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December 2009 Archives

December 1, 2009

ClimateGate Avoidance Just Got Harder

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The lead scientist in the global warming scandal, Dr. Phil Jones, has just agreed to step down, pending an investigation by the University of East Anglia. Nothing can be done to spin this as a good development for those arguing that the recent email disclosures are irrelevant or trivial.

Will this rouse the mainstream media to admit there is something major here that is worth covering in full?

The story is like so many others recently where news develops on the Internet and is carefully avoided by the New York Times, the AP, et al, until they are all shown to be far behind the curve on something important. Do you think such mistakes may have something to do with declining public support for the MSM?

The key reason such stories are late arrivals in news rooms of liberal media is that they embarrass the ideological party line. That's just about all there is to it.

December 2, 2009

Nature's Nature Unveiled

The supposedly august Nature magazine shows its true stuff with an attempt to dismiss the Climate Gate emails. To them, the problem is only computer hacking. That would be quite irrelevant, of course, if the Shoe-on-the-Other-Foot rule were applied; if the Climate Research Unit, in other words, had been covering up evidence for global warming.

Nature's editorial speaks volumes about the way the journal itself is complicit in arrogant avoidance of contrary evidence on this, or any other subject where an iron "consensus" must be established, controlled and enforced.

The big news today is that Australia has just declined to embrace Cap and Trade. In the U.K., the head of the CRU has been forced to step down pending an investigation.

But, pay no attention, Nature says that there's no story here.

December 3, 2009

The Russia That Was

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I am not even Russian, but I cannot help being overcome by a sense of melancholy, nostalgia and loss when I see these glorious century-old color photographs of Imperial Russia and her people. These were taken in the decade before the First World War ruined so much that is here presented.

The pictures by the intrepid chemist and photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who departed Russia in 1918, were purchased by the Library of Congress in 1944 and appeared recently on the Denver Post blog site ( brought to our attention by Mike Averko).

Continue reading "The Russia That Was" »

December 4, 2009

The Political Climate is the One That's Changing

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A year ago the nation was in love with Barack Obama and blissful about Hope and Change. Today the latest CNN poll says that the President's popularity has fallen under 50 percent--48 percent, actually.

Meanwhile, a number of progressive causes seem to be flagging. For example, enactment of gay marriage laws failed in Maine (by public vote) and this week in the New York Senate. The legislative outlook has turned sour in New Jersey's Senate, as well, and activists in California have concluded--after conducting a study--that the political chances for same sex marriage have declined there, too. The President may or may not be prepared to do battle for repeal of the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), but if the topic is toxic in New Jersey, how appetizing will it be on Capitol Hill?

Despite the endless media accounts of global warming and strong White House backing, Cap and Trade prospects seem to be colder than today's early winter snow in Houston. The ClimateGate scandal still has not been covered by the big three broadcast networks--and when it is covered it probably will be with a report on the "hacker" (aka, the leaker or whistleblower), rather than on the possibly shabby research methods behind the climate change "consensus". Nonetheless, the word seems to be getting out. Polls that already were negative on Cap and Trade are now decidedly so.

But instead of seeking common ground (nuclear energy, natural gas, conservation), the cultural and environmental left seems determined to push economic overehaul rather than energy reform.

Next we have the Afghanistan policy--and another split on the left. Conservatives seem more or less united in support of a troop surge (my Discovery Institute colleague John R. Miller is an able exception). And almost all conservatives are critical of the President for being unclear about our goal.

But on the left there is confusion and resentment on the whole topic. Isolationism in the 21st century has its home in the Democratic party. Effective pacifism is now the altar where the activist base worships. But the Democratic office-holders who have to get elected on the national level are realistic enough to see that the U.S. cannot abandon the war on terrorism, even if it no longer is P.C. to describe it as a "war on terrorism." Afghanistan will open the split wider.

