Thursday, December 31, 2009

If it doesn't make the NYT, is it news?

Nine stories that the mainstream press suppressed found non-newsworthy refused to didn't cover.

Prior to the internet, these stories would have been completely uncovered. Al Gore may yet have reason to regret that he "took the initiative in creating" the 'net...

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The "end of the decade" argument

Once upon a time, I was a purveyor of this type of idiocy, so I suppose I should be more amused than irritated, but this comment, from Marc Thiessen and others (including, as noted, past-Lyford), is, well, idiocy. And it gets very tiresome.
2010 is the last year of the decade. The new decade begins in 2011!
It's the "I'm smarter than you are" comment. And it's idiotic.

  • A decade is a period of ten years.
  • Period. End of definition.
  • By definition, a decade ends in any instant which is exactly 10 years later than some other identifiable instant.
  • A decade ends this morning at 9:59. A decade ends this morning at 10:00. A decade ends this morning at 10:01. Etc. Etc.
  • We group decades and give them names as a short-hand for referring to a time period.
  • Some people try to make this more complicated than it is.
  • These people overload the term "decade" to include the proposition that decade x has the property of being the "x/10"th decade since the birth of Christ, or the beginning of the Common Era, however one wants to define the current year numbering scheme.
  • There was no year 0.
  • Therefore, the decade ending in the year 9 included the year 1 BC (or BCE)1.
  • The decade beginning with the year 1 ended in the year 10.
  • This was the first decade of the Common Era.
  • Some people use this to argue that decades cannot end in years ending in 9, but only in years ending in 0.
  • This position is pedantic, semantic, sophist and obnoxious.
  • The decade of the "20-aughts" includes all of the years numbered 200x.
  • The "20-10s" will include all of the years numbered 201x.
  • The 1990s included all of the years numbered 199x.
  • Etc. Ad infinitum.

And I will have a couple of "end of decade" posts over the next couple of days...


1 - All of this ignores, of course, that Jesus was actually born in 4 BC or 6 BC.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"This is how conservatives are made..."

John J. Miller
That's what my 8-year-old son said about the sales tax on the ride home from Borders a few minutes ago. He had a $10 gift card from Christmas, bought a Clone Wars book for $7.99, looked at the receipt, and wondered why he still didn't have a full $2.01 on it.

This is how conservatives are made.
Whatever works...

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good stuff - again - from Hitchens

I don't agree with Christopher Hitchens on everything. Or even most things. Hitchens is, after all, a man of the left and a proselytizing atheist.

But on the war between barbarism and civilization, Hitchens recognizes reality, as so many of his fellow travelers on the left adamantly refuse to do.
In my boyhood, there were signs on English buses that declared, in bold letters, "No Spitting." At a tender age, I was able to work out that most people don't need to be told this, while those who do feel a desire to expectorate on public transport will require more discouragement than a mere sign. But I'd be wasting my time pointing this out to our majestic and sleepless protectors, who now boldly propose to prevent airline passengers from getting out of their seats for the last hour of any flight. Abdulmutallab made his bid in the last hour of his flight, after all. Yes, that ought to do it. It's also incredibly, nay, almost diabolically clever of our guardians to let it be known what the precise time limit will be. Oh, and by the way, any passenger courageous or resourceful enough to stand up and fight back will also have broken the brave new law.
And the long tradition of excusing the guilty and punishing the innocent continues...

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Steyn

Steyn:
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.
Some people still thinks it's stoppable. I'm less optimistic. I guess it's true that either the House has to pass the Senate bill, as is (unlikely), or each has to vote again on a modified bill. It also seems to be the case that they're not going to work on it again until February. (How that's compatible with the rush to the Christmas Eve Senate passage is unclear to me.) In any event, the prospect is not becoming more appealing with the passage of time...

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

700 years before the birth of Christ, his reign was foretold by the profit Isaiah.

Isaiah 9:2-7
2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Dickens' Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, every one," and he has already done so.

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Wordle puzzle - 12/25/09

I said last week that I was going seasonal for the next couple of weeks, and even with the removal of one name, this is the easiest one you're going to get.




I suspect that everyone got last week's puzzle, O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," without much difficulty.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas, to one and all...

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

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If the process is corrupt, what can we expect the results to be?

Megan McCardle is talking process this morning. Just like I did a couple of weeks ago, for the same reason:
to a libertarian, process matters. Having a good process is better than getting a good outcome, because a good process is one that maximizes your chances of getting good outcomes over time.
She's disturbed by the process which has produced the current Obamacare monstrosity Health Care Reform Bill. (As am I.)
This is not a complaint that those damned Democrats are insisting on trying to pass parts of their agenda. But I really do think that in the process, they've discovered some troubling innovations that are going to make our political process substantially worse in the future.

Before you stop reading, no, this is not another in the long litany of free-market outrage against lobbying and log rolling. These things are outrageous. They're also how business has been done in Washington for 200 years. I would prefer that they not happen, but they are not so remarkable as to be worth complaining about.

My procedural complaints are somewhat more obscure. The biggest one is that I am beginning to believe that in order to get this bill passed, the Democrats basically gutted the CBO. Not because they were working with the CBO to get estimates--that's the CBO's job, to provide Congress with a cost. But rather, because this bill was something novel in the history of legislation. Previous Congresses wrote bills, and then trimmed them to get a better CBO score: witness the Bush tax cut sunsets. But the Congressional Democrats started out with a CBO score they wanted, and worked backward to the bill. They've been pretty explicit about the fact that no one wants this actual bill; rather, the plan is to pass basically anything, and then go and totally rewrite it when the budget spotlight is off. I'm not aware of any other piece of legislation that was passed this way.

Essentially, the Democrats have finished the process of gaming the CBO scores. They're now meaningless. You don't pass a piece of legislation that bears any resemblance to what you intend to end up with; you pass a piece of legislation that gets a good CBO score, and then go and alter it piece by piece.
Well, she's right, of course. The process has been appalling. It should come as a surprise to no one that a process that couldn't possibly produce a piece of legislation worth supporting has produced a piece of legislation that isn't worth supporting.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Q: How can you tell that Barack Obama is lying?

Q: How can you tell that Barack Obama is lying?
A: He's talking about health care.

Matt Welch asks, Can Obama Open His Mouth Without Lying About Health Care?

The answer is, unfortunately, self-evident. For those who don't yet recognize it,
...The president said he "didn't campaign on the public option," but it turns out he did. He said that there wasn't any "gap" between his campaign promises and the final result, but it turns out there were several, as detectable by the most cursory Google search. He said "every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill," but it turns out they're not.
It's seems incredible to say this, but he may be a bigger liar than the last Democratic President. Bill Clinton.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Are people aware of what's being done?

Is anyone paying attention? Everyone's busy, I know, but are people aware of all that this Congress is trying to ram through during Christmas week? Is everyone ready for unrepealable death panels?
Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) pointed out some rather astounding language in the Senate health care bill during floor remarks tonight. First, he noted that there are a number of changes to Senate rules in the bill--and it's supposed to take a 2/3 vote to change the rules. And then he pointed out that the Reid bill declares on page 1020 that the Independent Medicare Advisory Board cannot be repealed by future Congresses...

According to page 1001 of the Reid bill, the purpose of the Independent Medical Advisory Board is to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending." For any fearmongers out there tempted to call an unelected body that recommends Medicare cuts a "Death Panel," let me be clear. According to page 1004, IMAB proposals "shall not include any recommendation to ration health care"--you know, just like the bill says there's no funding for abortion.


What is being done is breathtaking. And it just keeps coming, and they don't seem to care.

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Did the stimulus backlash enable the health care bill?

Peter Wehner (H/T Instapundit):
This health-care bill may well be historic, but not in the way the president thinks. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything quite like it: passage of a mammoth piece of legislation, hugely expensive and unpopular, on a strict party-line vote taken in a rush of panic because Democrats know that the more people see of ObamaCare, the less they like it.

