Free Markets, Free People

Billy Hollis

Probably untrue news – 9 Sept 2012 edition

Mitt Romney stopped and bought Girl Scout cookies during a campaign stop this morning. He bought two boxes of Do-si-dos and a box of Trefoil butter cookies.

Debbie Wasserman-Shultz derided the incident as yet more evidence that Romney is out of touch with average Americans. "He didn’t get a single box of Samoas or Thin Mints? That’s unpardonable. Those are the Girl Scout Cookie varieties Americans love. Mitt Romney has proven again that he’s not fit to lead America during this tough economy."

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Romney a racist over the flap. "He didn’t buy anything that has any chocolate in it. Not only did he turn down the totally brown Thin Mints, he wouldn’t even take the partially brown Samoas. The only reason I can think of for such blatant insensitivity is outright racism."

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said a friend in the Girl Scouts told him Romney had never purchased Samoas or Thin Mints. "The facts are clear. Unless Romney releases his purchase records of Girl Scout cookies for the last twenty years, we’ll all know exactly what to think."

A Romney campaign spokesman pointed out that the group of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a supermarket was out of Samoas and Thin Mints. "We were all disappointed that there were no Samoas, but that’s not Mitt Romney’s fault. The Obama economy with its high unemployment has made it impossible for the Girl Scouts to predict how many cookies of each variety to order. I really wanted some Samoas with vanilla ice cream on top, but, hey, that’s just how it goes."

Politifact looked at the Romney campaign’s claim that they didn’t buy Samoas or Thin Mints because they were not available that day. Since there were some Samoas and Thin Mints available from other scouts elsewhere in the country, they rated the claim "mostly false".

The philosophy of Obama’s speechwriters: "Thank goodness for cut and paste"

This is definitely worth two minutes:

Of course, politicians routinely repeat their stump speeches, so you could generate a video with repeated mantras for almost anyone in office. But this many, four years apart?

Remember, this guy is supposed to be a world class orator with world class intelligence. Can’t he come up with some different ways to explain himself? Hasn’t he learned from four years of being president, and gained a deeper understanding of the problems?

Four years ago, those soundbites sounded fresh, and people hearing them could believe that he meant them and would take action on them.

Recycling soundbites after four years in office doesn’t sound fresh. It sounds desperate, unoriginal, and generally sad.

Back in December, 2008, I said:

If Obama supporters don’t feel the quasi-religious fervor they felt in 2008, which I think is probably the case, then they might not give nearly as much money, or work nearly as hard for him. He’ll have to find other ways of connecting with voters to make up for that.

It’s pretty clear now that he has no other ways. He used everything he had in 2008, aided by a compliant, sycophantic media. He must confront the reality of four years in office, yet he has nothing left to offer but the same empty rhetoric and the same empty promises.

Every week, in more ways, this man sounds like a loser. With four years in office rebutting everything that was said about him in 2008, I doubt that his tingle-thighed acolytes in the media can do much about that.

(Video found via Instapundit.)

A sterling example of that “world class temperament” we’ve often been told about

It’s amazing, though, how much “world class temperament” resembles the behavior of an irritable, spoiled four year old:

 

Details on this reporter, Neil Munro, actually trying to be a reporter are here.

This episode was, naturally, followed by the usual panties-in-a-wad bleating from our legacy media, 95% of whom are far too cowardly and biased to challenge Obama on anything at any time. So naturally, they declared Obama a holy personage, and designated Munro’s questions as blasphemy. Well, something like that; when these guys get into high dudgeon, it always sounds to me like they’re talking about their religion.

I do believe I detect some serious frustration in our noble President. Not to mention frustration in his legacy media acolytes. Though I have no enthusiasm whatsoever for Romney, I must say that watching the sour phiz that Brian Williams might have to wear this November would be fun.

Of course, some of us had this guy’s number from pretty early on. And some others, such as the last commenter on that thread, were determined to be fooled by Obama indefinitely. Some still are. No names needed, I think; examples abound.

(Found via Ace and Insty.)

Obama: "Hey, Mitt, wouldn’t you rather be a nice loser than a mean winner?"

 

In a patented Instapundit zinger, Glenn sums up Obama’s whining about Romney with four words:

I’LL BET HE DOES: In tough fight with Romney, Obama longs for McCain.

Obama has spent his whole life getting pretty much what he wanted, with token opposition at best. He obviously likes it that way. I suppose if I had lived a charmed life as long as he has, I would also feel entitled to see the charms continue forever.

