Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Mini-Ice Age?

Probably not. But the probability that the cold weather the world is experiencing might be part of a multi-decadal oscillation (MDO) and a natural cyclical occurrence puts a real dent in the so-called “science” of man-made global warming.

I found it interesting that over the weekend, the New York Times went to great lengths to explain that what was happening wasn’t a “global” event, but instead the product of an “Arctic Oscillation” which has planted a large high pressure cell over England and has diverted the jet stream south of England opening the doors for this arctic blast. That from the paper that will take two hot days in August and blame them on AGW. Says the NYT:

In most years over the past few decades, the opposite has been true: there has been lower-than-average pressure over the Arctic, and higher-than-average pressure over the mid-latitudes — the middle of which cuts through Maine, across the Great Lakes and on to Oregon.

That pattern allows the jet stream to blow unimpeded from west to east and keeps the cold Arctic air largely north of the United States. The result tends to be warmer temperatures across much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.

No one is quite sure what drives these flip-flops in air pressure.

Actually that’s not true. In fact many climate scientists have a pretty good idea. MDO’s.

On the one hand, it is true that the current freeze is the product of the ‘Arctic oscillation’ – a weather pattern that sees the development of huge ‘blocking’ areas of high pressure in northern latitudes, driving polar winds far to the south.

Meteorologists say that this is at its strongest for at least 60 years.

As a result, the jetstream – the high-altitude wind that circles the globe from west to east and normally pushes a series of wet but mild Atlantic lows across Britain – is currently running not over the English Channel but the Strait of Gibraltar.

However, according to Prof Latif and his colleagues, this in turn relates to much longer-term shifts – what are known as the Pacific and Atlantic ‘multi-decadal oscillations’ (MDOs).

For Europe, the crucial factor here is the temperature of the water in the middle of the North Atlantic, now several degrees below its average when the world was still warming.

But the effects are not confined to the Northern Hemisphere. Prof Anastasios Tsonis, head of the University of Wisconsin Atmospheric Sciences Group, has recently shown that these MDOs move together in a synchronised way across the globe, abruptly flipping the world’s climate from a ‘warm mode’ to a ‘cold mode’ and back again in 20 to 30-year cycles.

‘They amount to massive rearrangements in the dominant patterns of the weather,’ he said yesterday, ‘and their shifts explain all the major changes in world temperatures during the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Note the point about the temperature of water.

They say that their research shows that much of the warming was caused by oceanic cycles when they were in a ‘warm mode’ as opposed to the present ‘cold mode’.

Among the “they” saying that is Professor Mojib Latif and a research crew at the prestigious Leibniz Institute at Germany’s Kiel University. Latif is also a member of the IPCC. He and his research team have “developed new methods for measuring ocean temperatures 3,000ft beneath the surface, where the cooling and warming cycles start.”

‘A significant share of the warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th Century was due to these cycles – perhaps as much as 50 per cent.

‘They have now gone into reverse, so winters like this one will become much more likely. Summers will also probably be cooler, and all this may well last two decades or longer.

‘The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling.’

The MDO cycles are pretty obvious for those who will look:

Prof Tsonis said that the period from 1915 to 1940 saw a strong warm mode, reflected in rising temperatures.

But from 1940 until the late Seventies, the last MDO cold-mode era, the world cooled, despite the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continued to rise.

Many of the consequences of the recent warm mode were also observed 90 years ago.

As mentioned in the article, in 1922 the Washington Post noted that Greenland’s glaciers were disappearing and that arctic ice was melting – exactly the same phenomenon we’ve experienced as a result of what these scientists say are the MDOs. And Latif is now convinced that the temperature, as reflected by cooling deep in the oceans, is now headed down as a new MDO takes effect. Some of the signs are quite convincing – such as the depth and length of this “cold snap”. Al Gore’s prediction that the arctic ice pack would disappear also seems in jeopardy:

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007…

Professor Tsonis, like Latif, is hardly a denier, but he also isn’t impressed with the computer models which have driven the AGW claims:

‘I do not believe in catastrophe theories. Man-made warming is balanced by the natural cycles, and I do not trust the computer models which state that if CO2 reaches a particular level then temperatures and sea levels will rise by a given amount.

