Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Big Lie

I thought this was an interesting combination of columns that happened to be published today.  Thomas Sowell, in a column titled, "Big Lies in Politics" points out that the media and left-wing politicians push a lie when they discuss income inequality and talk about the "rich".

All sorts of statements are made in politics and in the media as if that "top one percent" is an enduring class of people, rather than an ever-changing collection of individuals who have a spike in their income in a particular year, for one reason or another. Turnover in other income brackets is also substantial.

There is nothing mysterious about this. Most people start out at the bottom, in entry-level jobs, and their incomes rise over time as they acquire more skills and experience.

Politicians and media talking heads love to refer to people who are in the bottom 20 percent in income in a given year as "the poor." But, following the same individuals for 10 or 15 years usually shows the great majority of those individuals moving into higher income brackets.

The number who reach all the way to the top 20 percent greatly exceeds the number still stuck in the bottom 20 percent over the years. But such mundane facts cannot compete for attention with the moral melodramas conjured up in politics and the media when they discuss "the rich" and "the poor." There are people who are genuinely rich and genuinely poor, in the sense of having very high or very low incomes for most, if not all, of their lives. But "the rich" and "the poor" in this sense are unlikely to add up to even ten percent of the population.

Ironically, those who make the most noise about income disparities or poverty contribute greatly to policies that promote both.
(my bold)

David Horowitz  has chosen to re-run a book review he wrote back in 1989, "Carl Bernstein’s Communist Problem & Mine".  Given that Obama's life-ling associations with communists, terror bombers, radicals, and revolutionaries is finally getting some public attention, he explains his reason for the re-print:
I thought it might be useful to those first being introduced to what I like to call the “neo-communist left” to read a piece I wrote a few years ago about Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein and his Communist father, and about my own experience in the Communist left as well. It is particularly the disloyalty and fundamental dishonesty of these people, these Communist progressives which I think should most interest readers in the context of the political and economic crises we are facing today.
(my bold)

Horowitz' books, particularly "Radical Son" and "Destructive Generation" give us a good understanding of the extent to which communists were (and are) a real presence in so many of America's organizations and institutions.  In this column, he focuses on the extent to which the communists who worked as agents for Stalin still lie to the public and even themselves about what they did and why.
Ann and my parents belonged to a colony of Jewish Communists who, in the early Forties, had settled in a 10-block neighborhood of working-class Catholics in Sunnyside, Queens. The members of this colony lived two lives. Outwardly they were middle class: scrupulous in their respect for the mores of the community and unfailing in their obedience to its civil laws. They always identified themselves publicly as “progressives,” espousing views that were liberal and democratic. They thought of themselves (and were perceived by others) as “socially conscious” and “idealistic” and were active in trade unions and civil-rights groups and in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
The picture is consistent with that myth now struggling to be born in our literary culture that these people were small “c” communists whose belief in democratic values outweighed their commitment to big “C” Communism. But this is a myth, with malevolent implications. In fact, the members of this colony like Ann and my parents also inhabited another, secret world as soldiers in the Third International founded by Lenin. In their eyes, a sixth of humanity had entered an entirely new stage of history in Soviet Russia in 1917, a triumphant humanity that would be extended all over the world by the actions of the vanguard they had joined. The world of liberal and progressive politics may have been the world in which outsiders saw them, but their secret membership in this revolutionary army was the world that really mattered to Ann and my parents and to all their political friends. It was the world that gave real significance and meaning to what otherwise were modest and rather ordinary lives.
In their own minds, Ann and my parents were secret agents.

The big lie?
 What are the tenets of the neo-Stalinist faith that has so unexpectedly resurfaced in American letters? Basically there are two. The first – that Communists were peace-loving, do-gooding, civil-rights activists and American patriots; the second – that they were the innocent victims of a fascist America.

Horowitz lays out the facts.  And they are damning.  In the end:

 Loyalties reveals the secret of how the progressive left aims to be born again – by erasing the embarrassment of its disreputable past; by hiding the shame of having supported Stalin and Mao and Fidel and Ho and all the terrible purges, murders, and other despicable means that finally served no beneficial ends. The ultimate embarrassment is of having been so stubbornly and perversely on the wrong side of history; of having embraced “solutions” that were morally and politically and economically bankrupt in the great struggles of our time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Newsweek calls Romney a wimp?!

Amazing.  We have a president who looks like a little boy, throws a baseball like a little girl (apologies to all the little girls who can actually throw), bowls like wuss, and hits a golf ball like a pansy.  And Newsweek thinks Romney is a wimp?

Yes, Richard Muller really is that stupid

The credibility of scientists continues to decline. As the general public becomes more familiar with the faulty logic, and bizarre statistical techniques which underlie so much of what passes for "science" today, the logical fallacy of appeal to authority, in the case of scientists, will become more often considered as a rhetorical fallacy.  [You won't be able to convince anyone by citing a scientist once scientists become generally associated with foolishness.]

Richard Muller has distinguished himself previously by the muddled thinking and conflicting prose he published in an op-ed for the NY Times.  Considering what often appears in those pages in the Times, Muller's muddle was especially noteworthy.  Today, he's chosen to double down with another.

More proof that while learning is hard, thinking is harder, and rarely tried.

Family duty calls and the rest will have to wait.

Add --

See Climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. on Muller's mess.  He's right:

In Richard Muller’s Op-Ed in the New York Times (see The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic), he makes far-reaching conclusions based on his sparse knowledge of the uncertainties in multi-decadal land surface temperature record. His comments show what occurs when a scientist, with excellent research credentials within their area of scientific expertise, go outside of their area of knowledge.
His latest BEST claims are, in my view, an embarrassment.

Note -- Pielke is not a skeptic.

2d addition -- Matt Briggs :
 Muller says, as people in his position have long been saying, that he himself, a one-time skeptic, a veritable prodigal son, has settled “the scientific debate.” The fallacy he makes is to say to himself, “I do not know of any flaws in my work, therefore there are none.” Common enough in academia.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How the Hockey Stick was made

Steven Goddard presents a look at all the changes that had to be made to history to create the hockey stick.

The Economist on Scientific Publishing

The Economist magazine:

IF THERE is any endeavour whose fruits should be freely available, that endeavour is surely publicly financed science. Morally, taxpayers who wish to should be able to read about it without further expense. And science advances through cross-fertilisation between projects. Barriers to that exchange slow it down.
There is a widespread feeling that the journal publishers who have mediated this exchange for the past century or more are becoming an impediment to it. One of the latest converts is the British government. On July 16th it announced that, from 2013, the results of taxpayer-financed research would be available, free and online, for anyone to read and redistribute.

The climate science establishment must be sweating bullets.  If this trend toward transparency continues, they may have to provide data, code and methods for public review of their 'studies'.  When people are finally able to check their work, it could get ugly.


American Crossroads looks at the tape.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This has been a test of the emergency brain lock system

Remember when the news came out that Bill Clinton had been having his sexual needs serviced by a young intern in the Oval Office?  Hillary Clinton responded by going on network television for an interview and said that the news stories about the old horn dog getting some on the side were false.  She told the nation that the stories were lies invented by a "vast right-wing conspiracy" for the purpose of bringing down their presidency.  Everyone with enough brains to fill a thimble laughed at the ridiculous effort to deceive the public.  Just one more example of the standard play from the first page of the liberal playbook -- Deny and Defame. (Note -- it's often not sufficient merely to deny the story.  The addition of a defamation of the opponent to deflect attention is customary.)