The problem isn’t simply with how substantively awful the bill is but how deeply dishonest and (legally) corrupt the whole process has been. There’s already a powerful populist, anti-Washington sentiment out there, perhaps as strong as anything we’ve seen. This will add kerosene to that raging fire.
It is unprecedented. There has never been, at least in my lifetime, a bill passed that was simultaneously this big and this unpopular. It's hard to imagine that it has ever happened. Generally, representatives and Senators are somewhat responsive to their constituencies, because they want to keep their seats.

This may be a case where the backlash against this Congress has been so significant, and so fast, that it's actually enabled a legislative monstrosity. So many Democratic representatives, because of prior votes on stimulus, cap-and-trade and, yes, health care, are already dead-men walking that they've got no incentive to moderate. Might was well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. The Tea Party movement, the attacks on the stimulus and the entire socialist agenda of the administration, has created in the congress the freedom of action that comes to those with nothing left to lose. As Tom Joad said, "it don't take no nerve to do somepin' if there ain't nothin' else you can do," and they've put themselves in a situation where there ain't nothin' else they can do.

Yeah, Nancy Pelosi's going to lose the speaker's office, but her seat is safe, and she's willing to sacrifice the speaker-ship for the "historic" health care bill. Harry Reid's fully committed to the health care bill. He cannot possibly escape even if the bill goes down. His only prayer of keeping his Senate seat is getting the health care bill through, signed, and subsequent vast infusions of Soros-capital and Acorn-labor for his re-election campaign.

And neither of them care a whit for the "blue dogs" that are going to lose. They are, many of them, short-termers anyway, elected in the last two cycles on the strength of disaffection with Republicans, and serving the purpose of the entrenched liberal leadership now as pawns to be sacrificed in achieving the great liberal dream of government-run health care.

Mr. Obama has revived the worst impressions of the Democratic party – profligate and undisciplined, arrogant, lovers of big government, increasers of taxes. The issues and narrative for American politics in the foreseeable future has been set — limited government versus exploding government, capitalism versus European style socialism, responsible and measured policies versus reckless and radical ones.

Barack Obama is in the process of inflicting enormous damage to his presidency and his party. And there is more, much more to come.
Hopefully, a year from now a Republican House of Representatives and a much more closely divided Senate can begin to mitigate some of the damage to the country. But this health care bill, if passed in to law, is going to damage the health care system in this country, and our economy, for a long, long time, regardless of what happens in November...

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It just keeps getting better...

Joseph Nixon:
The mad dash to jam through a government takeover of America’s health-care system has led to some pretty blatant and noxious payoffs, even by congressional standards.

At least two Senators exchanged their votes for immunity from additional Medicaid costs — but just for their own states. Another yet-to-be-identified senator is getting $100 million for a new hospital in his state.

But few groups make out better under the congressional leadership’s health-care plans than personal-injury trial lawyers. In reading the health-care bill approved by the House of Representatives and Harry Reid’s bill pending in the Senate, I find (so far) 26 new opportunities for plaintiff lawyers to sue doctors for malpractice.

...

What should be a debate of how best to strengthen the doctor/patient relationship has devolved into a raw exercise of political power, taking place almost exclusively behind closed doors or in the middle of the night. Instead of serving the public, this legislation serves the politicians and their benefactors — with plaintiff lawyers near the top of the list.

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Obama lies, the health care system dies (and the economy, too)

Heritage Foundation:
The Senate is engaged in a deadly serious debate on a 2,074-page bill that would overhaul the entire health care sector of the economy, profoundly affecting the personal lives of 300 million Americans. It would erect massive federal controls over private health insurance, dictating the content of insurance benefit packages and the use of medical treatments, procedures, and medical devices.

The bill would also make major changes in payments to doctors, hospitals, and medical professionals in Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs; establish new federal agencies, bureaus, and commissions to oversee various aspects of the health care system, including how physicians and other medical professionals deliver care; and alter the relationship between the federal government and the states, transferring massive regulatory power to the federal government while reducing the flexibility of state officials to manage Medicaid and limiting their capacity to initiate health insurance reforms within their own states.

The Senate bill would impose enormous costs on the American people, totaling at least $2.5 trillion for the first 10 years. After the first 10 years, as costs escalated, Congress would need to impose additional major tax increases and impose major cuts in benefits to pay for this health care agenda.

The American people want and need health reform, but the Senate bill is clearly not what they have in mind.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Reid bill constitutional? Not likely...

Richard A. Epstein examines the constitutionality of the Reid bill:
This ill-conceived legislation has many provisions that regulate different aspects of private health-insurance companies. Taken together, the combined force of these provisions raises serious constitutional questions. I think that these provisions are so intertwined with the rest of the legislation that it is difficult to see how the entire statute could survive if one of its components is defective to its core. How courts will deal with these difficult issues is of course not known, but rate-regulation cases normally attract a higher level of scrutiny than, say, land-use decisions.

There is, moreover, no quick fix that will eliminate the Reid Bill's major constitutional defects. It would, of course, be a catastrophe if the Congress sought to put this program into place before its constitutionality were tested. Most ratemaking challenges are done on the strength of the record, and I see no reason why a court would let a health-insurance company be driven into bankruptcy before it could present its case that the mixture of regulations and subsidies makes it impossible to earn a reasonable return on its capital. At the very least, therefore, there are massive problems of delayed implementation that will plague any health-care legislation from the date of its passage. I should add that the many broad delegations to key administrative officials will themselves give rise to major delays and additional challenges on statutory or constitutional grounds.

The health of the American people should not be held hostage to such unwise legislation. The Senate should reject the Reid Bill because of the unsustainability of the statutory scheme regulating health-insurance markets. But there is also little doubt that its central arrangements are unconstitutional, and will face serious legal challenge for years to come. Rather than embarking on a fundamentally flawed course of action, sure to spark litigation, the Senate should start over with other reforms that go in the opposite direction: simplify the system so that market forces can increase both quality and access in ways that no system of government mandates can hope to do. Deregulation is a word that has been forgotten in the current debate. It should be returned to center stage.[4]
Of course, if this were a time at which the Congress or administration were to bow to the constitutional limits imposed upon them, it would be the first...

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Judd Gregg

Senator Judd Gregg:
American government changed last night. “We are now functioning under a parliamentary form of government,” says Sen. Judd Gregg (R., N.H.) in a conversation with NRO. “An ideological supermajority in Congress, along with a government run by community organizers, has taken over.”

“They’ve taken over the student-loan program, they’ve taken over the automobile system, and now they’re taking over the health-care system. There is no limit to their belief that people should be controlled by smart bureaucrats in Washington,” says Gregg. “They’re putting our country on a path that will reduce the quality of life for the next generation, undermine our nation’s wonderful exceptionalism, and Europeanize our economy to curb its growth.”

Harry Reid’s health-care bill “was purchased,” says Gregg. “Our system of checks and balances is gone. We now have a government that lurches with great speed even though our system is founded upon incremental change.” And don’t hope that the House stops the runaway train, he says. “I think the House is ideologically even further to the Left than the Senate. There are many people there who are committed to taking us down the road toward nationalization.”

“In the future, discretionary dollars won’t be able to be spent on college or a new house, but on this massive new burden for Americans,” says Gregg. “Eventually, at some point, the pressures on the private sector will tip the scales so that employers offering private insurance send people over to the health-care exchange. It’s all part of their ultimate goal to get a vast amount of people subsidized by the government.”

This is an “unsustainable course for our nation,” says Gregg. “We can’t sustain the debt we’re adding. Soon we’ll reach banana-republic status.”

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"Cash for Cloture"

Michelle Malkin is keeping track of the "Cash for Cloture." Click through for details...
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell alluded to all this backroom dealing on the floor early this morning before the cloture vote, but lamely refused to name names on the Senate floor.