‘These models cannot be trusted to predict the weather for a week, yet they are running them to give readings for 100 years.’

I couldn’t agree more. You remember the Warmergate emails in which the AGW “scientists” wished for a good explanation for why the earth seems to be cooling? Well this is most likely it – and, much to their chagrin, CO2 and man have little if anything to do with it.

And because of that, it will most likely be studiously ignored by the “settled science” Copenhagen crowd.



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Chavez Hastens Venezuelan Descent Into Pure Totalitarianism

I’m not sure how you could call this anything else:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that businesses have no reason to raise prices following the devaluation of the bolivar and that the government will seize any entity that boosts its prices.

Chavez said he’ll create an anti-speculation committee to monitor prices after private businesses said that prices would double and consumers rushed to buy household appliances and televisions. The government is the only authority able to dictate price increases, he said.

“The bourgeois are already talking about how all prices are going to double and they’re closing their businesses to raise prices,” Chavez said in comments on state television during his weekly “Alo Presidente” program. “People, don’t let them rob you, denounce it, and I’m capable of taking over that business.”

Not only is he “capable” of taking the business over, but he’s turning out the army to monitor all of this. And he’s promised to “transfer the ownership” of any business raising prices “to the workers”. We’ve all seen how well those sorts of takeovers have worked out in the past.

To review, he’s devalued the bolivar which had been fixed at 2.15 to the U.S. dollar since 2005, to 4.3 to the dollar. He then declared that businesses – which own stock under the old currency value and which will have to restock using the devalued currency – must keep their prices at the old price and let consumers buy that stock with the devalued currency or lose their business. A unilateral decision on his part and the refusal, again unilaterally, to allow those who own the goods they’re selling to react to his decision.

Where I come from, that’s called totalitarianism.



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Podcast for 10 Jan 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael  and Dale discuss the Crotch bomber security Failures, the Met’s removal of Mohammed images, and the surge in Afghanistan.  The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


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.

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BlogTalk Radio – Tonight, 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

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


Crotch Bomber – Intel failure? Security failure? Both? And will an “air marshall surge” actually do any good?

Afghanistan – speaking of surges, is the White House really chafing at the pace of the surge it has ordered? Doesn’t it understand why it is taking a while?

The Met
– no exhibits on the prophet Mohammed. Smart or exactly what the terrorists want?

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How Terrorists Win

One is by making you afraid to do what you might normally do:

Is the Met afraid of Mohammed?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art quietly pulled images of the Prophet Mohammed from its Islamic collection and may not include them in a renovated exhibition area slated to open in 2011, The Post has learned.

The museum said the controversial images — objected to by conservative Muslims who say their religion forbids images of their holy founder — were “under review.”

Critics say the Met has a history of dodging criticism and likely wants to escape the kind of outcry that Danish cartoons of Mohammed caused in 2006.

To answer the question – no, the Met isn’t afraid of Mohammed. It’s afraid of some of his followers. The bomb throwing, murdering group of his followers who take offense at just about anything.

But is self-censorship the answer?

Isn’t the reaction exactly that for which they are hoping?

One of the things those involved in the arts like to tell us is one of the purposes of art is to challenge convention. To jab hard at those that are comfortable.  Smack their beliefs and conceptions around a bit.  Make ’em think. And when there’s no real risk, they’re all for it aren’t they? “Piss Christ” for example was done knowing no one would show up throwing bombs or threatening to kill those who exhibited the “work of art”.

But when it comes to the likelihood that there’s an actual possibility of violence, suddenly artists and their backers aren’t so keen on “challenging convention”, are they? Suddenly the challenge to convention – that purpose of art – isn’t really that important anymore, is it?

Funny how that works.



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Irony – White House Chafing At Slow Pace Of Afghan Deployments

The president who decided to again change strategies in Afghanistan after announcing his “new” and “comprehensive” strategy soon after taking office and then dithered for months before making a decision on the “surge” is now concerned that the troops he’s committed aren’t magically going to be there and ready when he wants them there.

Remember the “let me be clear, this decision has delayed nothing” rhetoric”? Well, let me be clear – his inexperience apparently has left him with the false impression that troop deployments are an overnight thing. And now the usual finger pointing from the White House has begun.