But an amazing thing happened.  Liberals all over the country, as if on cue, said they believed Hillary and began discussing how awful it was that this vast right-wing conspiracy was trying to damage the nation.  What we witnessed then was a test -- a test of the emergency brain-lock system.

That system has been getting a serious workout lately.  We've seen a number of such tests this year.  Loyal Democrats, working furiously to bale water as the S.S. Obama takes on more and more self-inflicted hits at the water line, have found themselves asked to swallow bigger and bigger whoppers.  The whoppers are so big that they can only be swallowed by those who have voluntarily suspended the use of any and all reasoning faculties.  The most recent, the explanation that Obama didn't really say "you didn't build that", follows just weeks after the effort to magically explain away "the private sector is fine".

The brain-lock required to spout "out of context" as an explanation is beyond the red line and far into the region considered unsafe for most users.  There is a serious risk that users employing this degree of lock down may never be able to regain full use of normal brain function.  I must confess that I am beginning to feel sorry for the people who have found themselves the victims of the emergency system.  Their pathetic bleats of loyalty to The One have to be leaving a bad taste in their mouths.  No one should have to stoop so low.

Yesterday, Obama doubled-down on the use of the system.  Not only is he saying that he didn't say what he said, but he is impugning Romey's sanity for discussing it.

[T]he president slammed his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, accusing him of “knowingly twisting my words around to suggest that I don’t value small business.”
 “When folks just like, omit entire sentences of what you said, they start kind of slicing and dicing… he may have gone a little over the edge there,”

Yes, folks -- this is another test of the emergency brain-lock system.  Users will be asked to tune into their local chapter of the Party for further instructions.

Hansen's Self-Check

Many years ago when I played pickup basketball at a gym or playground, I'd sometimes hear a player derided for his lack of scoring ability with the description "self-check".  That is, he was so bad, no one needed to guard him or 'check' him. 

James Hansen, the political activist posing as a scientist, is in charge of adjusting the US temperature records for NASA GISS.  He's the one responsible for the series of changes which show that temperatures in the past keep getting cooler than originally recorded and recent temperatures keep getting hotter than recorded.  In support of his ongoing crusade to convince the world to cripple its economy, he's come out with another paper preaching gloom and doom.  This sentence is the equivalent of a scientific self-check:

If global warming approaches 3°C by the end of the century, it is estimated that 21-52% of the species on Earth will be committed to extinction.
Really?!  21-52%  Whoa. 

I wonder if that includes Lorenz' butterfly.  My own superduperpooperscooper algorithm computes the likelihood that Hansen's work is full of crap at  99.9% subject to appropriate uncertainty bands.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Teen bats 1 for 200

Scores big with his cancer detector.  Only 1 in 200 professors he presented his work to saw the merit.

News Media -- Corrupt or Incompetent?

It's always a close question.  Lately, the the forces of corruption seem to jumping out to a huge lead.  With a presidential election this fall, I'd say incompetence has little chance of catching up no matter how many points it continues to pile up.

If facts disagree with theory, facts are wrong

Climate sensitivity is the important unknown upon which global warming theory founders most often.  IPCC efforts to buttress the scare have run into serious difficulty.  Facts can be very inconvenient.  One of the establishment's efforts to support the consensus fantasy made me laugh:

The third was a response from Foster et al. (with Mann as senior author).[26]  They plugged Schwarz’ observational findings into GCM GISS-ER, and reproduced his results! So they argued Schwartz’ data were wrong, because “this model is known to exhibit a true equilibrium climate sensitivity of 2.7 C under doubled CO2 conditions.” They then did a similar thing for his time scale parameter using a 14 GCM ensemble. They said, “the estimates of time scale produced by this method are generally unrealistically low in comparison to the known behavior of the models in response to changes in GHG forcing.” They in effect said twice in one comment that the GCM models are trustworthy, and evaluation of 125 years of actual climate observations isn’t. Schwartz’ reply says much: “It is questionable whether measurements should be rejected because they do not agree with models.”
But the models tell the story they want to tell.  They don't need no stinkin' facts.

"We have to talk with Adam"

Ernie Els is a good man.  And he and Adam Scott have more class than most of us can even understand. 

Liberals lie like most people breathe

Krugman calls the first play in the liberal playbook -- lie about the facts and defame the opponent:

Making things much worse, of course, is the role of players who don’t have the best will in the world. Climate change denial is a major industry, lavishly financed by Exxon, the Koch brothers and others with a financial stake in the continued burning of fossil fuels.

The boogey man, the boogey man!

Krugman or Science -- who ya gonna believe?

Roger Pielke, Jr. explains.

Krugman's claims raise an obvious question: Have US droughts actually become more common on climate time scales? Especially US Midwest droughts?

Instead of looking at the musings of a "climate blogger" (as entertaining as that may be) like Krugman does, let's instead look at scientific research that has examined trends in US droughts. A crazy idea, I know. Fortunately, scientists have examined empirical data on the frequency and severity of drought on climate time scales.

The Science?

 [D]roughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, less severe, and cover a smaller portion of the country over the last century.

More perversion of science

The EPA's attack on coal assaults science.

“EPA’s politically appointed leadership believes that the perversion of science is a ‘minor evil’ committed to achieve the ‘greater good’ of ridding the nation of coal-fired power generation. Science may be the first casualty in the EPA’s war on coal, but all of us are its victims.”
- Robert Peltier, “MACT Attack,” POWER, July 2012, p. 6.
Robert Peltier is no ordinary participant in today’s important energy debates. He is editor-in-chief of POWER magazine, which covers all technologies relating to electricity. He is a professional engineer with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Peltier in a previous life was a tenured professor. He has worked in manufacturing and for a public utility. And before that, he was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy.
It is his job to study the technological possibilities with an eye to competitive viability in electric generation.

Urban Heat Island -- easy comparison

Arizona cities, Phoenix and Maricopa, show a graphical tale that is so simple to understand.  The wizards of the climate science guild, however, work exceptionally hard to avoid understanding. 

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"-- Upton Sinclair

Revenge of the Sociologists

Andrew Ferguson details the travails of an academic whose research made the politically correct angry.  The viciousness reminds one of the nastiness Bjorn Lomborg had to deal with after the The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Voice of Golf

Peter Alliss is presently doing commentary on ESPN for the British Open.  He really is the voice of golf. He's 83 and he has full license to comment on how the game has changed.  Every other person on the broadcast defers to him and the respect and admiration is obvious in their voices.

And he's so damn funny in his understated Brit way.  The camera showed a view of a boat on a sea and the American announcer asked him if he enjoyed boating.  "Oh no, I get seasick on a wet lawn."

