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Blackmail in Congress

March 11th, 2010 No comments

<p> This is interesting. It seems there is another purpose for the House ethics process besides covering up for Congressmen. It allows the leadership to blackmail them, holding on to sensitive information for months until they need to get someone to vote differently or, as in this case, resign instead of voting the wrong way.  The leadership would naturally want to encourage unethical and ilelgal behavior in their members, since it gives the leadership more power over them. See
Pelosi Aide Knew About Massa Complaints in October – Daniel Foster – The Corner on National Review Online

A House ethics panel has dropped its probe of former congressman Eric Massa, but the story isn’t quite over. It now appears that members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff knew about concerns with Massa’s behavior toward his staff as early as October 2009, months before Majority Leader Steny Hoyer set an ethics investigation in motion.

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Government Inefficiency

March 11th, 2010 No comments

The American Spectator : Bribes, Buffoons, and Obamacare

British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, during his travels in India, heard many stories about people on the “edge of destitution.” In his memoirs, Muggeridge recalled an anecdote told to him about a poor farmer who was asked if he hated the government or the money-lender more. “After some thought the farmer replied that he hated the government more, because, whereas it was to the money-lender’s interest to keep him just alive so that he could go on paying off his debt, the government didn’t care whether he lived or died,” Muggeridge wrote.

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Evangelical Colleges and Homosexuality

March 11th, 2010 No comments

From Christianity left behind… – BaylyBlog: Out of our minds, too… . The comment section is worth reading.

Christianity left behind…

(Tim, w/thanks to several readers) A prominent evangelical magazine just did a piece on the complaint by Calvin College faculty reps that Calvin’s board has issued policy barring members of their faculty from promoting sodomy. The article starts this way:
The homosexuality debate that has torn apart mainline denominations is fanning faculty and student protests at Calvin College, and highlights a growing issue facing evangelical schools.

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Some Political Math

March 11th, 2010 No comments

Michael Barone: Can Nancy Pelosi Get the Votes? – WSJ.com

There’s a more fundamental problem for the Democratic leadership: Their majority is not as strong as their 253-178 margin suggests.

A Democratic House majority tends to have fewer members with safe seats than a Republican majority. Consider that in 2005 Speaker Dennis Hastert had 214 Republican members elected in districts Mr. Bush carried, just four seats short of a majority. Today Speaker Nancy Pelosi has 208 Democratic members elected in districts Mr. Obama carried, eight seats short of a majority.

The Democratic bedrock is actually slightly smaller than the Republican bedrock was four years ago, even though the Democrats have 31 more members. That’s partly because of Republican gerrymandering earlier in the decade, but it’s more because Democratic voters tend to be bunched in relatively few districts. Mr. Obama carried 28 districts with 80% or more; John McCain didn’t reach that percentage in any district.

A lot of Democrats—most Black Caucus members and many “gentry liberals” (to use urban scholar Joel Kotkin’s term) like Mrs. Pelosi—are elected in overwhelmingly Democratic districts. This means there aren’t that many faithful Democratic voters to spread around to other seats.

As a result, more than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

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Why Abort a Viable Baby rather than Deliver Him?

March 10th, 2010 1 comment

Why not let viable babies be born, instead of aborting them? In practically no case would a C-section be significantly more dangerous to the mother than a late-term abortion, so why not let the baby live?

I can think of a couple of answers. I wonder what pro-abortion people say. (I looked a little, but found only evasion of this question.)

1. The baby is normal, but we found out too late our daughter was pregnant and if it’s born, we’ll have to put it up for adoption, and we don’t like the idea of our grandson being off with some stranger. It’s better to kill him, to save having to think about that.

2. The baby is abnormal, and if he’s born, we’ll want to put him up for adoption, but nobody will want to adopt him, and we’ll be legally obligated to take care of him. It’s better to kill him, to save money.

Does anybody know of less callous answers?

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Justice Department Lawyers Who Defended Terrorists

March 9th, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy says:

Eugene and Jonathan and a host of others have joined in defending the pro bono work that some Justice lawyers did for Guantanamo detainees. To me, though, this seems to be a much harder question than the critics make it out to be.

To start with, some of the arguments in favor of the attorneys don’t hold water. No one had to work for free to make sure the detainees had a right to counsel. Every one of the Guantanamo detainees already had a military defense counsel, paid for by the government. Nor did anyone have to work pro bono to even up a mismatch in power and resources. The military prosecutors are JAGs — and pretty much indistinguishable from the military defense counsel on the other side of the courtroom. It was, by and large, a fair fight. If you think the weight of government resources (such as they are in deficit-strained times) makes the fight less fair, I would note that, unlike practically all other criminal cases pitting government against defendant, there were government resources on both sides of the detainee fight. Kuwait, for example, reportedly funneled millions of dollars into both legal and public relations help for its detainees.

Of course, I agree completely that it’s not fair to simply conflate the views of lawyer and client. But even so, I would argue that, unlike paying clients, pro bono work does tell you something about a lawyer’s views.

Here’s why. As with anything you give away, the demand for pro bono lawyering outstrips the supply. So lawyers have to use other criteria to allocate their pro bono services. If you’ve got a wide choice of pro bono cases, it’s only natural to pick cases that make you feel good about yourself, that enhance your prestige in your social circles, and that help the firm recruit law students. You’ll also favor cases that allow you to demonstrate competence by winning against the odds in a high-profile matter. In short, you’ll take cases that make you and your firm look good.

It seems to me that this is exactly Liz Cheney’s point. These are lawyers who represented avowed enemies of the United States – for free – because they thought it made them look good. If you don’t share that view, she’s saying, maybe you don’t share their other views about how the justice system should handle terrorism cases….

[T]hese lawyers felt so strongly about these arguable principles that they sacrificed paying work and instead went to work without charge for people they loathed – just to turn their principles into law. Doesn’t this tell us something about the strength and content of their principles? And isn’t it fair for Liz Cheney to ask whether the rest of the country shares those principles?

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Salaries Not Too Sticky?

March 8th, 2010 No comments

News: Salaries Fell for 32.6% of Faculty – Inside Higher Ed

The percentage of faculty members receiving no salary increase this year is 21.2 percent, while 32.6 percent had their salaries reduced, with a median decrease (among those who saw a decrease) of 3 percent.

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Killing Girl Babies

March 8th, 2010 No comments

The Economist’s Gendercide: The worldwide war on baby girls is interesting. China, India, and Korea have been killing lots of girl babies. Korea seems not to be doing that as much now. Christianity? A good question.

