Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: September 2009


Solve the 43 Trillion Dollar Problem First

Of course, they can’t fix it except by drastically cutting spending or drastically raising taxes, or both – so this is not something that will be “fixed”. They run the program completely, determine the benefits and the rates they’ll pay and they blame private insurance for the growing cost problems in health care? Yeah, let’s give them the rest since they’ve done so well with this portion of it.

~McQ


Criminalizing “Choice”

What were the twin goals President Obama’s reform given in his speech to a joint session of Congress?  Oh, yeah, he wanted there to be “competition” so the consumer had a “choice”.  That’s become a Democratic talking point now.

But choice, apparently, doesn’t extend beyond the faux choice of the public option.  If you choose not to buy insurance, your choice is then reduced to a fine or jail  or perhaps, both.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) had a question about what would happen if a person refused to pay the $1,900 IRS tax/fine levied for not doing so.

He received a hand written note from the Chief of the Joint Committee on Taxation, Thomas Barthold:

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it “Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold.”

The banality of totalitarianism.

Hope and change in the land of the free.

~McQ


Global Warming “Science” v. The Scientific Method (update)

Even the youngest student of science knows the foundation of scientific inquiry rests in the scientific method. It is by scrupulously following that method that the data and science behind it can be verified. In short:

Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

It also requires that the data collected be made available to peers so the theories in question can be tested for their validity.

Among other facets shared by the various fields of inquiry is the conviction that the process be objective to reduce biased interpretations of the results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, thereby allowing other researchers the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of these data to be established.

The bold is my emphasis because I want to highlight a remarkable article at NRO by Patrick J. Michaels entitled “The Dog Ate Global Warming”. Obviously a little twist on “the dog ate my homework”, Michaels says that the “data needed to verify the gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared.”

Or, said another way, the findings are now unfalsifiable because those who did the original research say they no longer have the original data.

First some background about what’s being discussed:

In the early 1980s, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia established the Climate Research Unit (CRU) to produce the world’s first comprehensive history of surface temperature. It’s known in the trade as the “Jones and Wigley” record for its authors, Phil Jones and Tom Wigley, and it served as the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) until 2007. It was this record that prompted the IPCC to claim a “discernible human influence on global climate.”

Putting together such a record isn’t at all easy. Weather stations weren’t really designed to monitor global climate. Long-standing ones were usually established at points of commerce, which tend to grow into cities that induce spurious warming trends in their records. Trees grow up around thermometers and lower the afternoon temperature. Further, as documented by the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Sr., many of the stations themselves are placed in locations, such as in parking lots or near heat vents, where artificially high temperatures are bound to be recorded.

So the weather data that go into the historical climate records that are required to verify models of global warming aren’t the original records at all. Jones and Wigley, however, weren’t specific about what was done to which station in order to produce their record, which, according to the IPCC, showed a warming of 0.6° +/– 0.2°C in the 20th century.

So we’re talking about the findings which were used to make the IPCC’s dire warnings in its report. They are the basis for the entire global warming movement’s desire to do what is necessary globally to lower the amount of CO2 emissions.

But, others scientists ask, given their doubts about the accuracy of the data, should it be? Scientists interested in peer reviewing the theory, as the scientific method demands, found it impossible to do so. And therein lies the story:

Now begins the fun. Warwick Hughes, an Australian scientist, wondered where that “+/–” came from, so he politely wrote Phil Jones in early 2005, asking for the original data. Jones’s response to a fellow scientist attempting to replicate his work was, “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

Reread that statement, for it is breathtaking in its anti-scientific thrust. In fact, the entire purpose of replication is to “try and find something wrong.” The ultimate objective of science is to do things so well that, indeed, nothing is wrong.

Michaels is stunned by he reaction. Anyone who reads that response should be stunned by it. As Michaels says, it is “breathtaking in its anti-scientific thrust”. Not unscientific. Anti-scientific. Jones is refusing a peer the data used to reach his conclusions in direct contravention of the scientific method. When you see a refusal like that, especially phrased the way it was phrased, all sorts of alarm bells should go off in the head of anyone who claims to be a scientist. And, of course, they have.

Over the years, requests have been made for the data and almost uniformly turned down for various reasons. Finally a request for the data made by Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado solicited this response from Jones:

Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and homogenized) data.

