Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happiest States Veer Red

The first serious multivariate analysis of happiness by state - one that controls for individual characteristics like education and income finds (shock of shocks) that the less taxed and less "blue" one's state is, the happier people are. It also shows that people would prefer to be warm than cold (although nanny state CA scores a dismal 46th out of 51).

Now those who have read me in the past know that I am skeptical about league tables - they are notoriously sensitive to ex ante model specification problems (in other words, they are easily rigged for the outcome one wants). That being said, this is the first serious, refereed journal article on the topic that I've seen and it seems to be very credible.

It also supports my preconceived opinions, which doesn't hurt.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Bret Stephens of the WSJ reminded me of Rudyard Kiplings famous poem. Seems like a good time to haul 'er out.

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
"Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
"The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
"If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Shelby Steele on BHO

Mr. Steele has always been one of the most insightful commentators on race and identity in America. Here he talks about our President and how he differs from Ronald Reagan.

Maureen Dowd's Best Column. Ever.

Brother Dowd sits in for the Crimson Shrieker.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why would any country voluntarily become semi-muslim?

Mark Steyn uses his experience as a Francophone Canadian to ask the obvious question on NRO.

As I said, if you happen to find yourself in a bilingual society (which, as in Canada, is really two unilingual societies), you make the best of it. But I cannot see why any society would choose to become bilingual. Likewise, if you're in Nigeria or southern Thailand or Kashmir, you make the best of it. But I can't understand why any society would lightly volunteer to become semi-Muslim - which is what in effect Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany et al have done. And, once you've done so, like Derb says, what's the answer?

I've lived large parts of my life in muslim majority societies and have never experienced a problem there. But it is quite apparent that when muslims come into contact with western civilization and particularly our leftist multi-culti nihilism, it transforms a small subset of them into haters and in some cases into killers.

Multiculturalism increasingly seems to be the ideology of culture war and western suicide.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chris Hitchens Hits the Nail on its Head

Chris Hitchens explains the essence of our "anti-terror" efforts:

Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can't—or won't. The answer to the second question is: Because we can.

With 'public servants' as feckless as these, why do we need enemies? And we pay these guys on average twice as much as private employees? They're not worth even half as much as a non-tax-eater.

When Even Nannie Bloomberg Can't Stand the Outcome

Even Michael Bloomberg, a liberal and longtime supporter of 'healthcare' reform thinks Obamacare is a disaster - from the WSJ:

Many who have long touted health care reform are turning up their noses at the final product. Michael Bloomberg, New York's independent mayor, told "Meet the Press" over the weekend: "I have asked congressperson after congressperson. Not one can explain to me what's in the bill, even in the House version. Certainly not in the other version. And so for them to vote on a bill that they don't understand whatsoever, really, you've got to question how -- what kind of government we have."

Mr. Bloomberg added that his own reading of the Senate bill led him to conclude that it would blow a hole in the New York State budget and force closure of perhaps 100 health clinics.

No wonder they hold their votes in the middle of the night. If I had come up with this dreck, I'd hide it too.

Once Again: Using the "legal" system to overturn the people's will

Prepare yourself for the "Carbon Tort" - an attempt to overturn the law of the people through the activities of lawyers. Money graf from the WSJ:

What unites these cases is the creativity of their legal chain of causation and their naked attempts at political intimidation. "My hope is that the court case will provide a powerful incentive for polluters to be reasonable and come to the table and seek affordable and reasonable reductions," Mr. Blumenthal told the trade publication Carbon Control News. "We're trying to compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature."

These 'cats are seeking to use the courts to win what they are manifestly losing in the court of public opinion. Like with Roe and Dred Scott, a "victory" here will just ensure endless hatred and strife.

What a "Progressive" policy. Power to the lawyers!

The Economics of Harry Potter

The Economist has a wonderful piece about how JK Rowling and Harry Potter have taken film making back to the future. Definitely worth the read.

We’ve got three years of a four year inoculation against looney leftism left. Enjoy the sore arm and flu like symptoms, because he ain’t going away.

I like to think of this period of 'leadership' as proof against future such silliness. Oh Lord I hope that's true, because I'm not even sure I can handle the final three years of the treatment.

The Fannification of the Financial System

As predicted, the 9 banks that were deemed 'too big to fail' are falling into the familiar Fannie-Freddie relationship with the government. Watch for massive profits and rapid market share growth among these 9 at the expense of the rest of the financial system. Read the details here.

Our "progressive" leaders are so predictable.

