Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


For those who haven't heard yet, one of the 800 pound gorillas in the global warming debate, the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was recently hacked. Over 1,000 e-mails and even more related documents were absconded with and publicly released. The university and CRU are trying to play off the e-mails and documents as harmless exchanges of ideas, while climate skeptics are convinced that they pretty much discredit the whole concept of global warming. They have been referred to as, "not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud" and "quite breathtaking". Defenders and attackers break down pretty much along pre-determined lines, though there are a few exceptions. Most notably, George Monbiot, a well-known environmentalist, has admitted that the e-mails could "scarcely be more damaging".

Of course, what would this whole story be without my scientifically unsound punditry? So, here goes. There is little doubt that CRU scientists engaged in thuggish behavior. E-mails show attempts to circumvent a FOIA request, cherry-picking data, and most importantly, pressure on peer-reviewed journals that dare to publish papers sceptical of global warming from the very same people who base their rejection of skeptics on their lack of published papers. At the very least, the scientists involved in the most egregious acts should find themselves discredited, embarrassed, and jobless. However, just as I would reject someone arguing that private hypocrisy from a politician invalidates their political arguments, private thuggery from a scientist does little to invalidate otherwise trustworthy scientific data. One can be a thug and a lout, and yet still be right.

The much more interesting aspect of all of this will be the code that was leaked. Global warming alarm is based on models of future climate shifts derived largely from historical data. The only alternative way of assessing its validity would be to sit around and see if we all fry, which has certain inherent drawbacks. However, this means that the level of concern we should display hinges in large part on the reliability of these models. Climate scientists have resisted making their models and data available for public assessment at every opportunity, which does not inspire much confidence. Now that CRU's data has been made available despite their best attempts to protect it, scores of interested geeks are pouring over the models and the data. Their conclusions will take time, but will be far more revealing than anecdotes about the bad behavior of a few scientific bullies.

P.S. In case it needs to be made clear, the hackers obviously did something wrong, and if caught should be prosecuted under the applicable statues. But just as the thuggish behavior of these scientists isn't conclusive evidence of bad scientific results, the illegal behavior of the hackers shouldn't invalidate what they have uncovered.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Conversation Between American Journalist and Iranian Protester

IP: "I saw a Twittered headline from MSNBC's website, which is blocked by our government, that 41 students were arrested at the University of California Berkeley for taking over a building as an act of protest. Why is your government trying to keep students from their solidarity with the oppressed people of Iran as our government continues to crack down?"

AJ: "Actually, the protest had nothing to do with the suppression of dissidents here in Iran since your stolen election..."

IP: "Well, I can understand that. As bad as we have it here, there are more dire situations which have been going on far longer. Were they protesting the treatment of women around the world? I understand that Berkeley prides itself on caring about human rights and the trafficking, forced marriage, genital mutilation, and repression of education among the world's women is a travesty that has been going on for centuries."

AJ: "No, actually..."

IP: "Ahh, then it must have been Cuba. The jailing of dissidents, the starving of the Cuban people, and the bigotry towards the Afro-Cuban population are all terrible things. I understand why those would take precedence over us."

AJ: "Well...to be perfectly honest, it wasn't Cuba. In fact, many of the students who were protesting argue that Cuba has a better health care system than America while wearing Che Guevara t-shirts."

IP: "Hmm...that is odd. I thought American students condemned murder and needless war making like that of Che Guevara. Oh well, with their concern over the Sudan, perhaps they have not had time to educate themselves on the real human rights situation in Cuba."

AJ: "Well, you DO occasionally see a bumper sticker protesting the slaughter in the Sudan on the back of a student's car, but actually the protest was about a problem much closer to home."

IP: "Ahh, I understand. After all, no country is perfect, and they must feel that America cannot be an effective force for human rights until it has cleaned its own house. What egregious violation of American rights were they upset over?"

AJ: "Well, you see, their college tuition was increased by 33%."

IP: "..."

AJ: "No it's serious. Previously, the University of California system allowed the best and brightest from around the state to have a subsidized public education that was far cheaper than most private schools, while maintaining a level of academic prestige on par with that of all but the best private universities. Now, well, it's still the premier public education system, but with the reduction in the amount of subsidization that comes from the state, some of the students might be forced to transfer into the second-tier system, the California State University System, or even worse, they might have to get jobs!"

IP: "I'm sorry, my English is not the best. It almost sounded to me like you are saying that, in a time of severe recession and high unemployment, the students of your university system feel it is more important to protest over fee increases to their STILL HIGHLY SUBSIDIZED EDUCATION, than it is to shoulder their share of the country's hardship in a time of widespread crisis. All of this while ignoring the plights of oppressed and poverty-stricken people worldwide."