Meanwhile, the biggest reason the air seems to be going out of the "progressive" balloon is the economy. Once again, the right seems substantially in agreement that the amount of government spending is wantonly irresponsible and also that taxes should be cut, not raised, to spur the investment to create jobs. (Remember, that was the Reagan formula.) They also hold that government regulatory failure--starting in Congress--was largely to blame for the recent real estate bubble. But on the left, Democrats cannot decide what to do about spending or taxes. The famously problematic health care issue is no political substitute for dealing with the economy as a whole, yet it has absorbed most of the Administration's attention and the House's, too. The left's divisions on all these topics are now in the open.

So, less than eleven months into the Obama Administration, man made change in the Earth's climate is a lot less certain than change in the political climate.

December 7, 2009

World Magazine Announces "2009 Daniel of the Year": Stephen C. Meyer

Stephen Meyer has already made year-end lists with Signature in the Cell, an Amazon bestselling science book and one of Times Literary Supplement's books of the year for 2009, but the latest news go far beyond that: Stephen Meyer has been named World Magazine's "Daniel of the Year" for 2009:

daniel%20of%20the%20year%20cover.jpgThis fall Meyer came out with a full account of what science has learned in recent decades: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (Harper One, 2009) shows that the cell is incredibly complex and the code that directs its functions wonderfully designed. His argument undercuts macroevolution, the theory that one kind of animal over time evolves into a very different kind. Meyer thus garners media scorn for raining on this year's huge celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin 200 years ago and the publication of On the Origin of Species 150 years ago.

The cover story is what should become the essential profile of Meyer, following what World's Marvin Olasky describes as "the four-stage pattern that is common among intellectual Daniels: Questioning, discernment, courage, and perseverance."

Meyer says, "You ask how someone gets the moxie to take something like this on. Part of the answer is that I didn't know any better when I was young. I was just so seized with this idea and these questions: 'Was it possible to develop a scientific case? Were we looking at evidence that could revive and resuscitate the classical argument from design, which had been understood from the time of Hume and certainly the time of Darwin to be defunct?' If that was the case, that's a major scientific revolution."

Courage becomes a determinant once we count the cost and see that it's great. Meyer's first inkling came when "talking about my ideas to people at Cambridge High Table settings, and getting that sudden social pall." But the cost was and is more than conversational ease: San Francisco State University in 1992 expelled a professor, Dean Kenyon, who espoused ID, and other job losses have come since. Meyer and other ID proponents saw "that this would be very controversial. One of the things that emboldened all of us who were in the early days of this movement was meeting each other. In 1993 we had a little private conference [with] 10 or 12 very sharp, mostly younger scientists going through top-of-the-world programs in their respective fields who were all skeptical. I think the congealing of this group gave everyone the sense that this was going to be an exciting adventure: Let's rumble."


Rumble, indeed -- Meyer just returned from schooling Michael Shermer (listen to the audio here).

The article, as the title indicates, is a profile in courage worth reading, particularly this bit:


Many who enter the courage stage at first think that the war in which they find themselves will end in a few years. There comes a time in many lives, though, when a hard realization sinks in: It will not be over in my lifetime. That's when some give in while others proceed to the perseverance stage. That's where Meyer is: Signature in the Cell ends with a long list of testable predictions concerning the direction of science over the next several decades. Meyer predicts that further study will reveal the importance of "junk DNA" and the reasons for what seem to be "poorly designed" structures: They will reveal either a hidden functional logic or evidence of decay from originally good designs.

Read the whole article here.

Spy Story: Russians Blamed for "ClimateGate"

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The Copenhagen climate summit has certain elements of conspiracy theory to it, including an attempt by IPCC Vice Chairman Jean-Pascal van Ypersele to blame the Russians for release of the ClimateGate emails. Why? Because a Russian server may have been used.

Here is a report by the London Telegraph writer James Delingpole on the pathetic attempt to turn the whole U.K./U.S. fiasco into an international spy story. (It was Delingpole who coined the "ClimateGate" name, by the way.)

The motive that the ClimateGate defenders attribute to the Russians is a desire to distract the Copenhagen negotiators from their work. It is hinted, moreover, that the Russians could have been paid. However, surely the ClimateGate defenders can come up with something better than that. For example, they could speculate that the Kremlin wants to keep oil usage respectable, since Russia is the world's number one producer. Natural gas, too. Or, just as likely, the Russians really would like the world to get a little warmer. A longer growing season, as V. Putin has joked. And perhaps the prospect of January picnics in the park outside the Kremlin.