As Instapundit always says: our country is in the BEST of hands.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why do People Flee Democrat Governance?

Michael Barone points out the shift in House seats this census season. For the first time CA will not add a single house seat. TX will add four. Don't these morons know that progressive governance is good for them? Why do they persist time and again in fleeing their wise, Phd led leadership? Why oh why do people run away from Democrats? When the Democrats ran the solid south people ran away like lemmings. Now that they run the solid north, they run away like neo-lemmings. Why oh why do people flee the Obama slavation? I mean salvation?

Polidata Inc. projects from the 2009 estimates that the reapportionment following the 2010 Census will produce four new House seats for Texas, one for Florida, Arizona, Utah and Nevada, and none for California for the first time since 1850. Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois are projected to lose one each and Ohio two. Americans have been moving, even in recession, away from Democratic strongholds and toward Republican turf.

Captain Underpants: A criminal, not an enemy.

The greatest travesty of this terror attack will be how our "leaders" will treat it as a criminal prosecution. We won't learn much about the masterminds, we won't catch, much less kill the ringleaders, we'll just have a pathetic 'trial'. Andy McCarthy has the details at NRO.

If we don't fight the war, we can never win.

Missing the Point [Andy McCarthy]

Though I share their outrage, I think outraged readers are missing the point. The people now in charge of our government believe Clinton-era counterterrorism was a successful model. They start from the premise that terrorism is a crime problem to be managed, not a war to be won. Overdone "war on drugs" rhetoric aside, we don't try to "win" against (as in "defeat") law-enforcement challenges. We expect them to happen from time to time and to contain, but never completely prevent, the damage.

Here, no thanks to the government, the plane was not destoyed, and we won't get to the bottom of the larger conspiracy (enabling the likes of Napolitano to say there's no indication of a larger plot — much less one launched by an international jihadist enterprise) because the guy got to lawyer up rather than be treated like a combatant and subjected to lengthy interrogation. But the terrorist will be convicted at trial (this "case" tees up like a slam-dunk), so the administration will put it in the books as a success ... just like the Clinton folks did after the '93 WTC bombers and the embassy bombers were convicted. In their minds, litigation success equals national security success.

It is a dangerously absurd viewpoint, but it was clear during the campaign that it was Obama's viewpoint. The American people — only seven years after 9/11 — elected him anyway. As we learn more painfully everyday, elections matter.

Scam upon Scam upon Scam upon Scam

If you read through this entire piece by Chris Booker of the Daily Telegraph, you will get a precis of the corruption inherent in the "Global Warmist" movement. It's about the Chairman of the IPCC - on Dr. Pauchari's extremely profitable dealings around the world and much more.

All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to believe them.

TSA - Quite Possibly the Stupidest People in Our Time

The answer to the underpants bomber: Punish the passengers who saved their bacon! From Rand Simberg. Our government: beyond parody.

2. Once again, airline passengers 1, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 0.

And the response of the TSA?

To further punish the passengers, of course. I see that now no one will be allowed to leave their seats one hour prior to landing or have items in their laps, including laptops and pillows. And of course, as usual, the new measures, hastily put into place because something happened, will be measures that would likely have had no effect on what happened. But since they already had measures in place, and something happened anyway, they have to do something new to keep the curtains open in the theater. What next? In addition to deshoeing ourselves, will we have to drop trou in security? It’s ironic that on the day commemorating the birth of a lone man who was supposed to die for all of our sins, a little over two millennia later, we are now going to all have to suffer for the sin of another lone man.

Obama Don't get no Respect

Of course one might ask: what has he done to deserve it? Via Instapundit:

SLATE: WHY WORLD LEADERS FIND IT EASY TO say no to Obama. “It isn’t just that that no one has cut Obama any slack. World leaders seem to be taking pleasure in rebuffing him, disappointing him, even, in some cases, mocking him. . . . Praising and admiring Obama are still common, but raising doubts about him, even scoffing at him, is now becoming fashionable. Although he is still popular among Europeans and more popular with Muslims than his despised predecessor, Obama is being tagged with the unflattering label John Quincy Adams earned before he lost the 1828 election: ‘Adams can write, Jackson can fight.’ . . . In fact, no world leader has paid a price for disappointing Obama. With Obama so nice and so conciliatory, risking retaliation by the White House doesn’t seem all that dangerous.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In 1980 Detroit Had the Highest Per Capita Income In America

Today: Not so much. I blame Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney. Steve Crowder begs to differ.

Notable Quotes

"Despite the Democrats best efforts, 57 percent of Americans judge the War in Iraq a success". Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit.

