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An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming

February 6th, 2010 16 comments

Yesterday I received a group email on global warming and Christianity and two worthwhile replies to that email. It looked like an interesting debate with more than two sides might start, so I’m posting it here, as a more suitable place than emails for such a discussion. Later I’ll add the links. I’ve also put my old post on ClimateGate and Economists below. The topic is distinct, but the same people may be interested.

Dear colleague:

A few weeks ago, I added my signature to what I’m convinced is a truly important policy document, An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming (the full text of which can be found below). Along with fellow Christian economists Dr. Bill Anderson, Dr. Ken Chilton, Dr. Tracy Miller, and Dr. Shawn Ritenour, I am writing to invite you to join us in signing this document, which is the product of years of research by evangelical theologians, scientists, economists, and other scholars dedicated to bringing Biblical world view, theology, and ethics together with excellent science and economics to address simultaneously economic development for the world’s poorest and wise, godly creation stewardship.

Supporting the Declaration is an outstanding 76-page, scholarly document, A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming, the product of months of work by 30 outstanding theologians, scientists, and economists, all with expertise in the implications of our own fields for understanding climate change and climate policy. (I was the lead author for the economics chapter.) If you have any doubts about whether the Declaration really represents state-of-the-art scholarship, I urge you to read the Renewed Call to Truth. You’ll see clear explanations, convincing data, and thorough documentation to scholarly sources. Most of what we learn about climate change from the mass media fails to reflect the best science and economics, and of course it completely ignores the crucial contribution of Biblical world view, theology, and ethics. That means Christians must carefully “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and the Renewed Call to Truth will stand up to the test.

By endorsing An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, you’ll be joining over 150 education and ministry leaders, pastors, theologians, ethicists, scientists, economists, and other scholars, plus over 350 grass-roots evangelicals, who have already done so in less than two months since its release. You’ll also be expressing publicly your conviction that climate and energy policy, indeed all environmental policy, must be based on sound science and economics that are in turn rooted in a solidly Biblical world view, and must keep the needs of the world’s most vulnerable – the poor – front and center. And you’ll be expressing support for solid climate science research that is not manipulated in support of ideological positions.

So please, read the Declaration and then sign it online. We’ll be honored to have you join us!

Sincerely

G Cornelis van Kooten, Professor of Economics and Research Chair in Environmental Studies and Climate, University of Victoria, BC

Dr. William L. Anderson, Associate Professor of Economics, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD

Dr. Kenneth W. Chilton, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Emeritus Director of the Institute for the Study of Economics and the Environment, Lindenwood University, St Charles, MO

Dr. Tracy Miller, Associate Professor of Economics, Grove City College, Grove City, PA

Dr. Shawn Ritenour, Associate Professor of Economics, Grove City College, Grove City, PA

An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming

Add your name–click here!

PREAMBLE

As governments consider policies to fight alleged man-made global warming, evangelical leaders have a responsibility to be well informed, and then to speak out. A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming demonstrates that many of these proposed policies would destroy jobs and impose trillions of dollars in costs to achieve no net benefits. They could be implemented only by enormous and dangerous expansion of government control over private life. Worst of all, by raising energy prices and hindering economic development, they would slow or stop the rise of the world’s poor out of poverty and so condemn millions to premature death.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

1. We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.

2. We believe abundant, affordable energy is indispensable to human flourishing, particularly to societies which are rising out of abject poverty and the high rates of disease and premature death that accompany it. With present technologies, fossil and nuclear fuels are indispensable if energy is to be abundant and affordable.

3. We believe mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, achievable mainly by greatly reduced use of fossil fuels, will greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies.

4. We believe such policies will harm the poor more than others because the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on energy and desperately need economic growth to rise out of poverty and overcome its miseries.

WHAT WE DENY

1. We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.

2. We deny that alternative, renewable fuels can, with present or near-term technology, replace fossil and nuclear fuels, either wholly or in significant part, to provide the abundant, affordable energy necessary to sustain prosperous economies or overcome poverty.

3. We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits.

4. We deny that such policies, which amount to a regressive tax, comply with the Biblical requirement of protecting the poor from harm and oppression.

A CALL TO ACTION

In light of these facts,

1. We call on our fellow Christians to practice creation stewardship out of Biblical conviction, adoration for our Creator, and love for our fellow man—especially the poor.

2. We call on Christian leaders to understand the truth about climate change and embrace Biblical thinking, sound science, and careful economic analysis in creation stewardship.

3. We call on political leaders to adopt policies that protect human liberty, make energy more affordable, and free the poor to rise out of poverty, while abandoning fruitless, indeed harmful policies to control global temperature.

ENDORSEMENT

While our signatures express our endorsement only of this Declaration and do not imply agreement with every point in A Renewed Call to Truth, we believe that document provides ample justification for it. We call on scholars and experts to join us in signing this Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming.

* Organization and title are listed for identification only, and do not imply organizational endorsement.

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ClimateGate Misconduct and Economists

February 6th, 2010 No comments

Below is a repeat of an old post. By now, I did contact a number of AEA people and economists interested in global warming. They were all sympathetic (of the 80% or so who replied to my email), but not enthusiastic. I fell into that class myself in January, seeing that ClimateGate was yesterday’s news and had become too distant from economics for a statement to be worth pushing, though I think it still very appropriate for fields closer to those implicated in the scandal. Still, I think this worth posting on an individual’s weblog, and it’s useful as focussing on the scholarly misconduct and how in economics, unlike climatology, it would not be tolerated, rather than on global warming per se.

I’m not sure how to get this going, but I’d like to have lots of economists sign a petition on ClimateGate. We scholars are in danger of losing a lot of our moral capital because of our tolerance of bad behavior, and I think we’d end up with the public thinking we’re much less scholarly than we really are— at least we in economics, and, I hope, every field but climatology.

