Tuesday, December 28, 2010



I'm not much of a legal expert, so I really can't offer much of an opinion on whether or not the recent release by WikiLeaks of over a hundred thousand classified documents constitutes a prosecutable violation of law. However I will say that anyone with half a brain should realize that hundreds of thousands of communications on domestic and international affairs among government officials are bound to include more than a few embarrassing observations, and we should all have the good sense to put these into context.

That said, out of curiosity I did a little checking into what the usual conservative and liberal pundits are saying about this whole WikiLeaks episode. And it comes as no surprise to me that on cue, the conservatives are calling it treason, while at the same time offering all sorts of explanations and excuses for what was said in the most contentious documents. For their part, most of the liberal pundits don't even mention treason and have begun to point fingers and draw conclusions.

And what an amazing irony this is! A little over a year ago, some unknown person hacked into the Hadley CRU, stole and then released to the public thousands of private e-mails - and the shoes were on the other feet. Then, conservative pundits absolutely ignored the ethical considerations of privacy and jumped immediately to pointing fingers and drawing conclusions. Liberals cried foul and started looking for explanations. Does this teach us anything?

I think so. If you want to believe something, somewhere among the thousands of private opinions expressed by imperfect men you're going to find something to bolster that belief. But you know, God help us if tomorrow, by some miracle, we should be privy to everything our "friends" have said about us in private. If this was true, none of us would have any friends.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas!



'Tis the season!

All year long, people of abundant faith and bottomless doubt, curmudgeons and positivists, Christians, atheists, men and women of every conceivable spiritual and philosophical stripe, the fearfully intelligent and the woefully stupid, the young, the old, those claimed by the insensate providence of dogma and those who struggle against it (in short, all of us), have wasted our time pounding against walls. And yet...

Those walls won't ever come down. Our bloody fist prints might decorate them briefly after we are gone, but in time they will fade as generations after us rage on.

Steve, we started this blog a little over a year and a half ago. And, oh yes, we've raged. We've raged at different things for different reasons, and most times confronted each other, sometimes rancorously, sometimes politely, with our differences.

Yet always, always, the comforting remainder is that we have raged together.

If there is anything about this season, anything that is, which all of us, regardless of what we believe, unites us, it is that now is the perfect time catch our breath and give thanks for this magnificent gift of life and the brilliant minds God gave us.

So, thanks. I wish I could express to you how much I've enjoyed our debates, not to mention our odd forays.

And please, don't run for office. I can't tell you how embarrassed a liberal I would be to explain why I voted for such a regressive libertarian as yourself!



Thursday, December 16, 2010

I buy you books and all you do is chew the covers...


First off, thanks for replying to my comment and question regarding the "missing hot spots". As you may have surmised, I had already checked on this phenomenon and was wondering what your interpretation of it was. At issue, for me in any case, was your conclusion that this condition comprises a "logical flaw" in the theory of AGW. What bothers me most about this is the tendency to claim any conundrum or enigma in climate science generally to be a disproof, specifically, not just of AGW, but of global warming altogether. Follow me here.

The "missing hot spots" were first identified in the late 90's by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. Later in 2004, they re-surfaced in a "bombshell" paper which Patrick Michaels announced was going to "knock the stuffing out" of the IPCC's position on climate change. Yet nothing of the sort happened. The paper was almost universally panned as being the product of poor research, while most of the discrepancies between satellite and surface station measurements were resolved (you may recall our own discussion of this in private correspondence). Now come the same authors (Douglass, Pearson and Singer, with the addition of John Christy) with a new and vastly more limited claim. The assertion now is that the rate of warming in the tropical troposphere only (not, mind you, the existence of warming there - which is not disputed), as measured by satellite and radiosonde, are not consistent with the rate of warming as measured on the ground. Thus, in roughly ten years, the more or less blanket assertions of Soon and Baliunas have been whittled down to a single and much more limited discrepancy, regarding which, as you rightly point out, climate scientists are working hard to resolve.

In any case, why would one immediately assume this whole problem constitutes a "logical flaw" in the theory of AGW? Certainly it represents a problem either in the mechanics of temperature measurement, or in our understanding of what is happening in the tropical troposphere, or most likely, a little of both. But this would be a problem whether the theory of AGW is valid or not. Or, to say this another way, this whole issue progresses from a "logical flaw", to the bare claim that, because scientists don't know everything there is to know about climate science, all of their theories and predictions are worthless.

It doesn't take a lot of brains or ingenuity to stand on the sidelines, as persons like Joanne Nova do, and claim, vociferously, that every problem or disagreement among climate scientists wrecks the whole enterprise. But that's exactly what they do. Nowhere in their literature is the barest hint of appreciation for the notable successes which climate scientists have achieved, or of the thousands of hours of patient observations made by real professionals who have spent most of their lives studying a science not one person in a hundred understands.

Sure, in climate science, as in all scientific disciplines we need, desperately, an environment which fosters honest skepticism and robust debate. But this kind of constant, ignorant back-biting from agenda driven amateurs is poisoning the well. Steve, the place for climate scientists is in the field or the laboratory, not in front of a computer answering perfidious FOI requests or trying to defend themselves from charges of political bias.

And, for the last time, climate science doesn't have all the answers. But for Pete's sake Steve, nuclear physics is riddled with unsolved mysteries. Yet that hasn't stopped nuclear physicists from successfully designing safe and effective nuclear reactors. Similarly, what we know about cancer is dwarfed by what we don't know, yet this hasn't prevented medical researchers from designing treatments which in turn have saved many lives.

This leads me to the remainder of your post.

I gather you personally are unsure of how climate models are constructed, how they are checked for accuracy, and to what extent climate scientists employ them to make predictions about climate change. What mystifies me most about this is how, after months of rendering judgements, you turn around and ask where you can find the source material on that which you are judging! Are you kidding me?
Forgive me for saying this, but frankly, what you're saying here is that you've been repeating the most common skeptical arguments without taking the obvious and rational first step of going to the source documents and checking them out for yourself. In other words, you're allowing others to do your thinking for you.
Either (a), You are so entranced by your own conspiracy theories that you have denied yourself huge repositories of useful information because you assume, a priori, they are all the work of ideologues, or (b), you simply don't know these repositories exist. I don't think I can do much about (a). The central burden of a conspiracy theory is that it usually compels one to search, not for enlightenment but confirmation. Regarding (b) however:
Back in July, I posted links to 4 separate sites: NOAA, NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and The National Science Foundation, where you can find a wealth of information about the science behind climate change. In December of last year, I wrote a post specifically about climate modeling, with helpful links to UCAR's Community Climate System Model (CCSM), which reviews in some detail how one of today's most powerful climate models has been put together and how it is checked for accuracy. In separate correspondence, I sent you links to the IPCC, where you can read for yourself all the current reports, along with supporting material (By the way, the volume by Working Group 1, "The Physical Science Basis", includes an extensive discussion of climate models - along with a copious list of references.).
Are you reading any of this stuff?
Not to complain, but every time you've mentioned some new argument, I've gone to the source you referenced, read it, and done the necessary checking. Here's how that works. Some time ago in private correspondence you cited some Anthony Watts material on the unreliability of surface station temperature readings. I went to the source, found one of the stations Mr. Watts said was unreliable, and checked it out by comparing readings (available at the NOAA) from that site with two nearby sites. I overlaid the readings from the three sites and sent you back a graphic which clearly demonstrated that the readings from the station Mr. Watts was questioning were almost in perfect agreement with nearby sites - which would be virtually impossible if any or even all of the sites were reporting false readings.
What troubled me then is the same thing which troubles me now. Anthony Watts (one of the critics you apparently rely on) was telling his readers that certain surface stations were giving false or unreliable readings, yet didn't take the elementary, and easy step of verifying this claim with freely available data. But then again, neither did you. Darn it, I, a boob, easily and independently discovered a means to determine the Watts' claim was nothing more than what comes from the south end of a north bound horse. Why wouldn't you have done the same thing?
To me, this example perfectly characterizes the shoddy nature of the "scholarship" of your primary sources of information on climate change. But more importantly, it indicates that you yourself are not subjecting this material to the same standards of proof you demand from qualified and legitimate climate scientists. By all means, all theories, not just those of science, usually stand or fall based entirely on the results of repeated attempts to disprove them. Certainly they do. That's how science works. But for heaven's sake, shouldn't you demand at least some scientific rigor from your sources? In other words, how much time do you spend checking the other side of the argument before you accept an accusation as true?
I get the impression you consider climate models to be some sort of voodoo. Stop thinking that way. Climate models are really nothing more than very large algorithms which allow climate scientists to correlate millions of bits of raw data. What do you expect them to use, black boards and slide rulers? I noted in an earlier post that NASA saved millions in the design of the Mars Landers by using sophisticated models to anticipate the effect of the Martian atmosphere on the entry capsules and parachutes. Similarly, all the major aerospace companies across the globe successfully employ computer models to test aircraft designs at a fraction of the cost previously required by the testing of full scale mock-ups. Now that I think of it, computer models have saved diverse industries billions of dollars in design costs, not to mention having made a major contribution to our own safety and comfort.
How silly do you think these industries would be if they declined to use computer simulations because they are not perfect?
Anyway, enjoy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Colors of the Wind


Pointing out logical flaws in the theory is NOT "spreading disinformation". Private *OR* Government money in support of an advocacy group (or in support of a group with a vested interest) is not Good Science. Period. Yes, that happens on both sides. If the science is *really* settled, there would be NO question that the theory, using its reported data, holds up to careful examination BY ANYONE. (It doesn't. I'll point to JoNova's "missing hot-spot" as just one example. There are others.)