"94 percent of 3Q GDP growth was due to federal spending" - Stephen Green, Vodkapundit.

"Ben Nelson's staff called to say that he couldn't come on TV: he was having trouble making the adjustment from Blue Dog to Lame Duck" - Stephen Green

Then: Earmarks. Now: Bribes

Who cares about earmarks, now that we have open bribery as the Federal M.O?

Obamacare: Worse than Eurocare?

Mark Steyn on Obamacare:

Looking at the millions of Americans it leaves uninsured, and the millions it leaves with worse treatment and reduced access, and the millions it makes pay significantly more for their current health care, one can only marvel at Harry Reid’s genius: government health care turns out to be all government and no health care. Adding up the zillions of new taxes and bureaucracies and regulations it imposes on the citizenry, one might almost think that was the only point of the exercise.

That’s why I believe America’s belated embrace of government health care is going to be far more expensive and disastrous than the Euro-Canadian models. Whatever one’s philosophical objection to the Canadian health system, it is, broadly, fair: Unless you’re a cabinet minister or a bigtime hockey player, you’ll enjoy the same equality of crappiness and universal lack of access that everybody else does. But, even before it’s up-and-running, Pelosi-Reid-Obamacare is an impenetrable thicket of contradictory boondoggles, shameless payoffs, and arbitrary shakedowns

Read the rest here.

Potato Salad - Ouch

Johnny Mac sends this trio of talented temptresses our way. After 50 seconds.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Cornhusker Kickback

To vote for Obamacare, Ben Nelson got the "Cornhusker Kickback". Mary landrieu got the "New Louisiana Purchase", the Florida Nelson got retention of Medicare Advantage when every other state's seniors will be cut off. Vermont got $500 Million and MA got $300 Million in extra Medicaid payments. Michigan and Nebraska BCBS are exempt from new premium taxes. The Longshoreman don't have to pay the "Cadillac Plan" Tax. And people living near a Montana Superfund site get free healthcare for life.

Hundreds more deals will emerge before this is all over.

Hope! Change! Obama!

Where your college tuition dollar goes.

College tuitions have increased over 400 percent in real terms since 1970. Where does all the increased college tuition money go? I ran across this gem at Carpe Deum – Truly the best econ blog:

This staffing behavior is characteristic of Oligopolistic industrial organization.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Democrats are All In, Even if it Kills Them

Byron York interviews Dem Strategists who explain why the Dems continue to pursue healthcare reform in the face of 61% public disapproval.

Puts a new face on the definition of Democracy.

Well This Stinks

From Instapundit. If the children of immigrants from south of the border stop thinking of themselves as Americans, then we have a huge problem, don't we? The antics of the "progressives" are making the nativist's points for them.

MICKEY KAUS: “Only 33% of *U.S. born* (second-generation) Latino immigrant kids identify themselves first by the term ‘American.’ Most prefer either their country of origin (41%) or the term ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic.’ This is supposed to prove Lou Dobbs wrong?”

In previous waves of immigration, we got assimilation because teachers, politicians, media, etc. believed in it, and thought America as it was an indisputably good thing, and thus acted accordingly. This time, they feel differently, and act differently, and so we get different results

Monday, December 14, 2009

It just keeps getting better and better

Scott Harrington at the WSJ tells us that hidden within Obamacare is another fiscal love bomb straight from the Dead Kennedy.

Looking in Obama bills is sort of like a full Christmas stocking. You never know what gems you're going to find!

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

So How Do We Know What is True?

JOURNALISM: A.P. Assigns 11 “Fact-Checkers” to Palin’s Book, Only 5 To ClimateGate Emails.

Not particularly earth shattering in itself, but rather telling: When the media targets a public figure for 'debunking', how do you know that you are seeing a clear picture of her? How many 'fact checkers' do you think Obama's portentous books got? One? None?

And when a huge and incredibly complex cache of emails about the central debate of our time is leaked what happens: the NYT says: "they were stolen, we won't report on them" - they of the Pentagon Papers Pulitzers. And AP puts fewer than half the fact checkers that they assign to an unemployed politician's biography.

So the question is this: we make our evaluations of policy and politics based upon the news. But when the news is dishonest or biased or has a monomania on a single issue, how do you figure out reality?

How do you know what is true?

Tricky, very tricky.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Google Can't Find Climate Gate

From Rand Simberg's Site:

Hiding The Decline At Google?

