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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: March 04, 2014, 01:22:57 AM

Breaking not-so-bad? I guess all the really horrific things I've seen from meth never really happened.

Yes because anecdote justifies a war on drugs that has utterly failed by any sane measure. Let us double down on failed methods using the same propaganda techniques over and over that always prove grossly inflated in hindsight. For the children.
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Panopticon is Upon Us on: March 04, 2014, 01:19:24 AM

Or subsequently sharing that data with the NSA, who then pretend the act isn't extra-constitutional as the Brits did it, most likely with tools the NSA "shared."
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / "Peer Review is Hindering Science" on: March 04, 2014, 01:17:09 AM
Fascinating interview with profound critiques of science starting about halfway through.
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Panopticon is Upon Us on: March 01, 2014, 12:56:57 AM
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Meth Myths & Misinformation on: February 23, 2014, 10:55:13 AM
Meth Mouth and Other Meth Myths
Jacob Sullum|Feb. 23, 2014 8:00 am

Alberto Gonzales, George W. Bush's attorney general, called it "the most dangerous drug in America." A physician quoted by The New York Times described it as "the most malignant, addictive drug known to mankind." A police captain told the Times it "makes crack look like child's play, both in terms of what it does to the body and how hard it is to get off."

Meanwhile, doctors routinely prescribe this drug and others very similar to it for conditions such as narcolepsy, obesity, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If these drugs are as dangerous as Gonzales et al. claim, how can millions of Americans—including schoolchildren—safely consume them on a regular basis?

Columbia neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart explores that puzzle in a new report that aims to separate fact from fiction on the subject of methamphetamine. Hart and his two co-authors—University of North Carolina at Wilmington philosopher Don Habibi and Joanne Csete, deputy director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program—argue that hyping the hazards posed by meth fosters a punitive and counterproductive overreaction similar to the one triggered by the crack cocaine panic of the 1980s, the consequences of which still afflict our criminal justice system. "The data show that many of the immediate and long-term harmful effects caused by methamphetamine use have been greatly exaggerated," Hart et al. write, "just as the dangers of crack cocaine were overstated nearly three decades ago."

The report, published by the Open Society Foundations, begins by considering the addictive potential of methamphetamine. Despite all the talk of a "meth epidemic," the drug has never been very popular. "At the height of methamphetamine's popularity," Hart et al. write, "there were never more than a million current users of the drug in the United States. This number is considerably lower than the 2.5 million cocaine users, the 4.4 million illegal prescription opioid users, or the 15 million marijuana smokers during the same period." Furthermore, illicit methamphetamine use had been waning for years at the point when Newsweek identified "The Meth Epidemic" as "America's New Drug Crisis."

Although methamphetamine is commonly portrayed as irresistible and inescapable, it does not look that way when you examine data on patterns of use. Of the 12.3 million or so Americans who have tried it, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 1.2 million (9.4 percent) have consumed it in the last year, while less than half a million (3.6 percent) have consumed it in the last month (the standard definition of "current" use). In other words, more than 96 percent of the people who have tried "the most addictive drug known to mankind" are not currently using it even as often as once a month. A 2009 study based on NSDUH data found that 5 percent of nonmedical methamphetamine consumers become "dependent" within two years. Over a lifetime, Hart et al. say, "less than 15 percent" do.

Even heavy methamphetamine users have more self-control than is commonly thought, as Hart's own research shows:

Under one condition, methamphetamine-dependent individuals were given a choice between taking a big hit of methamphetamine (50 mg) or $5 in cash. They chose the drug on about half of the opportunities. But when we increased the amount of money to $20, they almost never chose the drug.

Laboratory research also has found that "d-amphetamine and methamphetamine produce nearly identical physiological and behavioral effects," Hart et al. write. "They both increase blood pressure, pulse, euphoria, and desire to take the drug in a dose-dependent manner. Essentially, they are the same drug." That observation helps put methamphetamine's risks in perspective, since d-amphetamine, a.k.a. dextroamphetamine, is one of the main ingredients in Adderall, a stimulant widely prescribed for ADHD. Hart et al. note that methamphetamine, like dextroamphetamine, increases heart rate and blood pressure, but "well below levels obtained when engaged in a rigorous physical exercise."

When given to research subjects, "the drug didn't keep people up for consecutive days, it didn't dangerously elevate their vital signs, nor did it impair their judgment." Contrary to tales of meth-induced murder and mayhem, "There is no empirical evidence that suggests that even long-term users of methamphetamine pose a threat to those around them." Hart et al. note that "incredible anecdotes are usually disseminated uncritically by the popular press and accepted as sound evidence by an undiscerning public." One example from my book Saying Yes: In 1994 Reader's Digest described the rape and murder of an 18-month-old girl in California as a "meth-related child killing." Yet neither newspaper coverage of the case nor the California Supreme Court's 87-page decision rejecting the murderer's appeal made any mention of the drug.

What about long-term effects? Shocking as it may be to anyone who has accepted at face value the gruesome images featured in anti-meth propaganda, the drug does not make you ugly. "Meth mouth"—the extreme tooth decay supposedly characteristic of heavy users—is said to be caused by meth-induced dry mouth. Yet widely consumed prescription stimulants such as Adderall produce the same side effect, Hart et al. note, and "there are no published reports of unattractiveness or dental problems associated with their use." Allegedly meth-related physical characteristics such as rotten teeth, thinning hair, and bad complexions, they say, "are more likely related to poor sleep habits, poor dental hygiene, poor nutrition and dietary practices."

Hart also questions research linking heavy methamphetamine use to brain damage. He argues that studies in which large doses are repeatedly given to animals that have never been exposed to the drug before bear little resemblance to human consumption patterns, which feature gradual escalation. "This difference is not trivial," Hart et al. write, "because the harmful neurobiological and behavioral changes that occur in response to repeated large doses of methamphetamine can be prevented with prior exposure to several days of escalating doses."

In studies of people, Hart says, researchers exaggerate the practical significance of their findings and fail to properly control for pre-existing difference between meth users and the general population. "The brain imaging literature is replete with a general tendency to characterize any brain differences as dysfunction caused by methamphetamine," Hart et al. write, "even if differences are within the normal range of human variability."

Over-the-top warnings about methamphetamine—encapsulated in the slogan "Meth: Not Even Once"—aim to scare people away from a drug that might harm them (but probably won't). By contrast, Hart argues, exaggerating the hazards posed by methamphetamine causes definite damage by encouraging harsh criminal penalties (such as a five-year mandatory minimum for five grams), fostering distrust of accurate warnings about drugs, suppressing useful information that could reduce drug-related harm, driving users toward more dangerous routes of administration (as efforts to reduce meth purity, if successful, predictably would do), and justifying ineffective policies that impose substantial costs on large numbers of people for little or no benefit (such as restrictions on the methamphetamine precursor pseudoephedrine, a cheap, safe, and effective decongestant that is now absurdly difficult to obtain). In other words, hyperbole hurts.

This article was originally published by Forbes.
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Whistling Past the "Settled" Graveyard on: February 21, 2014, 12:46:39 PM
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Straight Scares on: February 17, 2014, 07:03:50 PM
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 2013: No Skies Fell on: February 04, 2014, 11:53:23 AM
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: January 28, 2014, 01:37:26 PM
160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Podesta Model on: January 26, 2014, 09:00:53 AM
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Causes of False Confessions on: January 25, 2014, 08:32:56 PM
An interesting exploration of the roots of false confessions that reinforces my belief that, post incident, clamming up and demanding a lawyer are the legal route:
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: January 24, 2014, 10:30:30 PM
Johns Hopkins is near an ugly part of town. The drive out requires traversing the west side of Baltimore--a place that gives Detroit a run for its money (think The Wire)--and several dozen traffic signals. Without copping to any putative crimes, it annoys the bejesus out of me to have to chose between being able to effectively protect me and mine in ugly neighborhoods and getting my wife the best eye care available.
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Kronies on: January 24, 2014, 10:23:45 PM
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / This Traffic Stop Brought to you by the Letters DHS on: January 22, 2014, 08:23:36 PM
Hmm, looks like every time I drive my wife to the eye clinic at Johns Hopkins the trip will turn into a Big Brother crapshoot:
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Medium is the Message on: January 04, 2014, 10:41:30 PM
Interesting exploration of how the Party Line re the Stuck Ship diverges from some of the tweeting/blogging going on re the same:
166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / I've got yer "Replicable" Right Here on: December 21, 2013, 03:25:23 PM
The Vast Majority of Raw Data From Old Scientific Studies May Now Be Missing

Image via Flickr user dabblelicious
One of the foundations of the scientific method is the reproducibility of results. In a lab anywhere around the world, a researcher should be able to study the same subject as another scientist and reproduce the same data, or analyze the same data and notice the same patterns.

This is why the findings of a study published today in Current Biology are so concerning. When a group of researchers tried to email the authors of 516 biological studies published between 1991 and 2011 and ask for the raw data, they were dismayed to find that more 90 percent of the oldest data (from papers written more than 20 years ago) were inaccessible. In total, even including papers published as recently as 2011, they were only able to track down the data for 23 percent.

“Everybody kind of knows that if you ask a researcher for data from old studies, they’ll hem and haw, because they don’t know where it is,” says Timothy Vines, a zoologist at the University of British Columbia, who led the effort. “But there really hadn’t ever been systematic estimates of how quickly the data held by authors actually disappears.”

To make their estimate, his group chose a type of data that’s been relatively consistent over time—anatomical measurements of plants and animals—and dug up between 25 and 40 papers for each odd year during the period that used this sort of data, to see if they could hunt down the raw numbers.

A surprising amount of their inquiries were halted at the very first step: for 25 percent of the studies, active email addresses couldn’t be found, with defunct addresses listed on the paper itself and web searches not turning up any current ones. For another 38 percent of studies, their queries led to no response. Another 7 percent of the data sets were lost or inaccessible.

“Some of the time, for instance, it was saved on three-and-a-half inch floppy disks, so no one could access it, because they no longer had the proper drives,” Vines says. Because the basic idea of keeping data is so that it can be used by others in future research, this sort of obsolescence essentially renders the data useless.

These might seem like mundane obstacles, but scientists are just like the rest of us—they change email addresses, they get new computers with different drives, they lose their file backups—so these trends reflect serious, systemic problems in science.

And preserving data is so important, it’s worth remembering, because it’s impossible to predict in which directions research will move in the future. Vines, for instance, has been conducting his own research on a pair of toad species native to Eastern Europe that seem to be in the process of hybridizing. In the 1980s, he says, a separate team of researchers was working on the same topic, and came across an old paper that documented the distribution of these toads in the 1930s. Knowing that their distribution had changed relatively little over the intervening decades allowed the scientists to make all sorts of calculations that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. “That original data being available, from a very small old study written in Polish, was incredibly useful to researchers that came along 70 years later,” he says.

There’s also the fact that so much of this research is paid for with public funding, much of it coming through grants that stipulate that resulting data be made freely available to the public. Additionally, field data is affected by the circumstances of the environment in which it’s collected—thus, it’s impossible to perfectly replicate later on, when conditions have changed.

What’s the solution? Some journals—including Molecular Ecology, of which Vines is a managing editor—have adopted policies that require authors to submit raw data along with their papers, allowing the journal itself to archive the data in perpetuity. Although journals, like people, are susceptible to changing email addresses and technological obsolescence, these problems can be much more easily managed at the institutional scale.
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More Likely to Die of Old Age if you Live to be Old on: October 21, 2013, 05:15:37 PM
This takedown made me laugh:

Vitamin D And Cancer
Posted on 21 October 2013 by Briggs
This is our second big week focusing on colorectual cancer. Three weeks makes a streak. We’ll see.

Our paper is Mapping Vitamin D Deficiency, Breast Cancer, and Colorectal Cancer by Sharif Mohr, including four authors whose surnames suspiciously begin with G.

Paper is making the rounds with people concerned that they ought to be popping Vitamin D (VD for short?) pills to stave off the big C (today’s post sponsored by the letters C, D, G, and V).

Idea is that there’s more sun the closer to the equator you get, therefore the more opportunity there is for your body to produce VD. Why is this important? Because statistics appear to show that people who live in equatorial lands have lower rates of breast and colorectal cancer.

Rates of colorectual cancer countries classed by latitude.

This picture from their paper gives you the idea. Shows the rates of colorectal cancer (found in various and variable public data sources) by about 200 different countries classed by latitude (not all countries are labeled). Paper has a similar picture for breast cancer.

Seems plausible that the further from the sun you get the more at risk you are of cancer, no?

No. Those equatorial countries are places like the Democratic (don’t laugh) Republic of Congo, life expectancy 45; Equatorial Guinea, life expectancy 48, and so on and such forth (data source; from 2000).

This is versus sunlight depraved countries like Finland, life expectancy 78; Denmark, life expectancy 78; and on and on.

Now the longer you live the higher the chance you’ll develop one of these “old age” cancers (you have to die of something, after all). Most people are diagnosed north of 50. So if you die before 50, you don’t have much chance of getting these cancers. This is my “theory”, which has the benefit of parsimoniously explaining the observed data.