According to your definition, I would certainly consider the IPCC an "advocacy group", if for no other reason than the fact they promote an agenda-driven "solution" which cannot be verified or monitored with a sufficient accuracy to determine if the steps required are having ANY measurable effect ON THE PROBLEM.

If AGW is a "problem" which actually exists, doesn't it make sense to be CERTAIN we can accurately monitor and measure the results of ANY action taken to "solve" it? (No, we can't: not yet.)

YES - There has been a lot of research done. Various theories have been proposed. Proper peer-review consists - among other things - of a careful study of the reported results. The goal of the reviewer is to FALSIFY (disprove) the theory *not* support it. If the data holds up, it holds up. If it doesn't, it doesn't. It doesn't (or shouldn't) matter if the reviewer agrees or disagrees with the theory itself. And it certainly doesn't matter who or what organization is funding the review, but to be safe, I want as many different reviewers as possible, from all sides and from all scientific disciplines.

OK - Where can we start? With the models (because that's the basis for all these predictions).The FACT that those models have been PROVEN TO BE INACCURATE over a reasonably short period of time (e.g. a single decade) doesn't provide very much reassurance they will be accurate in predicting conditions a hundred years in the future. But let's set that aside and talk about the models themselves. And BEFORE we get anywhere close to what the effects of the actions of mankind may/may-not be... Consider:

Sunlight reaches the earth. Sunlight energy is the single greatest component that affects global temperatures - hard not to agree on that. Some of that light energy is reflected back to space, the rest heats the surface, which in turn affects the temperature levels of the atmosphere. Have we accurately calculated the differences in absorption of sunlight energy between land mass and water? (Probably.) Also, about 70% of the surface is water, so one would suspect the effect on water and from water is much greater than the effect of land absorption, but is that true? (If not, why not?) How does the model account for the differences between them? How is an "average" temperature for the entire planet determined? To what degree of accuracy (1 degree, 0.1 degrees)? How are differences between land surface temps and ocean water temps balanced? How does this average balance the very real differences in (annual) temperature reports from various locations on the planet? Do we have an accurate method for determining sun cycles and strength which in turn affects the energy levels of radiant warming? Does the calculated average temperature consider the changes in radiant heating which occur over time? How do the models handle that? How much of the sunlight energy is absorbed by the atmosphere on the way in? And on the light that is reflected back FROM the surface, how much is absorbed? Is there an adjustment based on the change in orbital angles (i.e., seasonal rotational positions between the Sun-Earth)? Since water is the major energy absorbing unit, it's logical to assume that such absorption will produce water vapor - the largest component of greenhouse gases. How much water vapor is produced by ranges of solar energy levels? How much of the remaining energy is absorbed by CO2? How much *more* energy would be absorbed if the current CO2 levels, say... doubled? What would be the effect of doubled CO2 levels - regardless of source - on that "global average temperature"? (what does the historical record show?) Have we precisely measured the annual amounts of atmospheric CO2 from *all* significant sources? Just how much is truly "man-made"? (Be aware that ANY doubling *could* occur from NON-man-made sources.) And while we're at it, "What is the 'optimum' level of CO2 in the atmosphere supposed to be?" (and exactly how did we arrive at that value?)

And now, the key question, which I've raised before: "Have we back-checked those calculations, using the model itself, against historical records?" In other words, What are the results from the models, using available historical data from, say 1850-1900, when predicting observed conditions in 2000? How accurate is the prediction for 2000 using data from any randomly selected 50-year period of historical data? How about a random 20-year period?

Chris, this isn't about a review of "who" or "how many" agrees the model results (counting noses is not science), or who is paying the bills. I'm talking about the effect of SUNLIGHT on the ecosystem, and you've got to start at the beginning. If we can't figure out the effects of the largest single component in the equation, why are we obsessing over the suspected impact of a even smaller piece of the puzzle?

Surely, since "the science is settled" all these basic, straight-forward OBVIOUS questions are clearly and fully discussed at length and has been subject to careful peer-review for pure scientific accuracy with NO GUESSING ALLOWED. That means get rid of the 'assumptions' in the model. (If it's "A Fact", you can't be 'guessing', now can you?)

Heck, all these points are probably covered as part of undergraduate-level ecosystem studies required by all those climate scientists we're turning out... Right? Explanations and equations should be easily found on the 'net and elsewhere and should be presented in a form where an person of slightly-above-average intelligence can comprehend it with a reasonable amount of study (that describes all those college students, and both you and I)...

Where is it? Seriously. I'd like to see it. Especially that back-checking of the climate models.

Have I made my point?

- Steve

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Color Me Confused


I found your comment on my last post more than a little confusing. Is it me?

With regards to funding, you are comparing apples to avocados. This makes no sense, since however much funding comes from "government organizations", none of it is spend on political campaigns and lobbying. Furthermore, there is no equivalency, repeat, none, between government financing of climate research and private funding of disinformation. On the one hand, research consists of going out in the field, accumulating data and then trying to put it all together. I was making the point that while the fossil fuel industry spends billions on research, none of that money is spent for research into global warming. And why is that?

Fred Singer doesn't conduct any research into global warming, neither does Willie Soon, Stephen Milloy, Sallie Balliunas, or any of the rest of them. Yet these are the kinds of people the industry pays to spread disinformation about the scientists who actually do genuine research. See the difference?

Finally, the funding of climate research - not to mention education - is without doubt an important and necessary function of government. If you take the time, as I have, to look into where this money goes, you will find that not one penny funds an advocacy group or "think tank". In fact, most of the money is spent on people and equipment to study the Earth's atmosphere, a subject about which global warming is only a small part.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who's Kidding Who?

You know Steve, here at this blog you've alluded repeatedly to an organized conspiracy involving an overwhelming majority of the world's climate scientists, allied to various political leaders and opinion makers. Ominously, the purpose of this conspiracy would be to use a scientifically unsupportable theory (AGW) as part of a plan to achieve a new political order. Yet so far, you haven't come up with any verifiable evidence for this, aside from the vague assertion that credentialed scientists in the relevant fields are smug elitists who are probably lying to us. I've said before I don't care for smug, know-it-all academics any better than you do. But to build a massive conspiracy on that bare annoyance is questionable logic to say the least.

Not to sound overly critical, but it seems to me that for a man who claims to be sensitive to possible conspiracies, especially those which have to do with climate change, you've made precious little effort to examine the evidence that if a conspiracy really does exist, it is probably the exact opposite of the one you believe is taking place.

Have you spent any time considering that global warming skepticism might be the product of an effort to discredit perfectly valid and well supported scientific theory? I mean, wouldn't it be logical to give at least some thought to the motivation and practices of companies and individuals who stand to lose billions in profits if carbon emission roll-backs become policy?

Isn't it is at least plausible to assume that well connected and highly motivated people in some industries will promote policies for personal gain which are generally harmful to society as a whole? Certainly there is ample precedent for this.

Just take a look at the Enron scandal. As you know, Enron was the lead conspirator in manufacturing an energy crisis in California back in 2000 and 2001. That "crisis" caused rolling black-outs which almost certainly resulted in the loss of human life.

If a massive, publicly traded corporation like Enron would knowingly conspire with other energy producers to engineer an energy crises involving the potential cost of human life, why would it be so difficult to surmise that at least some energy companies might conspire to alter public policy and opinion on the issue of climate change, especially with billions in profits at stake? Why would you automatically assume that big corporations in any field would always act in the public's best interest?

As recently as 1999, the DOJ filed a racketeering lawsuit against Phillip Morris and several other major tobacco companies - and won the suit. The judge ruled that Phillip Morris (et al):

1. conspired to minimize, distort and confuse the public about the health hazards of smoking; 2. publicly denied, while internally acknowledging, that secondhand tobacco smoke is harmful to nonsmokers, and 3. destroyed documents relevant to litigation.

In addition, and most relevant to this post:

"The ruling found that tobacco companies undertook joint efforts to undermine and discredit the scientific consensus that passive smoking causes disease, notably by controlling research findings via paid consultants."

And here's the real kicker: amazingly, some of the same "scientific consultants" who worked on behalf of the tobacco companies to discredit the scientific consensus on tobacco smoke, are today involved in an effort to discredit the consensus on climate change. And I'm not talking about little fish either. Fred Singer, one of today's most vocal and visible climate skeptics, wrote a paper questioning the science behind the hazards of second hand smoke - a paper by the way, which was paid for by The Tobacco Institute. Ironic, isn't it? The agency which paid him to write the paper already knew it wasn't true!

In 1972 Johns-Manville, along with six other major asbestos companies created the "Asbestos Information Association", the sole purpose of which was to discredit the growing body of scientific evidence linking asbestos to serious disease. In 1980, DuPont created the "Alliance For Responsible CFC Policy", to discredit the evidence linking CFC's to ozone depletion. Both of these organizations are now defunct.