If Congress and the British Parliament were doing their duty to their respective publics, hearings would be held in each body on the nature and extent and possible answers to man-made climate change. Opponents would be allowed to call an equal number of experts to testify. Put the whole thing on television and let the public see and hear it all.

There is a spectrum of informed voices on this topic, ranging from those convinced of global warming and its man-made aspect (these are the folks invited to Copenhagen); to critics who think warming is real and man is responsible, but that the CRU was irresponsible; to those who think warming is real and man may have contributed, but that the proposed cures are inappropriate and extreme; to those who think global warming is real, but not man made; to those who doubt that long term global warming is underway and therefore, human beings are not crucial agents. All these voices should be heard.

Meanwhile, trying to blame the Russians for hacking the CRU computers is so phony that it suggests desperation.

Science Cannot Police Itself

In his new book, The Deniable Darwin (Discovery Institute Press, 2009), published just before the ClimateGate scandal broke, mathematician David Berlinski explained that scientists should not be trusted to check themselves--no more than anyone else on the planet, and maybe less so, since grant money is involved. Now he writes on his blog, "I Told You So."

From The Deniable Darwin:

My own view, repeated in virtually all of my essays, is that the sense of skepticism engendered by the sciences would be far more appropriately directed toward the sciences than toward anything else. It is not a view that has engendered wide-spread approval. The sciences require no criticism, many scientists say, because the sciences comprise a uniquely self-critical institution, with questionable theories and theoreticians passing constantly before stern appellate review. Judgment is unrelenting. And impartial. Individual scientists may make mistakes, but like the Communist Party under Lenin, science is infallible because its judgments are collective. Critics are not only unwelcome, they are unneeded. The biologist Paul Gross has made himself the master of this attitude and invokes it on every conceivable occasion.

Now no one doubts that scientists are sometimes critical of themselves. Among astrophysicists, backbiting often leads to backstabbing. The bloodletting that ensues is on occasion salutary. But the process of peer review by which grants are funded and papers assigned to scientific journals, is, by its very nature, an undertaking in which a court reviews its own decisions and generally finds them good. It serves the useful purpose of settling various scores, but it does not -- and it cannot -- achieve the ends that criticism is intended to serve.

If the scientific critic finds himself needed wherever he goes, like a hanging judge he finds himself unwelcome wherever he appears, all the more reason, it seems to me, that he really should get around as much as possible.

December 8, 2009

The Climate Conference's New Suit of Clothes

A nonsense tale worthy of Hans Christian Andersen is playing out live in his homeland of Denmark today. Developing countries at the Copenhagen climate conference reportedly are "furious" about a leaked climate agreement text that "rich countries" (including the U.S., the U.K. and host country, Denmark) hope to push through. It would "allow" the rich countries to pollute at twice the levels of poor countries and take the U.N. out of the climate control process. At least, that is what the developing countries contend.

This is going to be a classic international performance, full of fulsome speeches, ultimately signifying nothing but the folly of imagining that mere words and "commitments" will do anything about carbon dioxide or anything else.

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The Danish text exposed

Agreements won't end pollution, new technologies will. Agreements won't force compliance, free markets with proper incentives will.

Meanwhile, the shade of the great storyteller is looking down and wondering, is this performance going to turn an ugly duckling into a swan? Not likely. The story is more along the lines of the Emperor's New Clothes.

As Iranians Launch New Protests, Washington Should Speak

The uncommonly intelligent and courageous Iranian people are trying hard to get the attention of the world as they open new lines of protest against the dictatorial theocratic regime. The British seem to find a way to reply. What is holding up the Americans? Moral support is surely the least we can provide!

The people of Iran do not want the dictators. There will be a way found to extricate them from the hold of the authoritarians. We need to be with them when they do.

