American Elephants


When “No Need to Panic”Causes Real Panic Among the True Believers by The Elephant's Child

Well, well,well. The Wall Street Journal opinion page had a headline today “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 “Climategate” email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” But the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-called feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2.

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2. …

Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to “decarbonize” the world’s economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically.

This kind of statement from major newspapers has been long overdue. The evidence has been incontrovertible, and building, but somewhere along the line “global warming’ became a religion, and its adherents tolerated no dissension. Many prominent scientists have long been skeptics, for science is a discipline built on skepticism. If you don’t constantly question your assumptions, you are going to reach a lot of dead ends, and maybe be deeply embarrassed at some point.

The rewards of being a true believer, however, trumped many lingering doubts.  The skeptics were attacked, called “Deniers,” and supposedly intelligent beings suggested that anyone who denied global warming should be shot. The ClimateGate emails were not only revealing, but after the first release was fully digested, another batch appeared and the powers that be sicced the constabulary on finding the thief or hacker who stole the emails.

The revelations were becoming seriously troubling. Combine that with an out-of-control EPA in the United States, eager to eliminate any trace of the carbon dioxide we all exhale. The more ludicrous the power plays get, the more people are apt to start paying attention.

Budgets deeply in the red tend to concentrate the mind; and projects that seemed perfectly designed to demonstrate the forward thinking of promoters of everything ‘green’ and ‘clean’ started going belly-up in increasing numbers. You can shrug off a few bankruptcies as accidents due to factors beyond one’s control — but when the numbers pile up, it raises some real questions. Not everyone can be good at both economics and science — or math too, as far as that goes — but at some point those flashing red numbers on the budget should garner attention.  Can that possibly be why President Obama’s budget is late again this year? Not likely, he just has trouble getting them in on time.

The Journal’s editorial was signed by sixteen prominent scientists from all over the world with sterling qualifications, representing some of the World’s most prominent institutions.  They will be described as crackpots by the true believers, or on the payroll of the Koch brothers.



Outsourcing and Insourcing: Where Should Stuff Be Manufactured? by The Elephant's Child

What about manufacturing, aren’t all the jobs going overseas where people work for extremely low wages?  How can we compete with that? It’s true that fewer people are employed in manufacturing plants, but we’re still manufacturing lots of stuff. We’re just doing it with fewer people.

The production line has been changing ever since Henry Ford invented it after visiting a meat-packing plant that was already using the concept.  For simplification sake, at one time someone stood at a particular spot along the assembly line and separated the stream of parts into two different streams, but they developed gates or electric eyes that would do that without a constant attendant, eliminating the need for a worker. But that step was a long time ago. These two videos explain how the world has changed.

Here is a BMW USA manufacturing plant, in 2009. Body shop: spot welding by robots. Mounting of side sills on body structure. Hot-stamping: Heating, compression molding, quenching. Wedding: Drive unit engine, transmission, axle, exhaust system is bolted to the body. Final assembly: BMW 5 Series Sedan rolls out of factory.

There are lots of decisions built into every manufacturing plant, and every product. Skilled workers or cheap workers who can be trained to be skilled. Energy costs. Some manufacturing processes need to be located next to water. Some need rail transportation. Some big things need to be moved, and freeway overpasses are a problem. Is shipping a major expense or minor — depends on the size, fragility and weight of the product. Raw materials: where do they come from, what kind of transportation is needed — some manufacturing plants need to be close to the source of their raw materials. Some need to be close to their market. Where is speed a factor?  Regulations play a part.  Unions v. right-to-work.The decisions are complex, and involve far more than greedy businessmen looking for cheaper labor.

The New York Times recently explained why Steve Jobs bragged when Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983 that it was “a machine that is made in America.” Today, the iPhone is made in China, and the Times article explains the details:

Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

The facility in Foxconn City, where the iPhone is assembled, has 230,000 employees, many work six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of the workforce lives in company barracks, and many workers earn less than $17 a day, a good salary in China. When the first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City, in the middle of the night, thousands of workers were aroused and lined up to assemble iPhones by hand. Since then they have assembled more than 200 million iPhones.

China could also supply engineers at a scale the US could not match. Apple executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly line workers.  Do read the whole article. It offers a valuable insight into manufacturing and trade that really helps to explain a very complex problem. Not all of it, certainly, but it’s a help in telling when the politicians are knowledgeable or just pandering.




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