This explanation was much too simple for Mohr and the Four Gs, who show no sign of having thought of it. They instead developed complicated regression models of solar irradiance, optical depth, population density and, oh, I don’t know what all else. They got the wee p-values they sought, which was all the proof they needed.

And, hey, it could be that their vastly more complicated hypothesis is true and mine false. Plus, they have a wee p-value and I don’t. I can’t even get one! So, as the authors say (as they always say), “More research is clearly needed.”
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Future is Certain; Only the Past is Unpredictable on: October 08, 2013, 08:32:36 AM
The Computer says NO – The IPCC 2013 Summary for Policymakers
Posted on October 7, 2013    by Anthony Watts
By Tom Quirk

The IPCC use of computer models to predict temperatures, rain fall, sea level rises and other weather related events either global or regional has comprehensively failed to predict most of the observations made in the last twenty years and ignores any analysis that suggests natural variability as the main driver of climate. Ad hoc effects are put forward in order to explain why the model predictions parted company from the observations. This is most obvious in looking at the components of radiative (temperature) forcing (Figure SPM.5) where such effects as aerosols appear as contributions with 100% uncertainty. This is not a statistically derived uncertainty but rather an “expert” opinion on an effect that is needed to “balance the books”. Yet all the uncertainties are combined as if they are all well behaved statistical errors.

The report is best summed up by the classic Polish saying from Soviet times – The future is certain only the past is unpredictable.

There are a series of points that one can take immediate objection to:

The temperature plateau from 2000 to the present year is dismissed as of no consequence. The report has borrowed the reply of Chou En Lai who, when asked what he thought of the French Revolution, replied that “It was too early to tell”. Yet in 1988 James Hansen appearing before a Congressional committee said he was 99% certain that the temperature rise from 1977 was not a natural variation.

The oceans that have been ignored up to now have suddenly become centre stage as the lodging place for the heat that should have raised the global temperature. The extra infra-red radiation from the increasing atmospheric CO2 is absorbed in the top 2 millimetres of the ocean. This is then mixed by wave motion through the top 100 to 200 metres of the oceans. But the sea surface temperature is in equilibrium with the air surface temperatures so how has the heat energy achieved this avoidance. Of course the deep ocean from 1,000 to 4,000 metres is at 40C or less and any overturning of the deep ocean would cause no end of trouble. This looks like another ad hoc explanation.

Sea level rises are forecast to be as much as 1 metre by 2100 yet the measurements show quite different annual rises in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Indeed a good pair of gumboots should get our grandchildren through 2100 with the present measured annual increases.

Methane is referred to as reaching unprecedented levels in the atmosphere with no suggestion that its annual increases have fallen by a factor of eight since 1995[2]. Three of the scenarios (now called trajectories) have reasonable methane concentrations out to the year 2100 but the fourth (RCP 8.5) is an echo of the early extreme scenario A1FI and a little more borrowed from another earlier scenario of the IPCC 2007 report. The main justification for the more than doubling of the present methane level of 1750 ppb to 3750 ppb in 2100 may be to keep the highest temperature and sea level rise predictions in play. This last scenario is of course used by the CSIRO to predict the end of Sydney and Brisbane airports.

There is a reference (Figure SPM.4 (a)) to the long running time series measurements of atmospheric CO2 at the South Pole (black line) and Mauna Loa (red line). What has not been pointed out is that in 1958 to 1960, there is no difference in these measurements between the two stations but it remains unexplained. Also there is a modest bump in 1990 that had the Point Barrow measurements at latitude 710N been included would have shown a modest 2 year plateau in CO2 concentration. This, when properly analysed, shows that about 2.5 GtC of CO2 entered and left the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere in the space of 4 years when fossil fuel CO2 emissions were 6 GtC in 1990 with 90% occurring in the Northern Hemisphere.. Yet we are taught that fossil fuel emissions are absorbed with great difficulty by the land and oceans.. This is at the time of the Mount Pinatubo eruption but the CO2 output has been estimated at only 0.015GtC so volcanic activity is not the cause.

The temperature plateau from 2000 to the present has been variously explained by heat disappearing into the oceans, volcanic activity and a lessening of solar radiation (dismissed in this IPCC report). The failure to acknowledge the impact of the oceans that cover 70% of the surface of the earth not only on the temperature behaviour but also CO2 is extraordinary[3]. But the explanation may be that we do not understand what triggers the phase changes in the oceans where up-welling cold water displaces warmer water and of course the reverse. So it is not possible to model such events and this would be an admission of complete failure of the computer models.

Regional models should not be regarded as having any useful predictive power if the global models have been unsuccessful. There is a problem with regional modelling over land as the assumption that the mean temperature is the average of the minimum and maximum temperatures can increase temperatures by up to 0.50C. This distorts the heat load over the land and thus would cause a systematic error in computer modelling results.

This report from the IPCC should be its last. Not only has the climate science research community extracted billions of dollars from politicians but tens if not hundreds of billions have been invested in schemes to reduce CO2 emissions with little to show by way of reductions.

The last word should be left to Jonathon Swift who brilliantly satirized the Royal Society in Gulliver’s Travels[4]. Gulliver is taken to the country of Balnibarbi whose enlightened rulers have adopted new methods of agriculture and building but the country appears to be in ruins as “the only inconvenience is, that none of these projects are yet brought to perfection”.

[1] Catch phrase from Little Britain BBC TV series


[3] See

169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Scope of Surveillance on: September 29, 2013, 12:53:39 PM
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 28, 2013, 11:14:00 AM
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ice Yachting on: August 30, 2013, 01:28:32 PM
North West Passage blocked with ice - yachts caught


'North West Passage - showing ice blockages'    © Environment Canada

The Northwest Passage after decades of so-called global warming has a dramatic 60% more Arctic ice this year than at the same time last year. The future dreams of dozens of adventurous sailors are now threatened. A scattering of yachts attempting the legendary Passage are caught by the ice, which has now become blocked at both ends and the transit season may be ending early. Douglas Pohl tells the story:

The Passage has become blocked with 5/10 concentrated drifting sea ice at both the eastern and at the western ends of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. At least 22 yachts and other vessels are in the Arctic at the moment. Some who were less advanced have retreated and others have abandoned their vessels along the way. Still others are caught in the ice in an unfolding, unresolved drama.

The real question is if and when the Canadian Coast Guard(CCG) decides to take early action to help the yachts exit the Arctic before freeze-up... or will they wait until it becomes an emergency rescue operation?

The first blockage area is at Prince Regent Inlet in position 73.7880535N, -89.2529297W which became blocked on 27th August with 5/10 ice concentration with 7/10 ice pushing.

This effectively closes the 2013 Northwest Passage without Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker escorts for transit. The alternative is a very technical and risky southern navigation through Fury & Hecla Strait mostly blocked with sea ice.

Currently there is a commercial cruise ship on a west to east passage which will reach Prince Regent Inlet in another day. It is unknown if there is a CCG icebreaker in the area to provide assistance since government ships do not provide Automatic Identification Service (AIS) to public AIS websites.

Since one of the Canadian Coast Guard’s prime missions is to provide icebreaking for commercial shipping it will be interesting to see if Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Government views this as an opportunity for good public relations to help recreational yachts transiting the Northwest Passage.

Another choke-point stopping marine traffic is on the western Canadian Arctic at Cape Bathurst in position 70.6672443N, -128.2763672W which became blocked on 26th August with 2/10 ice concentration and quickly filled with 5/10 ice on 27th August and today has 8/10 ice pushing towards Cape Bathurst. Latest word is the ice is retreating at an agonizing 1 nautical mile per day northward.

Empiricus - one of the ice-blocked yachts, still smiling -  © Environment Canada 

There are a number of yachts known to be in the Cambridge Bay area heading west: ACALEPHE (CA), ISATIS (NEW CALEDONIA), LA BELLE EPOQUE (DE), LIBELLULE (CHE), NOEME (FRA), and TRAVERSAY III (CA). PAS PERDU LE NORD (DE) was ahead by 10 days and has already gone on to Arctic Alaska waters. While BALTHAZAR (CA) departed from Inuvik a month ago and is now on the hard in Nome Alaska.

The following yachts are enroute from the west to the east: ANNA (?), rowboat ARCTIC JOULE (CA), DODO'S DELIGHT (GBR), EMPIRICUS (USA). rowboat FAIRMONT's PASSION (USA), tandem-kayak IKIMAYIA (CA), in Russian sea ice is LADY DANA (POL), POLAR BOUND (GBR), rowboat ROWING ICE (FRA), in Russian sea ice is TARA (FRA), and a group of jetskis known as DANGEROUS WATERS (USA) reported east of Gjoa Haven.

Several updates on known others:
LE MANGUIER (FRA) is wintering over in the ice at Paulatuk. Motor Yacht Lady M II (Marshal Islands) was escorted by CCGS icebreaker HENRY LARSEN through Bellot Strait eastbound on 20130824. ARCTIC TERN (GBR) and TOOLUKA (NED) retreated to the east towards Greenland/Newfoundland away from Bellot Strait on 20130822 with the opinion that the Arctic ice was finished melting and freeze-up would prevent them from reaching the Northwest Passage finish line at the Arctic Circle in the Bering Strait.

Watch this space for ongoing news about the situation.

Douglas Pohl is a USCG licensed ocean master of motor and steam vessels, fifth issue, retired. Doug and Michelle now live their dreams cruising aboard their 55' steel motor yacht GREY GOOSE and provide yacht routing, satcom and wifi communications consulting. He can be contacted by e-mail at: douglas_pohl (at) yahoo (dot) com
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rooskie Evac? on: August 29, 2013, 11:47:46 AM
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / "Weather Cooking" on: August 27, 2013, 12:50:43 PM
Seeing how "global warming" seems to have lost some of it's lexicographic shizzle leaving a gap "climate change" doesn't have the spark to fill, perhaps the doomsayers should give "weather cooking" a whirl. Hey, not only has it worked before, but if we manage to dispense with modern follyswaddles we could inspire those rotten deniers to STFU:
174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A Quick Drive By on: August 12, 2013, 10:35:26 AM
State-Funded Science: It’s Worse Than You Think!

By Patrick J. Michaels
Response Essays
August 12, 2013
Terence Kealey’s insightful essay is likely to provoke a vigorous debate among libertarians on the utility of publicly funded science. He concludes that “the public funding of research has no beneficial effects on the economy.”  I will argue that the situation, at least in a prominent environmental science, is worse, inasmuch as the more public money is disbursed, the poorer the quality of the science, and that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

This is counter to the reigning myth that science, as a search for pure truth, is ultimately immune from incentivized distortion.  In fact, at one time James M. Buchanan clearly stated that he thought science was one of the few areas that was not subject to public choice influences. In his 1985 essay The Myth of Benevolence, Buchanan wrote:

Science is a social activity pursued by persons who acknowledge the existence of a nonindividualistic, mutually agreed-on value, namely truth…Science cannot, therefore, be modelled in the contractarian, or exchange, paradigm.”

In reality, public choice influences on science are pervasive and enforced through the massive and entrenched bureaucracies of higher education.  The point of origin is probably President Franklin Roosevelt’s November 17, 1944 letter to Vannevar Bush, who, as director of the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development, managed and oversaw the Manhattan Project.

Roosevelt expressed a clear desire to expand the reach of the government far beyond theoretical and applied physics, specifically asking Bush, “What can the Government do now and in the future to aid research activities by public and private organizations.”  In response, in July, 1945, Bush published Science, The Endless Frontier, in which he explicitly acknowledged Roosevelt’s more inclusive vision, saying,

It is clear from President Roosevelt’s letter that in speaking of science that he had in mind the natural sciences, including biology and medicine…

Bush’s 1945 report explicitly laid the groundwork for the National Science Foundation, the modern incarnation of the National Institutes of Health, and the proliferation of federal science support through various federal agencies.  But, instead of employing scientists directly as the Manhattan Project did, Bush proposed disbursing research support to individuals via their academic employers.

Universities saw this as a bonanza, adding substantial additional costs.  A typical public university imposes a 50% surcharge on salaries and fringe benefits (At private universities the rate can approach 70%.)

These fungible funds often support faculty in the many university departments that do not recover all of their costs; thus does the Physics Department often support, say, Germanic Languages. As a result, the universities suddenly became wards of the federal government and in the thrall of extensive programmatic funding. The roots of statist “political correctness” lie as much in the economic interests of the academy as they do in the political predilections of the faculty.

As an example, I draw attention to my field of expertise, which is climate change science and policy.  The Environmental Protection Agency claims to base its global warming regulations on “sound” science, in which the federal government is virtually the sole provider of research funding.  In fact, climate change science and policy is a highly charged political arena, and its $2 billion/year public funding would not exist save for the perception that global warming is very high on the nation’s priority list.

The universities and their federal funders have evolved a codependent relationship.  Again, let’s use climate change as an example. Academic scientists recognize that only the federal government provides the significant funds necessary to publish enough original research to gain tenure in the higher levels of academia. Their careers therefore depend on it. Meanwhile, the political support for elected officials who hope to gain from global warming science will go away if science dismisses the issue as unimportant.

The culture of exaggeration and the disincentives to minimize scientific/policy problems are an unintended consequence of the way we now do science, which is itself a direct descendent of Science, The Endless Frontier.