I’m on record as being no fan of Mitt Romney. I don’t expect to vote for him. I see grave danger that he will end up being the scapegoat of an unprecedented economic meltdown – if it happens on his watch, you can be sure the legacy media journalists and the academic left will work overtime to pin it all on him, and lie through their teeth to minimize the contribution of Democrats and leftists to the problem.

But I do loathe the sanctimonious, smarmy president we have now. Let me translate some of his sanctimony:

It will only be when Mitt Romney is defeated, the president continued, "that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that."

“There’s a tradition in the Republican Party of making a good show and then rolling over for the big-government left. Hey, they’re supposed to be more loyal to the rest of the political class, including me, than to those whackjobs that actually vote for them. It’s not fair if they don’t keep doing that.”

"The last time we ran, we had a Republican candidate who — I had some profound disagreements with him, but he acknowledged the need for immigration reform, and acknowledged the need for campaign finance reform, acknowledged the need for policies that would do something about climate change," Obama said. "Now, what we’ve got is not just a nominee but a Congress and a Republican Party that have a fundamentally different vision about where we need to go as a country."

“Come on, Mitt, don’t you want to be a loser like McCain? He understood the kabuki Republicans are supposed to perform. He embraced a whole bunch of leftist positions, but still pretended to be conservative. He knew he wasn’t supposed to really criticize me and my Lightworker persona. Now, I have to run against people who won’t play my game, and insist on setting out some kind of clear choice. That’s not fair.”

At about the same time, the Obama campaign released a web video that also featured McCain nostalgia. "John McCain stood up to the voices of extremism in his party," the video said. "Why won’t Mitt Romney do the same?"

“Why won’t Mitt Romney play the game the way I want? He should be wasting his time on the things I want him to waste time on. See, the whole repudiation thing is a win-win for me. With the help of my comrades in the media, I can keep Romney busy defending the indefensible, and he’ll still come out of it looking bad no matter how much he apologizes or repudiates. Plus, his base gets demoralized. Why won’t he go along with that? Doesn’t he understand that I need him to play the role of the valiant loser who gets a nice compliment in my victory speech? It’s not fair.”

I don’t expect that his whining is going to win over many voters, but what else can he do? His record is dismal in just about every respect you can name. He has to talk about something, and as out of touch as Obama is, even he knows he’d better not talk about unemployment, lack of growth, or troubles in Europe. When he tries to talk about foreign issues, he ends up speaking of the Maldives instead of the Malvinas, or Polish death camps, or whatever. With his speaking record already including 57 states and “corpse-man”, maybe he’s better off if he sticks to generic whining.

Summary of election reporting by legacy media for the next seven months

I’m very busy these days*, so I doubt that I’ll have much time this summer to weigh in on the election. But I don’t think it matters much. We’ve seen enough of these elections, and we now have the measure of the legacy media. It’s not that hard to predict a trajectory in advance.

Insert usual disclaimers here: future is uncertain, who knows what will happen, blah, blah, blah – hey, if any of us could predict the future in detail, we’d be on the beach enjoying all the money we made in the stock market.

With those caveats, here, then, is my expected approximate trajectory of reporting, straight from my patented combination of cracked crystal ball, Ouija board, and leaky 8-ball. It includes short summaries of legacy media narratives at various points from roughly a month ago up until past the election. Along about December, we can see how close I came.

(April) Obama is almost certain to be re-elected. How could anyone think otherwise? Plus, did you know Romney has a weird religion and carries dogs on the top of his car?

(early May) Obama is very likely to be re-elected. Though he has challenges to meet as a result of the problems he inherited from Bush. Plus challenges from wingnuts who take things out of context from his books. Which we are absolutely not going to talk about, especially any stuff about eating dog meat.

(mid May) Romney is a strong candidate because he has so much money, but Obama has the hearts and minds of the people, so he’ll win. The economy is showing signs of improvement, which will help Obama.

(June) Romney’s well-funded right-wing henchmen are going all out, and according to polls this will be a close race, but Obama has the advantage because of his committed base. The economy is improving slowly, despite some negative indicators, and will probably peak just as Obama needs it to.

(early July) Romney’s rich buddies have spent millions to make this a toss up, but Obama’s incumbency and natural connection to voters still make him the likely winner. A lot depends on the continued improvement in the economy. By the way, doesn’t Obama look presidential at this 4th of July event?

(late July) The continuous unfair attacks on Obama have put him somewhat behind in the polls, but there’s still plenty of time for him to catch up as the voters realize who is behind the negative campaigning, and as hoped-for economic improvements kick in.

