Archive for February, 2011

A gas revolution

There has been a rather remarkable revolution in the finding and expression of natural gas reserves in just the last few years. See Popular Mechanics for a rundown on the hard facts about fracking. This has causes a jump of 35% in natural gas reserves between 2006 and 2008.

That article mentioned a New York NIMBY moratorium.The Hydrofracking Controversy not so Controversial? at Pundit Press gets more into the story.

This was obviously a concerted and coordinated effort to turn public opinion against the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation. At the time, the New York state assembly and senate were debating a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

I have to say that I was skeptical from the start. This issue was being driven by a decidedly left wing cohort and I have learned over the years that progressive ideologues can be less than honest. Therefore, I decided to look into the controversy myself.

There is a ton of gas down there!

Even the CSI TV show got into the act with a case of self immolation via a gas contaminated water well that had caused great despair.

Fear. Uncertainty, Doubt. and little or no fact to support them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has realized significant energy supplies to help offset its foreign dependence. Eastern Europe is looking at similar technologies to gain some independence upon Russian gas suppliers. The cost of keeping warm in winter has been moderated.

Natural gas is one of the cleaner of the fossil fuels and works well for electrical power production. The problem is that such power sources offend those who think the sun and the wind are all anyone needs and the U.S. is using too much energy. So NIMBY and FUD mongering have a new outlet. We all pay the price.

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Trying to rationalize guilt through legality

Moving homosexuality from sin to a hallowed civil construction has been a particularly visible political movement for the boomer generation. It gains interest in that it seeks more than just acceptance and equality in interpersonal social agreement. That is seen in the attempt to take over both the civil and the religious meaning of the term marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was one federal level effort to accept but not condone aberrant uses of the term marriage. A recent executive announcement that that law is to be ignored has created some controversy. There are some who look at the announcement as a political tactic. Others who see it as a part of strategy. Others who are concerned about the issue itself. Jeffrey Kuhner describes the situation.

The push to sanction homosexual marriage legally is a leftist attempt to impose the pernicious doctrine that all forms of sexual behavior are morally equal.

Contrary to the claims of liberals, marriage is not a “civil right” – something to be dispensed at the behest of anyone who wishes it.

Throughout history, especially in the West, traditional marriage has had a distinct status.

Robert Knight, who helped draft DOMA is rather perturbed: “I regard Mr. Obama‘s order to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to abandon DOMA’s legal defense as lawless, reckless, arrogant and a violation of his oath of office. I think it is an impeachable offense.” He tends to ascribe the effort as a political tactic.

Other fronts in this ‘debate’ include the abolishment of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the military and the response by universities that used this law to rationalize their antagonism towards ROTC and the California proposition 8 judicial proceedings that are attempting to overturn a vote of the people sufficient to amend a state constitution.

The focus here is not so much on the issue of the debate but rather the manner of the debate. In that light, one should note the efforts to overturn or ignore properly established law, whether DOMA, Prop 8, or DADT. The means to compromise, such as civil unions, are also seen to be insufficient to quiet the debate. The need to parade the issue and taunt people opposed is another behavior to note. All of these indicate that there is more at stake than what appears on the table.

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A definition of civility

Q&O observes that civility is a process and not just words. It is action rather than discourse.

A civilized nation conducts itself according to a defined, written, universally applicable and executable set of laws. Adherence to such laws are the immutable backbone of any society capable of survival. Wanton disregard of such laws inexorably leads to chaos and tyranny. Ergo, “civility” does not depend on people speaking nicely about one another, but upon everyone playing by the same rules.

A common observation of the democracy holds that voting is simply a proxy for violence. Fleshed out a bit, the process of electoral action is made in lieu of battle. We could decide the course of society based on bloody battle alone, and let might make right. Instead, civil societies have chosen to allow the consent of the governed to rule, the best of which societies have done so through a responsive and accountable republic. When the governors cease to heed to will of the governed, however, civil society becomes endangered and trouble is inevitable.

Another way of comprehending the principle is that a nation of laws only survives as long as the laws are adhered to.

Adherence to the rules is a matter of integrity. When the interpretation and selection of those rules is subject to distortion or if those rules are abandoned because of one rationale or the other, no one can ‘fight fair” and anyone engaged has to conduct themselves by the new rules, which are no rules. That is what terrorism is all about.

