America is angry

November 30, 2009

A stunning result from Rasmussen:

Seventy-one percent (71%) of voters nationwide say they’re at least somewhat angry about the current policies of the federal government. That figure includes 46% who are Very Angry. . .

The data suggests that the level of anger is growing. The 71% who are angry at federal government policies today is up five percentage points since September. Even more stunning, the 46% who are Very Angry is up 10 percentage points from September.

Wow. I hope Washington is trembling.

(Via Power Line.)

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Smart diplomacy

November 30, 2009

At Commentary:

The overseas reviews for President Obama’s foreign policy are starting to pour in — and they’re not favorable.

With many examples. (Via Instapundit.)


Honduras carries out its election

November 30, 2009

Fox News reports:

Conservative rancher Porfirio Lobo won Honduras’ presidential elections Sunday in voting that many Hondurans hope will end a crippling crisis and others fear will whitewash the overthrow of a leftist leader in a June coup.

Preliminary official results showed the opposition National Party candidate with 56 percent support with more than 60 percent of the vote tally sheets counted. His main rival, Elvin Santos of the ruling Liberal Party, conceded defeat, saying it is time for “unity, the only path to confront the future and ensure the victory of all Hondurans.”

Perhaps more importantly, election officials said more than 60 percent of registered voters cast ballots — a victory for interim leaders who hoped a large turnout would bolster the vote’s legitimacy in the eyes of the world.

Good for them. The United States has promised to recognize the results. We’ll see if President Obama keeps that promise.

UPDATE: More on the election here. And this part is interesting:

Mr. Zelaya had already showed his hand when he organized a mob to try to carry out a June 28 popular referendum so that he could cancel the elections and remain in office. That was unlawful, and he was arrested by order of the Supreme Court and later removed from power by Congress for violating the constitution.

It is less well-known that as president, according to an electoral-council official I interviewed in Tegucigalpa two weeks ago, Mr. Zelaya had refused to transfer the budgeted funds—as required by law—to the council for its preparatory work. In other words, he didn’t want a free election.

Mr. Chávez didn’t want one either. During the Zelaya government the country had become a member of Mr. Chávez’s Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which includes Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. If power changed hands, Honduran membership would be at risk.

Last week a government official told me that Honduran intelligence has learned that Mr. Zelaya had made preparations to welcome all the ALBA presidents to the country the night of his planned June referendum. Food for a 10,000-strong blowout celebration, the official added, was on order.

(Via Instapundit.)


Decision-making, dithering, and sitting on desks

November 29, 2009

Last month, Robert Gibbs fired back at Dick Cheney’s (inarguable) accusation that President Obama is dithering about Afghanistan, saying:

The vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan. Even more curious given the fact that an increase in troops sat on desks in this White House, including the vice president’s, for more than eight months, a resource request filled by President Obama in March.

Obviously Gibbs’s effort to tie in the vice president is rubbish, since the vice president is not in the chain of command. But what about the central accusation that the request sat on President Bush’s desk for more than eight months?

The St. Petersburg Times’s “Truth-o-meter” rates the accusation true, observing that Gen. McKiernan (apparently) started issuing requests for more troops when he took over in Afghanistan, about eight months before the end of President Bush’s term, and those requests were not fully fulfilled during the Bush administration.

If “sat on desks” meant the same thing as “was not fully fulfilled”, then Gibbs and the St. Petersburg Times would have a strong case. (Of course, by that definition, Gen. McChrystal’s request will probably be sitting on Obama’s desk forever, since all indications are that it will not be fully granted.) But that’s not what the phrase means. To “sit on a desk” means that no decision was made. That is not at all the case with Gen. McKiernan’s requests for troops.

As ABC News explains, McKiernan made several requests for troops over his months in command, totaling about 30,000 troops. Some of the requests were granted, but most were not, as the Surge in Iraq was making heavy demands. Instead, the Bush administration tried to get NATO to fill the gap. By the fall of 2008 it was clear that NATO was not going to come through, and with the Surge winding down, more US troops were available for Afghanistan and were sent. In March 2009, with Iraq quiet and troops withdrawals underway, the balance was sent by President Obama.

So what you saw from President Bush is the normal process of allocating scarce military resources where they are most needed. In other words, you saw decision-making. In March you saw the same from President Obama. But now, on the other hand, you see Obama unable to make a decision. Dithering.

ABC put it bluntly:

So Gibbs’s claim that for “eight months” McKiernan’s request for troops “sat on desks” isn’t accurate.

It’s no surprise that Gibbs is wrong; he usually is. But so, it seems, is the St. Petersburg Times. Last month I noted that the “Truth-o-meter” rated several true criticisms of the Obama administration as false. Here it rated a false defense of the Obama administration as true. What use is a fact checker that sides with the administration regardless of the facts?


Iran plans 10 new uranium enrichment plants

November 29, 2009

What would a completely failed Iran policy look like, if not like this?

Iran’s government has approved plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants, according to state media.

The government told the Iranian nuclear agency to begin work on five sites, with five more to be located over the next two months.

It comes days after the UN nuclear watchdog rebuked Iran for covering up a uranium enrichment plant.

President Obama said we could fix all our problems by talking to everyone and taking coercion off the table. Iran is mocking him for his trouble.

(Via Instapundit.)


The climate scandal

November 28, 2009

As an outsider to the global warming debate, as nearly all of us are, it is hard to evaluate the claims and counter-claims. Some say there is a consensus. Is that true, and if so, is the consensus right or merely the product of group-think?

Last year, I was able to have a conversation with a mainstream (i.e., not a “skeptic”) climate scientist and got his account of the state of play in the field. He said that the evidence is very good that the climate is warming and that carbon dioxide levels are increasing, and that it seems very likely that humans are responsible. In regard to projections of future climate, he said that the direct effect of increased carbon dioxide is not very large, and estimating the indirect effects depends on computer models.

Unfortunately, (this is my opinion now, not his), we cannot rely on the computer models, because they do not make predictions that we can test, so we really don’t have any good science for predicting the future. Nevertheless, we have a pretty good idea about the past.

That’s what I thought, but my confidence was shaken two months ago when I read a National Review article alleging that prominent climate researchers refused to reveal their data and methodology. The allegation is serious; if true, it completely undermines their work. We don’t accept scientists’ word for their results. Even if a scientist is honest, he might make a mistake. We need to be able to verify the results. Refusing to reveal the data and methodology is like a mathematician claiming a theorem and refusing to provide the proof. Such a result is worthless.

Even worse, the article alleged that the researchers withheld their data specifically to keep it from skeptical scrutiny, saying: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” The answer is: because that’s how science works.

Still, the article seemed to be based on interviews with just one side, so perhaps they weren’t a fair account of what happened. I did some googling, but I was unable to verify the claims independently. So I waited, hoping something would come out to clarify matters. And now, of course, something has.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave without internet access, or you get your news from the mainstream media, you’ve heard of the leaked emails and documents from the Hadley CRU. They show that the National Review article was absolutely accurate. The Hadley researchers were determined to withhold their data, specifically to protect it from skeptical scrutiny [122833062910596647041074277559, 12543451741256735067]. They were even prepared to delete it, rather than release it to the wrong people [1107454306, 1212073451].

The emails also show a deliberate campaign to corrupt the peer-review system. They discussed submitted papers (which are supposed to be confidential) and how to sabotage them [10547569291077829152, 1233249393]. They worked to oust editors with a skeptical bent, or who were even suspected of a skeptical bent [1051190249, 1106322460]. They spoke explicitly of “plugging the leak” at journals that sometimes published the work of skeptics [1132094873]. So when people speak of a consensus among peer-reviewed research, it turns out that doesn’t mean as much as you might think.

But let’s return to the withholding of data and methodology, because it turns out they had much to conceal. I’m not sure if the data was included in the leak; if so I haven’t seen an analysis of it yet. However, the code is part of the leak, and the code, frankly, is complete crap.

One file, the now infamous HARRY_READ_ME.txt, chronicles the effort of one poor programmer (Ian Harris, according to Real Climate) to maintain the code base for one of their temperature databases. It documents endless problems with the code: subscripts out of range, segmentation faults, overflow (e.g., causing a sum of squares to become negative), underflow, division by zero, silently ignoring exceptions. Pretty much a complete disaster. (UPDATE: Good link as of January 2014.)

ASIDE: The last one is so appalling it’s worth a short look. (Fuller story here.) At one point in Harry’s tale he had to deal with the code that determines whether a station contributes to a cell (whatever that means). This amounts to determining whether two points are within a certain range of each other. Rather than do the necessary geometric calculation, the code uses the graphics library instead (!):

..well that was, erhhh.. ‘interesting’. The IDL gridding program calculates whether or not a station contributes to a cell, using.. graphics. Yes, it plots the station sphere of influence then checks for the colour white in the output.

But better yet, when IDL occasionally generates a plotting error, the code simply ignores it and moves on. (You can find this in documents/cru-code/idl/pro/quick_interp_tdm2.pro).

There’s much, much, more. Near the end of Harry’s tale of horror comes this:

I am seriously close to giving up, again. The history of this is so complex that I can’t get far enough into it before by head hurts and I have to stop. Each parameter has a tortuous history of manual and semi-automated interventions that I simply cannot just go back to early versions and run the update prog. I could be throwing away all kinds of corrections – to lat/lons, to WMOs (yes!), and more.

The bottom line is that nothing their code produces can be trusted.

Some people are delighted by all this. I am not. Instead, I am furious. As a libertarian, I would like to believe that global warming is a myth, but I have thought it unlikely that an entire scientific field could be wrong. But now, who’s to say? Since it now appears that the peer-review process in climate science is corrupt, an outsider cannot begin to assess which claims are valid and which are not; we can only assess which ones are in and which are out. I feel as though I’ve been lied to. (And perhaps I have. How can I know?)

It would be exaggerating to draw from this that there is no science of climate, but not by all that much. Here’s the thing: climate change matters, if it is real that is (which I still think it probably is, retrospectively at least). It would be useful for us to know something about it.

(Previous post.)


Health care opinion shifts dramatically

November 28, 2009

A new Rasmussen poll shows that the health care debate has shifted public opinion dramatically over the last year-and-a-half:

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent. That marks a steady increase from 44% at the beginning of October, 35% in May and 29% a year-and-a-half ago.

They say you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone, but in this case it appears that the American public is coming to appreciate what it has just before it’s gone. It may be too late to save it, though. We’ll see.

(Via the Corner.)


Don’t feed the hungry

November 27, 2009

According to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, over half of New York’s soup kitchens were not able to distribute enough food to meet demand. At the same time, New York’s soup kitchens have been required by law to throw out perfectly good food because it contains trans fat.

I’m sure everyone who remained hungry is thankful that Mike Bloomberg is looking out for them.

(Via Instapundit.)


Noted fugitive makes bail

November 26, 2009

Fox News reports:

The Swiss government says it will release Roman Polanski on bail and place him under house arrest at his chalet in the Alps. . . A Swiss court has granted Polanski release on a bail of $4.5 million and under condition of electronic monitoring and house arrest.

What could go wrong?


Circling the wagons

November 25, 2009

The University of East Anglia (home of the Hadley CRU) has decided to circle the wagons. In a statement issued by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, they claim to have done nothing wrong. The statement includes some howlers:

In relation to the specific requests at issue here, we have handled and responded to each request in a consistent manner in compliance with the appropriate legislation. No record has been deleted, altered, or otherwise dealt with in any fashion with the intent of preventing the disclosure of all, or any part, of the requested information.

