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.