I got this email (I’ll keep the emailer anonymous unless (s)he notifies me otherwise):

It’s very disturbing how Google is behaving with regard to Climategate/Climaquiddick. I put both of those in my custom news page. For a while, it steadfastly refused to update Climaquiddick, and then it began to update Climategate only with stories attacking climate change skeptics. I could find many more stories on Yahoo, most of which were alarmed at the fraud which seems to be occurring.

Then when I logged in today, Google News had deleted those two categories from my custom section. When I reestablished them, they brought up only a few of the old, outdated original stories plus a few newer attack stories.

Web searches on Climaquiddick yielded only 72,600 hits on Google and 84,300 on Bing, but 565,000 on Yahoo. None of them will autocomplete the word “Climaquiddick.” They won’t autocomplete “Climategate” either, but Yahoo alone will suggest “climate gate.”

Does everyone in Silicon Valley think that pretending information doesn’t exist will make it so? If so, how much can we trust the technology they produce?

I think that there are going to be huge reverberations of untrust throughout many areas of authority resulting from this. As was pointed out early on, it’s not just a scientific scandal, it’s a journalistic one.

In Honor of Al Gore and Carts for Clunkers: A Poem

Earnie "Tiger" Lazarus poem: Enscribed on the Statue of Nicklaus at the Bay Harbor Golf and Country Club

Not like the brazen driver of Greek fame,
With conquering wedge shots astride from green to green;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset links shall stand
A mighty golfer with a mashie, whose swing
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Putters.
From her over-hand grip
Glows world-wide TV rights; her mild eyes command
The curved grass that twin bunkers frame.
"Keep, ancient game, your storied links!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to ride in golf carts,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the cartless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my charging station beside the golden door!"

Prediction: BHO won't even win the vote for reelection in his home state.

Barring a last minute glitch, the Obama White House has settled on an Illinois prison to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, sources close to the decision told the Chicago Sun-Times. An announcement is expected shortly from the Obama administration to start the process to acquire the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.A leaked memo prepared by administration officials prompted speculation that the decision was finalized. An administration official said that memo was a draft and not to read anything into its existence because paperwork is readied just in case.

CO2 Promoting Plant Growth Worldwide

A commentator on Canada's National Post points out that increased CO2 levels are highly correlated with massive increases in plant growth worldwide.

Shocking Racism

Cablinasians are being discriminated against. Their unique cultural contributions denigrated.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our New Federal Overlords

I'm told that my tone towards the government is too harsh. But it's hard to be civil when I find that our Federal overlords are giving themselves fat raises on top salaries that are 75% above average Americans in the midst of the Great Recession.

STIMULUS! Average Federal Government Worker Pay $71, 206. “The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data. Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.”

It is really, really hard, guys.

Newsweek Dying?

Ed Driscoll has the story. Evidently NW is losing money hand over fist and is projected to halve its circulation in one year. Ad revenue is down -30 percent year over year. Boy all the BHO hagiography has really paid off.

Wonder when the Dems will pass a press bailout to keep their cheerleaders in printer's ink?

The Physics of Belief or Truth is What the Party Says it Is.

A Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane has an interesting perspective.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Why Insult Great Britain

John Gordon Steel wonders why the Obama Administration has gone out of its way to insult our most staunch ally, the United Kingdom and it's leader. The British press is certainly noticing. It seems part and parcel of the arrogance that permeates everything that BHO does. But tearing at a truly "special relationship" just because it seems cool is quite rash at a time when we need all the help we can get around the world.

Arrogance and naivete are certainly an explosive mix.

Tiger Woods and Fallen Dieties

Lisa Schiffren has an absolutely fascinating perspective on the Tiger blow up. Even more significantly, she points out the rather obvious implications for another American deity. Definitely worth a read.

"Ultimately, Woods is an exceptional golfer with a character problem. Barack Obama, by contrast, is not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader. But because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.

But many voters from both the center and the far left who believed in the Obama magic are increasingly dismayed by watching the human god fall to earth. This is a major problem because, as Shafer notes, the impulse of the betrayed is to tear their fallen deities to shreds."

Greece: Hellenic Canary in the Euro Coal Mine?

Megan McCardle has a thoughtful post about the likelihood of a Greek collapse and the implications for the Euro.

Demographically dying and fiscally incontinent, Greece is just the first in a line of dominoes to fall with Spain, Ireland, Italy not far behind and the good 'ol USA bringing up the rear.

