Archive for April, 2010

Weekend Linkorama

Sunday, April 4th, 2010
  • The states, desperate for revenue, now want to tax services. Now there’s a way to stimulate the economy!
  • Let it not be said that only the Right indulges in conspiracy theories on global warming. Greenpeace has listed Reason as a climate “denier” even thought their science correspond, Ronald Bailey, is no such thing. All he does is disagree with how severe AGW is likely to be and how we should solve it. But to Greenpeace, anything but panic-laden submission to grandiose institutional solutions is “denial”.
  • Rubber rooms for everyone! If this keeps up, the taxpayer is going to need a padded room.
  • The Institute for Justice has a great video on asset forfeiture. Hopefully, some big guns are coming onto this issue.
  • On the subject of videos, Reason takes on public employee unions.
  • Fumento on information cascades. I’m reminded of the shark attacks.
  • I’ve beaten the “tea partiers are Nazis” bullshit to death on the other site. Still, it’s worth reading Moynihan’s article. I think the best comparison is to the war protesters of the Bush era. Similar odious comparisons; similar anger; similar mis-spelled signs. It seems like the angry, like the poor, will always be with us.
  • English laws continue to get dumber and dumber. (Caveat: the English press is not the most accurate; I got burned earlier this week by bad reporting on a similar incident.)
  • Debunking Cracked

    Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

    Cracked.com is one of my favorite websites. But today they ran an article on how a biotech company almost killed the world.

    I have to assume that this article is a joke, not a serious article. Because if it is serious, it’s incredibly sloppy and poorly researched.

    The claim is that scientists tried to modify Klebsiella planticola, a ubiquitous plant bacteria, to produce alcohol when it broke down plants. They were about to release this bacterium into the world when a researcher found out it killed plants. Had it been released, all the plants in the world would have died.

    Maybe this story is accurate but it set off my bullshit antennae something fierce.

    1) Lack of specifics. We’re told a “European biotech” company was doing this. No name is given; no country is given. This is especially strange given European attitudes toward GM crops. Only vague references are given to the study that saved us all. Someone in the comments pointed me to the PDF. It’s very mild compared to the article’s claims. Cracked tends to exaggerate for humorous effect, but this is a bit far even for them.

    2) Google “Klebsiella planticola”. The only thing you will find are fringe anti-GM sites repeating this story. You will also occasionally find claims that the “world will die” study was withdrawn or debunked. The fringe anti-GM sites make me think the article is serious, not satire.

    3) I found the website of Dr. Ingham, who is supposed to have saved us. While she has several papers in preparation on Klebsiella planticola on her CV, her bio suspiciously leaves out the part where she saved the world.

    4) If this story were real, anti-GM organizations like Greenpeace would be flogging it constantly. Every time someone so much as moved a corn starch gene, we’d hear that “we don’t another Klebsiella planticola”. It would be the Chernobyl or Three Mile Island of genetic engineering.

    5) The author, in responding to comments, states that this was ready for “worldwide release”. Given that we can’t persuade countries to accept GM crops that have proven to be safe, this sounds dubious.

    I checked out the author’s website for his book. It’s about 20 ways the world could end. One thing he cites is HiPER, a nuclear fusion experiment that could “consume us all in a fiery fusion reaction”, which is laughable.

    Again, I have to assume this article, and the book, are a joke. This guy is not a scientist, but a humor writer. But if it is a joke, it’s a poorly disguised one.

    Sometimes I Like Him

    Friday, April 2nd, 2010

    The non-stop poll watching in Washington drives me nuts. We are not a democracy; we are a constitutional republic. The beauty of our Republic is not that the people get what they want; indeed the beauty is that sometimes they don’t get what they want. The beauty is in the accountability that a republic creates. The only time polls matter is in November.

    That having been said, we will be watching this, Mr. President. And if healthcare doesn’t deliver what was promised — and I don’t think it will — it won’t be forgotten.