Screw Senate collegiality. Let the sun shine in.

1. Sen. Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback..."
2. New England’s Special Syrup...
3. Corruptocrat Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd’s Christmas wish...
4. “Some insurers are more equal than others” tax exemption...
5. The Frontier freebie...
6. More Democrat hospital bennies...
7. Bernie Sanders’ socialized medicine sop...
8. Fla.-Pa.-NY Protectionism...
Business as usual politics.

Which is a big part of the reason that people have such contempt for politicians...

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More Obamacare buzz

Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world's greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new "manager's amendment" that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations. Democrats are barely even bothering to pretend to care what's in it, not that any Senator had the chance to digest it in the 38 hours before the first cloture vote at 1 a.m. this morning. After procedural motions that allow for no amendments, the final vote could come at 9 p.m. on December 24.

Even in World War I there was a Christmas truce.

...

These 60 Democrats are creating a future of epic increases in spending, taxes and command-and-control regulation, in which bureaucracy trumps innovation and transfer payments are more important than private investment and individual decisions. In short, the Obama Democrats have chosen change nobody believes in—outside of themselves—and when it passes America will be paying for it for decades to come.

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Steyn

Mark Steyn
They’re allocating taxpayer dollars as if those dollars belonged to the senators. It borders on immoral. Just look at the way Senator Landrieu put her vote up for sale. Senator Nelson did the same.
- Eric Cantor

You can't even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn't "border on immoral": it drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral.

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Obamacare lives

So the Senate is going to pass Obamacare Health Care Reform. It's a wildly unpopular bill, that has never been fully printed for people to read, that will force people to purchase specific services from specific [previously] private sector entities without any kind of constitutional justification, being passed on a straight party-line vote, a bill that will nationalize 1/6 of the US economy, a measure with costs that start immediately but has services waiting four years to kick in so that they can claim deficit neutrality over ten years. A bill that includes hundreds of millions of dollars in [choose your term] kickbacks or bribes for Vermont and Louisiana and Nebraska to get the votes of Bernie Sanders and Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson.

Merry Christmas, America.

On the bright side, this vote is going to cost the seats of a lot of the people who are giving us this bill. Unfortunately, it's going to be too late. There absolutely will be a push to repeal this, but when was the last time the government ceded power, funds or authority? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Exactly.


This is a very bad thing that's happening in Washington. And, as with the election of Barack Obama, there are a lot of people who are going to realize, down the road, that what they wished for didn't work out the way they wanted it to. There are still people supporting this, people who think that the government can provide health care for everyone and it will cost less and the service won't be any worse and the budget deficit won't go up. Those people deserve what's about to happen, but the rest of us are going to get it, too.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zombie Obamacare - a frightening shell of a plan that just won't die

Yuval Levin:
The CBO assessment of the bill tells the appalling story. We are going to raise taxes by half a trillion dollars over the next ten years, increase spending by more than a trillion dollars, cut Medicare by $470 billion but use that money to fund a new entitlement rather than to fix Medicare itself, bend the health care cost curve up rather than down, insert layers of bureaucracy between doctors and patients, and compel and subsidize universal participation in a failed system of health insurance rather than reform or improve it. Indeed, this bill will make it exceedingly difficult to fix our health insurance financing system in the future, since it sucks dry the potential means of such reform but leaves the fundamental cost problem essentially untouched (and in some respects worsened.) After all the back and forth, pulling and tugging, it is hard to see what is left in this bill that any member of Congress, liberal or conservative, would want to support.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Some people have the silliest ideas...

Greg Mankiw:
3. Why is business investment so weak? Part of the reason is that the downturn is severe and investment responds to the overall economy. Part of the reason is that the credit crunch makes financing more difficult. Part of the reason is that the policy environment seems adverse to business. I am referring here to a group of policies that include higher minimum wages, the seeming retreat from free trade, proposed mandates to provide employees health insurance, higher prospective energy costs from climate change regulation, and the likelihood of higher future tax rates resulting from the huge fiscal imbalance we are now experiencing. All of these factors have worked in concert to depress business investment.

But hey, what does he know? He's only a professor of economics, not a community organizer like the President...

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Wordle puzzle - 12/18/09

Going seasonal for the next couple of weeks, and I'll be surprised if anyone doesn't get this American short story quickly. Consider it a gift from the puzzle-maker.




The answer to last week's puzzle is, of course, Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."

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You are not paying enough for this analysis...

I asked, the other day, "are the Mets bidding against themselves now?"

Apparently, I'm not the only one considering that possibility...
A source close to the situation said the Mets weren't sure there was another serious bidder for Bay, and while Omar Minaya is said to have discussed the possibility of going to a five-year offer, the club wasn't ready to go there quite yet.

"We're not going to bid against ourselves," one Mets person said.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lying with facts - Taunton school edition

Here is a followup to Tuesday's story, about the boy from Taunton who drew the crucifix, that demonstrates how easy it is to lie without actually giving any false facts.
Although reporters regionally and nationally jumped on a story about a 9-year-old boy supposedly suspended for drawing a stick-figure Jesus on the cross, it now appears the tale was overblown.

Contrary to news reports -- including a story on ParentDish -- the boy was never suspended. He and his classmates at Maxham Elementary School in Taunton, Mass. (40 miles south of Boston), were never given an assignment to draw pictures that reminded them of Christmas.

Lie number 1: "The boy was never suspended." According to the boy's father, and, as far as I know, neither addressed nor contradicted by anyone in the school department, he was told that he could not return to school until he had gone through a psychological evaluation. Was he removed from class before the school day was over? Were his parents called to come get him? Were they told that they couldn't come back until he'd been evaluated?

After being removed from the school on Wednesday, he finished that evaluation on Monday, and returned to school either that afternoon or the following morning. Assuming that this is true, he may not have received a nominal suspension, but he certainly received a de facto suspension.


Lie number 2: "He and his classmates...were never given an assignment to draw pictures that reminded them of Christmas." According to the father, they were given the assignment, two days after their Thanksgiving break, of drawing something that reminded them of their Thanksgiving holiday, which had just finished. And the boy had visited the La Salette shrine with his family over the holiday weekend.


In other words, this news report attempts to debunk the story without actually contradicting anything the father said. Given how careful the Superintendent is being with the words she's using, I assume that the father is right. They aren't saying that the boy wasn't given an assignment to draw a picture about their holiday, only that he wasn't given an assignment to draw something about "Christmas or any religious holiday." They aren't saying that he wasn't banned from the school until after an evaluation, only that he wasn't "suspended." Those are weasel words. Rather than debunking the story, they tend to confirm it. I believed it the other day when I posted it - the officials in the Taunton school system have, thus far, strengthed my belief.

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Do we have ANY good temperature measurements?

Yet another piece of information comes out indicating that the "scientists" who have been measuring the planet's temperature have been doing so with a foot on the scale:
On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.

The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.

The HadCRUT database includes specific stations providing incomplete data and highlighting the global-warming process, rather than stations facilitating uninterrupted observations.

On the whole, climatologists use the incomplete findings of meteorological stations far more often than those providing complete observations.

IEA analysts say climatologists use the data of stations located in large populated centers that are influenced by the urban-warming effect more frequently than the correct data of remote stations.

The scale of global warming was exaggerated due to temperature distortions for Russia accounting for 12.5% of the world’s land mass. The IEA said it was necessary to recalculate all global-temperature data in order to assess the scale of such exaggeration.

Global-temperature data will have to be modified if similar climate-date procedures have been used from other national data because the calculations used by COP15 analysts, including financial calculations, are based on HadCRUT research.

