November 2009, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Minor Correction: It's the Climatic Research Unit, not the Hadley Climatic Research Centre.
I have corrected two posts below that contained the error.
(Cut and paste sometimes lets you copy other peoples' mistakes.)
- 3:55 PM, 24 November 2009 [link]
Dismal But Almost Required Reading: This New York Times article on our growing debt problem.
Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.All that debt makes this a really great time to add a new, and probably very expensive, entitlement. (Sorry for the sarcasm, but sometimes the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies get under my skin.)
As usual, I urge you to look at the graphs before you read the article, though this time the two seem to be in sync.
- 2:22 AM, 24 November 2009 [link]
So Far, Low Ridership On Seattle's Light Rail System: The Seattle area opened its light rail system in July. It has not been a great success
Thanks to John Niles at the Public Interest Transportation Forum, we can see just how low the ridership has been.
But the record is even worse than it first appears, as Michael Ennis explains.
A very quick search produced a number of estimates for the costs of our light rail system. This one, $179 million per mile, is probably not too far off. Seattle chauvinists will be proud to learn that:
In other words, we're number 1! And by a big margin. (I am sure that the peculiarities of our local topography that helped make it so expensive came as a complete surprise to the politicians who backed this system.)
To be fair, the system currently only goes from Seattle to Tukwila, which is not a big destination, even in this area. It will be extended to the SeaTac airport in December, and we should then get a better idea of just how many riders this system will have, long term.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:55 PM, 24 November 2009 [link]
Is Sarah Palin A Socialist? That's what "Gene" of Harry's Place says in this post.
It's no secret that as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin practiced real (as opposed to rhetorical) socialism. While accusing Barack Obama of running to be "redistributionist in chief" during last year's campaign, John McCain conveniently overlooked the fact his running mate was the most redistributionist governor in the nation.Gene is half serious in making this argument; Governor Palin did continue Alaska's program of sending checks from the state's oil money directly to individual Alaskans. And he is half joking, because so much in the rest of her career shows that she is not really that much into redistribution.
But he does, indirectly, raise an interesting point: Palin was elected as a reform governor. To win, she had to defeat Republican incumbents, and to campaign against the undue influence of big business. And she often worked with Democrats in the Alaska legislature to pass reform proposals.
Ordinarily, that record would win her plaudits from most "mainstream" journalists. But most of them knew little about her when McCain chose her as a running mate. (And the McCain campaign made a big mistake in not letting them know about the choice gradually.) And so, with very few exceptions, they reacted to who they thought she was, rather than what she had done as a public figure, or even who she really was.
They fixated, for example, on her pro-life stance and her children, not noting that social issues had not been a big part of her political career. (And are less important in Alaska than in most states.) As a result, they presented to the public a picture of Palin that was seriously distorted, and false in part. And by now, so many of them despise her that it is unlikely that we will ever get a fair-minded picture of this interesting woman from our "mainstream" journalists.
(Gene is incorrect when he describes those Alaskan checks as redistribution. Alaskan citizens own that land on which oil is produced, so they are more like shareholders getting dividends than poor people benefitting from a Robin Hood.
Gene is also wrong to equate socialism with redistribution. Socialists all believe in some kinds of redistribution, but so do many others including almost all leaders of conservative parties. And so do many prominent libertarians. Economist Milton Friedman, for example, long favored a negative income tax. Where conservatives differ from socialists is on the amount of redistribution and the ways money is redistributed.
That's much too large a subject to cover in a brief post, so I won't say more here. But I will mention that Lincoln is hardly ever considered a socialist, but it was during his administration that the Homestead Act was passed.)
- 10:02 AM, 24 November 2009 [link]
How Did the CRU Files Get Out? The files, which, at the very least have deeply embarrassed the climate researchers at the Climatic Research Unit, somehow got out to the internet. There are three main theories about how they got out in this post.
Two crucial points: Despite what you may have read in news stories, no one knows for sure how the files got out. Second, the files are not a complete collection; they do not, for example, include any purely personal emails.