All the disciplines of science with policy implications (and this is by far most of them) compete with each other for finite budgetary resources, resources that are often allocated via various congressional committees, such as those charged with responsibilities for environmental science, technology, or medical research. Thus each of the constituent research communities must engage in demonstrations that their scientific purview is more important to society than those of their colleagues in other disciplines.  So, using this example,   global warming inadvertently competes with cancer research and others.

Imagine if a NASA administrator at a congressional hearing, upon being asked if global warming were of sufficient importance to justify a billion dollars in additional funding, replied that it really was an exaggerated issue, and the money should be spent elsewhere on more important problems.

It is a virtual certainty that such a reply would be one of his last acts as administrator.

So, at the end of this hypothetical hearing, having answered in the affirmative (perhaps more like, “hell yes, we can use the money”), the administrator gathers all of his department heads and demands programmatic proposals from each.  Will any one of these individuals submit one which states that his department really doesn’t want the funding because the issue is perhaps exaggerated?

It is a virtual certainty that such a reply would be one of his last acts as a department head.

The department heads now turn to their individual scientists, asking for specific proposals on how to put the new monies to use. Who will submit a proposal with the working research hypothesis that climate change isn’t all that important?

It is a virtual certainty that such a reply would guarantee he was in his last year as a NASA scientist.

Now that the funding has been established and disbursed, the research is performed under the obviously supported hypotheses (which may largely be stated as “it’s worse than we thought”).  When the results are submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, they are going to be reviewed by other scientists who, being prominent in the field of climate change by virtue of their research productivity, are funded by the same process. They have little incentive to block any papers consistent with the worsening hypothesis and every incentive to block one that concludes the opposite.

Can this really be true?  After all, what I have sketched here is simply an hypothesis that public choice is fostering a pervasive “it’s worse than we thought” bias in the climate science literature, with the attendant policy distortions that must result from relying upon that literature.

It is an hypothesis that tests easily.

Let us turn to a less highly charged field in applied science  to determine how to test the hypothesis of pervasive bias, namely the pedestrian venue of the daily weather forecast.

Short-range weather models and centennial-scale climate models are largely based upon the same physics derived from the six interacting “primitive equations” describing atmospheric motion and thermodynamics.  The difference is that, in the weather forecasting models, the initial conditions change, being a simultaneous sample of global atmospheric pressure, temperature, and moisture in three dimensions, measured by ascending weather balloons and, increasingly, by downward-sounding satellites. This takes place twice a day.  The “boundary conditions,” such as solar irradiance and the transfer of radiation through the atmosphere, do not change.  In a climate model, the base variables are calculated, rather than measured, and the boundary conditions—such as the absorption of infrared radiation in various layers of the atmosphere (the “greenhouse effect”) change over time.

It is assumed that the weather forecasting model is unbiased—without remaining systematic errors—so that each run, every twelve hours, has an equal probability of predicting, say, that it will be warmer or colder next Friday than the previous run.  If this were not he case, then the chance of warmer or colder is unequal. In fact, in the developmental process for forecast models, the biases are subtracted out and the output is forced to have a bias of zero and therefore an equal probability of a warmer or colder forecast.

Similarly, if the initial results are unbiased, successive runs of climate models should have an equal probability of producing centennial forecasts that are warmer or colder than previous one, or projecting more or less severe climate impacts. It is a fact that the climate change calculated by these models is not a change from current or past conditions, but is the product of subtracting the output of the model with low greenhouse-gas concentrations from the one with higher ones.  Consequently the biasing errors have been subtracted out, a rather intriguing trick. Again, the change is one model minus another, not the standard “predicted minus observed.”

The climate research community actually believes its models are zero-biased. An amicus brief in the landmark Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, by a number of climate scientists claiming to speak for the larger community, explicitly stated this as fact:

Outcomes may turn out better than our best current prediction, but it is just as possible that environmental and health damages will be more severe than best predictions…”

The operative words are “just as possible,” indicating that climate scientists believe they are immune to public choice influences.

This is testable, and I ran such a test, publishing it in an obscure journal, Energy & Environment, in 2008.  I, perhaps accurately, hypothesized that a paper severely criticizing the editorial process at Science and Nature, the two most prestigious general science journals worldwide, was not likely to be published in such prominent places.

I examined the 115 articles that had appeared in both of these journals during a 13-month period in 2006 and 2007, classifying them as either “worse than we thought,” “better,” or “neutral or cannot determine.”  23 were neutral and removed from consideration. 9 were “better” and 83 were “worse.” Because of the hypothesis of nonbiased equiprobability, this is equivalent to tossing a coin 92 times and coming up with 9 or fewer heads or tails. The probability that this would occur in an unbiased sample can be calculated from the binomial probability distribution, and the result is striking. There would have to be 100,000,000,000,000,000 iterations of the 92 tosses for there to be merely a 50% chance that one realization of 9 or fewer heads or tails would be observed.

In subsequent work, I recently assembled a much larger sample of the scientific literature and, while the manuscript is in preparation, I can state that my initial result appears to be robust.

Kealey tells us that there is no relationship between the wealth of nations and the amount of money that taxpayers spend on scientific research.  In reality, it is in fact “worse than he thought.”  At least in a highly politicized field such as global warming science and policy, the more money the public spends, the worse is the quality of the science.
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: May 11, 2013, 04:28:30 PM
176  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: March 8-10, 2013 DBMA Training Camp on: March 01, 2013, 08:59:02 AM
Excited to be signed up and attending. Trust my aging and out of shape carcass will manage to keep up.

Plan to stay at the hotel, but won't be able to book it until I'm sure a potential complication isn't going to sneak up on me. If worse comes to worse, got a couple of trees I can hang a hammock from? I backpack a lot and it's my preferred way of snoozing in the field.

More than happy to share my shower if I do manage to book a room. Look forward to training with y'all.
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Draft IPCC Report Leaked on: December 13, 2012, 09:26:51 PM
Hmm, a little sunlight goes a long way it appears:  

IPCC AR5 draft leaked, contains game-changing admission of enhanced solar forcing
Posted on December 13, 2012 by Guest Blogger
UPDATE1: Andrew Revkin at the NYT weighs in, an semi endorses the leak, see update below – Anthony

UPDATE2: Alternate links have been sent to me, should go faster now.  – Anthony

Full AR5 draft leaked here, contains game-changing admission of enhanced solar forcing

(Alec Rawls) I participated in “expert review” of the Second Order Draft of AR5 (the next IPCC report), Working Group 1 (“The Scientific Basis”), and am now making the full draft available to the public. I believe that the leaking of this draft is entirely legal, that the taxpayer funded report report is properly in the public domain under the Freedom of Information Act, and that making it available to the public is in any case protected by established legal and ethical standards, but web hosting companies are not in the business of making such determinations so interested readers are encouraged to please download copies of the report for further dissemination in case this content is removed as a possible terms-of-service violation. My reasons for leaking the report are explained below. Here are the chapters:


Summary for Policymakers
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Observations: Atmosphere and Surface
Chapter 3: Observations: Ocean
Chapter 4: Observations: Cryosphere
Chapter 5: Information from Paleoclimate Archives
Chapter 6: Carbon and Other Biogeochemical Cycles
Chapter 7: Clouds and Aerosols
Chapter 8: Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing
Chapter 8 Supplement
Chapter 9: Evaluation of Climate Models
Chapter 10: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change: from Global to Regional
Chapter 11: Near-term Climate Change: Projections and Predictability
Chapter 12: Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility
Chapter 13: Sea Level Change
Chapter 14: Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change
Chapter 14 Supplement
Technical Summary

Why leak the draft report?

By Alec Rawls (email) [writing at ]

General principles

The ethics of leaking tax-payer funded documents requires weighing the “public’s right to know” against any harm to the public interest that may result. The press often leaks even in the face of extreme such harm, as when the New York Times published details of how the Bush administration was tracking terrorist financing with the help of the private sector Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), causing this very successful anti-terror program to immediately collapse.

That was a bad leak, doing great harm to expose something that nobody needed to know about. With the UN’s IPCC reports the calculus is reversed. UN “climate chief” Christina Figueres explains what is at stake for the public:

… we are inspiring government, private sector, and civil society to [make] the biggest transformation that they have ever undertaken. The Industrial Revolution was also a transformation, but it wasn’t a guided transformation from a centralized policy perspective. This is a centralized transformation that is taking place because governments have decided that they need to listen to science.

So may we please see this “science” on the basis of which our existing energy infrastructure is to be ripped out in favor of non-existent “green” energy? The only reason for secrecy in the first place is to enhance the UN’s political control over a scientific story line that is aimed explicitly at policy makers. Thus the drafts ought to fall within the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Obama administration implicitly acknowledged this when it tried to evade FOIA by setting up private “backdoor channels” for communications with the IPCC. If NCAR’s Gerald Meehl (a lead author of AR5′s chapter on near-term climate change), has working copies of the draft report (and he’s only one of dozens of U.S. government researchers who would), then by law the draft report (now finished) should be available to the public.

The IPCC’s official reason for wanting secrecy (as they explained it to Steve McIntyre in  January 2012) is so that criticisms of the drafts are not spread out across the internet but get funneled through the UN’s comment process. If there is any merit to that rationale it is now moot. The comment period ended November 30th so the comment process can no longer be affected by publication.

As for my personal confidentiality agreement with the IPCC, I regard that as vitiated by the systematic dishonesty of the report (“omitted variable fraud” as I called it in my FOD comments). This is a general principle of journalistic confidentiality: bad faith on one side breaks the agreement on the other. They can’t ask reviewers to become complicit in their dishonesty by remaining silent about it.

Then there is the specific content of the Second Order Draft where the addition of one single sentence demands the release of the whole. That sentence is an astounding bit of honesty, a killing admission that completely undercuts the main premise and the main conclusion of the full report, revealing the fundamental dishonesty of the whole.

Lead story from the Second Order Draft: strong evidence for solar forcing beyond TSI now acknowledged by IPCC

Compared to the First Order Draft, the SOD now adds the following sentence, indicated in bold (page 7-43, lines 1-5, emphasis added):

Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.

The Chapter 7 authors are admitting strong evidence (“many empirical relationships”) for enhanced solar forcing (forcing beyond total solar irradiance, or TSI), even if they don’t know what the mechanism is. This directly undercuts the main premise of the report, as stated in Chapter 8 (page 8-4, lines 54-57):

There is very high confidence that natural forcing is a small fraction of the anthropogenic forcing. In particular, over the past three decades (since 1980), robust evidence from satellite observations of the TSI and volcanic aerosols demonstrate a near-zero (–0.04 W m–2) change in the natural forcing compared to the anthropogenic AF increase of ~1.0 ± 0.3 W m–2.

The Chapter 8 authors (a different group than the Chapter 7 authors) are explicit here that their claim about natural forcing being small compared to anthropogenic forcing is based on an analysis in which the only solar forcing that is taken into account is TSI. This can be verified from the radiative forcing table on page 8-39 where the only solar variable included in the IPCC’s computer models is seen to be “solar irradiance.”

This analysis, where post-1980 warming gets attributed to the human release of CO2 on the grounds that it cannot be attributed to solar irradiance, cannot stand in the face of the Chapter 7 admission of substantial evidence for solar forcing beyond solar irradiance. Once the evidence for enhanced solar forcing is taken into account we can have no confidence that natural forcing is small compared to anthropogenic forcing.

The Chapter 8 premise that natural forcing is relatively small leads directly to the main conclusion of the entire report, stated in the first sentence of the Executive Summary (the very first sentence of the entire report): that advances since AR4 “further strengthen the basis for human activities being the primary driver in climate change” (p.1-2, lines 3-5). This headline conclusion is a direct descendant of the assumption that the only solar forcing is TSI, a claim that their own report no longer accepts.

The report still barely hints at the mountain of evidence for enhanced solar forcing, or the magnitude of the evidenced effect. Dozens of studies (section two here) have found between a .4 and .7 degree of correlation between solar activity and various climate indices, suggesting that solar activity “explains” in the statistical sense something like half of all past temperature change, very little of which could be explained by the very slight variation in TSI. At least the Chapter 7 team is now being explicit about what this evidence means: that some mechanism of enhanced solar forcing must be at work.

My full submitted comments (which I will post later) elaborate several important points. For instance, note that the Chapter 8 premise (page 8-4, lines 54-57) assumes that it is the change in the level of forcing since 1980, not the level of forcing, that would be causing warming. Solar activity was at historically high levels at least through the end of solar cycle 22 (1996), yet the IPCC is assuming that because this high level of solar forcing was roughly constant from 1950 until it fell off during solar cycle 23 it could not have caused post-1980 warming. In effect they are claiming that you can’t heat a pot of water by turning the burner to maximum and leaving it there, that you have to keep turning the flame up to get continued warming, an un-scientific absurdity that I have been writing about for several years (most recently in my post about Isaac Held’s bogus 2-box model of ocean equilibration).

The admission of strong evidence for enhanced solar forcing changes everything. The climate alarmists can’t continue to claim that warming was almost entirely due to human activity over a period when solar warming effects, now acknowledged to be important, were at a maximum. The final draft of AR5 WG1 is not scheduled to be released for another year but the public needs to know now how the main premises and conclusions of the IPCC story line have been undercut by the IPCC itself.