I've long believed that there was plenty of evidence that the planet was warming. What I've been far less willing to buy, without substantial proof, is that mankind is the cause. And what I've been absolutely unwilling to accept is that we need to trash the world's economy to "save the planet." But the more information that comes out about the data measurements, the less willing I am to even believe that there's been any significant warming. The available public evidence - not the super-homogenized "consensus" data pictures presented, but the actual public evidence available for people to look at - now suggests that we don't have any idea whether there's been significant warming or not, because the data is being manipulated and presented to us by ideologues rather than scientists.

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Playing politics

Michael Goldfarb:
While the Democrats appease Senator Lieberman, they still have to worry about other recalcitrant Democrats including Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Though Lieberman has been out front in the fight against the public option and the Medicare buy-in, Nelson was critical of both. Now that those provisions appear to have been stripped from the bill, Lieberman may get on board, but Nelson's demand that taxpayer money not be used to fund abortion has still not been met. According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn't fall into line.

Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a "naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson's vote." They are "threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?" asked the Senate staffer.

Because doing the right thing for America is what Obama's all about...

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This is NOT what the Founders intended...

This piece of art is horribly disturbing.



There's an excellent illustration of the death of the spirit that made America. How it is possible for someone to visualize Washington, DC, as the beating heart of America, pumping blood to all of the rest of the country, and still speak of "Liberty" is beyond me. It's actually hard to imagine a more appropriate iconic image for the cradle-to-grave, "Washington's my mommy and daddy and should take care of me" mindset of the modern left.

But horribly disturbing...

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"America Through the Reality Lens"

Excellent piece from Jonah Goldberg:
British historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations thrive when the lower classes aspire to be like the upper classes, and they decay when the upper classes try to be like the lower classes. Looked at through this prism, it’s hard not to see America in a prolonged period of decay.

It’s not all bad news, to be sure. The elite minority’s general acceptance of racial and sexual equality as important values has been a moral triumph. But not without costs. As part of this transformation, society has embraced what social scientist Charles Murray calls “ecumenical niceness.” A core tenet of ecumenical niceness is that harsh judgments of the underclass — or people with underclass values — are forbidden. A corollary: People with old-fashioned notions of decency are fair game.

Long before the rise of reality shows, ecumenical niceness created a moral vacuum. Out-of-wedlock birth was once a great shame; now it’s something of a happy lifestyle choice. The cavalier use of profanity was once crude; now it’s increasingly conversational. Self-discipline was once a virtue; now self-expression is king.

Having never watched a minute of any of the "reality" shows, I may not be perfectly positioned to judge. But I agree with everything here.

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Just playing by the rules...

The Cato Institute's Michael Cannon outlines how the Democrats are lying about the actual costs of their proposed takeover of the American health care system:
The Medical Loss Ratios memo is the smoking gun. It shows that indeed, Democrats have been submitting proposals to the CBO behind closed doors and tailoring their private-sector mandates to avoid having those costs appear in the federal budget. Proposals that would result in a complete cost estimate — such as the proposal by Sen. Rockefeller discussed in the Medical Loss Ratios memo — are dropped. Because we can’t let the public see how much this thing really costs.

Crafting the private-sector mandates such that they fall just a hair short of CBO’s criteria for inclusion in the federal budget does not reduce their cost, nor does it make those mandates any less binding. But it dramatically reduces the apparent cost of the legislation. It is the reason we’re all talking about an $848 billion Reid bill, rather than a $2.1 trillion Reid bill.

If someone sold you a house, or a car, or a mutual fund this way, we would put them in jail.

Read it all.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Does this off-season represent a "change in philosophy?"

Chad Finn:
Bay's so-called replacement -- at the least Cameron will platoon with Jeremy Hermida in left while spelling Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew in center and right -- is the strongest suggestion yet that the Red Sox have made a philosophical change to emphasize pitching and defense, perhaps figuring they're not going to slug with the Yankees but that they can beat them with a well-constructed run-prevention model.

I like Chad, and agree with a lot of his stuff. I even (mostly) agree with this piece. But there's one comment there that I want to take issue with, and I bolded it. To repeat, Chad said that "the Red Sox have made a philosophical change to emphasize pitching and defense."

I don't believe that they've made any change of philosophy. Obviously, they've changed the makeup of the ball club, but that doesn't necessarily represent a change in philosophy. They've been focused on pitching and defense the entire time that Theo has been the GM. Pitching and defense. And offense. They have, in my opinion, tried to run a holistic ball club right from the beginning. They brought in Schilling 2004. They signed Alex Gonzalex in 2006 and brought him back again last year. They signed J.D. Drew, and his defense was a key part of that.

But they recognize that there are many different ways to build a successful team. If they'd signed Mark Teixeira last year, if Bay had taken their money, no one would be talking about a "philosophical change." Those were moves that they tried to make. Tried very hard, in the case of Teixeira. If they turn Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury in to Adrian Gonzalez in the next two months, no one will be talking about a "philosophical change."

Their philosophy hasn't been "all OBP, all the time" - if it were, they'd never have signed Alex Gonzalez. They'd have handled their issues with Manny differently, extending him before the '08 season started. Their philosophy hasn't been "gather the best offense possible, period." Their philosophy has been to find the best value that they can at each position, balancing pitching, offense and defense, so as to put a competitive team on the field every season. They've spent as much as any team not located in the Bronx has done, and they've spent on both the Major league roster and the Minor league system.

Rather than demonstrating a "philosophical change," yesterday's moves demonstrate a philosophical consistency. They see Lackey as the best value for that money, more valuable to them than Bay. They see Lackey and Cameron available at the cost of money and a draft pick, not the kind of established minor league talent that Philadelphia had to give up to Halladay. They've see an opportunity to upgrade weaknesses, and they've done so. They've upgraded at SS, both offensively and defensively, over what they got last year. They've downgraded offensively in left but upgraded defensively. They're certain to upgrade defensively at 3rd base - how much of an offense downgrade there is awaits the event, but it isn't like Lowell was an offensive star last year.

In short, they've continued to spend money, tried to do so effectively, where they see value, to put a good-to-very good-to-great team on the field. Just as they've done ever since Epstein's been the GM. The values available are pitching and defense related this year, unlike earlier years when they added an Ortiz or a Mueller or a Bellhorn, and but the guiding philosophy is exactly the same.

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Reason number ... why we homeschool

I've lost count, but it's a big number...

Taunton second-grader suspended over drawing of Jesus
A Taunton father is outraged after his 8-year-old son was sent home from school and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after drawing a stick-figure picture of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The father said he got a call earlier this month from Maxham Elementary School informing him that his son, a second-grade student, had created a violent drawing. The image in question depicted a crucified Jesus with Xs covering his eyes to signify that he had died on the cross.


Insane. Just insane. As I said recently, "God, spare me from well-meaning liberals." Look at that picture - what kind of demented mind looks at that from a second grader and sees a need for a psychological evaluation? This is child abuse. Someone should lose his or her job over this, because it is completely, totally unacceptable. No one will, of course, but someone should...

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Theo's new Lackey

The Red Sox have apparently come to terms on a five-year deal with John Lackey. I've never been a Lackey fan, but he's been a good pitcher, consistently, since he came up, and he makes the Red Sox a better team. There are still moves to be made, as we don't know who is going to be playing third or whether there's going to be a blockbuster trade for Adrian Gonzalez or Miguel Cabrera. I'll do some more analysis when things shake out.

But I think that there are a couple of things that we can say.
  • The Red Sox offered Jason Bay more than he's going to be worth. He's a good player, a very good hitter, but he's not a good outfielder, and he's not a great hitter, just a very good one.


  • If the Red Sox do sign Cameron, that hurts the market for Bay, I'd think. He and his agent may - may - find later that they've overplayed their hand. They may not, of course, but if I were him I'd start to feel a little stirring of trepidation in the back of my mind, the way that the Red Sox walked away so quickly and easily. Are the Mets bidding against themselves now?