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Liberal Hypocrisy on Filibustering Illustrated

March 5th, 2010 No comments

From Obama’s Vietnam – WSJ.com

  • “If the Republicans pushing against the filibuster love majority rule so much, they should propose getting rid of the Senate altogether. But doing so would mean acknowledging what’s really going on here: regime change disguised as a narrow rules fight. We could choose to institute a British-style parliamentary system in which majorities get almost everything they want. But advocates of such a radical departure should be honest enough to propose amending the Constitution first.”–E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, March 22, 2005
  • “The Founders said nothing in the Constitution about the filibuster, let alone ‘reconciliation.’ Judging from what they put in the actual document, the Founders would be appalled at the idea that every major bill should need the votes of three-fifths of the Senate to pass.”–E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, March 4, 2010
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The Media and ClimateGate

March 2nd, 2010 No comments

Ed Morrissey’s Another American media failure

In the past four months, media outlets like the Times of London, the Telegraph, the Australian Herald-Sun, and even the Left-leaning paper The Guardian have broken important stories (along with bloggers) exposing the fraud, mismanagement, and unscientific behavior of the core group of AGW advocates, such as:

* University of East Anglia e-mails that exposed data destruction, attempts to hide contradictory data, and conspiracies to sabotage the work of skeptical scientists
* The East Anglia CRU threw out their raw data, undermining any effort to check their work
* NOAA/GHCN “homogenization” falsified climate declines into increases
* East Anglia CRU’s below-standard computer modeling
* No rise in atmospheric carbon fraction over the last 150 years: University of Bristol
* IPCC withdraws claim that AGW will wipe out Himalayan glaciers by 2035
* IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri knew Himalayan claim was bogus for months before exposure
* Amazonian rainforest conclusions not based on scientific research but on advocacy group claims
* Mountain glacier claims based on unsubstantiated student theses and anecdotes from climber magazine
* Search of IPCC report footnotes exposes ten more student dissertations presented as peer-reviewed research
* Medieval Warming Period temperatures may have been global, undermining entire AGW case
* Measurements used for AGW case were influenced by urbanization, poor location, bad data sets
* African-crop claims exposed as false
* IPCC researchers excluded Southern Hemisphere data to exaggerate effects of warming on hurricanes
* Hurricane claims further exposed as false by actual peer-reviewed research — including by some AGW researchers
* Major scientific group concludes IPCC-linked researchers “complicit in the alleged scientific malpractices“

None of these — none — were exposed by a major American media outlet.

The Sorry History of Medicare Pricing

March 1st, 2010 No comments

Prof. Boudreaux’s letter to two NPR reporters is good:

Dear Ms. Joffe-Walt and Mr. Kestenbaum:

Your excellent February 26, 2010, report on the history of how government officials chose the different methods that Medicare has used over the years to determine doctors’ pay is frightening because…

… in your report, Joe Califano, a chief architect of Medicare, admits that the first method of determining doctors’ pay was chosen for political reasons, namely, to buy doctors’ support for Medicare.

… you report that Mr. Califano, LBJ, and Congress were genuinely surprised by the rapid cost increases sparked by this first method.

… you reveal that much of the treatment that Medicare paid for was previously provided free by physicians; that is, Medicare crowded out a sizable chunk of private-sector philanthropy.

… you tell how attempts to change this first method of paying doctors were deeply influenced by skilled lobbyists working on behalf of doctors.

… in describing the development of the method currently used for determining doctors’ pay, you (perhaps without realizing it) reveal that this current method is the product of a comically childish labor-theory-of-value analysis – the same sort of analysis that is at the foundation of Marxian economics.

… your report ends with the admission that, because the current method isn’t working so well, Uncle Sam – 45 years after Medicare was launched – is still searching for a sound method for determining physicians’ pay.

Given this history, what reason is there to suppose that Obamacare is a good idea?

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The Incorporation Doctrine Is Wrong

March 1st, 2010 No comments

Philip Hamburger has a good-sounding article explaining why the 14th Amendmnet does not Incorporate the Bill of Rights from a historical point of view. In VC he explains it:

My thesis focuses on free blacks. Since at least 1821, there was a nationally prominent dispute as to whether free blacks were entitled to the benefit of the Comity Clause. In this controversy, both sides ended up agreeing that Comity Clause rights belonged only to citizens of the United States. In this context, opponents of slavery asserted the Comity Clause rights of free blacks in terms of “the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States,” and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause constitutionalized this interpretation of the Comity Clause.

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The Meaning of “Israel”

March 1st, 2010 2 comments

From http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_meaning_of_%27Israel%27_in_the_Bible:

Israel – which we get from the Greek, is originally in the Hebrew, “Yisrael”.
Yisrael means, quite literally, “He has striven with God,” or “He has been saved by God,” based on which translation of “sra” was meant to be used.

“Yi”, in the Hebrew, is the masculine form “he”. “Sra”, in the Hebrew, comes from the Semitic root “Sry”, which means “to strive or to save.” The word “El,” in the Hebrew, is a form of the word for God.

When you see ‘el’ in any Hebrew name, it is a form of the word for God. See other names such as Ishmael (God has heard), Michael (Who is like God), and Daniel (My judge is God).

To better understand which meaning of Sra we are to use, we need to understand the origin of the name Israel. The origins came from Genesis chapter 32 where Jacob struggles with a man all night long until he is blessed. The man asks Jacob’s name, then tells him that his name is no longer Jacob, but Israel, because he has striven with God and with man. (Genesis 32:28)

It could well be a pun, with two meanings. The name is apt, given that the nation of Israel constantly fought God, and that the modern Israel, we of the Church, fight with Him too.

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Brakes Do Stop Toyotas

February 26th, 2010 2 comments

Car and Driver did a test and found that an accelerator stuck at 70 mph is no big deal, if the driver remembers that the car has brakes:

Certainly the most natural reaction to a stuck-throttle emergency is to stomp on the brake pedal, possibly with both feet. And despite dramatic horsepower increases since C/D’s 1987 unintended-acceleration test of an Audi 5000, brakes by and large can still overpower and rein in an engine roaring under full throttle. With the Camry’s throttle pinned while going 70 mph, the brakes easily overcame all 268 horsepower straining against them and stopped the car in 190 feet—that’s a foot shorter than the performance of a Ford Taurus without any gas-pedal problems and just 16 feet longer than with the Camry’s throttle closed. From 100 mph, the stopping-distance differential was 88 feet—noticeable to be sure, but the car still slowed enthusiastically enough to impart a feeling of confidence. We also tried one go-for-broke run at 120 mph, and, even then, the car quickly decelerated to about 10 mph before the brakes got excessively hot and the car refused to decelerate any further. So even in the most extreme case, it should be possible to get a car’s speed down to a point where a resulting accident should be a low-speed and relatively minor event.

Car and Driver proceeds to talk about various other features Toyotas don’t have but other cars do that would help deal with the situation and concludes that Toyota ought to have them even tho there isn’t really a safety problem. That’s the typical engineer’s attitude— make the car as complicated and costly as possible. Paying extra for unnecessary features is obviously bad. Increasing complexity (e.g. by having software so that three short presses of the on-off button turns off the car) introduces the possibility of dangerous design and driver mistakes.

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Trusting Climatologists

February 25th, 2010 No comments

Willis Eschenbach has a great post at Watts Up, Judith, I love ya, but you’re way wrong …. He explains bluntly that the climatologists’ problem is not poor communication, but dishonesty and toleration of dishonesty. This post is a model for criticizing other groups that have bad members and refrain from speaking out.

You wonder why we don’t trust you? Here’s a clue. Because a whole bunch of you are guilty of egregious and repeated scientific malfeasance, and the rest of you are complicit in the crime by your silence. Your response is to stick your fingers in your ears and cover your eyes.

And you still don’t seem to get it. You approvingly quote Ralph Cicerone about the importance of transparency … Cicerone?? That’s a sick joke….

I was disgusted with the response of mainstream climate scientists to Phil Jone’s reply to Warwick Hughes. When Warwick made a simple scientific request for data, Jones famously said:

Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

When I heard that, I was astounded. But in addition to being astounded, I was naive. Looking back, I was incredibly naive. I was so naive that I actually thought, “Well, Phil’s gonna get his hand slapped hard by real scientists for that kind of anti-scientific statements”. Foolish me, I thought you guys were honest scientists who would be outraged by that.