Circumstantial evidence leads "charles the moderator" to this tentative conclusion:
A few people inside CRU possessed the archive of documents being held in reserve in case the FOI appeal decision was made in favor of Steve McIntyre. They shared it with others by putting it in an FTP directory which was on the same CPU as the external webserver, or even worse, was an on a shared drive somewhere to which the webserver had permissions to access. In other words, if you knew where to look, it was publicly available. Then, along comes our "hackers" who happened to find it, download it, and the rest is history unfolding before our eyes. So much for the cries of sophisticated hacking and victimization noted above.Incompetence, rather than malice — and the accidental fulfillment of a legitimate Freedom Of Information request.
(Whether they were within their rights to reject McIntyre's FOI request is a question I will leave to those who understand the British laws on this subject. But they should have made their raw data and their code available long ago, simply as a matter of good scientific practice.)
- 8:46 AM, 24 November 2009 [link]
What Are The Big News Stories? In this area, a misbehaving rabbit and bikini baristas. Judging by the amount of coverage they have received, anyway.
I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this over-coverage of the trivial and the unimportant. Sometimes I am annoyed because news organizations spend so much time on such subjects; sometimes I think that it is better if our news organizations do not try to cover serious subjects, since they so often mislead the public, when they do.
- 7:43 AM, 24 November 2009 [link]
"House Effects" In News Organization Polls: Pollsters, like everyone else who pays attention, have noticed that some polling organizations consistently produce results that are more favorable to one party than other polling organizations. Pollsters, perhaps to be nice to their fellow pollsters, don't call these tendencies "bias"; they call them "house effects" (And to be fair, sometimes the differences show no bias; they just show different groups polled, likely voters instead of adults, for example, or different ways of asking the same question.)
Charles Franklin has created two multiple graphs showing those house effects for Obama approval and disapproval ratings. Looking over the two sets, I noticed an interesting pattern: Most of the polls done for "mainstream" news organizations were biased toward Obama. (Or if you are a sensitive pollster, showed house effects favoring Obama.)
Franklin shows the results from twenty polling organizations; eight of them — ABC-Washington Post, Associated Press, CBS-New York Times, CNN, Fox, Ipsos-McClatchy, NBC-Wall Street Journal, and USA Today-Gallup — were done for (and often by) news organizations. Six of them consistently found higher favorable ratings for Obama than the average polling organization. Two of them — Fox and NBC-Wall Street Journal — found favorable ratings close to the average for polling organizations. None of the news organizations' polls found favorable ratings below the average.
This pattern could be just a coincidence, but I doubt that it is. For years, polls done for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune consistently overestimated the Democratic vote, and by amounts that could not be ascribed to sampling error. But their pollster did not alter his methods, nor did the newspaper hire a new pollster. One wonders whether they would have been so tolerant if he had erred in the opposite direction.
Pollsters working for organizations dominated by leftists, as nearly all of our news organizations are, may find it safer to err on the Democratic side. I am not saying that they do this consciously, just that they try, like most of us, to please their bosses, and that those bosses will generally be happier with results that favor the left. It is hard, in such environments, not to slant your results, even when you don't consciously intend to.
(The disapproval ratings show a generally similar, but not identical, pattern.)
- 7:09 AM, 24 November 2009 [link]
Dave Lamoureux Catches Bluefin Tuna From A Kayak: The New York Times is impressed.
Dave Lamoureux's kayak, named Fortitude, must be the only one in Massachusetts registered as a motor vessel. That's because a powerboat registration is required to get a permit to fish for tuna here.And so am I.
But I don't think these Inuit, who hunt whales from wooden kayaks, would be equally impressed.
(Apparently, the reporter, Charles McGrath, did not know that the Inuit hunted whales from kayaks for centuries — without even a single GPS unit.)
- 7:08 PM, 23 November 2009 [link]
On The Other Hand, if Reid, Pelosi, and Obama could deliver on this promise, then I'd be in favor of ObamaCare, too.
(Even though it would require a much greater effort to control births.)
