American Elephants

Panics, Crazes, Manias and Fads. by The Elephant's Child
November 19, 2008, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Liberalism | Tags: , , ,


The Wall Street Journal today reviewed a new book called Plumes about the fashion craze for ostrich feathers from roughly 1905 to 1914. Ostrich plumes adorned women’s hats, capes, gowns, gloves, shoes and more and it was thought (as in all crazes) that it would last forever.

The famous Tulip mania of 1634 didn’t last so long, but speculation reached dizzying heights.  One collector paid 1,000 pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, 12 sheep, a bed and a suit of clothes for a single Viceroy tulip bulb.

The demand for beaver hats in England led to our mountain men braving the dangers of the Rockies in the search for fur. The desire for warm beaver hats coincided with the Little Ice Age.  The greatest fur trading company received its charter in1670, just three years before there was a record of ice three feet thick on the Thames River in London.

There are little crazes too, that come and go fairly quickly. Do you remember pet rocks?  Or mood rings? Most of us have only to look back at our high school yearbooks to cringe and remember a few more fads.

Back in the 70s there was a fear that we were entering another ice age for the planet had cooled slightly.

On Monday, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring world temperatures, and is run by Al Gore’s chief scientific ally, Dr. James Hansen, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

This was astonishing.  It had snowed in Boise.  On the day that they were debating climate-change legislation in London, it snowed.  China reported that Tibet had suffered its “worst snowstorm ever”. NOAA had registered 115 lowest-ever temperatures in the US.

These temperature records are used by scientists all over the world in their work.  What happened?  The freak figures were not based on October readings at all, they had just repeated the figures from the previous month.  When that was promptly caught, GISS began hastily revising its figures, and claimed to have discovered a new “hotspot” in the Arctic. Then they said they did not have the resources to maintain proper quality control over their incoming data.

Dr. Hansen set the whole “global warming” scare going in 1988 with his summer testimony to a US Senate committee chaired by Al Gore.  In 2007, he was forced to revise his published figures for US surface temperatures to show that the hottest decade was not the 1990s, as he had claimed, but the 1930s.

Professor Bob Carter points out in Quadrant that:

Climate change knows three realities: science reality, which is what working scientists deal with every day; virtual reality, which is the wholly imaginary world inside computer climate models; and public reality which is the socio-political system within which politicians, business people and the general citizenry work.

The global warming scare is slowly coming apart. The science reality is negating the virtual reality, and the public is becoming dubious.

Fads, crazes and manias come and go. Some last far longer than they should and do far more damage because politicians get involved.

This particular craze has consumed vast funds, and promises to consume far, far more.

The Pirates Strike Again, and are Struck! by The Elephant's Child
November 19, 2008, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Africa, Developing Nations, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

A Hong Kong-registered ship named Delight is the latest to fall into the hands of pirates off the northern coast of Africa.  It is now steaming toward Somalia, where it will undoubtedly be held for ransom as was the Sirius Star pictured below.

The Somali government, such as it is, lacks basic law-enforcement agencies to disrupt pirates. It also has a very long coastline along the Gulf of Aden.  The neighboring countries of Yemen and Djibouti are a little more stable, but have no more capabilities than Somalia.

There have been 90 attacks on ships by Somalian pirates this year.  Commercial vessels in this high-tech era have small, mostly unarmed crews.  The International Maritime Bureau says that pirates are currently holding 15 ships and more than 250 sailors. The pirates are well equipped with modern weapons, satellite phones, GPS trackers and fast attack boats.

It’s left to the modern word to police them.  The Bush Administration set up a global effort called Combined Task Force 150 under the watch of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The current commander is a Commodore of the Danish Royal Navy.

Tuesday, a Somali pirate mother -ship aimed grenade launchers at an Indian naval frigate and tried to ram it.  The Indian ship Tabar returned fire, set the pirate ship on fire and sunk it.  India’s action has probably saved many other ships. At the moment force is the only  way to raise the cost of piracy.

The costs of dysfunctional countries can be severe.  The Combined Task Force has 2.5 million square miles to patrol. That is a lot of ocean.

Diplomacy, and even talks without preconditions, aren’t going to be the answer.

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