Diversity Analysis for Children's Books

This is just sad.  I was looking for ideas for children's books and came across a list someone had prepared. I'm not going to identify who or where because it's the notion not the person that needs to be highlighted.  After compiling a top 100 list, the compiler wrote:
I’ll definitely do a diversity analysis. I was certainly pleased to see at least a slight increase in author/illustrators of color (Freight Train didn’t make the list last time) but there is huge room for improvement here, particularly when we talk about recent books.
Sadly, we seem to keep moving farther and farther from Martin Luther King's vision of a day when no cares about color.  Children's picture books?!  When people buy or read a picture book to a child with illustrations of bunnies or cats or talking teddy bears, the color or sex of the author or illustrator is irrelevant.  It should be irrelevant.

My kids don't care if the music they listen to is disproportionately made by minorities.  Same for their list of favorite basketball or football players.  They don't have the first clue about the color or sex of those who wrote or illustrated their favorite books.  And I'm glad.  Their neighborhood and school friends come in a variety of colors and backgrounds -- because we work at ignoring differences that don't matter. 

I can't see how focusing on those differences will ever help society get to a place where no one focuses on those differences.

"Some mythical agreement that nobody saw, much less signed"

Thomas Sowell nails Obamanian class warfare and the Elizabeth Warren rant.  We once admired achievement, hard work and perseverance.

Somewhere along the way, all that changed. Today, the very concept of achievement is de-emphasized and sometimes attacked. Following in the footsteps of Barack Obama, Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard has made the downgrading of high achievers the centerpiece of her election campaign against Senator Scott Brown.
To cheering audiences, Professor Warren says, “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You build a factory out there, good for you, but I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers that the rest of us paid to educate.”

Do the people who cheer this kind of talk bother to stop and think through what she is saying?
Demonizing success is especially dishonest at a time when high earners bear the largest share of the tax burden ever.
At a time when a small fraction of high-income taxpayers pay the vast majority of all the taxes collected, it is sheer chutzpah to depict high-income earners as somehow subsidized by “the rest of us,” whether through paying for the building of roads or the educating of the young.  Since everybody else uses the roads and the schools, why should high achievers be expected to feel like freeloaders who owe still more to the government, because schools and roads are among the things that facilitate their work? According to Elizabeth Warren, it’s because it is part of an “underlying social contract.
And here's the kicker:
 Conjuring up some mythical agreement that nobody saw, much less signed, is an old ploy of the Left...Whatever policy [they]  happened to favor was magically transformed by rhetoric into a “promise” that American society was supposed to have made — and, implicitly, that American taxpayers should be forced to pay for.

The Life of Julia

Iowahawk version.

Modern News Defined

Writing about the Zimmerman case and 'stand your ground', Glenn Reynolds wrote:

"just a lefty talking point aimed at exploiting a tragedy for political gain. As usual."

Sounds like a pretty good definition of news these days.  Especially in a political campaign that the left could lose.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Keynesian Economics


Climate Scientists -- stuck on stupid

Ten of the usual suspects rounded themselves up to publish a really stupid letter. Dumb.  They ask that the climate impact of the Canadian tar sands oil be evaluated as part of the Keystone XL Pipeline evaluation.  But the Canadians are going to extract the oil regardless of the pipeline.  The only climate impact of the pipeline, even if one accepted the bizarre global warming theory at face value, will be to cut down on the fuel that would be used by tankers shipping it to China if the pipeline isn't built.

Rep. Ryan on Obama's left-wing ideology

Paul Ryan is right.

Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures. His comments seem to derive from a naive vision of a government-centered society and a government-directed economy. It stems from an idea that the nucleus of society and the economy is government not the people. … It is antithetical to the American idea.

"When everything is a racial slur, nothing is a racial slur"

 Quote from Glenn Reynolds.

Taranto nails it. Read it.  All.  Hard to pull part for quotation because it's all good.

And the sum:
This column has argued that the Obama presidency poses a deep political and psychological challenge to the Democratic left, which relies on the perception that racism remains prevalent in America, and that the GOP is racist, both to motivate black voters and to maintain its own self-identity as morally superior. That explains the desperate need to stereotype Obama critics, and conservatives more generally, as racist.

I would add that another big factor, other than motivating black voters, is to smear the GOP so badly that voters on the fence who are convinced that the liberal 'blue' model is broken  won't be comfortable voting for candidates that have been depicted as evil haters.

Commercial Headaches

There are some television ads which are so bad they make my head hurt.  I've written before about the Exxon Mobil ads which moan about our poor performance in math and science and how we can solve everything if we just gave more money to our teachers.  Beside the pretty blatant reason for the ads (buy off the teachers unions which fund the left's power base in the Democratic Party in order to take the target off the company as the poster boy of evil global warming), the ads make an argument that isn't supported by the evidence of history.  We've poured massive infusions of cash into K-12 education of the last half century without any increase in performance.  Washington DC spends 29 grand per year per student and can't seem to find a way to teach a lot of their students to read.

But there's a new ad campaign that just makes my skin crawl -- the Chevy Volt.  The Volt is so expensive that almost no one who buys one can justify the price tag on the basis of fuel savings.  Yet, we get to see a parade of happy customers gushing about saving money at the gas pump.  One even plans to pay for a vacation with the savings!  A quick google to find a video of a typical ad turned up this story in Adweek which includes a number of the ads.

The ads make as much sense as the proud homeowner who paid $50,000 to install some solar panels so that he can save $1000 a year on his electric bill.

Final note -- there's one ad featuring a Volt owner who feels so good about himself because kids give him a thumbs up when he drives by.  Really.   I have three kids.  I can actually imagine one of them giving a thumbs up to a car driving by -- to the guy who lives somewhere around here and drives a Lamborghini.  We've see him gassing it up a few times at the nearby convenience store and driving down a local road.  A thumbs up for a Volt?!  Umm, not so much.

And then you have to wonder about anyone who feels good about himself because kids give him a thumbs up for his car ....

My headache is returning.

See Also -- even at 41 grand for a car worth 17 grand plus a battery it's losing money for GM.

Obama' Panic

He's shot his wad. Outspending Romney 4 to 1 with over $100 million for vicious, slanderous attack ads didn't work. 

So the Obama team has shot its wad. Its opponent has more ammo and more money now. Romney hasn’t been mortally wounded. And there isn’t money from Obama to keep up the 4-to-1 spending barrage. In fact without it, Obama might well have fallen behind in the race. So the Obama team pleads for money and turns up the volume of the attacks. (After calling Romney a criminal in July, what’s left for September and October?)
Obama is now committed to a strategy that isn’t working. He’s left to unleash his attack dogs and to pray for a miracle. Maybe the economy will rebound. Perhaps Romney will implode or pick a Sarah-Palin-type for vice president.
The reason, you see, that Obama’s camp has become so frantic in July is that its ineffectiveness in the summer subjects its side to grave risks. Having to defend his record, rely on his debate prowess and be evaluated on the economy over the last three years is as risky as, well, as sending thousands across a vast, empty field as enemy fire rains down upon them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Even Alarmists are getting alarmed about the bad science

Taking apart the bogus claim that Texas heat waves are now twenty times more likely.  They realize their credibility is shredding.

Goldman Sachs -- corrupt to the core?

This story provides us with another example of the rot inside Goldman Sachs.  The firm's general attitude seems to be that everyone they deal with is simply a sucker to be ripped off.  I suspect that the lack of ethics inside the firm is so pervasive that it must be like a moral sewer -- they swim in the stench every day to the point where they can no longer discern what stinks.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Libya and the law of unintended consequences

Obama went to war in Libya without consulting the US Congress or the UN.  The consequences of his Libyan war are being felt all over Africa.  Ross Douhat provides a glimpse at the consequences rippling over the continent.