People like Fred Singer, Sallie Balliunas, Willie Soon, Frederic Seitz, Stephen Milloy, Pat McMichaels and many others keep appearing and reappearing as "experts" and "consultants" in all of these and other similar industry funded (and now failed) disinformation campaigns.

Steve, I need hardly remind you that the potential health hazards of tobacco, asbestos and CFC's are no longer controversial issues. It is virtually impossible to believe the companies and industries which financed disinformation campaigns about these products were not themselves aware of the hazards. Despite this, and usually contrary to their own internal reports, they patiently set about creating doubt in the public's mind about the scientific evidence, simply to sell products which they knew posed serious and long term health risks. And they had no trouble finding "experts" to go along with the whole charade.

With these examples to go by, why would it be so hard to believe the fossil fuel industry would not be tempted to pursue the same kind of strategies? I mean, how are Exxon and Peabody Energy so different from Jons-Manville and Phillip Morris, that we should just innocently assume they would not fund the same sort of disinformation campaigns?

It's a perfectly valid question. And don't you think its at least a little revealing that many of the same "experts" who hired themselves out to spread disinformation about tobacco, asbestos and cfc's, have now become "experts" on carbon dioxide? Why is that? Wouldn't this fact alone raise enough suspicion in your mind that you would do a little checking into it?

In politics especially, a good friend of mine advised, always follow the money. Well, what about the money?

In the last election cycle (2008), oil, gas and coal industries contributed a little over 25 million dollars to congressional campaigns. Compare that to the 5.5 million (about one fifth as much) contributed by environmental and alternative energy interests.

Lobbying? In 2009, oil, gas and coal industries spent 190 million dollars to lobby congress. Environmental/alt energy interests spent 54.5 million - or roughly a quarter as much.

Steve, these ratios have been consistent for the last 20 years. During this period, the fossil fuel industry has outspent environmental and alternative energy interests by anywhere from 4 or 5 to one to influence legislation. So who exactly is the 300 pound gorilla in the room, and who's the 97 pound weakling?

This is a great deal of money. But this doesn't even count the millions more contributed individually by majority stockholders and directors of these companies to political campaigns. Nor does it include the millions contributed to finance the so called "think tanks" and phony advocacy groups which promote AGW skepticism.

Generally speaking, fossil fuel companies either own or lease the rights to recover literally trillions of dollars in carbon based energy resources. Any effective international agreement to limit and eventually reduce carbon emissions would clearly diminish the dollar value of those assets. And, as we know from experience, any such agreement would require a political consensus which agrees with the scientific consensus. If you were trying to prevent or delay that agreement, how would you go about it?

Well, first you would try to get politicians elected who were willing to prevent or delay legislation aimed at limiting carbon emissions and promoting renewables. To give them cover, you would fund a group of phony "experts" willing to cast doubt on climate science. Finally, you would spend millions on lobbying firms to gain privileged access to the legislators you wanted to influence.

Is this happening? FACT: It's well documented that the fossil fuel industry contributes almost exclusively to the campaigns of those who oppose limits on and regulation of carbon emissions. FACT: Most of the leading "experts" promoting skepticism on climate change have documented histories of contributing to previous disinformation campaigns on behalf of other industry funded front groups. FACT: The fossil fuel industry spends nearly 200 million a year on lobbying and political contributions.

Ever heard of "The Greening Earth Society (GES)"? I didn't think so. Apparently it went defunct back in 2005, but you can still have a look at archived versions of their web site here (courtesy of The Wayback Machine).

GES billed itself as a "grassroots organization". From their website:

"We encourage you to join Greening Earth Society’s group of concerned citizens. Our members seek and disseminate information, encourage activism within communities and contribute financially to our projects. Together, we provide useful materials to educators, grassroots activists, families, students, politicians and scientists. We commission original research exploring CO2’s effect on our environment."

Concerned citizens? Original research? Truth is, GES was created and funded by The Western Fuels Association, with which it shared the same offices and director, Fred Palmer, a registered lobbyist for WFA. Not surprisingly, Fred Palmer was also a senior vice president of Peabody Energy. On the GES "scientific advisory panel": Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon and Patrick McMichaels. Small world ain't it?

One last thing. If fossil fuel companies were actually looking for information instead of disinformation, why do they generously fund think tanks, front groups, critics and consultants, instead of actual research? In the last 5 years, Exxon-Mobil's profits have averaged over 35 billion a year, after an expense of roughly 20-30 billion annually for capital improvements, exploration and research.

With the question of climate change being so important to Exxon and all the other fossil fuel companies, don't you think it would be in their own interest to conduct research? Why wouldn't they? Surely they have the money to fund it. But they don't, and I'll tell you why. Just as the tobacco companies knew about the connection between smoking and cancer, the big players in the fossil fuel industry already know the connection between carbon emissions and global warming is backed by sound science. Why would they spend a few million to conduct honest research which would only verify the conclusions they don't want the public to believe?

Anyway, enjoy...


Monday, November 22, 2010

Climate Change policy according to IPCC

An interesting commentary on the purpose behind Climate Change policy as reported by Investors Business Daily can be found here. The statement in question is from Ottmar Edenhofer - an easy name to google, but I found every little. He is a German economist and co-chair of the U.N. IPCC Working Group III on Mitigation of Climate Change. The interview is published in Neue Zurcher Zeitung. (No, I haven't personally read the root article, but have no reason to distrust the accuracy of available translations into English.)

There are various other comments on the article posted about the 'net here-and-there, mostly (as expected) on 'denier' web-sites. Still one should find it passing strange that no one else (AP, Wash Post, et.al.) are reporting on this AT ALL.

Hmmm. Too close to the Truth, perhaps?

- Steve

Friday, November 12, 2010

Murkowski vs. Miller

1. - They're both losers in my book: Murkowski because she refused to accept the results of her party's ballot for purely personal reasons. Miller because he thinks winning the primary is the same as winning the election. Knuckleheads.

2. - I expect Murkowski to win on the recount. Hopefully she will learn a few lessons from the experience.

3. "...Mud slinging has become as iconic as apple pie and Pepsi..."
- As long as both sides continue to engage in the 'politics of personal destruction' and as long as the voters respond as they are manipulated, this will continue. Sad.

4. "...every time you think of Pelosi and I think of Cheney, we find ourselves wishing those who voted for these people could be lined up against the wall and shot."
- I don't feel that way about Pelosi: not really, anyway. (I can't speak for you and Cheney.) I just disagree with her policies.

5. "And, to have some mealy mouth politician claim that elections should be decided in the courtroom instead of the voting booth is nothing more than a profound insult to every man and woman responsible enough to go out on election day and affirm the importance of that privilege by exercising it."
(and others).

- Steve

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What A Jerk


Don't count me as a big supporter of Lisa Murkowski, the Republican Senator from Alaska. But she's beginning to look like cherries and ice cream compared to her opponent, Joe Miller, in this last election.

As you know, Murkowski narrowly lost to Miller in the Republican primary and decided to run as a write-in candidate. In the event, Alaskan law stipulates that individual write-in votes (in this case, for Senator) will not be hand counted unless the overall total of them exceeds the number of votes for any of the candidates listed on the ballot.

As it happens, the write-ins did indeed exceed the number of votes for the the winner listed on the ballot, Joe Miller. So now begins the process of hand counting the write ins. Last night on Fox News, Joe Miller explained why he intends to file a lawsuit seeking to throw out any of the write-in votes for Murkowski where her name is misspelled, claiming, well, darn it, its just the law.

No it isn't. Alaskan law gives the election commission the authority to count a write-in ballot with a misspelled name, so long as the voter's intent can be determined.

Which isn't so hard to understand. "Lisa Murkowski" isn't exactly the "Jim Smith" of names. It shouldn't be too hard to identify a "Liza Markowski" or a Lisa Merkowsky" as a vote for Ms. Murkowski. In some cases I'm sure the misspellings will be so bad that these votes will be rightly discarded - but I think those cases will be rare.

So the Miller suit is just a bunch of hot air. But The Independent puts a little more top spin on this croquet ball (my emphasis):

"But there is worse: after the courts in Alaska ruled last week that election workers could hand voters a list showing the names of write-in candidates as they enter the voting booths, Miller supporters rushed to register themselves as last-minute runners just to dilute whatever advantage the lists might give to Ms Murkowski. Suddenly there were well over 150 write-in candidates in the race."

Steve, if aliens ever decide to incinerate the Earth, there's a good chance it will be a decision made on the basis of our political parties and campaigns, which on a scale of morality have fallen a couple of notches below child pornography and witchcraft. But that's to be expected. Mud slinging has become as iconic as apple pie and Pepsi.

But if there's one place where we should draw the line it is when candidates and their parties try to game the election process itself. This demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of how democracy works and why it is better than any other system.

Frankly, the voting public rarely delivers elected leaders capable of the greatness we expect of them. I'm sure that every time you think of Pelosi and I think of Cheney, we find ourselves wishing those who voted for these people could be lined up against the wall and shot.