Phil Jones said something similar to the Guardian:

We’ve not deleted any emails or data here at CRU.

This is plainly untrue, as this shows:

The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.

And this:

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.

And this:

About 2 months ago I deleted loads of emails, so have very little – if anything at all.

The statement also says this:

The Climatic Research Unit holds many data series, provided to the Unit over a period of several decades, from a number of nationally-funded institutions and other research organisations around the world, with specific agreements made over restrictions in the dissemination of those original data. All of these individual series have been used in CRU’s analyses. It is a time-consuming process to attempt to gain approval from these organisations to release the data.

I have no idea if they went through the motions or not, but it is plain as day that they are unwilling to release the data. As the first email above said, the head of the CRU would “delete the file rather than send [it] to anyone”. And he has said openly his reason for refusing to release the data: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

This part takes chutzpah:

The University of East Anglia and CRU are committed to scientific integrity, open debate and enhancing understanding. This includes a commitment to the international peer-review system upon which progress in science relies. It is this tried and tested system which has underpinned the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is through that process that we can engage in respectful and informed debate with scientists whose analyses appear not to be consistent with the current overwhelming consensus on climate change.

But the emails show plainly that CRU has deliberately corrupted the peer-review process. Also, the “respectful and informed debate” includes celebrating the death of a skeptical colleague.

The statement concludes:

We have, therefore, decided to conduct an independent review, which will address the issue of data security, an assessment of how we responded to a deluge of Freedom of Information requests, and any other relevant issues which the independent reviewer advises should be addressed.

Obviously a lot of stuff could fit under “other relevant issues”, but the administration at least doesn’t view CRU’s corruption of the peer-review process and the plausible allegations of data tampering as requiring investigation. You would think they would want to investigate them, if only to clear their name. If they are innocent, that is.

(Via Roger L. Simon, via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


No experience required

November 25, 2009

This chart examines the percentage of cabinet secretaries with private sector experience over the years:

One data point does seem to stand out.

(Via Instapundit.)


Non-Democrats despise Democrats

November 24, 2009

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, independents now favor the GOP over the Democratic party by 24 points (44-20).

Also, a majority (53%) fears that the government will do too much to the economy (gee, where could they get that idea?), only 37% fear it won’t do enough.


Bad code offsets

November 24, 2009

Awesome:

I have never written a bad line of code.

When I tell people that, they often scoff and offer replies like “so you’re not a programmer then?” and “let me guess, you’re a coding deity or something?” Well let me say, I am a programmer and I am not Codethulu, but in the same manner that Al Gore can fly around the world in a private jet without polluting, I have negated my bad code footprint through the purchase of Bad Code Offsets.

Sounds like a growth industry to me.


One more week

November 24, 2009

The White House has announced that President Obama will announce his decision on troops for Afghanistan in another week. That will be 93 days after Gen. McChrystal delivered his report on August 30.

Interestingly, the entire initial Afghan campaign took 97 days (from 9/11 until the last cave in Tora Bora was cleared on December 17), just four days longer than it will have taken Obama to make a decision.

UPDATE: Has Obama made up his mind? Many think he has, and rumored decision is getting positive reviews. But the rumors have been wrong before. If he has made up his mind, why would he delay announcing it? It’s hard to see any political benefit he gets by delaying further.


More on the Hadley scandal

November 24, 2009

The most troubling aspect of the scandal arising from the Hadley CRU emails is the perversion of the peer review process. True, there is no doubt that the Hadley researchers withheld their data from skeptical scrutiny, and it appears that they may have even fudged their data, but those offenses taint only their own work. But by subverting the peer review process, they have tainted their entire field. The documents make clear that the Hadley researchers and their correspondents worked successfully to oust journal editors who had views contrary to theirs, or who they even suspected had such views:

Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.

Worse, they did not follow proper protocol in refereeing submitted papers. Submitted papers are supposed to be confidential until accepted for publication, but the emails are rife with discussion of papers under review. For example:

With free wifi in my room, I’ve just seen that M+M have submitted a paper to IJC on your H2 statistic – using more years, up to 2007. They have also found your PCMDI data -laughing at the directory name – FOIA? Also they make up statements saying you’ve done this following Obama’s statement about openness in government! Anyway you’ll likely get this for review, or poor Francis will. Best if both Francis and Myles did this. If I get an email from Glenn I’ll suggest this.

Examples such as these make it clear that the peer-review process is not working property in climate science. Now I don’t believe, as some do, that this scandal somehow washes away all the evidence that the earth’s climate is warming, likely due to human activity. There is still much convincing evidence that it is.

What the scandal does do is destroy any notion that there is a consensus among scientists on the matter. Whatever consensus might appear to exist is because some have conspired (I use the word deliberately) to silence opposing views. Climate science, as a field, needs to take affirmative steps to right its ship, and quickly.

As George Monbiot (an impeccably credentialed British environmental activist) put it:

It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

I’m also deeply disillusioned by RealClimate.org. In their view, the leak did not expose a problem in the field, but rather the leak itself is the problem, and they are focusing on explaining away the damning material in it. Worse is this email from the leak:

Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [RealClimate.org] in any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.

You’re also welcome to do a followup guest post, etc. think of RC as a resource that is at your disposal to combat any disinformation put forward by the McIntyres of the world. Just let us know. We’ll use our best discretion to make sure the skeptics dont’get to use the RC comments as a megaphone…

(Emphasis mine.) This makes clear that Real Climate is simply not, as it is billed, an impartial scientific resource. Pity. It would have been nice to have such a thing.

I culled this information from mainly from two summaries: by Charlie Martin and Iain Murray.

POSTSCRIPT: I want to note again that for those fighting ruinous government proposals like cap and trade, this is the wrong hill to die on. The work discussed here is primarily paleoclimatology, the study of past climate. What matters to policy is future climate, and the work in climate projection is very weak, as I discussed here. Our purposes are not served by making paleoclimatology the center of the debate.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Health care reform hits new low in polls

November 23, 2009

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, support for the Democratic plan has fallen to just 38%. Opposition is at 56%, which matches the old high. Other indicators are strongly against the plan as well:

  • Those who feel strongly oppose the plan by a two-to-one margin (43-21).
  • The vast majority of both Republicans (83%) and independents (70%) oppose the plan.
  • Seniors oppose the plan by a near two-to-one margin (60-34).
  • A majority of every age group except the young-and-stupid (under 30) opposes the plan.
  • By a four-to-one margin (60-16), the public believes that the plan will increase costs rather than reduce them.
  • A majority (54%) believe the plan will hurt health care.
  • Two-thirds (66%) recognize that free-market competition will do more than government regulation to reduce costs.
  • Less than a third (31%) believe that Congress understands the reform it is considering.

Democrats have lost the debate, but seem ready to press on with a “reform” plan that the public does not want.


AP misstates Polanski plea bargain

November 23, 2009

As part of an AP article about Roman Polanski’s effort to be released on bail (seriously!), they write:

Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation.

This is false. As Patterico documents, the judge never agreed any such thing.

(Via Patterico.)


Wow

November 23, 2009

A man believed by doctors to be in a vegetative state for 23 years was actually conscious the whole time. (Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: A commenter points out this, arguing that the whole thing is a hoax.


Obama loses his core supporters

November 23, 2009

I refer, of course to the media.

Chris Matthews (of the legendary leg thrill):

In the Carter presidency, the optics were not exactly robust, and Ronald Reagan rode that to a big victory in 1980. Is the Obama White House sending some Carteresque signals these days?

Maureen Dowd:

Barack Obama, who once had his own electric book tour testing the waters for a campaign, could learn a thing or three from Palin. On Friday, for the first time, his Gallup poll approval rating dropped below 50 percent, and he’s losing the independents who helped get him elected. . .

The animating spirit that electrified his political movement has sputtered out. . .

Obama showed a flair for the theatrical during his campaign, and a talent for narrative in his memoir, but he has yet to translate those skills to governing.

Of course, neither of them actually admits there is anything wrong with the president’s principles. But they do see that he is failing to convey to the people why his disastrous policies aren’t as disastrous as they seem.

Also, Saturday Night Live cuts loose on Obama in a funny skit that is actually only slightly too long.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds adds:

I think Obama’s “charisma” was based on voter narcissism — people excited not just about electing a black President, but about themselves, voting for a black President. Now that’s over, and they’re stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there’s not much there to fill out the suit. As Ann Althouse says, “I think what Obama seems to have become, he always was.”

UPDATE: Also the London Times:

The real problem may be Obama’s friends — or rather, those among his formerly most enthusiastic supporters who are now having second thoughts.

The doubters are suddenly stretching across a broad section of the Democratic party’s natural constituency. They include black congressional leaders upset by the sluggish economy; women and Hispanics appalled by concessions made to Republicans on healthcare; anti-war liberals depressed by the debate over troops for Afghanistan; and growing numbers of blue-collar workers who are continuing to lose their jobs and homes.

Obama’s Asian adventure perceptibly increased the murmurings of dissent when he returned to Washington last week, having failed to wring any public concessions from China on any major issue.

And Germany’s Der Spiegel:

Obama’s Nice Guy Act Gets Him Nowhere on the World Stage

When he entered office, US President Barack Obama promised to inject US foreign policy with a new tone of respect and diplomacy. His recent trip to Asia, however, showed that it’s not working. A shift to Bush-style bluntness may be coming.

ASIDE: If only he conducted all our foreign policy with the “nice guy act” we would be a little better off. The hallmark of the Carter/Obama foreign policy is softness with hostile regimes but toughness with friends. Softness with everyone would be stupid, and so would toughness with everyone, but either would still be better than what we have now.

Even the New York Times can manage only a lukewarm defense:

President Obama has faced a fair amount of criticism for his China trip. He was too deferential; he didn’t speak out enough on human rights; he failed to press Beijing firmly on revaluing its currency; he achieved no concrete results. The trip wasn’t all that we had hoped it would be, but some of the complaints are premature.

(Via Hot Air.)


Hypocrisy

November 23, 2009

Oh geez, the New York Times has this to say about the Hadley hack:

The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

If the documents were illegally leaked CIA documents containing information sensitive to national security, the New York Times would be the first to publish them.

(Via Ed Driscoll.)


Reid bill individual mandate does not apply to illegal aliens

November 22, 2009

Keith Hennessey explains. (Via Instapundit.)


SEIU official threatens Boy Scout

November 22, 2009

This is appalling:

[Allentown’s] top union boss decided to attack a young man for organizing an effort to improve a city park pathway as a way of becoming an Eagle Scout. . .

”We’ll be looking into the Cub Scout or Boy Scout who did the trails,” council was warned by Nick Balzano, head of the local Service Employees International Union.

”There’s to be no volunteers,” Balzano thundered, because such work must be done by union types, even if they normally were disinclined to do it before some of them got laid off by the city in July.

When the SEIU members were still on the job, they let a 1,000-foot section of a walking and biking path in Kimmets Lock Park along the Lehigh River become choked with vegetation and trash. . . With city Parks Department permission, Eagle Scout candidate Kevin Anderson, 17, a member of Center Valley’s Boy Scout Troop 301, organized work details to clear brush and trees, poison ivy, old tires and other debris from the path.