Record Temps? Only if you 'adjust' them.

Steven Goddard notes that the temperatures being reported have no relationship to the ones being recorded.  The cheating and corruption is off the charts.

edit -- more here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thinking is so hard

Who knew a healthcare bureaucracy could be like the DMV?!  Some people are ignorant.  Some people are stupid.  And some people are both.

Exalted Moral Standards of California Elites

Mead adds his comments to Joel Kotkin's story on dysfunctional California, home to 5 of the 12 largest oil fields in the nation, but refusing to partake in the great economic boom times:

California’s dysfunctional alliance between suburban greens urban machines has killed what could and should have been a boom, writes Joel Kotkin at The Daily Beast. As part of a large piece about the political danger to the Democrats that comes from fighting the transformational “brown jobs” boom, Kotkin points out that Californians are turning their backs on a bonanza.
 Destroying the economic hopes of low income people in order to stoke the self esteem of entitled Boomers is not Via Meadia’s idea of progressive politics, but that just goes to show how backwards we are by the exalted moral standards of the California elites.
 The destruction of California isn’t a victimless crime. Millions of low income California residents are trapped in decaying cities where, thanks in large part to narcissistic green unicorn chasers, the manufacturing base has withered away.
(emphasis added)

Teachers Unions -- the Ultimate Political Machine

Teachers unions are the most power special interest group in America.  Walter Russell Mead explains:
At first glance, today’s Wall Street Journal piece on teachers donating vast sums of money to outside political groups hardly comes as a surprise. Unions in both the public and private sectors are well known for organizing and donating money to favored candidates and political groups.
Yet some of these donations appear to go beyond what would be expected from a union’s lobbying arm. In addition to the expected donations to Democratic politicians and labor groups in which the unions have a clear interest, union money is also going to groups with more of a social agenda, including gay rights activists and other civil-rights organizations:

It's all about pushing a left-wing agenda.  Even when the money seems very far removed from the concerns of teachers.

 the role of the public sector unions in political donations is key to understanding the functioning of the modern American Left. The deep pockets of teachers unions and other public sector unions provide the financial infrastructure that keeps the Left in business. It’s the ultimate political machine.

Now THIS is depressing

This was even more depressing to read than Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in the Obamacare fiasco.  Some of the pain:

Why do moms in my generation regress, whether by drugging, cheating, or going out too late and too often?
My new novel, Motherland, is about five New York City parents who act out mid-life through adultery, marijuana or Grindr. The characters are inspired by my neighbors, who seek liberation not through consciousness-raising and EST the way their mothers did, but through Fifty Shades of Grey and body shots. They arrive home from girls' nights at three a.m. on a weeknight and then complain about hangovers at school dropoff. (And this regression is not confined to upscale neighborhoods in New York City—I hear similar stories from friends in Los Feliz, Montclair and Rye.) In flux, jaded by parenthood, confused about work and life, mothers are bored. So we rebel, just like bored adolescents—except adolescents, at least, can say they are acting their age.

Sounds like a whole lot of people who never learned what real happiness is about.  When you travel through life without a road map, you tend to get lost a lot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thanks, Jimmah

Government fail.

Putin -- West is washed up

Obama pal, Vladimir Putin the quasi-dictator of Russia, has told his ambassadors the west is all washed up.

Unions -- the really BIG money in politics

Kyle Smith at Forbes "If Big Money in Politics Offends You, Then You Must Loathe Labor Unions".

Corporate money in politics tends to be about equal between the parties.  It mostly cancels itself out.  Union money and foot soldiers, however, own/are owned by the Democrats.  And it is huge.  It dominates American politics to the tune of $4.4 billion over the last 6 years.

Robert G Brown and John Nielson-Gammon

John Nielson-Gammon, a climate scientist at Texas A&M, and Robert G. Brown, a physicist at Duke, have a discussion prompted by RGB's comment at WUWT in which he outlines all the uncertainties in current consensus climate science.  JNG is in the process of posting their exchange in 6 parts.  Today's is #3.

Read it all.  My impression -- both recognize the vastness of our ignorance in understanding climate.  Brown makes the case that there is no possible way that we can even begin to claim any understanding of the supposed impact of marginal increases in CO2.  The climate scientist, however, seems very unwilling to confess that his field is too much in its infancy to draw any conclusions.  Mencken's observation seems apt -- " It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."  Or his self-esteem, etc.

It's Alarmists who sow confusion on global warming

Robert Murphy at Master Resource does a good job of showing how alarmists are sowing confusion in the minds of the public.  First, he shows how economic studies are misrepresented in op-eds.  Then he notes that statistical methods re: confidence levels are used in a climate science in a way that is backwards of what a typical reader would understand.

A long post, but worth the read for people who with an interest in the debate.  The alarmists sow confusion with misrepresentations at a rate that would make even Obama proud.  They make Bill Clinton look like an amateur and he used to be considered the champ.

How temperature records get 'adjusted' to show warming trend

Steve Goddard has a blink comparison.  Note the changes from the actually recorded numbers to the 'adjusted' numbers.

Scientists show Roman and Medieval Warm Periods Hotter than Today

Gutenberg University:

researchers have been able for the first time to precisely demonstrate that the long-term trend over the past two millennia has been towards climatic cooling. "We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low," says Esper. "Such findings are also significant with regard to climate policy, as they will influence the way today's climate changes are seen in context of historical warm periods." The new study has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Why are govt donations so small?

Everyone knows that government is so inefficient.  Bryan Caplan has some thoughts.

Megan McArdle's classic on unintended consequences (gay marriage, welfare, income tax, etc)

The original at Jane Galt shows that the account is suspended.  This has been copied from HispanicPundit's comment (found thru googling).  Just copying it so I can find it in the future.  Great stuff to know, regardless of one's position on any of the issues she cites. http://hispanicpundit.com/2009/05/26/the-cultural-argument-against-gay-marriage/

Social conservatives of a more moderate stripe are essentially saying that marriage is an ancient institution, which has been carefully selected for throughout human history. It is a bedrock of our society; if it is destroyed, we will all be much worse off. (See what happened to the inner cities between 1960 and 1990 if you do not believe this.) For some reason, marriage always and everywhere, in every culture we know about, is between a man and a woman; this seems to be an important feature of the institution. We should not go mucking around and changing this extremely important institution, because if we make a bad change, the institution will fall apart.

To which, again, the other side replies “That’s ridiculous! I would never change my willingness to get married based on whether or not gay people were getting married!”
Now, economists hear this sort of argument all the time. “That’s ridiculous! I would never start working fewer hours because my taxes went up!” This ignores the fact that you may not be the marginal case. The marginal case may be some consultant who just can’t justify sacrificing valuable leisure for a new project when he’s only making 60 cents on the dollar. The result will nonetheless be the same: less economic activity. Similarly, you–highly educated, firmly socialised, upper middle class you–may not be the marginal marriage candidate; it may be some high school dropout in Tuscaloosa. That doesn’t mean that the institution of marriage won’t be weakened in America just the same.