President Obama is already pushing a carbon tax premised on the fear that CO2 is causing dangerous global warming. Last week his people were at the UN’s climate meeting in Doha pretending that Hurricane Sandy was caused by human increments to CO2 as UN insiders assured the public that the next IPCC report will “scare the wits out of everyone” with its ramped-up predictions of human-caused global warming to come, but this is not where the evidence points, not if climate change is in any substantial measure driven by the sun, which has now gone quiet and is exerting what influence it has in the cooling direction.

The acknowledgement of strong evidence for enhanced solar forcing should upend the IPCC’s entire agenda. The easiest way for the UN to handle this disruptive admission would be to remove it from their final draft, which is another reason to make the draft report public now. The devastating admission needs to be known so that the IPCC can’t quietly take it back.

Will some press organization please host the leaked report?

Most of us have to worry about staying within cautiously written and cautiously applied terms-of-service agreements. That’s why I created this new website. If it gets taken down nothing else gets taken with it. Media companies don’t have this problem. They have their own servers and publishing things like the draft IPCC report is supposed to be their bailiwick.

If the press has First Amendment protection for the publication of leaked materials even when substantial national security interests are at stake (the Supreme Court precedent set in the Pentagon Papers case), then it can certainly republish a leaked draft of a climate science report where there is no public interest in secrecy. The leaker could be at risk (the case against Pentagon leaker Daniel Ellsberg was thrown out for government misconduct, not because his activity was found to be protected) but the press is safe, and their services would be appreciated.

United States taxpayers have funded climate science to the tune of well over 80 billion dollars, all channeled through the funding bureaucracy established by Vice President Albert “the end is nigh” Gore when he served as President Clinton’s “climate czar.”  That Gore-built bureaucracy is still to this day striving to insure that not a penny of all those taxpayer billions ever goes to any researcher who is not committed to the premature conclusion that human contributions to atmospheric CO2 are causing dangerous global warming (despite the lack of any statistically significant warming for more than 15 years).

Acolytes of this bought “consensus” want to see what new propaganda their tax dollars have wrought and so do the skeptics. It’s unanimous, and an already twice-vetted draft is sitting now in thousands of government offices around the world. Time to fork it over to the people.


UPDATE1: Andrew Revkin writes in a story at the NYT Dot Earth today:

It’s important, before anyone attacks Rawls for posting the drafts (this is distinct from his views on their contents), to consider that panel report drafts at various stages of preparation have been leaked in the past by people with entirely different points of view.

That was the case in 2000, when I was leaked a final draft of the summary for policy makers of the second science report from the panel ahead of that year’s round of climate treaty negotiations. As I explained in the resulting news story, “A copy of the summary was obtained by The New York Times from someone who was eager to have the findings disseminated before the meetings in The Hague.”

Here’s a question I sent tonight to a variety of analysts of the panel’s workings over the years:

The leaker, Alec Rawls, clearly has a spin. But I’ve long thought that I.P.C.C. was in a weird losing game in trying to boost credibility through more semi-open review while trying to maintain confidentiality at same time. I’m sympathetic to the idea of having more of the I.P.C.C. process being fully open (a layered Public Library of Science-style approach to review can preserve the sanity of authors) in this age of enforced transparency (WikiLeaks being the most famous example).

I’ll post answers as they come in.

Full story at DotEarth


UPDATE2: Alternative links for AR5 WG1 SOD. At each page click on the button that says “create download link,” then “click here to download”:

Summary for Policymakers

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Observations: Atmosphere and Surface

Chapter 3: Observations: Ocean

Chapter 4: Observations: Cryosphere

Chapter 5: Information from Paleoclimate Archives

Chapter 6: Carbon and Other Biogeochemical Cycles

Chapter 7: Clouds and Aerosols

Chapter 8: Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing

Chapter 8 Supplement

Chapter 9: Evaluation of Climate Models

Chapter 10: Detection and Attribution of Climate Change: from Global to Regional

Chapter 11: Near-term Climate Change: Projections and Predictability

Chapter 12: Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility

Chapter 13: Sea Level Change

Chapter 14: Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change

Chapter 14 Supplement

Technical Summary
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Carbon Sequestration Masks on: December 05, 2012, 08:12:52 AM
At climate talks in Qatar (something of an oxymoron to begin with) participants are duped into wearing a "carbon sequestration" mask. Critical thinking does not seem to be something the participants caught here are endowed with:
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Temporary Takings on: December 05, 2012, 08:08:36 AM
Supreme Court Rules That Temporary Government-Induced Flooding of Private Property Can Qualify as a Taking
Ilya Somin • December 4, 2012 2:51 pm

Today, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States. The case involved a claim by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that the federal government’s repeated deliberate flooding of its property between 1993 and 2000 constituted a taking requiring compensation under the Fifth Amendment, which mandates that the government pay “just compensation” for takings. The flooding caused extensive damage to forest land owned by the Commission.

Today’s opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rules that temporary flooding can qualify as a taking at least sometimes, but tells us very little about how to determine whether a given case of flooding qualifies as a taking or not:

We rule today, simply and only, that government-induced flooding temporary in duration gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection. When regulation or temporary physical invasion by government interferes with private property, our decisions recognize, time is indeed a factor in determining the existence... of a compensable taking....

Also relevant to the takings inquiry is the degree to which the invasion is intended or is the foreseeable result of authorized government action.... So, too, are the character of the land at issue and the owner’s “reasonable investment-backed expectations” regarding the land’s use.... Severity of the interference figures in the calculus as well.

So far as it goes, I think the Court’s decision is clearly correct. For reasons I discussed here, there is no good reason to hold that temporary flooding can never count as a taking. This is especially true if the flooding was deliberate and inflicted permanent damage on the property owner’s land. Temporary physical invasions qualify as takings in many other contexts (e.g. – overflights by aircraft), and there is nothing special about flooding that should lead the Court to create a categorical exception. To the contrary, allowing the government to temporarily flood private property without paying any compensation whatsoever would severely undermine the purpose of the Just Compensation Clause, which is, as a 1960 decision puts it, to “bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.”

Unfortunately, the Court gives very little guidance on how to determine whether a given case of flooding is a taking or not. The opinion lists several factors that might be relevant, but does not explain how many need to be present before a taking can be said to have occurred, or what to do if some factors cut one way and some the other. It also says nothing about how much deference, if any, is due to the government in such cases. The Court does not even address the federal government’s extremely dubious argument that damage inflicted by flooding on downstream owners is categorically excluded from qualifying as a taking, even though the justices expressed great skepticism about this claim at the oral argument. These and other issues will have to be dealt with by the lower court on remand.

I suspect that the justices bought unity at the expense of clarity here. In the meantime, it seems clear that Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is going to result in further litigation in the lower courts, as property owners and government agencies advance competing interpretations of the Court’s vague standards for determing whether a temporary flood qualifies as a taking or not.

That said, the Court did take an important step in decisively rejecting the federal government’s extreme position that temporary flooding can never be a taking. The case is therefore joins Sackett v. EPA as a rare unanimous victory for property rights in the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: In this post, I explained why the Court is applying the Just Compensation Clause to this case despite the fact that it involves the flooding of government-owned land, while the text of the Fifth Amendment specifies that it applies only to “private property.” Under longstanding current Supreme Court precedent, the Takings Clause applies to both private and state-owned land. I have some doubts about the correctness of those decisions, but the Court is unlikely to overrule them anytime soon.

UPDATE #2: Brian Hodges of the Pacific Legal Foundation comments on this post here:

Professor Ilya Somin.... praised today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States as “a rare unanimous victory for property rights” and “an important step in rejecting the federal government’s extreme position that temporary flooding can never be a taking....”

Professor Somin highlights, however, a couple a paragraphs toward the end of the decision that injected unnecessary confusion into an otherwise clear opinion....

While I agree that the language is unclear, I am not so sure that the quoted passage will cause too much confusion in future litigation. The passage lists, without differentiation, various tests, developed over the years, to determine regulatory and/or physical takings. For example, the Court recites the “intent or foreseeability” and “character of the invasion” tests from Ridge Line, Inc. v. United States (2003) and Portsmouth Harbor Land & Hotel v. United States (1922)—both are tests that have never been applied to regulatory takings....

Although some may be tempted to argue that the Court created a chimera from blended regulatory and physical takings tests, the Court did not intend to do so. Instead, the Court stated that its decision was narrow, “We rule today, simply and only, that government induced flooding temporary in duration gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection.” And elsewhere, in Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (2002), the Court advised that it is “inappropriate to treat cases involving physical takings as controlling precedents for the evaluation of a claim that there has been a ‘regulatory taking’ and vice versa.” The upshot being that the tests that control physical invasion takings still control physical takings cases, and the tests that control regulatory takings still only apply in regulatory takings cases.

I continue to believe that the opinion is clear in rejecting the government’s extreme claim that temporary flooding can never be a taking, but unclear as to the standards that determine when temporary flooding is a taking. As Hodges notes, the Court lists a grab bag of relevant factors drawn from both regulatory and physical takings cases. So it is by no mean clear which set of precedents applies here. Of course one can argue that the language listing possible relevant factors is just dictum and that the sole holding is, as the Court puts it, “only... that government induced flooding temporary in duration gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection.” But if the list of factors is just dictum, that makes the opinion less clear, not more, as lower courts would have even less guidance on the question of how to figure out whether a given case of temporary flooding qualifies as a taking or not.

UPDATE: Robert H. Thomas of the Inverse Condemnation blog rounds up other reactions to the decision here.
180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How Many are Too Many? on: November 28, 2012, 08:41:18 AM
You seem unfamiliar with the concept of deterrence. Using your logic, the razor wire and gun towers that guard the perimeters of medium/high security prisons are unneeded, as they rarely have prisoners try to escape that way.

Poor analogy. Razor wire demonstrably keeps felons in prison, security theater demonstrably does not keep box cutters out of secure airport areas.

Because the American public demands security and also demands convenience and the USG lunges for every high tech "solution" drug before it in an attempt to placate the citizens.

Correct, and thanks for making my security theater argument for me, though I wouldn't characterize the current autocratic regimen as "convenient."

You kind of gloss over how important it is to keep flammibles and explosives off of aircraft, as well as firearms.

While you gloss over how easy it's proven to get the same past the TSA. Is effectiveness not something we can demand, or is confusing gross and ineffective intrusions for security acceptable to you?

BTW, as I've already mentioned, a bomb placed up a person's rectum has been used in an assassination attempt, while rumors abound regarding explosive breast implants. By you logic shouldn't Americans be dropping trou, bending over, and coughing or getting mammograms before boarding an aircraft? Your security uber alles take on things would seem to necessitate those sorts of intrusions. Why are you not making arguments for those measures? You're not weighing the benefits and costs of doing so while taking me to task for suggesting the same, are you?

What's the libertarian solution to this threat?

Get the vast, ineffective, bumbling, autocratic TSA out of the picture and let private firms run security as they are all ready doing at other airports with measurably better results. I'd also start talking to the American people like adults, rather than treating them like sheep, telling them that we live in a violent world with violent people and that it is not possible to anticipate or address all possible threats, and indeed that attempts to do so in fact play in to the hands of our enemies as those measures create the exact kinds of disruptions our enemies intended. I would make the actuarial point that the amount of time currently spent in line awaiting security theater performances greatly exceeds the number of life hours lost in past attacks and so some sort of rational benefit/risk assessment has to come into play as it does in all other activities from driving to walking into a 7/11 at night.

I note, by the way, when we get into these exchanges you regularly disparage my Libertarian creed, and I confess that grates on me as it doesn't seem too far removed from denigrating someone's religion or heritage. You've made it abundantly clear that you feel the founding values of this nation are an inconvenience where security is concerned and that extra-constitutional end runs are therefor more than justified; as such I understand you view my embrace of liberty as a trifling thing to be dismissed with disdain, along with all those dead white guys who attempted to found a nation based on inexpedient principles of liberty. While doing so, however, it'd be nice if you could find a way to be dismissive based less on my creed and more on the issue at hand.

As that may be, is it safe to assume you have no issue with 250 Americans dying a month directly due to TSA's onerous and ineffective measures? If so, how many Americans are too many to kill to keep Americans safe?
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / High Sticking on: November 28, 2012, 07:32:23 AM
Nice overview of sundry hockey stick foolishness.

Doomed Planet

“Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”

Vaclav Klaus
Blue Planet in Green Shackles

Speak loudly and carry a busted hockey stick

by Walter Starck

November 19, 2012

The average temperature for the Earth, or any region or even any specific place is very difficult to determine with any accuracy.  At any given time surface air temperatures around the world range over about 100°C. Even in the same place they can vary by nearly that much seasonally and as much as 30°C or more in a day. Weather stations are relatively few and located very irregularly. Well maintained stations with good records going back a century or more can be counted on one’s fingers. Even then only maximum and minimum temperatures or ones at a few particular times of day are usually available.  Maintenance, siting, and surrounding land use also all have influences on the temperatures recorded.