(early August) Obama seems to be losing his mojo, probably because he’s tired from fighting those nasty right-wing partisans who distort everything he says and denigrate his record by blaming him for things that were Bush’s fault. In other unrelated news, unemployment continues to be high because of the Bush recession and financial markets are jittery because of events in Europe, China, and the Middle East.

(mid-August) Obama has lost his mojo because he’s distracted with important matters of governance and frustrations of unfair right-wing attacks. Yes, we know it’s late summer and Congress is out. There are still important matters of governance. (Shift to tone of the guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark claiming “top men” were investigating the ark.) Important. Matters.

(late August) Polls show Romney ahead. Obama is fighting for his political life against great odds, as unscrupulous racist opponents level unceasing unfair attacks and as he continues to fight the Bush recession. By the way, did you know Romney believes in a weird, cult-like religion?

(end of August) Romney’s choice for VP at the GOP convention shows just how far right he is. Choosing such a far-right partisan for VP will benefit Obama. Voters will finally realize just how beholden Romney is to rich conservatives who own yachts. Pay no attention to the polls showing Romney with a large lead. It’s just a post-convention bounce.

(early Sept, after a mediocre speech done by Obama at the Democratic National Convention after a couple of days rest, in which he sounds a little like he did in 2008:) Obama has regained his mojo and is surging in the polls according to left-wing polling organization X, and a post-convention bounce has nothing to do with it. By the way, we have an exclusive, documented report that GOP VP candidate X once threw a candy wrapper out on the highway, and is therefore unfit to be vice president.

(late Sept) Obama has pulled almost even again or maybe a little ahead according to internal polls and has momentum that will eventually give him the edge. Due to the rapidly approaching election, we don’t have time to report anything about the economy. But here’s some more negative stuff about GOP VP candidate X.

(early Oct) Romney is a mean rich guy who hates dogs, with an uncaring wife who spends her money on expensive horses, and a VP candidate who is a litterer. We don’t understand how anyone with a brain could vote for him. Look at this thing we just dug up about him which is totally legit and makes him look really bad. Meanwhile, noble Obama is struggling with troubles in Europe and the Middle East, and continued economic problems inherited from Bush, and sure is doing a great job of acting presidential. The race is still very much in doubt. The polls suggesting that Romney has a large and growing lead don’t mean anything.

(late Oct) Obama has mismanaged his campaign by not attacking Romney strongly enough and exposing the fact that he’s a mean, rich guy from a weird cult who throws people out of work. As a result, he might lose the election, though it’s still a toss up according to some small-sample polls who over-sampled urban Democrats by thirty percent.

(early Nov) With voters going to the polls in 48 hours, Obama is embarking on a marathon with twenty speeches a day to remind voters of how wonderful he is. The limited time for planning is the reason the venues are not full to overflowing. Photos of half empty auditoriums are distortions taken while the stage was setting up. Pay no attention to the ones in which Obama is actually speaking to a half-empty auditorium. Those are not from an official media photographer, and are probably Photoshopped.

(election day) As voters go to the polls today, Obama’s campaign staff are quietly confident that the marathon campaigning has turned the tide, and he’s back in the race. Nasty right-wing partisans who will stop at nothing are trying to block him with voter suppression efforts in key states that are probably illegal. Pay no attention to the noble Obama minions at polls bravely fighting back against the wingnuts, even though some get a bit over-enthusiastic and hold billy clubs while standing outside polling doors.

(election day plus two) Obama looks like he has lost a close election, though recounts in several states could still win it for him. Republicans are trying to block all recounts, probably to cover up their own illegal election tampering.

(election day plus seven) Obama is pinning his final hopes on recounts in large state X, where he is 100,000 votes behind, but his staff has expressed confidence that they know about missing ballots that will close that gap.

(election day plus nine) Some of the missing ballots put forth by Democrats turn out to be shredded newspapers in cardboard boxes, but Democratic election officials deny any attempts to manipulate election results.

(election day plus ten) Obama has conceded to Romney. As we long predicted, Romney’s money and right-wing meanness were enough to dupe the electorate into electing him over the noble Obama. Though some doubts remain as to whether the election really should gone the other way and was only decided by throwing out Obama votes that were slightly irregular but clearly indicated voters’ intent, and were certainly not votes from dead people and illegal aliens no matter what those right-wing hacks at Fox say.