So I waited for some mainstream climate scientist to speak out against that kind of scientific malfeasance … and waited … and waited. In fact, I’m still waiting. I registered my protest against this bastardisation of science by filing an FOI. When is one of you mainstream climate scientist going to speak out against this kind of malfeasance? It’s not too late to condemn what Jones said, he’s still in the news and pretending to be a scientist, when is one of you good folks going to take a principled stand?…

The key to restoring trust has nothing to do with communication. Steve McIntyre doesn’t inspire trust because he is a good communicator. He inspires trust because he follows the age-old practices of science — transparency and openness and freewheeling scientific discussion and honest reporting of results.

And until mainstream climate science follows his lead, I’ll let you in on a very dark, ugly secret — I don’t want trust in climate science to be restored. I don’t want you learning better ways to propagandize for shoddy science. I don’t want you to figure out how to inspire trust by camouflaging your unethical practices in new and innovative ways. I don’t want scientists learning to use clever words and communication tricks to get people to think that the wound is healed until it actually is healed. I don’t want you to learn to use the blogosphere to spread your pernicious unsupported unscientific alarmism.

You think this is a problem of image, that climate science has a bad image. It is nothing of the sort. It is a problem of scientific malfeasance, and of complicity by silence with that malfeasance….

You want trust? Do good science, and publicly insist that other climate scientists do good science as well. It’s that simple. Do good science, and publicly call out the Manns and the Joneses and the Thompsons and the rest of the charlatans that you are currently protecting. Call out the journals that don’t follow their own policies on data archiving. Speak up for honest science. Archive your data. Insist on transparency. Publish your codes.

Once that is done, the rest will fall in line. And until then, I’m overjoyed that people don’t trust you. I see the lack of trust in mainstream climate science as a huge triumph for real science. Fix it by doing good science and by cleaning up your own backyard. Anything else is a coverup.

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Jeff Sachs Is Crazy

February 25th, 2010 No comments

I was shocked to read Professor Jeffrey Sachs’s “Climate sceptics are recycled critics of controls on tobacco and acid rain” in The Guardian. It is a weird ad hominem attack on people skeptical of global warming, closer to what conspiracy theorists say in the comments section of left-wing blogs than even of what global warming claimers say in their op-eds.

I’ve done some fisking below. I’ve left out some of what Sachs wrote.

The fact is that the critics — who are few in number but aggressive in their attacks — are deploying tactics that they have honed for more than 25 years.

Few in number? Not in science or in the blogosphere.

During their long campaign, they have greatly exaggerated scientific disagreements in order to stop action on climate change, with special interests like Exxon Mobil footing the bill.

It would be nice if people making claims like this ever had evidence to support it.

The same group of mischief-makers, given a platform by the free-market ideologues of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, has consistently tried to confuse the public and discredit the scientists whose insights are helping to save the world from unintended environmental harm.

Hah! Anybody who has followed ClimateGate has a different view of who’s trying to confuse issues.

Today’s campaigners against action on climate change are in many cases backed by the same lobbies, individuals, and organisations that sided with the tobacco industry to discredit the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Later, they fought the scientific evidence that sulphur oxides from coal-fired power plants were causing “acid rain.” Then, when it was discovered that certain chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere, the same groups launched a nasty campaign to discredit that science, too.

Later still, the group defended the tobacco giants against charges that second-hand smoke causes cancer and other diseases. And then, starting mainly in the 1980s, this same group took on the battle against climate change.

How about some evidence? The best-known global warming skeptics are not associated with anything else, as far as I know. They’re people who got interested in global warming and have no special interest in all these other things.

What is amazing is that, although these attacks on science have been wrong for 30 years, they still sow doubts about established facts.

The environmentalist campaign against acid rain has been completely discredited scientifically by now— the American forests were not being damaged— and the evidence that connected second-hand smoke to cancer has always been a joke, an example of government-fostered junk science. It’s odd to pair those two things with whether smoking causes cancer and whether ozone was being depleted.

The truth is that there is big money backing the climate-change deniers, whether it is companies that don’t want to pay the extra costs of regulation, or free-market ideologues opposed to any government controls.

Again, how about some evidence? There is clearly big big money backing global warming science— government money in the USA, UK, and elsewhere, and environmentalist money. There’s even a lot of corporate money for global warming claimers. (I know I should have links to this last statement— but I can provide them and Sachs can’t.)

The latest round of attacks involves two episodes. The first was the hacking of a climate-change research centre in England. The emails that were stolen suggested a lack of forthrightness in the presentation of some climate data.

Stolen? Weren’t these public property, subject to freedom of information act requests?

Whatever the details of this specific case, the studies in question represent a tiny fraction of the overwhelming scientific evidence that points to the reality and urgency of man-made climate change.

Not a tiny fraction. The scientists implicated are some of the top people, and East Anglia was the biggest source of data on temperature.

The second issue was a blatant error concerning glaciers that appeared in a major IPCC report. Here it should be understood that the IPCC issues thousands of pages of text. There are, no doubt, errors in those pages. But errors in the midst of a vast and complex report by the IPCC point to the inevitability of human shortcomings, not to any fundamental flaws in climate science.

The glacier error was important for two reasons. First, it showed that the IPCC was willing to make claims with zero scientific support– just magazine article claims. Second, the claims were so implausible that anyone who knew anything about glaciers should have rejected them immediately. Those glaciers are just too big to melt in that short space of time even if global warming accelerated faster than anybody is claiming.

When the emails and the IPCC error were brought to light, editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal launched a vicious campaign describing climate science as a hoax and a conspiracy. They claimed that scientists were fabricating evidence in order to obtain government research grants — a ludicrous accusation, I thought at the time, given that the scientists under attack have devoted their lives to finding the truth, and have certainly not become rich relative to their peers in finance and business

.

Saying they have devoted their lives to finding the truth is to assume the answer, of course. Most of them are not as rich as their peers in business, though Mr. Pachauri has managed to combine climatology and business quite profitably. But lack of riches probably makes them even more tempted by fame and by the chance to supplement their salaries with grant money and consulting income.

But then I recalled that this line of attack — charging a scientific conspiracy to drum up “business” for science — was almost identical to that used by The Wall Street Journal and others in the past, when they fought controls on tobacco, acid rain, ozone depletion, second-hand smoke, and other dangerous pollutants.

I wonder if this is true. I bet not. The WSJ argues for free markets, but I think the “drum up grant money” argument wasn’t made in those cases, though maybe the “drum up donations for environmental groups” was.

We are witnessing a predictable process by ideologues and right-wing think tanks and publications to discredit the scientific process.

This is the common leftwing claim that what their ideologues do is “science”, and that “science” is infallible and pure.

Great scientific minds have learned over the course of many decades to “read” the Earth’s history, in order to understand how the climate system works. They have deployed brilliant physics, biology, and instrumentation (such as satellites reading detailed features of the Earth’s systems) in order to advance our understanding.

And the message is clear: large-scale use of oil, coal, and gas is threatening the biology and chemistry of the planet.

This is so vapid and naive that I wonder if Sachs even wrote it. Could it be that he never even read this article, just agreeing to sign his name to it?

The IPCC and the climate scientists are telling us a crucial message. We need urgently to transform our energy, transport, food, industrial, and construction systems to reduce the dangerous human impact on the climate. It is our responsibility to listen, to understand the message, and then to act.

What he’s really saying is “Listen to the environmentalists and don’t criticize or ask questions. Just do what they say.”

Given this attitude, I wonder if we should check Professor Sachs’s work in economics. Is it based on anything but faith?