December 9, 2009

Downgrading Christmas Now Riles Reporters

Diane Medved's blog, Bright Light Search, expresses the generous and sensible views of an Orthodox Jew on many subjects, including Christmas. Last year she had a fabulous time at the Bush's Chanukah party in the White House, which employed most of the same decorations as the Christmas parties. This year she has noted the strange development that the Chanukah party has been downgraded by the Obamas, and so, too, have the Christmas celebrations.

Now even the media are a bit miffed, it seems, because lead reporters have cherished the special occasion when they get their picture taken with the President and First Lady. Their gift this year is not exactly coal and switches, but it's down to a last-minute party, a smaller list of invitees and no pictures.

I was invited to one of the G.W. Bush's Christmas parties a couple of years ago and took my oldest son. It was well worth the trip to D.C. In the 80s, when I was on the White House staff, my wife and I recall with fondness the Christmas party where we had a chance to mingle and chat with President Reagan and Nancy. Such moments are precious.

I can understand why the Obamas resent the strain of attending so many holiday events. But they are coming off as grumpy and mean (in the sense of smallness).

December 10, 2009

Engineering Contest Sees Tunnels in Urban Future

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An innovative deep-bore tunneling operation devised for Sound Transit in Seattle is one of five projects in competition for the Outstanding Civil Engineering Award of 2009, a contest conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers. One of the Seattle project's competitors is another tunnel in California. All in all, tunnel technology is being revolutionized these days, with extensive implications for urban design as well as transportation.

All five nominated 2009 civil engineering projects are impressive and tend to renew one's confidence that technology can provide breakthroughs in human life comparable to the great feats of the past century. The successful Sound Transit project is also significant for the next deep-bore program in Seattle, a tunnel under the downtown to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct, a 60 year old elevated freeway alongside the harbor. Eventually, the waterfront tunnel project may offer a national model for cities that wish to recover surface land in high density urban areas for multiple uses--land now used for the single purpose of motor traffic. Tunnel technologies like those in Seattle also could help remove the reputation for waste acquired by the "Big Dig" project in Boston.

Here is what Erik Sofge of Popular Mechanics says about the already completed Sound Transit tunnel:

"Whether or not you're a believer in the universal benefits of public transit, this project deserves respect. To build a passenger rail station in the Beacon Hill area, south of downtown Seattle, contractors had to create the largest and deepest soft-ground sequential excavation method (SEM) tunnels in North America. SEM refers to the practice of digging a tunnel in sections, supporting each segment as you go. The pair of mile-long tunnels--part of a 14-mile light-rail project--were nearly twice the depth and diameter of previous such projects, running under a 352-feet-high hill. When initial test shafts found a surprisingly large amount of fine sand, engineers quickly rearranged the design and path of the tunnels, pioneering new construction techniques that should benefit future SEM projects in soft soils. The final result is inherently unassuming--the Beacon Hill station is 160 feet underground, accessible in 20 seconds by elevator--so the 642-ton, 330-feet-long earth-pressure-balancing tunnel-boring machine that dug the tunnels will have to stand testament to this nimble and literally ground-breaking project."

December 14, 2009

Trying to Deny Climategate

Even some supposed conservatives at Little Green Footballs are trying to downplay Climategate, the "phony" and "unimaginatively titled" scandal.

George Gilder sees through it:

These guys want you to believe that their opponents are talk show hosts and other people seeming to rant. They carefully ignore Arthur Robinson, Fred Singer, Freeman Dyson, Antonio Zichici and the many other scientific "deniers."

Meanwhile they allow the debate to be governed by Al Gore's and James Hansen's Nobel laureate and Academy Award balderdash. They actually straight-face Holdren as a scientist. I'll take Rush any time.

December 15, 2009

Sane Views on Copenhagen are Not in Copenhagen

Al Gore says Arctic Ice will melt within five years, except that the expert he cites disputes the assertion. As usual these days, the Nobel Prize winner isn't taking questions from the media.

Some 1200 limos have been hired for the Copenhagen summit, so many that they had to be brought in from hundreds of kilometers around. Denmark didn't have enough.