The Boy-Scout-bashing angle is so outrageous, it’s easy to miss the broader picture of what was happening here. As leverage against the city, union workers were refusing to do their job, and they were trying to keep anyone else (such as the Scouts) from doing it either. They wanted the path to stay impassable.

They were sending a message: give us what we want or we will screw up the city. Although the SEIU hung Barzano out to dry for sending the message stupidly, I don’t see any indication that they’ve repented their broader extortion.

(Via Instapundit.)


Scientists behaving badly

November 22, 2009

In my previous post, I discussed my take on global warming. While climate scientists have learned much, the science of predicting the future climate is not done (as some activists claim). In fact, it would be more accurate to say that it has yet to begin. This isn’t the fault of the climate scientists; they are doing the best they can, but you simply cannot test long-term models in the short term.

That was my position until a couple of days ago. In broad strokes, my position has not changed, but I’ve been forced to revise one aspect. In light of the leaked emails and documents from the Hadley Climate Research Unit, I can only say that most climate scientists are doing the best they can.

A hacker broke into the computer system at the Hadley CRU and obtained hundreds of emails, data sets, and other files, and then released them on the internet. At first there was some question whether the files were genuine, but it now appears that they are authentic, or at least substantially so.

The files show that the Hadley scientists and their correspondents have been behaving in a very unscientific manner. The best summaries I’ve found are by John Hinderaker (here and here) and Bishop Hill. They show:

  • These scientists worked very hard to control access to their data, allowing access only to those who could be trusted to support their conclusions. They were willing to forgo publishing in journals that required data to be made public. They were even willing to go so far as to delete data rather than release it to Freedom of Information requests. (In light of this article, I’m not as shocked by this as I might have been.)
  • The scientists failed to observe proper protocol refereeing papers.
  • The scientists plotted to discredit a journal that sometimes published articles skeptical of anthropogenic global warming.
  • The scientists took the debate personally and emotionally, even to the extent of celebrating the death of a prominent skeptic.

Some of the emails appear to admit fudging data, but we don’t know the context of the messages, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they have a benign explanation. I think it’s better to focus on the broader pattern.

The broader pattern is the scientists at Hadley are not behaving like scientists but as activists. Rather than subjecting their data and methodology to scrutiny, they are hiding them from it. Rather than welcoming new ideas, they are fighting to silence them. Their behavior is utterly unacceptable, and it has tarnished their entire field.

The field of climate science now needs to take a serious look at itself and figure out how it can restore its credibility. Releasing all their data would be a good — indeed, essential — first step. Alas, if the folks at RealClimate.org are any guide, it’s not likely to happen. They argue that there’s nothing to see here; everything is fine. It’s not. If they think this sort of thing is okay, then their field has a bigger problem than just Hadley.

There are those of us who would like to defend the scientists and their work, even while we debate what can and should be done about it. But they’re making it a lot harder.

UPDATE: My point exactly:

Astonishingly, what appears, at least at first blush, to have emerged is that (a) the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend; (b) they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data; (c) the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests; and (d) they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals.

There may be a perfectly innocent explanation. But what is clear is that the integrity of the scientific evidence on which not merely the British Government, but other countries, too, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claim to base far-reaching and hugely expensive policy decisions, has been called into question. And the reputation of British science has been seriously tarnished. A high-level independent inquiry must be set up without delay.

There may be an innocent explanation for (a). I hope there is. But (b), (c), and (d) are certainly true, unless there is widespread forgery throughout the documents, and all indications are to the contrary. The climate science community (I’m thinking particularly of the Real Climate guys) need to get in front of this and take a serious, public look at themselves. If they persist in their failure to see how damning this is, they will seriously damage their field.

(Via Instapundit.)


The global warming debate

November 21, 2009

In the global warming (aka climate change) debate, I have been skeptical of both sides: those who say that the sky is falling and also those who say that the whole thing is a fraud. In my own conversations with climate scientists, I have found that they are much more careful and measured than the politicians and activists.

It is clear that carbon-dioxide levels are increasing and it seems likely that humanity is the principal cause. If we project future carbon-dioxide levels (an educated guess), it’s a simple physics calculation to determine the direct effect on the climate. The direct effect is not very large. But then there are the indirect effects. For example, slightly higher temperatures lead to polar ice melting, which leads to more water vapor, which either accelerates or counteracts climate change depending on the altitude at which the new clouds form. Predicting the future path of climate change depends entirely on the indirect effects, and we simply don’t know what they will be.

To try to guess the indirect effects, climate scientists have turned to computer models. Many of the models show dire consequences on increasing CO2 levels and some do not. Which, if any, of the models is accurate we simply do not know. The models generally do not make predictions that we can test, and those few that do have not performed well.

So when professional alarmists like Al Gore say the science of climate change is complete, they have it almost completely backwards. If we’re talking about projecting the future (which is what matters to public policy, after all), it would be more accurate to say that the science has not yet begun.

I am not a climate scientist, but I am a scientist. Science happens when you pose a hypothesis and devise an experiment that can test the hypothesis. (Or, better yet, when you prove a theorem, but that’s not in the cards for climate science.) In the physical sciences you can never prove a hypothesis conclusively, but if enough experiments fail to disprove it, you start to consider it confirmed.

When it comes to climate projection, all the models tell us is what will happen if the world responds in a particular manner. They have not been tested against the real world, and they can’t be. This isn’t the fault of the climate scientists; they’re doing the best they can. You simply cannot test long-term predictions in the short term. One does not have to be a climate scientist to recognize this fact.

Now it might be that the potential consequences of global warming are so dire that we must undertake a program of remediation without knowing what will happen. But it is plainly dishonest to claim that the science is done when it is not. Moreover, when it comes to policy, we must also recognize that there is another side of the equation, the economic question of what is possible. And there is considerable evidence that proposed strategies to fight global warming simply cannot be accomplished with existing technology.

My personal opinion is that we should look at reasonable, cost-effective steps for controlling CO2 emissions, such as expanding nuclear energy and researching new technologies such as carbon sequestration. We should also look seriously at geoengineering in case the worst comes to pass.

POSTSCRIPT: This post was occasioned by the scandal arising from the leaked emails and documents from the Hadley CRU. I’ll be writing about that shortly. (UPDATE: Here.)

UPDATE: Richard Lindzen, an well-respected and impeccably credentialled climate scientist at MIT, has an op-ed about climate feedback (what I called indirect effects) here. (Via Volokh.)


SEIU ballot fraud

November 21, 2009

The National Union of Healthcare Workers is alleging that the SEIU engaged in illegal tactics — including intimidation and ballot tampering — in an election in which workers were choosing which of the two unions would represent them. If true, and the allegations seem solid, this shows that the SEIU will not only use illegal tactics against (evil capitalist) businesses, but also against other labor unions.

More here.


ACORN mismanages grant money

November 21, 2009

Well here’s a shocker:

A report Friday by the Justice Department’s independent inspector general revealed that ACORN won approval for nearly $200,000 in Justice grants since 2002 and mismanaged some of the money.


Senate slaps Burris on the wrist

November 20, 2009

The Senate Ethics Committee has “admonished” Roland Burris (D-IL) for the lies he told (under oath) about the circumstances of his Senate appointment, but did not recommend any penalty. Well, I guess we already knew that perjury is no big deal any more.


The Tartan opposes higher taxes

November 20, 2009

It all depends on whose ox is getting gored. Ordinarily, the editorial board of the Tartan — CMU’s student newspaper — will reliably support the entire liberal agenda, including higher taxes. Ah, but a tuition tax, that would be a tax on them! The Tartan is against a tuition tax. Taxes, you see, are for other people.

I am against the tuition tax, and I hope to see it defeated. But I am delighted to see the Tartan getting mugged by reality.

UPDATE (12/19): Tom Blumer has a similar take. (Via Instapundit.)


How stupid is Media Matters?

November 20, 2009

Last September, Media Matters wrote:

On September 23, Los Angeles Times media critic James Rainey reported that ACORN official Lavelle Stewart “told me this week” that when conservative videographers James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles came to Stewart’s ACORN office in Los Angeles disguised as a pimp and prostitute, Stewart “tried to get the ‘prostitute,’ who claimed she had been beaten by her pimp, to go to a women’s center.” Stewart’s reported statement and a police report filed by officials at ACORN’s Philadelphia office undermine O’Keefe’s and Giles’ claims that they were never rebuffed at any of the ACORN offices they visited, and the videographers have yet to release the Los Angeles and Philadelphia videos.

In writing so, Media Matters showed an amazing credulity. Lavelle Stewart’s claim surely contradicted O’Keefe and Giles, but did it really “undermine” them? Only if you’re inclined to accept the word of ACORN. Considering how ACORN has lied every step of the way, one ought to be reluctant to do so.

ACORN’s Philadelphia defense was debunked last month, when O’Keefe and Giles released their Philadelphia video, which showed them not at all being rebuffed.

Now it’s Lavelle Stewart’s turn. The latest ACORN video shows not only that Stewart did not rebuff O’Keefe and Giles, it shows that her conduct was the most inexcusable yet. It is on Stewart’s now-thoroughly-discredited word that Media Matters, and LA Times columnist James Rainey, hung their entire case.

It’s fun to see Media Matters get egg on their face again. (I really couldn’t care less about James Rainey.) I’m puzzled, though. Why would they put themselves out on a limb like this, accepting crediting ACORN’s word when they have repeatedly lied since the beginning of the affair?

Look, I understand ACORN a little. They look ridiculous when they repeatedly lie, and each time Andrew Breitbart releases a video that exposes their lie. But ACORN has a lousy hand to play. They either need to clean up their act (apparently out of the question), or try their best to play defense.

But Media Matters is not at the center of the affair. They didn’t have to get involved. They could have preserved what credibility they have but staying out of it, or at least by injecting an appropriate note of skepticism. Instead, they jumped in with both feet. They credulously accepted ACORN’s word, despite their repeated dishonesty, and rejected the word of O’Keefe and Giles. They made themselves a laughingstock. Why would they do that?

(Via Patterico, via Instapundit.)


The gauntlet is thrown

November 20, 2009

Andrew Breitbart issues Eric Holder a warning:

Not only are there more tapes, it’s not just ACORN. And this message is to Attorney General Holder: I want you to know that we have more tapes, it’s not just ACORN, and we’re going to hold out until the next election cycle, or else if you want to do a clean investigation, we will give you the rest of what we have.

Do you think Breitbart is bluffing? He’s had the goods every single time so far.

(Previous post.)


Kevin Johnson scandal expands

November 20, 2009

It was just misappropriation of funds, now it’s also sexual misconduct and hush money. And President Obama has placed himself at the middle of the scandal by firing the government’s investigator.

(Via Instapundit.)


Independents bail on Obama

November 20, 2009

According to the latest Fox poll, President Obama’s approval rating has dropped from 50-41 (favorable-unfavorable) at the end of last month to 46-46 today. The average approval rating of a president at this point in his term is 56, so Obama is underperforming by 10 points.

The sharp slide in Obama’s popularity is due to independents. Opinions of Democrats and Republicans shifted no more than a point during the period. Independents, however, went from 49-34 (i.e., +15) to 34-51 (i.e., -17). That’s a staggering 32-point shift in just three weeks.