The purported 0.7°C of average global warming over the past century is highly uncertain. It is in fact less than the margin of error in our ability to determine the average temperature anywhere, much less globally. What portion of any such warming might be due to due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions is even less certain. There are, however, numerous phenomena which are affected by temperature and which can provide good evidence of relative warming or cooling and, in some cases, even actual temperatures. These include growth rings in trees, corals and stalactites, borehole temperature profiles and the isotopic and biologic signatures in core samples from sediments or glaciers. In addition, historical accounts of crops grown, harvest times, freezes, sea ice, river levels, glacial advances or retreats and other such records provide clear indication of warming and cooling.

Recent Warming Nothing Unusual

The temperature record everywhere shows evidence of warming and cooling in accord with cycles on many different time scales from daily to annual, decadal, centennial, millennial and even longer. Many of these seem to correlate with various cycles of solar activity and the Earth’s own orbital mechanics. The temperature record is also marked by seemingly random events which appear to follow no discernable pattern.

Over the past 3000 years there is evidence from hundreds of independent proxy studies, as well as historical records, for a Minoan Warm period around 1000 BC, a Roman Warm Period about 2000 years ago, a Medieval Warm Period (WMP) about 1000 years ago and a Modern Warm Period now developing. In between were markedly colder periods in the Dark Ages and another between the 16th and 19th centuries which is now known as the Little Ice Age (LIA). The warmer periods were times of bountiful crops, increasing population and a general flourishing of human societies. The cold periods were times of droughts, famines, epidemics, wars and population declines. Clearly life has been much better in the times of warmer climate, and there is nothing to indicate that the apparent mild warming of the past century is anything other than a return of this millennial scale warming cycle.

Good News Unwelcome to Alarmists

This rather good news about a possibly warmer climate has not met with hopeful interest from those who purport to be so concerned about the possibly dangerous effects of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). On the contrary, their reaction has overwhelmingly been a strong rejection of any beneficial possibility. It is apparent that their deepest commitment is to the threat itself and not to any rational assessment of real world probabilities or the broader consequences of any of their proposed remedies.

Fabricating a Hockey Stick from Hot Air

This blanket rejection of any possibility other than the hypothetical threat of AGW has led to some strange behaviour for people who modestly proclaim themselves to be the world’s top climate scientists.  Not only have they ignored and dismissed the hundreds of studies indicating the global existence of a Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, they have set out to fabricate an alternate reality in the form of a graph purporting to represent the global temperature for the past thousand years. It portrays a near straight line wiggling up and down only a fraction of a degree for centuries until it begins an exponential rise gradually starting at the beginning of the 20th century and then shooting steeply up in the latter part of that century. This hockey stick-shaped graph was then heavily promoted as the icon of AGW. It appeared on the cover of the third climate assessment report of the IPCC published in 2003 and was reproduced at various places in the report itself.

Among the emails between leading climate researchers released in the Climategate affair were a number which revealed a concerted effort to come up with some means to deny the existence of the MWP. The implement chosen to do this became known as the Hockey Stick Graph.

The methodology used to construct the graph involved the use of estimates of temperatures from a very small sample of tree growth rings from the Yamal Peninsula in far northern Siberia and ancient stunted pine trees from near the tree line in the High Sierras of California. This data was then subjected to a statistical treatment later shown by critics to produce a hockey stick form of graph even when random numbers were used as raw input data. To make matters even worse, the same tree ring data also indicated a significant decline in temperature for the 20th century, but this was hidden by burying it in a much larger number of data points from instrument measurements. The resulting study was published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature in 1998. Remarkably, this very small, highly selected and deceptively manipulated graph was proclaimed to be an accurate representation of global temperatures and the extensive body of contrary evidence was simply ignored.

Continuing the Game With a Busted Stick

 When serious shortcomings of the hockey stick study began to be exposed and questioned the climate alarmists closed ranks and proclaimed their preeminent authority and expertise but refused to engage in any genuine scientific debate with their critics. Instead, they appealed to a supposed consensus of experts, peer review, and personal denigration of any who dared to disagree.

All of the name calling, pissing contests over credentials and abstruse statistical manipulations made it difficult for the general public to come to any conclusion. Regardless of various provable errors and conflicting evidence, the alarmists could and did simply ignore it all and claim the HS graph as gospel truth.

Then came Climategate. Obvious scams, lies and connivance are something that doesn’t require a computer model or a PhD to recognise. In the Climategate emails discussion of things like things like “…Mike’s Nature trick…,”, manipulations to “…hide the decline”,  requests to destroy correspondence, efforts to supress publication of conflicting studies, vilification of critics, and abuse of peer review were matters anyone could see were not ethical. Certainly they were not the kind of behaviour we should expect from high level scientists whose advice we are being asked to accept in policies that could be expected to have major effects on the prosperity of our entire society.

The loss of public trust and credibility resulting from Climategate was immense and has been compounded by additional ongoing exposures of misconduct, repeated failures of alarmist predictions and the slow motion economic train wreck of green energy initiatives.

Although one might rationally expect that the obvious collapse of alarmist momentum would have them reassessing their approach and perhaps even the validity of their earlier assumptions, it seems that the idea that they may have been wrong in any respect must be be inconceivable to them. Instead, their response to conflicting reality and declining credibility has been only to declare still greater certainty and ratchet up the alarm to an even less believable level of hype.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Repeat the Failure

Introduction of the carbon tax in Australia was supposed to lead the world along the path of righteousness toward cheap renewable energy and environmental correctness. Unfortunately for the current government both economic reality and climate itself have not co-operated. The intended good example is becoming one of an obvious foolishness to be avoided and nobody is following. Ongoing exposure of scientific misconduct by alarmist researchers and repeated failure of their predictions haven’t helped either. The alarmist community is in disarray and becoming increasingly shrill in the tone of their pronouncements. The need for strong new scientific evidence to reinforce the shredded remnants of their discredited claims is becoming desperate.

CSIRO has tried to help with a series of increasingly dire predictions but having become a heavily bureaucratised and politicised institution they have been careful to cover their backsides with qualifiers and disclaimers which dull the sharp edge of hype, certainty and urgency needed by government. However, through generous grants government has also bought and paid for reliable cadres of university based academics whose funding and even whole careers are now based on research into Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). Although science may aspire to value free objectivity, it is observable fact that when generous funding is provided to study a purported problem, one thing is certain. It will never be found that there really wasn’t one.

In early June this year a new research report announced the finding of a distinct hockey stick shaped graph for Australian climate over the past millennium. If correct, this would be of great value in supporting the faltering case for CAGW. As the original HS graph was based entirely on data from the northern hemisphere, finding the same pattern from the Southern Hemisphere would bolster the claim that the recent warming is indeed global and unprecedented. Based on different much more extensive data and free of the inappropriate statistical treatment of the original HS study, this new one would also greatly bolster the tattered credibility of the original study.

The new study appeared in Journal of Climate under the title, "Evidence of unusual late 20th century warming from an Australasian temperature reconstruction spanning the last millennium". It was authored by Joelle Gergis, Raphael Neukom, Ailie Gallant, Steven Phipps and David Karoly.   In mid-May 2012 it was made available online in preprint form, having been peer reviewed and accepted for print publication in an upcoming issue of the journal. In a number of key aspects what followed has been a rerun of the original HS story. Shortly after the online preprint appeared, the Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre pointed out that a statistical procedure which was stated in the Gergis et al. study to have been applied had not in fact been used.

Not coincidentally, it was McIntyre who exposed the statistical shortcomings in the original HS study.

Although advanced statistical analysis is widely used in science, very few researchers have a thorough mathematical understanding of what they are doing in this regard. Most are simply following a recipe. However, there is little risk of having to justify the validity of anything as their peers are not statisticians either. McIntyre has an unfair advantage in this. He is a genuine expert in statistics critiquing the work of researchers who are really not very skilled in his discipline.

What ensued in subsequent critical discussion on the Internet and in emails between the authors, their colleagues and the journal editors was a litany of shifting denial, obfuscation, excuses, trivialisation and denigration that could have been borrowed from the original HS script. Without going into the tedious and tawdry details (readily available on the net), the key points of the story are that in response to McIntyre’s finding of the statistical problem the authors announced they had already discovered it themselves the day before McIntyre pointed it out, and that it was really just an oversight in the data processing routine which could quickly be corrected and would have no effect on the overall findings of the study. The journal editors accepted this and gave the authors a deadline with sufficient time to rerun the data routine and make any necessary corrections to the MS.

After much speculation in the blogosphere and varying opinion among the authors and their supporters about what to do and how it might affect the outcome, the deadline passed without a corrected MS being received by the journal. The editors then asked for the study to be withdrawn. Such a request is the scientific equivalent of hara-kiri, a dishonour so great that the only honourable atonement is what amounts to ritual scientific suicide.

If, as publically maintained, all that was involved was a data processing error which could easily be corrected and would have no important effect on the outcome, surely the correction would have been made. However, email correspondence between the authors (which became available through an FOI request) revealed a concern that if properly applied the omitted data processing routine would not result in the desired HS graph or, if it did so, would at best yield only highly uncertain results.

The direct cost of this fiasco to taxpayers is reported to have totalled some $950,000 in research grants from 2009 to 2012. To further this failed work the latest Australian Research Council grants announcement also lists another $350,000 in funding to the lead author approved for 2013 – 2015.  The climate gravy train can provide a sumptuous ride for those whose work shows promise of producing what the government wants.

Climatology - Science or Ideology?

Climatology is no longer recognisable as a science but has morphed into a fundamentalist ideology of a millenarian nature. Science only serves it to enhance claims of authority and certainty. Scientific ethics and evidence are employed selectively in accord with the noble cause of saving the planet from the corruptions of humanity and capitalism. Any conflicting reason or evidence is never sufficient for doubt but is only a test of faith to be overcome. Any opposing argument is not simply incorrect but driven by wilful evil, in league with big business if not Satan himself.

For third rate academics CAGW has much to offer. One doesn’t need to be particularly capable to speculate about some dire consequence of warming, receive widespread publicity and be treated as an important expert. Unlike in real science, no colleagues will dispute them and the few sceptics willing to question anything will generally be ignored and denigrated by all their peers. The news media will describe them as experts and provide the public attention they know they deserve but somehow had never been recognised by anyone else until they climbed onto the climate bandwagon. Grants then flow and jetting off to attend important conferences in attractive places with all expenses paid provides frequent welcome breaks from the tedium of academia. Perhaps best of all, is a delicious feeling of importance and moral superiority over all of the high achievers striving so hard to discover something of consequence about the real world.  The only personal cost is to one’s own scientific integrity and that’s not worth much if one is just another unrecognised minor league academic no one had ever heard of before they joined into the climate alarm. In any case, saving the planet is the noblest of all causes and absolves any tinge of guilt in such regard.

Uncertainty and a Duty of Care

Recently an Italian court sentenced several scientists to jail terms in connection with a failed prediction regarding an earthquake. The court decision provoked widespread condemnation from the global scientific community because earthquakes are beyond the ability of current science to predict. However, the legal basis of their culpability was not in failing to predict the quake but in falsely asserting certainty in their own prediction. In this instance the scientists assured the local population that there was little risk of a dangerous event and that they should all go home, have a nice bottle of wine and not worry. A strong quake took place and several hundred people were killed.

The situation was perhaps exacerbated by a conflicting opinion from an independent researcher who had detected a sharp rise in radon gas in the air and felt this was evidence of an impending temblor. The government experts disagreed and assured everyone they were the experts and they were confident there was little or no risk.

If scientists are going to claim high levels of expert authority they have a duty of care to make clear the level of uncertainty in their predictions. This is especially so where there are potentially major detrimental consequences from following their advice should it prove to be incorrect. The essential difference between belief and science, or between alarmists and sceptics, is that the former assert certainty while the latter admit room for doubt. False claims of certainty and expertise by alarmist researchers have been a major obstacle to any rational public debate of the matter.

Fantasies vs. Reality

In the meantime, while we have been indulging the fantasies of activists and academics vying for our attention on the threat of CAGW, the economies of the developed world have come to teeter on the brink of financial chaos.

Democracies everywhere have voted for more government and more benefits than their productive sectors can support. Deficits are now chronic and blowing out while productive activity struggles under the burden of ever more government imposed restrictions and demands. The climate-alarmist push to penalise and restrict the use of fossil fuels and force the premature adoption of expensive, inadequate, unreliable renewable energy is a dagger to the very heart of our society at a time of great vulnerability. Ironically, if the alarmist aim is achieved they themselves, the urban non-producers, will be among the first to become truly unsustainable. The next few years look to become a decisive reality test. 

In news just in (and curiously ignored in the mainstream Western media) it is reported that for the first time since it began The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not invited to attend an upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference. Could it be that in a global financial crisis nations have finally come to realise that climate hysterics are more of a problem than a solution?
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: November 27, 2012, 09:23:16 AM
Smoking rubble filled with body parts where towers once stood is part of the cost, which is ignored by the article you posted. How many 9/11 attacks a week can we absorb until we move back to trying to secure aviation ? Or did I miss out on the al qaeda surrender ceremony?

An appeal to emotion. What a surprise. Remind me again how many terrorist plots the TSA has foiled. Some number less than one, yes?