Mayor Bloomberg flew in on a private jet to demonstrate firsthand his commitment to keeping a small carbon footprint--for other people. Prince Charles pleaded with the attendees to put their signatures on something or other, and, of course, we are all eager to comply with the instructions of the Prince of Wales. Arnold Schwartzenegger was there (fly in, fly out), to say that climate change is completely affordable, just asked the totally broke state of Cali-for-nia.

Poor countries represented at the conference are incensed, as they usually are at U.N. meetings of all kinds, that the "rich" countries, including Cali-for-nia, aren't handing out enough money to them. Actually, the "countries" aren't agitated at all, just the professional bureaucrats and action agents whose job prospects merge seamlessly with U.N. handouts.

And Tony Blair arrived with a big snowstorm. The best development yet.

Meanwhile, the most sober reflections on the issue of global warming come from people far from Copenhagen, including climate scientist Dr. Michael Hume those who see the folly of forcing science to carry the freight for politics.

These Folks Were Not "Gate Crashers", at Least

A couple of tourists from Georgia were on what they thought was the White House tour, an even better tour, they surely must have thought, than they had expected. They were ushered right into breakfast and had a chance to meet the President.

The surprise visit happened several weeks ago, but just came to light--not long after the famous gate-crashers episode during the state dinner for the prime minister of India.

The folks from Hogansville, GA were there as bona fide tourists, albeit a day early. Can't call them "gate crashers", can you?

December 16, 2009

Growing Media/Liberal Disconnect from Public; Why Obama is Missing his Chance

The more public opposition to Obamacare grows, the more the mainstream media tries to block criticism from being heard. The editorial pages of major dailies ignore critics. So do many news broadcasts. George Stephanopolous, former Clinton aide supposedly performing now as an objective newsman on Good Morning America, features one defense after another of Obamacare and scolds Howard Dean for imperiling the Obama Presidency--as if GMA were an official mouthpiece for the Administration.

The same is happening on climate change. Instead of encouraging discussion (or even debate), the MSM reaction to Copenhagen is to try to shut down critics. When officials cut off the microphone of a questioner, only the Washington Times reports it. Where there could be agreement (e.g., hybrid cars, nuclear power), there is only grandstanding on crisis claims.

The public is not buying the propaganda approach. What to do? Get a new public?

For nearly a year we have been urging Mr. Obama to be the kind of president he promised to be: one who listens, who tries to find common ground, who is genuinely bi-partisan. Had he followed that path he could have had a health bill by now that enjoyed Republican as well as Democratic support and he could have had energy and environmental policies that were reasonable, forward looking and productive. The reason these paths have not been pursued has to be ideological. It is not smart politics or statesman-like policy.

Oddly, even the liberal base (e.g., Howard Dean) isn't happy now. The Administration is failing, and while that is good political news for Republicans, it probably is bad for American leadership in the world. Only on Afghanistan, where the President actually has listened (to Defense Secretary Bob Gates) is his approach working.

Why wait, as Bill Clinton did, for a mid-term defeat in the Congressional elections for a mid-term correction in policy, Mr. President?

December 17, 2009

Energy Efficiency Can Kill

It turns out that someone's idea of saving electricity on no-heat traffic lights doesn't work so well in places like the Middle West where the climate hasn't got word yet about global warming. In fresh experience, snow accumulates on the swell new lights and then the colors disappear. There has been one fatality already.

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But, "Fear not," says IT expert Matthew Scholz, " there is a solution: In St. Paul, Minn., for example, city crews now use air compressors to blow snow and ice off blocked lights. This allows the hiring of more government employees, stimulating the economy. I suggest that cities also could apply a device that turns on a light-heater once snow is detected... Or maybe someone can can up with a little windshield wiper for stop lights... Or perhaps there is potential for a federal earmark to support a 'small business' government contractor solution - a cute girl in a French maid costume with a feather duster."

December 18, 2009

A Thick, Hot Smog of Insincerity Descends

It is great fun to read the reactions of various parties to the Copenhagen climate conference that just ended. In reality, there was no signed international agreement, just some statements, vague promises of action and comparable dangles of money--results to come about somehow, sometime (2020, when none of the major players is likely to be on the scene)--and fulsome, self-serving congratulations. It was a classic attempt to cover up a classic diplomatic bust.