I think we’re seeing the electorate finally getting wise to whom they’ve elected. In just the last few weeks they’ve watched the president lose the health care debate, dither on Afghanistanwage war against Fox News, and move the 9/11 mastermind to civilian court. They’ve watched him tour the world, accomplishing absolutely nothing but making an ass of himself in the process. And they’ve seen the reports of jobs created or saved by his stimulus package unmasked as a complete fraud. The bloom is off the rose and it’s not coming back.

POSTSCRIPT: Lest the Fox poll be considered an outlier, the president is actually doing better in the Fox poll than the Rasmussen poll, which has him at 46-53 overall.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Gallup has him at 49 so Fox’s result seems well within the mainstream.


ACORN video #8

November 20, 2009

In O’Keefe and Giles’s last ACORN video (#7 if you’re counting) on the Los Angeles office, they encountered an ACORN staffer who actually refused to assist them with their feigned scheme of child prostitution and human trafficking. He did not, however, throw them out of the office. (Recall that Los Angeles is one of the five cities in which ACORN claimed — falsely in at least three cases — that it threw out O’Keefe and Giles.)

ACORN claimed in a message to the LA Times that O’Keefe and Giles were thrown out of a different office:

In an email, ACORN disputed O’Keefe’s claim, saying that the filmmaker earlier had gone to an ACORN office on South Grand Avenue in L.A. with the scenario and was turned away.

Anyone who has followed the ACORN scandal has to be skeptical about this claim, as ACORN has repeatedly lied at every turn. I commented, “Why anyone would still put any credence in ACORN’s stories at this point is beyond me.” And I was right.

The latest ACORN video is out, and it’s from — you guessed it — the ACORN office on South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Not only does it show O’Keefe and Giles not being thrown out of the office, it shows an ACORN staffer engaging in the most inexcusable behavior yet.

The staffer advises them to “hook up with somebody who is on that international sex business level” and offers to do research for them. She also makes additional remarks that, if their context is fairly represented (and O’Keefe and Giles have given us no reason to doubt them), seem to condone trafficking in minors.

This latest video is amazing because it shows ACORN engaging in its worst behavior yet in the very office that ACORN cited in its defense. Clearly ACORN is irredeemably corrupt, but it’s becoming hard to escape the conclusion that it is also stupid.

At every stage of the scandal, O’Keefe, Giles, and Andrew Breitbart have had the goods to disprove ACORN’s repeated lies. And yet ACORN keeps lying. And keeps getting busted. It is unfathomable to me that they haven’t figured this out yet. How is it possible that an organization of corrupt, immoral idiots can be so influential?

(Previous post.)


State panel rejects tuition tax

November 19, 2009

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

The state-picked Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority today unanimously rejected Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s budget, saying that the inclusion of $16.2 million he hopes to get from a tuition tax doesn’t comply with state law.

“Existing tax legislation does not yet exist” to support what would be a first-in-the-nation tuition levy, said ICA Chair Barbara McNees.

The rejection puts the process of passing a 2010 budget into uncharted waters. Mr. Ravenstahl said he may ask city council to pass the 1 percent tuition tax despite the ICA’s vote.

Ah yes, why let the law gets in the way of a good tax increase?

POSTSCRIPT: Ravenstahl’s proposal is not only illegal, it is also impressively cynical, even from him. He proposed it just days after he was re-elected, knowing that most current students will have graduated when he next faces re-election in four years.


Death panel

November 19, 2009

The British health-care rationing board bans a drug that extends the life of liver-cancer sufferers.


Pat Leahy: idiot

November 19, 2009

You can’t put the Democrats’ flawed thinking on terrorism any more crisply than this:

If the U.S. captures Osama bin Laden, there’s no need to interrogate him, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Thursday.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of that committee, said that arguments raised by Republican senators about whether bin Laden would be afforded Miranda rights if he were captured amount to a “red herring.” . . .

“For one thing, capturing Osama bin Laden — we’ve had enough on him, we don’t need to interrogate him,” Leahy added.

Leahy seems to think that the reason we interrogate terrorists is to get information on them for prosecution. We don’t. A captured terrorist is already out of the picture. We interrogate terrorists so that we can get better information on other terrorists: who and where they are, what they are doing, and how we can stop them. It’s about preventing future atrocities, not prosecuting past ones.

(Via the Corner.)


Show trials

November 19, 2009

The worst aspect of the upcoming Khalid Sheikh Muhammed trial isn’t the foolishness about Miranda warnings. The deeper problem with trying KSM is the question of what happens if he is acquitted. If he is acquitted, will he be released? If so, then they are insane. The man was the mastermind of 9/11; he can’t be released. (Furthermore, every future atrocity perpetrated by KSM would become the personal responsibility of President Obama and AG Holder, so a purely political calculation indicates that he can’t be released.) But if not, the whole trial is a sham. Rather than upholding the rule of law, the trial is a mockery of it.

And it’s no use to argue that the evidence against KSM is so strong that he wouldn’t be acquitted. Holder makes precisely that argument in this video, although he makes it in regards to Bin Laden rather than KSM. Firstly, you never know what will happen in a court of law. (Remember OJ Simpson.) Secondly, even if it were true, the certainty of conviction not only fails to address the matter of principle, it aggravates it. Holder is saying that civilian trials for terrorists are okay because they will certainly result in conviction. In other words, we will hold show trials in civilian court, all in the name of upholding the rule of law!

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: Eric Posner seems to agree broadly that this is a show trial, but he sees it as a positive rather than a negative. He suggests that we are creating a two-tiered system: civilian trials for strong cases and military trials for weak cases. Doing so, Posner says, will improve the system’s credibility, since we won’t be using “low-quality” trials for everyone.

This makes no sense to me at all. How is holding a few “high-quality” trials going to do anything to improve credibility for the rest? If a “low-quality” trial lacks credibility, how is it going to gain credibility from a “high-quality” trial for someone else? All it proves is at least some of the accused terrorists are guilty, and, frankly, anyone who would otherwise think that not one of them is guilty isn’t going to believe the “high-quality” trials either.

Plus, whatever minute credibility might be obtained by holding a few “high-quality” trials will be forfeit the first time a terrorist is acquitted but not released.

UPDATE: Krauthammer makes much the same point.


Holder on the KSM trial

November 19, 2009

In this video, Lindsey Graham absolutely demolishes Eric Holder on the KSM trial:

In it, Graham presses Holder on whether Osama Bin Laden or other terrorists would have to be given a Miranda warning at the time of capture. A fanciful idea? Apparently not. He says that it would depend.

But it can’t! Bin Laden could be captured tomorrow. He probably won’t, but the one thing we can be sure is, when he is captured, we will not have a few weeks advance notice to make the necessary legal determination. Our soldiers need to now, today, what to do when they capture a terrorist on a foreign battlefield.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Split this post into two. The second is here.


“Who knows, man? Who really knows?”

November 18, 2009

It’s now clear why the Recovery.gov information on created/saved jobs is so comically, awesomely bad. It turns out that the data is collated from whatever the recipients of stimulus funding happened to type into a web form:

According to Ed Pound, director of communications for recovery.gov, the Web site relies on self-reporting by recipients of the stimulus money. They are required to fill out an online form with federalreporting.gov, identifying how much money they have received and how many jobs they have created or saved in the process. A drop-down menu requires them to fill in the number of their congressional district, and apparently some recipients of Recovery Act funds entered incorrect congressional district numbers in their reports.

Pound said the information from federalreporting.gov is then simply transferred to recovery.gov. . .

“We’re not certifying the accuracy of the information,” said Pound. Federal agencies can and do sometimes notice mistakes, he said, and call it to the attention of recipients, but only recipients can correct the information. . .

Asked why recipients would pluck random numbers – 26, 45, 14 – to fill in for their congressional district, Pound replied, “who knows, man, who really knows. There are 130,000 reports out there.”

So this highly-touted exercise in government transparency and accountability is basically an on-line poll. Good grief.

(Via the Corner.)


Taxpayers are chumps

November 18, 2009

Senate Democrats are prepared to move forward on Lael Brainard’s nomination, despite her history as a tax cheat. She’ll have plenty of company in this administration.

While you ponder this, remember that the Democrats think the IRS should be tougher on honest mistakes.

(Via Instapundit.)


Gitmo and KSM

November 18, 2009

Everything is political with these guys (especially Eric Holder), so I think Ann Althouse’s theory linking Guantanamo and the Khalid Sheikh Muhammed trial is very plausible:

Maybe what came first was the realization that Guantanamo would need to remain open, and then something was needed to placate those who put their hope in Obama that he would close the place. Oh, what will we do? I’ve got an idea! Let’s put on a show! Let’s try KSM in NYC!

(Via Instapundit.)


Guantanamo prison won’t close by January

November 18, 2009

The Washington Post reports:

President Obama directly acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay will not close by the January deadline he set, but he said he hoped to still achieve that goal sometime next year.

Obama refused, however, to set a new deadline.

In an interview in the Chinese capital with Major Garrett of Fox News, Obama said he was “not disappointed” that the Guantanamo deadline had slipped, saying he “knew this was going to be hard.”

Why I found most hilarious is how the credulous press reported the closure of the Guantanamo prison as a done deal the very day it was announced. Never mind that they had no idea whatsoever how to accomplish it. The president had announced that we would figure out a way so it was as good as done. It was as if the press had reported moon landings the day after President Kennedy’s speech in May 1961.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obama supported military trial for KSM in 2006

November 18, 2009

In 2006, during Barack Obama’s brief tenure in the Senate, he gave a speech in which he indicated his approval of a military trial for Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. The C-SPAN video is here.

The context is interesting. Obama was arguing that we did not need to worry about giving detained terrorists access to US courts, and that it is “not true” that to do so would “give all kinds of rights to terrorist masterminds like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed.” It seems that such worries were well-justified after all.

(Via Instapundit.)


Smart diplomacy

November 18, 2009

The LA Times reports:

In China, Obama’s hosts show no signs of budging

President Obama is leaving China without any definable concessions on things such as support for tougher sanctions on Iran or currency exchange rates.

Reporting from Beijing – When it came to China, President Obama’s famous powers of persuasion failed to persuade.

He came bearing a long shopping list, including Chinese support for tougher sanctions on Iran and more flexibility by Beijing on currency exchange rates, but Obama was met with polite, yet stony, silences. . .

Not only is the U.S. president coming away without any definable concessions, but the Chinese appeared to be digging in their heels.

At what point do we admit that the Obama administration’s new approach to diplomacy simply isn’t working?

(Via the Corner.)


Argh

November 18, 2009

The Democrats want to take the $200 billion unused TARP allocation and blow it on more stimulus. Amazingly, they claim that to do so would create 6 million jobs, even though the $789 billion stimulus was promised to create only 3.5 million jobs, and failed to do so.

(Via the Corner.)


TARP report savages Geithner

November 18, 2009

A report from the inspector general of the TARP program holds Timothy Geithner, then head of the New York Federal Reserve and now Treasury Secretary, responsible for the disaster of the AIG bailout:

A brutal report issued Monday by a government watchdog holds Timothy Geithner — then the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and now the nation’s Treasury Secretary — responsible for overpayments that put billions of extra tax dollars in the coffers of major Wall Street firms, most notably Goldman Sachs. . .

Instead of bargaining with AIG’s numerous counterparties to resolve its billions of dollars in souring derivatives contracts, Geithner’s team ended up paying top dollar for toxic assets — “an amount far above their market value at the time,” the report notes.