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The threat to the republic

For a referent there is the Tea Party. That was a grassroots campaign that, despite accusations and allegations, was civil and resulted in a significant success in elections.

For comparison and contrast, look at the response to those elections.

Jom Hoft: Union thug assaults Tabitha Hale. “This violent creep is with the Communications Workers of America, one of the groups that protested in front of FreedomWorks today, where Tabitha works.” with video

Megan McArdle: The Imperial Presidency. “it seems to me that both parties are increasingly resorting to procedural tricks rather than politics, and it worries me.”

Jeffrey Smith: Professors ask Congress for an ethics code for Supreme Court. “Thomas and Scalia have been criticized by a public interest group for attending private political meetings”

JAMES TARANTO: What They Mean by ‘Civility’: The New York Times raises no objection to murderous, racist rhetoric at a Common Cause rally. “The New York Times editorial page, a division of the New York Times Co., on Saturday endorsed Common Cause’s personal attack on Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.”

Clarice Feldman: Leftist Law Professors Flop Sweat on Obamacare. “a group of law professors have joined the throngs of their more rabid pals to try to get Justices Scalia and Thomas off the case by magnifying silly charges of conflicts and demanding Congressional action to obtain their recusal.”

Brian Doherty: This Is What a Broke Democracy Looks Like. “Wisconsin is an early sign of the stresses that will either shift our system of government action and spending to something unrecognizable to those who lived in the post-WW II boom years or tear that system apart. And everyone seems ready to fight about this necessary shift.”

William Jacobson: All Your Thoughts Are Belong To U.S. “That seems to be the import of the ruling by federal Judge Gladys Kessler in upholding the Obamacare mandate in a suit brought by a group of private plaintiffs in Mead v. Holder”

The tactics here: extreme filibuster, lawfare, attack via insinuation and innuendo, uncivil protest, and more are the threat to the republic. With so many issues and so much going on it is enough to ask “are you worried, yet?”

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The true test of a representative democracy

A lot of emotional rhetoric can often hide the forest. With elected representatives fleeing states as a means of getting their way, the implications of their actions may not be fully aired. Captain Ed describes The real threat to democracy in Wisconsin. It is the crucial issue even more important than the budget politics that instigated it.

The true test of a representative democracy comes not in an election, but in the aftermath of an election. If the losing party or parties recognize their loss and continue to participate in the process of governance, then representative democracy works. When the losing side refuses to participate and boycotts governance, especially in such a manner that vital legislative work is obstructed, then representative democracy itself is threatened.

Each legislative body establishes parliamentary rules that describe how it will conduct business. There are established ways to do things that are agreed upon by all parties. The filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate and the debates about whether or not to modify it that have been in the news in recent years is an example of how representatives in a republic set rules for their deliberations.

The threat, the danger to the republic, is when a group that loses an election decides to go outside of the accepted rules in order to push its way.

The fleeing Democrats have essentially stolen the will of the public and their right to self-governance. Wisconsin voters elected Republicans to majorities in both chambers and Walker as their executive by convincing margins. The minority in a representative democracy has a right to be heard, but does not have the right to stop the process of governance by shutting down the legislature. In essence, those state senators who went on the lam have attempted to overturn the last election through unprecedented and illegal obstruction and dereliction of duty. They have demonstrated the haughty arrogance of those who refuse to accept their role as public servants and instead make themselves into autocrats.

In some respects, this sort of bypassing the established process is why the Republicans won such a majority in the last election. It is also in the essence of the debate about public employee unions because the existence of mandatory unions in that sector create feedback mechanisms that bypass normal governance control methods. The result of that feedback became a campaign issue. The results of that campaign are starting to bear fruit and those who would short circuit the accepted political mechanisms should be very very careful about the territory wherein they tread.

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The hubris defense

There is quite a brouhaha that started in Wisconsin and similar events have also appeared in other states. It is typified by extreme filibuster tactics such as physical departure to avoid a quorum, protests and demonstrations, and a whole lot of rationalizing. One representative even said such action was necessary, you need a bit of blood in the streets, to show what’s right.

Invictus asks Who’s Breaking the Bank in Wisconsin? is another attempt to rationalize a specific point of view that can provide a few lessons for the critical reader.

