Grameen Foundation – Microloans WORK

The Grameen Bank was the simple but brilliant innovation in poverty fighting by Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize along with the Bank he founded.   The Grameen Bank provides very small loans to women in developing countries who then start businesses and almost alway pay back the microloans with interest.

Microloans have proven to be one of the most effective poverty fighting instruments ever, and continue to lift families out of the conditions faced in much of the developing world.    I’ll be giving to this cause and I hope you’ll consider doing so as well!


Politicians are NOT CORRUPT. Deal with it.

(clarification:  I’m talking about the USA here )

As a stark raving political moderate I often find myself incredibly frustrated with the tribal thinking that characterizes most of the political debate.    Most of the claims by even moderate left and moderate right about politicians (and others supposedly corrupted by money concerns) are simply garbage.

Politicians are generally honest, hard working people who  have sacrificed lucrative professions and wealth in favor of their public service.   This is true on right and left, middle and fringes.      There are reasons to fault them on many ideological grounds and debates about that are one of the great parts of our great system, but the idea that money is at the root of a politicians actions is just a nonsensical point of view.   Many don’t need money anyway as they are wealthy already:  Kerry, McCain, Bush, Cheney, Kennedy, etc etc.

However many more have foresaken wealth in favor of service to the country.    We should honor them for that even as we might disagree aggressively with policies or ideas.  We should not rant nonsensically about how they are corrupt / evil / lying / undermining the world. Leave that job to the whackos.

The funny thing is how the debate is generally so partisan in this respect.  Liberals insist Cheney was a big war profiteer  even as he gave his Halliburton options money to charity.   Far from profiting, Cheney’s decisions cost him dearly in terms of money.   As much as I never have agreed with Cheney’s  massive defense spending policies or approaches to anti-terrorism I’d hardly call him corrupt.   Or take Obama, who appears about as clean as you can be after years of dirt digging and conspiracy theorizing.   Yet detractors rant on nonsensically as if he’s got a freezer full of cash in the Whitehouse.

Exceptions? Sure there are some, but generally the “corruption” cases in the USA are hardly the scandals many make them out to be.   A favor here or there or some freebies valued at a few thousand.    One does not have to condone this to understand that it represents very little systemic threat to our great system, especially because corruptions charges here are taken so seriously that you can easily end a political career with even minor transgressions.

This aversion to corruption is a very good thing, absent in many parts of the world, and it is in part what makes our system so honest and robust.  Though unfortunately it does NOT make our spending efficient because as I’ve noted ad- nauseum here, political spending is NOT optimal spending and our honest, hard working politicians spend WAY TOO MUCH on way to many things.

—————-  more ranting follows but the point is above ————–

When GW Bush was in power I’d argue with left wingers to make the obvious case he was not a crazy religious nutcase hell bent on the destruction of our gentle planet.   Now with Obama I have to make the obvious case to right wingers that he’s not a crazed manchurian communist out to destroy western civilization as we know it.

It’s tiring to see smart people get so wrapped up in stupid ideas about how the world works and even more tiring to see how the process seems to infect people so predictably.    Hardly a peep from the cultural conservatives as the Bush policies of overspending ravaged the economy but now they seem to think Obama invented deficit spending.     Yet liberals, who should be crowing like crazy about how we’re starving future generations with reckless spending and absurd eco-mitigation dramas, now sit on their hands watching Obama proceed in very similar ways to GW Bush.

The standard rhetorical reply to my insistence that most pols are honest is “you are naive”, but in fact the foolish “corrupt politician” idea comes from something called  “the naivete of the skeptic”, where a foolishly skeptical worldview  poisons otherwise clear thinking.   Being too skeptical can divert  a person’s attention to review ONLY the data and analyses that support their ideas or that dismisses counter-arguments.     That’s not rational, so don’t do it.

Misguided Environmentalism – Don’t let it happen to YOU!

When ideology gets in the way of feeding people, everybody needs to start shouting “Stop the Madness”.    Try it, it’s cathartic.

Mega-philanthropist Bill Gates is no longer busy with Microsoft.  Instead, he’s one of the key people spearheading the largest and best funded effort in history to bring better health to hundreds of millions in the developing world.    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already saved over a *million people* with their international health efforts and they are on track to save tens of millions more.

Speaking at a Food Prize conference last week Gates observed that misguided environmentalism – specifically the fight to ban genetically modified foods – threatens to thwart some very innovative food programs.

I cannot agree more emphatically although I have to be less diplomatic than Gates, because it’s imperative that we stop paying so much attention to the incoherent rantings of those who oppose such innovations on the basis of their non-hunger-focused principles rather than because they have studied the science and the cost benefit relationships that often make this type of agriculture so compelling.

Too many who claim to be promoting environmentalism are busy with agendas that are often at odds with basic human needs.     The concept of  “sustainability” is invoked far too often now as an excuse to disparage business practices and promote questionable actions rather than address the real and optimized long term needs of planet earth and the human race.