“There is no question that the effect of FRBNY’s decisions — indeed, the very design of the federal assistance to AIG — was that tens of billions of dollars of Government money was funneled inexorably and directly to AIG’s counterparties,” the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said.

Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Wachovia got full value for their derivatives contracts with AIG, and taxpayers got the bill. In total, $27.1 billion of public money was transferred to companies that did business with AIG.

Throughout the bailout of AIG, the report says, the New York Fed failed to develop appropriate contingency plans; failed to properly assess the impact of its decisions; and generally engaged in negotiation strategies that were doomed to fail.

Then, after Geithner’s team paid off AIG’s counterparties on Wall Street, it imposed “onerous” terms on the troubled insurer, the report says.

(ASIDE: That’s a Huffington Post summary, but it all seems to be backed up by the report.)

The report also blasts the New York Fed’s deliberate lack of transparency:

The now familiar argument from Government officials about the dire consequences of basic transparency, as advocated by the Federal Reserve . . once again simply does not withstand scrutiny. Federal Reserve officials initially refused to disclose the identities of the counterparties or the details of the payments, warning that disclosure of the names would undermine AIG’s stability, the privacy and business interests of the counterparties, and the stability of the markets.

After public and Congressional pressure, AIG disclosed the identities. Notwithstanding the Federal Reserve’s warnings, the sky did not fall; there is no indication that AIG’s disclosure undermined the stability of AIG or the market or damaged legitimate interests of the counterparties. The lesson that should be learned — one that has been made apparent time after time in the Government’s response to the financial crisis — is that the default position, whenever Government funds are deployed in a crisis to support markets or institutions, should be that the public is entitled to know what is being done with Government funds.


House health bill increases costs and hurts seniors

November 18, 2009

The House Democrats’ health care bill does not do anything to constrain health care costs, and in fact makes them worse, according to a new non-partisan government analysis:

Democrats have promised that health reform would reduce health care costs, but legislation the House passed last week would increase costs over the next decade by $289 billion. By 2019, health costs would rise to 21.1 percent of GDP compared to 20.8 under current law, according to an actuarial report prepared by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“With the exception of the proposed reductions in Medicare payment updates for institutional providers, the provisions of H.R. 3962 would not have a significant impact on future health care cost growth rates. In addition, the longer-term viability of the Medicare update reductions is doubtful,” the report said.

In other words, outside of Medicare payment cuts to hospitals, the bill doesn’t curb increasing health care costs. And even the Medicare payment cuts will be difficult to sustain.

The study also finds that the bill will seriously hurt senior citizens:

A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.

The report, requested by House Republicans, found that Medicare cuts contained in the health package approved by the House on Nov. 7 are likely to prove so costly to hospitals and nursing homes that they could stop taking Medicare altogether. . .

More generally, the report questions whether the country’s network of doctors and hospitals would be able to cope with the effects of a reform package expected to add more than 30 million people to the ranks of the insured, many of them through Medicaid, the public health program for the poor.

So the bill increases costs and hurts health care, but aside from that it’s great. (No, not really.)

(Via Instapundit and the Corner.)


EPA censors cap-and-trade opponents

November 18, 2009

The Obama administration once again shows its strong commitment to free speech:

Laurie Williams and husband Alan Zabel worked as lawyers for the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in its San Francisco office for more than 20 years, and they know more about climate change than most politicians. But when the couple released a video on the Internet expressing their concerns over the Obama administration’s plans to use cap-and-trade legislation to fight climate change, they were told to keep it to themselves.

Williams and Zabel oppose cap and trade — a controversial government allowance program in which companies are issued emissions limits, or caps, which they can then trade — as a means to fight climate change.

On their own time, Williams and Zabel made a video expressing these opinions. . .

Their bosses in San Francisco approved the effort by Williams and Zabel to release the tape, but after an editorial they wrote appeared in the Washington Post, EPA Director Lisa Jackson ordered the pair to remove the video or face disciplinary action.

Specifically, the administration’s chief environmental official did not want Williams or Zabel mentioning their four decades with the EPA — time spent studying cap and trade.

What you have here is the EPA director, a presidential appointment, silencing career EPA employees who speak publicly in their area of expertise. The administration is insisting that the couple not tell the viewer the one thing that sets their video apart from countless others, the fact that they have relevant expertise in the field.

The video is here. For now anyway.

UPDATE: Williams and Zabel aren’t the only ones. (Via Instapundit.)


More stimulus fraud

November 17, 2009

This sounds like a straightforward extension of Chicago politics. If nonexistent people can vote, why shouldn’t they contribute to job growth:

The government Web site that promised to show exactly where the $787 billion in stimulus spending was going to “create or save” jobs is allocating billions of tax dollars to hundreds of congressional districts that don’t exist.

Researchers at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity found 440 “phantom districts” listed on Recovery.gov, consuming $6.4 billion and creating or saving nearly 30,000 jobs. . .

For example, Recovery.gov shows 12 districts, using up more than $2.7 billion, in Washington, D.C, which only has one congressional district.

Recovery.gov also shows 2,893.9 jobs created with $194,537,372 in stimulus funding in New Hampshire’s 00 congressional district. But, there is no such thing.

The site also shows $1,471,518 going to New Hampshire’s 6th congressional district, $1,033,809 to the 4th congressional district and $124,774 to the 27th congressional district. In fact, New Hampshire only has two congressional districts; inviting confusion about where the money listed for the 00, 4th, 6th and 27th districts is going.

(Via Instapundit.)


ACORN video #7

November 17, 2009

The latest ACORN video is from Los Angeles, and it’s the first in which ACORN behaved with half a shred of decency. In the video, the ACORN worker has no problem with the prostitution scheme, but he draws the line at underage prostitution. He doesn’t kick O’Keefe and Giles out, but he does refuse to help. According to O’Keefe, he is the only ACORN worker they met during their entire investigation who refused to assist. For this, O’Keefe proclaims him the ACORN Employee of the Year:

Los Angeles is, incidentally, one of the five offices that ACORN claims threw out O’Keefe and Giles. The others were San Diego, Miami, New York and Philadelphia. Three of the five claims (San Diego, New York, and Philadelphia) have already been shown to be lies. It now appears that Los Angeles is a lie as well, although ACORN still claims to have thrown them out of a different Los Angeles office. Why anyone would still put any credence in ACORN’s stories at this point is beyond me.

(Previous post.)


From whence the violence

November 17, 2009

Leftist opinion makers like Thomas Friedman have been promoting the idea that tea party protesters, by vociferously opposing the Democratic agenda, are creating an atmosphere that will lead to violence from the far right. Never mind that whatever violent talk there is on the right comes from random yahoos, whereas on the left violent talk is coming from the media and political establishment.

More importantly, when you look where the actual violence is coming from, it’s coming from the left. I’ve noted here a few cases of union violence in the recent past. The latest incident comes not from the unions but from the communist “anti-racist” left. This time, there’s video:

(Via Power Line.)


No moral compass

November 16, 2009

Codepink says:

The recent shootings at Ft. Hood and the resignation of top Foreign Service officer Matthew Hoh demonstrate how even our military officers are opposed to US strategy in Afghanistan.

I never thought that Codepink was smart, but I would not have thought that they would be so stupid as to cite Nidal Hasan in support of their case.

(Via the Corner.)


Smart diplomacy

November 15, 2009

ABC News’s Jake Tapper reports:

An old friend — an academic with expertise about the Japanese Empire, and in general a supporter of President Obama — sends me the following note, relating to photographs of President Obama bowing to Emperor Akihito of Japan. . .

“Obama’s handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush’s back-rub of Merkel.

“Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.

“The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms….The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.

(Emphasis mine.) (Via Hot Air.)

My general thoughts on presidential bowing (I don’t really care all that much) are here.


Thin skin

November 15, 2009

President Obama is offended by the suggestion that his dithering looks like dithering:

President Barack Obama made no effort to conceal his irritation when his press corps used the first question of his maiden Far East trip to ask what was taking him so long on Afghanistan.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: The LA Times: “Obama must rethink rethinking Afghanistan. His strategy deliberations are starting to look like dangerous indecision.” Starting? (Via Instapundit.)


The AP redefines pathetic

November 14, 2009

I don’t know what’s more pathetic, the fact that the Associated Press assigned eleven writers to fact-check Sarah Palin’s new book (Did the AP assign even a single person to fact-check Barack Obama’s book? After some googling, I can’t find any hint that they did.), or the thin gruel they came up with.

Here’s the first instance in the AP says her book “goes rogue on some facts”:

PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking “only” for reasonably priced rooms and not “often” going for the “high-end, robe-and-slippers” hotels.

THE FACTS: Although she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) for a five-hour women’s leadership conference in New York in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000.

So she didn’t “often” stay at expensive hotels, but on one occasion she did. This doesn’t contradict her in the least.

Another:

PALIN: Rails against taxpayer-financed bailouts, which she attributes to Obama. She recounts telling daughter Bristol that to succeed in business, “you’ll have to be brave enough to fail.”

THE FACTS: Palin is blurring Obama’s stimulus plan—a $787 billion package of tax cuts, state aid, social programs and government contracts—and the federal bailout that President George W. Bush signed.

Palin’s views on bailouts appeared to evolve as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate. In September 2008, she said “taxpayers cannot be looked to” to bail out Wall Street.

The next month, she praised McCain for being “instrumental in bringing folks together” to pass the $700 billion bailout. After that, she said “it is a time of crisis and government did have to step in.”

With only a sentence fragment’s worth of quotation, the AP is asking us to trust their characterization of the book to be accurate. I’m unwilling to do so, but for the moment let’s just stipulate that it is.

Many people’s opinion of the bailout changed over time. In my own case I was convinced at the time that it was necessary, but the scheme later turned out to be a fraud. The bailout was supposedly necessary to buy up “toxic assets”, but not a single cent was ever spent that way. Instead, the money was used to buy equity in banks and various companies. It’s not a contradiction to support the use of TARP to buy toxic assets, which might well ultimately have turned a profit, but then oppose its use to buy corporate equity.

And while President Bush and Secretary Paulson deserve most of the blame for TARP’s misuse, President Obama’s hands are not at all clean. A large chunk of the automakers’ bailout was given by Obama, at a point at which it was already clear that the money would never be repaid. (Okay, it was pretty clear all along.) (UPDATE: There’s also the fact that Obama took the person responsible for the AIG bailout disaster, Timothy Geithner, and rewarded him by making him Treasury Secretary.)

Perhaps the best one is the one they conclude with:

PALIN: “Was it ambition? I didn’t think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons.” Throughout the book, Palin cites altruistic reasons for running for office, and for leaving early as Alaska governor.

THE FACTS: Few politicians own up to wanting high office for the power and prestige of it, and in this respect, Palin fits the conventional mold. But “Going Rogue” has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.

Beautiful. They write “THE FACTS”, then a colon, and then two sentences that contain no facts! In their opinion, Palin’s book contains all the unspecified characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto. Let’s suppose that that’s true — insofar as it’s far too vague to contradict — how does that contradict Palin’s claim of purpose over ambition?

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: Fox News notes:

Reviewing books and holding public figures accountable is at the core of good journalism, but the treatment Palin’s book received appears to be something new for the AP. The organization did not review for accuracy recent books by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, then-Sen. Joe Biden, either book by Barack Obama released before he was president or autobiographies by Bill or Hillary Clinton. The AP did more traditional news stories on those books.