As you might imagine, it really has nothing to do with the troops per se. They can be loaded up quite quickly and flown into Afghanistan. But, as the old saying goes, “amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics”. And the amateurs in the White House apparently don’t understand the impact the addition of 30,000 more troops in theater have on an already strained logistics system:

Last month in Kabul, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the deputy commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, did not back away from that schedule, but he told reporters of the difficulties he faced even in getting all the forces in by fall. He said that bad weather, limited capacity to send supplies by air and attacks on ground convoys carrying equipment for troops from Pakistan and other countries presented substantial hurdles.

“There’s a lot of risks in here, but we’re going to try to get them in as fast as we can,” he said at the time. “There’s a lot of things that have to line up perfectly.”

On a visit to Afghanistan last month, Admiral Mullen pressed military logisticians on how they would be able to meet the schedule. But even Admiral Mullen, who said he was “reasonably confident” that the logistics would work out, acknowledged the tall order before the military, saying, “I want a plan B because life doesn’t always work out.”

So why wasn’t the logistics system already prepared to take the surge? Well, until the decision was made, no one in the logistics channel knew there was actually going to be a surge, or how large it would be if there was one. Unlike the claim made by the president, every day he delayed that decision was another day the logistics piece remained unplanned and unresourced. And that’s on top of the problems that LTG Rodriguez has pointed out.

One thing you obviously don’t want to do is field soldiers you can’t support and sustain. The surest way to ensure you get your tail kicked is to watch tactical operations falter because of the beans and bullets piece can’t support the plan.

As usual, the military will try to make up for the amateur screwup and meet the unrealistic timetable. Whether or not they’re successful remains to be seen – but bear in mind that problem that the military faces in successfully meeting that goal of full deployment by this summer isn’t one of their making, but a product of delays in the decision making process at the highest level.



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Health Care Spending – The Government Is NOT The Answer, It’s The Problem

Morgen Richmond of Big Government points out a story that received very little coverage this week in the media.  It had to do with a report released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and its findings.  Apparently, per CMMS, 2008 health care spending (the latest figures available) “slowed” when compared to 2007.  In fact that slowed from 6% growth to 4.4% growth in 2008.

That, one would think, especially as health care reform is the hot topic, is newsworthy.  But one has to believe that the reason it wasn’t found newsworthy has to do with the details of the report.  The reason is that the details don’t support the premise that our health care spending problems lie in the private sector:

Because in a year where the growth rate in overall healthcare spending dropped by an unprecedented amount, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid actually increased dramatically from the prior year.

Medicare by 8.6% in 2008 compared to 7.1% in 2007, and Medicaid by 8.4% compared to 6.1% in 2007. And Federal spending on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) increased by an even greater amount (13.4%).

In other words, the reduced growth rate in healthcare spending for 2008 was entirely due to reduced spending in the private sector. Which upon reflection really comes as no surprise since the private sector by its very nature must respond and adapt to market dynamics. As long as it has the flexibility to do so, unimpeded by government regulation.


Look again at those numbers. Think about the reduction in private health care spending necessary to offset those increases in federal health care spending to bring the overall number down to 4.4%. Private care and/or insurance are not the problem and giving more power to government is not the solution to lowering health care costs.

Another report that has been mostly ignored points to factors which will most likely see private sector spending continue to decline over the coming years. It is most likely being ignored because the solutions put forward are primarily market based solutions.

Given these facts, you are left to ponder the following question articulated by Richmond:

So a federal government which has never in history demonstrated one iota of ability to reign in spending can permanently add another 40+ million people to federal entitlement programs [and] [t]his is the silver bullet necessary to reduce costs?

Nope. No bullets at all, silver or otherwise. The government is shooting blanks, and a system that is ranked number 1 out of 191 in the world for “responsiveness to the needs and choices of the individual patient” (uh, isn’t that what good medicine is all about?) is about to be downgraded dramatically based on a collection of myths, half-truths and outright lies.

Comforting, isn’t it?



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Quote Of The Day

It comes from the ever entertaining Ezra Klein, charter member of the juice-box mafia, and apparently not a history major:

I’ll just note that Democrats will definitely lose their supermajority sooner than later. If not, something is going seriously wrong in the system. A competitive, two-party democracy shouldn’t have long periods of single-party dominance. The mid-20th century, which did see Democrats with that sort of majority in the House, was the product of a three-party system in which a party of conservative, racist Southerners entered into a coalition with the Democrats. But that’s over now.

Apparently when Ezra attended history class, they’d come up with a new designation for the “third party” to explain the behavior of the Democratic party at the time  – it was in a coalition with “a party of conservative, racist Southerners”.

Hmmm.  Gotta tell you, around here we just called them Democrats.

Like Senator Al Gore Sr. of Tennessee, who filibustered the Civil Rights Act and gave us his apparently more famous son, Al “I invented the internet and global warming” Gore, Jr.  Quite a legacy, no?

Like Senator William Fullbright of Arkansas who did the same thing Al’s daddy did and was Bill Clinton’s mentor to boot. And of course, Robert Byrd, admitted member of the KKK, was already representing Democrats in West Virginia at the time. Oh, wait – he’s still doing that, isn’t he? Byrd was also a participant in the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, speaking for 14 hours and 13 minutes in an attempt to deny the bill passage. And today he remains a member in good standing of the Democratic party – not that “third party”.

The fact that these and other Southern Democratic luminaries of the time happened to be somewhat more conservative than their northern brethren doesn’t change the fact that they were lifelong, racist Democrats (btw, “conservative” does not equal “racist”.   Racist equals racist).  They simply made up the more conservative wing of the party and were very welcome there until about 1964 when things began to finally change. Most, such as Sen. James O. Eastland of Mississippi, Rep Howard W. Smith of Virginia, and Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia (a mentor of Jimmy Carter) were and remained life-long Democrats. Others, such as George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and T Coleman Andrews eventually became independents. But that was well after this so-called “third party” coalition you claim, Ezra.

Heh … you do know that the GOP did exist in the South at the time, don’t you? Yup, you guessed it – we called them Republicans. There weren’t many. 1 in the Senate and 10 in the House. And yes, they did the same thing the Democrats from the area did – voted against the bill. But the filibuster? All Democrat. And what’s interesting is to see the final totals on the bill by party. You know the myth – here’s the reality:

The original House version:

* Democratic Party: 152-96 (61%-39%)
* Republican Party: 138-34 (80%-20%)

Cloture in the Senate:

* Democratic Party: 44-23 (66%-34%)
* Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version:

* Democratic Party: 46-21 (69%-31%)
* Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:

* Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
* Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)

That’s right – despite the mistakenly popular belief to the contrary, the bill was overwhelmingly supported by the GOP and, as I’m sure you can see, without that overwhelming support, it would never have passed in the Senate and been signed into law.  In fact, the Democrats, even with a 67 vote majority, wouldn’t have been able to muster the support to pass it if every Republican had, instead, voted against it. But the record shows 82% GOP support in the Senate and 80% in the House – far greater  in percentage than Democrat support.

As famous Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan is credited with saying, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” In this case, the facts don’t support your spin, Mr. Klein. Learn the history of your party and learn to live with it.

Embrace the suck.



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The National Political Scene

That scene is incredibly muddled and getting more muddled every day. In some ways, such as the Democrat retirements, it reminds me of the political atmosphere of 1994.  Charlie Cook, who knows Democrats and their electoral chances, pretty much writes the Democratic Senatorial majority off as a dead loss after 2010:

Come November, Senate Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress.

When the Republican in the race for Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts is competitive, you know the electoral landscape has changed and just about anything is possible.

Of course, in terms of divided government, that’s very good news. The fact that it is Republicans, who for the most part, still don’t seem to have a clue, not so much. Of course that obviously depends on who the Republicans end up running, or winning, those seats. Florida’s race between Crist and Rubio is a good example. Crist is the moderate establishment (business as usual, McCain type Republican) while Rubio is more of the Tea Party conservative.

And it is there that the establishment Republican party seems to be missing the boat – again. After a sweeping victory by Barack Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans quite naturally tried to do a little soul searching and, for whatever reason, came to believe that their problem was they didn’t appeal to enough moderates. Yet in the year that has passed since the Obama administration has been in office and the Congress with prohibitive Democratic majorities has been wreaking its havoc, independents, who establishment Republicans choose to characterize as “moderates”, have been abandoning the Democrats in staggering numbers. And they’re looking for a place to go.

