Author Archives: Editor of the Fabius Maximus website

About Editor of the Fabius Maximus website

See the authors page for more information about the Fabius Maximus website.

News! Journalists doing their job, critically reporting on rising seas & the bee-pocalypse.

Summary: In their desperate race for survival in a world with too many journalists, they’ve given a warm reception to all kinds of doomsters. Events this week suggest that at least some journalists have realized that they have no competitive advantage at clickbait, but that there will always be a market for good journalism — especially when challenging the conventional wisdom.

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in "Psycho" (1960).

 

Contents

  1. The bee-pocalypse.
  2. The sea rise over our cities.
  3. For more information.

 

(1)  The coming bee-pocalypse

The story of the bee-pocalypse shows why we’re so poorly misinformed despite the massive growth of the news media, both professional and amateurs. The story has run for years, but with little debunking in the major news media. That they don’t grapple with major stories, especially such easily debunked ones, shows one reason they’re in decline.

For 8 years we’ve heard about death of honey bees (probably due to pesticides) and the resulting wreck of agriculture, told with varying degrees of hysteria by a wide range of publications. Some examples are “Better Planet: Beepocalypse. Can we save honey bees from Colony Collapse Disorder?“ by Josie Glausiusz in Discover (July 2007),  “Honey bee apocalypse may not be caused by evil corporations after all” by George Dvorsky at io9 (June 2012) and “The New Silent Spring: America is one bad winter away from a food disaster, thanks to dying bees“ by Todd Woody at Quartz (May 2013).

Feeding the hysteria, Bryan Walsh wrote incendiary articles at the once-great Time magazine…

Continue reading

Stratfor: how the Iran deal will change the long-term price of oil

Summary: Oil is the most politically and economically sensitive mineral; all lines cross in the oil markets. Here Stratfor discusses how the Iran deal will affect oil prices, which will affect everybody.

Stratfor

How the Iran Deal Will Affect Oil Markets in the Long Term
Stratfor, 17 July 2015

Forecast

  • Iran will offer joint venture contracts to attract international energy companies, which will give the country some advantage over Persian Gulf producers.
  • Tehran will need more than five years to achieve its goal of producing 6 million barrels per day.
  • Legal requirements imposed on foreign firms in Iran will still make operating in the country less cost-effective.

Analysis

Iran was once one of the world’s largest exporters of oil. But ever since Western powers imposed sanctions on the country, a shortage of foreign investment has crippled what is now a corrupt and mismanaged energy sector.

With the announcement of a nuclear deal with the West, and the prospect of some sanctions relief within a year, Iran is now looking to revitalize its oil and gas industry. Tehran wants to increase its oil production from its current level of about 3 million barrels per day to 4 million barrels per day within six months of sanctions removal. And its longer-term goal is even more ambitious: By 2020, Tehran hopes to raise its production levels even higher than they were prior to the sanctions — roughly 6 million barrels per day.

Iran will likely need much more time to achieve that level of production. To develop new oil fields and new technology, Tehran needs access to more than $100 billion of investment — funds that the government is hoping to get from foreign investment. And while relaxed sanctions may open the country up to more outside funding, Iran also needs international oil companies to actually set up operations on Iranian soil. This could be a challenge; burdensome regulations have historically made it difficult for energy firms to operate in Iran despite the country’s ample reserves.

Continue reading

Martin van Creveld: Our armies become pussycats, part 2

Summary:  In this second post about the real revolution in military affairs, Martin van Creveld examines ask why men fight. Rather than the conventional political and geopolitical factors, he looks at the psychology of excellence, honor, spirituality, and PTSD. It’s worth some thought as we begin the second round of our long war.  See part one here.

"Mars, god of war" by GhostsAndDecay at DeviantArt

Mars, god of war” by GhostsAndDecay at DeviantArt

 

Pussycats II: Seek and You Shall Find

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 17 September 2014

Posted with his generous permission

 

“Seek and you shall find,” says the Gospel. Never more so, one supposes, then in our own “post-modern” age when everything goes and countless things that were supposed to have an objective existence suddenly stand revealed as “constructed” in this way or that. Not only words, as Humpty Dumpty said, but things mean what we choose them to mean. If not completely so — here I differ with some of the most extreme followers of Michel Foucault — then at any rate to a considerable extent. Take the case of war.