Winning the health care debate

November 13, 2009

A new Gallup poll finds that a majority feel that providing health care is not the government’s responsibility:

gallup-healthcare-responsibility

An even stronger majority opposes replacing the current system with a government-run system:

gallup-replace-healthcare

Democrats are on the wrong side of history. Again.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Megan McArdle remarks, the more we talk about health care reform, the less popular it becomes.


Implicit marginal tax rates top 100%

November 13, 2009

I’m stunned by this graph of earned income versus effective income:

implicit-tax-rates-2

A typical family has to get its income over $50k per year before they start seeing any significant return on their labor. If you set out to design a policy to discourage work, could you do any better than this?

Here’s a graph of the implicit tax rate:

implicit-tax-rates

The implicit marginal tax rate peaks at nearly 150% for people making a little over $20k per year. That means that earning an additional dollar actually sets you back almost fifty cents. Absolutely appalling.

(Via Instapundit.)


Zelaya blasts U.S.

November 13, 2009

It’s hard to know whether the U.S. State Department is going to keep its end of the bargain it made with Honduras, since there have been some indications it might renege. The latest hint comes from Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya is blasting the U.S. for “weakening and changing course”, which has to be a good sign. The Associated Press adds that “hopes of reinstating the deposed leader before Nov. 29 presidential elections appeared to be dimming”.

(Previous post.)


NEA scandal expands

November 13, 2009

Newly obtained documents show that, despite claims to the contrary, former NEA communications director Yosi Sergant, did not act alone in using the NEA to solicit political propaganda.


ACORN sues over defunding

November 12, 2009

Fox News reports:

In an attempt to regain the millions in funding it lost in the wake of a hidden-camera scandal, ACORN is suing the federal government over congressional legislation that cut off funding to the community organizing group.

Representatives for ACORN sued the federal government Thursday morning in an attempt to regain the millions of dollars in funding the community organizing group lost after filmmakers videotaped its workers offering advice on how to commit tax fraud and various other felonies.

The suit charges Congress with violating the Constitution when it passed legislation in September that specifically targeted ACORN to lose federal housing, education and transportation funds.

A case can be made that defunding ACORN specifically is an unconstitutional bill of attainder. I don’t buy it; I don’t believe that refusing funding is a form of punishment, but you never know what the courts will do. (Eugene Volokh explores the matter here.)

But there are a couple of remarks that must be made: Firstly, to the best of my knowledge, ACORN’s defunding has not yet become law, so this lawsuit seems premature. The courts can hardly entertain lawsuits over everything Congress ever contemplates. Secondly, if you want to be all constitutional about it, Congress has no power to fund ACORN in the first place.


Indecision

November 12, 2009

An Instapundit reader makes an interesting observation: Kabul fell to allied forces on November 13, 2001, just 63 days after 9/11. General McChrystal delivered his report to President Obama on August 30. That was 74 days ago. And counting.

UPDATE: It will be at least another week. Geez.

UPDATE: Another week? How about another month:

Officials said that no decision was expected from Mr. Obama on Wednesday, but that he would mull over the discussions at the meeting during a trip to Asia that begins Thursday. Mr. Obama is not due back in Washington until next Thursday. Officials said that it was possible that he could announce his decision in the three days before Thanksgiving, which is on Nov. 26, but that an announcement in the first week of December seemed more likely.


Suckers

November 11, 2009

USA Today reports:

If you believed all the talk from Chrysler about how our tax dollars would help finance its fast-track electric-vehicle future, you’re in for a big disappointment.

Chrysler has disbanded the engineering team that was trying to bring three electric models to market as a rush job, Automotive News reports today. Chrysler cited its devotion to electric vehicles as one of the key reasons why the Obama administration and Congress needed to give it $12.5 billion in bailout money, the News points out.

If you take the money that Chrysler invested in electric car make-believe development and weigh it against the billions it got from the government, Chrysler made a handsome profit on the venture. That’s pretty much the only profit that Chrysler has made recently.

(Via Asymmetric Information, via Instapundit.)


The fix is in

November 11, 2009

Is a whitewash underway in California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s investigation of ACORN? An ACORN spokesman told the East County (San Diego) Democrats Club that Brown is “a political animal” and has indicated that “the fault will be found with the people that did the video — not with ACORN”. Big Government has audio.

(Previous post.)


Terrific

November 11, 2009

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) questioned President Obama’s nominee to lead the nation’s airport security agency Tuesday about a censure he received from the FBI in 1988.

Erroll Southers, who was serving as an FBI special agent at the time of the censure, asked a co-worker’s husband who worked for the San Diego Police Department to run a background check on his ex-wife’s boyfriend.

(Via Volokh.)


Fannie and Freddie fire their oversight

November 11, 2009

Well here’s a real confidence booster:

There is no independent auditor overseeing the federal agency responsible for some $6 trillion in home mortgages, because the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel ruled that the agency’s inspector general didn’t have authority to operate, according to internal memos obtained by the Huffington Post.

The ruling came in response to a request from the Federal Housing Finance Agency itself — which means that a federal agency essentially succeeded in getting rid of its own inspector general.

The FHFA is home to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks.

Obviously, Fannie and Freddie’s oversight was already too weak (thank you Barney Frank!). Now, thanks to the Justice Department, they have even less. What could go wrong?

(Via Instapundit.)


Clyburn: Stupak amendment is a ruse

November 10, 2009

The House Democratic Whip says the Stupak amendment is a ruse and it won’t be in the final bill:

The health bill approved by the House will likely see its abortion amendment stripped, the House’s third-ranking Democrat stressed Tuesday.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he believes that the amendment restricting federal funding for abortion will eventually be removed during conference with the Senate’s bill. . .

Clyburn said that he and many other House Democrats supported the amendment to pass the legislation in the House, with the expectation that it would eventually be removed.

“That’s certainly why I voted for it,” Clyburn explained. “I agree that the language approved by the House is unacceptable. We were doing what was necessary to do to put the bill on the floor in about 12 hours.”

(Via Big Government.)


Kelo site abandoned

November 10, 2009

Four years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that the government can use eminent domain to take away your property and give it to another private party. Susette Kelo’s house has been torn down but the property remains undeveloped. The 3,169 new jobs and the $1.2 million annual tax revenue have not materialized.

And they never will.  In an appropriate conclusion to the sordid story, Pfizer, the company that received the confiscated property, has announced it is pulling out of New London.


Obama: remove Stupak amendment

November 10, 2009

Well, I’ve got to give him credit for chutzpah. President Obama simultaneously says that the health care bill should not fund abortion, and calls for the removal of the Stupak amendment that keeps it from funding abortion:

President Obama said today that Congress needs to change abortion-related language in the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives this weekend.

“I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill,” Obama said. “And we’re not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.”

Without a provision like the Stupak amendment, the bill will cover abortion. The president says that the provision should be removed, and that he’s not looking to cover abortion. He also says a bill that covers abortion would be a “health care bill”, but one that does not cover abortion is an “abortion bill”. George Orwell would be impressed.

(Via the Corner.)


More SEIU thuggery

November 10, 2009

Right on the heels of the police report on the Gladney beating comes another story of SEIU violence:

A state worker is recovering after a bloody brawl at a union hall. He says members of the local SEIU 1000 beat him up and sent him to the hospital all because he wanted to expose alleged corruption within the union.

(Via the Corner.)

Eliminating the secret ballot to form a union sounds like a terrific idea, doesn’t it.


Gladney beating report obtained

November 10, 2009

Big Government has obtained the police report from the incident at a Russ Carnahan (D-MO) town hall in which Kenneth Gladney was attacked by SEIU thugs. The report puts the lie to the spin put out by the SEIU and its enablers in the blogosphere left. It shows that Gladney was attacked viciously and without provocation:

As I walked up to the crowd, several people approached me and were saying the above suspects, McCowan and Molens, had just assaulted a black male who was still around the back side of the school. . . Suspect Molens had his back to me and I observed him yelling and pointing at several individuals. . .While waiting for additional units to make it to my location I attempted to detains Suspects Molens and McCowan for a further investigation into the incident. I had to tell Suspects Molens and McCowan to remain in front of me several times, as they tried numerous times to get lost in the crowd and get past me.

The three above listed witnesses contacted me and stated that they would wait until the scene was brought under control prior to providing me with witness information. . .

I then contacted Witness #1, Harris Himes. Witness H. Himes stated that as he was leaving the school gymnasium, he saw Suspect McCowan talking to Victim Gladney. He stated that he saw Suspect McCowan reach over the table and punch Victim Gladney in the face. This assault knocked the victim off balance. Suspect Molens then went around the table and pulled Victim Gladney over the table backwards by the back of his shirt collar. He began to punch and kick Victim Gladney. Witness H. Himes added that while Suspect Molens was kicking and punching Victim Gladney, Suspect McCowan then joined in on the assault.

Witness #2’s, Sandra Himes’, statement of the incident concurred with Harris’ account of the incident. She did add that Victim Gladney did nothing to provoke this assault.

At this time I was contacted by the victim, Kenneth E. Gladney. . . Victim Gladney appeared shaken and his clothes were in disarray. . .

Gladney stated that he was handing out pens and buttons outside the gym. He stated that is when Suspects Molens and McCowan, along with a third suspect who is unidentified at this time, walked by his table. Suspect McCowan picked up one of the buttons from Gladney’s table and said, “Who’s sellin this shit?” Victim Gladney stated, “I’m not selling anything. It’s free.” At this time Suspect McCowan said, “What kind of nigger are you?” Suspect McCowan then reached across the table and punched Victim Gladney in the face. Victim Gladney added that Suspect Molens grabbed him from behind, at which time he was struck several times and taken to the ground. At this time he was struck several more times. . .

I was then contacted by Witness #3, [redacted], gave a similar account of the original assault. I would like to add that when I originally walked up to the crowd, Witness [redacted] was one of the individuals being yelled at by Suspect Molens. . .

Suspects Molens and McCowan were arrested for the charges of Assault 3rd and Interfering with the Duties of a Police Officer. . .

This case will be presented to the St. Louis County Counselor’s Office for consideration reference the above noted criminal charges.

It’s clear from the report that these two men perpetrated a vicious and unprovoked assault. Why haven’t they been prosecuted? Unfortunately, the St. Louis district attorney, Bob McCulloch, has a history of abusing the power of his office for political purposes. During the 2008 presidential election campaign, Bob McCulloch joined the “Barack Obama Truth Squad“, a coalition of Missouri law enforcement formed “to target anyone who lies or runs a misleading television ad during the presidential campaign”. As we’ve seen clearly during the past year, “misleading” is very much in the eye of the beholder.

(Via Instapundit.)


Iran rebuffs efforts to salvage deal

November 9, 2009

The NYT reports:

The Obama administration, attempting to salvage a faltering nuclear deal with Iran, has told Iran’s leaders in back-channel messages that it is willing to allow the country to send its stockpile of enriched uranium to any of several nations, including Turkey, for temporary safekeeping, according to administration officials and diplomats involved in the exchanges.

But the overtures, made through the International Atomic Energy Agency over the past two weeks, have all been ignored, the officials said. Instead, they said, the Iranians have revived an old counterproposal: that international arms inspectors take custody of much of Iran’s fuel, but keep it on Kish, a Persian Gulf resort island that is part of Iran.

