Archive for October, 2010

Two on doing right and unintended consequences

There are two examples at American Thinker that illustrate where something that sounds like the ‘right thing’ is perhaps a selfish, one sided, and ‘wrong thing.’ The first is from Dr. Halderman who closed her practice because she

learned that employees have rights without responsibilities, and that employers are presumed guilty until proven innocent. I learned that laws and regulations are enacted without consideration of the unintended consequences, mostly by legislators who’ve never owned a business and regulatory bodies accountable to no one.

She says:

My exam room and my operating room became crowded. First came the Employment Development Department, then the Franchise Tax Board and the Board of Equalization. Then the State Compensation Fund for Worker’s Comp coverage, followed by Cal-OSHA and the Department of Consumer Affairs. Members of the plaintiff’s bar followed. Medi-Cal sent a legion of bureaucrats to fight for floor space with “administrative overseers” from Washington’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

After five years, there wasn’t any room left for my patient. I put down my stethoscope and picked up a pen.

Each of these government agencies was formed for a good cause. Each has a mission that serves society in some way. But there are consequences and they add up to defeating the purpose for which these agencies were formed. Dr. Halerman see this as wrong and is doing something about it. As a means to maintain a proper referent, she is not abandoning medical practice for politics but rather attempting to practice a role in “Thomas Jefferson’s citizen-legislature.”

to be a good legislator, I have to remain a citizen. Turning my back on the profession and the patients I love caring for would make me less effective as a representative, to say nothing of what that would mean to my patients and to me.

The other example is from Joseph Bast about the idea that Deregulation, Not Renewable Energy Mandates, Will Best Protect Both Economy and Environment.

Even with the generous subsidies lavished on them by all levels of government, however, renewable energy sources are not cost-competitive with power derived from coal, oil, or natural gas, and the measure would thus raise electricity prices for consumers and businesses.

While it sounds good, the subsidies and mandates for economically challenged power sources is a tax. It messes with the natural competition for actual market needs and that creates disruptions and distortions that adversely impact productivity and health.

plentiful, reliable, and inexpensive electricity is closely correlated with strong economic growth and rising standards of living. It’s also good for the environment: The increasing electrification of American homes and industries is one reason air pollution emissions have been falling even though population and the production of goods continue to expand.

Yes, it sounds good to promote ‘renewable’ energy sources and punish those greedy corporations and make the rich pay their fair share and protect the little guy. What sounds good has been a path to doom for many who could not discern the difference between ‘sounds good’ and ‘right.’

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In despair? Ready to call it quits?

It’s time to get out and vote. If you’re feeling “what’s the use,” Reverend Roberts has advice about What To Do When [you think] Things Keep On Getting Worse

There was a rally this weekend about ‘restoring sanity’ and promoting civil discourse in political discussion. It was the one with hate signs regarding political enemies. It was a counter gathering to show up a political rival’s event. That sort of behavior only highlights to insidious nature of “The bonds that hold society together are being severed as people lose the ability to determine right from wrong.”

When things seem to keep on getting worse, many people throw up their hands in defeat. They figure they cannot make a difference in the world, so they choose to live for themselves and their momentary pleasures. Others sink into a pit of cynicism and negativity. Still others find the moral resolve to try and fight back, to stand for goodness in the face of mounting evil.

But sometimes the referent for what is good and what is not is misplaced. Much misery has been caused by well meaning efforts that did not look closely at their values and standards. As with much of one’s behavior, the motivations and stimulus is not always readily visible and there is competition within one’s self that will influence what one does. That is where the introspection from prayer can be used to guide one’s direction.

Please protect me, Lord, from a defeatism that sets me free to pursue my own selfish gain. Keep me from cynicism that can sound so wise even as it excuses me from making a difference for good in the world. Help me not to rely on myself and my own efforts, as if I had either the calling or the ability to change the world.