But you know, the privilege to vote is a privilege which defines citizenship. How can you expect a man to obey the laws enacted by a government he was not allowed to select?

And, to have some mealy mouth politician claim that elections should be decided in the courtroom instead of the voting booth is nothing more than a profound insult to every man and woman responsible enough to go out on election day and affirm the importance of that privilege by exercising it.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November Quickie #4

It may be true that money can't buy love, but it can sure put you in the line of fire.

November Quickie #3

Politics is the art of something for nothing. They take your something and you get their nothing.

November Quickie #2

In advertising, there is no such thing as "20% more, free!" If you don't believe me, go to the grocery, ask them to open a box of anything advertised like this and then give you just the "20% free" part.

November Quickie #1

You can't have winners without losers. When somebody tells you this is going to be a "win-win" deal, what they really mean is that now there will be two losers, and you're probably going to be one of them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photographer captures the exact moment Maynard Scrumple realizes he has arrived at the wrong Halloween party...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cordevilla and Frum and Lions, Tigers and Bears - Oh, my!

I readily admit Cordevilla's article was a substantial, and driving, force of the post. There are other portions of my post from my own thoughts as well as from other sources. As I stated, the concepts were not original to me alone. I enjoyed and approved of many aspects of his presentation and could not - so I thought - improve upon them. That said, it would seem some principles that *I* thought were clear are not. I'm aware of Frum's commentary. I think Frum and some others - including Cordevilla - have missed some key points.

1. To use the terms like 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' to describe the division in American politics is inappropriate and a needless demagogue approach. In my view, the difference is more between those who look to government for their continued existence / survival on one side, and those who prefer self-reliance on the other.

2. The division is not defined by wealth OR education. Its defined by the source of their self-image. The rich think “I'm better than you because I have more money.” The intellectuals think “I'm better than you because I'm smarter.” Both are wrong. Both want to be in charge of things. The 'smarties' have been running things for quite awhile and have gotten out of control. The 'dumb-masses' want their turn. Joy.

3. Regardless of how you slice it, the purpose of our government - as currently focused - is only concerned with How To Spend All This Money. The Tea Party rose from the depths of debt because of this very point. They are discovering that the core principles behind the rampant, unchecked spending of the Elite Ruling Class trickles over into other areas - predominately the social reform arena. And they don't like what's going on there either. The budget items Cordevilla mentioned for funding cuts were the EASY ones, not the hard ones - Defense budgets, Entitlements, etc. - that's where the Real (Hard) Work will be.

4. It's not about Dem vs Rep. It's about the motivations, attitudes and the philosophical driving forces of those currently wielding political power, regardless of their party affiliation. I thought that was clear. Clinton made mistakes. Bush made mistakes. Obama makes mistakes. Recovery from them is a bitch. And we're all getting tired of fighting against avoidable, even if unintended, consequences of their policies.

5. To define the philosophical battle in racial terms is wrong. Yes, Cordevilla does this in a very sneaky way, and if that was his intent, he's wrong to do so. There are numerous cultural reasons which attract followers to join the ranks of those who rely government largess. Those attracted are not required to be of a particular race. They are typically, but not always, from the ranks of the 'less educated', but that's not a requirement either. I'd rather set aside the racial assumptions and look at the philosophical attitudes which lead to these divisions. Discrimination under the law - or manipulating the law to discriminate - are equally wrong, regardless of who benefits.

6. Frum is absolutely correct in saying Cordevilla's book is about 'feeling'. Of course it is. We are culture that worships “how you feel” above all else. [ Just yesterday, during Pres. Obama's press conference about the voting results and Republicans taking power, he was asked (seriously) how the results “made him feel” - not what he *thought*... what he FELT. Sheesh! ] What Cordevilla does say (or at least imply) is that the required CHANGES will be difficult. The question - for the Tea Party - is, “Are you Willing To Do Whatever It Takes?” I don't know.

7. Where Frum goes wrong in his critique is demanding a Full Solution from Cordevilla before acknowledging his points may actually have some substance to consider. Frum is falling back on the Intellectual argument that “if you don't have all the answers - and present them in a form *I* find acceptable - you aren't smart enough to talk about the problems, so what you have to say isn't worth listening to.” He's wrong. I don't have to have The Answer before pointing out The Problem - I don't need to find the best deal on carpet cleaners before mentioning the elephant in the room.

8. Conspiracy Theory - If a large number of like-minded people follow the same philosophical principles which lead to a particular set of actions, does mean there is a “Conspiracy”? No. Lenin rallied the Russian people to his cause: that doesn't make following Communism a “conspiracy”. Lenin *did* conspire with his leadership cadre to do specific things - e.g., control the media and the information stream - to achieve and maintain specific goals for consolidating political power. Calling something a “conspiracy” doesn't make it Right or Wrong. What word we choose as a Label does not control Reality. There are groups who promote a particular agenda - whether as part of a structured plan by a Secret Society or not.

9. Social reforms - Government is not supposed to try and manipulate society: it is and should operate in support of society, not as its controller. THAT is the problem with both sides of the political spectrum: they are so concerned with trying to implement this or that “much needed social reform” *OR* trying to 'remove' or disrupt previously implemented social policies, that they are overlooking the Main Point - Government should NOT meddle in such things! The Rule Of Law - treat everyone equally - is as far as government can/should go. Abortion? Un-wed mothers? Same-sex marriage? The government should be spectacularly UN-helpful in these matters. This is *my* problem with the Elite / Intellectual approach which can be summed up as *I* (the Elite) know what is best and therefore *you* must be controlled.

10. Intellectual superiority - you and I agree 100% about how some (not all) experts) demand deference. Where we differ, is that while that attitude WAS NOT the norm, it is fast becoming that way. It is not the fault of those who genuinely pursue knowledge for its own sake. BUT, you must admit that the organizational culture that exists within the university system, corporate R&D elements, and - yes - government departments has become increasingly bureaucratic with the goal of supporting itself, not promoting individual achievement for the “greater good of all”. THAT is where the problem with academia lies. Whether by choice, some Grand 'Conspiracy', or just the nature of the beast, those in positions of power, influence, and control of intellectual pursuits are of a like mind (“We're better than you”), and they are, individually and as groups, deliberately pursuing agendas to further THAT goal. And if you don't line up with The Consensus, you are less than Nothing, you must be shunned and discarded as 'unworthy'. As an Example: review the protests of AGW-proponents concerning who is or is not 'qualified' to have an opinion on climate studies.

11. Control of education - Even if Cordevilla recommends discarding 'professional educators' in favor of local involvement, he's correct in the respect that the Body Politic *must* become more involved on a LOCAL LEVEL than has been seen in recent years. We cannot turn over the education of our youth to a third party and expect others to impose *our* belief system on their students. What is required - and what Cordevilla missed - is that better OVERSIGHT of educators is desperately needed. That means increased accountability on the part of parents AND educators. The parents can't be 'fired' - and let's not argue about what DFACS can/cannot do, please - but there are some teachers that need to be fired. It has been shown that 50% of the failing students can be traced back to the 10% worst teachers - why is it so hard to fire the worst and improve the education of all? Because the purpose of the education SYSTEM has nothing to do with educating children - its a government jobs program. We can get into an entirely different discussion about the purpose of Government education (and I'll bring up Lenin again, then, too).

12. Religion and Government - I do not want a Government-mandated religion. Period. In any area (that includes the 'religion' of climate change). Allowing public displays of religious faith are harmless. There are way too many would seem to believe that *all* religious references must be prohibited from the public arena. That secular agenda is just as wrong as the formal status between Parliament and the Church of England in the 18th century. This country was founded, in part, from a desire to separate the State from the Church. It was NEVER intended to separate Man from God. The Rule of Law - equal treatment - takes care of government's role. Financing public displays of faith should be supported privately by those who desire such. Faith is an ultimately PERSONAL matter and should be treated as such.


Really kicked over an anthill, didn't I? ;-)

- Steve


A short one:

In 2008, Barack Obama helped elect 255 Democrats to the House.

In 2010, President Barack Obama helped elect 240 Republicans to the House.

Is that what they mean by "bipartisanship"? ;-)

- Steve

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Follies of Fools


I guess I'll have to start this out with a review of "America's Ruling Class--And the Perils of Revolution", by Angelo Cordevilla, since excerpts from that article appear to comprise roughly 90% of your five part post. As you know, the article first appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of the The American Spectator, and since has made the rounds at all the usual conservative blogs, including the SPPI. In July, Rush Limbaugh made rather a big deal of it on his radio show. A modestly expanded book form has now appeared, with a 6 page introduction by Rush, along with a further 60 pages consisting of a copy of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and an extensive bibliography.

I don't think I could do a better job of summarizing this article (and now, book) than renegade conservative David Frum has here and here. These are a few excerpts:

"Good book or bad book, however, “The Ruling Class” takes us as deep as we are ever likely to get into the minds of Tea Party Americans. It is important not for what it argues, but for what it reveals...

Here’s what it does reveal:

...The central concept of the Tea Party is the division of the nation into two parts: the legitimate and the illegitimate, “real America” vs unreal. This is the idea behind Sarah Palin’s speeches...

