Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: February 2010

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Quote of the day – Nancy Pelosi edition

How desperate is this bit of pretzel logic?

“But let me say this,” Pelosi continues, “The bill can be bipartisan, even though the votes might not be bipartisan, because they [Republicans] have made their imprint on this.”

By George, Queen Nancy will make this bill bipartisan even if she has to redefine bipartisan.

Does that now make the GOP the party of “yes” since they supposedly imprinted themselves on that “bipartisan” bill?

No?

Who’s confused?

~McQ


Podcast for 28 Feb 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the Obama Administration’s security policies and the healthcare summit.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) Tonight

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s):

Obama I or Bush III?: Well let’s see, GITMO is still open, Iraq proceeds as planned, we’re surging in Afghanistan and, oh, the Democratic House just passed a one year extension to the Patriot Act.

Health Care Summit: Did the Democrats accomplish what they’d plan? How’d Obama come off? Were you surprised by the Republicans?

The Goracle surfaces
: He’s back in an NYT op-ed and he’s trying to justify the “science” to get to the real reason for the alarmism – cap-and-trade.

Health Care Reform: Forget reconciliation, forget the summit – does Nancy Pelosi have the votes in the House to pass the Senate bill into law?


Thus spake the Goracle

Heee’s baaaack – and of course he picks a forum to voice his opinion which allows for no debate.  I’m speaking of the Al Gore op-ed in the New York Times.

Even the title is misleading – “We can’t wish climate change away”? Who in the world is wishing it away?

The climate has been changing ever since this rock got an atmosphere. To wish it wasn’t constantly changing would obviously be a) giant waste of time and b) contrary to the history of our planet. No one is wishing climate change away. Instead they’re wishing away the unproven narrative that man is causing climate change and pointing to the history of the planet that says what is happening is most likely natural and unstoppable.

But back to Al:

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.

Hmmm … interesting. See, “human civilization as we know it” has survived in eras like the Medieval Warm Period – with nary an single SUV on the planet – quite well. In fact, “human civilization as we know it” settled and farmed Greenland during that period and seems to have flourished under those warmer conditions. Of course still unanswered is how they did so without a combined and concerted effort by mankind of that period to prevent the same “unimaginable calamity” from happening then? It appears that instead of wringing their hands and relying on cherry picked data and false claims called “science” they accepted, assessed, adapted and thrived.

Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil. And we would still trail China in the race to develop smart grids, fast trains, solar power, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy — the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century.

We just hit one of the largest finds of natural gas in the world (in fact, it makes us the world’s largest NG producer) and each year the remaining oil reserves climb as we find new ways to extract it (remember – we’ve seen peak oil predicted for decades and to this point all that happens is the forecast continues to be moved out). So that’s not exactly as great a lever as it once was. Of course Al seems to think that just because we’re not buying into the chicken little pronouncements about oil we don’t agree that alternatives and a smart grid aren’t “good things”. They are – but we don’t need all the scare tactics to understand and agree Mr. Gore. They actually can stand on their own merit. However, we also understand that until they’re viable, oil and gas are critical to our economy and will most likely continue to provide the fuel for 70 to 80 percent of our economy for decades to come.

But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake.

The only reason anyone’s grandchildren might think we’re a “criminal generation” would be due to the indoctrination they’ve received in their schools concerning the “science” of global warming. Al continues to cite reports that were derivative of the data now called into question by the climate-gate emails. Someone should explain to him that anything derived from bad data, no matter how prestigious the institution publishing it, is still wrong.

I, for one, genuinely wish that the climate crisis were an illusion. But unfortunately, the reality of the danger we are courting has not been changed by the discovery of at least two mistakes in the thousands of pages of careful scientific work over the last 22 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer.

Well, of course, there are mistakes and then there are MISTAKES. Certainly a couple of small mistakes – you know like saying the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 when real science says it would take over 300 years, may not invalidate the overall assertion that man is causing the climate to change. But when the foundational data upon which the whole of the “science” is called into question, then one MISTAKE within thousands of pages is more than enough to invalidate the entire mess. It is the latter which Al attempts to minimize.

It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.