There is a responsibility each of us has as a member of society. We cannot live as a group if we just give up in despair when there is crime or other destructive behavior. But we also must exercise intellectual integrity and be aware of our own behavior and its sources.

Is it your “selfish gain” or is it what is right? How do you know? Your vote will make a difference.

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The psycho-next-door fear went viral

Lenore Skenazy is the Free Range Kids lady, one of those who wonders whatever happened to the way it used to be. At the WSJ, she notes about the ‘Stranger Danger’ and the Decline of Halloween and notes that “No child has ever been killed by poisoned candy. Ever.”

Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, studied crime statistics from 30 states and found, “There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation.”

In fact, she says, “We almost called this paper, ‘Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year,’ because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day.”

Why is it so safe? Because despite our mounting fears and apoplectic media, it is still the day that many of us, of all ages, go outside. We knock on doors. We meet each other. And all that giving and taking and trick-or-treating is building the very thing that keeps us safe: community.

The adults have taken over the asylum and it has become much more dangerous?

The fact is that yesterday’s trick-or-treat neighborhood walk-around folks are today’s adults who haven’t given up (grown out of?) the habit. As adults they have money to spend and different motivations. It is no longer a matter of seeing who could get the most swag. It is a party with ‘adult’ motivations. Costumes are no longer childish improvisations but rather designer duds intended to win a contest – or a date,

As for the kids? They follow the parents. That is, until the parents turn them loose. That is what Free Range Kids is all about. There are risks in independence and childhood is about learning to be independent. That means allowing an appropriate level of risk and occasionally realizing the risk in unpleasant ways. With money and means and luxuries never before seen in society, parents have ever more opportunity and ever better equipment to hover over their children and eliminate risk. It is what else is inhibited that concerns folks like Skenazy.

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The impact of free trade

Professor Perry shows a graph of U.S. Exports and Imports of Food vs. Food Share of Disposable Income 1969 to 2009. It indicates that the food share of disposable income has dropped from about 14% to under 10% in the 40 years graphed. During that time, the value of exports and imports has increased from a few billion to more than eighty with exports generally surpassing imports.

The graph was presented as a counter to some of the doom and gloom about U.S. decline that seems popular in some circles. The reality is a significant contrast to what these people insist exist.

In fact, we typically export more food than we import in most years, and have run trade surpluses for food in 2007, 2008 and 2009. And we have always imported billions of dollars of food each year (think bananas, coffee), see chart above. Partly as a result of increasing international trade, food is more affordable than any time in U.S. history, when measured as a share of disposable income (see chart). Free trade has not failed the U.S., it has contributed to a rising standard of living for all Americans, and the increasing affordability of food is just small part of the story.

What really is amazing is what some folks do to attempt to disqualify, discredit, or otherwise impugn measures such as Perry shows. It is enough to make one wonder why they are so invested in doom and gloom.

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A difficult lesson to learn in economics

There is an association between technology in the past and wealth today. William Easterly explores the implications of that in Reinventing the Wheel:

If there’s anything that “must be done” to spur future development, it’s to create the conditions necessary to empower the ordinary individuals who will create new and unforeseen technologies out of old ones. There’s a Thomas Edison born every minute. We just have to help them turn the lights on

That’s the conundrum. Governments grow larger and more sophisticated yet they may cast a blanket over what creates the wealth of the society they govern if they are not careful. Innovation is a bottom up phenomena and needs just the right conditions to flourish – and it does so in its own way, not that of any social planner.

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Carl Sagan is cited at small animals in reference to the climate research controversy. Sagan provided a checklist for telling good science from bad that may be useful in measuring the quality (intellectual integrity) of debate and discussion. Its topics include:

  • independent confirmation of facts
  • substantive debate on the evidence
  • authority dependence to be avoided
  • examine multiple hypotheses
  • avoid attachments to particular hypotheses
  • quantify – move to higher quality measure and observation
  • every link in the chain of argument must be valid
  • use Occam’s Razor
  • look for falsifiability and testability of ideas

There is a means to detect a difference and to measure the quality of an argument. It is commonly considered a primary goal of public education to learn it. It is a goal that often seems to have been widely missed.