And did you read the news about how the nudie scanners were prone to breakdown and generally gumming up the flow through security so they've been removed from large airports and sent to smaller ones . . . that are too small to accommodate them and so now that critical piece of infrastructure that formerly was all that stood between us and more postulated smoking holes sit in warehouses across the country. Couple billion burnt on the altar of security theater. Lovely planning abilities shown by the folks in charge of airport security. Confidence inspiring.

Then there's the fact the TSA regularly fails security audits, is currently unionizing, and regularly produces nasty employees that make it into the news. Hardly inspires confidence in the organization and its management abilities, either. Add to that the smoking holes were created by a couple smuggled box cutters; do you have any doubt that a couple more box cutters could be smuggled past these clowns? The TSA appears to be of the opinion American citizens are sheep that need to be herded on to aircraft, yet the only instances where Al Qaeda was foiled in their attempts occurred when non-sheep stepped up and shut the attacks the fornication down. But hey, let's keep trying to cow Americans into meekly submitting to "security" measures that in fact would do little to slow a committed terrorist down.

The reason there have not been more smoking holes is because our enemies have opted not to commit the resources to creating them. They have in fact succeeded in creating ongoing disruptions having enlisted the petty and short sighted bureaucrats of the TSA to impose ham-fisted security theater measures that regularly fail when audited and no doubt would do so again when dedicated terrorists get around to attacking the air travel infrastructure. But hey, in the interim let's kill 250 Americans a month on roads while wasting countless man hours standing in dubious security theater lines so the TSA can conjure and illusion of security while practicing DC CYA along the way. The bad guys need a good laugh every now and then too; I've little doubt the TSA provides them.
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: November 26, 2012, 02:13:08 PM
Do the people in the buildings struck by hijacked aircraft get a voice in the matter?

No more voice than the 250 a month dying on the highways do as part of the TSA's ongoing production of Security Theater. Or are we in some sort of zone where benefits and costs aren't allowed to be weighed or even mentioned?
184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 242 Per Month on: November 21, 2012, 08:42:02 PM
How TSA Kills People
from John Stossel by John Stossel
There are plenty of news stories this Thanksgiving about TSA incompetence. But having to deal with lines, groping, and rude agents may not be the worst thing about the TSA. The worst thing may be that, to avoid the TSA, some people drive instead of fly - and that is far more likely to get them killed.

As Bloomberg writer Charles Kenney points out:

"To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month-which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day."

The trend towards driving instead of flying has grown since the TSA started. This Thanksgiving, AAA estimates that 4.5 million people will fly for the holiday and 31 million will drive. Before the TSA, on Thanksgiving AAA estimated there would be 6 million flyers and 28 million drivers.

Thanksgiving travelling


Flying.....6 million....4.5 million

Driving...28 million...31 million

Slate blogger Matt Yglesias is right to question whether the TSA is so bad that even having NO airport security might be better.

The best solution would be to allow airports and private companies to set their own security measures, as I reported in this segment.
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Snowballing on: November 16, 2012, 08:48:30 PM
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No Percentage in Initiative on: November 16, 2012, 08:14:21 PM
Why the U.S. Job Market Remains Terribly Bleak
By John C. Goodman  |  Posted: Fri. November 16, 2012, 4:24pm PT
Also published in Forbes on Thu. November 15, 2012

Full time work is about to get scarcer. The reason? By hiring part-time workers who put in less than 30 hours per week, employers can avoid a mandate dictated by the new health reform law: either provide expensive health insurance or pay a fine equal to $2,000 per worker. Avoiding the mandate becomes even more attractive for low-wage employees, since they can get highly subsidized insurance in the newly created health insurance exchanges. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Darden Restaurants [parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden] was among the first companies to say it was changing hiring in response to the health-care law.
Pillar Hotels & Resorts this summer began to focus more on hiring part-time workers among its 5,500 employees, after the Supreme Court upheld the health-care overhaul.
CKE Restaurants Inc., parent of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains, began two months ago to hire part-time workers to replace full-time employees who left.
Home retailer Anna’s Linens Inc. is considering cutting hours for some full-time employees to avoid the insurance mandate if the healthcare law isn’t repealed.
In a July survey, 32% of retail and hospitality company respondents told [Mercer] that they were likely to reduce the number of employees working 30 hours a week or more.
Clearly the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is a major factor holding back economic recovery. But it’s not alone. Other public policies enacted during the Obama administration’s first four years have been affecting the supply side of the market.

A new book by University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan explains that through a major expansion of the welfare state we are paying people not to work:

n the matter of a few quarters of 2008 and 2009, new federal and state laws greatly enhanced the help given to the poor and unemployed—from expansion of food-stamp eligibility to enlargement of food-stamp benefits to payment of unemployment bonuses—sharply eroding (and, in some cases, fully eliminating) the incentives for workers to seek and retain jobs, and for employers to create jobs or avoid layoffs.

Mulligan gives the example of a two earner couple—each earning $600 a week. After the wife gets laid off she obtains a new job offer, paying $500 a week. But after deducting taxes and work related expenses her take home pay would be $257. Since untaxed unemployment benefits total $289, clearly she is better off not working.

All in all, Mulligan estimates that about half the precipitous 2007-2011 decline in the labor-force-participation rate and in hours worked can be blamed on easier eligibility rules for unemployment insurance, food stamps and housing aid.

As Steve Moore writes in a review of Mulligan’s book:

The annual value in average benefits for not working rose to $14,000 per recipient in 2011—the high was $16,000 in 2009—up from $10,000 in 2007. Such increases were inversely related to changes in average hours worked. On average, Americans worked a stunning 120 fewer hours in 2009 than in 2007—the largest contraction in work effort of any recession since the Depression. Since 2009, work hours and labor-force participation have remained at record lows even though the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Mulligan notes that it was the collapse of the housing market that set off the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession. But our problems are not confined to housing. They are systemwide. For every one job lost in construction, five others were lost is other sectors. One thing that affects all sectors, however, is overly generous incentives not to work.

Another frequently heard explanation for the slow recovery is the Keynesian idea that there has been a lack of consumer spending—which caused businesses to cut production and lay off workers. Yet:

Mulligan shows that, during the worst of the 2008-09 troubles, most sectors “outside of hard-hit construction and manufacturing…increased their use of production inputs other than labor hours.”…“Businesses perceive labor to be more expensive than it was before the recession began,” Mulligan writes. The reason for the added cost was that easier requirements for benefits—even as the government was pumping “stimulus” money into the economy— unwittingly reduced the supply of workers.

Meanwhile, health reform will require family coverage that is expected to average more than $15,000 a year. For $15 an hour employees, that sum equals more than half their annual wage. Unless they move to part-time employment or pay a hefty fine, employers of low-skilled workers are about to get hit with mandated benefit that will increase their labor costs by 50% or more.

To make matters worse, employers don’t really know what insurance they will have to provide or what it will cost. The $15,000 number I refer to is an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. And even though employers will have the option of paying a $2,000 fine, does anybody think the fine is likely to stay that low?

The uncertainty created by all this is possibly worse than the actual monetary burden.

John C. Goodman

John C. Goodman is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and President and Kellye Wright Fellow in Health Care at the National Center for Policy Analysis. The Wall Street Journal and the National Journal, among other media, have called him the “Father of Health Savings Accounts.”
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Frack Fears on: November 16, 2012, 05:00:49 PM
Merrill on “Fear of Fracking”
from The Volokh Conspiracy by Jonathan H. Adler
(Jonathan H. Adler)
This morning, Columbia’s Thomas Merrill delivered the keynote address at the Case Western Reserve Law Review symposium on “The Law and Policy of Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing the Issues of the Natural Gas Boom.” His talk, “Fear of Fracking,” sought to addressed four important questions about fracking: 1) Why did fracking technology emerge in the United States rather than somewhere else? 2) Does fracking present any novel environmental risks? 3) Insofar as there are novel risks from fracking, how could they be best addressed? 4) What should a citizen concerned about climate change think about fracking?

These are important questions about an important topic. As Merrill noted, fracking has rapidly emerged as intensely polarizing environmental issue, celebrated by some as an economic and ecological savior and decried by others as a threat to landowners, local communities, and the environment. The Wall Street Journal believes fracking heralds the rise of “Saudi America,” while some environmental groups fear fracking will further feed America’s addiction to carbon-based fuels.

Whatever its ultimate ecological impact, the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling promises to dramatically increase domestic oil and gas reserves, drive down energy prices and fundamentally transform the energy sector. North Dakota now produces more oil than any state but Texas and the oil and gas boom in this state is enriching landowners tremendously. Every president since President Nixon has called for energy independence. Fracking’s rise could make this possible within the next few decades. Beyond that, fracking and the proliferation of cheap gas, Merrill suggested, likely means the end of the nuclear power industry in the United States and has thrown the coal industry into a tailspin. Cheap gas is a bigger threat to coal than any alleged “war on coal” waged by the Environmental Protection Agency. It also threatens the future of alternative energy technologies dependent upon government subsidies for their economic viability.

[My write-up of the rest of Professor Merrill’s remarks is continued below the fold.]

Why did fracking arise in the United States? Contrary to some analysts, Professor Merrill does not believe it is attributable to federally funded research and development. What little funding for drilling technologies the federal government has provided has been fairly tangential. This does not mean federal policy has been irrelevant, however. The federal government has provided special tax credits for the drilling of unconventional natural gas which almost certainly facilitated the early development of the technology as early frackers developed and improved fracking techniques.

Professor Merrill also doubts industry structure has much to do with fracking’s rise either. However much major oil companies like to tout their commitment to innovation, the majors played a minor role in developing this technology. It was largely developed by smaller players in the industry.

A more likely factor is the way U.S. law treats subsurface rights. The U.S. is something of an outlier in that subsurface minerals are the property of the landowner, and not the government. This results in decentralized ownership and control over subsurface rights facilitates experimentation and innovation in figuring out how to exploit and manage subsurface resources.

Further decentralization, and experimentation, results from the federalist regulatory structure. Different states have different regulatory approaches than others, creating opportunities for further innovation and the opportunity for jurisdictions to learn from one another. The existence of a few jurisdictions that will allow a new technology to be tried provides a laboratory from which others may learn, whereas under a more centralized regulatory structure such innovation is unlikely to get off the ground.

The existence of a relatively open infrastructure network – a pipeline system that is subject to common-carrier rules – also plays a role in facilitating entry into the market. These factors have a common theme: decentralization. Taken together, Merrill suggests, they are the most likely source of fracking’s rise in the Unites

Now that fracking is here, does fracking present any novel environmental risks? Insofar as fracking presents the same risks as any sudden surge of production, the traditional regulatory framework would seem up to the task, but is this the case? The biggest environmental risk cited by fracking’s critics is the potential for groundwater contamination by fracking fluid. This may be different in kind from the risks already addressed by existing regulatory programs. Other concerns range from stresses on local infrastructure to increased pollution accompanying development to earthquakes. Fracking has a voracious appetite for water, but this would seem to be manageable, particularly in the eastern United States. Earthquakes, on the other hand, would seem to be a novel concern definitely worth more serious attention, even if it is not unique to fracking.

To Professor Merrill, the potential threat of groundwater contamination is the most serious, and potentially most distinct, environmental threat posed by an upsurge in fracking. While there is little empirical evidence confirming that such contamination has occurred thus far, and energy experts often downplay such risks, concerns about groundwater are understandable. The uncontrolled nature of the subsurface injection in fracking is a source of legitimate apprehension, particularly since many of the potential effects are not fully understood. This counsels the development of some regulatory structure to address these risks.

Accepting that the risk to groundwater posed by fracking is relatively novel, how should it be addressed? In many cases, ex ante regulation of potentially polluting conduct is advisable. In this case, however, the nature and likelihood of the risks in question are not sufficiently known to make such a regulatory approach effective. Over time, consensus views about best practices will likely develop, but they have not yet because not enough is known. Adoption of a precautionary regulatory strategy would likely stop fracking in its tracks, as the problem is lack of knowledge about the technology that will only come from experience.

Under the current circumstances, Professor Merrill thinks the best way to regulate and control the potential groundwater risks from fracking is through an ex post liability system. Professor Merrill would encourage the adoption of a strict liability regime combined with administrative measures to facilitate the identification of and compensation for harms, including mandated baseline testing, bond posting, and the like. Legislative adoption of such a regime is unlikely, Merrill notes, as legislatures are unlikely to enact such a regime absent greater evidence that fracking is, in fact, a meaningful threat, i.e. until real damage is done. Common law tort liability might do, however, particularly if courts impose strict liability, following the lead of Rylands v. Fletcher, and adopt a presumption of causation if producers don’t take adequate ex ante precautions, such as testing water prior to initiating development.

What then about climate change? Does fracking help or hurt efforts to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases? Over the past five years, GHG emissions in Asia (where coal is the dominant power source) have continued to rise. In Europe, GHG emissions have remained rather stable, despite substantial subsidies and inducement for the use of renewable fuels. In the U.S., by contrast, GHG emissions have fallen. Some of this is due to the economic slump and improvements in fuel efficiency. But some is also due to the dramatic increase in natural gas usage. Declining gas prices, largely due to fracking, have helped displace the use of coal. This is a positive development, but unless similar trends can be replicated elsewhere it will not matter. Unless gas can displace coal overseas as well, the fracking boom will not do much to reduce global emissions, particularly if lower gas prices make it more difficult for renewables to compete.