The Pushme Pullyou Economy

Tigerhawk observes that right on the heels of the "jobs summit" the Administration announced a raft of new labor regulations that will depress employment. The money graf:

Regulatory risk from the federal government is now -- by a longshot -- the biggest barrier to increasing private sector employment. Neither looser money nor string-pushing "stimulus" can overcome that in the long run.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Federal Unaccountability or the Collapse of Consent

Our philosophy of government is derived from British experience. Parliament developed a doctrine called 'supply' which meant that the only national funds the King and his executive could have to spend were those voted by the sovereign representatives of the people sitting in Parliament. The King could dismiss Parliament, but then he couldn't have any money. This system is predicated on parliament (or in our case Congress) being accountable to the people. But what if this no longer holds?

We the people have made it plain to Congress the level of taxation that we will abide. Normally it is the duty of the legislature and the executive to figure out how to allocate those funds to maximize the public good or to persuade the people that the amount needs to be adjusted. This is how we the people have traditionally limited the ambitions of our political class: In the English phrase: we have limited "supply".

But our Federal government has a magic money machine through which they can issue debt and print money that obligate us just as sure as if we had put it on our credit card. The result: the Feds are not limited by "supply". Indeed I think it is fair to say that without a limitation on the amount of money they can spend and a limitation on the future liabilities that they can undertake, that our Federal government is effectively unaccountable. And since they have not limited their activities to the people's level of 'supply' they are acting without our consent.

And government without the consent of the governed, as the founders put it, is Tyranny.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Winner for most Creative Knowledge Problem Analogy

VIRGINIA POSTREL ON GIFT-GIVING AND THE KNOWLEDGE PROBLEM: “The problem of buying good presents for other people, even people you supposedly know well, illustrates that old familiar Hayekian concept, the knowledge problem. If you can’t even give your loved ones the right presents, how likely is it that a central authority could make the right decisions for everyone?”

Friday, December 04, 2009

Group Seeks to Rescind Al Gore's Oscar

Why would they do that? They just need to change the category from Documentary: To Fantasy.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Obama Seeks Ideas on Jobs - How about stop?

President Obama is stumped. Gee, all we're doing is proposing to double the price of energy, increase income taxes, take death taxes from 0 to 45% (plus state duties) impose surcharges and fees on 30 million Americans unless they buy more health insurance and run 10 trillion in deficits in the next 8 years. Oh, and massively reregulate the financial sector while tearing up millions of financial contracts. And play protectionist Chicken with China.

He just can't imagine why businesses won't hire more. What could it be? What could it be?

I'll give you a hint: it's initials are BHO.

The Democrats are going to be swept from power due the impenetrable ignorance of their leaders. At least Bill Clinton had some native intelligence. This is the flower of a City that has been in steady decline for 40 plus years. And it's stupid.

They're experts at declining gracelessly.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

On the Other Hand: This Will Not End Well

George Will, a notoriously moderately toned conservative disagrees and says that the President's new Afghanistan policy "Will not end well"

We and Obama will certainly know in three years, won't we?

Shocker: Govts get away with polluting that private companies can't.

Instapundit has the story:

SHOCKER: Government-operated sewage plants get away with a whole lot of polluting. “Modest proposal: privatize sewage treatment plants so that governments won’t hold back on going after polluters. It is politically much more acceptable to go after profit-making private sector polluters. Look at the USSR. The state let itself pollute on a massive scale. When the government doesn’t own the capital assets it has a much easier time imposing costs on the asset operators to make them clean up.”

This goes for lots of other services the government provides as well. For example: Schools.

Credit where Due to Obama

Credit where credit is due: Andrew Ferguson comments on the President's speech:

Obama is the first Democratic president in forty years to call for a significant deployment of American troops in the national security interest of his country. This is very big news. His predecessor, President Clinton, could give a stirring address dispatching bombers over Bosnia and be confident of the support of his fellow Democrats, because the show of power was purely humanitarian and had nothing to do with keeping us safe from our enemies. With great courage, Obama is trying something that hasn’t been tried within the living memory of most of the members of his party.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gee, why would they do that?

John Steele Gordon makes a key observation about the destruction of the source data underlying the claims of Global Warming:

But today the Times of London has published a revelation that, if not a smoking gun, is pretty close. The University of East Anglia scientists had refused numerous attempts by other scientists they regarded as unfriendly to see the raw data. But when confronted with a freedom-of-information-act request (Britain now has a FOIA, too), they were forced to admit that they had thrown away much of the raw data upon which their conclusions regarding global warming over the past 150 years had been based.