(late Nov) Romney is now choosing his cabinet. We can only hope that Romney chooses wise and moderate Republicans who will reach across the aisle to the Democratic minority to craft bipartisan legislation to fix our financial crisis which is still left over from the Bush years, and exacerbated by problems in Europe and China, and definitely was not Obama’s fault. Obama and Michelle have been gracious during the transition, and rumors of broken vases in the White House after Obama’s concession speech are just more right-wing rumor-mongering. Michelle has been working so hard with Ann Romney that she hasn’t been seen in public in weeks.

(early Dec) Romney has chosen a cabinet of right-wing partisans, and is off to a bad start. With a questionable election behind him, instead of healing the nation, Romney chose hard-line GOP insiders like Mitch Daniels and Lamar Alexander as advisors. He’s probably going to be worse than Bush.

 

(*) If you’re a software developer and want to see what I’ve been up to lately, my first video training course for online training company Pluralsight went up a couple of weeks ago. More info here. The course is basically me droning on for four hours about user experience design principles, so I doubt that very many of you would be interested, but perhaps a few would be.

Indiana voters spit out a Lugar

I’m sure McQ will have plenty to say tomorrow about Lugar’s 40-60 thrashing in the Indiana senatorial primary. In the meantime, though, a few points of my own:

 

1. The left’s insistence that the Tea Party is just a bunch of fringe extremists with no real influence should have been shown for the wishful thinking it is by the Congressional elections in 2010. Of course, it wasn’t. Lugar’s defeat should demonstrate again that it was silly wishful thinking.

Not that the left will ever get it, because they can’t really face the reality of this situation. A mass movement around limited government is their worst enemy. The left exists as a parasite on the rest of society, with government as the way to extract sustenance from the host. Even the Tea Party, which advocates what I consider a mild form of limited government, could dry up some of the left’s nourishment, and they might well have to go into a Kilkenny cats resolution to that problem. Which, I admit, would be fun to watch.

2. Lugar was 80 years old. He would be 86 at the end of the next term. Like Byrd, he clearly wanted to be taken out of DC in a hearse. I’m sorry, but that’s sick. It’s an addiction to power and self-importance. That alone is a pretty good reason to get rid of him.

3. Lugar prattled that “Over 60% of my life has been serving others.” That kind of sanctimonious drool really gets on my nerves. So you’re serving us, Senator Lugar, but you’re the one being treated like royalty everywhere you go? The one being chauffeured around? The one being schmoozed by every lobbyist on K Street? Wow, what an incredible burden that must have been while you were serving us. Schmuck.

 

Why it’s pointless to argue with the left, summarized in 33 seconds

As the blue social model collapses, it’s most vocal defenders continue their retreat into delusion. This 33 second segment of a video from Reason TV is one of the more jaw-dropping examples.

Communism caused 3/4 of a century of deprivation, misery, and quasi-slavery, and killed 100,000,000 in the bargain. The left still hasn’t come to terms with that. I’m pretty sure they never will.

You could sit the woman in the video down and present her with a mountain of evidence that Cuba is a sick society, a poor society, a repressive society in which citizens who oppose the Cuban government the way she opposes the US government are locked up for most or all their life. It wouldn’t matter. She has constructed an elaborate fantasy in her head.

After all she’s "seen Cuba" and it sounds like she really loved the role of the useful idiot being shown the potemkin society the Cuban appartchiks allowed her to see. She thereby proves to herself how moral she is, and how much better and smarter she is than we skeptics who have seen the pictures of real Cuban healthcare, cockroaches and all, smuggled out by people who would have been shot or imprisoned if they had been caught with those pictures.

You can see it in her face, and hear it in her voice – that condescension that reveals her inner conviction that she’s smart and moral, and other people ought to think exactly the way she thinks, even though to anyone connected to reality, she’s clearly delusional.

Deep down in her own mind, where she never dares go, some part of her knows that it’s a delusion and a fantasy. Because otherwise, she would want to live in this paradise she describes. She and thousands would be taking whatever measures they could come up with to go and live there, instead of it being the exact opposite, with thousands upon thousands risking their lives on makeshift boats to get out. Consciously, she spins her fantasy about how wonderful Cuba is, but subconsciously, she never dares think about actually living there.

One of the main reasons leftists talk this way is partially to convince themselves. Reality intrudes more every day as the blue social model breaks down. But facing that failure means admitting a lifetime of being a gullible fool. Most of them don’t have the psychic strength for that. They can’t admit that there’s a single thing wrong with the leftist worldview.