Huh – no mention of the “hockey stick” being found to be invalid, or the tree ring data being grossly skewed or the temperature data being cherry picked? No mention that the computer models being improperly built, or that the claim that AGW would reduce 40% of the Amazon rainforest to savannah coming from a non-peer reviewed article originally about logging? Nope, it only had to do with a little overestimate here some inaccurate data there and British scientists not following the FOI law.

What a hand wave at the facts. Because, you see:

But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.

But that’s real science’s mission – to attempt to be free of mistakes. Because it is upon that type of science that further scientific progress is built. It is when science becomes a political tool, as it has in the case of Mr. Gore’s “climate change consensus” that we begin to see the gross misuse of the discipline to advance an agenda.

Garbage-in doesn’t excuse garbage-out when the garbage-out is used to make political policy. Sticking to discredited consensus “science” about the arctic and antarctic isn’t particularly impressive either (for instance temps are colder in the Arctic now than they were in 1956 and have been trending downward for 3 decades).

Which brings us to this:

Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.

Similarly, even though climate deniers have speciously argued for several years that there has been no warming in the last decade, scientists confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.

Note Mr. Gore’s link.  Yes, that’s right – NASA/Giss.  NASA/Giss’s data has come from what?  Data that is under heavy fire for being cherry picked from stations which best support the theory that man is responsible for the warming of the climate.  So again we have the claim being made with data which many scientists are more than a little skeptical about.  In fact, they believe the data to be wrong.  But, as Dr. Thomas Sowell pointed out in “The Vision of the Anointed”, facts mean very little to these people, it’s all about the claims of the vision being axiomatically correct.  Man is the cause of this pending catastrophe and “science” is built to say so.

Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising.

Of course, science isn’t finding that at all. While it may be true that some of the ice-covered regions of the earth are melting, there is a) no proof that it is due to a greenhouse effect, b) no proof that man’s “pollutants” are causing a greenhouse effect and c) much proof that it is natural solar cycles which may be the cause of any warming taking place.

Or said another way, there is more “settled science” on the side of those claiming it is natural solar cycles causing any warming taking place than there is on the side claiming it is man who is responsible.

Gore continues on with his nonsense for some time to get to the crux of his real concern – no cap-and-trade means no rich Al Gore:

When the Senate failed to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, forcing the president to go to Copenhagen without a new law in hand, the Chinese balked. With the two largest polluters refusing to act, the world community was paralyzed.

Some analysts attribute the failure to an inherent flaw in the design of the chosen solution — arguing that a cap-and-trade approach is too unwieldy and difficult to put in place. Moreover, these critics add, the financial crisis that began in 2008 shook the world’s confidence in the use of any market-based solution.

But there are two big problems with this critique: First, there is no readily apparent alternative that would be any easier politically. It is difficult to imagine a globally harmonized carbon tax or a coordinated multilateral regulatory effort. The flexibility of a global market-based policy — supplemented by regulation and revenue-neutral tax policies — is the option that has by far the best chance of success. The fact that it is extremely difficult does not mean that we should simply give up.

Gore’s game is obvious. Jump start the process within the US political system while Democrats are still in power and get cap-and-trade passed. Then, with the US on-board, China and India can be shamed and pressured to join. Result? Al Gore’s enterprise grows flush.

Of course you’ve probably noticed that to buy into Gore’s scenario, you have to accept any number of premises, most of them false. You have to accept that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and not a natural byproduct of any number of natural processes (oceans being the largest producer via water vapor). You have to believe the science which has said carbon dioxide is a lagging indicator (by 800 years) of warming trends has suddenly decided it is a leading indicator and a cause. And you have to apparently believe that man has more effect on the climate than does the sun. Last, you have to really buy into the hubris which says ‘we can fix that’ if we just spend enough money, tax enough people and regulate enough of everyone’s lives.

You’re welcome to read the rest of his piece – it ends up using marginal “science” to push a political appeal to pass cap-and-trade, the bread and butter of the riches he hopes to reap from the fraud he’s helped perpetrate. He knows his scheme is in trouble, so he ends his appeal with:

We have overcome existential threats before. Winston Churchill is widely quoted as having said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes, you must do what is required.” Now is that time. Public officials must rise to this challenge by doing what is required; and the public must demand that they do so — or must replace them.