In order to make such data consistent, it needs to be adjusted in various ways, and there is nothing nefarious about that. (The adjustment might be as simple as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. Or say a weather station that had been located out in a potato field when it was installed in 1927 now finds itself behind a strip mall in a densely populated suburb. The data over the past 82 years would obviously need to be adjusted to take into account the fact that a suburban strip mall is inherently more heat-producing than a potato field.)

But without the raw data, it is impossible to check the work, and checking each other’s work lies at the very heart of the scientific method. Without the raw data, the adjusted data is useless. So if the destruction of the raw data was accidental, it was inexcusable. If it was deliberate, it was a scientific felony. If the data is now irretrievably lost, it is a tragedy.

Is it too much to ask these people to behave with some integrity?

The International Reviews are Pouring In and They Aren't Good

The Emperor Vespasian remarked as he was dying: "Dear me! I must be turning into a God!". Barack Obama must be saying: "Dear me! I must be turning into Jimmy Carter".

Some International Reviews from Commentary Contentions. And their not pretty:

The President is “Obama the Impotent,” according to Steven Hill of the Guardian. TheEconomist calls Obama the “Pacific (and pussyfooting) president.” The Financial Timesrefers to “relations between the U.S. and Europe, which started the year of talks as allies, near breakdown.” The German magazine Der Spiegel accuses the president of being “dishonest with Europe” on the subject of climate change. Another withering piece in Der Spiegel, titled “Obama’s Nice Guy Act Gets Him Nowhere on the World Stage,” lists the instances in which Obama is being rolled. The Jerusalem Post puts it this way: “Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it’s not just that they’re saying no, it’s also the way they’re saying no.” “He talks too much,” a Saudi academic who had once been smitten with Barack Obama tells the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who is spending the big bucks?

The Science and Public Policy Institute issued a report on the money involved in funding the global warming debate in August concluding, “Over the last two decades, US taxpayers have subsidized the American climate change industry to the tune of $79 billion.”

By contrast, the same study found that the media bogeyman “Exxon Mobil gave a mere $23 million, spread over ten years, to climate sceptics.”

See the video and transcript at Newsbusters

Get over Objectivity

Ed Driscoll reminds us of this little gem:

The following year, in what would be a remarkable case of foreshadowing of how the legacy media “reported” the 2008 presidential election, newspaper house organ Editor & Publisher urged, “Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers.”

When the scorekeepers and the news sources are biased, then how can you trust anything?

We Pay them to lie to us

John Stossel points out:

When you knowingly pay someone to lie to you, we call the deceiver an illusionist or a magician. When you unwittingly pay someone to do the same thing, I call him a politician.

30 Million new insured, and lower costs. Yeah right!

Climate Fraud: The Prequel

It turns out that the same sort of consistent fraud and dishonesty happened with acid rain and the 1990 clean air act. Henry Payne has the details.

How can we trust any proposal from the experts when the scorekeepers and supposedly honest brokers lie and cover up?

The high price of college

One of our portfolio companies is a video training company, They provide hundreds of online video training courses at as high or higher quality than that which I experienced at the Universities of Tulsa and Chicago. They do it for $125 per employee per year inclusive. The University of Chicago charges almost $50,000 per year.

There's a revolution coming.

True True

I've been told that I've been sending too many emails to friends. I acknowledge that to be the case. From now on I will communicate all of my political and social musings via this blog. For you that read it (and your dog) I will give the full load.

Voice Signature, Real Digital Signing

One of the biggest problems on the internet is trying to determine whether one is dealing with a real person or their dog, child or someone else. Current technologies tend to tie a transaction or interaction to a single device/workstation/smartphone, but do not actually connect a real person. This is because the device can be hijacked by other people. The obvious solution is a biometric identifier that ties to a person's unique attributes. Most biometrics aren't particularly well suited for the internet: iris and thumbprint scans require special equipment and aren't particularly hard to replicate. By contrast a voice signature system, when appropriately deployed, is very hard to replicate and can be deployed from any telephone or workstation. Here is a simple demonstration of how one would give their voice signature. Simply type your telephone number and email into the fields, the system will call you and capture your voice signature. This signature can be easily attached to any document and once captured can be used to authenticate that the person you are dealing with online is in fact the right person.

Cool technology, now in implementation.

President Obama's Advanced Moral Calculus

The Obama Justice Department apparently intends to investigate Bush Administration lawyers for rendering opinions that certain interrogation techniques were legal, now that bien pensantopinion has concluded they were not. They are not investigating those who committed the acts, nor are they investigating those who ordered or tolerated their commission, but instead the lawyers who rendered the opinion. This seems rather unsporting. The Obama Administration is being very careful not to set the precedent that the principals, namely the President and his reports or their Congressional overseers are to be held accountable for their actions. Instead certain mid-level functionaries, people quite lacking the star power of Messrs Obama, Bush orPelosi are to be held accountable for their superior’s sins.