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Regressions Using the R Package

February 25th, 2010 No comments

“R” is a wonderfully crafted statistics packages with
amazingly bad documentation.
I’ve written notes to show how to make it do the basics of regressions, for my G492 course. Here is how to find them:

R instructions
and input data file. I also have posted the sample session generated by those two files, and the files data3.txt and data3.csv that they create.

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Here’s What Happened to Paul Krugman’s Brain

February 24th, 2010 No comments

From The New Yorker:

When he has a draft, he gives it to Wells to edit. Early on, she edited a lot—she had, they felt, a better sense than he did of how to communicate economics to the layperson. (She is also an economist—they met when she was a postdoc at M.I.T. and he was teaching there.) But he’s much better at that now, and these days she focusses on making him less dry, less abstract, angrier. Recently, he gave her a draft of an article he’d done for Rolling Stone. He had written, “As Obama tries to deal with the crisis, he will get no help from Republican leaders,” and after this she inserted the sentence “Worse yet, he’ll get obstruction and lies.” Where he had written that the stimulus bill would at best “mitigate the slump, not cure it,” she crossed out that phrase and substituted “somewhat soften the economic hardship that we face for the next few years.” Here and there, she suggested things for him to add. “This would be a good place to flesh out the vehement objections from the G.O.P. and bankers to nationalization,” she wrote on page 9. “Show us all their huffing and puffing before you dismiss it as nonsense in the following graf.”

On the rare occasion when they disagree about something, she will be the one urging him to be more outraged or recalcitrant….

During the eighties, he thought that supply-side economics was stupid, but he didn’t think that much about it. Unlike Wells, who was so upset when Reagan was elected that she moved to England, Krugman found Reagan comical rather than evil. “I had very little sense of what was at stake in the tax issues,” he says. “I was into career-building at that point and not that concerned.” He worked for Reagan on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers for a year, but even that didn’t get him thinking about politics. “I feel now like I was sleepwalking through the twenty years before 2000,” he says. “I knew that there was a right-left division, I had a pretty good sense that people like Dick Armey were not good to have rational discussion with, but I didn’t really have a sense of how deep the divide went.”

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New York City bans bake sales.

February 24th, 2010 No comments

New York City bans bake sales in schools. They’re too fattening!

Remember this the next time anybody says that Manhattanites are smarter or more friendly to science than people in Elletsville.

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1930 and 2010

February 24th, 2010 No comments

The Democrats thought that George Bush was the new Herbert Hoover. Actually, it looks like they themselves are the new version of the 1930 Republicans, who lost 50 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate.

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Open Access Web Regulations

February 23rd, 2010 No comments

Prof. Waterman talked about proposed regulations for the Internet at the Bus Econ Brown Bag today. I’ll write up an example for one of his points: that regulation can worsen discrimination.

Suppose there is a monopoly Internet Service Provider (ISP), Comcast. Comcast also sells Comcast Movies. Netflix sells Netflix Movies. 90% of consumers want movies.

Consider two regulatory regimes. In Regime I, Comcast can charge Netflix for getting access to consumers. In Regime II, Comcast cannot. I will show, surprisingly, that Netflix should prefer Regime I.

In either regime Comcast, as a monopoly, will charge consumers as much as traffic will bear for ISP connection. Let’s suppose the value of ISP for general web access is $40 per month for each consumer.

In Regime I, $40 is what Comcast will charge. It will charge extra for Comcast Movies, and it will charge extra for Netflix Movies. Let’s suppose Comcast decides to charge $15 for Comcast Movies and $5 for Netflix movies, which makes consumers indifferent between Comcast and Netflix. It could either charge the consumer $5 to get access to Netflix, or Netflix $5 to get access to the consumer— there is no real difference. Netflix, of course, charges the consumer too– perhaps $10.

In Regime II, Comcast cannot charge consumers for using Netflix. Thus, it wants consumers to buy Comcast Movies, instead of earning equal profits from Comcast and Netflix Movies.

What it can do is to charge $55 for ISP access, $0 for Comcast Movies, and $0 for Netflix Movies. Since consumers are getting Comcast Movies bundled with their ISP service, they won’t pay anything extra for Netflix. The 10% of consumers who don’t like movies will drop their Internet service entirely, but Comcast will make enough money from the $15 surcharge on the rest to make up for them.

In Regime II, since it is illegal for Comcast to earn any profit from Netflix, Comcast will drive Netflix from the market. Netflix will do worse than under Regime I. Consumers will do worse. And even Comcast will do worse.

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Keith Obermann’s White TV Mocked

February 22nd, 2010 No comments

This is another gem of a video. Whoever put this together is a true artist. Notice the use of imagery to powerfully attack Obermann’s claim, with mixes of condemnation, insult, and, as the dominant theme, amused contempt.

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Meaning Well

February 22nd, 2010 No comments

Professor Thomas Smith exercises his genius again:

Progressives, the sincere among them anyway, really want to do great things, but they don’t know how. They yearn to accomplish wonderful change, but they just don’t have the technology. They want it so very much, so very, very much I guess we’re supposed to love them for it. Me, if I want to help but can’t because I don’t know how, I say, sorry, I would if I could but I can’t. Lack of any working theory or pragmatic if undertheorized ability to improve things, however, appears to be no impediment to the progressive desire to exercise power in the hope, I guess, to make things better. The Obama presidency seems absolutely saturated in this spirit of groundless hope, as if meaning well is what really matters. Hence my blaming Kant, the moral philosopher who, to simplify greatly, thought morality was all about meaning well.

This is related to the idea that if someone makes a great sacrifice to do something for you that you don’t value at all, or that actually harms you, you’re supposed to be grateful to them. Even if they know in advance that it’s useless. The inefficiency drives an economist crazy.

This is important for theology too.

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Why European Banks Own Greek Govt. Bonds

February 19th, 2010 No comments

From somebody else via Prof. Kling:

Today’s FT brings the news that “European financial institutions have $235 billion worth of claims on Greek debt, most of which is thought to be in government bonds.” Why do they hold so much Greek government debt? Because the only category of bank asset treated more kindly by the Basel rules than asset-backed securities is government debt, which has a zero risk weight. I.e., no bank capital need be used to buy a government bond.

Incredible! Does that just apply to EU bonds, or can a German bank really buy as many Zimbabwean bonds as it wants?

Wasn’t this Long-Term Capital Management’s downfall— heavily buying Russian govt. bonds with massive leverage? I don’t see why European banks haven’t done the same. I wonder if they’re also allowed to buy derivatives on governmetn bonds.

Before I read the post, I had another idea, perhaps relevant but much less so. If an American bank were to buy Greek bonds, it wouldn’t succeed in getting a bailout for Greece. A German bank will. Thus, the German bank is the highest-value holder.

The highest value except, perhaps, for the German government, which could ahve bought the Greek bonds, swallowed the loss, and avoided having to incur the even greater expense of bailing out Greece to protect the German banks.

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The Pattern of World Temperatures

February 18th, 2010 No comments

I just realized that it’s time I drastically revise my notion of what’s happened to global temperatures from 1970 to 2010. The 3 standard indices *all* seem to be corrupted for political reasons. See Peter Ferrara’s excellent The Disappearing Science of Global Warming in the American Spectator. Thus, there is all the more reason to abandon them for what is not quite the same thing but is undoubtedly more accurate and less subject to political manipulation: satellite measurements. That means Roy Spencer’s website.

The standard 3 indices have temperatures rising 1979 to 2000, roughly, and then staying pretty much constant 2000-2010. The satellite data has temperatures saying pretty much constant 1979 to 2000, and then rising 2000-2002 and plateauing at a new, distinctly higher, level.