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Vietnam unraveling, symptoms sound familiar

New investigations with new tools indicate that the Kent State Massacre was a mistake and that the anti Vietnam protesters were not as pure as often portrayed. The pattern should be familiar. Ideologues don’t quite get reality right to rationalize the feelings they express in their protests. Then, when the irrational behavior results in tragedy, denial comes to the fore. As Turner notes in the essay:

Perhaps the greatest irony is that the angry students – as so often was the case throughout the war – had their facts wrong. … The student protesters who may have believed they were struggling to end the suffering in Indochina were sadly mistaken.


Much of the Vietnam war protests were not about the war or about Nixon but rather about a personal fear. As time passes, the realization of this reality becomes more clear. There are lessons that should be learned from history.

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The nature of argument

At Stoat is an example illustrating why the debate has degraded when it comes to climate research. Note the tone and the substance, which is ad hominem. Also note that the commentary misses the point of its target, which was about the behavior of an association. 

There is a pattern. Those on the ‘wrong’ side of climate alarmism tend to list specific things that concern them. Those on the ‘PC’ side attack anyone who disagrees and will not discuss the issues being raised. In other words, one side has intellectual integrity and the other does not. It is this observation that was used by Professor Lewis to conclude that the PC was a fraud or hoax. 

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Like talking to a brick wall: climategate

Loggerheads. That’s what it is. Perhaps a definition of science would include rational discussion and that would include intellectually honest efforts to tie rhetoric to reality. Willis Eschenbach provides a comparison and contrast in his open Letter to Dr. Mann at Watts Up With That?

What you have here is an opinion column Dr. Mann published in the Washington Post complaining about his being persecuted by zealots who deny human caused climate change. Eschenbach comments on the nature of the opinion as much as its content. It is the nature of the opinion – and Eschenbach’s commentary – that provide the comparison and contrast of most note. He starts with an assertion:

On the other hand, your opinion piece published in the Washington Post contains a number of omissions, misrepresentations, exaggerations, and misstatements of fact.

and then proceeds to describe what they were and why he though they fit this description. As with Professor Lewis, he quotes President Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1960 as as means for him to understand what he is seeing. In doing so, he provides a referent for his bias. That provides a contrast to the anti-human fears that appears to drive the climate alarmists in tone, substance, and basis.

Perhaps the biggest red flag in Eschenbach’s commentary is asking whether Dr. Mann “had any actual evidence that you were innocent” – That is like the current flap about accusations of foreign political funding. Our value system is not to prove innocence (the Napolean Law basis) but rather for the accuser to prove guilt. The issue here is not for Dr. Mann to provide proof of innocence but for him to comply with requests for evidence in accord with the law. Much of the controversy since the unintended release of the CRU Freedom of Information act information bundle is due to the reluctance to provide (or actual destruction of) information regarding research methods, datasets, and procedures paid for with public funds.

The truth is, your objections have nothing to do with climate research. You are simply worried what an inquiry might find out, otherwise the idea of an investigation wouldn’t bother you a bit. But since all the indications are that you and others conspired to subvert the IPCC process , and then conspired (as shown in the Climategate emails) to cover it up, I can understand your all-pervading unease …

It is this behavior that started the brouhaha. Some folks were puzzled by the published results and wanted to know where they came from. Instead of being provided answers to their questions, they were shut out of the discussion. Then, when they brought up the reluctance to support results, they were subject to evasion and a parade of logical fallacies, especially the ad hominem.

What Eschenbach illustrates in his post is a point, counterpoint commentary based on quotations from his target as well as other cited sources. It provides a comparison and contrast between how the climate alarmists think about things and how it might be done with a bit more intellectual integrity.

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About other scientists toeing the line for climate

Professor Lewis has about had it. Jim Bass published the letter to the APS at Attackmachine: Physicist Quits APS over Green Scare fraud

Lewis has 67 years of membership with the American Physical Society and chaired the Reactor Safety Study 35 years ago. That puts him rather senior and you may figure he suffers dementia or something. Read his letter to Curtis Gallan, president of the APS and see for yourself. He is not a happy camper and wants no part of the behavior he sees that centers on climate research and its defense. He gives his reasons based on his observations. He allows for imprecision and potential error. These are characteristics that are lacking in much of the climate alarmism.

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The nature of debate

Farrel has a good example of the irrational manner of debate that seems to pollute many issues. He says Scientists Must Show Spine Against GOP Global Warming Skeptics and that should raise questions to start. The title demonstrates a grouping of his enemies as one as if there were a 1:1 correspondence between those skeptical of climate alarmism and a particular party. That is a presumption that should be skeptical.

Then he labels the investigation into misuse of research funds as a “witch hunt” which is judgmental as well as rather ignorant. Then there’s the attempt to smear by association when Farrel brings in the evolution debate.

His rationalization for the alarmists problems is that the “disdain the messiness of politics, stay snug in their ivory towers, and decline to fight back.” The problem, in truth, is that they can’t “be out there in the glare of the television lights on the Hill, giving righteous battle to the skeptics, exposing them as ignorant and shaming them before a national audience.” If they do get out there, they expose themselves as ignorant and shameful. When faced with honest questions about the data, the measure, the models, and uncertainties, the folks like professor Mann end up facing some very unpleasant realities.

This parade of logical fallacies and ‘put up your dukes’ type rhetoric does not do more than brand those who engage in that behavior as intellectually dishonest. That doesn’t help their cause.

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How to handle those who disagree: Splattergate

In the “can’t we all get along” category is the latest propaganda four minute video titled No Pressure produced “by green supremacists themselves, and with a high degree of technical proficiency.” Taranto has the story.

the video required the efforts of “50+ film professionals and 40+ actors and extras.” Blogger David Burge notes that “somehow, throughout this entire process, not one of the hundreds of people involved seemed to have questioned the wisdom of an advertising message advocating the violent, sudden death of people who disagree with it.”

In the movie, two school chidren who don’t kowtow to making symbolic gestures to reduce carbon emissions are blown up and their colleagues spattered with the viscera.

There’s a new kind of supremacist on the scene: green supremacists. They haven’t blown up any children–not in real life. But they’ve been thinking about it.

There are those who attempt to defend the video. They say it is just supposed to be humorous, a joke to make a point. That begs the demarcation of the line.

But it’s evil, not just stupid. Some critics, such as Don Surber and The American Spectator, describe the video’s message as, in the words of Surber’s headline, “Just Blow Up Global Warming Skeptics.” Even this is an understatement. The “crime” for which the children in the video are “executed” is one of omission, not commission. They are murdered not even for dissenting against 10:10’s political crusade, but merely for being indifferent to it. This is the essence of totalitarianism.

The video has put the highlight on the matter in a manner that the use of “denier” for a climate alarmist skeptic has not. It seems that calling those who disagree names that associate them with evil is easily set aside but fantasizing about spattering kids who disagree with blood and gore takes it a bit too far. It may be that a bit more outrage at the ‘less evil’ tactic might be a means to tone down and inhibit the escalated behaviors.

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Dissonance: really? in the U.S.?

We all tend to believe the best of those closest to us. Sometimes we get brought up short in that belief. Tabitha Hale had such a moment when visiting the OneNation rally to see first hand what it was all about.

I am not certain I ever believed that they were truly avowed opposition to all that is American. I suppose I wanted to believe that at the end of the day, every American loved their freedom enough to fight for it.

I was wrong.