In this approach Mr. Obama is applying a quite advanced moral calculus to the art of statecraft, one that he must have learned while teaching law at the University of Chicago. It certainly overbears the simple moral arithmetic that I have been able to master.

This sophisticated approach also extends to Mr. Obama’s current campaign in Pakistan. Evidently upon Mr. Obama’s accession to the Presidency the pace of Predator drone attacks inPakistan has escalated from 5 per month to up to 30 each month. These attacks on suspected AlQaeda and Taliban kingpins are most often targeted at their residences. I’ve lived in the region and traveled many times to Pakistan. The houses of the elite are large, boxy multi story concrete block affairs. When they are hit by high explosives, they tend to pancake, one floor on top of another. Anyone inside who was not killed by the shock wave or incinerated would likely die of suffocation under tons of concrete. Which could be quite a few people – the homes of the prominent are often crowded with family, servants, retainers and their families. Thus, a single Predator attack can be expected to kill or maim up to a dozen men, women and children.

If I were asked whether I would want to be waterboarded to death versus being burnt or crushed to death, I’m not sure I wouldn’t choose waterboarding. But of course no American captive has ever been waterboarded to death, have they? They’ve been frightened, panicked, in fear of their lives no doubt, but not exterminated, like their Predated colleagues (and their wives, children, servants, servants children, bystanders).

The moral mathematics that demands the prosecution of lawyers who had the temerity to argue their side’s case in a matter of frightening terrorists but views as perfectly normal the deliberate, if incidental incineration and suffocation of innocent women and children has me using my fingers in an effort to catch up. Of course there is a difference: the poor Tragic Victims of CIA frightening were in our grasp, whereas the Predator Villains (child villains, servant villains) were not. With this I am pulling off my socks, hoping that by counting toes I can understand the logic. It is my understanding that our surveillance and rocket technologies have become so good that we can see or otherwise confirm our victims' presence before we fire and once we shoot, we are almost certain to hit them, or someone near them. It is therefore hard for this grade school moral mathematician to see how these remote ‘villains’ are truly is any less in our grasp than a Guantanamo ‘poor tragic victim’ in chains.

Mind you, I am not objecting to the attacks, but unlike the advanced math crowd, I do not claim such moral sophistication that I would assume that they are anything but a dirty, horrible expedient in a nasty war. I don’t for a moment pretend that it is any less vicious to incidentally, but knowingly incinerate innocent bystanders than to torture terror kingpins. But, again, the simple sums that I can do are overborne by such brilliant moral trigonometry that I’m sure a demonstration would make it all clear.

Perhaps our President and his Press can provide the rest of the nation with a quick précis so that we can be elevated to his moral plane.

Storing up our Treasures

The ancient Romans were religious people. Most Roman homes had a small shrine area called a lararium where clay or silver replicas of the family’s gods were displayed. It was tradition to pray to these gods each day, perhaps with a small offering. Modern Americans don’t usually have family shrines but if we did they would feature, recently pushed too one side or smashed to pieces, a clay dollar sign, behind it, gathering dust woud be a Cross or Crucifix or perhaps David’s Star.

Americans have (too late) largely repented of our recent lust for money. Now older and wiser, we understand what Paul meant when he said that “the love of money is the root of all evil”, what with our collapsed 401ks and dashed dreams of lifestyles of the rich or at least the affluent. But if we glance back at that notional family shrine, we would notice that a new idol has emerged: a small clay bust of President Obama or perhaps a silver Capitol building has taken pride of place.

Because what we want now more than anything is security, the assurance by someone, anyone in authority that things will turn out O.K. In the past we thought we would simply use our expanding wealth to buy that security but now, with those dreams dashed, we look to politicians who in exchange for power, promise us security, safety, protection.

It’s rather ironic that we have shifted from one set of powerful men making promises on pieces of paper - bankers on stocks, bonds, mortgages - to another – politicians making promises on laws, edicts and decrees. What makes us believe that one group is more trustworthy than the other?