I’m not going to the American Economic Association meeting in Atlanta in January, but maybe I’ll find somebody who is who is willing to sit in a hotel lobby with a petition for people to sign. Volunteers, and comments on the draft below, are welcome, especially comments from anyone who is a strong believer in both global warming and good scholarly practices.

In the November 2009 “ClimateGate” emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia certain climatologists casually discuss suppressing other people’s research and thwarting efforts to obtain the data and computer code used in published articles. This has hurt the reputation not only of those scholars but of climatology, science, and peer-reviewed scholarship generally. Unless scholars speak out, there is a danger that the public will believe bad behavior is routine in every field of research. The danger is all the greater because even some scholars not implicated have defended the emails as routine behavior or as unimportant.

We, the undersigned Ph.D. economists, wish to inform the public that we condemn those practices. Any economist writing the ClimateGate emails that we quote below would immediately lose the respect of his colleagues, regardless of their political views. We are making no statement about climate change science or policy when we say this. Few if any of we who sign have expertise in the science of global warming. Economists do have much to say about the costs and benefits of various climate policies, and our debates can be found elsewhere. What matters here is that in economics, requests for one’s data and computer code are considered compliments to the importance of one’s work and are routinely satisfied, whether the other scholar is trying to extend the results or refute them.

Authors are expected to make replication convenient even on controversial topics. John Lott’s work on gun control and John Donohue and Steven Levitt’s on abortion provide good examples of authors providing data to people they knew were seeking to find flaws in their work. The
American Economic Review requires data to be made conveniently available unless special circumstances require confidentiality. The policy at http://www.aeaweb.org/aer/data.php, says:

“All data used in analysis must be clearly and precisely documented.
All data used in analysis must be made available to any researcher for purposes of replication. See Data Availability Policy.
Any requests for an exemption from the data availability policy must be made in the cover letter when the paper is first submitted. “

We are making a statement about economics, not climatology. We do not know whether the ClimateGate practices are common in that field or not, or even whether some extenuating circumstances exist. Rather, we wish to say that we find the specific emails listed on the attached page appalling and shameful.

Signatures in alphabetical order (with affiliations for identification only)

Jane Doe (Ministry of Governmental Affairs, Wherisitstan)
John Doe (Big Research Institute)
John Smith (Random University)

[put signatures in two or three columns]

[NEWPAGE]

The ClimateGate emails, available in searchable form at http://www.climate-gate.org, include the following statements. Boldfacing is added to aid the reader in skimming them.

  1. [January 20, 2005] Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers [the editor of Geophysical Research Letters] is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU [American Geophysical Union] channels to get him ousted. Even this would be difficult.
  2. [January 21, 2005] Yeah, basically this is just a heads up to people that something might be up here. What a shame that would be. It’s one thing to lose “Climate Research”. We can’t afford to lose GRL [Geophysical Research Letters]. I think it would be useful if people begin to record their experiences w/ both Saiers [the GRL biogeosciences editor] and potentially Mackwell (I don’t know him–he would seem to be complicit w/ what is going on here).

    If there is a clear body of evidence that something is amiss, it could be taken through the proper channels. I don’t that the entire AGU [American Geophysical Union] hierarchy has yet been compromised!

  3. [November 15, 2005] I suspect that this is the first in a line of attacks (I’m sure Tom C is next in line) that will ultimately get “published” one way or another. The GRL leak may have been plugged up now w/ new editorial leadership there, [Prof. Saiers was removed from handling sumbissions responding to the MM paper, and one response he’d rejected was unrejected] but these guys always have “Climate Research” and “Energy and Environment”, and will go there if necessary.

    FOOTNOTE–LINK TO ANOTHER FILE:

    Prof. Saiers says

    “This paper caused a bit of a stir and because I oversaw the peer review of this paper, I assume that Wigley inferred (incorrectly) that I was a climate-change skeptic. I stepped down as GRL editor at the end of my three-year term, long after the excitement over the McIntyre and McKitrick paper had passed. My departure had nothing to do with attempts by Wigley or anyone else to have me sacked.” His vitae says: “2004 – 2006 Hydrology/Biogeosciences Editor, Geophysical Research Letters“.

    Saiers indeed remained as Hydrology/Biogeosciences Editor but:

    “It was announced that the editor in chief of Geophysical Research Letters, Jay Famiglietti, had taken over the file for the McIntyre paper and its responses. This was justified he claimed, because of the high number of responses – four – that the McIntyre paper had received. That two of those responses had been rejected and were no longer in play was not mentioned. The reason for the change quickly became apparent though when, at the end of September, the rejected response from David Ritson turned out not only to have been re-submitted but had also been accepted for publication. This was another clear breach of the journal’s rules, which required that an article’s author should be able to comment on responses before they were accepted. Famiglietti however refused to make any on-the-record comments about why he behaved as he did.”

    END OF FOOTNOTE

  4. This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the
    “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal!

    So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a
    legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate
    research community to no longer
    submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also
    need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently
    sit on the editorial board…

  5. I think the skeptics will use this paper to their own ends and it will set paleo back a number of years if it goes unchallenged. I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor. A CRU person is on the editorial board, but papers get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch.

  6. Tim Osborn has just come across this. Best to ignore probably, so don’t let it spoil your day. I’ve not looked at it yet. It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice!

    I have learned one thing. This is that the reviewer who said they were too busy was Ray. I have been saying this to loads of papers recently (something Tom(w) can vouch for). It is clear from the differences between CR and the ERE piece that the other 4 reviewers did not say much, so a negative review was likely to be partly ignored, and the article would still have come out. I say this as this might come out if things get nasty. De Freitas will not say to Hans von Storch or to Clare Goodess who the 4 reviewers were. I believe his paleoclimatologist is likely to be Anthony Fowler, who does dendro at Auckland.