A senior Obama administration official said that proposal had been rejected because leaving the nuclear material on Iranian territory would allow for the possibility that the Iranians could evict the international inspectors at any moment. That happened in North Korea in 2003, and within months the country had converted its fuel into the material for several nuclear weapons. . .

Members of the Obama administration, in interviews over the weekend, said that they had now all but lost hope that Iran would follow through with an agreement reached in Geneva on Oct. 1 to send its fuel out of the country temporarily — buying some time for negotiations over its nuclear program.

The naivete of our administration is positively painful. Iran never had the slightest intention of following through on the deal. The whole point, from Iran’s perspective, is to keep us talking and not acting while they run their centrifuges. And it’s working.

(Via Hot Air.)


Tear down this wall

November 9, 2009

House health bill covers illegal immigrants

November 9, 2009

Last September:

THE PRESIDENT: Tonight I want to address some of the key controversies that are still out there. Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. . .

There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not true.

Now, according to the Associated Press:

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus object to a provision in the Senate legislation — backed by the White House — that bars illegal immigrants from buying health insurance within a proposed new marketplace, or exchange, even if they use their own money to buy from private companies.

Illegal immigrants can buy private health insurance now, so some lawmakers say the White House position goes too far. The House bill doesn’t have that language, and several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Obama at the White House on Thursday to tell him that if that changed, he could lose as many as 20 votes.

“I think that he got our message,” Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., head of the Hispanic Caucus, said afterward.

House leaders said that, in keeping with the Hispanic Caucus’ demands, there was not likely to be any prohibition added to the House bill against illegal immigrants shopping in the exchange.

Note that the bill passed the House 220-215, so it only would have taken three of the threatened twenty votes to defeat the bill. In other words, the inclusion of illegal immigrants is an essential part of the bill.

Now, I haven’t read the bill (obviously, it’s two thousand pages long), so I concede it’s barely possible that it creates an option for illegal immigrants to shop in the exchange without receiving the subsidy that is the entire purpose for the exchange to exist. Perhaps it’s even possible that the bill contains an enforcement mechanism to ensure that illegal immigrants use that hypothetical no-subsidy option. I don’t believe it for an instant.


WTF

November 8, 2009

The New York Daily News reports:

President Obama invoked the Fort Hood shootings in an emotional appeal to Democrats to pass health care reform today, contrasting the sacrifices of soldiers with political positioning.

The impassioned pitch to the entire Democratic caucus came hours before the House vote tonight on the signature issue of Obama’s presidency, with Democratic leaders struggling to keep members from conservative districts on board.

“He was absolutely inspiring. In a very moving way, he reminded us what sacrifice really is,” said New Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews, estimating the persuader-in-chief turned several votes.

Exploiting the Fort Hood shootings to pass health care. Wow.

Ann Althouse adds:

I’m trying to imagine the political environment that Washington Democrats occupy. A President glibly lays out that analogy, and it is received — without any wincing or taint of disgust — as awesome inspiration.

(Via Instapundit.)


Sesame Street ombudsman apologizes for Fox News attack

November 8, 2009

How low can you go?


Heh

November 8, 2009

This analysis of movie timelines is cute.


The Euro it’s not

November 8, 2009

This should be fun to watch; Latin American socialists are planning a common currency:

The leftist Latin American ALBA trade bloc is scheduled Friday to approve measures that would replace US dollars with a new virtual currency for regional commerce, an official said here. . .

The new monetary system was adopted in principle at an ALBA summit in April by organization members, which include Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, Saint Vincent, Antigua and Barbuda.

Initially the sucre system — the acronym comes from the Spanish name Sistema Unificado de Compensacion de Pagos Reciprocos — will be a virtual currency used in commercial exchanges between ALBA countries.

A common currency between a bunch of Latin American socialists and communists. Unlikely as this is to become reality, I nevertheless hope it does. It would be endlessly entertaining.

POSTSCRIPT: St. Vincent, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda have already said they won’t be joining the Sucre, and I’d be very surprised to see Honduras adopt it either (unless Zelaya somehow prevails and makes himself dictator). That leaves the effort with only the hardcore socialists.


White House placing Fox off-limits?

November 8, 2009

The Chicago Tribune reports:

At least one Democratic political strategist has gotten a blunt warning from the White House to never appear on Fox News Channel, an outlet that presidential aides have depicted as not so much a news-gathering operation as a political opponent bent on damaging the Obama administration. . .

One Democratic strategist said that shortly after an appearance on Fox he got a phone call from a White House official telling him not to be a guest on the show again. The call had an intimidating tone, he said.

The message was, “We better not see you on again,” said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to run afoul of the White House. An implicit suggestion, he said, was that “clients might stop using you if you continue.”

In urging Democratic consultants to spurn Fox, White House officials might be trying to isolate the network and make it appear more partisan. A boycott by Democratic strategists could also help drive the White House narrative that Fox is a fundamentally different creature than the other TV news networks.

The White House is denying the story, but not very convincingly. They cite the fact that White House is now trying to scale back its war against Fox News as proof that this couldn’t have happened, which strikes me as a complete non sequitur.

(Via Instapundit.)


Great moments in presidential oratory

November 8, 2009

Anderson Cooper’s sexual-innuendo-laden slur for the Tea Party movement has reached the Oval Office. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Obama, during his private pep talk to Democrats, recognized Mr. Owens election and then posed a question to the other lawmakers. According to Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who supports the health care bill, the president asked, “Does anybody think that the teabag, anti-government people are going to support them if they bring down health care?

(Emphasis mine.)

In offensiveness, this is basically on a par with a hypothetical Republican president adopting Rush Limbaugh’s “feminazi” slur for extreme abortion supporters.

(Via the Corner.)


Barney Frank: genius

November 7, 2009

Barney Frank in 2003, about Fannie and Freddie:

The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios.

and:

I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC  and OTS. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.

and:

I believe there has been more alarm raised about potential unsafety and unsoundness than, in fact, exists.

and finally:

Rep. Frank: Let me ask [George] Gould and [Franklin] Raines on behalf of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, do you feel that over the past years you have been substantially under-regulated?

Mr. Raines?

Mr. Raines: No, sir.

Mr. Frank: Mr. Gould?

Mr. Gould: No, sir. . . .

Mr. Frank: OK. Then I am not entirely sure why we are here.

Oh, well, if Fannie and Freddie say they don’t need to be regulated, how could there be any argument?

If it’s a private company, Barney Frank wants to regulate it down to the shape of its paper clip holders. But if it’s a government-sponsored enterprise, with the taxpayer on the hook for its losses, Frank leaves them free to do whatever they like. For them, there ought not be a focus on safety and soundness.

What could go wrong?

Freddie Mac, the second largest provider of U.S. residential mortgage funding, on Friday posted a loss of $5 billion in the third quarter and predicted it would need more government support amid a “prolonged deterioration” in housing. . .

Including a $1.3 billion dividend payment on senior preferred stock bought by the Treasury in previous quarters, Freddie Mac’s third-quarter loss increases to $6.3 billion. . .

Its larger rival Fannie Mae on Thursday said it would need $15 billion from the U.S. Treasury after a whopping $18.9 billion third-quarter loss.

That brings the total to $110.6 billion, so far.

POSTSCRIPT: Barney Frank, Wikipedia tells us, is the “brainiest” member of the House of Representatives.


Planned Parenthood: public option will replace current coverage

November 7, 2009

At least, that’s the only way this makes sense:

Under the arrangement, Democratic Reps. Bart Stupak of Michigan, Brad Ellsworth of Indiana and other abortion opponents were promised an opportunity to insert tougher restrictions into the legislation during debate on the House floor. . .

But the amendment drew criticism from Planned Parenthood.

“Planned Parenthood strongly opposes the Stupak/Pitts amendment which would result in women losing health benefits they have today,” the group’s president, Cecile Richards, said in a written statement.

What? How can anyone lose health benefits they have today? The president has promised that no one will lose her current coverage.

The answer is, like most people, Planned Parenthood doesn’t believe it. Most on the left find it useful to pretend they believe it, since they don’t mind single payer. Indeed, many actively want it. But a single-payer regime without abortion coverage is not in the interest of the abortion industry.

If the Stupak/Pitts amendment passes, it will be very interesting to see if the abortion lobby comes out against the entire bill. This might expose a seam in the liberal coalition.


Dictatorships and double standards

November 7, 2009

Thirty years ago, in November 1979, Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote her famous essay Dictatorships & Double Standards, in which she wrote about how President Carter’s policy of undermining friendly dictators while appeasing hostile ones was catastrophic to US interests throughout the world.

Stephen Hayes sees the echoes of Carter’s folly in the Obama administration today:

At least four foreign journalists were detained during the [November 4 Iranian] protests, and members of government-backed militias appeared in riot gear beating protesters with heavy clubs and arresting others.

Back at the State Department, spokesman Ian Kelly prepared to open his daily briefing with an unusually harsh condemnation. The United States “deplores” the “unprecedented” actions of an unelected leadership that “have undermined any opportunity for progress toward reengagement and constructive dialogue.”

These would have been the strongest words issued by the Obama administration about the Iranian protests if they had been about the Iranian regime. But they were actually about Fiji. Kelly said absolutely nothing about Iran.

Beyond Fiji, Hayes could have cited Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, or Honduras as friendly governments denounced by the State Department. We are branching out, though, because those aren’t even dictatorships.

(Via Power Line.)


“Christian Science” in the health care bill

November 7, 2009

The LA Times reports:

Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.

The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments — which substitute for or supplement medical treatments — on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against “religious and spiritual healthcare.”

A violation of the separation of church and state? Quite possibly. Idiotic? Definitely.

Unfortunately, idiocy doesn’t stop legislation these days, particularly when the idiocy is bipartisan.

(Via the Corner.)


Imagination optional

November 7, 2009

Robert Gibbs apparently slept through the last eight years:

Imagine just a few years ago, had somebody walked around with images of Hitler.

Imagine? I think I could. But I hardly have to.

Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C, D, E, F. . .

(Via Instapundit.)


State Dept. reneging on Honduras accord?

November 6, 2009

A troubling report.

(Via the Corner.) (Previous post.)


Credibility down the tubes

November 6, 2009

The Columbia Journalism Review calls Citizens Against Government Waste “an obscure tea-bagging operation”. Setting aside the offensive and biased nature of the description, CAGW is hardly obscure and it pre-dates the Tea Party movement by decades.

(Via FutureOfCapitalism, via Instapundit.)


A fresh approach to desalination

November 6, 2009

A clever new desalination technique, powered primarily by solar.


Iran tested advanced nuclear warhead design

November 6, 2009

The Guardian reports:

The UN’s nuclear watchdog has asked Iran to explain evidence suggesting that Iranian scientists have experimented with an advanced nuclear warhead design, the Guardian has learned.

The very existence of the technology, known as a “two-point implosion” device, is officially secret in both the US and Britain, but according to previously unpublished documentation in a dossier compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian scientists may have tested high-explosive components of the design. The development was today described by nuclear experts as “breathtaking” and has added urgency to the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The sophisticated technology, once mastered, allows for the production of smaller and simpler warheads than older models. It reduces the diameter of a warhead and makes it easier to put a nuclear warhead on a missile. . .

The agency has in the past treated such reports with scepticism, particularly after the Iraq war. But its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said the evidence of Iranian weaponisation “appears to have been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, appears to be generally consistent, and is sufficiently comprehensive and detailed that it needs to be addressed by Iran”. . .