The limits of your imagination are not the limits of reality. Every government programme that libertarians have argued against has been defended at its inception with exactly this argument.
When the income tax was initially being debated, there was a suggestion to put in a mandatory cap; I believe the level was 10 percent.
Don’t be ridiculous, the Senator’s colleagues told him. Americans would never allow an income tax rate as high as ten percent. They would revolt! It is an outrage to even suggest it!
Many actually fought the cap on the grounds that it would encourage taxes to grow too high, towards the cap. The American people, they asserted, could be well counted on to keep income taxes in the range of a few percentage points.
Another example is welfare. To sketch a brief history of welfare, it emerged in the nineteenth century as “Widows and orphans pensions”, which were paid by the state to destitute families whose breadwinner had passed away. They were often not available to blacks; they were never available to unwed mothers…
Now, in the late fifties, a debate began over whether to extend benefits to the unmarried. It was unfair to stigmatise unwed mothers. Why shouldn’t they be able to avail themselves of the benefits available to other citizens? The brutal societal prejudice against illegitimacy was old fashioned, bigoted, irrational.
But if you give unmarried mothers money, said the critics, you will get more unmarried mothers.
Ridiculous, said the proponents of the change. Being an unmarried mother is a brutal, thankless task. What kind of idiot would have a baby out of wedlock just because the state was willing to give her paltry welfare benefits?
People do all sorts of idiotic things, said the critics. If you pay for something, you usually get more of it.
C’mon said the activists. That’s just silly. I just can’t imagine anyone deciding to get pregnant out of wedlock simply because there are welfare benefits available.
Of course, change didn’t happen overnight. But the marginal cases did have children out of wedlock, which made it more acceptable for the next marginal case to do so. Meanwhile, women who wanted to get married essentially found themselves in competition for young men with women who were willing to have sex, and bear children, without forcing the men to take any responsibility. This is a pretty attractive proposition for most young men. So despite the fact that the sixties brought us the biggest advance in birth control ever, illegitimacy exploded. In the early 1960s, a black illegitimacy rate of roughly 25 percent caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to write a tract warning of a crisis in “the negro family” (a tract for which he was eviscerated by many of those selfsame activists.)
By 1990, that rate was over 70 percent. This, despite the fact that the inner city, where the illegitimacy problem was biggest, only accounts for a fraction of the black population.
Marriage matters. It is better for the kids; it is better for the adults raising those kids; and it is better for the childless people in the communities where those kids and adults live. Marriage reduces poverty, improves kids outcomes in all measurable ways, makes men live longer and both spouses happier. Marriage, it turns out, is an incredibly important institution. It also turns out to be a lot more fragile than we thought back then. It looked, to those extremely smart and well-meaning welfare reformers, practically unshakeable; the idea that it could be undone by something as simple as enabling women to have children without husbands, seemed ludicrous. Its cultural underpinnings were far too firm. Why would a woman choose such a hard road? It seemed self-evident that the only unwed mothers claiming benefits would be the ones pushed there by terrible circumstance.
This argument is compelling and logical. I would never become an unwed welfare mother, even if benefits were a great deal higher than they are now. It seems crazy to even suggest that one would bear a child out of wedlock for $567 a month. Indeed, to this day, I find the reformist side much more persuasive than the conservative side, except for one thing, which is that the conservatives turned out to be right. In fact, they turned out to be even more right than they suspected; they were predicting upticks in illegitimacy that were much more modest than what actually occurred–they expected marriage rates to suffer, not collapse.
How did people go so badly wrong? Well, to start with, they fell into the basic fallacy that economists are so well acquainted with: they thought about themselves instead of the marginal case. For another, they completely failed to realise that each additional illegitimate birth would, in effect, slightly destigmatise the next one.
 She goes on to give several more examples of where the marginal case turned out to be, generations later, the normal case. I would quote more but its a really long post. If you want to really understand the cultural argument against gay marriage, I strongly recommend reading the post in full, it can be found here (she also gives other more relevant cultural examples, again, highly recommended).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The stupidest man alive

David Karoly may be the stupidest man alive.  He's a scientist (allegedly) and he has written a book review of Michael Mann's latest fevered rants.  The whole review is a testament to the man's remarkable ignorance.  But the key graph is a doozy:
Unfortunately, the frightening aspects of this story are the details of the Climate Wars, of the repeated attacks on Mann’s research by climate change confusionists. Commentators with no scientific expertise, ranging from politicians such as Republican congressman Joe Barton from Texas, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, or Republican Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma, to blog writers Stephen McIntyre and Marc Morano, have repeatedly promulgated misinformation and sought to launch formal investigations into Mann’s research, claiming professional misconduct or worse, even though it had been peer reviewed and confirmed by other scientists. They found a group of media reporters and commentators ready to repeat these claims without question and to amplify them. The blogosphere and some media outlets can be very effective echo chambers for communicating misinformation.
(my emphasis).

In the last month, McIntyre and his friends have demonstrated that Karoly's latest supposed study is a badly flawed mess.  As a result, Karoly withdrew his study until he and his friends can figure out some way to salvage something from it.

McIntyre has been published in academic journals several times.  His analyses have consistently demonstrated that the climate scientists who call themselves the hockey team are statistical butchers.  Statisticians have upheld his work and confirmed that the hockey team has been wrong.

Having read work by both Karoly and McIntyre, I have no doubt that Steve Mc is substantially more intelligent and has a far better grasp on the both the science and the stats.  By calling out McIntyre, I suspect that Karoly will find his work dissected and exposed to the entire world.  Bad move.  Really, really bad move.  He just tugged on the wrong cape.  When the cutting is complete, all that is likely to be left that isn't bloody will be the soles of his feet.

Edit -- I just read through the review again.  If it is possible, David Karoly may even be a bigger liar than Michael Mann.  Stupid, ignorant and dishonest is no way to go through life.

The "truth" is too important to be limited by facts

Jack Cashill on why Obama's lies in his autobiography, like so many others, are harmful to the country and our progress as a society.

One note -- he reminds us that:

The Associated Press alone assigned eleven reporters to fact-check her memoir, Going Rogue on the suspicion that she would be a presidential candidate in 2012.  By contrast, not a single mainstream journalist -- not one -- fact-checked Dreams before Maraniss in 2012, and even he pulled his punches. 
 No need to find out the truth about someone who is president.  Just evil Republicans who might run.

5 Logical Fallacies

More reasons why experts are wrong (along with everyone else).  See also Daniel Kahneman , West, Stanovich, Meserve , Philip Tetlock, and generally Future Babble.

Obamanomics 101

I was doing great 'til that pole jumped in front of the car

The Govt-Climate Complex

Eisenhower warned us about the potential problems of the military-industrial complex.  Government-funded science has brought us a Government-Cimate complex.

Since climate is intrinsically important, this situation reflects deeply on the present practice of science generally, and on its interaction with government policy agendas in many other areas. Grant money flows to consensus research in a closed loop system, as Dr. Paltridge pointed out in his article “Science held hostage in climate debate” recently posted on Climate Etc. The scarier the finding, the more money flows. That incentive reinforces the closed loop. There becomes less to gain, and more to lose, by scientifically challenging the consensus even though portions of it are not backed by replicated observations.
This is deeply concerning. It is an alternative form of what President Eisenhower warned about in his last speech before leaving office. Instead of a military-industrial complex, we have a UN sponsored, agenda rich government-climate research complex seeking to reorder the world.
(emphasis added).