  7. Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [the RealClimate.org website] any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.
  8. Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it!
  9. I’ve attached a cleaned-up and commented version of the matlab code that I wrote for doing the Mann and Jones (2003) composites. I did this knowing that Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future, so best to clean up the code and provide to some of my close colleagues in case they want to test it, etc. Please feel free to use this code for your own internal purposes, but don’t pass it along where it may get into the hands of the wrong people.
  10. I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!
  11. Options appear to be:
    1. Send them the data.

    2. Send them a subset removing station data from some of the countries who made us pay in the normals papers of Hulme et al. (1990s) and also any number that David can remember. This should also omit some other countries like (Australia, NZ, Canada, Antarctica). Also could extract some of the sources that Anders added in (31-38 source codes in J&M 2003). Also should remove many of the early stations that we coded up in the 1980s.
    3. Send them the raw data as is, by reconstructing it from GHCN. How could this be done? Replace all stations where the WMO ID agrees with what is in GHCN. This would be the raw data, but it would annoy them.

  12. The next puzzle is why Wei-Chyung didn’t make the hard copy information
    available. Either it does not exist, or he thought it was too much trouble to access and copy. My guess is that it does not exist
    — if it did then why was it not in the DOE report? In support of this, it seems that there are other papers from 1991 and 1997 that show that the data do not exist. What are these papers? Do they really show this?

    Now my views. (1) I have always thought W-C W was a rather sloppy
    scientist. I therefore would not be surprised if he screwed up here.
    But ITEM X is in both the W-C W and Jones et al. papers — so where does it come from first? Were you taking W-C W on trust?

    (2) It also seems to me that the University at Albany has screwed up. To accept a complaint from Keenan and not refer directly to the complaint and the complainant in its report really is asking for trouble.

    (3) At the very start it seems this could have been easily dispatched. ITEM X really should have been …

    “Where possible, stations were chosen on the basis of station histories and/or local knowledge: selected stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times”

    —–

    I realise that Keenan is just a trouble maker and out to waste time, so
    I apologize for continuing to waste your time on this, Phil.
    However, I *am* concerned because all this happened under my watch as Director of CRU and, although this is unlikely, the buck eventually should stop with me.

  13. PS to Gavin – been following (sporadically) the CA stuff about the GISS data and release of the code etc by Jim. May take some of the pressure of you soon, by releasing a list of the stations we use – just a list, no code and no data. Have agreed to under the FOIA here in the UK.

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The Keynes-Hayek Rap

February 6th, 2010 No comments

Prof. Roberts and co-producer have done well both artistically and in representing Keynes and Hayek in this famous video. Even the music is good. Hayek gets the final word, but that’s fair enough given the views of the producers and the ample time they give the other side.

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Is the Left Anti-Semitic?

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

Gore Vidal’s “The Empire Lovers Strike Back” in The Nation’s 120th anniversary issue is interesting. He is being anti-semitic, but is that because he really is anti-semitic, or just because he knows it drives Norman Podhoretz crazy? Mr. Podhoretz, who is his main target in the article, has just written a book on why Jews are liberals and has two chapters contrasting the approval the Left gave Vidal’s article with the condemnation the Right gave Joseph Sobran’s milder and more obscure articles at about the same time.

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Specific Performance for Prostitution Contracts

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

A New Zealand girl has sold her virginity on the Internet. Prostitution is legal in New Zealand. The contract is not yet performed. Traditionally, such contracts were not enforceable on grounds of public policy. I wonder if they are now? What is particularly appalling is that unlike most contracts, contracts for personal services are enforced by specific performance. If that applies here, she can’t back out and just pay back the money— she’s got to perform.

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Antarctic Cooling

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

From Watt:

Warming and Cooling in Antarctica

NASA themselves appear very confused about Antarctic temperature trends. As you can see in the two images below, sometimes they think Antarctica is warming and other times they think it is cooling.

NASA's other map

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RAHM EMANUEL COMPARES DEMOCRATS TO RETARDED PEOPLE

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

From Instapundit:

RAHM EMANUEL COMPARES DEMOCRATS TO RETARDED PEOPLE, then apologizes to retarded people.

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The Five Worst (and Five Best) American Criminal Codes

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

I looked at the first few pages of Paul H. Robinson
Michael T. Cahill
Usman Mohammad,
The Five Worst (and Five Best) American Criminal Codes
Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 95, pp. 1-89, 2000, where it talks about what a code should do. A few ideas:

1. Common law crimes *do* provide notice, if they are in accord with natural law and everyday morality, as they should be in the spirit of the common law. The idea of the common law, originally, was that the judge should look to the established customs of the locality in making his decisions. He was not creating law; he was finding it. If he is really doing that, then the citizens are on notice that an action is Bad, and he is merely telling the executive to impose the expected penalty.

Of course, it’s hard to trust judges, especially nowadays, so for that reason maybe we should not allow them to sentence people for common-law crimes.

2. Parallel to the criminal codes we have enormous bodies of regulation, both civil and criminal. All the arguments applied to a good criminal code apply to these, to the extent that the impose fines and imprisonment. I bet iif we looked at regulations, every state and the the federal government too would come in well below the worst state criminal code, and the defects in the state criminal codes are trivial by comparison.

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Incompetence in Government

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

The American Spectator has a good article on incompetence in the Obama Administration and lack of accountability. It succinctly tells why Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair should all have resigned because of the underwear bomber’s handling.