James Acton, a British nuclear weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: “It’s remarkable that, before perfecting step one, they are going straight to step four or five … To start with more sophisticated designs speaks of level of technical ambition that is surprising.”

Asking Iran to explain this is a waste of time. They are developing nukes and everyone knows it. You can add this to the lengthening file of ever-more-preposterous Iranian denials:

Iran has rejected most of the IAEA material on weaponisation as forgeries, but has admitted carrying out tests on multiple high-explosive detonations synchronised to within a microsecond. Tehran has told the agency that there is a civilian application for such tests, but has so far not provided any evidence for them.

Western weapons experts say there are no such civilian applications, but the use of co-ordinated detonations in nuclear warheads is well known. They compress the fissile core, or pit, of the warhead until it reaches critical mass.


Unemployment soars into double-digits

November 6, 2009

Unemployment soared in October to 10.2%, the highest rate in over 26 years. The 0.4% jump was much larger than the slight 0.1% increase expected by analysts. Non-farm payrolls shed 190k jobs, also larger than the 175k expected.

The Democratic stimulus plan is a complete and utter disaster. Here’s the update of the graph comparing reality to the Administration’s projections (light blue is the administration’s no-stimulus projection):

stimulus-vs-unemployment-october

This no-stimulus scenario is looking pretty good now. Also, recall what President Obama himself said last January about the economy and his stimulus plan:

Economists from across the political spectrum agree that if we don’t act swiftly and boldly, we could see a much deeper economic downturn that could lead to double digit unemployment and the American Dream slipping further and further out of reach.

That’s why we need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term. And this plan must be designed in a new way—we can’t just fall into the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem.

(Emphasis mine.) (Via IBD.)

Of course, later the president embraced throwing money at the problem:

So then you get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill. What do you think a stimulus is? (Laughter and applause.) That’s the whole point. No, seriously. (Laughter.) That’s the point. (Applause.)

To get a picture of how badly the president’s policy has failed, let’s take a trip down memory lane. In 2004, President Bush was running for re-election and was being savaged for the “jobless recovery”. Tom Daschle made it the centerpiece of his response to Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address.

But what were the actual figures? Between January 2001 and November 2004, seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls cut 274 thousand jobs. This is according to the establishment survey, which the media preferred because it made Bush look worse. According the more-complete household survey — which includes self-employment — the economy actually added 2.5 million jobs.

Between January 2009 and today, we have already lost 3.5 million non-farm jobs (3.8 million in the household survey). If we start the clock six months into Obama’s term (a courtesy generally not afforded to Bush), which happens to be when the recession ended, we have lost 867 thousand non-farm jobs. On the household survey, we have lost 1.9 million.

UPDATE: Heh:

obama-10point2


Wither the multiplier?

November 5, 2009

People are still criticizing the administration’s jobs-created-or-saved numbers, and justly so. But I think criticizing the numbers misses the point a bit. The very idea that we can count the jobs created or saved is nonsense, and undermines the entire theory supporting of the stimulus.

The stimulus is based on the idea of the Keynes multiplier. According to the theory, when workers get paid for their work on stimulus-sponsored projects, they turn around and spend that money on other things, generating more income for other workers, who spend the money on still other things, and so on. Thus, the economy grows by a multiple of the stimulus.

ASIDE: This is all bunk. The story above fails to account for the economic activity that is suppressed when the government taxes or borrows to fund the stimulus. (In fact, Keynes’s theory relies on a more complicated analysis that I won’t get into.) In all but very exceptional circumstances that certainly do not prevail today, the positive and negative effects cancel. All that happens is economic activity shifts from the private sector into the public sector. Robert Barro has estimated the multiplier to be “insignificantly different from zero”.

Anyway, there is obviously no way of tracking what happens to the stimulus money once workers get paid. Consequently there is no way to count any jobs that might be created after the first round. So when the White House claims that it can actually count the jobs created by the stimulus, it is tacitly conceding that there is no multiplier. Without the multiplier, there is no “stimulus”, only a massive spending boondoggle.


Honduras triumphant

November 5, 2009

There’s been a lot confusion (at least on my part) about what the Honduras deal actually means, but the latest news makes it clear that the deal is a complete win for Honduras.

Honduras agrees to vote on whether to reinstate Zelaya, and the US State Department agrees to recognize Honduras’s upcoming elections regardless of the outcome of the reinstatement vote. In fact, Honduran congressional leaders are hinting that they may not even have the vote on reinstatement until after the elections.

Bottom line:

“We’ve made our position on President Zelaya and his restitution clear. We believe he should be restored to power,” [State Department spokesman Ian] Kelly said. “Our focus now is on implementing this process and creating an environment wherein Hondurans themselves can address the issue of restitution and resolve for themselves this Honduran problem.”

The deal left reinstatement in the hands of Congress, but hours after shaking hands, Zelaya and others indicated a behind-the-scenes arrangement had been made with Congress to reinstate him. . . His comments, and U.S. approval of the deal, left many believing Congress was ready to put him back in office. . .

Juan Carlos Hidalgo, project coordinator for Latin America at Washington-based Cato Institute, said he doesn’t expect Hondurans to be swayed by U.S. pressure.

“If Congress doesn’t reinstate Zelaya, it certainly will be a diplomatic embarrassment for the United States since they pressured so much for his reinstatement and even threatened to not recognize the election results,” said Hidalgo. “But not recognizing a popular vote was a dead-end road for the U.S. and they knew it.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin:

The bottom line: the Obama team picked the wrong horse, found itself in a diplomatic dead end, found a mechanism to abandon its failed gambit, and now supports elections — the very position that the Honduran interim government and the administration’s critics have been urging from the beginning.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Perhaps I spoke too soon.


Support and defend, but not read

November 5, 2009

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) explains where the Constitution empowers Congress to impose health insurance mandates:

“Well, that’s under certainly the laws of the–protect the health, welfare of the country,” said Burris. “That’s under the Constitution. We’re not even dealing with any constitutionality here. Should we move in that direction? What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.”

The actual Constitution reads a little bit differently than Burris seems to think:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States . . .

(Emphasis mine.) Note the lack of any mention of “health”. In fact, the word appears nowhere in the entire Constitution.

Incidentally, the US Senator’s oath begins:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . .

Can you support and defend the Constitution when you have no idea what it says?

(Via Instapundit.)


Florida’s public-option experiment

November 5, 2009

The State of Florida tried out a public option in property insurance. It was supposed to be an “insurer of last resort”, but it eventually began to compete with private insurance and quickly became the largest insurer in the state, insuring 30% of homeowners. Florida’s public option is backed by the government: it does not maintain sufficient reserves to cover its potential losses, and instead relies on the taxpayer in the event of a disaster. The state’s largest private insurer, State Farm, is now pulling out of the state. The government plan is not a monopoly yet, but these things take time.

In other words, the public option in property insurance has had exactly the same effect that critics say it would have in health insurance. It drives private insurers out of business.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obama closes in on Bush

November 5, 2009

A new Rasmussen poll find that more people still blame President Bush than President Obama for our current economic woes, but just barely. While 49% still blame Bush, 45% blame Obama. The difference falls within the margin of error. This is a significant shift since last month, when Bush-blame led Obama-blame 55-37.

The statute of limitations on blaming the predecessor is expiring. Before the month is out, Obama will own the mess he’s created.


The Chicago Way

November 5, 2009

Attacking critical media as illegitimate, in Chicago and in Washington. And don’t forget Wilkins Township, Pennsylvania.

(Via Instapundit.)


Indoctrination

November 5, 2009

Over a dozen videos of school children singing or reciting praises to Obama have now come to light. What previously might have been dismissed as a few bad apples is now a troubling phenomenon.

(Via Instapundit.)


Pay raises are “saved jobs”

November 4, 2009

The AP reports:

About two-thirds of the 14,506 jobs claimed to be saved under one federal office, the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services, actually weren’t saved at all, according to a review of the latest data by The Associated Press. Instead, that figure includes more than 9,300 existing employees in hundreds of local agencies who received pay raises and benefits and whose jobs weren’t saved.

That type of accounting was found in an earlier AP review of stimulus jobs, which the Obama administration said was misleading because most of the government’s job-counting errors were being fixed in the new data.

The administration now acknowledges overcounting in the new numbers for the HHS program. Elizabeth Oxhorn, a spokeswoman for the White House recovery office, said the Obama administration was reviewing the Head Start data “to determine how and if it will be counted.”

But officials defended the practice of counting raises as saved jobs.

“If I give you a raise, it is going to save a portion of your job,” HHS spokesman Luis Rosero said.

It’s not so remarkable that they’re doing this. The remarkable thing is they’re actually defending doing so.

(Via Instapundit.)


The LA Times has no clue

November 4, 2009

The LA Times corrects some of the errors in an op-ed on the ACORN scandal:

An Oct. 22 Op-Ed article about the community group ACORN stated that, in two ACORN offices, staff members offered advice to a pair of videographers posing as proprietors of a prostitution ring. While tapes of all the offices visited by the pair have not been released, it is clear from those that have been that ACORN offered advice in more than two offices. The article also said that the pair were “kicked out” of most ACORN offices. Because unedited versions of the tapes have not been released, it is unclear how the encounters ended, but it is unlikely they were ordered to leave most offices.

The thing is, these facts are common knowledge among anyone who followed the ACORN scandal. The editors should have caught these “errors” before the piece was ever printed in the first place. The fact that they did not indicates that the LA Times’s editors haven’t the slightest clue.

Moreover, Patterico points out additional “errors” in the piece that the LA Times chose not to correct.

(Via Instapundit.)


Lockerbie bomber survives

November 4, 2009

Remember that Lockerbie bomber who was released on “compassionate” grounds because he was about to die?

The health of the Lockerbie bomber has “not deteriorated” since his release from prison three months ago – despite doctors’ assessments that he would have died by now, a senior source has told The Sunday Telegraph. . .

Megrahi, who is suffering terminal prostate cancer, was sent home to Libya to die after medical experts concluded in a report on July 30 he had just three months left to live. The time span was crucial because only prisoners with three months or less to survive are eligible for release on compassionate grounds.

Within three weeks of the medical examination by Professor Karol Sikora, one of Britain’s leading cancer specialists, Megrahi was put on a plane and sent home to Tripoli to die.

But three months on from Prof Sikora’s diagnosis, Megrahi is well enough to “walk and talk” and shows no sign of deterioration, according to a senior source involved in his release.

(Previous post.)


ACTA attacks digital freedoms

November 4, 2009

The internet chapter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has leaked, and it’s as bad as many have suspected. BoingBoing summarizes:

  • ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.
  • ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.
  • The whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.
  • Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM).

(Via Instapundit.) The EFF has more.

This treaty is being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration, citing national security, if you can believe that:

Last September, the Bush administration defended the unusual secrecy over an anti-counterfeiting treaty being negotiated by the U.S. government, which some liberal groups worry could criminalize some peer-to-peer file sharing that infringes copyrights.

Now President Obama’s White House has tightened the cloak of government secrecy still further, saying in a letter this week that a discussion draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and related materials are “classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.”

Got that? An international treaty is classified due to national security. If that weren’t already a load of crap, the negotiations aren’t so sensitive that they couldn’t invite comment from 42 outside lawyers.