The examples in climate science are endless.  The author points to a quote from one global warming activist that the issue isn't really about the environment, but rather using the supposed crisis to accomplish other political and social goals.  There are numerous such quotes out there (see e.g. former US Senator Tim Wirth's, or UN founder of the IPCC Maurice Strong and others here)

He finishes:

 True climate science has been ‘taken hostage’ by the government-research complex for political and personal agendas. We need to take it back.

Global Warming's unfounded tipping point theory

There are number of good explanations of this point available around the web.  Warren Meyer at Climate-skeptic.com has several good efforts (just look to past favorites on the right margin of his blog).  But Greenie Watch has a short sweet summary:

The earth appears to have been warming very slowly for the last 150 years. The temperature rise over that period (less than one degree Celsius) is so slight, however, that projecting it forward for another 100 years gives no cause for alarm

So what is an alarmist going to do in that case? They predict a DEPARTURE from the existing trend due to a "tipping point". But what could cause a "tip"? Their theory is that clouds warm the earth and that an accumulation of clouds as warming proceeds on its gentle way will eventually start a positive feedback cycle, where warming causes more warming.

Now isn't that a simple explanation of Warmism? All the blather boils down to that one paragraph above. But you can see the crucial point: Do clouds really warm the earth? Amazingly enough, Warmists just assume it. They have no proof of the most critical point in their theory. And what evidence on the matter that is available so far suggests the opposite: Clouds COOL the earth. And more evidence has just become available -- and it appears in a very prestigious peer-reviewed journal:
(emphasis added)

Regardless of how many scientists you stack end to end to opine about their assumptions, without evidence there is no science.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Enumerated vs. Assumed Powers

Briggs has this:

“For who are a free people? Not those, over whom government is reasonably and equitably exercised, but those, who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controuled, that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised.” —John Dickinson, Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1768).

The Obama Derecho

Matthew Continetti provides an outline of the massive damage caused by Obama and his liberal friends.  Government takeover of private businesses, the stimulus fail, the harmful energy regulations and the fear of cap and trade, the healthcare monster, and the Dodd-Frank financial train wreck -- the body blows just kept hammering on.

Kaus on Obama

Mickey asks a question that seems to haunt Obama on so many different subjects.  This could be asked of his shovel-ready pledge for the stimulus:

Here’s a nagging question Obama chronicler Jonathan Alter may be able to answer: In his 2011 State of the Union address,  Obama laid out a plan to have “a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015,” a goal that now looks increasingly unrealistic insane. Did Obama know the million-EV goal was BS when he announced it? Was he misled by advisers? If the latter, have any suffered adverse consequences ?  Was he too inexperienced to know the extent to which bureaucracies tend to tell the boss what he wants to hear, even if it’s a fantasy? Or did he not care?

Robert Samuelson smacks his forehead

And it wasn't about V-8 juice.  It seems maybe Keynes was wrong.  Ya think?!  First clue, economic growth is not spurred by manipulating flows of cash.  It comes from increases in productivity.  Government shoveling money out the door with no concern for what or how it is spent doesn't increase productivity.  It harms it. QED

When Rolling Stone is more serious than the press

How incompetent and corrupt is America's news media?  Even Rolling Stone has a better grasp on the enormity of the emerging Wall Street financial scandals.  The latest is LIBOR price-fixing.  This is a big deal.  Wall Street is clearly rotten to the core.  Probably as rotten as DC (if that is possible).  Where's the outrage?  Probably the same place as the outrage Bob Dole wondered about.  If the scandal doesn't hurt Republicans somehow, our nation's news media just isn't interested.

Edit -- For lots more detail on the scandal and the background for LIBOR see this from the Economist .

Yes, it really is that messed up

Washington D.C. "Read the whole thing and consider with what little wisdom the world is governed."

Why it is harder to hire people

At Zerohedge a guest post on the difficulties of hiring new workers.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Economic Efficiency not Energy Efficiency

Master Resource highlights a point that should be repeated early and often:

Energy efficiency and energy savings are considered to be intrinsically good. Politicians of all stripes sing the praises of less-is-more. Only one problem: this view is simplistic and wrong from the economic point of view.
 [I]f using less energy, or more accurately, spending less money on energy, meant that the person had to invest in other equipment whose cost more than offset the savings, then even though energy efficiency might be enhanced, economic efficiency would be reduced. If the opposite were the case, mandates and special incentives programs would not have to be put in place to promote energy efficiency.
But the government uses all kinds of mandates and tax incentives because it believes that people are too stupid to make the "right" choices.  

Bizarre Wash Post Poll

The Wash Post op-ed section has a poll up (it was a sidebar to this column by Charles Krauthammer today 7/6):

Do we rely too much on the Founders to settle our policy arguments?

I've never heard anyone rely on the Founders in a policy argument.  I've heard people rely on the Constitution when arguing whether something is legally permissible.  But I've never heard someone say e.g. "Our taxes should be such and such a percentage of income because that's what George Washington believed."  And if someone has made that kind of argument, I certainly can't remember any time when it "settled" the argument.

Strange.  Really strange.

Interesting science hoax

I'm not sure this hoax says as much as the perps think it does.  But it does make one wonder why the science students were so quick to believe the very worst about the fictional corporation. Or perhaps we don't wonder, but merely take note.

The more they focus, the less they see

Various sages, pundits, critics and commentators have weighed in recently to explain what Mitt Romney is doing wrong as he campaigns for the presidential election in November.  Apparently he needs to stress certain of the president's many shortcomings more strongly or less strongly, or broaden his message to argue more about some other item on the agenda.  Or less.  He supposedly made a huge mistake when one of his aides used the word 'mandate' instead of 'tax' after the Supreme Court's recent Obamacare decision. Perhaps I am showing my ignorance, but it all sounds like a group of fans at a football game during the first offensive series of the game complaining that the quarterback should have audibled to a draw play instead of a sweep. 

I'm not a campaign guru.  I pay a lot more attention to politics than the average voter, but I don't pretend to be knowledgeable about the fine points of campaign ads, focus groups, polling, etc.  I do, however, know something about making a case and the importance of focusing on a central theme and a few key points in order to convince an audience.  As a lawyer in a jury trial, I found it best to conduct the entire trial with an idea of the theme I was going to stress in closing argument that I wanted the jury to focus on when it went back to deliberate for a verdict.  Jurors aren't dumb.  If you make a solid case, boil the evidence down to the key issue or two and show them how it fits (sometimes like a glove) your central theory of the case, they get it. Trying to get them to focus on a dozen different arguments is a recipe for guaranteed confusion and disaster.

I have to think that a political campaign has some similarity to a jury trial, except voters pay less attention than jurors.  While contingency plans have to be ready if unforeseen developments occur, it's best to figure out what the main theme is going to be and keep the focus there.  The odds of success increase dramatically if the theme resonates with the audience and most of the evidence can be shown to buttress the argument.  Throughout the trial, stay focused on the theme of the closing argument and tailor the presentation of the evidence to support that argument.

So what has that to do with the critics during the first week of July some four months before the election?  Everything.