- 4:39 PM, 23 November 2009 [link]
Evan Thomas Backs A "Fiscal Fraud" You have to give the Newsweek editor credit for honesty.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The fraudulence of these numbers is absolutely staggering, and I'll explain to you why. The benefits kick in in 2015, so outlays are only for half of that decade. The taxes and the cuts, the presumed spending cuts, all kick in at the beginning. You've got 10 years of money in and five years of outlay, so of course it will produce a deficit — I mean, a surplus. If you start of 2015 and go until the end of time, the amount of deficit added every decade is going to be about half a trillion. So once you start — When the program starts, it will be annually — it will cause a huge deficit annually. That is an absolutely phony number that Reid gave us.Especially since so many Democratic politicians keep telling us that ObamaCare will save us money. The more I hear that claim, the more disrespected I feel, since I suspect that most of those politicians know they aren't telling me the truth.
(Actually two dollar bills are not necessarily fake, though they are uncommon. But we know what he means.)
- 2:02 PM, 23 November 2009
More: If you want to see what Krauthammer was talking about, take a look at this graph. The cost of ObamaCare is 1.8 trillion for the first ten years that the program is full operation. And it will cost as little as 1.8 trillion only if the assumptions that the CBO had to use turn out to be close to the truth. (They probably won't.)
By way of Michael Barone.
- 4:20 PM, 23 November2009 [link]
What Do The Released CRU Papers Show? Here's Lucia's summary.
Contrary to the insinuations of the more aggressive stone-cold coolers, the contents of the hack contain nothing to prove that basic theory of AGW is false. Contrary to strong insinunations by Raypierre the fact that there was a leak provides no evidence to suggest that all or even any arguments of the shadowy unnamed groups he he refers to rather vaguely as "them" are hollow. Moreover, contrary to Gavin's suggestion, the fact that the emails do not contain references to "George Soros nefariously funding climate research" is not particularly interesting. ( It is equally uninteresting to observe the archive does not contain a Phil Jones's confession that he was the one who really, shot JR. )Emphasis added in order to make her conclusions as obvious as possible. The files do not — let me repeat — do not show that theories of man-caused global warming are false. The files do suggest, quite strongly, that some scientists at CRU and elsewhere have not been playing fair with their critics.
(Lucia is a "luke-warmist", that is, she is skeptical about some of the claims by the more extreme proponents of global warming theories, but does not reject those theories in total.
Similar thoughts from a Judy Curry here, almost certainly this Judy Curry.)
- 10:45 AM, 23 November 2009 [link]
Worth Reading: Byron York's latest on the firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin.
First two paragraphs:
Just hours after Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa released a report Friday on their investigation into the abrupt firing of AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin, the Obama White House gave the lawmakers a trove of new, previously-withheld documents on the affair. It was a twist on the now-familiar White House late-Friday release of bad news; this time, the new evidence was put out not only at the start of a weekend but also hours too late for inclusion in the report.So, the White House looks as if it has been dishonest about this firing — and clumsy about trying to create a cover story.
(I have thought for some time that someone in the White House lost their temper and decided to fire Walpin immediately, without thinking about how the firing would look. They then had to scramble to make up an explanation for the firing, since the real explanation is not fit for public consumption. Most likely what triggered the firing was what Walpin had found out about the Sacramento mayor and Obama supporter, Kevin Johnson.)
- 9:41 AM, 23 November 2009 [link]
First Thoughts On Those CRU Files: As you almost certainly know, someone — we don't know yet whether it was an insider or an outside hacker — copied files to the internet from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. CRU is a center of climate research, just as the name says, and is run by prominent supporters of man-caused global warming theories.
I have been entertaining visitors over the last week, so I have not had time to look at the emails, or the other files (some of the code files might be especially interesting, for those who have the skills to read them), so I don't want to go very far in commenting on them. But I do think that this summary from John Hinderaker is worth sharing.
