Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dave Barry's year in review: 2009

As usual Dave Barry captures the key events of the past year with his hilarious insights.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turning Tricks, Cashing In on Fear By Alexander Cockburn

One of the common objections I’ve run into when expressing my skepticism of Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is that this skepticism is limited to right-wingers. While this might be true in general terms there are exceptions on both side of the political fence. Here is an example from the left: Alexander Cockburn in CountePunch. I recommend reading his essay on the Copenhagen Conference. He addresses the usual canard I hear hurled at AGW deniers: that they’re shills for the oil industry, that their position is driven by money.

But the CRU emails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers – always absurd to those who have studied the debate in any detail – that they commanded the moral high ground. It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as intellectual whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate modeling enterprises. There’s now a vast archipelago of research departments and “institutes of climate change” across academia, with a huge vested interest in defending the AGW model. It’s where the money is. Skepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker.

Penny Wong jeered, Hugo Chavez cheered - By Lenore Taylor, The Australian

With another hat tip to Robert Bidinotto, this article nicely captures the true agenda of the Copenhagen conference: not to save the world from allegedly human-caused global warming but to save humanity from capitalism, to save us from the cold independence of individualism by throwing us into the “warm” melting pot of collectivism/tribalism. At the end Taylor reports on the audience’s response to Hugo Chavez.

Then President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ - “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell....let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Health-Care Backlash by Peter Wehner

This article by Peter Wehner (a hat tip to Robert Bidinotto for finding this) has some interesting observations on the nature of Obama, his administration and its policies.

The collateral damage to Obama from this bill is enormous. More than any candidate in our lifetime, Obama won based on the aesthetics of politics. It wasn’t because of his record; he barely had one. And it wasn’t because of his command of policy; few people knew what his top three policy priorities were. It was based instead on the sense that he was something novel, the embodiment of a “new politics” – mature, high-minded and gracious, intellectually serious. That was the core of his speeches and his candidacy. In less than a year, that core has been devoured, most of all by this health-care process.

Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a deeply partisan and polarizing figure. (“I have never been asked to engage in a single serious negotiation on any issue, nor has any other Republican,” Senator McCain reported over the weekend.) The lack of transparency in this process has been unprecedented and bordering on criminal. The president has been deeply misleading in selling this plan. Lobbyists, a bane of Obama during the campaign, are having a field day.

President Obama may succeed in passing a terribly unpopular piece of legislation – but in the process, he has shattered his carefully cultivated image. It now consists of a thousand shards.

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.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Totalities of Copenhagen: Global warming and the psychology of true belief by Bret Stephens

This opinion piece by Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal touches on what he calls the “totalitarian impulse” of those who feel humans cause global warming. While I wouldn’t argue that everyone who falls into this camp suffer from this impulse I do believe it is evident among the intellectual leaders of this movement. I have extracted some key wording from Stephens’ article. I encourage you to check out the original essay.

Last week, I suggested that funding flows had much to do with climate alarmism. But deeper things are at work as well.

One of those things, I suspect, is what I would call the totalitarian impulse. This is not to say that global warming true believers are closet Stalinists. But their intellectual methods are instructively similar. Consider:

Revolutionary fervor:There's a distinct tendency among climate alarmists toward uncompromising radicalism, a hatred of "bourgeois" values, a disgust with democratic practices. So President Obama wants to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 83% from current levels by 2050, levels not seen since the 1870s—in effect, the Industrial Revolution in reverse. …

Utopianism: In the world as it is, climate alarmists see humanity hurtling toward certain doom. In the world as it might be, humanity has seen the light and changed its patterns of behavior, becoming the green equivalent of the Soviet "new man."

• Anti-humanism: … The U.N. Population Fund complains in a recent report that "no human is genuinely 'carbon neutral'"—its latest argument against children. John Holdren, President Obama's science adviser, cut his teeth in the policy world as an overpopulation obsessive worried about global cooling. But whether warming or cooling, the problem for the climate alarmists, as for other totalitarians, always seems to boil down to the human race itself.

• Intolerance: Why did the scientists at the heart of Climategate go to such lengths to hide or massage the data if truth needs no defense? Why launch campaigns of obstruction and vilification against gadfly Canadian researchers Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick if they were such intellectual laughingstocks? It is the unvarying habit of the totalitarian mind to treat any manner of disagreement as prima facie evidence of bad faith and treason.