Neither matches the standard carbon dioxide theory of global warming, which would have the temperature rising over the entire period, the rate of change increasing as time passes.

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Luther’s Two Kingdoms

February 18th, 2010 No comments

George Forell’s 1994 Luther’s Theology and Domestic Politics is very good, both in its own writing and in its selection of Luther quotes.

It looks as if when Luther talked about Two Kingdoms, his points were:

  1. People need to be governed by laws and punishments, not Christian love and admonition, even though law does not produce religious salvation. (his main point). Thus, the nation can’t be run like a big church.

    If anyone attempted to rule the world by the gospel and to abolish all temporal law and sword on the plea that all are baptized and Christian, and that, according to the gospel, there shall be among them no law or sword-or need for either-pray tell me, friend, what would he be doing? He would be loosing the ropes and chains of the savage wild beasts and letting them bite and mangle everyone, meanwhile insisting that they were harmless, tame, and gentle creatures.

    It is out of the question that there should be a common Christian government over the whole world, or indeed over a single country or any considerable body of people, for the wicked always outnumber the good. Hence, a man who would venture to govern an entire country or the world with the gospel would be like a shepherd who should put together in one fold wolves, lions, eagles, and sheep, and let them mingle freely with one another, saying, “Help yourselves, and be good and peaceful toward one another. The fold is open, there is plenty of food. You need have no fear of dogs and clubs.” The sheep would doubtless keep the peace and allow themselves to be fed and governed peacefully, but they would not live long, nor would one beast survive another.

    Now he who would confuse these two kingdoms-as our false fanatics do-would put wrath into God’s kingdom and mercy into the world’s kingdom; and that is the same as putting the devil in heaven and God in hell.

    where temporal government or law alone prevails, there sheer hypocrisy is in­evitable, even though the commandments be God’s very own. For without the Holy Spirit in the heart no one becomes truly righteous, no matter how fine the work he does. On the other hand, where the spiritual government alone prevails over land and people, there wickedness is given free rein and the door is open for all manner of rascality, for the world as a whole cannot receive or comprehend it.

  2. Rebellion is generally bad, producing evil consequences and far too much of a temptation to other sins (e.g. pillage) for the rebel.

    It never brings about the desired result. For insurrection lacks discernment; it generally harms the innocent more than the guilty. Hence, no insurrection is ever right, no matter how right the cause it seeks to promote. It always results in more damage than improvement, and verifies the saying, “Things go from bad to worse.”

    They cloak this terrible and horrible sin with the gospel….Thus, they become the worst blasphemers of God and slanderers of his holy name. Under the outward appearance of the gospel, they honor and serve the devil, thus deserving death in body and soul ten times over.

    The mob neither has any moderation nor even knows what moderation is. And every person in it has more than five tyrants hiding in him. Now it is better to suffer wrong from one tyrant, that is, from the ruler, than from unnumbered tyrants, that is, from the mob.

  3. It’s fine for pastors and Christians generally to condemn the government— just don’t use violence.

    But these furious, raving, senseless tyrants, who even after the battle cannot get their fill of blood, and in all their lives ask scarcely a question about Christ-these I did not undertake to instruct. It makes no difference to these bloody dogs whether they slay the guilty or the innocent, whether they please God or the devil….I had two fears. If the peasants became lords, the devil would become abbot; but if these tyrants became lords, the devil’s mother would become abbess. Therefore, I wanted to do two things: quiet the peasants, and instruct the pious lords. The peasants were unwilling to listen, and now they have their reward; the lords, too, will not hear, and they shall have their reward also. However, it would have been a shame if they had been killed by the peasants; that would have been too easy a punishment for them. Hell‑fire, trembling, and gnashing of teeth in hell will be their reward eternally, unless they repent.

  4. Christians should be active in politics, within the system.

    You are under obligation to serve and assist the sword by whatever means you can, with body, goods, honor, and soul….Therefore, if you see that there is a lack of hangmen, constables, judges, lords, or princes, and you find that you are qualified, you should offer your services and seek the position, that the essential governmental authority may not be despised and become enfeebled or perish.

    there is need in this office for abler people than are needed in the office of preaching, so it is necessary to get the best boys for this work; for in the preaching office Christ does the whole thing, by his Spirit, but in the worldly kingdom men must act on the basis of reason-wherein the laws also have their origin-for God has subjected temporal rule and all of physical life to reason (Genesis 2 [:15]). He has not sent the Holy Spirit from heaven for this purpose.

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Mr. Nobody

February 17th, 2010 No comments

Peter Hitchens says:

John Major became Prime Minister by not being Margaret Thatcher or Michael Heseltine, and then won an election by not being Neil Kinnock. In fact he has in general succeeded by being a sort of all-purpose nobody.

Then we had another nobody, Anthony Blair, who had become leader of the Labour Party by not being Michael Foot, and became Prime Minister by not being John Major. And Gordon Brown became Prime Minister by not being Anthony Blair. You can see why this sort of thing seems attractive to modern politicians. But alas, Gordon Brown is Gordon Brown, not by any means a nobody – just a somebody who is powerfully disliked by large numbers of people, and not even disliked for the right reasons.

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Lonnie Ray’s BBQ, in Harrisburg, Missouri

February 17th, 2010 No comments

Tyler Cowen writes a persuasive review:

Could it be Lonnie Ray’s BBQ, in Harrisburg, Missouri? That’s about half an hour outside of Columbia, Missori. I ate there yesterday and I am still staggered by the encounter. It is one of the two or three best barbecue experiences of my life and possibly #1. ….

The proprietor, Mike, is also a true scientist and scholar and gentleman. He studied with Mike Mills and he will engage you at length on how to render fresh lard, why Kansas City barbecue has declined, and the importance of the wood source. He has studied — and I do mean studied — Texan, Kansas City, and even North Carolina styles. The pulled pork was my favorite dish and I usually don’t like pulled pork much at all. Both the sauces and the atmosphere get an A+ as well. He is now studying how to cook tamales. If only everyone in the scientific community had his attitude.

I am serious in my claims for this place.

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Concentrating Power and Knowledge

February 17th, 2010 No comments

From Dr. Sowell’s latest book:

“It is far easier to concentrate power than to concentrate knowledge. That is why so much social engineering backfires and why so many despots have led their countries into disasters.”

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Is It Better to Kill than to Waterboard?

February 15th, 2010 No comments

Professor Smith of USD says,

Turning terrorists into hamburger is simple, but snatching them and waterboarding information out of them is complex. Politically that is. Morally, I would guess the former is at least as problematic as the latter. Not wrong, mind you. I think both are justifiable under certain circumstances. … I gather from the article that the Special Ops people want to capture and interrogate, but the orders from higher up is, just kill them. Just kill the terrorists and you can at the same time pose as being morally above the dirty business of CIA black sites, waterboarding and the rest.

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FBI Crime Statistics

February 15th, 2010 No comments

Retired Officers Raise Questions on Crime Data, via Steve Sailer,

More than a hundred retired New York Police Department captains and higher-ranking officers said in a survey that the intense pressure to produce annual crime reductions led some supervisors and precinct commanders to manipulate crime statistics, according to two criminologists studying the department….