The emails I've reviewed so far do not suggest that these scientists are perpetrating a knowing and deliberate hoax. On the contrary, they are true believers. I don't doubt that they are sincerely convinced--in fact, fanatically so--that human activity is warming the earth. But the emails are disturbing nonetheless. What they reveal, more than anything, is a bunker mentality. These pro-global warming scientists see themselves as under siege, and they view AGW skeptics as bitter enemies. They are often mean-spirited; the web site American Thinker is referred to as "American Stinker;" at one point an emailer exults in the death of a global warming skeptic; another one suggests that the Ph.D. of a prominent skeptic should be revoked because of an error he made decades ago in his dissertation; another says that he is tempted to "beat the crap out of" the same scientist. The emails show beyond any reasonable doubt that these individuals are engaged in politics, not science.(Emphasis added.
The last line probably goes too far, since individuals can do both, as many honest scientists have shown. But it is dishonest to pretend you are doing science, when you are really acting as a political advocate.)
If Hinderaker is right about the bunker mentality — and what I have seen before from CRU makes me think that he is — then we have an explanation for behavior that otherwise seems strange, like their unwillingness to share data and code, so that other scientists can confirm (or reject) their conclusions.
- 7:56 AM, 23 November 2009 [link]
Carteresque? The comparison of Obama to Carter isn't surprising, but the person making the comparison — Chris Matthews — is surprising.
(For the record, I think that we will be extremely lucky if Obama is as good a president as Carter was. And that Obama's pattern of failure will be quite unlike Carter's.)
- 6:25 AM, 23 November 2009 [link]
Obama Tells Soldiers the truth.
Not that Obama is the first to use troops for photo-ops — far from it — but it is fun to get a brief glimpse of what he is actually thinking during his unending campaign.
- 7:29 AM, 20 November 2009 [link]
Craig Welch Should Have Asked Al Gore Better Questions: The Seattle Times reporter had a chance to ask the former vice president, and current climate change guru, a few questions, and this is all Welch came up with. It would be unfair, but not terribly unfair, to sum up that brief interview by saying that Welch asked Gore how news organizations can help sell Gore's message.
What questions could Welch have asked instead? He could have asked about Gore's immense personal carbon footprint. (And if he were feeling a little snarky, he could have asked Gore to compare his home to Bush's home in Crawford.) He could have asked about conflicts of interest; Gore's message coincides with his investments in ways that bother some people. He could have asked about the decade-long pause in global warming. He could have asked about the temperature of the interior of the earth. He could have asked why carbon dioxide emissions rose so sharply during the Clinton-Gore administration, but rose less during the Bush-Cheney administration. He could have asked why Gore opposes nuclear power. He could have asked why Gore refuses to participate in debates on climate change. He could even have asked about the Gore effect.
But to have asked such questions, Welch would have had to acted as a reporter, rather than an acolyte. And to ask them he would have had to know more about the climate change debate than he would have learned from reading the Seattle Times.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(As usual when I discuss climate change, I suggest that you read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 7:04 AM, 20 November 2009 [link]
New York State Is Broke: No surprise there, but some of the details are are interesting.
Gov. David A. Paterson is imploring the Legislature to finally reckon with the state's ugly financial reality.Are poor New Yorkers healthier than the poor in other states? Do New York children have top scores? As far as I know, no and no.
What New York does have, like almost every other state that is in deep budget trouble, is powerful public employee unions.
The labor unions and special interests that control the capital are mobilizing for a fight. And lawmakers are likely to balk at making painful cuts in a year when elections will be held for all 212 legislative seats.The New York governor is now deeply unpopular, and is almost certain to lose a Democratic primary next year, so it is unlikely that many in the legislature will listen to him, even though he is right about the need for cuts.
- 8:43 AM, 19 November 2009 [link]
Reid Beats Pelosi: By a solid, but unspectacular, margin of 84 pages.
In the Battle of the Health Bills, the Senate wins out, bulk-wise — weighing in at 2,074 pages.Congratulations to Majority Leader Reid for this victory. (The congratulations would be more heartfelt, if there was any reason to think that either of these monstrosities would be good for the nation.)
- 7:43 AM, 19 November 2009 [link]
Jesse Jackson Plays The Race Card In The Health Reform Debate: Here's what Jackson said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday night criticized Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) for voting against the Democrats' signature healthcare bill.(Emphasis added.)