Genetically Modified Food:

Gates on this issue:

The importance of the Green Revolution:

CES 2010 at Technology Report

Over at the tech blog Technology Report we’ll have a lot of coverage leading up to and through the CES 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

A big thanks to the Aria Resort and Casino and Vdara Hotel.  These amazing new properties in the  Las Vegas CITYCENTER Project are sponsoring our CES 2010 coverage this year and into the show in January.

Aria will open in December and along with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel the Aria will feature the world’s most advanced guestroom technology along with CityCenter’s incredible WiFi footprint that covers the entire campus with broadband thanks to thousands of antennas and WiFi access points.

Over at Technology Report I’m going to feature a “First Timers Guide to CES” focused on people who have never been there and also some tips on how to find out the party and event schedules.   CES is one of the world’s largest conferences and even in these troubled economic times I’m sure that Las Vegas will be rockin’ with some amazing technology and events at the January 2010 CES.

For more about this please head over to Technology Report‘s CES 2010 coverage, starting …. now!

Is Climate Science on trial again?

The climate debate is entering a new state of confusion that will at least bring some of the fascinating technical issues into the popular press.     The first time this happened was during the congressional hearings featuring the “Hockey Stick” debates where critics suggested that some key math and research supporting “unprecedented global warming” was seriously flawed.   Although leading statisticians agreed with the critics the situation is probably best characterized as a stalemate with both sides claiming vindication and little change in the way others have addressed the issues at hand.

The technical issues sound obscure but they impact every man, woman, and child on earth in almost incalculable ways because many nations are preparing to forego a lot of GDP in the interests of climate mitigation, and this has substantial economic consequences.

I do believe in warming and believe it’s human caused.  However  I  don’t think we can afford to do all that much about it and also don’t think the consequences are nearly as severe as advertised.    Therefore I’m not reasonably called a “climate skeptic” .

Many bright people are skeptics however and everyone should resent that they are called “climate denialists”, a bizarre term used to conjure up images of  the ignorance and malice of  holocaust denial.

I am concerned that climate science, especially with respect to mathematical modelling and long term temperature reconstructions, has been compromised by egos and cognitive biases.    I don’t think climate science has been compromised enough to reasonably suggest that human caused warming is “unlikely”, but it’s been compromised enough to suggest climate alarmists, rather than the unfairly branded “denialists”, are the ones often standing on thin ice.

Here’s a comment I tried to post at but it appears to have been rejected:

It’s unfortunate to see so many insults and tired talking points rather than *key issues* such as:

Is Yamal robust?

Why does proxy selection in papers like Yamal, Kaufman seem to include more proxies with stronger GW signals than a randomized proxy selection process?

Why isn’t there a randomized proxy selection process or at least a well structured one as was suggested (but appears not implemented) in the Kaufman Arctic lakes study?

Why does it take so long to properly archive data and why is there a single shred of resistance to totally transparent archiving of source code and data?

To what degree is observed global warming the product of human activity?

To what degree is the modern warming trend unprecedented?

Role of the Medieval Warming Period and why is there so much disagreement about temps at that time? (another proxy selection issue!) Simply asserting that these questions “have been answered many times” isn’t only wrong and insulting, it’s counterproductive if you sincerely want to challenge the growing mainstream view that climate science has been compromised by cognitive biases and ego. I’m staying open to your insistence that the science has not been compromised at all and McKintyre is just a slinging mathematical mud, but posts like this don’t provide much support for that idea.

When Climate Scientists ATTACK

After a few years following some of the technicalities of discussions about global warming I’m glad to report that there’s FINALLY a really nice guantlet thrown and accepted by the authors of two of the key blogs in the discussion, Climate Audit and RealClimate.

Generally both blogs tend to discuss many of the technical issues in a way that makes it hard (for me at least) to identify clear and specific points of contention where somebody without a degree in math could conclude “this is wrong”.

However the latest round of attacks  should lead to a richer discussion than usual regarding one of the key technical points of contention in climate – climate proxy selection and validity.   Proxies are things like tree rings, ice cores, or sediment patterns that allow a reconstruction of past climate.   If the proxies used in key studies are poorly representative of climate realities, as Climate Audit often suggests and RealClimate always denies, climate scientists have more than a little’ ‘splainin’ to do.

However the shoe’s on the other foot if  ClimateAudit’s concerns are more along the lines suggested by Real Climate’s PhD and NASA crew:

… the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional. But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review? He continues to take absolutely no responsibility for the ridiculous fantasies and exaggerations that his supporters broadcast, apparently being happy to bask in their acclaim rather than correct any of the misrepresentations he has engendered. If he wants to make a change, he has a clear choice; to continue to play Don Quixote for the peanut gallery or to produce something constructive that is actually worthy of publication.

Now THAT is  some hot science commentary that you can really sink your teeth into!     Who ever said climate science was technical and boring – it’s almost a contact sport…..  Gentlemen, put those Hockey Sticks UP!!