For example, they’ve also never come to terms with the housing bubble and the government’s role in it. They prefer to believe that a financial industry that had intelligently managed home mortgages for decades just collectively lost its mind and started writing bad loans, and the government actions that took place in the same period are complete coincidences. The pressure towards "affordable housing", the implicit and explicit threats by government to those who didn’t loan to minorities, the pipeline to offload the risk to quasi-government agencies – they look directly at those things, and apparently suffer inattentional blindness because they just can’t see them.

They’ve never come to terms with the fact that the worst areas of the country are those that have been governed by liberal and leftist Democrats for decades – including a crumbling city that was once one of America’s shining success stories, now undone by unions, liberalism, bureaucrats, and corruption.

They look at exponential curves that foretell the collapse of Social Security and Medicare, and bleat about how we just have to make the rich pay their "fair share", blind to the fact that the top ten percent already pay 70% of income taxes.

You can’t even tell them that Bush didn’t really hold a plastic turkey. They formulate their narratives and talking points, and that’s the end of their cognitive effort. They have thereby constructed a fantasy world they prefer to live in.

In that world, Cuba really does have superior healthcare and free elections.

Europe is advanced and stable, a beacon for the rest of the world, not an aging society that is broke, with an unsustainable welfare state and a birth rate that spells disaster in a generation.

China is a sterling example of how wonderful things can be when people like them run things, not a repressive society that hides its pollution  and filth, keeps a bubble going by building ghost cities, and is facing demographic problems never seen in history on such a scale.

Israel is a nation of violent butchers, who just happen to save the sick babies of their enemies as a hobby.

And the US is a racist society, holding down minorities with trigger-happy vigilantes, instead of a country that elected a black president and has been the destination for every race and creed on the globe.

OK, let them live in their fantasy world. In the end, reality always wins. And it’s pretty clear that even the reality of a total meltdown of the blue social model isn’t going to make them re-examine their fantasies, any more than the meltdown of the Soviet Union did. As I said, they don’t have the psychic strength to face it.

They prefer groupthink to reality, because confronting reality means confronting their worst fear: that they might be wrong, that they might not be smarter than the rest of us. That they might be frauds who can talk or write, but who can’t think.

So let them be. Laugh at them if you like; there’s plenty of humor to be found in their floundering, and goodness knows we need humor to get through the mess they’ve put us in. But don’t let them induce you to waste your time by trying to disprove their fantasies. That’s a lost cause.

A comparison of catastrophic scenarios

Consider the following generic proposition:

“System Y is a complex system, and its destabilization would have a dramatic negative impact on society. Factor X is known to influence System Y, and the growth of Factor X is believed to destabilize System Y and even make it possibly vulnerable to catastrophic Failure Mode Z.

“Therefore, for the good of society, it’s extremely important to reduce Factor X. Everyone must make sacrifices to avoid Failure Mode Z. “

If any particular values of System Y, Factor X, and Failure Mode Z come to mind when you read that, please note them before you read the rest.

Whether such a proposition is valid in the real world depends on many things. For example, is it proven that Factor X’s growth contributes to the destabilization of System Y? What is the probability that the current rate of growth of Factor X will cause System Y to fail in some way. What’s the probable timeline involved? What are the likely negative results if System Y becomes unstable? Are there results from the past of such systemic failure, and if so what can we learn from them about the probabilities and outcomes in this case?

Let’s take a look at a couple of real cases of the proposition.

First, let’s consider

System Y = global climate

Factor X = carbon dioxide

Failure Mode Z = significant global temperature rise with attendant sea level rise and other forms of extreme environmental degradation

With this particular substitution, most of those on the left would vigorously assure us that the proposition was valid. They would then tell us that, in order to reduce carbon dioxide, drastic measures are needed, even though those measures have some very undesirable side effects on various members of society.

Next, let’s consider

System Y = US or world financial system

Factor X = government spending and debt

Failure Mode Z = financial system meltdown, in which financial institutions fail en masse, and normal commerce is halted or seriously disrupted

Now, if we make this substitution and present the proposition to a typical leftist, their reaction would be quite different. They would very likely not agree that drastic measures are needed to reduce spending and debt. Based on recent arguments from the left, they would look to comparatively small changes to address any dangers, such as raising taxes on rich people, or “rooting out fraud and waste”. Such changes have been tried before, and clearly are not a long term fix, yet the left keeps insisting that they are sufficient to head off potential financial catastrophe.

They would certainly not be in favor of dramatic reductions in Factor X in this case. They would be very concerned about the effects on society of the spending reductions, and would likely even resort to hyperbole to highlight those effects. They might even say that those who advocated dramatic reductions in spending and debt were cruel, heartless people who were simply unwilling to do their part for other, less advantaged people.