The crowd small. It was created and supported by larger groups who provided time off, transportation, and organization. It also showed very clearly that there is an ‘other side’ with views and opinions antithetical to traditional American positions. Hale’s gestalt was that these groups are no longer afraid to hide their face and are pushing hard for the political power to support their positions.

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For those who insist they are all the same

AJStrata provides an illustration for those in deep denial who insist that both sides are the same. “Democrat” Rally In DC Was Actually A March Of America’s Enemies compares and contrasts two recent gatherings on the mall. The graphic flips between pictures of the two rallies and provides a clear indication of the differences in attendance.

There is no clearer choice in this election cycle than between those who were represented by the Glenn Beck Palin rally (which talked about the Constitution and living a respectful life) and the Marxists and socialist who marched on DC this weekend to show Democrat solidarity.

It should be noted that the second rally was an attempt to show up the first. That in itself is an attitude worthy of note. The purpose was ‘polluted’ and confrontational and not just a show of support for a particular point of view.

Another point of contrast is making the rounds as well. Some had noted that the Beck rally left no trace after the participants had dispersed and gone home. It appears that the response rally was a bit more ‘normal’ as a lot of trash was left behind after the rally. Again, pictures are starting to surface to provide comparison and contrast.

Yes, there are differences. Crowd size, manner of attendance, reason for rallying, and civility all provide a contrast for those who observe. Denigrating and diminishing these contrasts may make one feel more comfortable but comfort is not always a result of reality.

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‘When can we go back to living our lives again?’

Perhaps an awareness is arising that things have changed. GOTV is Only the Beginning: Welcome to the 100-Year War takes note of ‘traditional’ Americans becoming concerned about Marxist oriented politics.

Many Americans are only now realizing how deeply America has been corrupted and compromised, and how long the battle ahead will be in order to save the Republic. Moreover, if American liberty is to survive the war waged from within by the Marxist/socialist/progressive movement, Americans must understand that this fight for America’s future must be fought to the finish.

The point was illustrated by a question asked of Nikki Haley: ‘When can we go back to living our lives again?’ It is also illustrated by the Tea Part movement.

The problem is not one that can be solved by winning one election or taking a short road. The problem is that of addressing the populace that has fallen for failed ideologies and wants to try them, yet again, in the U.S. As a problem of education going upstream against fantasies and desires, it will be a tough row to hoe and will take time.

Don’t plan on getting back to living your lives again outside of social concerns anytime soon.

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Net neutrality, a.k.a. anti-corporate anti capitalist?

Bruce McQuain has a good rundown on The politics of net neutrality.

most knew that anything that powerful and uncontrolled must come to the attention of government at some point. The question is – to what purpose? Why should government intrude on a network that is providing so much acknowledged good without it? The answer: because it is there. And the paranoid are sure that the corporations that are involved in it are up to no good. Thus we need government’s help to keep those evil corporations in line.

One of the commenters notes:

I can see this as a telcom QoS (Quality of Service) issue … imagine if your neighbor starts downloading every movie on the face of the Earth and your ability to use your internet goes to nothing. I’m sure you’re going to call the FCC first .. right. No, you’re going to call your telcom who now has a QoS problem that they can’t do anything about .. being neutral an all.

That is the polarity. On one side is an antipathy to ‘large evil corporations’ and on the other is the freedom of those corporations to meet the needs of the customers. The choice is whether it is the government that decides or the businesses.

A general rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the problem, the more likely you are to find a good solution. In this case, the business making the link between the consumer and the I’net is much, much closer to the problems involved than the government.

Another rule of thumb is that many solutions are more likely to surface a good one than a single solution. Business provides many, government provides one.

There is also the honesty issue. If net neutrality is really just a means to get after business with high sounding rhetoric that, upon close inspection, is hypocritical, then its integrity is in question.

Net neutrality is one of those ‘behind the scenes’ issues being debated that may have implications larger than its public visibility.

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