Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oregonian Circulation Sees Significant Drop

In only 6 months Oregonian circulation has dropped almost as much as in the previous 2-1/2 years. (15,225 of the 33,307 total)

The Portland Business Journal reports:

The Oregonian's daily Monday-Friday circulation fell 4.76 percent, from 319,624 to 304,399 and its Sunday circulation fell 3.70 percent, from 375,914 to 361,988.

In a three-year period, from March 2005 to March 2008, the Oregonian has lost 33,307 daily readers and 43,308 Sunday readers.

In terms of other major U.S. newspapers, 8 of 25 suffered a percentage loss worse than the Oregonian's.

Average paid weekday circulation for the 25 largest U.S.
newspapers for the six months ended in March, with percentage
change from a year earlier.

1. USA Today, 2,284,219, up 0.3 percent
2. Wall Street Journal, 2,069,463, up 0.4 percent
3. New York Times, 1,077,256, down 3.9 percent
4. Los Angeles Times, 773,884, down 5.1 percent
5. New York Daily News, 703,137, down 2.1 percent
6. New York Post, 702,488, down 3.1 percent
7. Washington Post, 673,180, down 3.6 percent
8. Chicago Tribune, 541,663, down 4.4 percent
9. Houston Chronicle, 494,131, down 1.8 percent
10. Arizona Republic, 413,332, down 4.7 percent
11. Newsday, Long Island, 379,613, down 4.7 percent
12. San Francisco Chronicle, 370,345, down 4.2 percent
13. Dallas Morning News, 368,313, down 10.6 percent
14. Boston Globe, 350,605, down 8.3 percent
15. Newark Star-Ledger, 345,130, down 7.4 percent
16. Philadelphia Inquirer, 334,150, down 5.1 percent
17. Cleveland Plain Dealer, 330,280, down 4.2 percent
18. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 326,907, down 8.5 percent
19. Minneapolis Star Tribune, 321,984, down 6.7 percent
20. St. Petersburg Times, Florida, 316,007, down 2.1 percent
21. Chicago Sun Times, 312,274, n.a.
22. Detroit Free Press, 308,944, down 6.5 percent
23. Portland Oregonian, 304,399, down 4.8 percent
24. San Diego Union-Tribune, 288,669, down 2.6 percent
25. Sacramento Bee, 268,755, down 3.7 percent

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Biofuel starvation wasn't "unforeseen consequences"

Jack Ohman, Oregonian political cartoonist, has joined the rising chorus of those pointing out the brutal effects of biofuels on the world's poor. He published a cartoon this week with a speaker at a biofuels podium surrounded by a rising tide of skulls.

I have noted Paul Krugman's devastating critique:

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

David Sarasohn of the Oregonian printed his own mild rebuke yesterday. Mild because, though noting that in the last year wheat prices have tripled, corn prices doubled and rice prices nearly doubled, he calls this the result of “unforeseen consequences.”

And increasingly, corn in particular is going into biofuel. Last year Congress required that biofuel use increase five times, and some observers are talking about the law of unforeseen consequences.

But there were real warnings about possible starvation as a consequence of the law Sarasohn refers to (the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007).

The possible consequences were clearly communicated in a Senate briefing a week before initial passage of the Senate bill and 6 months before final approval of the final House-Senate bill.

Here's a bit from a June 13, 2007 Senate briefing given by Lester Brown from the Earth Policy Institute:

The U.S. corn crop, accounting for 40 percent of the global harvest and supplying nearly 70 percent of the world's corn imports, looms large in the world food economy. Annual U.S. corn exports of some 55 million tons account for nearly one fourth of world grain exports. The corn harvest of Iowa alone exceeds the entire grain harvest of Canada. Substantially reducing this export flow would send shock waves throughout the world economy.

In six of the last seven years, total world grain production has fallen short of use. As a result, world carryover stocks of grain have been drawn down to 57 days of consumption, the lowest level in 34 years. (See data.) The last time they were this low wheat and rice prices doubled.

[emphasis mine]

When prices double the poor starve.

Unforseen consequences? No. There were clear warnings. But, Congress and the President ignored the awful impact on the world's poor.

Friday, April 18, 2008


One wonders what current scientific orthodoxy would do with Albert Einstein who was a theist and let his theism have an important part in his scientific thinking. ("God does not play dice with the universe.")

One gets a hint in this documentary framed by Ben Stein's humor.

Stein presents the appalling scenario of the scientific establishment saying that some issues have been "decided" and are not open to scientific research or critical thinking. Those who do not follow the scientific orthodoxy are fired, let go or blocked in their research.

Stein also presents the the dark side of Darwinism that resulted in the attempt to upgrade the human race through negative eugenics of killing or blocking the reproduction of "unfit" people and races. Those attempts ranged from the horrors of Hitler's holocaust to the milder insidiousness of Margaret Sanger's reasons for founding the organization which later became Planned Parenthood. Sanger sought to keep "unfit" people from propagating by sterilizing them and "unfit" groups from propagating through birth control.

It seems that scientific orthodoxy is not a thing of the past. It just keeps changing its taskmasters.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Biofuels: Lemming Science and Politics

"And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states."
Paul Krugman, Grains Gone Wild, April 7, 2008

Leave it to consensus science and Oregon and Portland progressive politics to put Oregon on the cutting edge of causing starvation around the world.