The voters who will decide the election in November aren't even paying attention yet.  That's why polls are meaningless.  Asking people to make a decision today in response to a phone call is not something the undecided voter is doing today.  The undecided voter doesn't assess his position relative to the two candidates every week.  Right now, he's not even thinking about it.  He's too busy having a life. 

Political pros know that 90% of the voters or more knew who they were going to vote for before the campaign ever started.  A mere 5% of the voters (perhaps less) are really undecided.  Everything a candidate does in a campaign needs to work toward one of two goals: A) inspire his supporters to make sure they vote, or B) convince a majority of the undecided to vote for him or against the opponent.  That's it.  I recognize that the two goals may be at odds with each other at times, but not in July.  Because in July, the undecided voter isn't paying attention.  He or she is hearing the news sometimes and picking up an item or two, but that's about it.  I would not be surprised at all if the typical undecided voter right now has heard about the Obamacare decision by SCOTUS and may have heard something about Obama's statement about the private sector doing fine.  Maybe.  Clearly, he's going to hear a lot about both before the election in November.  But Romney doesn't need to make the point to him in July.  Romney doesn't need to make any point to him in July.

Romney will have a successful summer as long as he: 1) assures his base that he will fight back against scurrilous charges from Obama. They need to know that he's in it to win it.  And 2) presents himself to the undecided voter as a competent, likable enough person -- someone they could see in the White House doing a good job.  He can accomplish both by staying on the path he's on -- focusing on the theme that Obama is a failure and presenting himself as an intelligent, competent man with a life story of success.  That's it.  In fact, trying to do much more than that would be foolish.

The details don't matter right now.  They won't matter much in October.  What will matter in October, more than anything, is that Romney present himself as competent in whatever debate(s) he has with Obama.  Tax vs. mandate won't ever matter.  Romney will make the case that Obama is a failure.  That's all the undecided voter will hear and certainly all he will focus upon.  The choice of details won't decide the election.  And given the enormous mountain of evidence that Obama has provided him to use, it really doesn't matter which details he chooses to stress.

He just needs to stay on theme and see the big picture.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Camo failure about more than the $5 Billion

This is stupid on steroids:

"The Army designed a universal uniform that universally failed in every environment,”
 The fact that the government spent $5 billion on a camouflage design that actually made its soldiers more visible — and then took eight years to correct the problem — has also left people in the camouflage industry incensed.
  The consensus among the researchers was the Army brass had watched the Marine Corps don their new uniforms and caught a case of pixilated camouflage envy. “It was trendy,” Stewardson said. “If it’s good enough for the Marines, why shouldn’t the Army have that same cool new look?”

Obama's fraudulent Social Security Number

A number of different people have written about the problem of the president's social security number.  This private investigator says there is no way Obama as a teen living in Hawaii would have been issued a Connecticut SS # in the late 70s when his number was issued.

What does it mean?  I have no idea.  I don't know what the facts are.  But I do know that the mere allegation is enough that the news media would be in full bloodhound mode baying and racing after the scent if it had been made against a Republican presidential candidate.

If there is a perfectly innocent explanation, the president owes it the American public to tell us what it is.  And the job of the news media is to make sure that whatever he tells us is more accurate than the fictional autobiography he's given us so far.

Don't hold your breath, though.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"The spawn of vile political beasts"

Quin Hillyer explains how the nasty porridge that is Obamacare came to be.

Looking just at the convoluted machinations that got the bill through Congress, it should be clear to anyone with a shred of intellectual integrity that major overhauls of the US economy should not be undertaken this way.  The law is an abomination from start to finish.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Painful Crisis on the Horizon

Blackstone's Byron Wien has some sobering thoughts from a discussion with someone he calls "the smartest man in the world".  Frankly, I don't think it takes a whole lot of brilliance to see what he sees ahead.  Debt is out of control and pain is coming.  But this line gets attention:

Human beings and governments have an unlimited imagination and they will use it to delay the day of reckoning.  In the longer term the crisis may turn out to be a good thing because the pain of what we are about to go through will prevent it from ever happening again.

I'm not sure there is ever enough pain to keep future generations from having to learn the lessons again, but his point is made.  It's gonna get ugly.

Read it all.

Fred Thompson talks some sense

Imagine how much better off the US and the world would be if Fred Thompson had been president the past 3 and 1/2 years.  In this piece, he hits all the right notes in discussing what Justice Roberts did and what it all means.  So many of the cheerleaders have gotten it wrong on both sides of the political divide:

 There may be some truth to all or part of this speculation. The problem is that none of these considerations are an appropriate basis for deciding a lawsuit. Cases are still supposed to be decided upon the law and the facts before the court. This may seem a mundane point in a discussion involving institutional and national salvation, but it’s true nevertheless.
 The desire to find a Reagan-like pony in all of this has caused some of my conservative friends to see one where none exists. In fact, many pessimistic liberals and optimistic conservatives have one thing in common: the view that somehow the opinion places new limitations on the use of the Commerce Clause, because it was deemed not applicable in Sebelius. They also think that the decision substantially restricts the conditions that the federal government can place on states regarding programs partially funded by the federal government. Unfortunately, in my view, both of these beliefs are wrong.

the political Left has no need for concern that this decision has done anything to diminish the federal government’s ability to call the shots if a state decides to take federal money.
So we are left with no silver linings and one major concern for the future that goes beyond Obamacare. It seems that, after this Court decision, while the government cannot make you buy broccoli under the Commerce Clause, it can tax you if you don’t.
And finally, he makes a point that so many have gotten so wrong:

 some optimists say that, since the Court relied upon the government’s taxing power, we are protected as a practical matter, since Congress would always be reluctant to pass a huge new tax. However, in the future Congress can insist it’s not a tax, just as it did this time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Did left-wing justices leak to put pressure on Roberts?

Or one of their clerks?  It wouldn't be a first.  Felix Frankfurter used to have a very close back channel relationship with FDR after he became a member of the Court.

Stewart Baker connects the dots:

I wonder whether word of the Chief Justice’s wobbliness leaked. 

I remember defenders of the law conducting what seemed like a weirdly belated public lobbying campaign on the Chief Justice.  For example, here’s CNN reporting on a Senator Leahy speech on May 14:
In a floor speech Monday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, directly addressed Chief Justice John Roberts, urging him in a sharply partisan tone to keep the law, passed in 2010, in place.
“I trust that he will be a chief justice for all of us and that he has a strong institutional sense of the proper role of the judicial branch,” said Leahy. “The conservative activism of recent years has not been good for the court. Given the ideological challenge to the Affordable Care Act and the extensive, supportive precedent, it would be extraordinary for the Supreme Court not to defer to Congress in this matter that so clearly affects interstate commerce.”
It is unusual for a member of Congress to tell the high court how it should vote on a case during the weeks that the justices are crafting their opinion. Oral arguments were held in late March, and the court has been quietly working behind the scenes. An opinion is expected by late June. The Vermont Democrat attended the three-day oral arguments at the Supreme Court.
CNN was underplaying how unusual it is for a member of Congress to make such statements. That’s because such statements are usually stupid, and particularly so when delivered weeks after the argument, with the Justices’ votes already cast.