...The dividing line between “classes” is not wealth. You can be a multi-millionaire and yet still be excluded from “the ruling class.” The dividing line is formal education, and the values and attitudes typically absorbed by highly educated people. You might almost say that the class struggle as defined by Codevilla is waged between people with more money than education, and people with more education than money...

...If one idea unites “The Ruling Class” it is Codevilla’s conviction that white Christians are targets of oppression and discrimination fully equal to that which ever oppressed black Americans. Thus Codevilla asserts that today’s ruling class “can no more believe that a Christian might be their intellectual and moral equal than white southerners of the Jim Crow era could think the same of Negroes.”...

...But here’s a curious fact about Codevilla’s book. Through “The Ruling Class,” Codevilla repeatedly estimates that 1/3 of the country follows “The Ruling Class” while 2/3 belong to the good-guy faction, “the Country Party.” Who are these bad 1/3? They cannot all be Stanford graduates.

Here’s why Codevilla gets coy. He notes that the Democratic party’s most loyal voters live on streets named after Martin Luther King. They are unwed parents. They are protected by the Community Reinvestment Act.

Codevilla’s story never explicitly acknowledges race, but it is unmistakably racialized. If Christian whites are America’s new Negroes, what happened to the old Negroes? Apparently they joined the Ruling Class...

...Perhaps the most surprising thing about Codevilla’s book is the absence of much in the way of a political program. It wants constitutionalism and lower taxes and less spending and less debt, which is all fine. But if you were a Tea Party politician looking for answers to the question, “What do we do?” you won’t find those answers here. Surprisingly, Codevilla more or less washes his hands of both politics and policy.

And there the book ends...

...It may seem a frustrating and disappointing end point. Having told people everything that is wrong with America – identified the guilty parties to be removed – promised that it will be easy to take power – you quit without advising them what to do if they should happen to gain power. How is that helpful?

The answer is that “The Ruling Class” is not a book about governing. It’s a book about feeling: about identifying targets for blame, about mobilizing anger against those targets, about defining who is – and who is not – a proper American. The book does not aspire to be useful, but to be satisfying to those who feel most outraged and alienated.

Which brings us to the real division in America revealed by “The Ruling Class.” Plainly, there are many people to whom this book offers a powerful and convincing message. And then there are those to whom it will appear an unsubstantiated, unconvincing mess.

Just speaking personally here, all the elements that I would expect to find in a book on this subject – some attempt to define basic concepts, some effort at proof, some attempt to justify intellectual moves like defining college professors INTO the “ruling class” and defining the CEOs of major corporations OUT – all these elements are missing.

Codevilla piles bare assertion atop bare assertion atop bare assertion, in service of a series of generalizations that will seem convincing only to those who believed them already. The “Ruling Class” is a work of prejudice-ratification, not analysis in any sense. And yet … plainly there are plenty of people who ask nothing better from a book like this than prejudice-ratification. They know what they think, and what they want is somebody to reflect those thoughts back to them – only even more emphatic, even more impassionated, even more disdainful of anybody who might think differently.

If we were dividing America into segments, perhaps this would be as good a division as any: between those who live in the closed information system served by books like “The Ruling Class,” and those who live in more open systems, where assertions must be corroborated, and where generalizations must rest on evidence.

That divide seems to gape especially wide these days, judging at least by the enthusiastic reception of this embittered polemic by so many who call themselves conservative."

I would cut this post off here, but to keep this blog from becoming little more than a battle of excerpts, I'll add my own thoughts.

Mostly, "The Ruling Class" is just one big laundry list of complaints which social conservatives have been voicing with steadily ascending ferocity since I was in grade school. It's only novelty is to roll all these complaints into one big Super Conspiracy Theory, and identifies, vaguely, a tightly organized cabal of liberal academics as the conspirators. To say it fairly blames traditional Republican politicals equally is something of a misnomer. Actually, what it does is blames some conservatives for acting like liberals - wolves, if you will, in sheep's clothing.

Now I really don't have a problem with people who advance the argument that stable, traditional marriages are better for society than same sex marriages, that smaller government is better than bigger government, that Christian faith is better than atheism - and all the rest. I don't necessarily agree with these arguments, but certainly they deserve a fair hearing.

However, the real problem I have with "The Ruling Class" has nothing to do with whatever you or I think about the validity of these arguments. The real problem is that the article purposefully, directly and insultingly accuses academic achievement as the fundamental source of society's ills. You can't read it any other way. It states, matter of factly and in plain English, that people who commit themselves to excellence in the study of the arts and sciences and become experts, are magically transformed into elite, know-it-all snobs who despise the "common man". They want nothing more than to fashion a godless society in which common men are treated as cattle.

What utter bunk that is! Steve, I've known my share of experts. Some of them, frankly, are insufferable. These are the people who seem to believe their greater knowledge of one subject or another somehow makes them superior to me. I can't stand people like that any better than you can. But this is not the norm, and to build on this minor aggravation the theory that the simple pursuit of knowledge is morally corrupting is both childish and ignorant.

At a time when America is falling behind the rest of the world's developed nations in terms of academic achievement, and as never before needs to nurture and encourage education at all levels, we get blockheads like this Angelo Codevilla making education itself out to be a form of moral perversion. I don't think I can find words to describe how harmful this idea is, not just to America, but to civilization as a whole. So I'll just confine myself to one certain consequence.

How many kids I wonder, will be denied the realization of their academic potential because their otherwise thoughtful and sincere parents bought into disturbing fantasies like this one? This to me is where the pleasant distraction of political discourse begins to have real consequences for real people. You know Steve, here I'm talking about the "real people" out there in rural America which Mr. Codevilla claims he cares about. Fewer of them will become biologists, or climate scientists, or historians, or jurists, or any of a hundred other professionals America desperately needs, because Mr. Codevilla and his like have convinced some parents that study in these fields will turn their children into monsters.

One other point.

Many, including yourself I assume, will assert that education itself is not at fault, but that liberals have constructed an educational system which has the single goal of confirming their own social and political beliefs. Oddly enough this premise, as described by Mr. Codevilla, rests on the idea that it was the teachers and professors themselves who effected this construction, from the inside, if you will. Here's where things really begin to go off the rails and we start looking for a solution imposed by someone on the outside.

Ominously, Mr. Codevilla says:

"Achieving the country class's inherently revolutionary objectives in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with its own diversity would require the Country Party to use legislation primarily as a tool to remove obstacles, to instruct, to reintroduce into American life ways and habits that had been cast aside."

"...(The Country Party) would have to take responsibility for curriculum and administration away from credentialed experts, and they would have to explain why they know better. This would involve a level of political articulation of the body politic far beyond voting in elections every two years."

In other words, Mr. Codevilla advocates taking control of education away from educators and putting it into the hands of political ideologists. Again, that's the only way you can read this.

Steve, please. Think this through. Which practitioners of politics exactly are you planning on having decide which tenets of science are true and which are not? Who is going to be the new sheriff in town? And how can you be sure it will be a sheriff who always agrees with your brand of politics and religion? I mean, having set in motion a mechanism whereby politicians tell scientists what they can study and teach and what they cannot study and teach, how can you be so sure they will always agree with your point of view? Are you really that blind?

Furthermore (and lastly), what possible good can come of putting a public school teacher in charge of your child's religious education? With just the diversity and conflict among America's Christian denominations alone to go on, how can you possibly assume that teachers will always teach the religious principles you want your child to experience?

Or maybe you think it would be better to practice parochialism: public schools in predominantly Mormon areas will hire teachers to teach Mormonism, Catholic neighborhoods will teach Catholicism, Baptists will teach one of the several diverse Baptist theologies... I assume Reverend Wright's Trinity Church will furnish teachers to teach black liberation theology in Chicago schools. People of different Christian denominations in each area will just have to either like it or move out. What a mess!

Steve, that's what's going to happen when you put "religion back into government". You innocently assume government, either nationally or locally, will uniformly encourage your conception of the Christian experience. But what's worse: keeping religion out of government and in the hands of private individuals, or putting politicians in charge of it? Have you really thought this through?



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Night Shuffle


As far as election predictions are concerned, all I can say with any conviction is that the polls are probably correct and Democrats likely lose control of the House, if not the Senate as well.

Even in the best of times, the U.S. Congress is a three ring circus, and in case you hadn't noticed these aren't the best of times. Competent government has always taken a back seat to partisan politics, and who knows if this conundrum is going to play a historically greater role than it has in the past. The only thing we can say for sure is that America is in desperate need of competent government and we aren't going to get it.

Other than that, both sides will probably claim massive voter fraud in every close race. It's become de rigueur, and no election is really complete without it. Considering all the potential law-suits, it probably won't be until well into March before the next Congress is fully seated - which ought to add considerably to the mirth and merriment.

You are voting Democrat, aren't you?


2010 Election Predictions

(National only)
In the HOUSE - I'm predicting a gain of 64 seats by the Republicans, with wins in some unexpected seats which were once thought to be 'safe' for Democrats. Conversely, they will *not* win some seats they expected to get; it balances. Some Republicans will LOSE races due to 'throw *all* the rascals out' voter anger. I wouldn't be very surprised if they win as many as 75-80 seats, but I think that's too much to bank on.