…checking eBay, other Web sites, catalogs or other sources to find prices for items that had been reported stolen that were lower than the value provided by the crime victim. They would then use the lower values to reduce reported grand larcenies — felony thefts valued at more than $1,000, which are recorded as index crimes under CompStat — to misdemeanors, which are not…

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Torley on Intelligent Design

February 15th, 2010 No comments

First Things has a simple-minded attack on Intelligent Design that sparked a lot of good comments. Here’s one:

Vincent Torley says:

Professor Barr,

With the greatest respect, you are sadly mistaken about ID, and about design arguments in general. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and I’ve been following the ID movement closely for a few years now. I’m neither a young-earth nor an old-earth creationist; I’m quite happy to accept common descent, although I would not be at all perturbed if it were proved false. The way I see it, there are at least five good design arguments for the existence of God. All of them are probabilistic, all of them use abductive reasoning (appealing to the best-known explanation of an observed fact), and all of them are scientifically falsifiable. As we shall see, ID design arguments are not particularly different from the others. Let’s summarize the design arguments briefly.

1. The laws of physics, and the theory underlying them, manifest an extraordinary degree of beauty, elegance, harmony, and ingenuity, from a mathematical perspective. This elegance is an unexpected bonus, even in a life-friendly cosmos such as our own. For even if the forces of nature were finely-tuned, nothing would necessitate the laws underlying them hanging together in a mathematically elegant way, which even our best scientific minds marvel at. The underlying mathematical beauty of the cosmos is extremely improbable, on the face of it, as the ugly, unaesthetic theories that could serve to underlie Nature vastly outnumber the mathematically elegant ones. But if the cosmos is the work of a Divine Mind, mathematical elegance is precisely what we would expect to find. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates beauty. See “Universe or Multiverse? A Theistic Perspective” by Robin Collins at http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/Fine-tuning/stanford%20multiverse%20talk.htm , especially part 6.

2. The constants of Nature in our universe appear to be fine-tuned for life to emerge. The odds of these constants having the values which would permit life to emerge are vanishingly small. Nor does it help to posit a multiverse which churns out many universes, of which ours happens to be the lucky one; for the multiverse would have to possess certain unique physical properties in order to be able to churn out anything at all. Once again, the odds of a multiverse possessing these properties are vanishingly low, on the face of it; but if the cosmos was designed for life, this is what we should expect. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates things according to a plan. See “The Fine-Tuning Design Argument” by Robin Collins at http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/Fine-tuning/FINETLAY.HTM .

3. The DNA code appears to possess certain properties which make it an ideal carrier of genetic information. It is unexpectedly robust, and extremely resilient against minor copying errors, which makes it ideal from an evolutionary perspective. Additionally, the genetic coding found in DNA is unbelievably efficient and compact. DNA information is overlapping, multi-layered and multi-dimensional; it reads both backwards and forwards. Even our best computer scientists can’t write code like this. Once again, the antecedent probability that the molecule embodying the genetic code of living organisms should possess these properties is extremely low; but if a Divine Mind wrote the original program code for DNA, we would expect it to be both efficient and resilient. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that can write efficient codes. See “Astonishing Complexity of DNA Demolishes Neo-Darwinism” by Alex Williams at http://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j21_3/j21_3_111-117.pdf .

4. Even the simplest viable living things found on Earth contain about 250 kinds of proteins, each of which contains a large emount of highly specific information relating to their particular function. Proteins are made up of sequences of amino acids (usually at least 150); yet the vast majority of amino acid sequences that could occur are incapable of folding up properly, and hence incapable of doing anything useful. Even given billions of years, the odds of Nature generating even one amino acid sequence that can perform any kind of useful function are astronomically low, and the odds of generating a simple cell with 250 useful proteins are infinitesimal. One could hypothesize the existence of as-yet undiscovered bio-friendly laws that make life’s emergence more probable; yet there would have to be a large number of these laws, to create a “magic pathway” leading to life, and they would have to be very specific (i.e. information-rich). Once again, this is not what one would expect, unless the laws of Nature were designed for life. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates specified information. See “Intelligent Design: Required by Biological Life?” by Kalinsky, K. D. at http://www.newscholars.com/papers/Id%20Web%20Article.pdf .

5. Cells contain a large number of structures whose functionality depends on all their constituents being in place. In some cases, scientists can identify parts of these structures that still perform some useful function; yet the likelihood that these structures were built up one part at a time, on a step-by-step basis, appears to be vanishingly low, as most of the steps along the way would have conferred no evolutionary benefit whatsoever. For instance, the bacterial flagellum has about 30 vital parts; a biologically useful 10-part subcomponent of the flagellum has been identified, but getting from 10 to 30 is still a huge jump. There may be unknown “magic pathways” that take us there, for each and every one of these “irreducibly complex” structures; yet even the most careful examination of these structures has yielded no hints of such bounty from “Mother Nature.” One would not expect to find such “magic pathways,” unless the very warp and woof of the evolutionary process was designed by God to pave the way for the emergence of complex life. Moreover, Mind is the only thing we know that creates specified complexity. See “Irreducible Complexity Revisited” at http://www.designinference.com/documents/2004.01.Irred_Compl_Revisited.pdf by William Dembski.

Arguments 4 and 5 are ID arguments; some might say argument 3 is, as well. Note that arguments 3, 4 and 5 do not require Deus ex machina interventions. That’s a cheap anti-ID canard. ID proponents really don’t care how God made the world; what matters is that He did it.

Note too that all of these arguments are falsifiable. Consider E8, the most elegant and intricate shape in mathematics. Some physicists are trying to build a “Theory of Everything” which incorporates this structure. If the universe is the work of a Divine Mind, I’d certainly expect it to instantiate the most beautiful possible geometry. But that expectation could be dashed, which would falsify the first argument. Likewise, skeptical physicists like Victor Stenger have argued that the universe is not as finely-tuned as we imagine, and that life could emerge in universes with constants with values utterly different from those in ours. If Stenger is right, then the second design argument is falsified. Again, DNA looks pretty optimal, as a carrier of genetic information, but if scientists manage to design a better carrier, or show that alternative, less efficient carriers would have been weeded out almost immediately, then that undermines the third argument. Likewise, a demonstration that chance, coupled with the KNOWN laws of chemistry, would have been sufficient to generate the DNA, RNA and proteins that we find in simple cells, AND bring them together in the right way to make a cell, would destroy the fourth argument. Finally, the discovery of very smooth incremental pathways which could account for “irreducibly complex” structures without the need for any unusual biochemistry or odd-looking fitness functions, would dramatically undercut the fifth argument.

Science does not have to “fail” for ID to be true. All science has to do, for ID to succeed, is reveal the antecedent improbabilities of life arising and of irreducibly complex structres emerging. ID would not be threatened by the discovery that Nature contains a hidden bias toward life, so long as this built-in bias is “surprising,” from a scientific standpoint (i.e. wholly unexpected, based on a priori considerations). …

Professor Carter is terrified of another Galileo case. I’m not. We’re uncovering layer upon laye of wholly unexpected complexity in life and the cosmos, whose existence we never even suspected a generation ago. And if scoffers want to call this “God-of-the-gaps” reasoning, that’s fine by me. The gaps are GROWING, NOT shrinking. But what really terrifies me is the prospect of the next generation of children being brainwashed by the “politically correct” scientific establishment to believe that the emergence of the cosmos, life and intelligence as a result of natural processes was no big surprise, and that it was bound to happen sooner or later anyway. That’s what they’re being exposed to now, in our schools. And if you ask these children ten years from now if they believe in God, they’ll look at you with an incredulous stare and utter the words of Laplace: “I have no need of that hypothesis.” Now THAT scares me.

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The Passive Voice and ClimateGate

February 9th, 2010 No comments

From a comment of mine at Climate Audit about the President of the National Academy of Sciences:

Dr. Cicerone said,

“Clarity and transparency must be reinforced to build and maintain trust.”

That’s a classic example of why the passive voice is bad writing style (sorry, scientists, I know you’re taught to write badly on purpose). It allows the writer to avoid saying WHO does the action. What I’d like to see is:

“Someone should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

or, better,

“Authors of articles should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

or, even better,

“Journal editors should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”,

or, even better,

“The National Academy of Sciences should reinforce clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

or, best,

“I should have reinforced clarity and transparency to build and maintain trust.”

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Political Tactics- The House Republicans and Obama

February 9th, 2010 No comments

President Obama recently proposed bipartisan talks with Republicans. This is clearly because his previous policy of partisan Democratic legislation has backfired by generating highly unpopular bills with the Democratic label clearly on them. Now he wants to dilute that image by talking to Republicans and getting TV shots from friendly producers that implicate the Republicans too. This is a clever move, because if Republicans refuse, they look partisan, and if they agree, they still get no influence and the Democrats don’t get so much blame for the legislation.

The Republicans have responded more intelligently than usual, in an open letter that reminds everyone of Obama’s previous highly partisan legislative policy, points out that he’s still Republican-bashing, and makes some specific suggestions for how he could demonstrate his sincerity— e.g., by repeating and this time keeping his very specific promises about 72-hour notice, etc.

The President has proposed televised meetings, I think. That sounds like transparency, but it’s probably just so they can be staged Democratic events with Republican Congressmen as props. Their response should be to insist that the meetings include time for Republicans to talk too, rather than just to sit in front of Obama speeches, and, especially, some time for Republicans to ask Obama questions that he must answer on the spot, like Parliament’s “question time”. He will refuse, and blame the Republicans for obstructionism. Probably in the end, this will be a gain for Obama, but worse than if they accepted his terms. Their response should be to loudly repeat their desire for two-sided discussion and accuse Obama of cowardice. The Republicans would win overall if they did that, if the press were evenly divided; it is because only Obama’s side will be reported that I predict Obama will end up the winner. And, most likely, the Republicans will be outwitted and make the wrong moves, as they usually do in this kind of game.

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Buyer Regret

February 8th, 2010 No comments

From Instapundit:

The Obama stickers are disappearing in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago. I was shocked a few weeks ago when I realized that I was no longer seeing any Obama stickers during my walks home from the Fullerton el stop which is next to De Paul’s campus. Obviously different dynamics but until 18 months ago “Kerry/Edwards For America” stickers were commonplace as were the ever popular “Some Village Is Missing Its Idiot” stickers.

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The Audi Superbowl Commercial

February 8th, 2010 No comments

Feb. 10 update: Jonah Goldberg at NR:

… the Audi ad has a lot in common with those execrable MasterCard commercials. Targeting the same demographic, those ads depicted hapless fathers being harangued by their children to get with the environmental program. MasterCard’s tagline: “Helping Dad become a better man: Priceless.”

The difference is that MasterCard’s ads were earnest, creepy, diabetes-inducing treacle. Audi’s ad not only fails to invest the greens with moral authority, it concedes that the carbon cops are out of control and power-hungry…

I saw this Superbowl commercial live, and put a copy here. It is strange. Until the very last second, it looks like a commercial making fairly piercing fun of environmentalists, in effect calling them Nazis. The ending message, though, is to buy an Audi because it’s “green”. I wonder if Greens have a different reaction.

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Comment Moderation

February 8th, 2010 No comments

From a VC post and comments on comment moderation (my numbering and boldface):

[0] …the fallacy in volokh.com’s hands-off approach to comment moderation: by failing to moderate comments, the site simply externalizes the costs of bad comments onto its readers.

Allowing bad comments in comments threads has dramatically harmed the quality of discourse on the entire blog because it forces readers to spend much more of their own time filtering out bad comments. Busy and productive readers tend not to have time for this, and thus tend not to comment. So valuable comments are lost.

In other words, it’s not that relevant whether it takes more of Somin’s or Volokh’s time to moderate. What matters is whether it is efficient for one moderator to read a bad comment once, and delete it, whether by contrast a thousand people each have to read and disregard the bad comment. Obviously the former option is more efficient and should be chosen.

[1] My point, rather, is that aggressive comment moderation is likely to defeat the purpose of allowing comments in the first place, for the reasons Megan McArdle points out. The blogger will tend to treat comments antithetical to his views more negatively than those supporting them, which in turn will undermine the objective of having a free discussion with various sides represented. Aggressive moderation also strikes me as a poor use of my blogging time relative to writing more and better posts. Thus, I will only resort to it if things get so bad that there is no alternative.

[2] On a serious note, the Glasgow Herald pulled the comment section as far as I can tell simply because the concrete information the commenters were giving consistently undermined the bias vector of the articles.

[3]ProfessorBainbridge.com is not a public forum. I pay for it. So there are no rules. There is simply an arbitrary despotism in which freedom of speech depends mainly on how cranky I’m feeling at the moment. Granted, long time readers get more slack than newbies, but nobody has a “right” to be heard in that space any more than you would in my house.

[4]… I have been involved in online communities which were NOT fairly moderated in the past though, and a little transparency would have helped everyone see what was going on much faster. I remember being silently (and without warning) being silently banned from the SQL-Ledger lists (SQL-Ledger is an open source project aimed at providing small-business financial accounting software) with no warning or message simply because the moderator thought I was a threat to his control. He wanted a captive audience and I didn’t want to see that, so I tried to work with him on opening up things….. I ended up becoming a far greater threat simply because I was shut out though….

Good governance is good governance, and online communities must be governed like tiny countries. Some are run by dictatorial juntas (as in here), some by dictators (Linux used to be, but is becoming more republican as time goes on), some are democracies (Debian), and some (like the LedgerSMB project or the PostgreSQL project) are outright republics. Many of the dictatorships can be benevolant, so this isn’t meant as a criticism of the VC bloggers.

The only difference between owner censorship and government censorship is that one can easily vote with one’s feet and avoid problems. Hence dictators must be benevolent if they want to succeed or folks will just go elsewhere. (Indeed dictatorial and republican models generally work better than democracies on this scale, where folks can so easily vote with their feet.)

A good way to think of the internet is as a bunch of tiny countries with perfectly or nearly perfectly open borders.

[5] Iya Somin said,

Posting is a vastly more productive activity than moderating (at least once moderating goes beyond more than a very minimal investment).

Don’t be too sure of that. My prediction is that some time in the future people will realize that the comments sections of blogs can be even better than the posts themselves, and bloggers will come to act more as editors than as authors. When I used to read Commentary (and perhaps still–I just got out of the habit), I found their letters to the editor section as good as the articles, because they’d print interesting (if often wrong) letters and then have the article author do a wrap-up reply to them all.

But that requires very heavy comment moderation. To have a truly good comments section, the blogger would have to throw out at least 2/3 of current comments– which would take him little time, actually– since most comments are by people with no real information or knowledge and displaying no wit or thought.

[6] A commentor said:

“The only difference between owner censorship and government censorship is that one can easily vote with one’s feet and avoid problems. Hence dictators must be benevolent if they want to succeed or folks will just go elsewhere.”

There is another, fundamental, difference. If the owner is deciding on a comment policy, he knows whether he is benevolent or unfair. If he is unfair, he’ll be unfair and it doesn’t matter what his stated policy is, because he can violate it with impunity. If he is benevolent, then he should exercise his benevolence by deleting comments as appropriate.

