Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: June 14, 2010

Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-14

AT&T IS BLAMING TUE iPad security leak on "malicious" hackers. As oppposed the helpful hackers we're all so used to. http://bit.ly/9inHEx #

BP has a outlines a plan to contain the oil spill. Well. That's, uh, reassuring. "Milord, I have a cunning plan!" http://bit.ly/9KryyQ #

Seriously, what's the deal with the Japanese and whaling? They LOVE it! It's just…creepy. http://bit.ly/9vvEvt #

Why the EU is ultimately doomed to failure: if Belgium is on the verge of dissolution, how do you unify a continent? http://bit.ly/ddfAVm #

The muse is not with me today

I have no idea why, but I have little desire to write about politics today. Perhaps because it all seems so absurdly screwed up. Maybe because I think we may have crossed some imaginary line and I wasn’t aware of it and this is never going to find its way back to where our founders started it.

I mean, for goodness sake, you have book publishing companies putting warning labels on publications of the Constitution claiming it is a product of its time and doesn’t reflect present values. Really?

Maybe. I mean does anyone think the government we have today and its size, scope and depth of intrusion are anything like the “values” reflected by those who wrote the document? Does anyone think today’s “values” are better than those the publishing company thinks you should discuss with your kids?

There’s a certain level of frustration in tracking this, talking about it and seeing nothing change, and, in fact, watch everything go even further south.

And now we have this legislator for a president who just hasn’t the foggiest idea of what it means to be an executive and a leader. If you’ve been an observer of politics as long as I have, you can see the dark clouds forming on the horizon.

Internationally, it is the usual flash points, but you can see the trouble building and you get the idea that the troublemakers are sensing a weak horse here.

Domestically they’re already here I suppose. We just don’t know if it’s going to be a bad thunderstorm, a torrential rain storm or a freaking tornado. The other day I reported that well over half of all companies – and that’s the conservative number – will most likely be required by law to either change their insurance plans or drop them and pay a fine.

What kind of foolishness is that? Well it is exactly the kind of foolishness that poor legislation, rushed through to satisfy an agenda item instead of the people these politicians serve gets you. And now they’re catching flak and they don’t like it.

We had another melt down by a legislator last week. Bob Ethridge fires at a bunch of students asking him questions on the street. It is unseemly, ungentlemanly and frankly, unacceptable. These “public servants” display more of the arrogance of an aristocracy than they do the humbleness of someone serving the public interest.

And that’s across the board, local to federal, left and right.

There’s an anger festering the likes of which I’ve not seen in a long time. People are angry. Not just the activist right or even the activist left. Good old fly-over country middle America has had enough. Enough of being treated like they’re too dumb to understand. Enough of being characterized as racist or biggoted when they disagree about policy and politics. They are freaking tired of being ignored. The Tea Party movement is only one indicator of this deep resentment that is growing toward government in general and what it takes from them and what it delivers in return. I see the Tea Party as sort of like the statistic for talk radio. Only about 1% of those who listen call a talk radio show. My guess is only about 1% of those who feel like the Tea Partiers show up for their events.

I think this current administration is going to accomplish one thing, and that is bring this all to a head. The federal response to the oil spill has been pitiful. The President and Congress continually ignored the public and rammed this terrible mess of a health care bill through over their objections. The mismanagement of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may end up costing taxpayers as much as a trillion dollars and they’re focused on Wall Street. Congress won’t pass a budget until after the November election – even though it is their job – because it may adversely effect the chances of some members to win re-election.

Well, there’s a real easy way to solve that problem.

Politics has triumphed over good government. Agendas have replaced common sense. On both sides, party seems more important than “the people”. As Glenn Reynolds once described them, we’ve been inflicted with the worst political class in the history of this country. And it is painfully obvious.

Anyway, there’s about 700 words about why I’m not in the mood to write today. These thing come and go and I usually let them run their course. Heck, it may be over in a couple of hours as something jumps off the page at me. But until then, I think there’s plenty in this minor rant to talk about.

~McQ

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About That Climate Change Consensus …

What was always suspected, yet never proved, has now been exposed:

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider. The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was “only a few dozen experts,” he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony.

“Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous,” the paper states unambiguously, adding that they rendered “the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism.”

You’re shocked I’m sure. But just who is Mike Hulme that he’d have any credibility to make such a bold claim? As it turns out, he’s not only a professor at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (yes, that one), and the founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, he also was a co-ordinating lead author on a portion of the IPCC

Not exactly a climate-denialist. But you do have to wonder why he’s making this claim now? Why didn’t he expose the consensus fraud while in the middle of his work on the IPCC?

Actually, if you read the paper (pdf) in which his statement appears, it seems that Hulme wasn’t so much making an accusation as he was simply making an offhand comment:

Since its origins, the IPCC has been open and explicit about seeking to generate a ‘scientific consensus’ around climate change and especially about the role of humans in climate change. Yet this has been a source of both strength and vulnerability for the IPCC. Understanding consensus as a process of ‘truth creation’ (or the more nuanced ‘knowledge production’) which marginalises dissenting voices – as has frequently been portrayed by some of the IPCC’s critics (see Edwards & Schneider, 2001; Petersen, 2010) – does not do justice to the process.

