Where we should be looking

While the world’s attention (and mine, I admit) has been focused on Iraq, events that matter far more are happening elsewhere. As regards weapons proliferation, it’s obvious that North Korea and Pakistan are far more dangerous than Saddam ever was. And for a problem that cries out for some sort of humanitarian intervention, there’s none more urgent than that in Sudan. Although I’ve been aware of this for a while, it’s very hard to get the kind of information needed to motivate action, even as little action as writing a blog post. A new website Sudan: The Passion of the Present helps to fill that gap (link via Chris at CT).

The point of paradox

Suppose you have encountered Zeno’s Achilles paradoxfor the first time. Zeno offers a rigorous (looking) proof that, having once given the tortoise a head start, Achilles can never overtake it. Would you regard this as[1]

# A startling new discovery in athletics;

# A demonstration of the transcendent capacity of the human spirit – although the laws of logic forbid it, Achilles does in fact catch and overtake the tortoise; or

# A warning about how not to take limits?
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Productivity takes a breather

That’s the headline the Fin gave to an Op-Ed piece by Dean Parham today. This is, as far as I know the first acknowledgement from official sources of the productivity growth slowdown of the last four or five years. It’s significant because Parham is the most prominent advocate of the hypothesis that microeconomic reform has generated a new economy.
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Ken Parish has inaugurated his “Blog bile” awards, a category that should not lack for entrants. The first winner is Chris Sheil appropriately enough, since he notes that Howard’s 30th anniversary bash made him “puke all over my keyboard”.

At least according to regular commentator Observa, writing in the comments thread, I’m not in the running, and am in fact notable for “serenity”. This word always reminds me of the holiday shack scene in The Castle

, with the high-voltage transmission lines crackling in the background, and not at all of blogging, but there you go.

Kto, kgo ?

When you want the most succinct statement possible statement of the power politics view of the world, VI Lenin is your only man[1]. A lot of free-market advocates of revealed preference theory, and supporters of<a href="exit over voice“> exit over voice, would be surprised to learn who they are quoting when they refer to people voting with their feet.

In relation to the proposed “handover” of power in Iraq on June 30, the only question that really matters is the one posed by Lenin “Kto, kgo ?”, that is, “Who can do what to whom?”.
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From an NYT story on “ghost” prisoners in Abu Ghraib

The memorandum criticizing the practice of keeping prisoners off the roster was signed by Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, and a James Bond, who is identified as “SOS, Agent in Charge.” Military and intelligence officials said that they did not know of a Mr. Bond who had been assigned to Abu Ghraib, and that it was possible that the name was an alias.

Copenhagen Con ?

I’ve written a couple of posts critical of the Copenhagen Consensus exercise being run by Bjorn Lomborg”s Environmental Assessment Institute and The Economist . The stated objective is to take a range of problems facing developing countries, and get an expert panel to form a consensus on which ones should be given the highest priority. This is a reasonable-sounding idea, and the process has produced some useful contributions in the form of papers by experts arguing the importance of particular problems.

There are however, two big difficulties.
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Time to give up the day job ?

I’ve been meaning for a while to post on some of the claims made by Ross McKitrick . Since McKitrick is, like me, an environmental economist, I feel some responsibility to rebut his arguments, but I’ve been put off by the thought of untangling the mess he has made of the global warming issue, most notably in his attack, written jointly with retired mining executive Stephen McIntyre, on the Mann et al study of the history of global temperatures.

Fortunately, Tim Lambert is on the job. As his demolition of pro-gun academic fraud John Lott showed, Tim has exactly the required qualities for a task like this. He’s careful, painstaking, scrupulously honest and (unlike me) hardly ever loses his temper even when faced with the most arrant nonsense. He’s started off with a truly devastating blow, nailing McKitrick (and co-author Christopher Essex) as the source of the absurd claim, now required belief in many anti-global warming circles) that there is no such thing as an average temperature (see also here.

The work of Lambert and others has made it pretty certain that Lott will never again hold an academic job, though that doesn’t stop the American Economic Institutions. McKitrick reports that he has started taking bagpiping lessons, and this sounds like a good career move to me.

Global warming and nuclear power

While we’re on the subject of climate change, I ran across a statement made by James Lovelock, described as a “celebrated Green guru[1]”, that “only nuclear power can now halt global warming”. The core point is

He now believes recent climatic events have shown the warming of the atmosphere is proceeding even more rapidly than the scientists of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thought it would, in their last report in 2001.

On that basis, he says, there is simply not enough time for renewable energy, such as wind, wave and solar power – the favoured solution of the Green movement – to take the place of the coal, gas and oil-fired power stations whose waste gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), is causing the atmosphere to warm.

I agree with Lovelock’s analysis up to a point, but there is a big problem that he has overlooked.
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