Why are they abandoning the Democrats? Because they bought into a myth a compliant and noncritical media aided and abetted concerning the new administration and now they’re seeing the radical truth. And they don’t like it.

However, what they don’t want is a merely less radical replacement. Democrat lite. What independents are in the middle of doing is rejecting, in toto, the Democratic agenda. Rasmussen and others have been providing these clues for months. In the latest Rasmussen poll:

With Democrats in majority control of both the House and Senate, it’s not surprising to find that 79% of Republicans are not confident that their congressional representatives are actually presenting their best interests, but 74% of voters not affiliated with either party agree. Democratic voters are evenly divided on the question.

74% of voters “not affiliated with either party agree” that their Congressional Rep (obviously that includes some Republicans) is not actually representing their best interests. Now that could be for any number of reasons, but on thing for certain, if 74% aren’t happy with their Rep, I’d guess they’re not happy with what the establishment Republicans are selling either.

Enter the Tea Partiers. First written off as brownshirts, angry whites, red-necks, un-American, ‘teabaggers’ and any other pejorative the left-wing thought it could get away with, the movement has grown into a political force. But make no mistake about it – it’s a populist movement. Regardless it has, to a large degree, managed to tap into this unhappiness with what is going on in Washington and give it some structure.

And what continues to astound me is the establishment Republicans seem to think that they “own” the movement – that when push comes to shove, this group will fall in line and vote for them.

Hello! Crist/Rubio!

There is going to be a war between the Teapartiers and the establishment Republican party. The Teapartiers don’t necessarily support or even like many of the establishment Republicans. As a result that war is going to be waged in primaries. And much like it was on the left (Lamont/Lieberman) it is a war for the soul of that party. Establishment Republicans really don’t seem to understand that – yet. So we see stories like this one where the establishment party is said to have “soured” on Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, she represents as well as anyone, the populist nature of the movement that the Republicans don’t seem to yet understand. Add the stupidity of the leadership and the visible infighting within the establishment wing of the party, and you hold little hope that they will wake up in time to smell the roses and figure out the formula for electoral success.

What part of this don't Republicans get?

Where’s this all headed? To more polarized politics, if that is possible, with the sides much more differentiated – if the Teapartiers get their way. Republicans are going to be moved in a much more conservative direction, come hell or high water, if they want Tea Party support. And the Tea Party movement is going to attract (has attracted?) enough of the independent voters to make the electoral difference.

Conventional wisdom says the electorally successful win by appealing to their base, picking off enough independents to make the difference and then governing from the center. I don’t think that CW is valid anymore. It appears that the public has finally had the scales removed from their eyes with the present administration. The premise that a centrist government is what America wants has been overcome by events. Those events, products of that centrism, have given us the state of affairs with which we’re now afflicted – a welfare state with huge deficits, a debased currency and a behemoth government that is out-of-control. Listen closely to those who spoke up at the summer town halls. It wasn’t just about Democrats and Republicans, folks – it was about the direction of the country and the realization that both parties had participated in creating the horrendous mess we now enjoy.

All of that to say that CW is ready to be turned on its head and, in fact, people (to include independents) are demanding action to roll back government and reduce spending. That should be right in the Republican’s wheel house. Yet instead of really talking their supposed principles and actions to accomplish them, establishment Republicans still insist that it is more important to ensure they have a “big tent”. That is a complete sell out of their principles. The “tent” is established by those principles. What Republicans have to do is fashion a message that makes that tent attractive and brings people to them. That’s what will make it “big”. Compromising their principles to fill the tent is a sure way to lose – and that’s precisely what they’ve proven over the last few elections.

Politically, 2010 is going to be a very interesting year to watch. For libertarians, the best hope is divided government and a Republican party that rediscovers its primary principles and decides to live up to them. I think we’ll get the divided government. However, my concern is the midterms will see enough Republicans elected, despite themselves and their lack of a principled stand, that the important message about principles will continue to be lost on them – again. That will result in a Senate not much different than we have now, where compromise and collegiality are more important than principle and the people. That means big government, more spending and more deficit. And that means Republicans will remain the minority party and out of the White House in 2012.



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