On the whole, however, Merrill thinks those concerned about climate change should support fracking. While it undermines reliance on nuclear and renewables, cheap gas is a bigger threat to coal, and the displacement of coal is more important to get GHG emissions under control. Further if the development of fracking in the U.S. can be exported to other nations, it could help stem GHG emission increases in other nations with large coal reserves (e.g. China). Ultimately, however, Merrill believes GHG control requires substantial technological innovation, and suggests that a fracking-driven drop in energy prices might facilitate the adoption of policies that could encourage needed innovation, such as the adoption of a carbon tax. Whatever political obstacles there may be to the adoption of such a tax, lower energy prices make such measures more likely, even if only on the margin.
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 13, 2012, 06:16:15 PM
Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority — that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law. One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions. At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty. Always they condition it with the doctrine that the state, i.e., the majority, has a sort of right of eminent domain in acts, and even in ideas — that it is perfectly free, whenever it is so disposed, to forbid a man to say what he honestly believes. Whenever his notions show signs of becoming "dangerous," ie, of being heard and attended to, it exercises that prerogative. And the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in supporting it in the outrage. Including especially the Liberals, who pretend — and often quite honestly believe — that they are hot for liberty. They never really are. Deep down in their hearts they know, as good democrats, that liberty would be fatal to democracy — that a government based upon shifting and irrational opinion must keep it within bounds or run a constant risk of disaster. They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty — liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. The rights of other persons do not seem to interest them. If a law were passed tomorrow taking away the property of a large group of presumably well-to-do persons — say, bondholders of the railroads — without compensation and without even colorable reason, they would not oppose it; they would be in favor of it. The liberty to have and hold property is not one they recognize. They believe only in the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it.

H.L. Mencken, "Liberty and Democracy" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (13 April 1925), also in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy : New Selections from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (1994) edited by Terry Teachout, p. 35
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Abortion on: November 13, 2012, 01:41:06 PM
Mitt Romney 59 million, Gary Johnson 1 million, for one example, or almost any race, any state, any year.  That's all I was saying there.

Meh, apples and oranges where statist and statist lite suck up most the oxygen. Call it 100 to 1 once both sorts of statist are combined. Seeing as the statist market is cornered, perhaps another approach is in order assuming a different outcome is preferred?

You didn't address my question, liberty for whom - meaning who protects the unborn, the most innocent among us.

While you had little in the way of response to the Judith Jarvis Thompson piece I posted quite some time back that spoke to many of these distinctions far more eloquently than I will.

Be that as it may, I am intentionally avoiding getting into a "most innocent among us" argument because doing so feeds into the current dynamic. I'm asking instead what can shatter the current paradigm and lead to less statist outcomes? I don't see a way of getting from here to there with the abortion issue as the primary grail.
190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: November 13, 2012, 10:30:14 AM
What he said ^^^.

Worry not, the panic mongers can always roll out the polar bears.
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Embracing what we want to Beat? on: November 13, 2012, 10:25:21 AM
Doug sez:

1) Gallup May 2012 (from further up the thread): Pro-choice 41%, Pro-life 50%.  Speaking in general terms about respect for life including the unborn is not bad politics and did not cost Republicans the election.  To BBG, pro-life conservatism defeats 'unadulterated liberty' by about 50-1 in the electoral marketplace.  The question comes back to liberty for whom?  Libertarians can choose which party generally supports more liberty.  Pro-lifers don't give up that view over budget issues or political advantage.  It is mostly hard-care liberals who fully deny any value to unborn life, while the politically successful ones utter things like personally opposed, safe, legal and RARE to satisfy their own constituents.

I'm assuming the "50-1" is a typo as it certainly isn't reflected in any polling I've encountered. And despite any national polling to the contrary, the "War on Women" meme--which was used as a placeholder for abortion--swung significant segments of some constituencies. As someone who lives in a swing state I can assure you that Romney's pronouncements on Planned Parenthood and abortion where a theme relentlessly hammered on the airwaves; I don't think the opposition would be doing so if they did not think it would bear fruit.

(An aside: correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Planned Parenthood a private organization that receives public monies? The Dem. campaign seemed to purposely elevate PP to some sort of entitlement status; the Repubs had no effective response. It galled me that all the PP vilification occurred in an unanswered vacuum).

With that said, 50/41 national polling data speaks to a simplistic view of the electoral process. Grass roots activists tend to nominate candidates that then have to swing to the middle to get elected. Though there is plenty of nuance here, broadly stated the Repubs tend to nominate folks the Dems can cast as right wing abortion zealots, and that ability costs elections. Do you imagine this dynamic will change in the future or had folks who want to send statists packing best game out solutions?

Indeed, here's where the game gets pretty grim from my perspective: much of what is wrong with this nation is the results of a decades long statist evolution that's becoming ever more entrenched, with the alternatives, if not being flat out statist lite, at least containing statist litmus tests at the activist/nomination level. Where abortion is concerned most who would make that a litmus test would require statist structure enough to then enforce the proscription. Where security hawks are concerned anything that does not include an internal statist security structure is a non-starter. For drug zealots, anything that does contain draconian statist prohibition strictures won't work. And so on. The net effect is that every electoral battle becomes one over the degree of statism, with the hard core statists seizing on statist lite aspects of the opposition and then thrashing 'em over it.

Perhaps the lame idealism I'm always trying to disavow is gumming up my thinking, but should today's statism really be that hard to fight? Described in all it's folly by folks unimpeded by statist lite banners it really shouldn't be difficult to provide stark contrasts. It took generations to get to the current statist mess, and will likely require a similar time frame to cast off statist vestiges, but if the fight is worth having it's worth beginning sooner rather than later, and if it's worth starting it's worth winning. I don't see a winning path that embraces statist lite impulses, as such I think statism needs to be rejected in all it's forms if we are to successfully move toward a national ethos the framers would recognize.
192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Planetary Influence on Solar Activity on: November 10, 2012, 08:10:58 PM
Fascinating look at a new paper that charts planetary tidal influence upon the sun and then relates them to known terrestrial solar cycles. If true it ought to suggest to carbon fetishists that there are subtle and powerful influences on the earth's climate that transcend the single variable they obsess over.
193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: November 09, 2012, 05:34:45 PM
The hispanics in the statist camp are there not because of immigration, but because class warfare and free stuff taken from others is cool with them. Just like the others in the statist camp.

I haven't read the exit polling directly, but several sources I've encountered of late have said that Bush pulled in substantially more Hispanics than Romney and that Catholic Hispanics have their share of conservative issues that are trumped by the perceived "deport 'em all" GOP policy.

194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Counterpoint on: November 09, 2012, 10:33:14 AM
Armchair doomsaying has been popular this week for understandable reasons, but those who train MAs ought to have a deeper perspective here, IMO. What do you when someone bites you in a street fight? Pull the impacted body part back as hard as you can causing flesh to rend, or do you drive it as deeply into the gullet as possible using your opponents gag reflex to create an opening?

Similarly I've had sundry gigs over the years where some sort of fiscal or organizational crisis occurred. I'm someone who embraces constant innovation, innovation that is often thwarted by the comfortably intransigent. A good crisis comes along, however, and all of a sudden even the hidebound will embrace change that appears more likely to preserve the status quo than the alternative. Guess who always has a plan to roll out when a crisis arrives?

America's current path is flat out unsustainable; a reckoning will occur. Think the hard core statist know this, with the worst of them hoping to force a new feudal order out of it, casting themselves as the lords and high priests. Think those of us on the other side need to be able to make forceful arguments for the antithesis: unadulterated liberty. Those favoring liberty will also need a plan for when all the unsustainable chickens come home to roost.

Watching the GOP prepare for the next election will be telling. Will it embrace a simple message of liberty or rather cater to its strident constituencies and then try to swing to the middle after an unelectable candidate is nominated once again? Will it drive unmarried women into the statist camp over abortion, or will it embrace liberty? Will it shed independent and libertarian votes by supporting the construction of a surveillance state that will surely be used by statists to enforce their ends, or will they embrace liberty? Will it drive Latinos and other immigrant groups into the statist camp or use the tactics posited by Krauthammer in the piece Crafty posted elsewhere and default to liberty?

I entertain no illusions: most who oppose abortion will be unable to support a message of unadulterated liberty. Those who posit an existential threat so vast that construction of a surveillance state infrastructure which will be usurped by statists must proceed despite its threat to liberty will continue to believe so. All who want illegals rounded up and booted out will not drop that cause in support of a message of liberty. That's okay. It will all become a part of the great big gag reflex headed this nation's way.

The Republican party arose out the crucible of the Civil War, a war caused by the unsustainable institution of slavery. The Republican party will join the Whigs and Tories on the ash heap of history if it does not develop an effective response to the unsustainable institutions looming today. It ought not be a difficult task. The statist would dictate everyone's energy consumption if they could; they would tell you what your child is allowed to learn in school; they would limit speech deemed hurtful to their ends; they would disarm us and leave us dependent; they would determine who was fit to heal, what was fit to eat, where one is permitted to live, how one pursues happiness, and tell us why doing so is good for us.

Ends such as those should not be hard to battle; creating a 51 percent constituency favoring liberty ought not be a Herculean task, unless we burden ourselves with issues congruent with statist ends. Perhaps there's another grail out there, another straightforward message I've missed, a means to get the citizenry to rally around founding virtues and surmount the unsustainable. If you have one please spit it out. If you don't have a method by which to move forward, however, you are part of the Great Big Gag that's looming and will be unprepared to take any advantage of the openings it brings.
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uplifting Responses on: November 07, 2012, 08:08:24 AM
Dick Morris is a blowhard. I've taken him to task elsewhere, but I hope others can see that his credibility at this point is shakey.

But his hair is so telegenic, his loyalties so expedient, and his scruples so lacking that it makes for great TV, assuming you enjoy the sound of fingernails on a blackboard muted by an unctuous grin.

All the talk of unscientific polls, liberal bias in those polls, etc., etc., etc. There IS a method to the polls. They aren't perfect (hence the margin of error), but they consistently went for Obama. Even in the wake of the terrible Obama showing in the first debate, 538 had Obama with a 70% or so chance at reelection. It was at 90% yesterday morning. Not quite the conservative narrative. And statistical methods won the day. This will increasingly be the case, as the scientific method is improved with technology and the skill of the practicioner. The days of Dewey defeating Truman are gone.

Well kinda. As a second amendment guy I have seen all sorts of dubious polling. The term "assault weapon," for instance, is essentially meaningless yet anti-gun politicians with MSM collusion have worked long and hard to make it appear that black guns are full up automatic weapons. They are not. Hence, when pollsters ask questions about assault weapons they tend to be furthering a false narrative as much as they are gathering data. Indeed, I wonder if all these late season MSM polls had asked "Do you approve of the President's handling of Benghazi," with the MSM explaining why the question is germane, would we have seen a shift in the polls? At the risk of going all McLuhan on you, perhaps we've transcended the "medium is the message" stage and are now on to "the measurements we create and then choose to report are the message."

So, given the president's victory, how do we heal as a country and as a people?

Heal what exactly? $16 trillion in debt and rising? Easy, stop borrowing money to spend. Is that likely to happen? No. Heal concerns over a vast system electronically monitoring Americans? Doubt we'll be shutting down the NSAs facility in Utah any time soon. Cease herding all Americans toward a socialized health care system? I suspect yesterday's result will be seen as an endorsement of that vast intrusion. And so on. First step toward healing is to stop picking at the wound. Fat chance.

What can be done, constructively, by us and others to assist in this process?

Ibid. What needs to be done is for freedom loving Americans to quit worrying about who sleeps with whom, put aside concerns about at what point a fetus becomes viable, and unite to toss statist off all stripes out. Alas, I think that what's coming to be known as the Free Sh!t Army comprised of statists and their charges have a leg up on the kind of organizing that will be required to surmount those of a statist bent.

What does the fact that all of the "rape" congressional candidates lost (Mourdock and Akin, the latter decisively in an election that he once had 7-9% lead in)?

That saying stupid stuff is ill advised, particularly in an environment where the MSM endlessly replays and inflates the gaffs on one side while averting their gaze from the gaffs of those they favor.

What does it say that many Tea Party candidates lost or nearly lost?

Relentless vilification works, particularly when forums where one can effectively respond to two-dimensional claims are so hard to come by. 

Is the Brown loss in Massachusetts a referendum for the Tea Party in the same way his victory was pitched as such for Obama in 2010?

Hmm, despite the fact Brown worked relentlessly to change his Tea Party stripes and repackage himself in a manner he thought MA would find more progressively palatable? Think it's more of a tea leaves issue: Repubs don't often win national offices out of states as blue as MA, regardless of packaging effort.

What does it say that the GOP retained the House? Is it simple incumbency or other?