Napolitano: “The system worked…”

Brennan: “Though all of that information was available to all-source analysts at the CIA and the [National Counterterrorism Center] prior to the attempted attack, the dots were never connected, and as a result, the problem appears to be more about a component failure to “connect the dots,” rather than a lack of information sharing.” That means its *his* fault.

Holder: “The first FBI agents on the scene interrogated Abdulmutallab for about fifty minutes before the Holder Justice Department intervened from Washington and instructed a team of new agents to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights….”

Blair: He said the HIG should have been helping deal with the bombing, but “…not only is the HIG, as Blair himself later clarified, not yet operational, but it had not been operational since President Obama mandated its creation in August of 2009 — information that one would hope the Director of National Intelligence can keep straight in assessing what went wrong.”

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Philip Lawler’s The Faithful Departed

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Philip Lawler’s The Faithful Departed is a very good book. It is about the decline of the Roman Catholic Church in America, using Boston as the focus. I hope he writes a similar book about evangelicalism. I’ll perhaps write more review here later. His book is really about church discipline. First, the bishops didn’t discipline the pastors. They let heresy flourish, and, in the last 1/4 of the book, homosexual pedophilia. Second, the bishops and pastors didn’t discipline the members. They let members— notably, the ones who were politicians— flout the birth control, abortion, and divorce rules. Third, the bishops, pastors, and members didn’t discipline nonmembers. They let evil prosper and grow with little criticism and less action. Many members at least tried to stop abortion, but the leadership was lukewarm in its support for them, and in Boston, at least, frequently criticized anti-abortion people and a few times actually forbade demonstrations.

Philosophy Songs

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Philosophy songs from Professor Alan White and Physics Songs from Prof. Walter Smith (Haverford) via
Prof. Tom Smith.

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The Dollar Bill on the Pavement

January 31st, 2010 No comments

From Prof. Cowen:

I was walking in New York near Wall Street and I saw a green folded up note that looked to be money. I too paused and thought of the old joke that if it was money someone would have picked it up already, but I picked it up anyway and took a closer look…..alas, it was a cleverly folded piece of paper designed to look like money when dropped on the sidewalk, although it was actually an advertisement.

These stories make for a good game theory problem. The applicable model also explains imperfect efficiency coexisting with lack of profit opportunity in the real stock market.

I am the first player. My choice is to pick up the piece of paper or not. Picking it up is costly.

The advertiser is the second player. His choice is how many ads disguised as dollars to distribute. Putting out more ads is costlier.

Exogenously, there are a fixed number of real dollars bills floating around sidewalks.

The unique equilibrium is in mixed strategies. My strategy is to pick up the paper with probability X. The advertiser’s strategy is to distribute Y ads. Y is big enough that I am indifferent between picking up the paepr or not. X is big enough that the advertiser is indifferent between advertising and not.

It’s a bit trickier to make it work than I thougth in this setting, but I think it’ll fly.

Corrupt U.S. Attorneys

January 31st, 2010 No comments

This Harper’s article has very serious and credible charges against Bush US Attorney for Alabama Leura Canary and against one of the highest career civil service lawyers in the Justice Dept, Mr. Margolis. It shows how a US Attorney can make trouble for someone even without being able to convict him of anything, or, indeed, bring him to trial, by doing tricky things like initiating proceedings which disqualify his lawyers by raising conflicts of interest.

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Pride and Liking Movies

January 31st, 2010 No comments

(Rasmusen) Insight from Steve Sailer in Taki’s Magazine:

Saying “I like John Ford Westerns” sounds more sophisticated than saying “I like John Wayne Westerns,” even though they are more or less the same movies.”

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Submitting Official Comments to Government Officials

January 30th, 2010 No comments

I posted something like what is below at Climate Audit, in connection with submissions to a UK Parliamentary Committee. The same thing applies to comments on proposed regulations to US or any other administrative agencies.

Think about how your readers will react, those being (a) pro-warming MPs, (b) anti-warming MPs (maybe— I don’t know if there are any), (c) unsure MPs, and (d) staffers. Imagine yours is the 800th submission a young staffer is reading, and he is skipping going out with his girlfriend to read it. What he wants is NEW information. So don’t write unless you have something NEW to say.

One kind of new thing is “I, a very important person, believe X”. Probably most us are not important enough for that, but if you’re a senator or an emperor, go ahead and say, “I think the CRU people are evil”.

More likely is report of a fact they might not notice otherwise.

Also possible is report of a reform or action they might not think of. That is what my own submission is about.

A submission is much more useful if it only says one thing than if it says many things, and if it is short rather than long. If the committee wants to follow up, they can do it themselves. But they are skimming submission as fast as they can, and they will appreciate brevity.

All these things, by the way, are what effective lobbying is all about: helping out the government officials by providing useful information (including political effect info they may not know about). Professional lobbyists know that the official’s time and attention is like gold: hard to get, and too precious to waste.

3000 words is plenty– more than necessary for this kind of thing. I used about 800.

Don’t do this in the hopes of being published in a report. I am sure every submission will be properly filed away in a basement somewhere, and probably even have its first paragraph read (if that paragraph isn’t good, they can be excused for not wasting their time by going further), but this is not the way to immortalize yourself.

I have posted a poorly formatted version of my own submission to the committee at the bottom of my blog post at

http://rasmusen.dreamhosters.com/b/2010/01/an-interesting-ex-post-facto-law-case/

Chris Matthews skewered: “I forgot he was black”

January 29th, 2010 No comments

I don’t know anything about Chris Matthews except he’s a TV pundit, but this is hilarious. Don’t get bored in the middle— the boring part is a set-up for what comes after, and the last line is the best one. Beautifully crafted.

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Obama’s Amazing Ignorance and Rudeness in Attacking the Supreme Court

January 28th, 2010 No comments

From here:


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Professor Barnett says:

In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.