In the Senate - I'm predicting a Republican gain of 8 seats (not enough for a majority: they would need 10). I would be surprised if they pull off a major upset and actually got control, and it's possible: just remote. What I *hope* happens would be a gain of NINE seats, shifting the balance to 50-50 and setting things up for some very interesting times with Joe Lieberman for the next 2 years. ;-)

I will predict Harry Reid loses. and don't be surprised if Pelosi loses her seat, too. Lightning rods. I further predict that the Republicans will squander the 'victory' and misinterpret the results, just like Pres. Obama assumed his victory in 2008 was a 'mandate' to implement his policies and beliefs: instead, the rabble is simply frustrated with the status quo. "A pox on both their houses", et.al.

- Steve

Monday, November 1, 2010

“Who's In Charge?” - Part 5 - The New Red Outsiders

“Who's In Charge?” - Part 5 - The New Red Outsiders

Who stands against the Elite? Let's call them the New Red Outsiders.

Defining the New Red is difficult because it has so many facets. It has no privileged podiums, and speaks with many voices, often inharmonious. But - It shares above all the desire to be rid of rulers it regards inept and self-important. It defines itself practically in terms of reflexive reaction against the rulers' defining ideas and proclivities -- e.g., ever higher taxes and expanding government, subsidizing political favorites, social engineering, approval of abortion, etc. Many want to restore a way of life that has been superseded. Demographically, the New Red are the other side of the Elite coin: its most distinguishing characteristics are marriage, children, and religious practice. Both groups include the professionally accomplished and the mediocre, geniuses and dolts, the New Red are different because of its non-orientation to government and its members' yearning to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.

Even when members of the New Red happen to be government officials or officers of major corporations, their concerns are essentially private; in their view, government owes to its people equal treatment rather than action to correct what anyone perceives as imbalance or grievance. Hence they tend to oppose special treatment, whether for corporations or for social categories. Rather than gaming government regulations, they try to stay as far from them as possible. The Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo, which allows the private property of some to be taken by others with better connections to government, reminded the New Red that government is not its friend.

Negative orientation to privilege distinguishes the corporate officer who tries to keep his company from joining the Business Council of large corporations who have close ties with government from the fellow in the next office. The first wants the company to grow by producing. The second wants it to grow by moving to the trough. It sets apart the schoolteacher who resents the union to which he is forced to belong for putting the union's interests above those of parents who want to choose their children's schools. In general, the New Red includes all those in stations high and low who are aghast at how relatively little honest work yields, by comparison with what just a little connection with the right bureaucracy can get you. It includes those who take the side of outsiders against insiders, of small institutions against large ones, of local government against the state or federal.

The New Red Outsider is convinced that big business, big government, and big finance are as linked and interconnected as never before and that ordinary people are more unequal than ever... and this is Not A Good Thing.

Nothing has set the New Red apart more than the Elite's insistence that Ordinary People (i.e., not the Elite) are intellectually and hence otherwise humanly inferior. Persons who were brought up to believe themselves as worthy as anyone, who manage their own lives to their own satisfaction, naturally resent politicians of both parties who say that the issues of modern life are too complex for any but the Elite. Most Outsiders are insulted by the Elite's dismissal of opposition as mere "anger and frustration" (implying stupidity). The ask the question: Since when and by what right does intelligence trump human equality? Moreover, if the politicians are so smart, why have they made life for all of us WORSE?

The New Red Outsider actually believes that America's ways are superior to the rest of the world's, and regards most of mankind as less free, less prosperous, and less virtuous. It manages to take delight in croissants and thinks Toyota's factory methods are worth imitating, but it dislikes the idea of adhering to "world standards." Also, the Outsiders takes part in the U.S. armed forces body and soul: nearly all the enlisted, non-commissioned officers and officers under flag rank belong to this group in every measurable way. Few vote for the Democratic Party. You do not doubt that you are amidst the New Red Outsiders when the American flag passes by or "God Bless America" is sung after seven innings of baseball, and most people around you show reverence.

Unlike the Elites, the New Red does not share a single intellectual orthodoxy, set of tastes, or ideal lifestyle - and have desire to try and establish one. Its different segments draw their notions of human equality from different sources: Christians and Jews believe it is God's law. Libertarians assert it from Hobbes and Darwin bases. Many just consider equality the foundation of Being American. Some just hate snobs. Some of the New Red follow the stars and the music out of Nashville and Branson, Missouri (entertainment complexes larger than Hollywood) because since the 1970s most of Hollywood's products have appealed to the mores of the Elites and its hangers on than to a large percentage of Ordinary Americans. The same goes for "popular music" and television.

Each of the New Red's diverse parts has its own agenda. Independent businesspeople are naturally more sensitive to the growth of privileged relations between government and their competitors. Persons who would like to lead their community dislike the advantages that Democratic and Republican party establishments are accruing. Parents of young children and young women anxious about marriage worry that cultural directives from on high are dispelling their dreams. The faithful to God sense persecution. All resent higher taxes and loss of freedom. More and more realize that their own agenda's advancement requires concerting resistance to the Elite ruling class across the board.

Not being at the table when government makes the rules about how you must run your business, knowing that you will be required to pay more, work harder, and show deference for the privilege of making less money, is the independent businessman's nightmare. But what to do about it? The penetration of needless bureaucracy into government and business (e.g., the network of subsidies, preferences, and regulations) is so thick and deep that independent businesspeople cannot hope to undo any given regulation or grant of privilege, simply because the people "at the table" receive and recycle into politics tons of money to keep the status quo going. No manufacturer can hope to reduce the subsidies that raise his fuel costs. No set of doctors can shield themselves from the increased costs and bureaucracy resulting from government mandates. The agenda of Independent Business has been to resist the expansion of government in general, and of course to reduce taxes. Pursuit of this agenda with arguments about economic efficiency and job creation (typically with support of the Republican Party) usually results in enough relief to discourage more vigorous action.

Thomas Jefferson said, "The sum of good government,” is not taking "from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." For government to deliberately advantage some at the expense of others, he said, "is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association." More and more independent businesspeople have come to think of their economic problems in moral terms - few realize how revolutionary that is.

As bureaucrats and teachers' unions disempowered neighborhood school boards, while the governments of towns, counties, and states were becoming conduits for federal mandates, as the Elites reduced the number and importance of things that American communities could decide for themselves, America's thirst for self-governance has reawakened. The fact that public employees are almost always paid more and have more generous benefits than the private sector people whose taxes support them only sharpened the sense among many Outsiders so that they now work for public employees rather than the other way around. But how to reverse the roles? How can voters regain control of government? Restoring localities' traditional powers over schools, including standards, curriculum, and prayer, would take repudiating two generations of Supreme Court rulings. So would the restoration of traditional "police" powers over behavior in public places. Bringing public employee unions to heel is only incidentally a matter of cutting pay and benefits. As self-governance is crimped primarily by the powers of government personified in its employees, restoring it involves primarily deciding that any number of functions now performed and the professional specialties who perform them, e.g., social workers, are superfluous (or worse). Explaining to one's self and neighbors why such functions and personnel do more harm than good, while the ruling class brings its powers to bear to discredit you, is a very revolutionary thing to do.

America's pro-family movement is a reaction to the Elite agenda: emptying marriage of legal sanction, promoting abortion, and progressively excluding parents from their children's education. Americans reacted to these challenges primarily by sorting themselves out. Close friendships and above all marriages became rarer between persons who think well of divorce, abortion, and government authority over children and those who do not. The home-school movement involves not only each family educating its own children, but also extensive and growing social, intellectual, and spiritual contact among like-minded persons.

Few of the New Red have any illusion, however, that simply retreating into private associations will long save their families from societal influences which exist to discredit their ways. But stopping the Elite intrusions into every day life would require discrediting its entire conception of man, of right and wrong, as well as of the role of courts in popular government. That revolutionary task would involve far more than legislation.

The Elite's efforts to discredit and drive worship of God out of public life convinced many among the vast majority of Americans who believe and pray that today's Elite regime is hostile to the most important things of all. Not even the Soviet Union arrested students for wearing crosses or praying, or reading the Bible on school property, as some U.S. localities have done in response to Supreme Court rulings. Every December, they are reminded the Elite deems the very word "Christmas" to be offensive. Every time they try to manifest their religious identity in public affairs, they are deluged by accusations of being the "American Taliban" or trying to set up a "theocracy." Let members of the New Red Outsiders object to anything the Elites say or do, and their objection will be characterized as "religious" in nature (e.g., “irrational”), and not to be considered on a par with the "science" (of which the Elite are the sole interpreter). Because aggressive, intolerant secularism is the moral and intellectual basis of the Elite claim to rule, resistance to such rulers, whether to the immorality of economic subsidies and privileges, or to the violation of the principle of equal treatment under equal law, or to its seizure of children's education, must deal with secularism's intellectual and moral core. This lies beyond the boundaries of politics as the term is commonly understood.

Worse, the Elite appetite for deference, power, and perks grows and grows and grows. The Outsiders now disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The Elite ruling class is convinced the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all - stupid. The Outsiders are ever more convinced that our politicians are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The (Elite) rulers want the ruled (Outsiders) to just shut up and obey. The Ordinary Americans want self-governance.

The clash between the two is about which side's vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong. Because each side - especially the Elite class - embodies its views on the issues, concessions by one side to another on any issue tend to discredit that side's view of itself. One side or the other will prevail - but the outcome remains unpredictable.

Frankly, the Elite hold most of the cards: because it has established itself as the fount of authority, its primacy is based on habits of deference. Changing this situation will involve far more than electoral politics. The New Red Outsiders face the uncomfortable question: must we to accept what was done to us just because it was done? Sweeping away a half century's accretions of bad habits (and trying to preserve the good things hidden among the bad) is going to be difficult, to say the least. Establishing, even reestablishing, a set of better institutions and habits is much harder, especially as the Outsiders, by definition, lack organization. By contrast, the Elite holds strong defensive positions and is well represented by the Democratic Party. A two to one numerical voting disadvantage would lean toward defeat for the Outsiders, while victory would leave the Elite in control of a people whose confidence it cannot regain.

Certainly the New Red Outsiders lack its own political vehicle. In the short term, the Outsiders have no alternative but to channel its political efforts through the Republican Party, which is eager for its support. But the Republican Party does not exist to represent the views of the Outsiders. To do so, it would have to become principles-based, as it has not been since the mid-1860s. The few who tried to do that were treated by the party as rebels: Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. The party helped defeat Goldwater. When it failed to stop Reagan, it saddled his and subsequent Republican administrations with its own Elites who, under the Bush family, repudiated Reagan's principles as much as they could. Barack Obama exaggerated in charging that Republicans had driven the country "into the ditch" all alone. But they had a hand in it. Few Republican voters, never mind the larger group of New Red Outsiders, have confidence that the Republican party is actually on their side.

In the long run, the Outsiders will not support a party as conflicted as today's Republicans. The Republican politicians who really want to represent the Ordinary masses will either reform the party in an unmistakable manner, or start a new one - just like Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party from the Whigs in the 1850s.

Regardless of names and labels, American politics in the future will be a confrontation between the Outsiders and the Ruling Elites. The Democratic Party having transformed itself into a unit with near-European discipline, challenging it would seem to require a rival party which is at least as disciplined. Any country party would have to be wise and skillful indeed not to become the Democrats' mirror image.

Unfortunately, to defeat the Elites, a new party has no choice but to imitate the Democrats, at least in some ways and for a while. Consider: The Elite Ruling Class denies its opponents' legitimacy. Democratic officials rarely speak on public affairs without reiterating the litany of his class's claim to authority, contrasting it with opponents who are either uninformed, stupid, racist, shills for business, violent, fundamentalist, or all of the above. They do this in the hope that opponents, hearing no other characterizations of themselves and no authoritative voice discrediting the Elites, will be dispirited. For the Outsiders to seriously contend for self-governance, the political party that represents it will have to discredit not just such patent frauds as ethanol mandates, the pretense that taxes can control "climate change," and the outrage of banning God from public life.

The Democrats, having set the rules of modern politics, require opponents who want electoral success to follow these rules. This means a New Party would have to attack the Elite class's fundamental claims to its superior intellect and morality in ways that dispirit the target and hearten one's own. Such attacks themselves are highly distasteful to Ordinary Americans already weary of negative campaign tactics and the politics of personal destruction.

Suppose that the New American Party (whatever its name might be) were to capture Congress, the presidency, and most statehouses. What then would it do? Especially if its majority were slim, it would be tempted to follow the Democrats' plan of 2009-2010 - which was to write its wish list of reforms into law regardless of the Constitution and enact them by partisan majorities supported by interest groups that gain from them, while continuing to vilify the other side. Whatever effect this might have, it surely would not be to make America safe for self-governance because by carrying out its own "revolution from above" to reverse the Elite ruling class's previous "revolution from above," it would have made that ruinous practice standard in America. Moreover, a revolution designed at party headquarters would be antithetical to the New Red Outsider's diversity as well as to the American Founders' legacy.

Achieving inherently revolutionary objectives in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with its own diversity would require the New American Party to use legislation primarily as a tool to remove obstacles, to instruct, to reintroduce into American life ways and habits that had been cast aside. Passing national legislation is easier than getting people to take up the responsibilities of citizens, fathers, and entrepreneurs.

Reducing the taxes that most Americans resent requires eliminating the network of subsidies to millions of other Americans that these taxes finance, and eliminating the jobs of government employees who administer them. Eliminating that network is practical, if at all, if done simultaneously, both because subsidies are morally wrong and economically counterproductive, and because the country cannot afford the practice in general. The electorate is likely to cut off millions of government clients, high and low, only if its choice is between no economic privilege for anyone and ratifying government's role as the arbiter of all our fortunes. The same goes for government grants to and contracts with so-called nonprofit institutions or non-governmental organizations. The case against all arrangements by which the government favors some groups of citizens is easier to make than that against any such arrangement. Without too much fuss, a few obviously burdensome bureaucracies, like the Department of Education, can be eliminated, while money can be cut off to partisan enterprises such as the National Endowments and Public Broadcasting. That sort of thing is as necessary to the American body politic as a weight reduction program is essential to restoring the health of any human body degraded by obesity and lack of exercise. Yet shedding fat is the easy part. Restoring atrophied muscles is harder. Re-enabling the body to do elementary tasks takes yet more concentration.

What will be required is a level of political action and activity of the body politic far beyond voting in elections every two years. If self-governance means anything, it means that those who exercise government power must depend on elections. The shorter the electoral leash, the likelier an official to have his chain yanked by voters, the more truly republican the government is. Yet to subject the modern administrative state's agencies to electoral control would require ordinary citizens to take an interest in any number of technical matters.

The Law can require environmental regulators or insurance commissioners, or judges or auditors to be elected. But only citizens' discernment and vigilance could make these officials good. Only citizens' understanding of and commitment to law can possibly reverse the patent disregard for the Constitution and statutes that has permeated American life. Unfortunately, it is easier for anyone who dislikes a court's or an official's unlawful act to counter it with another unlawful one than to draw all parties back to the foundation of truth.

How can Ordinary Americans drive home Lincoln's lesson that trifling with the Constitution for the most heartfelt of motives destroys its protections for all? What if an Outsider majority in both houses of Congress were to co-sponsor a "Bill of Attainder to deprive Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and other persons of liberty and property without further process of law for having violated the following ex post facto law..." and larded this constitutional monstrosity with an Article III Section 2 exemption from federal court review? When the affected members of the ruling class asked where Congress gets the authority to pass a bill every word of which is contrary to the Constitution, they would be confronted, publicly, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's answer to a question on the Congress's constitutional authority to mandate individuals to purchase certain kinds of insurance: "Are you kidding? Are you kidding?" The point having been made, the New American Party could lead public discussions around the country on why even the noblest purposes (say, Title II of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964) cannot be allowed to trump the Constitution.

How the New Red Outsiders and the Elite Ruling class might clash on each item of their contrasting agendas is beyond the vision of these posts. Suffice it to say that the Elite's greatest difficulty (aside from being outnumbered) will be to argue that in spite of Real World observations to the contrary, the revolution the Elite desires to force upon America is sustainable. For its part, the Outsiders greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it by force.

After all, America has been imposed on enough. But the Revolution is upon us.

- Steve

“Who's In Charge?” - Part 4 - Who Decides?

“Who's In Charge?” - Part 4 - Who Decides?

In 1885, Woodrow Wilson left no doubt: the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from meeting the country's needs by enumerating rights that the government may not infringe. ("Congress shall make no law...") Our electoral system, empowers individual voters at the expense of "responsible parties." Thus, the Elite have always pursued an agenda to diminish the role of the citizenry's elected representatives, enhancing that of party leaders as well as of groups willing to partner in the government's plans, and to craft a "living" Constitution in which restrictions on government give way to "positive rights" -- meaning charters of government power.

The Supreme Court's 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr effectively legalized the practice of "gerrymandering," concentrating the opposition party's voters into as few districts as possible while placing one's own voters into as many as possible likely to yield victories. Republican and Democratic state legislatures have gerrymandered for a half century. Once districts are gerrymandered "safe" for one party or another, the voters therein count less because party leaders can count more on elected legislators to toe the party line.

To the extent party leaders do not have to worry about voters, they can choose members of the privileged Elite to represent those in society whom they find most amenable. In America since the 1930s, government has designated certain individuals, companies, and organizations within each sectors of society as (junior) partners in elaborating laws and administrative rules. The government empowers the (Elite) persons it has chosen and deems them the sector's true representatives, and rewards them accordingly.

In 2009-10 the American Medical Association (AMA) strongly supported the new medical care law, which the administration touted as having the support of "the doctors" even though the vast majority of America's 975,000 physicians opposed it. Those who run the AMA, however, have a government contract as exclusive providers of the codes by which physicians and hospitals bill the government for their services. The millions of dollars that flow thereby to the AMA's officers keep them in line, while the impracticality of doing without the billing codes tamps down rebellion in the doctor ranks.

When the administration wanted to bolster its case that the state of Arizona's enforcement of federal immigration laws was offensive to Hispanics, the National Association of Chiefs of Police -- whose officials depend on the administration for their salaries -- issued a statement that the laws would endanger all Americans by raising Hispanics' animosity. This reflected conversations with the administration rather than a vote of the nation's police chiefs.

Similarly, modern labor unions are ever less bunches of workers banding together and ever more bundled under the aegis of an organization chosen jointly by employers and government. Prototypical is the Service Employees International Union, which grew spectacularly by persuading managers of government agencies as well as of publicly funded private entities that placing their employees in the SEIU would relieve them of responsibility. Not by being elected by workers' secret ballots did the SEIU conquer workplace after workplace, but rather by such deals, or by the union presenting what it claims are cards from workers approving of representation. The union gets 2 percent of the workers' pay, which it recycles as contributions to the Democratic Party, which it recycles in greater power over public employees. The union's leadership is part of the ruling class's beating heart.

The point: a doctor, a building contractor, a janitor, or a schoolteacher counts in today's America ONLY as art of the hierarchy of a sector organization affiliated with the ruling class. Less and less do such persons count as voters. This has led to a significant LOSS of “Equal Treatment Under The Law”. Once upon a time, no one could be convicted or fined except by a jury of his peers for having violated laws passed by elected representatives. This situation began to disappear when the New Deal inaugurated today's administrative state: bureaucrats make, enforce, and adjudicate nearly all the rules. Today's legal-administrative texts are incomprehensibly detailed and loaded with provisions crafted exquisitely to affect equal individuals unequally. The bureaucrats do not enforce the rules themselves so much as whatever "agency policy" they choose to draw from them in any given case. If you protest any "agency policy" you will be informed that it was formulated with input from "the public." (But not from the likes of you.)

Ever since Oliver Wendell Holmes argued in 1920 (Missouri v. Holland) that presidents, Congresses, and judges could not be bound by the U.S. Constitution regarding matters that the people who wrote and ratified it could not have foreseen, it has become conventional wisdom among the Elites that they may transcend the Constitution while pretending allegiance to it. They began by stretching such constitutional terms as "interstate commerce" and "due process," then transmuting others, e.g., "search and seizure," into "privacy." Thus in 1973 the Supreme Court endowed its invention of "privacy" with a "penumbra" that it deemed "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." The court gave no other constitutional reasoning, period. By the 1990s, federal courts were invalidating amendments to state constitutions passed by referendum to secure the "positive rights" they (the courts) had invented, because these expressions of the “will of the people” were inconsistent with the constitution they themselves (the Elite) were defining.

Recently, some Elites felt confident enough to dispense with the charade. Asked what in the Constitution allows Congress and the president to force every American to purchase health insurance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi replied: "Are you serious? Are you serious?" There should be no surprise that lower court judges and bureaucrats take liberties with laws, regulations, and contracts. Th reality is that being on the right side of the law is less important than being on the right side of the persons who decide what they want those legal words to mean.

Today, the Elites are laser-focused on reshaping the American people's family and spiritual lives in addition to their economic and civic lives. The Elite are passionately and openly aggressive in this matter like never before. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles. This focus on family is the greatest barrier to human progress because it looks to its very particular interest instead of following those who know better.

Since marriage is the family's central tenant, government at all levels, along with "mainstream" academics and media, have waged war on it. They legislate, regulate, and exhort in support not of "the family" -- meaning married parents raising children -- but rather of "families," meaning mostly households based on something other than marriage. The institution of no-fault divorce diminished the distinction between cohabitation and marriage -- except that husbands are held financially responsible for the children they father, while out-of-wedlock fathers are not. The tax code penalizes marriage and forces those married couples who raise their own children to subsidize "child care" for those who do not. The list goes on and on.

Not surprisingly, rates of marriage in America have decreased as out-of-wedlock births have increased. The biggest demographic consequence has been that about one in five of all households are women alone or with children, in which case they have about a four in 10 chance of living in poverty. Since unmarried mothers often are or expect to be clients of government services, it is not surprising that they are among the Democratic Party's most faithful voters.

The Elite teaches that relationships among men, women, and children are contingent, but also insists that the relationship between each of them and the State is fundamental. Hillary Clinton has written law review articles and books advocating a direct relationship between the government and children, effectively abolishing the presumption of parental authority.

Within living memory, school nurses could not administer an aspirin to a child without the parents' consent, but - now - the people who run America's schools administer pregnancy tests and ship girls off to abortion clinics without the parents' knowledge. Parents are not allowed to object to what their children are taught - but the government may and often does object to how parents raise children. The Elite assume is that what *it* mandates for children is correct ipso facto, while what parents do is “potentially abusive”. It only takes an anonymous accusation of abuse for parents to be taken away in handcuffs until they prove their innocence. Only sheer political weight has preserved parents' right to home-school their children against the Elite's desire to do what Woodrow Wilson wanted: "to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible."

At stake are the most important questions: What is the right way for human beings to live? By what standard is anything true or good? Who gets to decide what?

The rejection of the American people's intellectual, spiritual, and moral substance as individuals looking out for their own self-interest is the very heart of what the Elites want. Its principal article of faith, its claim to the right to decide for others, is precisely that it knows things and operates by standards beyond others' comprehension. While the unenlightened ones believe that man is created in the image and likeness of God and that we are subject to His and to His nature's laws, the enlightened ones know that we are products of evolution, driven by chance, the environment, and the will to primacy. While the un-enlightened are stuck with the antiquated notion that ordinary human minds can reach objective judgments about good and evil, better and worse through reason, the enlightened ones know that all such judgments are subjective and that ordinary people can no more be trusted with reason than they can with guns. Because ordinary people will pervert reason with ideology, religion, or interest, science is "science" only in the "right" hands. Consensus among the Right People is the only standard of truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them.

This is why the Elites are united and adamant about pronouncing definitive, "scientific" judgment on whatever it chooses. When the government declares, and its associated press echoes that "scientists say" this or that, ordinary people -- or scientists who "don't say," or are not part of the ruling class - lose any right to see the information that went into what "scientists say." Thus when Virginia's attorney general subpoenaed the data by which Professor Michael Mann had concluded, while paid by the state of Virginia, that the earth's temperatures are rising "like a hockey stick" from millennial stability (a conclusion on which billions of dollars' worth of decisions were made) to investigate the possibility of fraud, the University of Virginia's faculty senate condemned any inquiry into "scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer review standards" claiming that demands for data "send a chilling message to scientists...and indeed scholars in any discipline." The Washington Post editorialized that the attorney general's demands for data amounted to "an assault on reason." The fact that the "hockey stick" conclusion stands discredited and Mann and associates are on record manipulating peer review, the fact that science-by-secret-data is an oxymoron, the very distinction between truth and error, all matter far less to the Elites than the distinction between itself and those they rule.

By identifying science and reason with themselves, our rulers delegitimize opposition. Though they cannot prevent Americans from worshiping God, they can make it as socially disabling as smoking -- to be done furtively and with a bad social conscience. Though they cannot make Americans wish they were Europeans, they continue to press upon this nation of refugees from the rest of the world the notion that Americans ought to live by "world standards." Each day, the ruling class produces new "studies" that show that one or another of Americans' habits is in need of reform, and that those Americans most resistant to reform are pitiably, perhaps criminally, wrong.

America's Elites believe themselves qualified and duty bound to direct the lives not only of Americans but of foreigners as well. George W. Bush's 2005 inaugural statement “America cannot be free until the whole world is free” and an extrapolation of the sentiments of America's Progressive class. The Elite's default solution to international threats has been to commit blood and treasure to long-term, twilight efforts to reform the world's Vietnams, Somalias, Iraqs, and Afghanistans, believing that changing hearts and minds is the prerequisite of peace and that it knows how to change them. This has led to an apparently endless series of wars in which our ruling class has embroiled America, wars that have achieved nothing worthwhile, except a great cost in lives and treasure.

Recently, President Barack Obama apologized to Europe because "the United States has fallen short of meeting its responsibilities" to reduce carbon emissions by taxation. But the American people never assumed such responsibility, and oppose doing so. Hence President Obama was not apologizing for anything that he or anyone he respected had done, but rather blaming his fellow Americans for not doing what *HE* thinks they should do (while glossing over the fact that the Europeans had done the taxing but not the reducing). Obama "apologized" to Europeans because some Americans (but not the Elites) had shown "arrogance and been dismissive" toward Europe, and "apologized" to the world because President Truman had used the atom bomb to end World War II. President Clinton apologized to Africans because some Americans held African slaves until 1865 and others were mean to Negroes thereafter (the Elites didn't do this, of course). Assistant secretary of state Michael Posner apologized to Chinese diplomats for Arizona's law that directs police to check immigration status. Former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev tells us that in 1987 then vice-president George H. W. Bush distanced himself from his own administration by saying, "Reagan is a conservative, an extreme conservative. All the dummies and blockheads are with him..." Such actions and statement recall the Pharisee in the Temple: "Lord, I thank thee that I am not like other men..."

In simple terms, the Elites do not like the rest of America. Most of all does it dislike that so many Americans think America is substantially different from the rest of the world and prefer it that way.

* * *

Coming next time in the “Who's In Charge?” - Part 5 -
The New Red Outsiders