AJ: "Actually, your English is excellent. You simply don't understand that these students DESERVE subsidized educations. After all, they..."

IP: "Unfortunately, the sound of shooting seems to be getting closer. Perhaps you can educate me further on the plight of these poor students from a safer location. Goodbye."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nailed It!

Hoffman has unconceeded. I told you this might get interesting. Last I heard, the vote tallies now show less than 3,000 votes separating the candidates. If that count drops into the hundreds, someone is getting sued. Frankly, since I really doubt that he'll find enough absentee votes to pull this off, I am a bit worried by this move. Unconceeding before there is any reason to makes him look pretty silly if nothing comes of this, and also makes it mentally easier to justify whipping out the lawyers down the road. This may end up hurting Hoffman if he tries for a 2010 rematch. Plus, Dems steal elections on the recount, not Reeps.

Cheney 2012

I think I'm on fairly safe ground in asserting that the only reason Dick Cheney decided not to run for president was the fact that he is far too awesome for America. So was Reagan, but he was also a kind man who felt sorry for us after 4 years of Jimmy Carter. Dick Cheney on the other hand, had the last remaining bit of vestigial compassion surgically removed when they installed his pacemaker.

However, we may have a chance in 2012. While Dick Cheney can't be expected to feel compassion for a country that voted for Obama, he still has to live here. If the president messes things up enough between now and 2012, Cheney may get annoyed enough to end the misery. In anticipation of that event, Frank J. has come up with some campaign slogans. Go read, they're pretty awesome. Here's my personal favorite. "You don’t inaugurate me; you unleash me.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interesting News In NY-23

Apparently Doug Hoffman's vote total was under counted. He is still down by over 3,000 votes, but this tightening of the gap means that there is a chance that absentee ballots could decide the race in his favor. Were that to occur, Bill Owens would have to be removed from the House, and Hoffman would be sworn in in his place.

This is all very unlikely to occur however, and I'd like to point out a couple of things that make it even more so. Absentee ballots from the district will be primarily military voters, since the district has a heavy military presence. While military voters lean heavily Republican, Owens is a retired officer, which may give him some extra support from these voters. More importantly, many of these votes were likely cast before Hoffman's surge (and Sozzafava's matching decline). Also, any reversal of fortunes would almost invariably lead to recounts, litigation, etc. because the margin of victory would be impossibly thin.

Still, it will be fun to watch.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

10.2% Unemployment

The new unemployment figures are bad for the Obama administration on several levels. For one thing, the phrase "double-digit unemployment" sounds terrible, feels terrible, and is terrible. More importantly though, we weren't supposed to get here. Remember the nifty charts showing unemployment with and without the stimulus package? Well, job losses have been higher than what the president projected we'd see without the stimulus package. He and his folks have two alternatives. Either the stimulus bill was only marginally effective because Congress used it as a pork dispensing bill rather than a real economic stimulus (remember, the president punted and let Congress write their own bill), or his administration completely underestimated the scope of the crisis. So far, they've chosen the second option. How reassuring...

Of course, the president and his defenders are quick to point out that unemployment is a lagging indicator, and really isn't a sound index of economic health. They're right of course. Employers make sure things are looking up BEFORE hiring new employees. But guess what? That was true in every previous administration, and no one cared then either. George W. Bush lost his re-election over much lower unemployment rates. It's a lousy economic indicator, but its a great indicator of how people are affected by the economy. Is it fair? No, and it wasn't fair when George Bush got beaten up for 5% unemployment either. Life sucks. Buy a helmet Mr. President. And next time, don't tell everyone that job creation is your "number one" priority.

As cap-and-trade and the healthcare bill keep getting pushed back, it looks more and more the like the mid-terms may end up being a "jobs" election. Right now, that's bad news for the Dems.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Uh Oh, Now They've Done It!

They are substantially more willing to use violence, treat gays and women terribly, and suppress other religions. But these are all things for which western elites can forgive the Muslim world. Now however, those westerners are beginning to realize that Muslims are creationists. If they aren't careful, they'll soon be almost as hated as Sarah Palin.

Fort Hood

So a devout Muslim officer went around shooting other soldiers while dressed in traditional Islamic attire and shouting "Allahu akbar". That means something. But before people engage in a shouting match in an attempt to figure out what, I have two humble suggestions. 1. Give people time to bury their dead. 2. Temper whatever your first impulse may be with these.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This Really Demonstrates NASA's Problem

We're a society that expects space travel to be all Klingons and Borg, while cruising around in artificial gravity. In reality, it is lots and lots and lots of planning, followed by long periods of boredom and tedious work interspersed with short periods of high stress, all while wearing a "pumpkin suit".