The age of prowness

In ancient Greece and Rome war was supposed to be associated with arête and virtus. Both are best understood as (manly, but in the present context that is beside the point) excellence and prowess respectively. Achilles preferred a short, heroic life to a long and dull one. Alexander, who studied Homer under the guidance of Aristotle, told his troops that “work, as long as it is noble, is an end in itself.” Virgil, by common consent the greatest Roman poet, celebrated virtus, the quality that had made had enabled his city to conquer first Italy and then the world, as follows:
Continue reading

Review of “Inside Out”: fun for kids & disturbing fun for adults

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews Inside Out. Kids love its great story and fine graphics. Adults love it for more interesting and perhaps disturbing reasons. Read on to learn more.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Inside Out - Poster

Where Were Sullen, Bitter, Grumpy, and Cynical in Inside Out?

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
23 July 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.

Growing up, we ‘70s kids had 3 revolutionary social-emotional concepts rammed down our impressionable youthful minds by pop culture and the public school system (or both, in the case of Sesame Street and the multi-media, post-hippie, self-empowerment Free to Be You and Me):

  • Be yourself, no matter what other people think.
  • Nurture and maintain your Inner Child all your life.
  • Get in touch with your feelings.

(Tied for fourth place were “Don’t go in the water” and “May the Force be with you.”)

Those messages arrived in sharp, reactionary, post-‘60s contrast to the stoic American Pioneer culture of our parents and grandparents, whose hard-bitten mantras (at least in my rural Midwest) were more along the lines of Don’t stand out, Grow up and be responsible, Work hard, Bury your hardships (and a large number of your family members) and move on, and Keep your damn feelings to yourself. In fact, much of 20th-century literature, film, and television was a steady Modern, then Post-modern, effort to undermine exactly those repressed and repressive societal and emotional restraints.

All of which, in part, helps explain why adults (ranging from college kids to post-grad media hipsters to young parents of their own young children) have lost their damn minds this summer in over-the-top praise of Pixar’s (admittedly well-crafted and highly entertaining) animated feature Inside Out. Or, to put it less fairly, “Just what we need: Another kids film that makes adults bawl over a ‘lost’ youth they’ve never really grown out of. Don’t you have to fully leave childhood before you can miss it?”

Okay, I’m being overly snarky about Inside Out, so I want to be clear on two points: Yes, it’s a delightful film, and No, I’m certainly not saying we as a culture should go back to being stoic, emotionally closed-off lumps of repression. But I can’t help but feel that as a culture (and with all the sweeping hypocritical generalities that statement entails) our “embrace your emotions” pendulum may now have swung about as far to the touchy-feely left as it needs to, with poor Inside Out as Exhibit A.

Continue reading

Testing Skeptical Science: is Roger Pielke Sr. a climate misinformer?

Summary: A post last week examined a darling of the Right, Zero Hedge. This post takes an equally harsh look at a darling of the Left, Skeptical Science. Both show how our stronger loyalty to tribe than truth encourages our information providers to feed us a mix of fact and politically appealing misinformation, shaping our beliefs and maintaining internal cohesion of the tribe (and our distrust of the “others”). We’ll remain gullible and easily led until we learn skepticism and demand more accuracy from those we trust.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Truth is strong enough to overcome all human sophistries.”
Timarchum by Aeschines (389–314 BC).

The Truth is Out There

Smearing scientists is a staple on both sides of the climate wars — the debate about the public policy implications of climate change. Such smears not only overflow the comment sections of popular websites, they’re often seen in the writings of major players on the public stage.

For example, see the 40 “climate misinformers” listed on John Cook’s Skeptical Science. It’s one of the climate-focused websites most widely cited on the Left, known for its flamboyant claims.  This post examines the first of 4 SkS page about eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr.