The Presbyterians’ Sabbath Goyim

February 7th, 2010 No comments

Pastor Bayly has a nice touch at criticizing the errors of Baptists while praising the features in which they are superior to Presbyterians/DutchReformed:

Seen a reformed man at your baby-slaughterhouse, recently, crying out to those on the highway to Hell to repent and turn? Offering to feed and clothe and pay for the medical care of the baby’s mother as she takes her first fledgling steps of faith?

No. That’s the calling of Dr. Dobson. And Clarence Thomas. Let the Southern Baptists do it–they have no theology, anyway, and serve so nicely as Presbyterians’ Sabbath goyim.

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The best short summary I’ve seen of the various ClimateGate scandals (plus some Steyn)

February 6th, 2010 1 comment

Margaret Wente,’s “The great global warming collapse” in the Globe and Mail has the best short summary I’ve seen of the various ClimateGate scandals. (I’ve tacked some Steyn excerpts at the end too, on the Glaciers.)

In 2007, the most comprehensive report to date on global warming, issued by the respected United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made a shocking claim: The Himalayan glaciers could melt away as soon as 2035….

But the claim was rubbish, and the world’s top glaciologists knew it. It was based not on rigorously peer-reviewed science but on an anecdotal report by the WWF itself. When its background came to light on the eve of Copenhagen, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, shrugged it off. But now, even leading scientists and environmental groups admit the IPCC is facing a crisis of credibility that makes the Climategate affair look like small change….

And now, the science scandals just keep on coming. First there was the vast cache of e-mails leaked from the University of East Anglia, home of a crucial research unit responsible for collecting temperature data. Although not fatal to the science, they revealed a snakepit of scheming to keep contradictory research from being published, make imperfect data look better, and withhold information from unfriendly third parties. If science is supposed to be open and transparent, these guys acted as if they had a lot to hide.

Despite widespread efforts to play down the Climategate e-mails, they were very damaging. An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian – among the most aggressive advocates for action on climate change – has found that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed, and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

Meantime, the IPCC – the body widely regarded, until now, as the ultimate authority on climate science – is looking worse and worse. After it was forced to retract its claim about melting glaciers, Mr. Pachauri dismissed the error as a one-off. But other IPCC claims have turned out to be just as groundless.

For example, it warned that large tracts of the Amazon rain forest might be wiped out by global warming because they are extremely susceptible to even modest decreases in rainfall. The sole source for that claim, reports The Sunday Times of London, was a magazine article written by a pair of climate activists, one of whom worked for the WWF. One scientist contacted by the Times, a specialist in tropical forest ecology, called the article “a mess.”

Worse still, the Times has discovered that Mr. Pachauri’s own Energy and Resources Unit, based in New Delhi, has collected millions in grants to study the effects of glacial melting – all on the strength of that bogus glacier claim, which happens to have been endorsed by the same scientist who now runs the unit that got the money. Even so, the IPCC chief is hanging tough. He insists the attacks on him are being orchestrated by companies facing lower profits.

Until now, anyone who questioned the credibility of the IPCC was labelled as a climate skeptic, or worse. But many climate scientists now sense a sinking ship, and they’re bailing out….

I’ll tack on excerpts from Mark Steyn’s wonderful column on the 2035 Glacier Melt (my boldface):

Take the Himalayan glaciers. They’re supposed to be entirely melted by 2035. The evidence is totally disproportionate, man. No wonder professor Orville Schell of Berkeley is so upset about it: “Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change-induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya,” he wrote. “Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited.” I’ll say. Professor Schell continued: “If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you—the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal . . .”

Poor chap. Still, you can’t blame him for being in the slough of despond. That magnificent landform is melting before his eyes like the illustration of the dripping ice cream cone that accompanied his eulogy for the fast vanishing glaciers. Everyone knows they’re gonna be gone in a generation. “The glaciers on the Himalayas are retreating,” said Lord Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and author of the single most influential document on global warming. “We’re facing the risk of extreme runoff, with water running straight into the Bay of Bengal and taking a lot of topsoil with it. A few hundred square miles of the Himalayas are the source for all the major rivers of Asia—the Ganges, the Yellow River, the Yangtze—where three billion people live. That’s almost half the world’s population.” And NASA agrees, and so does the UN Environment Programme, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the World Wildlife Fund, and the respected magazine the New Scientist. The evidence is, like, way disproportionate.

But where did all these experts get the data from? Well, NASA’s assertion that Himalayan glaciers “may disappear altogether” by 2030 rests on one footnote, citing the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report from 2007.

… And the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that report, so it must be kosher, right? Well, yes, its Himalayan claims rest on a 2005 World Wildlife Fund report called “An Overview of Glaciers.”

WWF? Aren’t they something to do with pandas and the Duke of Edinburgh? True. But they wouldn’t be saying this stuff if they hadn’t got the science nailed down, would they? The WWF report relies on an article published in the New Scientist in 1999 by Fred Pearce.

That’s it? One article from 12 years ago in a pop-science mag? Oh, but don’t worry, back in 1999 Fred did a quickie telephone interview with a chap called Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. And this Syed Hasnain cove presumably knows a thing or two about glaciers.

Well, yes. But he now says he was just idly “speculating”; he didn’t do any research or anything like that.

But so what? His musings were wafted upwards through the New Scientist to the World Wildlife Fund to the IPCC to a global fait accompli: the glaciers are disappearing. Everyone knows that. You’re not a denier, are you? India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, says there was not “an iota of scientific evidence” to support the 2035 claim. Yet that proved no obstacle to its progress through the alarmist establishment. Dr. Murari Lal, the “scientist” who included the 2035 glacier apocalypse in the IPCC report, told Britain’s Mail on Sunday that he knew it wasn’t based on “peer-reviewed science” but “we thought we should put it in”—for political reasons.

… This would appear to be in breach of the IPCC’s own guidelines. The WWF is a pressure group. They’re not scientists. They’re not even numerate: one of their more startling glacier-melt claims derives entirely from an arithmetical miscalculation arising from a typing error.

… in the years since Syed Hasnain “speculated” about glacial melt, the BBC, the CBC, CNN and thousands of newspapers around the world have hired specialist Environmental Correspondents on lavish salaries. Yet not one of them gave any serious examination to the claims of the IPCC report, or the “science” on which they rested.

V. K. Raina, of the Geological Survey of India, produced a special report demonstrating that the run-for-your-life-the-glaciers-are-melting IPCC scenario was utterly false. For his pains, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the self-aggrandizing old bruiser and former railroad engineer who serves as head honcho of the IPCC jet set, dismissed Mr. Raina’s research as “voodoo science.” He’s now been obliged to admit the voodoo was all on his side. But don’t worry. By 2008, Syed Hasnain’s decade-old casual chit-chat over the phone to a London journalist had become “settled science,” so Dr. Pachauri’s company TERI (The Energy & Resources Institute) approached the Carnegie Corporation for a grant to research “challenges to South Asia posed by melting Himalayan glaciers,” and was rewarded with half a million bucks. Which they promptly used to hire Syed Hasnain. In other words, professor Hasnain has landed a cushy gig researching solutions to an entirely non-existent global crisis he accidentally invented over a 15-minute phone call 10 years earlier. As they say in the glacier business, ice work if you can get it.

… I can see what’s in it for Dr. Pachauri and professor Hasnain, and even for the lowly Environmental Correspondent enjoying a cozy sinecure at a time of newspaper cutbacks in everything from foreign bureaus to arts coverage.

But it’s hard to see what’s in it for Dan Gajewski of Ottawa and the millions of kindred spirits who’ve signed on to this racket and are determined to stick with it. Don’t be the last off a collapsing bandwagon. The scientific “consensus” is melting way faster than the glaciers.

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