China "promised" to cut the rate of increase in its emissions, sorta, the U.S. "promised" billions of aid, but everything was highly conditional and deliverable only in the sweet by and by. No international treaty. The death throe was an unannounced address by Hugo Chavez (a figurative tin pot on his head) yelling about Obama, "the Nobel Prize of War," to a quickly emptying chamber.

No dictator's brother-in-law in the Developing World got a job out of this, after all, there are no fine new green boondoggles for salespeople in the "Rich Nations" to post in their order books, and nothing but pretended political glory to follow the jet contrails of CO2.

Rule one for international conferences: Don't send your leader there unless an agreement of consequence has been worked out in advance. Otherwise it is just another "meet and greet." Once Obama agreed to show, the other big shots felt they should, too. All were embarrassed.

Is Kyoto dead?

December 21, 2009

Copen-Babel

By Jay Richards
(from The American)

In the biblical story of Babel, the tribes of the world conspire together to build a tower to reach to heaven. Before long, God decides to thwart their efforts, by dividing the languages of the mutinous tribes so that they can no longer communicate. Thereafter, the nations scatter across the face of the Earth, presumably limiting the collective damage they could do. The story is sort of a recapitulation of the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, who fell for the serpent's temptation to be "like gods."

As I watched the last three days of the Copenhagen Climate Fiasco, I kept thinking of the Tower of Babel. The Copenhagen Summit was the "largest gathering of world leaders in recent history." It was not, however, unprecedented, still less a "turning point in human nature," as Colin Blakemore in the Guardian opined. It was, rather, another instance of the human propensity for self-aggrandizement and hubris. Instead of building a tower to heaven, delegates from 193 nations gathered in Copenhagen for the purpose of controlling the future climate of the planet. Instead of unified agreement, however, they got chaos.

Continue reading "Copen-Babel" »

Raising McCain on the Health Care Bill

Sen. John McCain could have been Barack Obama's most effective buddy in the Senate if the new president had bothered to solicit his involvement in any number of fields, including health care. Whatever else he is, John McCain is a patriot who would have responded to a president asking to meet him half-way. The result on health care would have been a compromise bill that would have sailed through Congress with at least a number of Republican votes. Afterwards, the GOP might well have wobbled into the next election disarmed and quarreling with itself.

Instead, the "Hope and Change" candidate who said he was going to end partisanship in Washington has been the most partisan president in living memory. Mr. Obama has done something George W. Bush did not do-- completely unify the GOP in Congress and the country. Yes, he has a likely legislative victory pending, but the victory is likely pyrrhic.

The media seem uninterested in McCain's views these days, but it is worth while for the rest of us to see how the Arizonan is characterizing the health care bill (from a press release):

Democrats have used Bernie Madoff-style accounting to assess the cost of health care reform. And when this bill becomes law, the reality of higher taxes and Medicare cuts for seniors will settle in on the American public.

President Obama made a promise when he campaigned for president to sit down and negotiate health care reform with Republicans and Democrats. He also promised C-SPAN cameras would be in the room. But, that was all campaign rhetoric. This disastrous health care bill was negotiated behind closed doors and Republicans were never brought into the negotiations.

The result is a health care bill supported by 60 Democratic Senators, but opposed by 60% of the American public.

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Dr. Obama admires his health care bill.

In short, the Obama Administration seems to have been entirely motivated by politics and willing to take ownership of any legislative monster in order to boast success. But the monster will probably turn on its master.

Republicans might be expected to take perverse political satisfaction in this, except that most of them are, like McCain, patriots first and are anguished about what this kind of "Change" is going to do to the country.

December 23, 2009

Mr. Obama's Pleasure Island

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Economist Richard Rahn is warning of a darkening economic future in America as spending under Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats reaches new extremes of recklessness. First comes the death of the dollar as the international currency, along with strangulation of U.S. government revenues from the private sector. When a supply-sider like Rahn says deficits now really do matter, and matter a lot, it shows that the tolerable spending limit truly has been reached. Eventually, even a robust economy cannot grow out of the hole dug by spendthrift politicians. "Eventually" has arrived.