Let’s first assume, just for the sake of argument, that both forms of catastrophism are real dangers. I think they actually are quite different in the amount of danger they pose, but for now let’s pretend that they are both serious dangers that could result in catastrophes affecting many millions of people in drastic and awful ways.

In that case, why would the left react so differently to the presumed obvious solution of reducing Factor X?

I believe the real reason the left supports drastic measures in the first case but not the second is fairly obvious. In the first case, the reduction of Factor X (carbon dioxide) requires a dramatic increase in government size and influence. In the second case, the reduction of Factor X (spending and debt by various governments) requires a dramatic decrease in government size and influence. In fact, it calls into question the entire viability of the welfare state. (More on this below.)

Of course, those on the right are subject to the symmetrical analysis. One might conclude (in fact, the typical leftist would almost certainly conclude) that the right makes such decisions solely based on their distaste for big government. They don’t accept the first proposition because it increases government, while they accept the second one because it decreases government.

However, as I said earlier, there are a lot of other factors in play. The probabilities involved and the historical analogs are quite different.

In the climate change case, there is no historical example of the climate system failing by going into a catastrophic mode. There have been ups and downs due to natural causes, but no mass extinction, for example, has been clearly traced to runaway temperature rise.

We have some geological evidence about climate change. Geological examples are necessarily fuzzy, but the best ones we have go the other way. We know that ice ages are not uncommon, and in fact occur on a semi-regular basis. We know that one ended about 10,500 years ago, and that ending (i.e. the warming that went with it) was probably a major factor in the spread of modern humans around the planet.

We know that there have been periods when the climate was warmer or colder than average, and we also know that mankind has generally fared better during the warm periods.

So there’s no tangible example from history or geology that should fuel fear of catastrophic warming. All we have are models. They have a short baseline, and even in that baseline, they have shown serious flaws. Other factors such as solar variability appear to have a greater influence than mankind’s carbon emissions than most of the models include. (This ignores the strong possibility of outright incompetence, fraud, and other human factors that cast doubt on the models.)

You can read a recent summary of the state of that argument in this article. A few extracts:

“…the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.”

 

“CO2 levels have continued to rise without interruption and, in 2007, the Met Office claimed that global warming was about to ‘come roaring back’. It said that between 2004 and 2014 there would be an overall increase of 0.3C. In 2009, it predicted that at least three of the years 2009 to 2014 would break the previous temperature record set in 1998. So far there is no sign of any of this happening. But yesterday a Met Office spokesman insisted its models were still valid.”

 

“Meanwhile, since the end of last year, world temperatures have fallen by more than half a degree, as the cold ‘La Nina’ effect has re-emerged in the South Pacific.

‘We’re now well into the second decade of the pause,’ said Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. ‘If we don’t see convincing evidence of global warming by 2015, it will start to become clear whether the models are bunk.”

 

Climate change has been vigorously discussed on QandO, so there’s not really any need to go further. It’s enough to note that the entire case for climate catastrophism looks a lot shakier than the left wishes to acknowledge. And again, we don’t really have any historical examples to learn from, and the geology is fuzzy.

However, on the economic side, we certainly do have examples of system failure. From Roman times to the Weimar Republic, we’ve seen that an economic system can certainly fail from too much spending and debt.

Further, the economic models have something in them the climate models don’t – clear and obvious exponential factors at work. Compound interest is one such factor that no one can deny. It’s also the opinion of many (including myself) that the spending curve for most welfare-state governments exhibits an exponential shape.

We know that exponential growth cannot go on indefinitely in the real world. Eventually, the amounts outstrip the boundaries the real world will tolerate. This is often expressed by the saying “What can’t go on forever, won’t.”

There are other differences. Climate change, if it happened at all, would happen over a span likely measured in decades. No one outside silly movies is saying that a city such as New York would go to being underwater, or too hot or too cold to live in, in a matter of weeks or months.

Financial failure, on the other hand, could happen quite suddenly. Most people would not be prepared for it, and that would cause the suffering to be worse.

Finally, it’s not clear how much of the populace would be negatively affected by significant warming of the earth. Some would clearly benefit – just ask the folks who live in Greenland. Others could suffer, of course. However, remember our history – humankind does better in warmer periods. So there would have to be a dramatic runaway spiral on heat to get into territory where the net effect would be dramatically negative.

I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but the probabilities for that look ridiculously low and we have no historical, archeological, or geological examples to point to.