What Jackson said was disgusting, but funny. I suppose that I should write something high-minded about his use of the race card, but I have become distracted by trying to follow his logic.
Here are what I think are some reasonable conclusions to draw from his premise: Congressman Davis can be a black man; he just can't call himself a black man. White congressmen (and women) can vote against ObamaCare and still call themselves white. Probably, black congresswomen can not vote against ObamaCare and call themselves black.
I am unable to draw any conclusions about congressmen (and women) of Asian descent.
If you can take his reasoning farther, let me know.
- 6:57 AM, 19 November 2009 [link]
The Conclusion isn't Surprising: But it is a little surprising to see it come from Jeffrey Flier, the dean of the Harvard Medical School.
As the dean of Harvard Medical School I am frequently asked to comment on the health-reform debate. I'd give it a failing grade.Here's why:
Our health-care system suffers from problems of cost, access and quality, and needs major reform. Tax policy drives employment-based insurance; this begets overinsurance and drives costs upward while creating inequities for the unemployed and self-employed. A regulatory morass limits innovation. And deep flaws in Medicare and Medicaid drive spending without optimizing care.Dr. Flier can't be too blunt, since Harvard Medical School gets immense sums from the federal government, but it isn't hard to translate what he said: The Democratic proposals would increase costs, without improving outcomes. And, if passed, they may make true reform impossible. But special interests would get a bonanza from the bills.
Oh, and one more translation. When he says proponents are being disingenuous, he means they are lying to us.
- 6:19 AM, 19 November 2009 [link]
Schlimmbesserung: We don't have an exact equivalent for that German word, but we need one. Roughly speaking, Schlimmbesserung means "bad betterment", an attempt to improve something that makes it worse, in politics, a reform that is actually a "reform".
We are, I am afraid, going to need Schlimmbesserung often during the next three years, and perhaps beyond.
(I learned the word from Howard Rheingold's They Have a Word for It, a fascinating little book.
More on the word here.)
- 8:14 AM, 18 November 2009 [link]
Delay Is, After All, an option.
'Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all," President-elect Obama said of global warming last November. "Delay is no longer an option." It turns out that delay really is an option—the only one that has world-wide support.Delay has world-wide support because politicians all over the world understand that efforts to prevent global warming have high costs now, in return for benefits far in the future.
Bush looks better, at least in contrast.
President George W. Bush, for all the obloquy heaped on him for walking away from Kyoto, tried to shift the climate-change debate toward policies that were realistic and achievable, in particular by insisting that benefits had to justify any brakes on economic growth. This strategy resulted in far too much taxpayer waste, including the green-pork subsidies that Mr. Obama loves and has ramped up. Yet it also prevented Mr. Bush from making grandiose if futile promises with no relationship to political reality.(Emphasis added.)
- 6:55 AM, 17 November 2009 [link]
How Hot Is The Inside Of The Earth? According to Al Gore, millions of degrees.
Gore in an 11/12/09 interview on NBC's tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, speaking on geothermal energy, champion of slide show science, can't even get the temperature of earth's mantle right, claiming "several million degrees" at "2 kilometers or so down". Oh, and the "crust of the earth is hot" too.Two kilometers down, the earth's temperature is between 500 and 900 degrees centigrade. (Note, by the way, that Conan O'Brien isn't startled by Gore's blunder, showing that he, too, has forgotten his grade school science lessons.) A little bit of thought will show you that a temperature of several million degrees at 2 kilometers down would have rather dramatic effects on earth's surface, enough so that we wouldn't be around to talk about them.
Anthony Watts supplies video, in case you find it hard to believe that Gore actually said that.
Was this just one of those verbal slips we all make from time to time? Perhaps, but Gore does have a tendency to exaggerate. And other parts of what he said suggest to me that he really is that confused.
(For fun, imagine the reaction from "mainstream" journalists if George W. Bush had said something that absurd.)
- 6:26 AM, 17 November 2009 [link]