Next come inevitably higher taxes, and not just on the rich. Small businesses already are saving any profits--knowing their taxes will be going up--rather than expanding and hiring new employees. The increasing resort to contract employees is a direct result of business wariness. When the reality of higher business and personal taxes arrives, things will get worse. Anemic growth is the best we can hope for in that case. A new recession, or worse, is just as likely.

Along with the growing tax burden comes increased government direction and a concomitant rise in the burden of paperwork--more forms, less human interaction and less customer service. This trend will leave us all on permanent "hold", as it were, and futilely "pushing '0' for more options." As Disraeli said, a crucial difference between left and right is that conservatives make you fill out less paper. In practice, that is not a small difference. It is the difference between freedom and petty tyranny.

Continue reading " Mr. Obama's Pleasure Island" »

December 24, 2009

Is it Constitutional?

Discovery Sr. Fellow John Wohlstetter comments on passage of the Senate version of health care this morning (60-39, with no Republican votes):

"This exchange between Sen Jim DeMint (R-NC) and the Senate parliamentarian identifies an astonishing abuse of senatorial power, very possibly in conflict with the U.S. Constutition. This is the doing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Mars ): dumping a sleigh load of presents for special friends of big government.  The specific provocation in the 2,000-plus-page list of boondoggles is a provision creating a Medicare panel and setting a 2/3 super-majority rule for rescinding it--effectively declaring it out of order--and, hence, not able to be considered--by senators or representatives in any future Congress.  The new review panel will decide, from Olympian hieghts, who gets insurance coverage and for what, as among Medicare mendicants.
 
"Reid's parliamentary gambit depends upon whether courts will hold as merely procedural--and thus solely a matter of Senate concern--the erecting of a super-voting barrier to future legislative rescission of the new rule. Courts may instead find that it is unconstitutional.

"I have not seen court rulings on this point.  But it seems hard to credit any legal argument that enables a current House of Congress to bar future Houses from reconsideration, via a super-majortiy vote.  Put simply, the current Congress cannot diminish the power of subsequent Congresses to rescind legislation.
 
"Perhaps judicial imperialists will ignore this.  But the effort must be made.  A precedent like this will permanently disempower future legislative powers in a fashion never contemplated by the Framers." 

December 28, 2009

On Terror, Make Common Sense Common Practice

The President should acknowledge that there is, after all, "a War Against Terrorism". Authorities should be plain, of course, that the enemy is not Islam or Muslims, per se, but radical Islamists--and that that includes not just al Qaida, but also Iran, through its paid surrogates, Hamas and Hezbollah, assisted by the totalitarian communists in North Korea that ship nuclear and other armaments and the dictatorship in Venezuela that attempts to destabilize democracies (Honduras, Colombia) and makes common cause with Iran. Islamist radicals in Europe (especially the U.K.) and now inside the U.S. have been recruited, so they are properly identifiable as foes. What these allied terrorist groups and terror-supporting regimes have in common is hatred toward freedom and democracy as Westerners understand them. They hate Jews and Christians and will kill them in Iraq, Pakistan or wherever they can find them. They also have no compunction about killing fellow Muslims, so CAIR, et al, should spare us the argument that targeting Muslim extremists is targeting Muslims in general.

Be grateful for Muslims who have joined in the fight against the Islamist radicals, reporting them to authorities. They often do so at personal peril, which is why you don't hear about them much. We need to protect and encourage such people. Muslims arguably are suffering more than anyone from the radicals in their midst.

Continue reading "On Terror, Make Common Sense Common Practice" »

December 29, 2009

Canada, Count Your Blessings

You would think that our northern neighbors would be glowing with cheer these days. Contrary to the backbiting on television and in the blogs, Canada's economy is better off than ours and the Conservative party government of Stephen Harper seems reliable, if (in the classic Canadian manner), dull.

Dull is good, actually. Meet someone who complains about the dry cleaner ruining his shirt and his teen-ager denting the car and you are in the presence of someone who really should be counting his blessings instead.

