a not-so-good sport, Andy Capp:

Separated at Birth: Presidential Contenders Edition

Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush:

and LPGA frontrunner Inbee Park:

Friday, June 19, 2015

HWX: Call Me Caitlyn and The New Normal

It’s a special edition of HWX, with Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golf Pants who reconvene to discuss the important issues of the day. Topics addressed include:
  • The meaning of Bruce and/or Caitlyn Jenner, including a preview of this summer’s blockbuster biopic starring Jack Nicholson

  • Hurricane Hillary Clinton hits Houston with her conspiracy theory of the moment: systematic disenfranchisement of the poor, people of color, and young people by Republicans from coast to coast. We pick through the rubble, with an assist from the X Files.

  • The meaning of black and/or white NAACP activist and Africana Studies professor Rachel Dolezal.

  • The latest vocal stylings of Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, including return appearances of Jackie Mason, the Anteater from Pink Panther, and special appearance by Bob Marley.

  • This Week in Gate Keeping, and the newspaper the East Oregonian heralding yet another societal barrier falling with the triumph of an Amphibian American.

HWX is brought to you by Harry’s, the finest shaving implement and accessories provider on the Internet. For the perfect Father’s day gift, check out Harry’s fine selection of products, and get additional, big savings by entering HWX as the coupon code at check out.

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hit the Lights

One of the great clichés of growing older is that you find yourself acting more and more like your parents in words and deeds. One area where I’ve come to notice this of late is how one of my prime missions as a father has been to patrol the house turning off lights left on by one of the children. It’s a duty that invokes mixed feelings as the satisfaction felt by stopping the needless lighting of a room is matched by frustration at having to undertake such a task in the first place: is it really that hard to flip the switch as you leave the room? For about the 784th time since having kids, I find myself saying “Now, I know why Dad was always doing that.”

So with Father’s Day right around the corner (still time to jump on that unlimited beer for life boys) I thought I’d offer encouragement to all the dads out there who share my lights out zeal.

(with apologies to Dylan Thomas)

Do not relent in fighting the good fight,
Old dad should burn & rave at lights that on stay;
Rage, rage against the wasting of the light.

Monday, June 01, 2015

HWX: Bibles, Bakeries, Corruption, Sex, and the US Presidency,with Music

HWX returns for a special pre-Presidential election broadcast (now only 17 months away). Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golf Pants reconvene to discuss he important issues of the day. Topics include:
  • The theological and political meaning of Hillary Clinton quoting bible verses in a bakery in South Carolina, with exclusive audio of the exchange.
  • Further discussion of Presidential campaign theme songs, with the exciting debut of a new HWX album, Campaign Gold.
  • Sepp Blatter and FIFA, how corrupt are they and should the United States care? Including the announcement of the release of a new HWX pharmaceutical product, FIFAmax.
  • Bernie Sanders, distinguished Senator, Presidential candidate, and sex essayist, including an interpretational reading of the controversial text.
  • This Week in Gate Keeping, with a disturbing story that may mean your recent weight gain is the fault of the mainstream media.

This broadcast is brought to you by the fine folks at Harry’s. Summer is here and now is the chance to start making smarter decisions. Overpaying for drugstore razor blades is a bad habit that you should leave behind. Make the smart switch to Harry’s. And use the coupon code HWX for big, big savings.

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Not One or The Other

Stephen Barr and Dermott Mullan on Planets, Priests and a Persistent Myth:

Most news accounts don’t mention that Piazzi was a Catholic priest. In fact, the remarkable story of the Catholic clergy’s contributions to science is one of the best-kept secrets of scientific history. The exception is Gregor Mendel; it is widely known that the science of genetics began with the experiments of the Austrian monk.

But it is the rare person who knows that the big-bang theory, the central pillar of modern cosmology, was the brainchild of the Belgian Catholic priest and physicist Georges Lemaître. In the 1920s, Lemaître showed that Albert Einstein’s equations of gravity allow space itself to expand and, connecting this to observations that distant galaxies were flying apart, he formulated his famous theory of how the universe began.

The Jesuits have an especially rich scientific tradition. In the 16th century, the Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius developed our modern calendar. In the 17th century, Jesuit Giambattista Riccioli mapped the moon, and Christoph Scheiner helped discover sunspots. Francesco Grimaldi discovered the enormously important physics effect called “diffraction,” the effects of which you can see in the colorful bands of a glimmering CD. In the 19th century, the Jesuit Angelo Secchi, a founder of astrophysics, pioneered the study of the sun and stars using the spectra of their light and developed the first spectral classification of stars, the basis of the one now used.

But Jesuits don’t have all the glory. Blessed Niels Stensen (1638-86) made major contributions to anatomy, especially of the glandular-lymphatic system, and, even more impressively, helped found the science of geology by developing the correct theory of sedimentary rock, geological strata and the origin of fossils, which unlocked Earth’s history. Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), of the Minimite Order, made fundamental discoveries about sound. The work of the Abbé Lazzaro Spallanzani, one of the top biologists of the 18th century, is taught in high-school textbooks today.