Consensus-building in fact serves several different goals. As Horst and Irwin (2010) have explained, seeking consensus can be as much about building a community identity – what Haas (1992) refers to as an epistemic community – as it is about seeking the ‘truth’. Equally, as Yearley (2009) explains, IPCC consensus-making is an exercise in collective judgement about subjective (or Bayesian) likelihoods in areas of uncertain knowledge. Consensus-making in the IPCC has been largely driven by the desire to communicate climate science coherently to a wide spectrum of policy users – ‘to construct knowledge’ (Weingart, 1999) – but in so doing communicating uncertainties have been down-played (van der Sluijs, 1998). As Oppenheimer et al. (2007: 1506) remark: “The establishment of consensus by the IPCC is no longer as critical to governments as [is] a full exploration of uncertainty.”

Without a careful explanation about what it means, this drive for consensus can leave the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism. Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields. But consensus-making can also lead to criticism for being too conservative, as Hansen (2007) has most visibly argued. Was the IPCC AR4 too conservative in reaching its consensus about future sea-level rise? Many glaciologists and oceanographers think they were (Kerr, 2007; Rahmstorf, 2010), leading to what Hansen attacks as ‘scientific reticence’. Solomon et al. (2008) offer a robust defence, stating that far from reaching a premature consensus, the AR4 report stated that in fact no consensus could be reached on the magnitude of the possible fast ice-sheet melt processes that some fear could lead to 1 or 2 metres of sea-level rise this century. Hence these processes were not included in the quantitative estimates.

Incredibly, Hulme’s point here is that making completely false claims, such as that a consensus on AGW has been reached by “2,500 of the world’s leading scientists” (or maybe it’s 4,000!), is merely the aggressive flip-side to being too conservative in failing to make unsupported claims on which no one agrees. At least, he compares these two “criticisms” of the IPCC efforts to build consensus as if they were two ends of a spectrum. Sadly, when it comes to climate “science” this is exactly where the problem lies.

Instead of dealing in actual science (where hypotheses are proposed, experiments and data-collection ensue, and actual results inform us as to what is happening), we instead are offered catastrophic theories unsupported by little if any actual data but that, by golly gee, sure do have a whole lot of “consensus” behind them. After all, who are we peons to doubt the “experts”? It’s not as if a group of people has ever been persuaded to … ahem, “adjust” their arguments in order to acquire sweeping political power. One wonders if the word “cabal” exists in any dictionaries in the University of East Anglia’s libraries.

If anyone working on the IPCC wants to know why their reputation is in the tank, perhaps they’d better take a look at what the public “consensus” is regarding fraudulent claims designed to increase the fraudsters’ power. And then maybe they should reacquaint themselves with actual science.

The growing power of government unions

The Arkansas Democratic Senate primary race pitting incumbent and Obama choice Blanche Lincoln vs. labor’s candidate, the sitting Lt. Governor Bill Halter did a lot more than point out a riff between labor and the White House. It demonstrated how powerful labor is and what sorts of money it can throw into the political arena to try to influence the outcome of specific elections.

But there is more to the story than that. Conn Carroll at the Heritage Foundation’s Morning Bell points out that for the first time in the history of the United States, there are more government union workers than there are private union workers. 52% of all union members now on the rolls of a union are “public servants” in some capacity or another.

And, as Governor Chris Christie of NJ has experienced, they’re a force to be reckoned with when trying to reform government.

The irony, of course, is that the institution that helped force changes within the private sector to the point that union membership is declining precipitously, is now the number one union shop in America. In the private sector regulation, cultural changes and competition driven compensation and benefit packages all but rendered unions moot. But within the government that helped force this change, unions flourish. And they don’t seem shy in wielding their power to further feather their own nest.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels called government unions “the new privileged class in America.” Per Daniels government workers are now, on average, better paid than their private sector counterparts. And, of course, the sole purpose of unions is to protect jobs and secure better compensation and benefits.

That puts government unions at cross-purposes with any attempts to rein in the cost and scope of government at every level:

In Maine, the Maine Municipal Association, the SEIU, the Teamsters, and the Maine Education Association collectively spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign against a ballot initiative that would have prevented government spending from growing faster than the combined rate of inflation and population growth. In Illinois, AFSCME Council 31 ran television and radio ads pushing for tax increases in their “Fair Budget Illinois” campaign. In Oregon, government unions provided 90 percent of the $4 million spent advocating two ballot initiatives to raise personal income and business taxes by $733 million.

Given the size and power of government unions, and the fact that that member dues are essentially paid by the taxpayer via member salaries, the argument could be made that taxpayers are subsidizing union activities which run counter to the tax payer’s best interest.

Don’t be fooled by the little spat in Arkansas between the White House and the unions. They’re joined at the hip and both know that the relationship they share is critical to the unions maintaining their grip on power, and the Democrats doing the same.

~McQ

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