Before examining the details of SkS’s content, note the vast amount of work that went into creating it. The 4 pages about Pielke Sr. are one of 40 about “climate misinformers” — which is one of 10 “resources”, which are just one part of the SkS website (which has aps for iPhone, Android, and Nokia). This shows a major difference between the websites of climate “warriors” and “skeptics”. Despite claims that the skeptics have vast funds from evil oil, their websites are a ramshackle pile of contributions from volunteers (however skilled). Several the climate warriors have professional-quality websites.

About a misinformer

What was are the myths of Roger Pielke Sr.? How do SkS’ claims look today? The SkS page (it’s undated) gives ten quotes which they call “myths”. Not one of their rebuttals looks correct. A lot of the SkS content is like that, which is why people so often report their critical comments get deleted (no Smackdowns page there). I’ve slightly expanded some of Pielke’s quotes, and made small edits for clarity (e.g., numbering the myths).

Continue reading

The first step to protecting the world from its many dangers

Summary: The daily news bombards us with stories about severe risks to us and the world. Countless well-meaning special interest groups publish incendiary stories, which journalists uncritically repeat. We can’t afford to prevent or mitigate them all, so we do little or nothing. Here’s a first step to rational action: list and describe each to see the big picture. Let’s start today! List your top fears in the comments, ranked high to low.

Supernova

Supernova; bad news if within 50 light-years of us.

Contents

  1. So many dangers.
  2. Doom fatigue.
  3. A solution.
  4. For More Information.

(1)  So many dangers

“Apocalyptic and misanthropic environmental narratives, as Clive Hamilton represents them, have had an important role in stirring up the public. But they have also contributed to widespread resignation and cynicism. So far, they have fallen short of mobilizing enough people to bring about real political change. ”

NYT Journalist Andy Revkin.

That’s the heart of the problem. The daily bombardment of doomsday warnings leaves people feeling helpless, with the natural result of ignoring all warnings. Worse, to cut through the noise scientists’ press releases become ever more shrill, with ever less context.

How many have we had this month? The over-the-top New Yorker about the doomed NW USA: “The Really Big One” by Kathryn Schulz in The New Yorker — “An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.”

That’s topped this week by James Hansen and 15 other climate scientists predicting (in the Huff Post’s words) “Catastrophic Rise In Sea Levels”, with “sea levels rising as much as 10 feet in the next 50 years.” For those who prefer journalism, the Washington Post notes that this is far above the IPCC’s likely projections, other climate scientists are skeptical, and the paper is not peer-reviewed. It’s also science by press release, with the hysterical headlines preceding publication of the paper.

Even that’s topped by this press release from the U of GA:  “Earth’s ‘battery’ draining too fast to sustain life” — “Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable.”

Add these to the top of your pile of past warnings, such as … We face a world full of foes, from terrorist sleeper cells in your town to great powers bent on world conquest (China and Russia). But even our foes will go broke as the world’s resources are exhausted: peak oil, peak fresh water, even peak phosphorous.

Continue reading

The advertising glut dooms the social media industry

Summary:  The internet is a mirror in which we can see important aspects of America. Businesses funded by speculation (greed) struggle to survive in an era of few opportunities and falling investment, while high technology and rising inequality reshape America. The social media stocks are in this maelstrom, as virtual advertising space grows faster than their audience and advertisers dollars. Publishers grow desperate, try ever more intrusive ads. Few will survive.

Bubble cloud

Contents

  1. The race for internet revenue.
  2. Speculation.
  3. Inequality.
  4. Analysis of the ad-supported internet.
  5. For More Information.
  6. Great books about bubbles.

(1)  The race for revenue on the internet

The evolution of the internet is best seen in terms of what pays for it: banner ads, then pop-up ads, then auto-run video ads, and now “integrating” the content with the advertisements (these tends often end by debasing the product). It is an evolution to increasingly intrusive ads, forcing people to either spend more of their time killing the ads — or installing ad blockers (which are in a Red Queen race with the developers of ad technology).

Don’t blame the managers of these companies. That’s as foolish as blaming airlines for the poor service that accompanies the cheap fares we demand. We don’t pay for most of the information and many of the services we get on the internet. As Andrew Lewis said: “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” So we have no grounds to complain.

The managers know the futility of this race they’re locked into, but they’re desperate.

Continue reading