Wait, you mean that science and religion aren't mutually incompatible? Imagine that.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Have To Admit It's Getting Better

A comprehensive essay by Jesse H. Ausubel called The Return of Nature: How Technology Liberates the Environment documents how technological advances have allowed the developed world to do more with less and how this reduced dependence on natural resources has led to significant environmental improvements. The bottom line is that not only are things not getting worse, in most environmental areas they’ve been getting better for some time and will likely continue to do so.

Here are a few of my favorite nuggets from the piece:

Agriculture has always been the greatest destroyer of nature, stripping and despoiling it, and reducing acreage left. Then, in about 1940, acreage and yield decoupled in the United States. Since then American farmers have quintupled corn while using the same or even less land (Figure 1).


The 800 million or so hungry humans worldwide are not hungry because of inadequate production.


If we keep lifting average yields toward the demonstrated levels of David Hula and Randy Dowdy, stop feeding corn to cars, restrain our diets lightly, and reduce waste, then an area the size of India or of the United States east of the Mississippi could be released globally from agriculture over the next 50 years or so (Figure 6).

The fact that we’re using corn to make fuel while America is producing record amounts of oil is insane.

Measured by growing stock, the United States enjoyed its forest transition around 1950, and, measured by area, about 1990. The forest transition began around 1900, when states such as Connecticut had almost no forest, and now encompasses dozens of states. The thick green cover of New England, Pennsylvania, and New York today would be unrecognizable to Teddy Roosevelt, who knew them as wheat fields, pastures mown by sheep, and hillsides denuded by logging.


Bottom-up land-sparing forces relating to farms and forests and top-down forces are collectively causing global greening, the most important ecological trend on Earth today. The biosphere on land is getting bigger, year by year, by 2 billion tons or even more. Researchers are finding the evidence weekly in places ranging from arid Australia and Africa to moist Germany and the northernmost woods.


Back in the 1970s, it was thought that America’s growing appetite might exhaust Earth’s crust of just about every metal and mineral. But a surprising thing happened: even as our population kept growing, the intensity of use of the resources began to fall. For each new dollar in the economy, we used less copper and steel than we had used before — not just the relative but also the absolute use of nine basic commodities, flat or falling for about 20 years (Figure 8). By about 1990, Americans even began to use less plastic. America has started to dematerialize.


While America added 80 million people –– the population of Turkey –– American water use stayed flat. In fact, US Geological Survey data through 2010 shows that water use has now declined below the level of 1970, while production of corn, for example, has tripled (Figure 11). More efficient water use in farming and power generation contribute the most to the reduction.


The arc of sulfur dioxide forms a classic curve in which pollution grew for a while as Americans grew richer but then fell as Americans grew richer still and preferred clean air. American emissions of carbon dioxide appear to have peaked around 2007 (Figure 13). Emissions in 2014 dropped to 1990 levels. It does not take a rocket scientist to project a falling trajectory.


Not everything is rosy and Ausubel notes that wild fishery stocks have been dangerously depleted. However, there is a solution for that:

High levels of harvest of wild fishes, and destruction of marine habitat to capture them, need not continue. The 40 percent of seafood already raised by aquaculture signals the potential for reversal. With smart aquaculture, life in the oceans can rebound while feeding humanity and restoring nature.


Until about 1970, per capita petroleum use in America rose alarmingly. Most experts worried about further rises, but Figure 14 shows what actually happened — a plateau and then a fall. Partly, vehicles have become more efficient. But partly, travel in personal vehicles seems to have saturated. America may be at peak car travel. If you buy an extra car, it is probably for fashion or flexibility. You won’t spend more minutes per day driving or drive more miles.


He also shows what all these improvements in resource efficiency mean for the environment, especially the return of nature:

So why do we want nature to rebound? And why do we care about the achievements of farmers like David Hula and Randy Dowdy and aquaculturist Aaron Watson and their counterparts in forestry and water resources? Because the incipient rewilding of Europe and the United States is thrilling. Salmon have returned to the Seine and Rhine, lynx to several countries, and wolves to Italy. Reindeer herds have rebounded in Scandinavia. In Eastern Europe, bison have multiplied in Poland. The French film producer Jacques Perrin, who made the films Winged Migration about birds and Microcosmos about insects, is working on a film about rewilding. The new film, The Seasons, scheduled for release later this year, will open millions of eyes to Europe’s rewilding.

Environmental fear-mongers like to portray a world that was once clean and pristine and has been steadily and progressively destroyed by the acts of man. The only way to stop this on-going destruction is to halt further advancements and return to a more “natural” state even if that means leaving millions (if not billions) of people behind in poverty. The latter is usually not stated so clearly of course.

The reality is that the environment hasn’t been on a constant path to inevitable destruction and in fact in many areas we’re in far better shape today than we were thirty or forty years ago. We don’t need to give up the trappings of modern civilization or prevent those in less developed countries from one day enjoying them. With advances in technology we can continue to produce more of what we need while using less resources. Things have gotten better and they will in the future if we don’t overreact to overhyped fears of impending catastrophe and give up on one of our greatest attributes: our ability to innovate and adapt.