The first indicator is that of problem definition. The fact that it centers on public employees is fairly well accepted. After that, it becomes a matter of whether or not public employees should be allowed to unionize. That latter matter is expressed as providing local governments the power to manage their employees for best budget performance or employee rights to unionize or union busting.

You can see that the problem definition is one of the first things Invictus obfuscates as he digs up data regarding participation in unions without segregation between public and private. That is then compounded by citing salary comparisons that include only public employees without regard to private sector employee compensation. Toss in a few snide remarks and the result is the appearance of an unseemly and dishonest bias. His final affirmation of his point of view does not help.

Finally, I’d dare say that this budgetary problem seems to have crept up and taken most governors by surprise, as evidenced by the fact that references to it (in State of the State speeches) skyrocketed over the course of one short year, going from only 20 mentions (of 44 speeches) to 33 (of 42 speeches) from 2009 to 2010. Even fewer — far fewer – have been mentioning “Pensions/OPEBs” (Other Post-Employment Benefits). Have they just not been paying attention? If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it smells a bit political.

Of course it is political! That is why it is all about public employees and laws regarding their employment and governmental budgets. What Invictus overlooks is the economic situation of the last couple of years. When the property tax base took a nosedive and unemployment doubled, the hit on local government budgets was tremendous. The time frame Invictus notes is about right for the action time line as politicians respond to circumstances.

As always, when someone comes up with the idea of trying to set you straight on the facts of a complex issue, take care because the odds are often pretty good they are trying to sell you a bill of goods.

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Teachers and Doctors, oh my!

The prominent players in the Wisconsin union rallies have not been union leaders but rather two of the more esteemed professions. The engagement of doctors in the dispute using their state given license to provide legal cover for teachers shirking their work is not helping to professional image of two professions that are generally, or used to be, held in high esteem.

Ford Vox describes the situation at the Atlantic. Wisconsin’s Real Doctors and Their Fake Sick Notes for Protesters.

After viewing the videos at my request last night, Dr. Arthur Derse called me up exclaiming, “Holy mackerel! It’s much worse than it looked in the paper. I’m stunned, absolutely stunned.” Dr. Derse is the Director of Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities a the Medical College of Wisconsin. “When all’s said and done, it’s really the profession of medicine that has the black eye in this case,” he says.

They’ve managed to belittle a public trust between physicians, employers and patients. A doctor’s sick note is a serious document. It represents an employer’s desire to verify through a respected, independent, medically qualified third party the fact of an illness and the true need for convalescence. In the videos now circulating online, we witness multiple members of a noted family medicine department trash one of the well-recognized rights and privileges of their profession, with little forethought as to the consequences.

In many respects this is what has happened to the climatologists when it comes to global warming alarmism.

When commenting on social issues, physicians trade on the honor of our profession, benefiting from the public’s assumption that the wisdom won of caring for so many at their most vulnerable imbues us with some privileged understanding of collective need. … These doctors sacrificed a slice of the medical profession’s credibility for a political cause. Was it worth it? The fallout is mounting.

In this case, the tarnishing is easily seen as a confirmation. The issues of workman’s compensation and the abuse of governmental disability programs aided and assisted by questionable medical diagnosis is one familiar to many workers in the trench. The cost of health insurance and its immediate issue at point in the Wisconsin debate is also on the table. The cost of health care is a significant social issue and this action of a few doctors puts them at suspicion as a major part of the problem.

What Vox highlights is the attitude of the doctors caught on video. That caused many to wonder about whether they really thought through their actions and whether they showed a capability to decide effectively in crisis. The behavior also feeds into growing suspicions about the baby boomers and the ethical and moral morass they seem to be spreading in their wake.

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Wisconsin Banzai

Strategy Page concludes that al Qaeda has come to calling for the Banzai ethos.

The zealous Banzai attack was not a pillar of Japanese infantry tactics but rather an expression of frustration and despair. When the Japanese launched a Banzai attack, they were announcing that they were in a hopeless situation and would rather die fighting than surrender.

It is interesting comparing this to the demonstrations in Wisconsin. There, it appears the governmental employee unions are also in a Banzai mode although they may not realize the end outcome of their efforts.

There are rationalizations, of course. One of the more interesting issues centers on medical ethics. The Happy Hospitalist has a good rundown on the problems in Fake Doctor Notes at Wisconsin Union Protest Rally (Video and Commentary) of These Obnoxious Citizens.. Paul Hsieh describes it as a new form of ethics that enjoins the concept of social justice. Is it social justice to destroy the image of one’s own profession?