Churchill would most likely roll over in his grave if he knew his name was being invoked in such a disingenuous attempt at fleecing the world. I’ll agree with Gore on one thing, I demand that public officals do something – send cap-and-trade to the dustbin of history forever. And corral the EPA and make them back off this insane attempt to regulate carbon dioxide. If they won’t – replace them with those who will.

~McQ


Saturday open thread

Talk about whatever strikes your fancy.

Some things that have caught my eye:

Is the Obama administration trying to unionize the government procurement process?

Speaking of unions, what is SEIU’s president, Andy Stern, doing on a Obama’s “deficit reduction” panel.  Does that say “I’m serious about this” to you?

Anyone else see the irony in the Hillary Clinton claim that domestic political infighting is hurting America’s image abroad?

Brits aren’t buying the “January was the warmest month ever” nonsense.

Speaking of the Brits, is there a reason we won’t back their claim to the Falklands in a drilling-rights dispute?

Apparently some Dems are calling for Charles Rangel to step down from his House committee chairmanship because of ethics violations. Why isn’t Nancy “the most ethical Congress in history” Pelosi doing the same?

Paul Ryan was the rock star in the health care summit. To date no one has refuted his fiscal points.

The Obama administration has consistently talked about the Bush administration not counting the cost of war in its deficits. Well, it isn’t a war, but the Obama administration continues to nrefuse to cout the hundreds of billions going to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – primarily because it would bump this year’s 1.4 trillion deficit by another 300 billion.

And finally there’s some relatively good news.  Jeremy Lott says there have been quite a few “quiet libertarian victories” here lately.

~McQ


Predators being predators

Or in the case of the orca at SeaWorld, dolphins being dolphins.

I guess I’m always surprised at the surprise generated by a predator in captivity still acting like a predator.  The death of the trainer at SeaWorld while tragic certainly didn’t surprise me.  Here, read this:

Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world’s most powerful predators. They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, employing teeth that can be four inches (ten centimeters) long. They are known to grab seals right off the ice. They also eat fish, squid, and seabirds.

Now there are all kinds of theories as to why the “killer whale” did what it did, to include one which says it was just playing.

That could be, but whatever the reason it was an animal acting like it should. It kills things and eats them. It doesn’t moralize about what is or isn’t “good” or “evil”. It does what it is hard wired to do without thinking about it and certainly without concerning itself with the consequences. It certainly isn’t unreasonable to expect such an animal to act like it should.

Putting a 12,000 pound predatory mammal in a small tank and expecting it to be civilized, entertaining and safe because you’ve given it some training and feed it is what is unreasonable. While I regret the trainer’s death, I don’t blame the orca. And I have a sneaking suspicion the trainer wouldn’t either.

Which brings us to this:

Tilikum, nicknamed “Tilly,” is valuable to SeaWorld as a breeder and already has fathered several offspring, says dolphin-trainer-turned-activist Russ Rector of Fort Lauderdale.

“Tilikum is a monster. This is his third killing,” Rector says.

No Tilikum isn’t a monster. That’s a moral accusation that has no basis in reality.  If Tilikum was in the wild, he might be on his 3,000th killing.  And not a single one of the killings would have anything to do with morality.  Tilikum is a predator – and predators acting like predators aren’t doing anything immoral. They’re just doing what comes naturally.

~McQ


Obama’s OFA targets right-wing talk radio

The campaign to push the health care reform bill has moved into a new dimension with Obama’s “grassroots” organization, Organizing For America, urging members to target right-wing radio shows and helpfully providing both tips on how to get on and talking points for those inclined to do so.

OFA has put together a handy helpful website to facilitate this campaign. It’s an interesting effort, but reading through the talking points, my guess is it will become quickly obvious to any listener who the OFA members are as soon as they begin their presentation of those points. Callers are encouraged to use those discussion points, but OFA reminds them that “the most important part of your call is your own story about why you support reform.”