I actually approve of Presidents vigorously condemning the Supreme Court and its opinions. That isn’t the problem here. There are two problems here:

1. It’s rude and unfair to do it when the Justices are sitting in the front rows right near you, and can’t fight back.

2. Obama revealed amazing ignorance, especially for someone who taught con law at Chicago. Chicago must be shuddering at this. Obama was wrong when he said this reversed a century of law. This kind of corporate spending was legal till McCain-Feingold– corporations just didn’t choose to do it. Obama was also wrong when he said Congress could reverse the Supreme Court. Their decision wasn’t statutory interpretation— it said that a statute passed by Congress was unconstitutional. Thus, reversing it requires a constitutional amendment, which isn’t what Obama was talking about. What Obama said was seriously stupid. Does he know *nothing* about con law?

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If this dude were a normal person…

January 28th, 2010 2 comments

VC’s Professor Kerr has a good post on comment moderation in connection with a certain rude commentor to which Andy Bolen comments:

Haha if this dude were a normal person, he’d be really embarrassed right now. But he’s not, he’s the sort of person whose comments need moderation…

An Interesting Ex Post Facto Law Case

January 28th, 2010 No comments

It seems the climatologists at East Anglia violated the F.of Info law but cannot be prosecuted under it because it has a 6-month statute of limitations which tolls *from the time of the offence*, rather than from the time of discovery of the offence, as all other statutes of limitations do. This, of course, completely nullifies it for almost all purposes,since you don’t discover this kind of offence for quite some time. As many have noted, this statute, like all statutes, was largely drafted by bureaucrats, its chief target, and Sir Humphrey is a clever guy. He even piled on extra protection: I read somewhere that another provision says that a complaint cannot be initiated till after the organization’s internal investigation process has been completed— which would usually take more than 6 months and which would be run by the guilty organization. Amazing!

Fortunately, all is not lost. They are talking about revising the British law, and they are inviting public comment on that. I really should comment, but someone else ought to make this same point in case I’m too busy.

It is perfectly possible in Britain to revise the law to punish actions that have already taken place. It’s not like in the US where the Constitutions prohibits ex post facto laws. From Wikipedia:

In the United Kingdom, Ex Post Facto laws are strictly frowned upon, but are permitted by virtue of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Historically, all acts of Parliament before 1793 were Ex Post Facto legislation, inasmuch as their date of effect was the first day of the session in which they were passed. This situation was rectified by the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1793.[citation needed]

Ex Post Facto criminal laws are prohibited by Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory, but parliamentary sovereignty, in theory, takes priority even over this.[citation needed]

Thus, if we agree that this is a bad loophole and that these perpetrators and others in unrelated crimes ought to be punished, Britain can do it, by passing a retroactive law. If the Government doesn’t, it doesn’t mean they *can’t* prosecute, it means they *don’t want to* prosecute (which is likely). They need the screws put on them by people pointing this out.

Addition at 9:36 am: Actually, reading a little more at the CA comments, I see that the UK government people might be lying when they say the statute of limitations is 6 months. A comment says (my fonts):

We do not have a statute of limitations as such. But no indictable offences at summary trial are subject to the following:-
The 6 month limit is enshrined in law. Namely, The Magistrates Court Act 1980 :
section 127 Limitation of Time

(1) Except as otherwise expressly provided by any enactment and subject to subsection (2) below, a magistrates’ court shall not try an information or hear a complaint unless the information was laid, or the complaint made, within 6 months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose.

(2) Nothing in–
(a) subsection (1) above; or
( B) subject to subsection (4) below, any other enactment (however framed or worded) which, as regards any offence to which it applies, would but for this section impose a time-limit on the power of a magistrates’ court to try an information summarily or impose a limitation on the time for taking summary proceedings,
shall apply in relation to any indictable offence.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph ( B) of subsection (2) above, that paragraph includes enactments which impose a time-limit that applies only in certain circumstances (for example, where the proceedings are not instituted by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or some other specified authority).

(4) Where, as regards any indictable offence, there is imposed by any enactment (however framed or worded, and whether falling within subsection (2)( B) above or not) a limitation on the time for taking proceedings on indictment for that offence no summary proceedings for that offence shall be taken after the latest time for taking proceedings on indictment.

If that’s all there is, with no speciall statute of limitations for this particular offence, there’s no way it applies. I’m sure in the UK that if someone is murdered by poison, and the fact that he was poisoned is only discovered 7 months later, the murdered doesn’t get off.

See too this 2007 statute of limitations English decision:
http://www.withersworldwide.com/news-publications/262/deliberate-concealment-limitation.aspx

9:48: Yet another CA comment that indicates the 6-months may be just for minor offences, not murder (which is usually specfically exempted anyway, so my example was a bad one):

There is no general period of limitation which applies to criminal proceedings in the UK but there has been a statutory limit of 6 months on very minor offences for centuries.

It’s still the case that a generic SOL law would undoubtedly be interpreted to toll from time of discovery of the crime.

9:58. Is private prosecution still possible in England? If so, this is the perfect case. Easy facts, but the government says it is blocked by law. So a private prosecutor could bring it, the court would say it is legal as the first step in the case, and the government’s duplicity would be revealed. In fact, it would be really cheap, because a full development of the facts would not be needed to get to that stage.

January 30. Here is my submission to Parliament, sent today.

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA
scitechcom@parliament.uk
“Climatic Research Unit”

30 January 2010

Dear Sirs,

(1) I am a well-known economist, specializing in law-and-economics, game theory, and the economic theory of politics. Very likely any economist you ask in the UK will have heard my name, though I am nowhere near Nobel caliber. My vitae is up at http://www.rasmusen.org/vita.htm. I have no financial or other relevant connection to the issue on which I am commenting.