Another potentially self destructive behavior centers on matters of civility. Commentary conducts a Civility Watch: Wisconsin Dems and Unions Cross the Line and describes the conflict. Professor Althouse has been covering the brouhaha in Madison from the ground and her latest is about Madison city salt trucks circle Capitol Square blowing horns in apparent solidarity with protesters as an example of using government funds to protest.

Yet another on this line, but on a different front, is at Jihad Watch. Are We Out-FOXing Our Enemies?. That is about knowing reality and accepting the truth about Islam. The phenomena is about how we deal with reality and coping via denial much as the public employee unions are expressing in Wisconsin.

It’s hard for civic peace-loving Americans to accept this ugly truth. When we hear something strange and disturbing about someone’s religion, we a) find it hard to accept that anyone else really, really believes such things and b) wish to deny or overlook it, since we don’t like to criticize the next man’s religious faith any more than we’d think to mock his wife (and for much the same reason: to avoid a fistfight).

We get hit with reality all the time. How we cope with it is the issue. If we lose the vote do we run from responsibilities as the Wisconsin Democrats have done? Do we take a sick day to wave uncivil signs at the capital as the public employees have? Do we call for suicide attacks as al Qaeda has? Do we pretend something is what it is not as many seem to do about Islam? Do we claim both sides are the same and its all over?

It may be the right time to call the cards, to fish or cut bait. There are many tables at play, many ponds to fish, a lot at stake.

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What you say, what you do?

The idea of civility in debate became quite visible after the Arizona shootings. The Wisconsin Republican Party has released a video on that topic that is a comparison and contrast between what people say and what they do. See Rick’s post at wizbang Chronicling the rank leftist hypocrisy for the video.

It is also interesting to see that the budget demagoguery bemoaning budget constraints has become a de facto matter and discussed and predicted as a routine expectation in efforts to bring budgets in line. That is promising in some respects because it illustrates that those seeking budgetary change no longer expect honest dialog and debate but have learned from recent history. The question is whether they will be able to convince the public as to the truths of the matter. The video release indicates that the effort is being made.

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Recycling, except when it pays or has something to do with nuclear

Think Yucca Mountain and NIMBY in all its glory. Then check the thoughts of Dale Klein, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Texas System.

Spent nuclear fuel, which includes some plutonium, often is inaccurately referred to as waste, Klein said.

“It is not waste,” he said. “The waste is in our failure to tap into this valuable and abundant domestic source of in a systematic way. That’s something we can ill-afford to do.”

This is another fear driven ‘debate’ – fears that you can’t store waste for thousands of years, fear that the waste will leak, fears that terrorists will grab it to make bombs, fears that transporting it to the waste site will endanger civilians. So much energy has been invested in FUD mongering that solving problems has been sucked dry.

Meanwhile, the rest of the planet is solving the problems and tapping the 95% of the energy left in nuclear fuels after the first run through. The recycle and reuse. This is what China was talking about when they bragged about being able to increase nuclear fuel efficiency by 65%.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a Nevada representative thinks Yucca is a tap on government funds rather than paid for via nuclear power industry fees, a report published about its effectiveness is heavily redacted with numerous excuses as to why, and only the Wisconsin protests have been more vigorous than the anti-Yucca efforts.

Inexpensive energy is one the best ways to help the poor and nuclear avoids the CO2 brouhaha. But those factors are not enough. Yet.

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Misuse of science: Rose colored glasses with a green tint

This time is was a claim that the delta smelt was endangered and the science was settled. A judge agreed and the results are in. IDB Editorials notes:

This was never about science anyway. “It was … about re-engineering the development of California, particularly the San Joaquin Valley,” said House. “They don’t think the west side should be farmed at all, they want it removed from production, gone to a natural state, re-engineered as a socialist Utopia.”

But some success was achieved.

That ruling turned many of the Valley’s prized vineyards and almond groves into wastelands. Jobs were lost, family farms were shut, fields went fallow and food prices rose.

But there’s been just one problem with this overreaching of the law: Cutting off water didn’t save the smelt.

These efforts cost lives. They impoverish people. The assault is on many fronts from energy to climate to this sort of special interest. The claims and tactics are similar. There is no balance of cost, benefit, and risk: no middle ground. The efforts lack integrity and any awareness of context or implications of actions. How long such fantasies can be maintained is a question whose answer will be determined.

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Avoidance, denial, hiding – unpleasant information

The price of gasoline is a marker and reminder that energy cost is a critical component in health and safety. There are businesses advertising inefficient ‘alternative’ energy for your home based on massive governmental subsidies. That is one means used to hide costs.

On another front is nuclear energy. The waste issue is a study in obfuscation and misinformation and a new example of that has surfaced. NRC Censors Flub Opportunity to Move Yucca Debate Forward describes how years of government supported research – required because of nuclear FUD mongering – has had its outcomes and conclusions censored.

The problem with this assessment is that it does not respect the context of the Yucca Mountain issue. Given the controversial nature of the debate, the billions of dollars spent on Yucca Mountain, and the project’s importance to the nation’s energy future, the NRC should have figured out a way to give the public access to the staff’s conclusions. Not doing so forces policymakers, the public, and other stakeholders to form opinions based on an incomplete data set. And while the staff conclusions may not represent a final SER, much less commission policy, they would have gone a long way to inform the public debate over Yucca.

And ultimately, that is why the decision to redact the most critical parts of the SER is so disappointing. Despite what Senator Harry Reid (D–NV), Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, or President Obama say, the debate over Yucca is not over, and keeping information out of public view does not change that.

The debate will continue as the ‘common folk’ want to stay warm in winter and cool in summer and will not be happy when they learn about how the costs of their energy have been artificially inflated by means such as illustrated here.

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net neutrality and coping with new ideas

Netflix Could Be Forced To Pay Additional Fees In Canada (But Maybe They Should?). CrunchGear gets to the crux of the issue. Just what is Netflix, anyway?

Traditional media companies in Canada pay a fee that, in effect, subsidizes the production of local, Canadian content.

Netflix, despite being a “broadcaster,” albeit a new type of broadcaster, doesn’t have to pay this fee. And because it doesn’t have to pay this fee it can charge less for its services

Then again, Netflix didn’t have to pay to lay down the broadband infrastructure in the first place. You could say it’s merely piggy-backing off the work of others.

Net neutrality is not so much about being neutral to I’net traffic but rather about who pays and who controls. Up until the popularity of video, such as Netflix provides, there has been something close to a balance between providers and consumers on the network as far as traffic goes. That is why the various parties providing network transport and other services often worked with each other in peering arrangements depending upon their end users for their income.

On demand video has tipped the balance and the entities involved in moving that traffic are struggling to develop new arrangements to get costs, fees, and capabilities back in balance. Meanwhile, the government is starting to take note that video providers – and, by extension, other I’net services – are something like the broadcast media they have been playing with for years. That is behind the Amazon vs Texas in regards to sales taxes brouhaha in recent news. It shows here in municipal production fees and efforts to promote local identities in a storm of big media.

The paradigm is changing. The net neutrality position tries to put a lid on that change, That needs thought.

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Tactics

The manner of debate is one of the primary indicators about the quality of the argument. There are a number of stories this morning that illustrate tactics.

Delingpole describes How the green lobby smears its enemies.The case is Johnny Ball who had the temerity to ask questions about catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. That warranted an attack to impugn him, his name, and his career.

Then there’s this idea of intimidating the families of politicians. Hollingsworth describes how a Group targets Speaker Boehner’s (small-h) house and asks “When did demonstrating at the private homes of politicians or corporate executives become an acceptable way to voice one’s political opinions?”

Then there is the Wisonsin Democrats who have abandoned their seats in the legislature to prevent a quorum and a vote on budget matters, especially those that impact Union power.

The protests also provide material for comparison and contrast. The Tea Party protests that moved the election last November provides a standard and the current – gimme my money – protests are ugly, dirty, and uncivil by comparison.

Peter seems “quite sure” that both Democrats and Republicans would behave this way in similar circumstances. The current events and recent history as well as these events indicate that the equivalence is a desire and not a reality. There is a difference and an acceptance of that difference is necessary before progress can be made.- how can anyone choose which is better if there is no difference?