Michaels calls BS on this one:

The statement about “data storage” is balderdash. They got the records from somewhere. The files went onto a computer. All of the original data could easily fit on the 9-inch tape drives common in the mid-1980s. I had all of the world’s surface barometric pressure data on one such tape in 1979.

Anyone familiar with data storage throughout the short history of the computer age knows this is nonsense. Transfer of data from various systems to newer systems has been accomplished without real difficulty all thorough its development. What Jones is trying very hard to do is one of two things a) hide data that he’s pretty sure won’t support his conclusion or b) admitting to a damningly unscientific procedure which should, without his ability to produce and share the original data, call into serious question any findings he’s presented.

Why is this important – because based on this finding, the world is moving toward economy crippling treaties and legislation, like the pending cap-and-trade bill here in the US, based on totally unverified “science”. As Michaels says this story isn’t just “an academic spat” – it questions the very foundation of the premise which these economic crippling moves are based in.

Scientific consensus? Not even proven science, for heave sake – yet we’re moving on it like it was. Dangerous, foolish and costly. This is what rushing into things without making all of the inquiries necessary (and taking the time to do them) usually ends up with bad legislation.

And cap-and-trade promises to be no exception to that rule.

UPDATE: The Thinker provides a reminder of what I expect to see concerning Michael’s charges from the “Chicken Little” crowd:

As I described in my my model of belief, a faith-based belief is a belief in something for which there is no good evidence either for or against (e.g., the existence of God), whereas a delusional belief is a belief that is maintained in spite of evidence to the contrary (e.g., the efficacy of astrology). It is usually a delusional belief that requires an “appeal to other ways of knowing,” since a faith-based belief (strictly as I’ve defined it) can’t be challenged on scientific grounds.

The “appeal to other ways of knowing” is one of the strategies that a delusional person will use to cope with the cognitive dissonance that occurs when their beliefs bump up against reality. When questioned on this “other way of knowing” the person will then be forced to resort to other coping strategies (i.e., fallacies and biases).

Just a little helpful guide for those trying to evaluate the comments of those trying to defend the indefensible. Always handy to know if you’re dealing with someone grounded in a faith-based belief or a delusional belief, wouldn’t you say? If you’d like a local example of delusional belief, I’d steer you to the comment thread on Honduras where it is available in full flower.

~McQ


Calling Out Iran (update)

Appearing before microphones at the G-20 conference, the Presidents of the US and France along with the PM of the UK made an announcement concerning Iran:

President Obama and leaders of Britain and France accused Iran on Friday of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying the country has hidden the covert operation from international weapons inspectors for years.

Appearing before reporters in Pittsburgh, Mr. Obama said that the Iranian nuclear program “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.” French President Nicholas Sarkozy, appearing beside Mr. Obama, said that Iran had deadline of two months to comply with international demands or face increased sanctions.

Essentially the argument is the facility is too big for the manufacture of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes and can only exist to enable the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

American officials said that they had been tracking the covert project for years, but that Mr. Obama decided to make public the American findings after Iran discovered, in recent weeks, that Western intelligence agencies had breached the secrecy surrounding the project. On Monday, Iran wrote a brief, cryptic letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying that it now had a “pilot plant” under construction, whose existence it had never before revealed.

So now Iran has been called out. That’s the easy part. Increased sanctions are promised. That’s the hard part. Russia may possibly come on board (we’ll see if the unilateral decision to remove the missile defense shield from eastern Europe), but China is an unknown (although the Chinese foreign ministry recently said it was not in favor of increased sanctions). That’s assuming the Obama administration plans on working all of this through the UN.

One of the sanctions that the US and others are considering is one which would restrict the importation of gasoline. While Iran sits on a sea of oil, it has very limited refining capacity. It must import most of what it uses. Cutting those imports would seriously effect the country. However Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez, during a recent visit with Iran, promised to provide the regime with gasoline. That could set up a confrontation between the US (and others) and Venezuela. Hugo Chavez might finally get the confrontation with the US he’s been claiming was coming very soon.

This is about to get complicated and nasty. December is the date in which France has demanded compliance with international demands. In the interim, both sides are going to be scrambling to line up their allies. And then there’s the wild card – Israel.

This will be an interesting couple of months. But one question I have – why wasn’t this presented to the UN before the president of Iran spoke?