Monocausalism: … [G]lobal warming has become the fill-in-the-blank explanation for whatever happens to be the problem.

• Indifference to evidence: Climate alarmists have become brilliantly adept at changing their terms to suit their convenience. So it's "global warming" when there's a heat wave, but it's "climate change" when there's a cold snap. …

• Grandiosity: In "SuperFreakonomics," Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner give favorable treatment to an idea to cool the earth by pumping sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, something that could be done cheaply and quickly. Maybe it would work, or maybe it wouldn't. But one suspects that the main reason the chapter was the subject of hysterical criticism is that it didn't propose to deal with global warming by re-engineering the world economy. The penchant for monumentalism is yet another constant feature of the totalitarian mind.

Today, of course, the very idea of totalitarianism is considered passé. Yet the course of the 20th century was defined by totalitarian regimes, and it would be dangerous to assume that the habits of mind that sustained them have vanished into the mists. In Copenhagen, they are once again at play—and that, comrades, is no accident.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NOW we must make our goal-line stand against ObamaCare! By Robert Bidinotto


After months of manipulations and horse-trading, the Senate version of ObamaCare is the monstrosity that Congress has now come down to debating. Any compromise the Senate reaches with the even-worse House version, in conference committees, will only move the bill farther to the left, by strengthening the "public option" and reintroducing taxpayer-funded abortions.

If there is one article you need to read about ObamaCare, and to circulate to your friends and family, this is it:

In this article, Robert Tracinski presents a concise, hard-hitting summary of the essential horrors in the Senate ObamaCare bill. He cites three provisions we must focus on, and they are: (1) "guaranteed issue" and "community rating," (2) the "individual mandate," and (3) the government-run "insurance exchange." These three legs of the ObamaCare stool will absolutely bankrupt private insurers, eventually driving everyone into socialized medicine run by the government:

* "Guaranteed issue" and "community rating" will compel insurers to cover already-sick and high-risk individuals, which will force them to raise insurance premiums sky-high for all the rest of us. To avoid paying those soaring premiums, millions won't bother to buy insurance until they're already sick—which will reduce the number of people actually paying for insurance, while simultaneously causing the number of freeloaders to skyrocket.

* "The individual mandate" will impose a tax on the uninsured that is far less than the premiums they'd otherwise pay. This means that millions will choose to remain uninsured, while being forced to subsidize others with their penalty tax—that is, until they get sick, at which time they'll buy a policy, and then milk the system themselves.

* "The insurance exchange" will put an insurance dictator—with the Orwellian title of "Health Choices Commissioner"—in charge of the content of every new insurance policy issued. The exchanges will outlaw policies that offer low-cost, high-deductible catastrophic coverage, instead forcing everyone to buy high-cost comprehensive plans.

In sum, the bill will eliminate health-insurance choices and competition, raise premiums astronomically, and encourage people to demand medical benefits that they haven't remotely paid for. This is a recipe for complete ruin. It will crush our medical care system under a burden of millions of patients who aren't paying their way. It will destroy the private insurance industry, push its former customers into a government-regimented "single payer" system—which will be so deep in red ink that the government will then slash payments to doctors and hospitals, while rationing medical services.

ObamaCare is a wrecking ball poised to crush our medical system. You need to raise your voice against this threat NOW. Here is what you need to do:

1. Please print out Tracinski’s article, or copy it (with the URL link), and mail or email it to people far and wide.

2. Contact your two senators here: Demand that they vote against this monstrosity, citing the main points made in the article.

3. Finally, also send calls and letters to the following key "swing" senators, making the preceding points:

Sen. Blanche Lincoln
Sen. Evan Bayh
Sen. Mary Landrieu
Sen. Joseph Lieberman
Sen. Ben Nelson

Sen. George Voinovich
Sen. Olympia Snowe
Sen. Susan Collins

We cannot afford a single GOP defector from the opposition. However, if we can peel off even ONE Democrat (most likely candidates would be Lieberman or Lincoln), then Senate majority leader Harry Reid won't have enough votes to avoid a Republican filibuster. So, we must stiffen the spines of the Republicans, and try to reach wavering Dems.

Even if this vote can be delayed into 2010, its chances of passage are much lower.


Thanks for your help. And feel free to forward this message to others.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Cold Heart of ObamaCare

This article points to some provisions in the pending health care bill (I mistyped it as "bull". I shoud have kept it that way!) The Cold Heart of ObamaCare

A few key quotes.

To call the dangers of this legislation "death panels" obscures the real-life consequences to Americans, not only the elderly, of a federal government-run health care bureaucracy. In the Senate bill, for instance, Medicare doctors whose treatments each year of certain, mostly elderly, patients costs more than a set government figure will be punished by losing part of their own incomes.

Not only Medicare doctors will be monitored for their cost effectiveness. In the House bill, as the libertarian Cato Institute's health care specialist Michael Tanner explains, "111 government agencies, boards, commissions and other bureaucracies - all overseen by a new health care czar," the commissioner of Health Care Choices, will keep watch on what the president has called excessive, wasteful health care expenditures.

Is there anything you want to say to your representatives in the House or Senate before the final vote is taken? If you don't act urgently now, you may become part of another collective statistic - American annual death rates.

I'm scared, and I do mean to scare you.

We do not elect the president and Congress to decide how short our lives will be. That decision is way above their pay grades.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fraudulent hockey sticks and hidden data by JoNova

Here is a clear, easy-to-understand explanation how the hockey stick temperature curve - a core piece in the case advocated by those who claim humans cause global warming - is unsupported by the facts.

The climate-change travesty by George F. Will

George F. Will weighs in on the Climategate scandal. Below I’ve provided some key text from his article.

A CRU e-mail says: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" -- this "moment" is in its second decade -- "and it is a travesty that we can't."

The travesty is the intellectual arrogance of the authors of climate-change models partially based on the problematic practice of reconstructing long-term prior climate changes. On such models we are supposed to wager trillions of dollars -- and substantially diminished freedom.

Some climate scientists compound their delusions of intellectual adequacy with messiah complexes. They seem to suppose themselves a small clerisy entrusted with the most urgent truth ever discovered. On it, and hence on them, the planet's fate depends. So some of them consider it virtuous to embroider facts, exaggerate certitudes, suppress inconvenient data, and manipulate the peer-review process to suppress scholarly dissent and, above all, to declare that the debate is over.

Consider the sociology of science, the push and pull of interests, incentives, appetites and passions. Governments' attempts to manipulate Earth's temperature now comprise one of the world's largest industries. Tens of billions of dollars are being dispensed, as by the U.S. Energy Department, which has suddenly become, in effect, a huge venture capital operation, speculating in green technologies. Political, commercial, academic and journalistic prestige and advancement can be contingent on not disrupting the (postulated) consensus that is propelling the gigantic and fabulously lucrative industry of combating global warming.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Climategate: Caught Green-Handed! By Christopher Monckton

Christopher Monckton of Brenchley provides a detailed analysis of how the folks at the Climate Research Unit manipulated and suppressed the climate data to make it appear the Earth has been warming. He shows lines of code from the program they used that adds in a “fudge factor” (that’s the term used in the code!) to correct for the pesky decline in world temperatures.

Monckton ends with an ironically appropriate quote from President Eisenhower’s farewell address.

Public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite ... The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

As I mentioned in an earlier post Stephen Hicks identifies the philosophical premises behind this ugly marriage between science and government.

The lesson is not only about politics. The core lesson is about the corruption of philosophy (especially epistemology), which has enabled an entire generation of journalists, activists, and politicians to be intellectually disarmed by a group of frauds — or to become enablers in disarming those who would challenge the frauds. A postmodern philosophical culture indeed.

And, at the risk of being too presumptuous let me quote from a post I wrote two years ago.

So why do Gore and his followers persist in advocating that we are to blame? I think the following quote from the former Canadian Environment Minister Christine Stewart sheds light on their motive.

“No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral environmental benefits…. Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.” Source: Calgary Herald, 14 December 1998.

It all comes down to a new way to make us (the U.S. in particular and the West in general) feel guilty for our material success in order to soften us for their solutions of taxing emissions, changing our life style and bringing us down to the level of countries that don’t suffer from these “problems,” thanks to their policies of punitive taxation, heavy regulation and government control (or strangling) of their economies.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Scientific fraud and politics - Stephen Hicks Post

Stephen Hicks has a good post on "Climategate" that gets to the philosophical core.

The lesson is not only about politics. The core lesson is about the corruption of philosophy (especially epistemology), which has enabled an entire generation of journalists, activists, and politicians to be intellectually disarmed by a group of frauds — or to become enablers in disarming those who would challenge the frauds. A postmodern philosophical culture indeed.