Our European brethren have traveled farthest down the path of placing their faith in politicians. Talk to most Europeans and they will describe a life free of most of life’s existential struggles, housing, food, health care are all taken care of by a far sighted state. But at what cost? Charles Murray in his perceptive recent speech on the topic would say that the cost has been the loss of any notion of excellence or achievement. Life, in the short run, has been made so comfortable, so without challenge or struggle, that people have become anesthetized. They no longer think great thoughts or dream great dreams, they simply go through life eating and drinking and being merry because they believe that tomorrow they may die and cease to exist.

Needless to say this is not the Christian life. A life shorn of struggle, of challenge, of risk and worry is a life missing much of what we fall back on God for. If our day to day lives are taken care of, if our needs are satisfied and if we seek to do no great thing, then why do we need God? A life of politically derived comfort and safety creates practical atheists even more efficiently than one of wealth and speculation. We look to the false god of politics or the state to care for us, neglecting the real author of our security.

Yet one day the prophets of political salvation will be long gone and Medicare will no longer be able to keep us alive. At that point we will recognize the truth of Jesus’ words: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also”.

We need to smash another set of idols in our shrines and dust off the cross in the back, returning to the only true source of security: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The real reason that Obamacare is a disaster

One of my biggest problems with the health care debate is that most debaters make a category error when characterizing the problem. Let me explain what I mean by category error: in philosophy one makes a category error when one puts things in a category for which it cannot belong. In the case of health care, the category error being made is assuming that the 'health care problem' is a technical one, subject to a technical answer when in fact, the 'health care problem' is not a problem so much as a condition.

A technical problem typically has one or at most a few answers. For example if I wake up and my room is too hot, the technical problem might be that the thermostat is turned up too high and therefore the solution to the problem is that I go and turn it down. But if I wake up and conclude that the problem is that "the world is too hot", then I have placed my discomfort in a category that precludes my ability to solve it, at least with a technical solution.

Likewise with our health care 'system'. The system that we have has certain attributes, some good some bad. For example our system is expensive and creates access problems for people that don't have health insurance. However, it also delivers the best survival outcomes for people with cancer and heart disease and for most people, offers the greatest access and highest level of care in the world. It also supports most of the world's health innovation.

Choosing another health care system, say for argument sake, the Canadian system, would not 'solve' the health care 'problem'. Instead, it would simply deliver a different set of trade offs than the current one. For example in Canada, there is no problem with equality of access, but if one is seriously ill, there is far less access and poorer outcomes. The Canadian system is quite a bit cheaper than the US, but it also funds virtually no innovation, indeed relies on the US for new technologies. Depending upon your culture, values and circumstances, that might be a trade off worth making - clearly it has been for the Canadians - so long as we live next door, that is. But it would be inaccurate to say that Canada's choice 'solved' their health care 'crisis'.

Because it's not a 'crisis', it's a condition or state of nature that we humans have always struggled with: given limited resources, how to care for the weak and sick in our society? But there are some guidelines (or should be) for how to go about solving a 'condition' rather than a 'problem'.

Solving a problem is relatively straightforward: get the best minds in the area together and come up with a solution. If your house is on fire, there's one 'school' solution: get everyone out and then call the fire department. On that almost all experts agree. By contrast, there is no agreement on what type of house one should choose. That choice is governed by geography, culture, religion, economics, family size and other considerations. It would be unreasonable to attempt to dictate a technical solution to the question of what dwelling place you should live in. Consequently wise nations use markets to allocate housing and let the rules for them be defined locally so as to optimize the needs of widely varying local communities.

Health care should be treated the same way: whenever possible, health care funding and usage decisions should be made by individuals operating in markets, because only they can make the complex trade offs of culture, values and economics necessary to make the optimal choice. When the rules of the game need to be set for all, they should be set as locally as possible, to reflect the unique characteristics of those communities.

The benefits of this approach are obvious: first it maximizes consumer choice and freedom, something that Americans value greatly. Second, it enables innovation to flourish. Since we are suffering from a health care 'condition' and not problem, there is no one best answer, but there are likely 'better' answers. These 'better' answers are most likely to be found by consumers and governments experimenting and not by experts dictating a single solution from on high.

This is why there should be no 'national health care plan' in the US: it presumes a solution when there are only trade offs, it excludes much consumer choice and it guarantees that innovation will be stifled by bureaucracy and special interest politics. To make such a choice will be to freeze our dynamic health care system in Amber just as it is preparing to be transformed through biotechnology and health informatics.

A greater tragedy could not befall us.  Well has befallen us. Sigh.


Glenn Reynolds has the scoop: 3 in 4 jobs lost in this recession are men. Done by deliberate policy choices. Men, you know who you are, time to reward your tormentors.