In real life, boldy going where no man has gone before involves grown men wearing diapers.

Whitman Still On Top

Meg Whitman has increased her lead over the other GOP gubernatorial candidates in the latest round of poll. Her early dominance is largely due to the her aggressive spending early on. She has already run through almost $20 million, despite being seven months out from the primary.

Two thoughts occur to me. We know front-runners don't always end up winning. Ask presidents Dean and Giuliani about that one. But I think that often, being a front-runner can actually hurt in a prolonged campaign. Obviously, it makes you everyone else's target. Poizner isn't going to waste money throwing attack ads at Campbell, he's going to go after Whitman (and has already started). But more importantly, I think voters just get sick of people. Hearing the same name over and over has an effect over time. A person's personal charisma has a lot to do with the length of time it takes for the boredom to kick in, but it will eventually happen. Meg might be kicking herself in a few months, asking why it mattered so much what voters thought in November of 2009.

The other thing is that, just as people get bored with candidates, they get bored with issues. Meg's embarrassing voting record, and more importantly, her campaign's inept and flat-footed response, will be ancient history by next November. If she's going to be beaten, it won't be because she never voted for George H. W. Bush. (Full disclosure. I REALLY want to like Meg Whitman. While none of the candidates are social conservatives, she's the closest. She's also the one with the most potential in terms of her charisma and talents. So far though, she'd tried VERY VERY hard to discourage me. Avoiding all but softball interviews, acting as an ATM for consultants, and not voting for most of her adult life aren't exactly selling points.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Election Post-Mortem

A few thoughts.

-All elections are local. I think this cycle reinforced that belief. It was a good, but not great, result for Republicans, but there were enough unique factors in each race to stymie anyone from drawing any real sweeping conclusions.
-Roughly 60% of voters said the president played no part in their voting decision. Democrats think this is a good thing that argues against Republican assaults on Obama. I'm not so sure. After all, last year his coattails were long enough to sweep fellow Democrats into a lot of Republican-leaning seats. This year, all of Corzine's money and all of Obama's hope and change weren't enough to drag an incumbent Governor and former Senator across the finish line in a state that went for Obama by an almost 16% margin a year ago. What message does that send to Blue Dogs who are already leery about following the president's lead on health care reform?
-The most important result that no one seems to care about was the Pennsylvania judicial election. The Republican win in that race means that any lawsuits over redistricting will go before a Republican-leaning court. Republicans have a majority of 60% in the Senate, while Democrats have a tiny majority (5 seats out of a 203-seat body) in the House. If Republicans retake the Governorship (not unlikely given the current governor's approval rating), they might just be able to do some damage in redistricting a relatively populous swing state.
-Harmer lost to Garamendi in the California congressional race. It wasn't a surprising loss, but the margin of victory was less than it should have been. Garamendi spent 14 years in the state legislature, has held 2 statewide offices, and is currently the Lt. Governor. Harmer has never held office before this race. A result like that may spell trouble for Joan Buchanan in her re-election against Abram Wilson next year. What is more interesting though, is what will happen to the Lt. Governorship. The Democrats obviously want a nonentity in the seat, and Governor Schwarzenegger needs their approval for whoever he nominates. The only way he might get a live body into the seat would be to nominate State Senator Maldonado. He comes from a district that the Democrats would have a decent change of picking up in an open-seat race, and they might consider that to be worth whatever advantage giving Maldonado a statewide office might convey.
-Social issues played a very small role this year, but its hard to argue from these results that they are a drag on an otherwise qualified candidate. A pro-life, pro-marriage candidate won in NEW FREAKIN' JERSEY despite Corzine's attack ads. A pro-life, pro-marriage candidate won in NORTHERN VIRGINIA despite the Post's relentless flogging of his old master's thesis. In Maine, the most socially liberal section of America rejected gay marriage despite high turnout (which was originally thought to be advantageous to the gay marriage folks) and high spending in favor of redefining marriage.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So Who Exactly Is Full Of It?

The folks concerned by global warming, or the folks concerned with global warming?

So let me get this straight. A year or two ago, skeptics of global warming started to point out that the earth has seemingly been cooling since 1998 or so. In short order, multiple global warming alarmists said, "well yes, our models predicted that there might be a short-term cooling trend, but pay no attention to it, because long-term we're all doomed." Now, statisticians are saying that the purported "global cooling" doesn't really exist. It's just a blip in the data. (No one points out that, in geological terms, THIS CENTURY is a blip in the data) So, am I to believe the climate modelers who claimed to have predicted the short-term cooling now that they assure me the long-term trend is more warming?