Incumbency for the most part. But at least it allows the hope that statist brakes might be applied every now and then.
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strong Terms for a Weak President on: November 02, 2012, 03:18:15 PM
Editorial excoriating the administration and lapdog media over the handling of Libya:
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Department of Departments Department on: November 01, 2012, 12:40:47 PM
Department of Cronyism
from Reason Magazine by David Harsanyi
You know what could really help the economy? A huge new bureaucratic department in Washington, that’s what.

President Barack Obama, a man who recently asserted that the “free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known,” intimated that once he secures a second term in office, he would appoint a Secretary of Business to manage a newly-merged, but still unnamed, agency that would offer Americans that top-down guidance they never asked for—a homeland security for cronyism, if you will.

“We should have one Secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like giving loans to SBA or helping companies with exports,” Obama explained in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “There should be a one-stop shop.”

The Department of Business promises to do to business what the Department of Education has done for education. It’s the sort of idea that sounds like it adds efficiency but actually offers the opposite. The larger context of the idea comports well with the president’s belief that a healthy private sector is healthiest when relying on the dedicated technocrats.

But as a political matter, it promises results. If Mitt Romney, for instance, loses the election over Ohio and the president’s auto bailouts, a handout that allegedly saved one in eight jobs in the Buckeye State, politicians will surely have re-learned an invaluable lesson: the more taxpayer money you spend, the more votes you earn.

And if winning elections means funding busy work at a union-run money pit or keeping a pleasing sunflower-logoed company afloat via a stimulus package, imagine what an entire agency giving out favors could accomplish? On the surface, a consolidation of a bunch of agencies sounds like a bright idea, but there is, as you know, plenty of room for mission creep in the pretending-to-do-good business. With 54 former lobbyists (according to Timothy Carney of the Washington Examiner) in the Obama Administration, it, no doubt, has a keen sense of what the business world is looking for — handouts.

But the most obvious pitfall of a Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, or whatever it’ll be called, is that it would further institutionalize the absurd notion that government can foresee what consumers desire and then “invest” accordingly. When Obama talks about “jobs of the future” he means jobs the government will subsidize because people who vote for him like the sound of it. The more they fail, the more it will have to “invest.” It’s not about what you want, it’s about you need.

If the Obama Administration was an investment house, it would have tanked long ago. Its record on green energy is horrid. It has heaped federal loans and subsidies onto coal-powered electric cars—an “investment” that “will not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil,”Obama said in 2009, but “put Americans back to work.” Hardly. The Chevy Volt’s been a tepid seller, at best, and without taxpayer subsidizes few could afford a $100,000 compact car. Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, has stopped mass production of a new sub-compact iQ plug-in. Toyota executive Takeshi Uchiyamada recently explained that, “current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars run, or the costs or how it takes a long time to charge.”

Does government care if ethanol or a windmill meets society’s needs? Does it care about cost? Uchiyamada risks stockholder investments—real investments—while politicians’ decision-making rests on political and ideological pressures. So how could a Department of Business be a good idea?
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Now That's Cold Treatment of a Warmist on: October 31, 2012, 08:08:19 PM
Oh my goodness. Several months back National Review Online published a piece excoriating Michael Mann of Hockey Stick statistical manipulation fame. Mann claimed he would sue NRO for the piece, and indeed did so in a DC court recently, claiming, among other things, to be a Nobel laureate. Some called BS on the claim, and the Nobel committee stated Mann in fact was not a winner. As such NRO took a full page ad out in Penn State's student newspaper:

Ought to be amusing to see what sort of hyperventilation this inspires in Mann. Might want to set up a wind farm in his office. . . .

Whole piece here:
199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Know Your Target & What's Beyond on: October 31, 2012, 06:32:13 PM
Blaze kills Saudi Arabia wedding guests

Women and children perish in Eastern Province after celebratory gunfire brings down power line, local media say.

Last Modified: 31 Oct 2012 12:33

Women and children perished in Tuesday night's fire in Ain Badr village of Eastern Province.
At least 25 people have been killed by electric shock in a wedding in eastern Saudi Arabia, civil defence officials and local media say.

Celebratory gunfire brought down an electric cable at a house in Ain Badr village where the wedding was held on Tuesday night, Abdullah Khashman, an Eastern Province official, said.

Thirty others were injured in the incident near Abqaiq, a centre of the Saudi energy industry.

Some Saudi media reports said the blaze erupted inside a tent, killing at least 23 women and children. The kingdom's conservative codes require genders to be separated at most public events, including weddings.

The media cited civil defence officials as saying that celebratory gunfire brought down a power line that touched off the fire.

However, Reuters news agency quoted Khashman as saying: "At the wedding, the cable fell on a metal door and the 23 people who died were all electrocuted."

The victims were reportedly trying to escape through the door, the only exit from the courtyard, when they were killed.

All those killed were from the same tribe, Khashman said.

Saudi Arabia last month banned the shooting of firearms at weddings, a popular tradition in tribal areas of the country.

Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, Eastern Province's governor, ordered an investigation into the incident, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

In July 1999, 76 people died in a similar incident in the Eastern Province.

Forty-three women and children were killed at a wedding in neighbouring Kuwait in 2009 when a fire engulfed a tent.

The ex-wife of the groom said she started the fire to avenge her former husband's "bad treatment" of her.
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on Benghazi on: October 30, 2012, 10:57:36 AM

The Wages of Libya
By Victor Davis Hanson
October 30, 2012 4:00 A.M.
We have had ambassadors murdered abroad before, but we have never seen anything quite like the tragic fate of Chris Stevens. Amid all the controversy over Libya, we have lost sight of the human — and often horrific — story of Benghazi: a U.S. ambassador attacked, cut off and killed alone, after being abused by frenzied terrorists, and a second member of the embassy staff murdered, as two American private citizens rushed to the rescue, heroically warding off Islamist hit teams, until they were overwhelmed and also killed.

Seven weeks after the tragedy in Benghazi, new government narratives just keep appearing, as various branches of government point the finger at one another. Now the president insists that “the minute” he “found out what was going on” he gave “very clear directives” to “make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to.” The secretary of defense argues that he knew too little to send in military forces to save the post. Meanwhile, we are hearing from other sources that the beleaguered compound in extremis was denied help on three separate occasions, and there are still more contradictory accounts.

When the government systematically misleads and cannot establish a believable narrative, almost everyone involved is eventually tarred. The final chart of those officials in the Nixon White House who were devoured by Watergate was vast — and so it is becoming with the disaster in Libya. If we have learned anything from Watergate and Iran-Contra, it is that the longer officials deceive and obfuscate, the greater the number of wrecked careers and reputations.

Most likely, the political wing of the White House almost immediately made a decision that the attack on our Benghazi consulate should not endanger the conventional narrative of a successful commander-in-chief — ahead in the polls in part because he had highlighted a supposedly successful foreign policy. Key to that story was the notion that the hit on bin Laden and the drone attacks on other Islamists had rendered al-Qaeda all but impotent. In addition, the administration’s supposed lead-from-behind strategy in Libya had served as a model for energizing a democratic Arab Spring. Commander-in-Chief Obama was intent on reminding the country of his competence and toughness as an international leader, and especially of his wise reluctance to rush into areas of instability.

In such a landscape, Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were brutally murdered. And almost immediately it was clear that the ambassador had earlier warned that Libya was descending into chaos and that Americans were not safe there — only to have his requests for further protection rejected.

During the actual assault on the consulate, a real-time video, streams of e-mail exchanges, and surveys of Islamist websites confirmed that al-Qaedists were carrying out a preplanned assassination — and over the next seven or eight hours it became clear that our staff was in dire need of military assistance that was somehow never sent. Then for nearly two weeks, the president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Press Secretary Jay Carney, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice advanced a counter-narrative that simply could not have been true: A spontaneous demonstration over a two-month-old video — just happening to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 — got out of hand as some disruptive protesters showed up with machines gun, mortars, and RPGs and began killing Americans. Since it was an American religious bigot who had prompted such terrible but “natural” riots with his video that ridiculed and injured Islam, we should apologize for the uncouth among us in the strongest terms.

Obama, Clinton, Clapper, Rice, and Carney strove to outdo each other in damning the obscure video maker — to such an extent that he was summarily arrested on a supposedly outstanding probation charge. The message? Ambassadors die and careful U.S. foreign policy is undermined when right-wing bigots abuse their free-speech rights.

Yet almost all of that story is untrue, and it will come back to haunt all those who either by intent or through ignorance engaged in the cover-up. Review the following spinners.

President Obama still does not grasp the significance of Libya. When he calls the attacks there and in Egypt “bumps in the road” or “not optimal,” and asserts that they will not play much of a role in the final weeks of the campaign, he sounds either callous or naïve or both. Collate the administration’s statements over the two weeks following the attacks, and they simply cannot be true. The months-old video proved just too much of a temptation for the president to resonate the themes of his Cairo speech in damning uncouth Americans for offending Muslims. When the president claims that he ordered everything to be done to save the compound, he must be aware that subordinates who did not in turn give orders that relief be sent will eventually come forward to either affirm or deny his statement. His further problem is that lax security, administration misdirection, and hesitancy to aid the beleaguered all feed into the earlier attitudes framed by “overseas contingency operations,” “man-caused disasters,” “workplace violence,” promises to try KSM in a civilian court, the al-Arabiya interview, the Cairo speech, and other efforts to contextualize and airbrush radical Islam’s terrorist assault on the West. In other words, fairly or not, we can discern a logic to why the president would not be candid and accurate about Benghazi.

Secretary Clinton will have to explain why the State Department did not heed requests for greater security, both before and during the attack. And she is beginning to grasp — and so especially is her husband — that the administration is hanging the disaster around her neck. She crudely blamed the attacks on our embassies in the Middle East on the video (with caskets of our dead as backdrop), reminding us that a few months earlier she had crudely giggled about the murder of Qaddafi (“We came, we saw, Qaddafi died”). All in all, her performance during this disaster has been disappointing, and more so with each new disclosure.

Then we come to Ambassador Rice, who apparently was being groomed to succeed Secretary of State Clinton. As part of that trajectory, she was to be point woman for the administration’s spontaneous-mob narrative. That meant that on at least five different occasions Rice hit the Sunday talk shows, apparently to showcase her rhetorical skills, insisting that the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi were ad hoc assaults that had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy, anti-American animosity, or mistakes in American security preparation. Whether through ignorance or by design, Ambassador Rice repeatedly told an untruth, and did so with energy and dogmatic insistence. Her problem, then, is not just that what she insisted was true was clearly not, but also the unambiguous and forceful manner in which she wove her story. That she suddenly appeared from obscurity to play the sophist, and then retreated back into anonymity, suggests that her diplomatic career will be soon coming to an end.

Next is the matter of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. His insistence that a mob had caused the mayhem is one untruth or mischaracterization too many — and a wrong assessment that trumps even his earlier absurdities, such as that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely a secular organization or that Qaddafi would not fall from power. Politicians and bureaucrats err all the time; but when intelligence officers do not appear to have intelligence, then they too usually quietly disappear into comfortable retirement.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey at some point supposedly received information about the attack in real time. Why — given the supposed directive of the president to do “whatever we need to” to save our people — he did not order military assistance will have to be explained. Uncertain conditions will not do, because that is what militaries do: go into uncertain conditions to save lives and defeat the enemy. Armchair tacticians will argue that planes and teams could have been sent and then called off near arrival time if that was what circumstances seemed to warrant; that option would have been wiser than sending no one and thereby ensuring that the compound and annex would be overrun. And because General Dempsey has not been shy in weighing in on matters political by warning retired servicemen not to comment on contemporary politics (General Wesley Clark apparently excepted), and because he has phoned a Florida pastor to tell him to tone down his anti-Islamic rhetoric, the public will all the more expect an explanation. If the chairman can lecture both civilians and retired officers on proper behavior, then he should be able as well to explain why he did not heed the president’s order to do “whatever we need to do.”

CIA Director David Petraeus is now by implication being faulted. A brief communiqué that the CIA did not refuse pleas for assistance was prompted by anonymous administration officials’ allegations that it was our intelligence agencies, not the State Department or White House officials, that prevented assistance to our diplomatic mission. At some point Petraeus will probably have to use all his influence and power to correct the administration’s narrative, which is apparently intended to shift culpability to him and his agency. General Petraeus, by his singular record, probably should have been made either chairman of the Joint Chiefs or NATO supreme commander; he apparently received neither offer. After pulling off the surge in Iraq, he was redeployed into Afghanistan under far different — and more difficult — circumstances that limited his range of options, and he had to give up his nominally superior billet as CENTCOM commander. When he took on the CIA job, he apparently was asked to retire from the military. There is a pattern here: selfless service to the United States, but recently in the context of a politicized administration that has used the enormous prestige of Petraeus in ways that have reduced his influence. Directing responsibility away from the administration to the CIA is more of the same, and it puts a historic figure like Petraeus in an unfair predicament.

Benghazi was a disaster, whose graphic details most Americans do not fully know and, in some sense understandably, do not wish to relive. Still, we await two simple clarifications: an administration timeline of exactly who was notified, in what manner, and when on the night of the attack, and a full release of all information detailing the administration reaction to the murders, from the hours in which the attack occurred to the present day.

Without that honesty, those responsible will only continue to weave their tangled Libyan web.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.
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