  • The Red Sox scored 872 runs and allowed 736 in 2009. That works out to a Pythagorean winning percentage of .577, a 93 win pace. And they won 95. If they score 50 less and allow 50 less, that leads to a Pythagorean winning percentage of .582, a 94 win pace.


  • Replacing Bay and Lowell with Cameron/Hermida and Beltre, as rumored, may lead to scoring 50 fewer runs. On the other hand, they've replaced a lot of Varitek at-bats with Martinez at-bats and they've replaced a lot of Nick Green at-bats with Marco Scutaro at-bats. Without going deeper into the analysis right now, it's not obvious that the offense is going to be a lot worse, and 50 runs seems a reasonable floor for assumption purposes.


  • The Red Sox gave 32 starts, ~172 innings, to John Smoltz and Brad Penny last year. In those 172 innings, they combined to allow 126 runs, an average of 6.63 runs per 9 inninngs. A pitcher allowing 4.00 runs per 9 innings would allow 76 runs in 172 innings, saving 50.


  • Clearly, a team with Adrian Beltre at third and Mike Cameron in left and Marco Scutaro at SS is a vastly superior defensive team to one with the remains of Mike Lowell at third and Jason Bay in left and Nick Green at SS.


  • The column from the curly-headed Globie (I'm not going to link it) was insane. That's why people hate Boston sports fans, and that's why Boston sports fans hate Shaughnessy.


The work is not all done yet, but I don't see any reason right now not to expect the Red Sox to be, again, one of the two or three best teams in baseball when the 2010 season starts.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Decision-making errors

(or "Why the Mirabelli re-acquisition was the worst decision of Epstein's tenure")

I made a post the other day in which I jokingly attributed a couple of Theo Epstein comments as a response to things that I wrote three years ago. Obviously, Theo hasn't a clue who I am or what I say, but it fit, and amused me, so I framed it that way. But there actually is a serious point that he addressed, and it is one that I've made before, and it seems about time to make it again.

All decisions must be evaluated on the information which is available at the time that the decision is made.

That's one of the reasons that I'm adamant about not second-guessing the manager after the result is known. I criticize a move, if I'm going to, before the next pitch is thrown. After that happens, the information available changes in such a way as to make it almost impossible to evaluate the decision. The informational asymmetry is that whatever happens, whatever it's ante-facto likelihood, seems like a post facto inevitability.

It is unavoidable. When the outcome is known, no matter how hard we try not to, we tend to evaluate the outcome of the decision, rather than the decision itself. And one of the primary results of that tendency is to introduce enormous amounts of "noise" into our ability to recognize decision failures, and improve decision-making processes.

But it is the decision, and the process that leads to the decision, that we want to evaluate. We went through a firestorm a month ago when Bill Belichick went for a first down in Indianapolis, and it revealed that there are a lot of people, many of them loud, a surprising large number of them with radio microphones, who aren't capable, or at least interested, in evaluating decisions, only results. And we can't do that.

As I said a few weeks ago, in the aftermath of that game,
An unlikely outcome can condemn a good decision, but cannot turn it into a bad one. It can redeem a bad decision, but cannot turn it into a good one.


This is obviously not a baseball, or football, or sports only, discussion. Decision-making is vital in all aspects of life. Here's Ramesh Ponnuru this past week, talking of Michael Gerson's defense of Mike Huckabee's clemency record:
...for Gerson's defense of Huckabee's record to work, we would have to have confidence in the process by which he made clemency decisions...

That's exactly right.

To illustrate what I'm talking about, lets consider a couple of ad absurdio situations. First, Tom, who takes empties his bank account and spends his life savings on lottery tickets. Next is Dick, who gets up at a reasonable time in the morning, eats a healthy breakfast, and goes to the gym before going to work.

I think it's fairly obvious to everyone that Tom has made a poor decision and Dick a good one. Agreed? Based on what we know at the time, Tom is squandering everything on a ridiculous long shot with almost no chance of success, Dick is behaving in a healthy and prudent fashion.

And then Dick gets hit by a bus and Tom wins PowerBall. What we're now looking at is one incredibly wealthy man, and a dead one. If we evaluate on results, well, Dick is a big loser and Tom a big winner. But when we look at their decisions, Tom was wrong and Dick was right.

Sometimes it happens. Bad decisions turn out well, good decisions turn out poorly. Rather than evaluating the results of decisions, we need to evaluate the process by which the decisions are made.

The word "process," in this context, tends to turn people off. Not only are we not as interested in processes as we are in results, we acknowledge it, and sometimes even brag of it. "I don't care how you do it, just get it done!" If we want a new car, we don't much care what the plant setup looks like. If we want a hamburger, we aren't interested in examining the knives at the abbattoir. And if we want a good baseball team, we don't much care what the GM's decision-making process consists of - we just want it to result in good players on the team.

But if you're evaluating a GM with an eye for what you can expect in the future, process is absolutely vital. How does he gather information? Which information is important to him? Where does he think his team is in the success cycle? How does he feel about free agency vs. trades? How much information does he gather? How does he use the information to make a decision?

There's far too much variation in human beings, baseball players and baseball player performance for anyone to get every trade or signing right. Every time you trade for someone else's asset, they're trading for one of yours. Every time you sign a free agent, you're valuing him higher than someone else did. No one wins them all, not all games, not all signings and not all trades. What's crucial for success is not that the GM keeps your favorite players or schmoozes the ad executives or sports radio personalities - it's that he has a rational process that works, that produces valid information, rational decision trees and maximizes potential while minimizing risk.

And that's where the Mirabelli trade is a disaster. As a decision. There have been many moves that worked out worse than that one. Bard wasn't much of a loss, Meredith's produced on the lower part of his expectations curve, and it just wasn't all that costly as a move. Not that Mirabelli provided much value, but he didn't have to for the trade not to be a disastrous result. The Julio Lugo signing probably cost the team more in terms of "baseball value." So, for that matter, did the Renteria signing and the Arroyo-Pena trade1.

None of those moves worked. Each of those moves resulted in a greater "negative value impact" on the organization than the Mirabelli re-acquisition. Indeed, there were people that hated each one at the time that it was made. But they are all defensible based on what we knew when they happened. The Mirabelli re-acquistion, on the other hand, demonstrated a significant failure in the decision-making process. They a) fixated on a short-term problem, b) overrated the significance of that problem, and c) responded to public panic. As a result, they gave up two young players with upside for an older player with none, and paid for the privilege. I believe it was the worst decision that Theo Epstein has made as GM of the Red Sox.




1 - There are still people that want to put the Drew signing on that list. Just smile and nod because those people are revealing to you a lot about exactly how they understand the game.

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We can only hope...

This would make a great Christmas present:
Doubts are growing among Senate Democrats that they will be able to pass the healthcare reform bill by Christmas, although they remain publicly optimistic.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Ungovernable" America

Matthew Yglesias has a revelation:
The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable.

The funny thing is, I read that comment and think, "I've heard that before." Glenn Reynolds notes that he, back in September, expect the stories of White House incompetence "to play out in thumbsucker columns on whether America is ‘ungovernable,’" and he was certainly right. But why did he use that word, and where have I heard it before?

It strikes me that this was a standard complaint the last time we had a Democrat in office, trying to accomplish things "for the children" that the electorate was too stupid to accept didn't want. Here's Jonathan Rauch from the NY Times in September of 19941, as the Clinton administration has failed to get health care passed and the Republicans are about to take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in two generations:
The Government is well on its way to a crisis of legitimacy. A June Gallup poll indicated that only 17 percent of Americans trust the Government to do what is right most or all of the time...politicians are more careful about appearances than ever; they get prosecuted or denounced these days for everything short of parking in the wrong space. So why does Washington seem to perform so much worse today than in the past?

...

Multiply this kind of growing "grass-roots" sophistication by the burgeoning number of groups, and the result is pluralism spinning out of control and making the country ungovernable.

As I thought - it's exactly the same complaint, fifteen years ago. Rauch blames lobbyists rather than Republicans, but it doesn't really change anything.

It may be that someone wrote something similar when the Democrats were obstructing George W. Bush on Social Security reform, but I don't remember it, so I don't want to go too far overboard on this. But it strikes me as yet one more difference between the right and the left, how they view Government, what it's for, what it's capable of and what it's limitations are. Think back a few months to Thomas Friedman's lament that Obama didn't have the authority of the Chinese dictators to get things done. Again, evidence of an "ungovernable" America.

Well, they're exactly right. America is "ungovernable." With one caveat. They're using the word "ungovernable" but the idea that they're implying is "unruleable." Because they don't want to govern - they want to rule. They don't want to work with Republicans, deal with grass-roots movements, compromise to improve things. No, they want to impose their rules by fiat. Because, you see, they're smarter and they know better. They are superior human beings and, to get back to a hobby horse I've been flogging recently, they believe that they can impose perfection on the human condition. Utopia is within our grasp if those pesky right-wingers would just get out of the way and let St. Barack engage in his beneficient rule. If you know that you can make things perfect if only given the authority to do so, you're bound to be impatient at any obstacles that might prevent, or even slow, the achievement of that perfection.

That's why we don't see these pieces with Republicans in the White House. Conservatives are not utopians. They understand the limits of government power and government authority and don't want anyone ruling from Washington. And none of the details bother the liberal utopianists when there is a Republican in the White House. If a George Bush has his agenda obstructed by Democrats, that's not evidence of "ungovernability," it's just good work by the obstructors. Because a George Bush shouldn't be "governing" anyway - he's not a good person, not like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were, not like Barack Obama is.


1 - Rauch, Jonathan. (1994, September 30). Starve Lobbyists, Not Congress :[Op-Ed]. New York Times (Late Edition (east Coast)), p. A.31. Retrieved December 12, 2009, from Banking Information Source. (Document ID: 968311171).

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

History can take a while to get it right...

James Taranto:
the 44% who say they'd prefer Bush to Obama is twice Bush's approval rating in the final CBS News poll during his term. With Bush out of office less than a year, it seems unlikely that a revisionist view of his presidency has already taken hold. Thus these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress's Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.

It has long been my position that history will be far kinder to the Presidency of George W. Bush than the media coverage of him in office was. I see no reason to change that assessment.

And, while I'm still very scared that they're going to manage to push this health care debacle through, I'm starting to think it possible that the Democrats are committing the worst kind of party suicide - pushing hard enough to convince everyone that they cannot be trusted, and paying that price in a losing effort.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

And the hits keep on coming...

No wonder they want to pass it quickly - the longer they "debate" the "health care reform" bill in Congress, the more news like this comes out:
Democrats trying to push President Barack Obama's health care overhaul plan through the Senate got a sober warning Friday that costs will keep going up and proposed Medicare savings may harm the program.

A new report from government economic analysts at the Health and Human Services Department found that the nation's $2.5 trillion annual health care tab won't shrink under the Democratic blueprint that senators are debating. Instead, it would grow somewhat more rapidly than if Congress does nothing.

If government employees at Health and Human Services are saying this, and the AP is not only reporting it, but leading a story with it, that's all you need to know about the kind of fiscal insanity that the Democrats are trying to inflict upon the country.

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Tweet of the day

Jim Geraghty
If our drone killed an al-Qaeda bigwig DURING Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, it would be as cool as the closing scenes of The Godfather.

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Wordle puzzle - 12/11/09

The Wordle puzzle of the day comes from a 19th century American short story. I have deleted one name from the cloud (as if that would have made it any easier.) I expect everyone to get this fairly quickly.




The answer to last week's puzzle is The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.

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Quote of the day

Groucho Marx
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

Groucho had this Congress and administration nailed...

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

NFL Picks, Week 14

NFL picks for week 14:

Thursday night:

Pittsburgh (-10) at Cleveland - Did the NFL schedule Thursday night dogs, just because it's the only football available? Or did someone think that the Browns were going to be a real team?

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Quoting myself. Again.

Me, a year and a half ago:
Democrats apparently believe that government can, and support programs intended to, create a utopia on earth. They envision a government that ensures that everyone is cared for, fed, clothed, housed and entertained, that problems of any kind resulting from human frailty are ameliorated or eliminated.


Me, two months ago:
So many of the issues that we, as a country, face right now are the result of people who believe, really, truly believe, in the perfectability of the human condition.


Barack Obama, accepting his completely unwarranted, undeserved and bogus Nobel Peace Prize:
But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected.

He's delusional. Utterly delusional. He's either hopelessly naive (a mere naif of a Chicago Politician?), blatantly lying or clinically insane. In any event, there's no way that he should be making decisions for anyone, never mind for everyone...

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Sin in haste...

...repent in leisure.


Krauthammer, agreeing with me:
And you ask yourself, why is the haste? Where is the deadline? It's not as if we were a year ago with the banking issue where there was a deadline. If you didn't act on TARP, you could have [had] a collapse of the economic system.

Here the deadline is entirely a political one. It is because the Democrats know with all this opposition in the public and with an election year looming, they have a very small window.

It's not as if the medical system will collapse on January the 1st if nothing is done. It [the deadline] is entirely artificial. And it is causing these new amendments and these new ideas to be thrown in untested, even unexplained, at the last moment. … This is reforming one-sixth of the U.S. economy. It is not a targeted reform. It is a revolution in healthcare.

It's a train wreck. Whatever they can do to try to find 60 votes to destroy the health care system, that's what they're willing, even anxious, to do. I've said many times before that whenever I hear the phrase "contempt of Congress," I want to know where to sign up, but I don't ever remember having quite so much contempt for a Congress as I do for this one...

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The quality of the "filter"

Worth keeping in mind when reading NYT analyses of Climategate.
In 1920, Robert Goddard was conducting experiments with rockets. In an editorial, The New York Times sneered at Goddard’s work and particularly at the idea that a rocket could function in a vacuum:

That Professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react – to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.

In 1969…the year of the Apollo moon mission…the NYT finally got around to issuing a correction for their 1920 mistake.

What is noteworthy about the original editorial is not just the ignorance, but the arrogance and the outright nastiness...It appears that some of the attributes of the NYT which make it so untrustworthy and unlovable today are actually cultural characteristics of long standing.

How many journalists are qualified scientists? How many have good experience and expertise, even from an academic perspective, in any of the hard sciences, higher level math or statistics? Are not they drawn almost exclusively not just from the ranks of Liberal Arts majors, but from the ranks of Liberal Arts majors who want "to make the world a better place?" And that's the filter through which we've gotten our news on everything. Al Gore, for example, depends on it.

Thankfully, there's a lot of information getting past the filters now...

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Coerced petition-signatures - the true proof of scientific theories

The "scientific" consensus:
More than 1,700 scientists have agreed to sign a statement defending the "professional integrity" of global warming research. They were responding to a round-robin request from the Met Office, which has spent four days collecting signatures. The initiative is a sign of how worried it is that e-mails stolen from the University of East Anglia are fueling skepticism about man-made global warming at a critical moment in talks on carbon emissions.

One scientist said that he felt under pressure to sign the circular or risk losing work. The Met Office admitted that many of the signatories did not work on climate change.

...


One scientist told The Times of London he felt pressure to sign. "The Met Office is a major employer of scientists and has long had a policy of only appointing and working with those who subscribe to their views on man-made global warming," he said.

The science is settled. The consensus is clear. Skeptics are deniers.

Because there is no better way to judge scientific claims than coerced signatures of non-climate scientists on petitions. If you can pressure enough geologists, botanists and micro-biologists to sign, under implicit threat of future failed grant applications, then the science must be good...

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As I've said...

Al Lewis:
[Al] Gore is amassing so much money and influence from global warming that if the problem disappeared he'd have to reinvent it.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Quote of the day

Charles Krauthammer:
On President Obama’s intention to use TARP monies to pay for a jobs program:

Look, it proves, as if we need any extra evidence, that Democrats have a congenital inability to claim an unclaimed pot of money and not seize it and spend it.

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More on the "scientific consensus"

141 scientists have signed thefollowing letter, explaining (and, in the process, demonstrating) that the science of global climate change is not "settled."
His Excellency Ban Ki Moon
Secretary-General, United Nations
New York, NY
United States of America

8 December 2009

Dear Secretary-General,

Climate change science is in a period of ‘negative discovery’ - the more we learn about this exceptionally complex and rapidly evolving field the more we realize how little we know. Truly, the science is NOT settled.

Therefore, there is no sound reason to impose expensive and restrictive public policy decisions on the peoples of the Earth without first providing convincing evidence that human activities are causing dangerous climate change beyond that resulting from natural causes. Before any precipitate action is taken, we must have solid observational data demonstrating that recent changes in climate differ substantially from changes observed in the past and are well in excess of normal variations caused by solar cycles, ocean currents, changes in the Earth's orbital parameters and other natural phenomena.

We the undersigned, being qualified in climate-related scientific disciplines, challenge the UNFCCC and supporters of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to produce convincing OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE for their claims of dangerous human-caused global warming and other changes in climate. Projections of possible future scenarios from unproven computer models of climate are not acceptable substitutes for real world data obtained through unbiased and rigorous scientific investigation.

Specifically, we challenge supporters of the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused climate change to demonstrate that:

1. Variations in global climate in the last hundred years are significantly outside the natural range experienced in previous centuries;
2. Humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHG) are having a dangerous impact on global climate;
3. Computer-based models can meaningfully replicate the impact of all of the natural factors that may significantly influence climate;
4. Sea levels are rising dangerously at a rate that has accelerated with increasing human GHG emissions, thereby threatening small islands and coastal communities;
5. The incidence of malaria is increasing due to recent climate changes;
6. Human society and natural ecosystems cannot adapt to foreseeable climate change as they have done in the past;
7. Worldwide glacier retreat, and sea ice melting in Polar Regions , is unusual and related to increases in human GHG emissions;
8. Polar bears and other Arctic and Antarctic wildlife are unable to adapt to anticipated local climate change effects, independent of the causes of those changes;
9. Hurricanes, other tropical cyclones and associated extreme weather events are increasing in severity and frequency;
10. Data recorded by ground-based stations are a reliable indicator of surface temperature trends.


It is not the responsibility of ‘climate realist’ scientists to prove that dangerous human-caused climate change is not happening. Rather, it is those who propose that it is, and promote the allocation of massive investments to solve the supposed ‘problem’, who have the obligation to convincingly demonstrate that recent climate change is not of mostly natural origin and, if we do nothing, catastrophic change will ensue. To date, this they have utterly failed to do so.

(Additional emphasis is mine.)

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Another historic first for the President!

The Obama White House has been quick on the trigger with all of the "historic firsts" associated with the President's skin color, but there's a non-racial first, and they're being a little more ... reticent about promoting this one:
President Obama's job approval rating has fallen to 47 percent in the latest Gallup poll, the lowest ever recorded for any president at this point in his term.

Now that's a hell of an accomplishment.

And unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, this is a legitimate achievement. He got it the old-fashioned way - he earned it.

(H/T - Instapundit)

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What happened at Darwin zero?

Part of response to the CRU scandal is "the scientists may have behaved badly, but the data still shows that the earth is warming." Believe that?

Think again. Check this out.
Intrigued by the curious shape of the average of the homogenized Darwin records, I then went to see how they had homogenized each of the individual station records. What made up that strange average shown in Fig. 7? I started at zero with the earliest record. Here is Station Zero at Darwin, showing the raw and the homogenized versions.



Yikes again, double yikes! What on earth justifies that adjustment? How can they do that? We have five different records covering Darwin from 1941 on. They all agree almost exactly. Why adjust them at all? They’ve just added a huge artificial totally imaginary trend to the last half of the raw data! Now it looks like the IPCC diagram in Figure 1, all right … but a six degree per century trend? And in the shape of a regular stepped pyramid climbing to heaven? What’s up with that?

Those, dear friends, are the clumsy fingerprints of someone messing with the data Egyptian style … they are indisputable evidence that the “homogenized” data has been changed to fit someone’s preconceptions about whether the earth is warming.

Really, it is a must-read. It is not unique, but representative of far too many of the pieces of data. The anti-American left is currently meeting in Copenhagen in an attempt to destroy the American economy (what's left of it) based on rigged data. It must be stopped. This administration, which is, unfortunately, part of the anti-American left, needs to be stopped.

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Some historical perspective on climate

J. Storr Hall provides Some Historical Perspective on global climate, climate change and politics.
...reading another part of the Durant’s Story of Civilization (of which tAoN is volume 11) back in grade school, I stumbled on a passage which was the very first in any book of any kind in which I realized that the authors could let their political preconceptions alter their interpretation of their subject. What they wrote, as I recall it very inexactly 40 years later, was to the effect that western civilization had progressed in a grand upward sweep since the time of the ancient Greeks, pausing only in the years 1952-1960 — which of course the Eisenhower administration. (This was written before Nixon was elected.) I had previously believed that if something was written in a book, it was authoritatively true. This little gem was so blatantly silly that you couldn’t possibly take it seriously. Books weren’t Truth, after all. It was a defining moment in my intellectual life, something like learning the truth about Santa Claus.

That's the setup for a discussion of the current climate change debate. He looks at some of the science and concludes with this:
But the broader lesson is, climate doesn’t stand still. It doesn’t even stand stay on the relatively constrained range of the last 10,000 years for more than about 10,000 years at a time.

Does this mean that CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas? No.

Does it mean that it isn’t warming? No.

Does it mean that we shouldn’t develop clean, efficient technology that gets its energy elsewhere than burning fossil fuels? Of course not. We should do all those things for many reasons — but there’s plenty of time to do them the right way, by developing nanotech. (There’s plenty of money, too, but it’s all going to climate science at the moment. :-) ) And that will be a very good thing to have done if we do fall back into an ice age, believe me.

For climate science it means that the Hockey Team climatologists’ insistence that human-emitted CO2 is the only thing that could account for the recent warming trend is probably poppycock.

Click the link, read it all - he's got some great graphs that emphasize the importance of having some historical perspective. For far too many people, as Rush Limbaugh says, "history began with the day they were born." That's not true of human history and it's not true of global climate history. Look at the pictures, decide for yourself whether we face an unprecendented crisis that requires us to throw away the technological improvements of the past 200 years as so many insist that we must...

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Quote of the day

Noted by Derb:
Exercising the right of occasional suppression and slight modification, it is truly absurd to see how plastic a limited number of observations become, in the hands of men with preconceived ideas.
— Francis Galton, Meteorographica, or Methods of Mapping the Weather (1863), p.5 [quoted in Stigler's History of Statistics, p.267]

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"We've already established that..."

There's an old story, variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill, involving a dinner party and female diner. The male asks whether the woman would sleep with him for a million pounds and is told, "yes." He then asks if she would sleep with him for five pounds, and gets an indignant "what kind of woman do you think I am?" And responds, "we have already established what kind of woman you are - now we are haggling about the price."

Well, now we've established, once and for all, what the "independent" news media is:
Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted...

And the price is cheap. They may actually be paying for it...

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Theo admits, "Lyford was right - I panicked!"

Three years ago, I took a lot of abuse for my contention that the Red Sox made a panic move when they traded Cla Meredith, Josh Bard, a PTBNL and cash to San Diego for Doug Mirabelli.
The Red Sox re-acquired catcher Doug Mirabelli from the San Diego Padres for Josh Bard, minor league reliever Cla Meredith, a player-to-be-named-later AND cash...I hate this [trade]...If the Red Sox had scored 6 runs in each of Wakefield's last 3 starts, he'd be 4-1, and the move yesterday wouldn't have been made. Which makes it the very definition of a panic move.

Well, from the Boston Globe, we see Theo Epstein admit that...I was right.
"I think the closer you get to certain situations, the more often you fail," Epstein said yesterday about the trade that sent Cla Meredith and Josh Bard to San Diego for Doug Mirabelli. “I firmly believe that had I not gone on the road trip with the team and been exposed to that panic or been sucked into it, we wouldn’t have made the trade. I got too close to it, so we over-prioritized the rest of the season, we over-prioritized the next start [by Tim Wakefield], and made a bad trade."

It's nice to see Theo own up to what was actually obvious at the time...

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

NFL Picks, Week 13

NFL picks for week 13:

Thursday Night

NY Jets at Buffalo Bills (+3) - This is not what the NFL was looking for when they introduced their Thursday schedule. Phone banks at the cable and satellite companies light up today with customers demanding that the NFL Network be removed from their channel lineups.

UPDATE (Sunday/Monday games):

Philadelphia (-5.5) at Atlanta - One bird of pray is still flying fairly high, the other's trying to stay aloft on a crippled wing.

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-5) - I can't even generate the energy to pretend that I've got anything to say about this game.

St. Louis at Chicago (-9.5) - The Bears take advantage of a game against a much weaker opponent to pretend that they're still big, bad and fearsome. All of which are true, to some extent, but not in any of the senses that they want them to be true.

Detroit at Cincinnati (-13) - In Detroit, I'd pick the Lions to keep it close. But they aren't in Detroit.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Indianapolis - I don't believe that the Colts or Saints finishes undefeated, so I'll be picking against them until they lose. First up, under this new policy, are the Tennessee Titans and Vince Young, winners of five straight, and going for six in a game that is essentially a playoff game for them.

New Orleans at Washington (+10) - Short week, off a big win, with nothing much to play for - this is the week that New Orleans falls.

Oakland at Pittsburgh (-14.5) - Remember Thanksgiving? Remember how Oakland paid me back for believing they could keep it close against a good team on the road? Yeah, that was the last time.

Houston (-2) at Jacksonville - Here are two more teams trying to keep playoff hopes alive. The winner still has a legitimate (but unlikely) shot at a playoff berth, the Jaguars are done with a loss.

Denver (-6) at Kansas City - The Denver team that beat the Giants on Thanksgiving night, with 10 days off, has to be at least a double-digit pick over the Chiefs.

New England (-5) at Miami - Monday night's loss to New Orleans may have been the most dispiriting, depressing performance of the Patriots in the Belichick era. Not that there haven't been the occasional bad losses, because there have, but usually they've been "one of those games." Games that you could write off or discount. This one showed a tremendous disparity between the perception of the team and its performance. If, as I expect, they win in Miami today, it will be their first win of the year in someone else's home stadium. Their only road win thus far came against a weak Tampa team in London. I do expect them to win today, but there's a lot - a LOT - more that will have to be done to cleanse the palate of that Monday debacle...

San Diego (-13.5) at Cleveland - Has there been a more inept offensive team in recent memory than the Cleveland Browns?

Dallas at N.Y. Giants (+2.5) - I don't care that the Giants are struggling or that the Cowboys are in firt place in the NFC East

San Francisco (-1) at Seattle - So the oddsmakers think that the 49ers are only four points better on a neutral field? I don't think so.

Minnesota at Arizona (+3.5) - As my irrational dislike of the Vikings and their aged QB rears its ugly head yet again.

Baltimore (+3.5) at Green Bay - I expect this to be much better than last week's Monday night game.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Alleluia

A little music on a Friday morning. I was not involved with this in any way - indeed, I've never heard of Dordt College and know nothing about it. But this is one of my favorite anthems that I've ever sung (which I've done many, many times) and I don't have a good recording of our chorale doing it. So here, from the Dordt College Concert Choir, is Randall Thompson's Alleluia.

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Wordle puzzle - 12/04/09

The Wordle puzzle of the day comes from one chapter of a work of 19th-century English literature. It is widely considered to be a seminal work of its genre. I have deleted two prominent, and fairly unique, names from the cloud.




The answer to last week's puzzle is "Robinson Crusoe."

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Watermelon environmentalists - green on the outside, red on the inside

At National Review Online, Conrad Black echoes Nigel Lawson in making a point that I've been making for years.
To some extent, as the immensely respected former British chancellor of the exchequer and energy secretary, Nigel Lawson, has written, Green is the new Red. Marxism has been debunked, and the militant anti-capitalists and oppositionists — too militant to be easily accommodated in conventional oppositions — have decamped to environmentalism, and have taken over the inoffensive tandem bicycle of the naturalists, with their pith helmets and butterfly nets. They have turned it into a nihilist juggernaut seeking an end to capitalist and bourgeois society in the name of earthly salvation and redemption.

I've said it over
I would find the arguments in favor of market controls and US energy cutbacks because of global warming a lot more compelling if they were not coming from the same people who were in favor of market controls and US energy cutbacks before anyone had ever posited anthropogenic climate change

and over
When leftists who have been telling me my entire life that Americans need to stop burning fossil fuels because America is using an "unfair" amount of the world's resources, or because exhaust fumes cause birth defects or sterility, or because it causes acid rain, or it's going to cause global cooling, decide that we need to stop burning fossil fuels because it's causing global warming, it's not easy to fight the suspicion that what they are really concerned with isn't global warming - it's Americans burning fossil fuels

and over
there are both legitimate environmentalists and strident "watermelons" (green on the outside, red on the inside) peddling apocalyptic scenarios

and over again...

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Carlin on CRU

Remember Alan Carlin? He was the EPA scientist that suggested to the agency that "the extensive portions of the EPA's Endangerment TSD which are based upon the old science are no longer appropriate and need to be revised" and was told that
the time for such discussion of fundamental issues has passed for this round. The administrator and the administration has [sic] decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision...

Well, he's back, and he's got a good piece at Pajamas Media.
the EPA — perhaps at the urging of others in the Obama administration — has proposed to regulate GHG emissions on the basis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports … and reports primarily based on the IPCC reports.

This is highly unusual for the EPA. I cannot think of any instance where the EPA depended so heavily on non-EPA synthesis reports to justify proposed regulatory action in their almost 39 years of existence.

...

It seems clear to me that if a group (such as the EPA) wanted to get an objective scientific judgment on climate change science, CRU et al — and therefore the IPCC — might be the last place that they would want to rely on.

...

Despite the uproar concerning CRU et al’s data and research, the basic problem remains — the UN hypothesis that increases in GHGs/CO2 will result in significant increases in global temperatures has not been confirmed by comparisons with real world data. Unless it is, attempts to decrease GHG/CO2 emissions in order to significantly change global temperatures are very likely to fail. This is the primary question that the EPA and climate scientists need to address before any control efforts are undertaken.

There are some good links in there, too. Read it all...

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The healthcare "crisis"

Glenn Reynolds:
Health care policy is suboptimal, but there is no “crisis.” Talk of a “crisis” is just a PR effort to get us to accept a different set of suboptimal policies that are more to the liking of certain interest groups.

Exactly. Any time someone says that we have to do something, as yourself whether it isn't as likely as not that doing something will make things worse rather than better. What the Democrats are proposing is virtually certain to fall into that category...

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Aliens cause global warming

This is old, but I hadn't seen it until today. From the late Michael Crichton, a 2003 speech titled Aliens Cause Global Warming:
Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horses**t? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS... None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn't know what you are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.

It's long, but brilliant, hitting science, consensus, SETI, nuclear winter, second-hand smoke and global warming (and more) and well worth the time...

And one more quote, particularly relevant to the current "climate:" "When did "skeptic" become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it? "

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