Canadians on the cusp of the 2010 Olympic Games in Whistler/Vancouver, B.C., similarly, should be counting their blessings. There are reports that the country will benefit greatly--to the tune of "billions and billions of dollars"--and there are reports of the Games being of little or no benefit (and little popular enthusiasm), and reports that indicate "modest" benefits. But, what is lost in all the pseudo-economic models and opinion surveys is that no one really knows how much the province of B.C. and Canada generally will benefit--or lose--financially in the short run.

What they should know is that hosting such a prestigious event will confer lasting, positive attention on Canada as a first ranking winter tourist destination and a highly desirable place to work and do business. That usually has been the history of such events. Several billion people will watch the proceedings on TV. Journalists from around the world once again will admire the host country and the people. And British Columbia will acquire some good new infrastructure and sports facilities. (Another nice development is added passenger rail service to the U.S., via Seattle.)

If I were a Canadian looking for something to worry about right now, I would focus on something very practical: assuring airline security coming into the country and venue security for those Games.

Afterwards, relax and bask in the glory.

December 30, 2009

The Season is the Reason

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Atheist blogger P.Z. Myers, in his post "The reason for the season!", takes the opportunity provided by this marvelous Christmas season to ask you to take a quiet moment, bow your head and contemplate this:

...I'm agreeing with all those crazy Bill O'Reillys and Donald Wildmons and other shrill Christian combatants in the war on Christmas who demand that you acknowledge the "holy" in holiday, but it's true: the midwinter seasonal holiday was created by people with the superstitious belief that supernatural transitions accompanied natural ones, and these few days are traditionally special because of a belief in their magical importance, and every religion attaches some godly event to the solstice season. It's why you'll get a day off on Christmas, which means it was good for something. So just pause, bow your head, and think about Jesus. And reject him...You're free. Feels good, doesn't it? Remember the reason for the season.

The irony of course is that while Myers is compelled to acknowledge the Christian origin of Christmas (although no doubt he tried hard to evade it), he is wrong to assert that rejecting Christianity will make us "free". Christianity is the indispensable foundation of our political freedom, of our ethics, and of modern science.

Continue reading "The Season is the Reason" »

Policy of Treating Terrorists, and Terror States, as Criminals is Shredded

President Obama has tried to deal with Iran on the basis of reasoned diplomacy. Now we see a regime that has its vehicles run down demonstrators and blame "Zionists" and the Americans for the popular protests.

The President aims to empty Guantanamo prison and either prosecute the terrorists in U.S. courts--at enormous cost--or to send them back to their country of origin, such as Yemen. This approach is becoming an embarrassment as we learn that many returnees released by the Bush Administration (under pressure from Congress, please recall) have rejoined al Qaida.

Presumably the underpants bomber will be treated as a mere criminal, too, and given all the rights afforded to American citizens. He will be allowed to make grandiloquent propaganda statements along the way.

What makes President Obama think that the rest of the world understands and appreciates his policy of diplomatic niceness for dictators and criminal court cases for terrorists? After all, even most Americans don't understand--or agree--with it.

Government of the Government, by the Government, for the Government

That is how far we have come from Lincoln's description of the United States' system as "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

The federal Stimulus money largely has gone to shore up the budgets of city and county employees rather than encouraging new jobs creation in the private sector. That is no coincidence when you consider that the government employee unions are now the biggest share of the union movement and the most persuasive lobbyists in the Obama Administration.

Michael Barone has some useful details.

December 31, 2009

Ike Warned Us: The Government-Foundation-Academia Complex

Fox News ends the year with a list of under-reported stories of 2009. It is notable how many are related to science or, generally, to the politicization of supposed "experts".

Nearly a half century ago, as he left eight years in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a "military-industrial complex" that promoted particular new weapons systems and concomitant budgetary and foreign commitments. Ike, the former five star general and Columbia University president, warned that selfish professional ambitions and interests can create a deceptive perception of national interest. The term "military-industrial complex" has become famous.

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However, less noticed, Ike's farewell address also warned of development of a grants-corrupted "scientific-technological elite."

Continue reading "Ike Warned Us: The Government-Foundation-Academia Complex" »

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