However, an economic catastrophe in the US financial system would affect almost everyone here, and many others around the world. Certainly those with lots of assets could ride out the effects better (“women and minorities hardest hit”) but hyperinflation on the Weimar scale wipes out even huge fortunes. Plus, our financial system is more complex than ever, and we now have a society utterly dependent on its smooth functioning. In the Great Depression, a majority still lived on farms and grew their own food. They were insulated from the very worst effects. Not true today – if the system really broke down, a lot of people would grow hungry quickly. You can write your own ending from there, but it’s pretty much certain to involve civil violence, looting, etc. Because we’re in uncharted territory in the complexity of our society and our financial system, it’s not inconceivable that outcomes could involve depravation and widespread violence never seen in this country (though I think that’s an unlikely, worst-case possibility).

So to summarize: the left is frantically worried about climate change, even though the outcomes are quite murky. They are ready to take drastic action right away, even though those murky effects might be quite a ways into the future, if they can just get those Neanderthal righties to accept the consensus, etc.

But they are quite blasé about an approaching catastrophe that is much more likely, has historical parallels, has effects that could be worse for more people, and could happen in very short order.

How can this be? If what I say is correct, how can they support dramatic intervention to mitigate climate change, but not support dramatic intervention to mitigate economic meltdown?

Because accepting the possibility of economic catastrophe means rethinking their entire philosophy. Intervention to mitigate economic meltdown means dramatic reversal of the welfare state. Most of those on the left are mentally unable to accept that possibility, and will therefore resort to any level of rationalization necessary to reject it.

Thus, I conclude that most leftists have convinced themselves that an economic catastrophe is wildly unlikely to occur, just as those of on the right simply don’t believe that a climate catastrophe is likely to occur. As I outlined above, I think their conclusion is logically unsupportable, whereas I think doubting a climate catastrophe is completely supportable.

Given 2008, given the spending curves, given the obvious incompetence and mendacity of our politicians, how can they doubt the strong possibility of economic catastrophe? Well, in their lifetimes, there has always been one more set of kludges that kept the system stabilized for a while. They can rationalize that, if certain selfish parties just give in to another set of kludges, things will work out fine. They simply ignore historical parallels, or come up with rationalizations for why they don’t apply to our present circumstances. Some have abysmal math skills, and don’t intuitively grasp what an exponential effect really means, so they don’t give such factors any weight.

They also take comfort in the idea that they are fighting for the poor and downtrodden, and cannot conceive of a world in which the welfare state is not the framework where they do that. To them, preventing a catastrophe that has not yet occurred by taking measures that are sure to hurt such people is simply unthinkable.

I think this is insanity. Even if we accepted the most aggressive Republican proposals currently out there, they don’t even turn the tide against spending and debt. Fall 2008 gave us a pretty clear warning that the system is no longer stable. If the financial catastrophe occurs, it will hurt everyone, and it will hurt the poor and downtrodden the worse – far worse than spending reductions that gradually start reducing the welfare state.

This leads to a troubling corollary. Most leftists don’t really seem to believe the system is vulnerable to catastrophe, but, based on behavior, neither do establishment Republicans! If they did, last year’s dance around the debt limit would have a far different character to it. The establishment Republicans are engaged in only a slight variation in the “kick the can” strategy favored by Democrats, and the only reason they vary at all is the influence of the newly elected, tea-party-backed contingent in the House.*

In 2008, both the establishment Republicans and the Democrats in Washington panicked. For a while, it looked like the catastrophe might actually be imminent, and that scared them spitless. They authorized huge, unprecedented levels of spending and debt, mostly because of their fear.

They don’t seem scared now. Even though it ought to be obvious that you don’t solve a debt crisis for the long term by adding a lot more debt, and even though their measures certainly did not achieve the predicted results on growth and employment, they have lapsed back into their mental fiction that nothing that bad is really going to happen.

I’ve pretty much stopped listening to them. The coalition of welfare state leftists and establishment Republicans are living in a fantasy land. I don’t think they will really believe in the possibility of economic meltdown until it actually happens or is so imminent that it can’t be denied. As Heinlein said:

“Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn’t often, on their own, the hard way.”

Then, since they’ve never really considered it possible, when/if it happens, they’ll be clueless about what to do. When they take additional panicked action, it’s likely to make things worse instead of better (as I think many of the actions in 2008 did).

Make whatever preparations you think necessary. I don’t think financial catastrophe is inevitable, but I do think it is the most likely outcome, whether it’s ten years from now or twenty years or next month. I have a bumper sticker on my car that sums it up: “Believe in yourself, not the government”.