UPDATE: Dale sends me a link to this article by Simon Tisdale at the Guardian in reference to this story:

…Now it seems the Iranian regime has been caught red-handed, and clean out of trumps, by the forced disclosure that it is building, if not already operating, a second, secret uranium processing plant.

The revelation will bring a triumphal roar of “told you so!” from Bush era neoconservatives in the US to hawkish rightwingers in Israel. The likes of former vice-president Dick Cheney and UN envoy John Bolton, and the current Israeli leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, have long insisted that Tehran’s word could not be trusted.

Yet the argument about who was right and who was wrong about Iran is hardly important at this juncture…

As Dale sarcastically notes:

Yes. Whatever we do, let’s not try and keep track of who was right and who was wrong about Iran. We certainly wouldn’t want to have a track record of foreign policy reliability we could consult in the future.

Because this is about, uh what was it again, oh, yeah, change!

~McQ


The Kangaroo is Still Hopping

Today was one of those days when a couple of trends came together that should be making us think seiously about changing our current fiscal and monetary policies.

The first thing I was was this debt chart from John B Taylor that shows how our current policy will effect the national debt.

Projected national nebt as a percentage of GDP

Projected national nebt as a percentage of GDP

This what you call your unsustainable debt path.

Then, there was this:

Since the crisis began, the Fed has pumped more than $800 billon into the banking system, kept the federal funds rate near zero and purchased so many Treasurys and mortgage-backed debt that the amount of assets on its balance sheets has now swollen to $2.14 trillion.

“If you think the Federal Reserve had it tough devising a strategy to rescue the U.S. economy from of the worst recession in 70 years, just wait,” wrote Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist, at the Economic Outlook Group. “We think it is going to be hellishly more complicated this time to come up with a plan that encourages growth and keeps inflation expectations well anchored.”

All of which leads directly to this:

Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, who supervises more than two trillion dollars worth of dollar reserves, the world’s largest, raised the stakes by calling for a new reserve currency in place of the dollar.

He wanted the new reserve unit to be based on the SDR, a “special drawing right” created by the International Monetary Fund, drawing immediate support from Russia, Brazil and several other nations.

“These countries realize that they would suffer losses if inflation eroded the value of the dollar securities they own,” said Richard Cooper, a professor of international economics at Harvard University.

Here’s the problem.  Because we are on an unsustainable debt path, we will eventually accrue more debt than we can possibly repay.  There are many people who think that–since our debt, coupled with Social Security and Medicare obligations currently outstanding, are greater than the entire capital stock of the United States–we’re there already.  We ill be unable to pay the debt, so our choices are to repudiate it outright, or to destroy the value of the currency and inflate it away, both of which amount to essentially the same thing.  In doing so, the government will destroy the life savings of everyone in the country, save those that are in hard assets

The Chinese, whatever else they may be, are not stupid.  they know this, and they want a new worldwide reserve currency now, before everyone realizes that the dollar is in very serious danger of becoming worthless.  They don’t want to be stuck holding dollars when that happens–although their holdings in bonds will probably have to be written off.

I’ve written previously that China moved their gold reserves into the BoC a few months ago.  Some international trade deals are already being denominated in gold, tool.  It looks very much like the dollar’s days as the world reserve currency are numbered.  In fact, the dollar’s days may very well be numbered.

Federal Reserve Monetary Base. Click to enlarge.

Federal Reserve Monetary Base. Click to enlarge.

And we’ve let it happen.  Over the past 80 years, we’ve sat by and watched as the Fed–whose primary mission was supposed to be the stability fo the currency–has presided over a tenfold reduction in the dollar’s value.  For the last 30 years, we’ve watched as the debt has mushroomed–yes, even during Bill Clinton’s presidency–and we’ve refused to either cut spending or to raise taxes to a level commensurate with our increased spending.  In short, we’ve looted the system, and the looting is nearly complete now.

And now, with all the trumpetings of a coming economic recovery, the Fed has to try and figure out how to re-call the more than doubling of the monetary base we’ve engaged in in the past year without completely crashing the economy.  Failure to do so, of course, means serious inflation–which will further degrade the value of the dollar.

Hop.  Hop.  Hop.


Obama, Clinton and the State Department Are Wrong About Honduras

I think we know the answer to the question “what in the world are Constitutions for if not to be followed” as we address it to those named in the headline, but we now have the Congressional Research Service weighing in on Honduras and it isn’t good news for the US’s policy toward that country.