It should be noted that it was the outcome of the elections in November that started this. The people voted. The protests now are about trying to upend that vote and set it aside. That is the decision

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Tactics to befit the opponent

Choosing the proper tactic is necessary to success. If you are up against a civil opponent, then you can use peaceful and nonviolent tactics. But if you are up against an opponent that has no compunction about killing you, then such tactics are simply useless.

This is why Gandhi and Martin Luther King were successful — not because of the power of pacifism as an ideology but because they were dealing with opposition that was simply too civilized to kill on the scale necessary to defeat them, even though such killing would have been quite easy to accomplish.

Uncle Jimbo suggests taking note of the difference between pacifism and non-violence.

Krikorian makes the point that pacifism in the face of an intractably evil enemy is actually immoral. I could not agree more. Equally immoral is pacifism under the protection of someone else’s militarism. Living as a pacifist in America is absurd and while perfectly legal it is hardly a brave moral stand. If you want to be a morally proud pacifist go do so in the Mullah’s Iran; they stack pacifist’s like cord wood there. But the question then becomes, can the Green movement in Iran, or others in regimes that use violence, succeed using non-violence? Well it didn’t go so well when they tried in 2009. They put up a brave stand, but in the end the Mullahs and their armed thugs deployed enough force to crush the rebellion. Then they began systematic state suppression, torture, rape and murder of many of the leaders of the revolt. They left a pretty good mark, and it kept them down for quite a while.

The topic at BlackFive was the Egyptian turmoil and the position of the U.S. It is also appropriate to those who choose convenient targets for their ire, most often the U.S. or western culture. It even comes up in budget debates as some think the U.S. should just disband its military and get out of any involvements outside of its boundaries – they dismiss the ‘world cop’ idea out of hand because they think all violence in the world is instigated by that US presence.

It is easy to protest the U.S. (or Israel for that matter) because you know you’ll get a ‘civil’ response. In some other contexts, such activity might not be so safe.

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The honesty of the debate: civil rights and the PATRIOT Act

The PATRIOT Act Palpitations provide a case study in selective hyperbolic anti government propaganda that is misdirected and of questionable honesty. It started as a partisan weapon but, since the change in administrations, the flavor has changed to simple FUD mongering.

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told American Thinker that “the Patriot Act is the most misunderstood and misrepresented piece of legislation I have ever seen.  The notion of sweeping powers given to the government is just not true.  It requires a court order or subpoena for the government to do anything.”  Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the Patriot Act, is frustrated at the outcry since none of the provisions was held unconstitutional and no civil liberties violations have ever occurred. He feels that Americans, including members of his own party, need to be educated to understand that all of the provisions need a search warrant from the FISA court (a branch of the federal court) and that the FBI cannot do anything until a petition is granted by a FISA judge.

As with many of these causes, there are questions about just what is actually important. When cops on the street are confiscating cameras and harassing citizens who record police actions, you have actual governmental actions that directly impact citizen rights. That seems to not be worth notice by those who protest the PATRIOT Act and and only point to information gathering and fears but no actual incidents of the repression of civil rights.

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Wisconsin: does a vote matter?

Scott asks Which side are you on?. The Wisconsin elections put up a Governor and a legislature with a mandate to get a handle on the state budget. The government employee unions are going to extremes to overturn that election’s mandate.

McIlheran adds: “Union activists in Madison Tuesday spoke apocalyptically of ‘class war,’ hinting wildly at general strikes and takeovers of the Capitol. They correctly see their control of the state slipping and must figure that if they bring 13,000 shouting people to Madison, they can overrule the election.

In this case with the schools being closed, the arguments about it being for the children ring hollow.

There is a similar phenomena happening at the federal level as the House attempts to rein in spending. That hasn’t yet resulted in governmental employees engaging in questionable labor tactics but it has started up the demagoguery campaign.

Will reason prevail? Private and personal interests are meeting hard limits. The voters will need to reinforce their message.

see also Ed Morrissey: Have teacher unions nuked the fridge?

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perspective on climate change

This is Lindzen’s testimony to the House Subcommittee on Science and technology: Global Warming: How To Approach The Science. No name calling, no judgments of others’ viewpoints, but a very good review of what the argument is all about.

  • It most certainly is not about whether climate is changing: it always is.
  • It is not about whether CO2is increasing: it clearly is.
  • It is not about whether the increase in CO2, by itself, will lead to some warming: it should.

The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes.