Of course such a campaign costs OFA nothing except the cost of the website. And, as you’ll see at the bottom of that screen, they ask participants to submit their reports – I assume so OFA can refine their approach or at some point use the information in an attack on various right-wing hosts.

OFA provides a portal with which to listen to right wing shows (although clicking through, I saw various left wing hosts such as Ed Schultz, Bill Press, Stephanie Miller and Mike Malloy listed as well) and their call in numbers.

It’s a pretty cool effort – how effective it will be remains to be seen. Talk radio listeners are pretty savvy listeners and fairly quickly identify such efforts as disingenuous and tune them out. And call screeners will soon find a way to ferret them out. But listening for them for as long as this lasts should at least be entertaining anyway.

~McQ


At what point does the media drop “unexpectedly” from its unemployment stories?

I mean, for heaven sake, it seems that weekly the “experts” are surprised by an “unexpected rise” in unemployment statistics.  This week was no different than the “unexpected rise” last week:

Unemployment claims filed last week rose unexpectedly, coming in at 496,000, up 22,000 from the previous week.

Taken with other discouraging news released this week — record-low January new home sales and a slide in consumer confidence — the new jobless claims number describes a slow and uncertain recovery.

Forecasters had expected 460,000 new jobless claims to be filed last week

The four-week moving average of new jobless claims — which smooths out volatility in the week-to-week numbers — rose 6,000 to 473,750.

Key phrase – “slow and uncertain recovery”. So a continued “rise” in unemployment, even to this weeks actual numbers, shouldn’t be “unexpected” in such a recovery. Why it is so important to predict what the next week’s unemployment stats will be anyway? As often as they’ve been wrong and seen “unexpected” numbers you have to wonder why they even bother. More significantly, given the track record, you have to wonder why the media even bothers with their numbers. The numbers are what they are. From those numbers we should be able to understand the condition of the economy. But I’m tired of seeing “unexpected” numbers every week treated as some sort of surprise by a group whose credibility was shot a long time ago.

~McQ


Health Care Summit: The “I told you so” post

Ok, I’ll admit that it didn’t work out precisely as I said in my scenario in a previous post, and the Republicans did much better than I expected, however the result was exactly what I claimed it would be. A refresher with added emphasis:

Obama gets his moment recorded by the TV cameras no less. And mournfully he pronounces the Republicans as obstructionists who refused to negotiate in good faith as the great and wonderful Democrats have offered to do. And because of that, it is with a heavy heart and reluctantly he is forced to agree with the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that reconciliation is the only route left open to them to do “what is right” for the American people.

When I wrote my quick review yesterday, Obama hadn’t yet spoken. In his 10 minute wrap up which went on for 20 minutes, he finally got to the purpose of the summit.

I’d like Republicans to do a little soul searching to find out if there are some things that you’d be willling to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance, and dealing seriously with the pre-existing conditions issue. I don’t know frankly whether we can close that gap.

And if we can’t close that gap, then I suspect Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are going to have a lot of arguments about procedures in Congress about moving forward.

Or: “Ok, Republicans, time to join the team and show some real movement or we’ll do what we have to do procedurally”. And that, of course, is reconciliation. Greg Sargent heard the same message. Referring to that quote he says:

Unless I’m misreading that, Obama is saying that unless Republicans support comprehensive reform as Obama and Dems have defined it — dealing with the problem of 30 million uninsured and, by extension, seriously tackling the preexisting condition problem — they will almost certainly move forward with reconciliation.

What’s more, Obama also essentially accused Republicans of approaching today’s summit in bad faith — after they had sat there with him for six hours. He said that even after the public option was taken off the table, Republicans continued to use the same “government takeover” slur.

“Even after the public option wasn’t available, we still hear the same rhetoric,” Obama said. “We have a concept of an exchange which previously has been an idea that was embraced by Republicans before I embraced it. Somehow, suddenly it became less of a good idea.”

This accusation, combined with his assertion that Republicans need to do some “soul-searching” on whether they wanted to join Dems in tackling reform as they have defined it, amount to an unmistakable vow to move forward without them.

Bingo.