(*) I concede the possibility that some DC politicians know we might be facing economic catastrophe, but have concluded that they can’t do anything about it politically, so they might as well keep playing the business-as-usual game. I regard that as dishonest and cowardly. If we are to prevent the catastrophe, one of the absolute pre-requisites is that people understand that it could happen, and are therefore willing to endure the measures to prevent it. Also, obscuring the possibility of financial catastrophe in the guise of “not scaring the people” is condescending, arrogant, and makes it more likely that the catastrophe will actually come to pass.

DHS monitoring the internet … er, so?

There’s a tempest in a tea pot brewing right now that I’m not sure I understand.

The story from Reuters:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document.

A "privacy compliance review" issued by DHS last November says that since at least June 2010, its national operations center has been operating a "Social Networking/Media Capability" which involves regular monitoring of "publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards."

The purpose of the monitoring, says the government document, is to "collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture."

The document adds, using more plain language, that such monitoring is designed to help DHS and its numerous agencies, which include the U.S. Secret Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency, to manage government responses to such events as the 2010 earthquake and aftermath in Haiti and security and border control related to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Let’s see … a department that has the job of “homeland security” monitoring open source internet venues to collect information in order to maintain situational awareness.

Wow.  For some reason I’m underwhelmed.  My goodness, haven’t we seen shots of various command centers over the years with split video screens showing Fox, CNN and MSNBC?   They’re good sources of immediate information that help those engaged in all sorts of rather benign activity (disaster relief?) keep abreast of breaking news. 

Why all the hyperventilating over something that is and has been fairly routine for all sorts of agencies over the years?  

Look, everyone here knows I’m not a fan of big intrusive government, but what would you do here, ban the department from gathering information and intelligence from sites that are open to everyone else?   Should we also ban them from “monitoring” the NY Times and Washington Post.

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t news.  As the Reuters story claims, this has been going on since June of 2010.  And guess who broke the story then?  The Volokh Conspiracy.  As Stewart Baker points out:

The story is that people at DHS are, gasp, browsing the Internet. As I said then, there’s no scandal, other than the electrons wasted by DHS agonizing over the privacy implications of browsing public Internet sources to find out what’s happening in the world.

And if it was a nonstory in February of 2010, what does that make it in January of 2012?

Actually, it’s a lesson — that both the mainstream media and the blogosphere are doggedly overreporting anything that could be deemed a privacy violation by government, especially DHS.  If you only followed these things casually, you’d be sure that DHS was constantly violating Americans’ rights, and reports like this would be a key bit of evidence.  But when you give the “story” a little scrutiny, all you find is an agency that needs to know what’s happening in an emergency and that is looking at public social media sites for information, just like the rest of us.  There’s no privacy issue there at all, despite the heavy breathing and the headlines.

Or perhaps before crying wolf, one ought to take a breath and get into the details of the story.  There are plenty of things to concern one’s self with other than this non-story.

For instance:

U.S. officials told the New York Times that they’re “looking closely” at Shabab’s use of Twitter and their options for legal and other responses. Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (@JoeLieberman), Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, called on Twitter to shut down the Taliban’s accounts.

Other Western governments have also turned against Twitter. British Prime Minister David Cameron (@Number10gov), for example, raised the prospect of banning Twitter during social disturbances, following its use by rioters in the U.K., and Mexican prosecutors have accused Twitter users of terrorism for spreading false rumors that have led to real-life violence.

An Israeli legal advocacy group, Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, has separately threatened Twitter with legal action for hosting the Shabab and Hezbollah accounts. Who will win in court is unclear: It’s a First Amendment versus providing services for terrorists toss-up.

And:

US Representatives Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced a bill into the House of Representatives in mid-December that would roll back the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy, which mandates that any published research that was funded by the federal science agency be submitted to the publically accessible digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication in journals. The bill, H.R. 3699, would also make it illegal for other federal agencies to adopt similar open-access policies.

The legislation, referred to as the Research Works Act, is being applauded by the Association of American Publishers, a book publishing industry trade organization that claims the NIH policy and others like it undercut the scientific publishing business, which seldom receives federal funds. “At a time when job retention, US exports, scholarly excellence, scientific integrity, and digital copyright protection are all priorities, the Research Works Act ensures the sustainability of this industry,said Tom Allen, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers in a statement.

Want to get your britches in a bunch, there are two stories that should help wad them up.  Censoring Twitter (and that’s precisely where all of that is headed) and making opaque research which you, the taxpayer has funded to help a crony profit?  Now both of those are worthy of condemnation and outrage.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO