Monthly Archives: June 2011
A year or so ago I wrote an post asking “Are we needlessly scaring ourselves to death”? My feeling was that we do indeed needlessly scare ourselves to death by not putting threats into perspective. Used in the post were statistics about terrorist attacks via airlines and the likelihood of actually being a victim of terrorism in such a situation. As you might imagine, given the number of passengers, flights and miles traveled, the risk per se is statistically miniscule. But that doesn’t keep the population at large from being “scared” of the threat or condoning limits on liberty to hopefully prevent even that tiny percent of successful attacks.
That brings me to a larger point. The evolution of “scaremongering”. Frank Furedi hits on the issue I’ve observed over the years since technology and the internet have given communication a rocket boost that we apparently haven’t quite adapted too. Scaremongering has become a competitive growth industry:
[T]he massive growth of fearmongering campaigns and crusades over the past quarter of a century has been unprecedented. Fear-fuelled grandstanding becomes most extravagant in relation to the very big catastrophic hazards that apparently threaten the survival of the planet itself. The list of potential planetary disasters is growing all the time. International terrorism, climate change, influenza-type pandemic, the AIDS epidemic, overpopulation, obesity, disastrous technological accidents – these are only some of the many mega-hazards that are said to confront humanity today.
Scaremongering also has a powerful impact in the arena of individual health. Health scares targeting women and children in particular have become a flourishing enterprise in recent years. Health scares are often linked to anxieties about food or the alleged side effects of drugs, pollution and new technologies. Personal security is another important area for fearmongering. Anxieties about crime, immigration and anti-social behaviour are regularly promoted by law-and-order groups. The environment, of course, is now treated as a potentially huge problem in it own right. Anything that has an impact on nature is said to store up big disasters for the future.
With so much to fear, it’s not surprising that there is now an intense level of competition to grab the attention of the public. Scaremongering has become a highly competitive enterprise; contemporary public debate often takes the form of countering one hysterical plea with another.
He’s right. And the result is a confused public and a debate that spirals out of control with little of substance being offered in the way of constructive dialog and argument. It is instead replaced by competing attempts to scare the public to one side or the other. We see it everyday in the so-called political debate. In many cases as debate about any issue is reduced to scaremongering. And while many of us may understand that, there are even more that don’t.
Complex issues are reduced to tag lines and sound bites. “Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan will kill old people”. Bumper-sticker scaremongering which opponents to such a plan consider successful if it goes viral and becomes the conventional wisdom. And those who throw things out like that know, for the most part, that the average American isn’t going to take the time or make the effort to research the plan and attempt to understand it. He who gets the first meme to go viral out there wins, even if it is blatant nonsense.
And the Democrats or left aren’t the only side which does that (although I’m of the opinion that it is something the left does more than the right based on my observations). Looking at many of the social con arguments on the right examples can be found that point to the fact that they’re not at all averse to a little scaremongering to advance their agendas.
The result, however, is ironic. In an era in which unprecedented information on just about any subject or issue are available to just about everyone, we find narratives and memes created by scaremongering to still be accepted at face value by majorities of people. And that sort of success – scaremongering – breeds imitation. If it works for side A, side B certainly isn’t going to eschew it.
Consequently, as Furedi points out, scaremongering has become highly a competitive enterprise of claim and counter-claim.
The problem, of course, is the fact that there are things we should be very concerned about, but we have difficulty breaking them out of the clutter of issues being fearmongered. We also have a tendency to dismiss legitimate claims out of hand, if they sound like fearmongering, because so many of the hyped up issues turn out to be so much nonsense.
Information and perspective are two very important tools in the war against scaremongering. In my estimation, the battle against the scaremongering alarmists of AGW is a case study in how such scaremongering should be countered.
But there are so many things these days, as Furedi points out, that are being given that treatment that it is not only exasperating but somewhat depressing. We can’t make rational decision based in irrational and over-hyped issues, but we do it all the time. Look at what Germany just did with its nuclear power based on the experience of a island nation hit by a tsunami. That’s likely to happen there, right? Pure fear expertly exploited.
Fearmongering is something which has to be guarded against and fought. One of the best ways to do so is obviously through offering facts and perspective instead of a counter claim based in fear. Unfortunately, for the most part, it seems the sides prefer fear to facts, and that does us all a huge disservice and can be potentially – and I say this advisedly so as not to be branded a “fearmonger” – catastrophic if the wrong policies are implemented as a result.
Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff for Joe Biden (and a Bloomberg View columnist) gives you a peek at the plan. Klain has a piece in Bloomberg where he puts the outline of what the administration needs to do to spin the car bailout properly if it hopes to make it a campaign positive. Klain’s suggestions are offered to form the basis of a narrative which will be polished and become a center-piece of the record of Barack Obama. The reason for beginning now is obviously an attempt to condition the public, which was very much against the bailout (and mostly remain so), to the supposed positive aspects of the takeover by government.
Of all the policy challenges I saw Obama tackle in my two years in the White House, none was more complex than turning around the U.S. auto industry. When the president took office, the industry was in free fall. Sales of cars and trucks, which had topped 17 million in 2006, fell to 10.6 million in 2009. Two of America’s three major automakers were insolvent, kept alive by weekly inflows of federal cash. U.S. automakers had an unsustainable cost structure, were badly trailing their foreign competitors in the production of fuel-efficient and electric vehicles, and seemed unable to make the hard choices needed to arrest their downward spiral.
The course the president chose was unexpected and risky. Most Americans remember that the administration decided to "bail out" the car companies — and indeed, the president did extend more loans and support to the industry. But he attached to the aid a series of controversial and painful conditions that ended business as usual in Detroit.
Call it “gutsy call II” if you will, but in reality, it is far from the picture that Klain ends up painting. Both the car companies were headed toward bankruptcy – a financial condition they had earned by their poor practices and sellouts to unions. Obama’s bailouts certainly ended “business as usual” for those two companies but not in a positive way.
One of the consistent memes is that had Obama not acted, GM and Chrysler would have gotten the equivalent of a death sentence by having to go into bankruptcy. By death sentence I mean the administration and its bailout supporters imply millions would have been thrown out of work and those two companies would have forever disappeared.
Uh, no. As Jim Manzi at NRO explains:
First, in the event of a bankruptcy, you don’t burn down the factories, erase all the source code on all the hard disks, make it illegal to use the brand name Chevrolet, and execute all of the employees. Others take ownership of the assets, and the employees go on with their lives. Some of these assets will be put to use generating revenues, profits, and taxes, and some of these former employees will get jobs or start businesses, and generate revenues, profits, and taxes. In order to measure the effect of the bailout over, say, five or ten years, you have to compare the actual taxes collected to what would happened over this same period in the counterfactual case where the bankruptcy was allowed to proceed. What owners would have bought the factories and IP assets, and what would they have done with them? What businesses would the former employees have started? Who would have moved to Arizona and retired? What new industry clusters will evolve in Arizona because of this transfer of people?
And what would have come out of the bankruptcy? Leaner companies better equipped to address the market and turn a profit. What wouldn’t have come out of the bankruptcy are the level of union pensions and benefits the administration preserved. Obama, through his bailout and modified bankruptcy made sure those were weren’t destroyed. Consequently you have pretty much the same conditions that existed prior to the bailout still in existence today with the added twist of more union control.
GM, for instance, just before it announced it had “paid off” its government loans, lost 3.4 billion dollars. Hans Bader, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute destroys the myth of GM’s loan payback with an extensive investigation into the real story. It is a story of known falsehoods being tacitly approved by the White House and the Treasury Department because the administration was desperate for some good news at the time. The Chrysler loan payback, as I noted recently, is of the same stripe. More smoke and mirrors from the “transparent” administration.
But back to the bailouts and the reasons. The defense offered for the bailout is this:
The White House report said the money invested in GM and Chrysler ultimately saved the government tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs, including the cost of unemployment insurance and lost tax receipts that the government would have incurred had the big Detroit auto makers collapsed.
Again, that assumes nothing comes out of any bankruptcy proceedings. Nothing. And, as Jim Manzi of NRO explains above, that’s simply not how it works. It is an assumption without any real world foundation. We’re talking a zero sum assumption by the administration where no assets are bought, no one goes back to work, everyone is unemployed and no one can find a job. That’s just not the way bankruptcies (or the real world) work.
Second, some of the profit GM makes today would have been made by other companies that picked up some of the slack if the company lost market share after a bankruptcy. They would pay taxes on these profits, and as far as government receipts are concerned, money is money. How would auto industry structure evolve over time given whatever changes happened to the assets currently owned by the legal entity GM, or the employees currently paid by it?
Anybody who tells you they can answer all of these questions reliably is full of it.
Indeed. Again, the White House and its cronies must push the black and white version of this to make it saleable. If they can’t make you believe in their “either/or” scenario, then they can’t sell the lie. They’re banking on a large degree of economic ignorance to sell this. But they know that if they rely on the fact and figures they’re going to end up on the wrong side of the argument. So Klain says, break out the smoke and mirrors once again – sell it on emotion:
First, tell the story with fewer numbers and more emotion; less prose and more poetry. Rescuing the auto industry isn’t just a matter of saving jobs and factories — it means preserving a uniquely American manufacturing tradition. Cars are more American than apple pie or hot dogs (which, unlike the automobile, were both invented in Europe). We couldn’t have won World War II without this "arsenal of democracy"; as Walter Reuther famously said, "England’s battles were won on the playing fields of Eton, but America’s were won on the assembly lines of Detroit." The president needs to jujitsu Republican critics who accuse him of failing to understand American exceptionalism by pointing out his success in saving this exceptionally American industry.
You have to love the fact that even Klain doesn’t believe his own nonsense, but has no problem advising the president to use it. Note too that Klain seems not to remember that one of the reasons that GM and Chrysler were on the ropes had to do with the American public choosing competitive foreign cars over the American cars from those two companies (and with the VOLT, we see GM again in the same condition. But he feels if he wraps it all in emotions and not facts (a variation on “hope an change” that worked so well in 2008), they can fool enough voters into accepting the narrative or at least, not caring about it.
Second, equally emphasize the pain that was imposed as a condition of support, and the hard and unpopular choices the president made. It was a plan of “shared sacrifice,” in which executives were fired, workers lost jobs, benefits and pay were cut, and dealers were shut down. The story of the tough choices the president made along the way must be told to convince the public that this wasn’t a handout.
Of course, this plays into the part of the narrative in which you must believe their “either/or” scenario – that is had the government not acted, millions of jobs would have just vaporized. Of course, what Klain describes above would most likely have been the result of normal bankruptcy proceedings minus the $50 plus billion government money injected into GM. They don’t what that known though. And, naturally, they don’t want any speculation about what would have emerged, how many jobs would that would have entailed, etc.
If you start down that road and use the history of bankruptcies and the emergence of companies from that situation as a basis, you’ll have a very difficult time swallowing the administration’s story. So avoid those facts at all costs and concentrate on “emotion” and “pain”.
Finally – Klain advises the White House to crank up the propaganda:
Third, let the people of the auto communities tell their own stories — encouraging homegrown viral videos and other uses of social and new media. This is a lesson I learned the hard way during the 18 months I was part of the White House team that struggled to explain the benefits of the Recovery Act. We used visits by the president and vice president, videos posted on WhiteHouse.gov, as well as endless statistics and charts and maps and graphics on Recovery.gov — and yet nothing got the job done. Finally, two ice-cream shop owners made an iPhone video that told the story better than we ever had, by showing how a single small business loan rippled across their area to create jobs in countless other businesses.
The White House needs a similar personal narrative to tell the auto rescue story, or it will risk being denied a return to Victory Lane in 2012.
So there is the plan – “emotion, pain and propaganda” – that Klain claims the administration should use to sell something that is about as un-American as the internment of Japanese/American civilians during WWII. The most interesting part, of course, is Klain understands that if they get into the specifics of this “deal” and the facts come out, it ends up looking like a very poor decision. And Klain knows that the opposition, once it finally settles on a candidate and its own narrative, is going to seize on this subject as a part of their attack on the Obama record.
He instinctively knows that any chance of blunting that, or making it a non-issue, requires that the administration’s narrative be out there actively being pushed now and that it has to be spun properly for it to work.
How do you counter this? With facts. And the facts are aplenty. There is no shortage of factual information that can gut these arguments and show them for what they are – emotion and propaganda. The opposition also has to use “American exceptionalism” in its proper way and point to the fact that the administration misusing “exceptionalism” in its version.
And that doesn’t even start to get to the really long-run considerations of what effects this has on rule of law and moral hazard (or if you want to make the case for the bailout, social solidarity and degradation of the working class).
One of the things America prides itself on is “rule of law”. That is a large part of our exceptionalism. We also founded a country that attempts to avoid the moral hazards that abound in this sort of a situation. We are and for the most part always have been a meritocracy. You get what you earn. We don’t buy into exceptions because they’re “too big to fail”. We understand that freedom means the freedom to fail and we don’t bail out –selectively- failures. We don’t throw good money after bad, and we certainly don’t expect our government to interfere in that process.
You have to love the implicit threat included with the quote. Here’s the full quote from Obama “friend”, Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO:
“It will be more challenging this time than it was last time to motivate our members,” Trumka, 61, said in an interview today at Bloomberg’s offices in Washington.
Why will it be more “challenging”? Well, because Mr. Obama hasn’t come through on all the pro-union, anti-free trade stuff he promised.
Obama’s support for free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama has disappointed his union supporters, Trumka said.
“During the campaign, he made significant promises to do an inventory of the trade agreements” to be certain they protected worker rights, Trumka said. “He’s obviously forgotten that promise.”
The results announced last week from Obama’s review of regulations throughout the government that burden business produced little of substance, Trumka said.
So … Trumka is implying that unless he sees some improvement on the “pro-union” side of the ledger, the unions just may not be quite as enthusiastic as they were in 2008 when it comes to Mr. Obama’s re-election. They might no be able to put as much money into the campaign, participate as heavily in GOTV or provide rent-a-mobs, er, crowds for campaign events.
In fact, the unions plan on really tightening the screws on the politicians they put in office, er, helped elect during the last presidential campaign:
Trumka said the AFL-CIO will spend this summer “holding candidates on both sides accountable.” Candidates who have wavered — those he called “acquaintances” — won’t receive support, he said, declining to name such politicians.
“Those Democrats that are friends are going to get more” aid than in the past, he said.
Of course at the moment, Obama is still considered a “friend”. The treat is just being put out there for their “friend” to consider I suppose.
Trumka also had some other policy ideas like, “more government spending to create jobs would revive the economy and lead to a reduction in the deficit.”
Ye gods. You have to wonder how someone with that much influence in the White House could be so apparently blind to history, economics and current conditions. Oh, wait:
Trumka said he’d like to see the U.S. become more like a European nation that provides pensions and health care for all its citizens. He said he is accustomed to criticism and doesn’t mind if conservatives call that socialism.
“Being called a socialist is a step up for me,” he said.
One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The “war on drugs” is a classic example of insanity at a world-wide level. We learned in the early 20th century that prohibition doesn’t work. Our experience with alcohol should have at least given us the basis for rejecting another such prohibition when it came to drugs. However we have charged ahead and for decades waged what can only be termed a horribly expensive, liberty stealing campaign against drug use that has empowered criminal organizations and allowed them to become powerful enough to challenge some governments.
As should be clear to anyone, the “War on Drugs” is an epic failure. If you don’t believe it, imagine numbers like this for any legitimate business and then factor in the ongoing campaign to deny the flow of the product:
It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.
In the face of the full might of the government of the US and many other governments in the world, this illegal enterprise has managed to supply demand that in some cases has increased 35% world wide. And it has cost us billions in “enforcement”, filled our jails and essentially had no effect whatsoever on the net side of things.
What did we learn from our own prohibition era? Apparently nothing. The market that exists today for drugs is eerily similar to that which existed for alcohol during the era of prohibition. It is a “black” market that exists because the demand exists, and government is single-handedly responsible for its existence.
Simple economics spells out how this works. There is an unfulfilled demand and whether or not you agree with the demand, the market will do all in its power to fill it. Government declaring something “illegal” may dampen demand – at least for a while – but the market will still do its best to fill the demand as long as there’s a profit to be made. All government does is change the nature of the market in question. It can be legal (which means regulated, controlled and taxed) or illegal (which usually means unregulated, untaxed and usually dominated by criminals and gangs), but it is not going to go away just because a government declares something “illegal”.
For whatever reason, after observing the results of the existing (and mostly unchanged) drug policies over decades, our political leaders still can’t seem to figure out the fact that they’re not going to “win” this battle. However, they can change the market dynamic tremendously simply by backing off of their desire to control what we consume and understanding that the best way to address such a market is through acceptance, regulation and taxation (yeah, I know, you never thought you’d hear a libertarian say that, but let’s be clear – that’s what we did with alcohol and it has worked).
The argument that people will go hog wild if drugs are legalized I find to be as nonsensical as when the argument was used about alcohol during the prohibition era. Those that are going to use drugs are most likely using them now. Additionally, part of the allure of drugs is their illegality. Yes, those with addictive personalities are probably going to get hooked on something – but given the inability of governments to stop drugs to this point, they’re likely already hooked on something anyway. The point is having this all out in the open and legal removes tremendous costs from “enforcement” and the revenue generated by regulated drug sales could be put toward treatment regimes. It also puts the criminals out of business and ends the drug related violence.
To this point, the War on Drugs has been an epic failure. All it has done is criminalize a behavior, create a market for now powerful criminals, and wasted our tax dollars on trying to control behavior.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.
I agree. Of course, according to the story, the US and Mexican governments disagree. Therefore the war on the border will continue, the funding of criminal (and terror) organizations will continue, and the militarization of the police and the resultant violation of the rights of citizens will also continue. Jails will continue to fill even while drug sales continue to grow.
Our current drug policies are insane. The numbers prove it. It is time to stop the knee-jerk reaction to the term “drugs” and drastically reassess our approach to their control and use. We’ve been through this before. It is time we reviewed that era and applied its lessons.
I’m sure they’re “unexpected”:
Private-sector employment growth decelerated sharply in May, according to Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s employment report released Wednesday, in another possible sign of a sputtering U.S. recovery.
Employment in the nonfarm private business sector rose a seasonally adjusted 38,000 in May, well below the 175,000 increase expected by economists. In April, private payrolls showed an increase of 177,000, ADP said.
“This is exceptionally weak,” said Eric Green, chief market economist at TD Securities Inc. in New York.
“This was a dismal report, indicating a significant slowdown in job creation after six months of solid gains,” said Nicholas Tenev, economist at Barclays Capital Research.
“Sold gains?” Yeah, not so much. We’ve yet to hit the threshold of job creation – about 300,000 or so – necessary to tread water, much less be adding jobs. The gains we’ve seen in the past six months have been “positive” in that there were net jobs created, but 38,000 is about 10% of what we need per month to begin to chip away at unemployment.
The government will report its version of the numbers on Friday (the above is the ADP report):
On Friday, the government will report on U.S. nonfarm payrolls for May, data that also include government workers.
Economists polled by MarketWatch are looking for a gain of 175,000 in payrolls and for the nation’s unemployment rate to tick lower to 8.9% from 9.0% in April.
That would mark a slowdown from the healthy 244,000 jobs added in April.
It would also tell us that there is no real slowdown in hiring government workers, wouldn’t it – you know, despite “budget woes”, etc. And note too that we again, despite “a dismal report”, see economists saying the unemployment rate will “tick lower” to 8.9%? Yup, the Ministry of Truth is available to feed you whatever data you want to believe (which may explain why “improvements” in the unemployment rate don’t seem to boost consumer confidence at all). Again, not being at the “tread water” level with job creation, you have to wonder how the calculations are figured and what is being considered and not considered to anticipate the unemployment rate coming down in the face of “a dismal report”.
Dale has covered the real numbers for quite some time – well into double digits. But there is indeed a larger question out there – is the workforce actually shrinking and the old norms no longer the standard by which we should measure unemployment. I.e. are older workers looking at the job market and saying, “to heck with it, I can retire and I’m going too”?
Don’t know for sure, but regardless, the numbers from ADP remain “dismal” for May.
Jeff Jacoby points out that climate change alarmists have fouled their nest so badly that the majority of the public in general has now concluded their cause is overhyped. Climate change, as a pressing priority, is receding in the public’s eyes. It simply doesn’t consider the warning credible. Why?
Well answer this – if Harold Camping came out today and claimed that the world was going to end on October 21st, after previously claiming it would end on May 21st, how much credence would you give his claim?
About as much as the scaremongers in the AGW game, one supposes, since much of what they warned would happen not only hasn’t happened but doesn’t appear likely to happen. As I noted yesterday, however, that doesn’t keep the scare machine from cranking out new and more horrible predictions.
Jacoby points to one made by Newsweek which is, well, laughable on its face.
“Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions,’’ Newsweek intones, pointing to tornadoes in the United States, floods in Australia and Pakistan, and drought in China. “From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone.’’ This is what comes of burning fossil fuels for energy, which has increased atmospheric CO2 levels by 40 percent above what they were before the Industrial Revolution. “You haven’t seen anything yet,’’ Newsweek preaches. “Batten down the hatches.’’
Anyone spot the blatant bit of nonsense in there? We’ve never had a “stable climate” for the last 12,000 years. Jacoby quotes William Happer, distinguished Princeton physicist, on the reality of that time period:
“Carbon is the stuff of life,’’ he points out. “Our bodies are made of carbon.’’ Yes, atmospheric CO2 is higher today than it was before the industrial age — 390 parts per million now vs. 270 ppm then — but there was a time when “CO2 levels were several thousand ppm, much higher than now. And life flourished abundantly.’’ Indeed, greenhouse operators artificially boost CO2 concentrations in order to grow better flowers and fruit.
So why recoil from the modest increase in carbon emissions caused by fossil-fuel use? Because more CO2 means more climate change? Happer shoots down that idea. The earth’s climate is always changing, sometimes dramatically. During the medieval warming of a thousand years ago, temperatures were much higher than they are now; during the Little Ice Age six centuries later they were much lower. “Yet there is no evidence for significant increase of CO2 in the medieval warm period, nor for a significant decrease at the time of the subsequent little ice age.’’
It is like history and the climate records that go with it don’t exist for the alarmist crowd. If you can’t explain it, apparently it is now ok to ignore it. Thus the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age – inconvenient facts that refute the claim – seemingly never happened. Not if you want to push the “12,000 years” of “stable climate”.
As I’ve asked any number of times, when did the science that previously saw CO2 as a lagging indicator change it into a leading indicator or cause of warming? It hasn’t. Nor does it have the amplifying effect that the alarmists claim through their flawed models. In fact, none of the predictions they have made over the years have even come close to fruition for the reasons they state. And it is clear, as we actually have real scientists study the atmosphere and climate, that there is still a vast amount they are discovering about the climate. This, for instance:
Scientists at Marine Biological Laboratory say trees in a mini-forest where they simulated future global warming stored more carbon, a bonus offset for expected higher CO2 releases from the faster decay of organic matter in soil as Earth heats up.
Apparently as the atmosphere warms, trees store more carbon as “woody tissue”. Result?
But project leader Jerry Melillo of MBL said this study demonstrates for the first time that global warming would also be likely to increase the carbon storing potential of trees, by speeding up nitrogen cycling in the forest — more matter decomposing frees up more inorganic nitrogen compounds, such as ammonium (also known as garden fertilizer), causing greater tree growth and more tree tissue available to store carbon.
The increased carbon storage capacity of the trees in MBL’s Harvard Forest experiment was enough to outpace atmospheric CO2 gain resulting from the warmer soil, Melillo concluded.
And most likely, any human contribution, as small as it is, would also be absorbed. One could also theorize that other plant life might also store more CO2 than they do now. Of course, if true, that would likely mean that the human contribution (or CO2 for that matter) was not having the effect that alarmists attempt to claim, but instead the warming was due to other causes.
I’m sure, however, since this is a recent discovery, that the models don’t factor that in. Of course, they don’t factor in cloud albedo either – something not only critical to our climate, but fundamental. But hey, that would get in the way of the desired results, wouldn’t it?
AGW is slowly strangling on its own fouled science. As I pointed out yesterday and Jacoby points out today, that’s only increased the stridency of these cranks. Scaremongering is headed to new heights in the coming months. And, as it turns out, the basis for their “end of the world” scenarios is about as firm as that of Harold Camping and his end of the world claims.