Why, I wondered at the time, would the chair of the Judiciary Committee risk the appearance of trying to harshly strongarm the Court when his remarks wouldn’t make the slightest difference?

Equally weird was the senator’s focus on the Chief Justice at a time when most Court-watchers still expected Justice Kennedy to play his traditional swing-vote role. But Senatory Leahy’s remarks don’t even mention Justice Kennedy.  Instead, he zeroes in on the Chief, offering only the thinnest of justifications; here’s how his remarks begin:
I was fortunate to be able to attend the argument before the United States Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the provision in the Affordable Care Act providing that individuals should take personal responsibility for paying for their health care by obtaining health insurance, or pay a fine.  There was a good deal of instant analysis from commentators after the argument, including their predictions for how the Court will rule.  I have not seen much devoted to the Chief Justice’s role. 
That’s it.  The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee has not seen much commentary devoted to the Chief Justice’s role in the healthcare case, so he decides to give a speech that reads like like it was written for an audience of one.  It offers flattery and it offers threats, all of them personalized to appeal to Chief Justice Roberts alone.

Again, I wondered, why would defenders of the law be personalizing their focus so aggressively and harshly on a man more likely to be the sixth than the fifth vote for their side?

Now, though, CBS News tells us that the Chief Justice was the defenders’ only hope for a fifth vote — and one that started looking “gettable” right around the time of Senator Leahy’s remarks.  Suddenly, the Senator’s remarks look a lot less foolhardy.  In fact, they look like a miraculously prescient and well-timed gamble.

So well-timed and prescient a gamble that I can’t help wondering whether it was a gamble at all.

I’d like to be wrong. A leak about Court deliberations, especially a leak that went only to one side in a pending case, would truly be a scandal.

 (my bold)

Higher Education/Student Loan Bubble

Nothing original -- just pointing out what others have said because it cannot be stressed enough.  The higher education/student loan bubble and the housing bubble were both caused by government policy.  Government creates the mess and the taxpayer gets stuck with the bill.

Let's Celebrate "Coexist" bumper stickers

Can you imagine how much different life would be if there had never been a 'Coexist' bumper sticker?  Think of the difference that plea to followers of the world's great religions has made in our city and state.

I called the dealerships the other day and made an amazing discovery.  Did you know that those bumper stickers, and the others that always seem to be seen with them, do not come standard on a Volvo or Prius?!  Really, they don't.  The brave people driving those cars make the decision to put them on the bumper their very own selves.

I did some research and you should know that since the first day those bumper stickers appeared not a single Jew around here has strapped on a bomb and blown up a bunch of innocent people.  Not one!  Same for Christians.  Apparently, every one of the Christians around here have similarly managed to avoid the temptation of being a suicide terror bomber for the glory of Jesus.  I don't think I can think of any other program of loving outreach that has managed a 100% success rate like that.  Pretty special.  Try to imagine how many people driving around town have been struggling with terror bomber temptation only to be dissuaded by that special message on those bumpers.  It certainly is difficult to come up with a number.

So today, when you are out driving and you see one, be sure to let the driver know what it means to you to see that message on the bumper.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Curing' Addiction with ever larger doses

Robert Trascinski makes a point that is easily understood by the average American, but not by our educated, so-called elites in DC.  Stimulus always fails because stimulus always becomes permanent.  And it always becomes permanent because all the incentives work that way.

The economy is hooked on stimulus, and it keeps needing just one more fix, not to thrive, but to keep from crashing.
 And it's not just that stimulus is permanent. It also becomes all-encompassing. Consider the pattern of the growth of the welfare state-again, this is a permanent, standing form of stimulus spending-to encompass every economic need experience by everyone. James DeLong has a good summary of this process.
"[T]he concept of 'welfare' has become an open, bottomless vessel into which every desire can be poured: Government takeover of the entire health and retirement systems; detailed regulation of employment; manipulation of money; subsidies for housing, education, energy, food; or anything else that strikes the fancy of some segment of the public.
"The 'some segment' part is crucial, because today's welfare has ceased to be limited to that of the public generally, or to the welfare of any group that has a serious claim to special deserts. Instead, it is the welfare of some special interest that is able to capture the policy process."
He writes, "So we've gone from stimulus as the exception to stimulus as the rule, from government assistance as the exception to government assistance as the rule."   And yet our idiot 'leaders' in DC can see only the power that comes to them from giving away the special interest goodies.  Giving everybody everything they want supposedly paid for by someone else makes everybody happy -- 'til, as Margaret Thatcher noted, we run out of other people's money.

He lauds Megan McArdle for pointing out that the economic principle involved is marginal cost pricing that is higher than marginal cost, but lower than average cost.  [my note -- in order for this to work, the seller has to be able to price discrimate.] It works fine as long as the bulk of the costs are taken care of because the marginal customer is just that, at the margin:

"You can get a sweet deal if you are the customer who gets marginal cost pricing. Medicare does this-reimburses hospitals at above their marginal cost, but below their average cost, so that private insurers have to pick up most of the hospital overhead. European countries do this with prescription drugs: reimburse above the marginal cost of producing the pills, but below the total cost of developing the pills, so that the US has to pick up most of the tab for drug development.

"The problem is that as voters and as customers, we often get the notion that this can be extrapolated to everyone. So liberal policy wonks want to save money by putting everyone on Medicare, or some equivalent program that uses the government's monopsony pricing power to get lower prices for everyone; thrifty customers think that everyone should drop cable and just pay $14.95 for streaming plus DVDs.

"But everyone cannot be the marginal cost consumer."

It's the Corruption stupid

From the introduction to Jay Cost's book, "Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic":

The real problem with the health reform efforts was the controversial manner by which it was passed. Rather than propose a bill to Congress, President Obama allowed the legislature to draft health care reform basically from scratch, and the result was a political disaster. Dozens upon dozens of “stakeholders” (the buzzword the Obama administration used for special-interest groups aligned with the Democratic party) emerged out of nowhere to demand this exceptional consideration or that particular carve-out. The line of groups demanding to wet their beaks seemed endless: big businesses, labor unions, liberal activist groups, medical groups representing doctors, nurses, drug companies, and so on. And of course, wavering legislators were able to extract significant concessions, the most infamous of which was Nebraska senator Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback” that exempted only Nebraska from having to pay additional costs for the expanded Medicaid rolls. The only ones who did not get a seat at the table were the American people, the supposed beneficiaries of the reform effort.
(my emphasis added)

Not sure when the Democratic Party was ever noble, but it certainly is corrupt to the very core now.  Republicans inside the beltway, kept somewhat in line by a liberal press ever ready to pounce and a restive conservative/libertarian base that opposes expanded government, must be so jealous.

Justice Roberts is Wimpy

I keep reading various accounts of how Justice Roberts' strange opinion isn't really a disaster for having kept the healthcare clusterf@#$ alive and sucking the life out of the US economy.  Supposedly, we are going to realize some wonderful benefits in the future as a tradeoff for this monstrous affliction in our present.

Color me more than a tad skeptical.  Supreme Court doctrine and precedent come and go.  History teaches us that all it takes is for five justices to agree they want something new and different and the US Constitution instantly stands for something new and different. 

Federal programs, however, are forever.

Justice Roberts has gotten his hamburger.  Will our Tuesday ever come?