David Freddoso reports that the CRS’s Senior Foreign Law Specialist Norma Gutierrez has completed a study of the Honduran actions as they relate to former president Mel Zelaya and they don’t reflect well on the US. Freddoso has distilled them to the following:

* The Honduran Congress appears to have acted properly in deposing President Manuel Zelaya. Unlike in the United States, the Honduran Congress has the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Although there is no provision in Honduras’s Constitution for impeachment as such, the body does have powers to disapprove of the president’s official acts, and to replace him in the event that he is incapable of performing his duties. Most importantly, the Congress also has the authority to interpret exactly what that means.

* The Supreme Court was legally entitled to ask the military to arrest Zelaya. The high court, which is the constitutional venue for trials of the president and other high-ranking officials, also recognized the Congress’s ouster of Zelaya when it referred his case back down to a lower court afterward, on the grounds that he was “no longer a high-ranking government official.”

* The military did not act properly in forcibly expatriating Zelaya. According to the CRS report and other news stories, Honduran authorities are investigating their decision, which the military justified at the time as a means of preventing bloodshed. In fact, Zelaya should have been given a trial, and if convicted of seeking reelection, he would have lost his citizenship. But he is still a citizen now, and the Constitution forbids the expatriation of Honduran citizens by their government.

* The proper line of succession was followed after Zelaya’s ouster. Because there was no Vice President in office when Zelaya was removed (he had resigned to run for president), Micheletti was the proper successor, as he had been president of the Congress.

So the only unlawful or improper act, according the the CRS, was the forceful expatriation of Zelaya. Despite the desire to avoid bloodshed, the military should merely have removed and arrested him. Other than that, everything appears to go precisely as it should according to their constitution and their legal interpretation of it.

For a man who just stood up in the UN and claimed the right of people for self-determination (except in Iran, of course), he sure is working awful hard to ensure Honduras’s citizens don’t enjoy that right.

He’s wrong. Secretary of State Clinton is wrong. The State Department’s actions against Honduras are wrong. No equivocation here – the US is on the wrong side of this issue. This needs to be rethought and readdressed quickly and Mel Zelaya ought to be treated like he deserves – as someone who broke the law of the land.

[HT: looker]

~McQ


School Indoctrination? Where? Cult of Personality? No way!

This was filmed around June 19, 2009 at the B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, NJ.

[HT: NRO]

Appropriate?

Lyrics (some unintelligible noted – if you can understand them help fill in the “something-somethings:)):

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that all must lend a hand [?]
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be clear today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that we must take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said Red, Yellow, Black or White
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
Yes
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama

segue to

Hello, Mr. President we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments, we all [do? doth??] say “hooray!”
Hooray Mr. President! You’re number one!
The first Black American to lead this great na-TION!
Hooray, Mr. President something-something-some
A-something-something-something-some economy is number one again!
Hooray Mr. President, we’re really proud of you!
And the same for all Americans [in?] the great Red White and Blue!
So something Mr. President we all just something-some,
So here’s a hearty hip-hooray a-something-something-some!
Hip, hip hooray! (3x)

Is this what school is about now?

And you have to love the “Jesus Loves Me” rip off …

I’m sorry – but this is just a bit over the top for me. Your tax dollars at work.

~McQ


This Is Why Obama’s Health Care Support Continues To Erode

Along with his credibility.  When the House bill on health care (H 3200) came out, anyone who read the bill, to include Republicans, noted that it planned to pay for much of what was offered through Medicare cuts. And, in speeches and talks following that, President Obama said that he wanted to “end subsidies” to Medicare Advantage, a Medicare supplemental program very popular with those using Medicare (because it covers what Medicare doesn’t).

Even the CBO has come out, as noted yesterday, and said what President Obama is talking about when it comes to Medicare will cut the level of benefits for Medicare users.

Be that as it may, and as he has in many things, he claims everyone else is wrong, he’s right and those disagreeing with him are simply doing it for political purposes. In talking points distributed by the White House today, they say:

Talking Points: Republicans’ Disingenuous Scare Tactics on Medicare

• Recently, as part of an ongoing effort to revive their political fortunes by killing health insurance reform, many Republicans have been attempting to scare America’s seniors with false myths about what reform would mean for Medicare.