Paul Krugman gives a beginning answer on what to do now. We need "a pushback against biofuels, which turn out to have been a terrible mistake."

Not a mistake that everyone made, but as Krugman points out all the "remaining" presidential candidates are "terrible on this issue." [It might be instructive to see which of the original presidential candidates (or Oregon state legislators and politicians) had the good judgment to get this right.]

Krugman's column published today in The New York Times describes the growing food shortage:

These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way — and it’s hurting a lot more people.

I’m talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans — but they’re truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family’s spending.

There have already been food riots around the world. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have been limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers — and making things even worse in countries that need to import food.

How did this happen? The answer is a combination of long-term trends, bad luck — and bad policy.

What's the worst part of the bad policy?

Where the effects of bad policy are clearest, however, is in the rise of demon ethanol and other biofuels.

The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.”

This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

Krugman doesn't even mention the tragic consequences to the world's poor of water waste in biofuels. They consume 70 to 400 times as much water as an equivalent amount of fossil fuels.

When is the leadership of the Oregon State legislature and the Portland City Council, who are responsible for pushing through these terrible policies, going to face up to the impact of recent legislation requiring biofuel use in Oregon? When are they going to reverse those policies?

And when are the presidential candidates going to be taken to task on their poor judgment in promoting policies causing havoc for the world's poor? When are state and local officials going to have to answer for the results of these devastating policies?

Don't hold your breath.

In the meantime, besides repealing the short-sighted, self-serving biofuel policies implemented, Krugman suggests that we need to stop focusing on our own relatively minor economic problems and give aid to those in life and death situations.

The most immediate need is more aid to people in distress: the U.N.’s World Food Program put out a desperate appeal for more funds.

Given the UN oil for food corruption scandal, an NGO with a clean track record would be a better choice for aid.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet – WOW!

I was looking for a book/Bible reader that could also do basic computing skills. I didn't want to have to lug two devices around—a reader and a palmtop computer.

In the past I have tried an eBookMan. No computing abilities. Then I went to a Palm Zire 31. It allowed book reading and computing, but the screen was a pain to read from—small and not the greatest resolution.

So, I began looking and came upon the 2.95” x 5.67” Nokia N800 Internet Tablet which has a 4.1" screen. Along with book reading and basic computing it offers wireless internet connectivity. Because Nokia has a new version out (the N810), the price has dropped on the N800 to less than $230 including shipping.

The N800 has everything the N810 has except a larger internal memory, built in mini keyboard and operational GPS (though you can buy the software and service for GPS on the N800).

Both units have the same hardware specs, and the N800 operating system can be upgraded to the N810's OS2008 operating system. All this at about half the selling price of the N810.

Besides price, the main factors for me were:

1. Though the N810 has a tiny 5” wide pullout keyboard, it would not be useful to me. If I want to do real typing I want something that allows for touch typing. So, for me a Stowaway fold up keyboard is the keyboard of choice, and it works just as well with the N800 as the N810.

2. I already have a portable GPS unit.

3. The N810 has an internal memory of 2 GB built in and one external memory slot. The N800 has 1 internal and 1 external memory slot. Both of them can take SD cards. Though the N810 comes with 2 GB built in, it doesn’t allow for upgrading the 2 GB capacity. By contrast, the N800's open internal memory slot allows for SD cards with much more than 2 GB capacity. Further, the N800 can take standard SD cards--the N810 only mini or micro SD cards.

4. The pop out video camera on the N810 cannot swivel as the one on the N800 can. So, taking videos of anything but the person looking at the screen is difficult on the N810 and easy on the N800.

So, I bought the N800. It is an engineering marvel and just keeps getting more and more useful.

You can find the technical specs here and here.

Its operating system is based on Linux. So, it can do real computing. Right now it has a good spreadsheet program available—Gnumeric.

The N800's major application limitation is lack of a good word processor. There are applications to read Word documents and pdf files. It has bluetooth capability so you can use a Stowaway fold up full size keyboard. But, it only has a notepad that allows basic text processing--though with bolding and italics. At present there’s nothing to do even basic word processing.

Web browsing generally works well though there is sometimes a lag in switching between sites and once in awhile it gags and freezes up in loading a screen. But the fix is easy. Exit the browser and restart. For such a small unit online pages are mostly readable in standard screen size. You can zoom in if you need a closer look.

On the multi-media side, this internet tablet is phenomenal.

Its screen resolution (800 x 480) is so good that you can watch a dvd on it—and it's not a painful experience. It has stereo speakers so you don't have to use earphones (though your surrounding environment has to be reasonably quiet to get full benefit). Photos also show up great.

It has an FM radio application that uses the earphone cord as a receiving antenna. It plays mp3 and wav files among others.

What about my original reason for getting the N800 as a Bible/book reader? There's Bible and book reading software available—as well as audio book capabilities. The Rapier application has a number of Bible versions available including Greek.

There’s a Strong's word guide.

In other words, it is really nice for reading and light study. At present I have an 8 GB SD card and a 4 GB SD card installed. So, there are lots of books, music files and photos installed as well as some audio file books and a couple of movies.

Added to this it does sound recordings (with the maemo-recorder application), snapshots as well as video with sound in avi format (with the video camera application).

And there are lots more apps being developed. The N800 is not only useful but fun. It’s a serious version of the IPod Touch with more flexibility at a lower price.