(2) I am writing now with a comment on dealing with Climategate. I write not on what happened at East Anglia, but on a narrow point of law, politics, and procedure that may have escaped your notice. My comment is on your question:

“— What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?
— Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate (see below)?”

The implications of this case are that criminal concealment of scientific research data in the UK is currently nonpunishable by the government, something which no Independent Review will solve. You need a new bill to punish nondisclosure. This bill could be special to scientific data, and so would, I imagine, be within your remit.

(3) It is said that a statute of limitations prevents prosecution of people undoubtedly guilty of concealing information. I take that as given for points (4) and (5). I am deeply skeptical, however. I have seen The Magistrates Court Act 1980 :section 127, which I do NOT think would apply. This looks more like the kind of excuse that would fool the public but nobody who actually looked into the law. Maybe not— but do ask the lawyers to cite chapter and verse and explain the legal concept of “tolling”.

(4) You can change the statute and prosecute the guilty parties. The US Constitution has a provision banning “ex post facto” laws, which might prevent that in the US (though not obviously— here, the change would merely involve extending the statute of limitations, rather than making an action illegal that used to be legal). You have no such constraint in the U.K. You could even use a mild form of a bill of attainder— a statute to punish one person who is morally culpable but whom the courts for reason of technicalities or favoritism won’t prosecute. So go ahead and change the law, and make it retroactive.

(5) It may well be the case that some people— I do not know who exactly, but I raise this as a possibility— would like to hide behind the statute of limitations to avoid doing their duty and prosecuting this crime. If so, their dereliction should be vigorously publicized. Here is the general idea:

(6) “Mr. X admits that Mr. Y has committed a crime, and ought to be punished, but he says that unfortunately the law was drafted poorly and so punishment is not possible. I have good news for Mr. X. Parliament can change the law, and punish Mr. Y for doing what was already illegal and what Mr. Y knew was illegal but which could not be prosecuted because of a draftsman’s carelessness. I trust I have Mr X’s enthusiastic support for this bill, because I would not like to believe that he is merely hiding behind the technicality to avoid punishing a man he admits is guilty.”

(7) I am, as I said, an economist rather than lawyer, but I have written extensively on law, bureaucracy, politics, and the mathematics of strategy, and that is what I am writing about today.

(8) I will mention one other point which might be useful. The economists at the University of East Anglia are very well regarded in the economics profession. I know a number of them personally from my visit to Oxford a couple of years ago. If you need a reliable, honest, person within the University you could do worse than to search among them.

Does increased CO2 cause increased sea level rise?

January 28th, 2010 No comments

From Watts

Claim 1. Does increased CO2 cause increased sea level rise?

Short answer, data to date says no. There has been no acceleration the rate of sea level rise. Sea level has been rising for centuries. But the rate of the rise has not changed a whole lot. Both tidal stations and satellites show no increase in the historic rate of sea level rise, in either the short or long term. Fig. 1 shows the most recent satellite data.

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God Seen in the World, Homosexuality, Family, Beauty

January 27th, 2010 No comments

Good stuff from a sermon posted on the Baylyblog on the worldly English homosexual who who wrote a perceptive, joking, piece about thinking of going straight and stodgy:

Muirhead’s head was turned by the display of a genuinely patriarchal father lovingly guiding his small son through one of modern life’s anxiety-laden adventures — the first trip to the barber shop. Please note also that in the Times story there is not a hint that the father who gave Muirhead a sight of something God created was himself a Christian. Rather, he was just a man, acting as God intended men to act toward their sons.

In one sense, none of this is new. There are many testimonies — a gazillion, probably — of Christians whose treks toward the faith began in exactly the same way, by beholding the goodness, wisdom, power, and beauty of God’s creation. This is what the first half of Psalm 19 is talking about.

Moreover, so common is this dynamic that it was used comically in an old film about two men who were (my memory may fail me here) house siding salesmen. In one scene they’re in a bustling cafe during lunch, when one of them approaches a sumptuous salad bar. He is suddenly awe-struck by the vegetables laid out before him in all their color, tastes, textures … well, he declares that this can’t be an accident. Someone made this all happen. A small-scale beatific vision at a salad bar! It could very well be that the screenwriter and/or director were mocking. If so, absent repentance that scene will likely be evidence submitted at the Doom in their prosecution before Jesus for blasphemy. For Christians, however, the scene is funnier than it could ever be for a mocking unbeliever, for what makes that scene “work” turns out to be as true as the first half of the 19th Psalm.

There are two things that are special about Muirhead in his vision of God’s goodness in creation (and, again, note he does not credit God at all for the goodness he saw in that barber shop!)

First, it is not “raw nature” (trees, rocks, rivers, weather, a salad bar, etc.) that he sees, but rather something much closer to God Himself — an image of God Himself. …

God grant Muirhead grace to know that his life is worse than abnormal, that it is sin against Someone who created manhood to be something other than what it has been in Muirhead’s life, that Muirhead must sooner or later engage that Someone face-to-face, and that he’d best do so as one covered by the blood of the Lamb.

It’s interesting as well to read the comments at the Baylyblog on this story. Some there seem to have missed the point Pr. Tim (and, I before him) were trying to make — namely, that there is genuine spiritual power in an authentic display of the good things God created. Knowledge of God in nature will not save (not in itself), which again is the point of Psalm 19. …

Meanwhile, take to heart that your life in this world, your good works, your own return to “normalcy” by God’s grace — all of these things which you likely do not even think about, all of them are on display to the lost in this world, who can see in you what they know is lacking in themselves. …

The Daily Show with John Stewart: Obama Classroom Teleprompter Clip

January 26th, 2010 No comments
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Hyperinflation-Zimbabwe, Hungary

January 25th, 2010 No comments

I thought my Zimbabwean 100 trillion dollar note was the biggest denomination ever, but it seems I was wrong. From NR:

ATMs, electronic cash registers, and financial software stopped working: The systems had not been designed to handle such large numbers. A loaf of bread cost more than Zim$100 billion — try typing that figure into the ATM at your local 7-Eleven. Three eggs cost Zim$100 billion, and two U.S. greenbacks were worth Zim$1 trillion. The Munich firm that had sold blank banknotes to the Zimbabwean government stopped providing Harare with paper; this was said to have been done in reaction to political pressure from the German government, but it was also suggested by many that Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation had so complicated its payments to foreign vendors that it was no longer worth the trouble to do business with its government. Nearly half a million sheets of blank banknotes were going through Harare’s Fidelity Printers every day, and the presses were literally running around the clock: Workers in three eight-hour shifts kept them humming 24 hours a day. …

Mugabe bowed to reality, and his government legalized the use of the U.S. dollar and the rand. The American dollar today is the effective currency of Zimbabwe, but the Zim-buck survives, if only as a hypothesis, a kind of polite political fiction….

As bad as the Zimbabwean and Weimar inflations were, the worst case was the infamous Hungarian pengő, which hit a basically incalculable rate of inflation under the daft economic policies of the country’s Communist rulers. The pengő, having become worthless, gradually was replaced by the adópengő, which at first was used only for government and accounting purposes. Soon after its introduction, the value of the adópengő hit 4 × 1029 pengő (and you know your currency is in trouble when you start having to use scientific notation to express its value). It was thought at the time that there were more theoretical pengő in circulation than there were atoms in the known universe. The 100 million billion pengő note was, literally, not worth the paper it was printed on.

Obama’s Loathsome Foursome

January 25th, 2010 No comments

From TAS:

Apparently, if you want to cheat on your wife or spurn the mother of your unborn child, cover up and easily settle your institution’s criminal efforts to help Americans avoid paying their federal income taxes, or just avoid paying your own fair share, the place to be is on President Barack Obama’s economic-recovery advisory board. Because that’s where Robert Wolf, chief executive of UBS Group Americas, the U.S. arm of one of Switzerland’s largest banks, UBS AG, sits, as do Charles E. Phillips, President of Oracle Corporation, Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management of and Budget, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. One imagines that’s where they can get together to compare notes…

 According to the former White House Counsel aide, who was transferred from that office after the resignation of White House Counsel Gregory Craig, each of the above executives answered "No" to Question 10S of the SF-86 supplement form traditionally filled out by potential nominees for presidential appointments.

The question:

10S. Is there anything in your personal life that could be used by someone to coerce or blackmail you or is there anything in your life that could cause an embarrassment to you or the President if publicly known?

____ Yes ___ No

If so, please provide full details.

The BillBoard the Mistress Put Up

Phillips is Mr. Billboard,whose ex-mistress spent $250,000 exposing him–story here.

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Huckabee, Romney, Palin, and Obama

January 22nd, 2010 No comments

A poll has Huckabee has the strongest Republican candidate, winning over Obama 45-44. Romney is next, trailing Obama at 42-44. Palin loses 41-49, largely because she turns off some Republicans so much. She is both the most and the least popular of the three with Republicans, polarizing them.

That makes sense. Huckabee is strong because he’s a social conservative and smart. A social conservative with more national experience and more sense about economics would do even better, I think.

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Discrimination-helps-the-“victim” argument

January 22nd, 2010 1 comment

An interesting WSJ example of where the Discrimination-helps-the-“victim” argument actually might be valid. This might be worth modelling.

A more worrisome issue arises when men take advantage of their relative scarcity by making life miserable for would-be girlfriends. Why settle down when you are a guy and the supply of eligible women appears to be unlimited? The female students hate such a situation, which is one reason admissions offices end up accepting male applicants who are less academically qualified than their female counterparts. Their goal is to avoid the dreaded 60/40 gender imbalance on campus that everyone agrees is a threshold not to be crossed. Those gender preferences, which colleges rarely discuss, have become common among private, four-year colleges (and recently caught the attention of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which has launched a probe into admissions discrimination against women).

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The Most Common Passwords

January 22nd, 2010 No comments

(Rasmusen)If Your Password Is 123456, Just Make It HackMe at the NYT, via Orin Kerr. What security people don’t realize is that most people have nothing to steal, and for the pauper, locking the door is pure bother.

Mr. Shulman and his company examined a list of 32 million passwords that an unknown hacker stole last month from RockYou, a company that makes software for users of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. The list was briefly posted on the Web, and hackers and security researchers downloaded it. …

Imperva found that nearly 1 percent of the 32 million people it studied had used “123456” as a password. The second-most-popular password was “12345.” Others in the top 20 included “qwerty,” “abc123” and “princess.”

More disturbing, said Mr. Shulman, was that about 20 percent of people on the RockYou list picked from the same, relatively small pool of 5,000 passwords.

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When You Can Deduct the Cost of Your M.B.A.

January 21st, 2010 No comments
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Regrets, but No Apologies Yet, for Obama

January 21st, 2010 No comments

From Prof. Smith:

Paul “the Conscience” Krugman is thinking about, I hesitate to even say it, giving up on Obama!!! Oh dear God, say it is not so!! But that is what he says, in his modestly entitled blog, The Conscience of a Liberal. If this happens, so soon after the defeat is MA, I fear Dems in Washington may just throw themselves en masse into the Potomac. Personally, I would not want to have that on my conscience. Fortunately as a libertarian with conservative tendencies, my conscience is a poor, withered thing. Between polishing off puppies in my private rifle range and giggling over third world poverty, I hardly have time to worry about suicidal Dems. But for conscience-blogger Krugman, I bet it is a different story.

Gayest Cities in America

January 21st, 2010 No comments

Bloomington comes in number 4 in a listing of “Gayest Cities in America”.

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Copyright Damages

January 21st, 2010 No comments

There’s a very important and interesting legal case at the federal trial court stage, with Judge Gertner, SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum (case documents here). The issue is one that’s bothered me for a long time: each instance of copyright violation has statutory damages completely out of proportion to actual damages, which might even be negative. Thus, if I publicize your obscure poem by posting it on the Internet in 20 places, you can sue me and get 20*$10,000= $2 million in damages, even if I can prove that my free posting actually increased sales of your poem.

I should read some of the briefs at some point.

ObamaCare’s Special Interest Provisions and Accounting

January 19th, 2010 1 comment

The Obamacare bill is full of good examples of log-rolling at its most extreme. The curious thing here is that rather than giving special interests extra spending, it exempts them from spending cuts or taxes. Also, the accounting is more transparently fraudulent than I recall ever seeing. From Fred Barnes:

By using devious accounting, Democrats managed to do the impossible, turn ObamaCare into a bill that reduces the deficit. One trick was to collect taxes and fees for the basic program and the long-term care plan over 10 years, while actually operating the new system over fewer years. ….

The Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback (for Nebraska) would have the taxpayers pay for new Medicaid expenses in those states but not in others…..

In Florida, the deal isn’t as famous. There, seniors in three counties–all packed heavily with the elderly residents–would get to keep their Medicare Advantage (MA) benefits. Elsewhere, seniors now on MA would be out of luck. …

Organized labor got the full sweetheart treatment last week. Its health care plans might face a 40 percent tax on expensive health insurance plans–only they won’t under a special deal worked out with the White House and congressional Democrats.

DeGaulle on Diversity

January 19th, 2010 No comments

Yglesias has an interesting poster that shows DeGaulle’s views on race:

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Rational Airline Security

January 18th, 2010 No comments

Edward Luttwak has an op-ed at the WSJ which makes good points:

Given the power of widely available explosives, the amount that can be carried inside a body cavity—let alone two—is sufficient to destroy ordinary pressurized airliners at normal flight altitudes. That makes “pat downs,” or indeed any form of physical inspection that is remotely feasible in any airport of any normal country, entirely futile….

Reliance on metal detectors was dubious from the start not only because they cannot detect explosives as such, but because they cannot even detect knives if they are made out of ceramic. … True, it is perfectly feasible to design very high definition scanners that could detect objects inside body cavities, and at least one manufacturer already claims that capability…. It also would mean subjecting every passenger to whatever level of radiation those machines will emit. Recent research has demonstrated that the cancer risks of radiation have been grossly underestimated,…

[E]ntire categories of passengers could be waived through with a rapid examination of travel documents and a few random checks now and then. These include a variety of easily recognizable groups that not even the most ingenious terrorists could simulate: touring senior citizens traveling together (a category that contains a good portion of all American, European and East Asian tourist traffic), airline flying personnel who come to the security gate as a crew, families complete with children, and more.

The Labour Party

January 15th, 2010 No comments

(Rasmusen) Peter Hitchens has a very good, long, blog post on the ideological history of the Labor Party, with stress on the conflict between its left and right wings and the influence of its Communists and the Cold War.

Harry Reid’s Language

January 14th, 2010 No comments

Ilya Solmin’s Conservatives for Harry Reid quotes Jonah Goldberg and Ward Connerly’s sensible takes on the silly Harry Reid-negro kerfuffle.

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Government and the Banking Crisis

January 13th, 2010 No comments

Was government big enough to cause the banking crisis without market irrationality? Yes, though
Tyler Cowen approvingly quotes Paul Krugman saying,

This is actually a very broad problem with all accounts of the crisis that try to exonerate the private sector and place the blame on the government and/or the Fed: none of the proposed evil deeds of policy makers were remotely large enough to cause problems of this magnitude unless markets vastly overreacted. That is, you have to start by assuming wildly dysfunctional financial markets before you can blame the government for the crisis; and if markets are that dysfunctional, who needs the government to create a mess?

First, Fannie and Freddie were indeed big enough to cause a crisis all by themselves, and they were effectively government run.

Second, “evil deeds of policy makers” includes encouraging non-government banks to make risky loans too. When banks have government deposit insurance, this evil deed can be accomplished by simply letting the banks do what maximizes profit— which is to borrow from depositors using the government guarantee and lend riskily knowing that the government is picking up the downside risk. The government gave out the message that it not only would tolerate low-quality loans to poor and minority people– it positively liked them.

Third is a point Russell Roberts made and a Cowen commentor picked up on:

If banks are allowed to leverage MBS 60-1, that is if banks are required to only put $1.60 up for every $100 of AAA-rated MBS, then why would they be so reckless as to do so and who was so reckless as to finance such recklessness for a fixed rate of interest?

Without the prospect of being bailed out by the government, it is hard to understand why such loans took place.

This last point applies to the investment banks, which were not protected by the FDIC.

A previous comment notes that the private sector did NOT overreact irrationally to the likelihood of government bailout. That is one way the government is important enough to explain the crisis.

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Comstock

January 12th, 2010 No comments

Orin Kerr posts on Comstock, on restrictions on ex-con sex offenders.

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Justice Kennedy

January 12th, 2010 No comments

Via Prof. Rappaport ,

Justice Kennedy’s Jurisprudence: The Full and Necessary Meaning of Liberty
by Frank J. Colucci
Eric Posner’s written a wonderful, scathing, review of a book that purports to find a consistent jurisprudence in Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Courts opinions, rather than him just making it up as he goes along so as to support his personal views.

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