• These distortions and outright falsehoods would be offensive under any circumstances, but they’re especially disingenuous coming from a group who has a long history of opposing Medicare and who very recently tried to kill the program as we know it.

• Just this past April, nearly four-fifths of Republican House members voted to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program that provides a fixed sum of money to buy private insurance.

• And this most recent assault on Medicare is just the latest in a war Republicans have been waging on the program for decades.

They also attempt to spin away the CBO finding that benefits will indeed be cut and they further attempt to justify the Medicare Advantage cuts.

But this just isn’t selling to those at whom it’s aimed.

Gallup reports that seniors 65 and older are the demographic with the largest percentage against the reform being offered. By a margin of 10% (42% to 32%) they oppose it.

I think it is pretty safe to say that seniors, at this point, don’t trust the Democrats and certainly aren’t now going to buy into the old “Republicans are using scare tactics” canard. Nor are seniors going to be mollified by claims that Medicare Advantage “overcharges” and therefore should be eliminated.

I’ve talked about the erosion of independent support for the administration and Democrats in general. If the Democrats want to ensure a minority in the Congress in 2010, continue to alienate the seniors as they are presently doing and they’ll get their desire. And that might also mean 2012 won’t be looking so hot for them either.

This is a demographic which knows their issues (especially health care) and votes them. Screw with this program (and yeah it’s ironic that we’re talking about leaving a government program alone, but again, since they don’t have a choice, that says nothing about its quality or efficiency) and you can almost bet the house (pun intended) that 2010 will find a new majority in one of the chambers of Congress.

~McQ


“Do As I Say, Not As I Do”

Any guess as to who this is?

He dumps salt on almost everything, even saltine crackers. He devours burnt bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. He has a weakness for hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken, washing them down with a glass of merlot.

And his snack of choice? Cheez-Its.

If you said Michael Moore, give yourself partial credit. But, in reality, it’s the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. Yes, the same guy who seems to think it is his job to be your mommy (banning transfats, forcing fast food places to post calorie counts, telling to diners to use less salt and subway riders to drink less soda) even salts his pizza.

But the mayor’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, said Mr. Bloomberg “works as hard as any New Yorker at keeping off extra pounds, and he has trimmed himself down to his college weight, which isn’t at all easy for a 67-year-old.” The mayor, he said “has days when he eats more than he should.” But, he added, “unlike most of us, he has the discipline to even it out the next day.”

Got that Gotham? He has “the discipline”. The rest of you proles need him to take care of it for you because “most of us” can’t handle it for ourselves.

This, my friends, is the most dangerous of political creatures. The one who thinks that it is the function of government to tell you how to live your lives, down to and including what you should and shouldn’t eat, assumes you don’t have the wherewithal to do it yourself and finally, doesn’t even follow the rules he lays down for you because he’s the exception and has the “discipline” to overcome the problem.

[HT: Megan O]

~McQ


Alaskan Observations

I‘ve put my full Alaska travelogue up at the other place, if you’re interested in the rather lengthy description and pictures of my trip.

But there is a bit of a political interest, in that one of our stops was in Ketchikan.

Ketchikan, Alaska is where the famous bridge to nowhere was supposed to be built. We saw the place where it was supposed to be constructed, crossing over the Inside Passage from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, where the airport–and about 50 inhabitants–is located. The bridge was supposed to cost $315 million, before the project was killed. Because that part of the inside passage is part of the Alaska Marine Highway, the plans were for it to be tall enough to allow cargo and cruise ships to pass under it safely.

The thing is, though, is that Ketchikan cannot be reached by land. It can only be reached by boat or airplane. So the whole point of the project was to build a bridge to connect one remote island that can only be reached by air or sea, to another remote island that can only be reached by air or sea. And spend a third of a billion dollars to do it.

They’ve already got a ferry service that runs every 15-30 minutes depending on the time of year. Practically everybody has a boat. So, now that I’ve been there and seen the place, I guess that cancelling the bridge was a good thing. Call me a selfish jerk, but you don’t get to choose to live on a remote island and then demand my tax money to build you a bridge, because living on a remote island is inconvenient.

Previously, I opposed the Bridge to Nowhere out of simple principle.  But now that I’ve gone there and personally seen the place, I realize how dumb an idea it actually was.

Anyway, here’s some more video that I shot.

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