Well worth reading to understand the science beneath the arguments.

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Constructed reality and the reduction fallacy

Many seem to want to reduce the Iraq war to a simple matter of WMD. That may be why they are all over a recent story about the defector who says he lied about Iraqi WMD and whose story was a prominent resource for US intelligence. Jay Tea has a good rundown that illustrates just how constructed this meme is. No WMD? BFD. Reducing the war to one issue and then reducing that to one source is a reduction fallacy.

In my universe, things unfolded a little bit differently. First up, no official in the Bush administration ever stated definitively stated that Saddam had WMDs. … Next, in my universe, the WMD issue was not the whole justification for the invasion. It was not even the main one. It was one of 23 justifications, as passed by Congress … Also in my universe, no one in the Bush administration ever tried to tie Saddam to 9/11. Yes, they cited connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda, but they proved those pretty conclusively. Al Qaeda was just one of the numerous Islamist terrorist groups that Saddam supported.

As I said, that’s how things played out in my universe. How do I tell my universe apart from the universe constructed by the left?

He does offer one suggestion for how to discriminate between the two. The problem is that when reality is tossed out the window, anything that one might offer might not be sufficient.

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Those nasty chemical additives

If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache? Alex Renton takes up the story at the guardian. It is about the stuff we eat and the desire to have it ‘pure’ – especially from anything man made. The title illustrates the basic conundrum: how can we prove its bad when its bad effects are only in those who think it bad?

the Japanese – like most Asians, they have no fear of MSG. And there lies one of the world’s great food scare conundrums.

By 1909 the work on kombu was complete. Ikeda made his great announcement in the august pages of the Journal of the Chemical Society of Tokyo. He had isolated, he wrote, a chemical with the molecular formula C5H9NO4. This and the substance’s other properties were exactly the same as those of glutamic acid, an amino acid produced by the human body and present in many foodstuffs. When the protein containing glutamic acid is broken down – by cooking, fermentation or ripening – it becomes glutamate.

MSG arrived in America at a key moment. Mass production of processed food was booming. But canning, freezing and pre-cooking have a grave technical problem in common – loss of flavour. And MSG was a cheap and simple additive that made everything taste better.

But MSG’s conquest of the planet hit a major bump in April 1968, when, in the New England Journal of Medicine, a Dr Ho Man Kwok wrote a chatty article, not specifically about MSG, whose knock-on effects were to panic the food industry.

And so was born Chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS) and a medico-academic industry dedicated to the researching and publicising of the dangers of MSG – the foreign migrant contaminating American kitchens.

Other scientists were testing MSG and finding no evidence of harm

Others say that fear of MSG is a form of mass psychosis – you suffer the symptoms you’ve been told to worry about.

The fact is that, since the eighties, mainstream science has got bored of MSG.

popular opinion has travelled – spectacularly – in the opposite direction to science.

Thus since 1968 the processed food industry has had its own nasty headache as a result of MSG. Hundreds of processed products would have to be withdrawn if amino-acid based flavour-enhancers could not be used. They would become, simply, tasteless. By the 1980s a third of all Americans believed it was actively harmful. Crisp-buying teenagers thought MSG made them stupid and spotty. Mothers read that MSG could put holes in their children’s brains.

So the food industry employed its usual tactic in the face of consumer criticism: MSG was buried by giving it new names. The industry came up with a fabulous range of euphemisms for monosodium glutamate – the most cheeky of all is ‘natural flavourings’ (however, the industry did remove MSG from high-end baby foods).

Nowadays the industry’s PR beats a big drum. ‘Natural, Tasty, Safe’ is the slogan. ‘Many people believe that monosodium glutamate is made from chemicals

The anti-additive movement (check out the excellent and informative www.truthinlabeling.org) admits that ‘natural’ and ‘industrially produced’ glutamate are chemically the same, and treated by the body similarly. So why doesn’t anyone ever complain of a headache or hyperactivity after a four cheese and tomato pizza (where there’s easily as much glutamate as in an MSG-enhanced chicken chow mein)?

Let’s see: Alarmism out of the sixties? Check. Misanthropic flavor? Check. Little or no empirical support? Check. Save the children fear mongering? Check. Make life more miserable? Check.

There are many of these issues and food scares are only one category. It should be a study in its own right. Perhaps it is?

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