That’s what it was all about. And anyone who watched or listened to the summit know the Democrats didn’t offer a single concession (they repeatedly refused to scrap the present bill and start over – something the Republicans asked for as a means of crafting a bi-partisan solution, a process in which they made it clear they’d be very happy to participate). There was no real attempt at negotiation – just a listing of purported agreements. But the implication is those agreements should be included in the existing comprehensive plan the Democrats had put forward and not the new bill the Republicans desired.

So it was 7 hours of window dressing to get to the point of claiming that lack of progress on the part of the Republicans (in a month to 6 weeks) would leave Democrats no choice but to move forward without them. The only way they can move forward without them is via reconciliation, since they no longer have the votes in the Senate to pass the bill via the appropriate means.

Bottom line: while Republicans showed well in the summit, it was indeed political theater staged to justify reconciliation. But because Republicans did much better than expected, the justification is much weaker than it would have been had Republicans mucked it up. As a result, I think the Democrats have essentially failed in accomplishing their primary goal – justifying reconciliation and gaining the approval of the American public to do so.

~McQ


Health Care Summit review

I’ve been watching and/or listening to the health care summit today and it became fairly obvious from the opening bell that there wasn’t going to be much of anything worthwhile or substantive accomplished – not that I’m surprised.   5 hours into it, it has been mostly the exchange of talking points.  Right now I’m forced to listen to Henry Waxman give his. He’s claiming his version of the bill is the best and the Republican’s version sucks. Pretty much the way it has gone all day (Republicans have mostly said they want to start over with a clean sheet).  Every one of the Democrats are appealing to emotion via tragic anecdotes.

Tom Coburn made the most important point – any reform has to reconnect purchase and price.  Until that’s done, we’re not going to get the value that reconnection would bring.

Then there have been the CBO wars (each side claiming their side is supported by the agency), with Rep. Paul Ryan pointing out that the problem with the CBO numbers is that it doesn’t account for the double counting and that throws the curve in an upward trajectory. Ryan also pointed out that Democrats removed the “doc fix” from the bill and plan on passing it separately, but that removed around $300 billion from the HCR bill which should be included in the cost.

Republicans have argued for tort reform for medical malpractice. Democrats (Dick Durbin in particular) have argued against it. McCain used the Texas model to make the point for tort reform. Texas, which has instituted tort reform has seen malpractice premiums reduced by 27% and has had a net gain of 18,000 doctors – extrapolated nationally using direct savings (malpractice insurance premium cost) and indirect savings (reduction of the “defensive medicine” practiced by doctors) the amount saved could be in the $150 billion range.

Essentially each side is trying to support their point of view. If there’s any agreement it is that Medicare is full of fraud, out of control cost wise and needs to be fixed and that both sides want to fix the pre-existing systems.

As expected, President Obama sits quietly while the Democrats give their talking points and challenges Republicans as they deliver theirs.

Most amusingly, Joe Biden said this:

“I’m always reluctant after being here 37 years to tell people what the American people think. I think it requires a little bit of humility to be able to know what the American people think, and I don’t, I can’t swear I do. I know what I think. I think I know what they think. But I’m not sure what they think.

Then everyone, including Biden, spoke for “the American people”.

The one thing Obama said concerning reconciliation, in answer to a point made by John McCain, was that the “American people” really aren’t that interested in the process. Obviously he hasn’t seen the CNN/Gallup poll today which says they are interested and overwhelming reject it’s use.

Chris Dodd tells a story about a guy who privately put together a small business health care association in CT. Of course the point lost on him as he argues for the government to act is it was done privately.  Perhaps the government’s role ought to be enabling that. Rep. Joe Barton then made that point.

“Blinky” Pelosi is now wrapping it up with her usual attack on insurance companies and Republicans (except Tom Coburn for some reason) while still pitching the public option.  Yeah, negotiating at its finest.

The cable news networks covered most of the first part of the session but began bailing around 1pm, cutting in from time to time, but mostly going to discussion among their “experts”.

Bottom line – no bi-partisan attempt on either side to reach a compromise. And again, that’s fine.

After that, I think I’ll go watch some exciting curling.

~McQ

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