Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Whew! Where to begin...

I found your narrative a little hard to follow, but I think what you are trying to say is that liberals are bad and that today's conservatives are bad also because they are acting like liberals. Neat trick!

What you are doing is confusing politics with philosophy. You know, there isn't anything inherently wrong with either philosophy. But as I've said before, the real problem is when folks begin to believe that one philosophy is always right and the other is always wrong.

The American Revolution itself was this nation's pre-eminent expression of liberalism. Now I don't want you to worry about this. Since you are a patriot, on Independence Day I assume you take the same pride in our country as I do . But had you been a true conservative in colonial America back in the early 1770's, you would have been a Tory - or Loyalist - and among the roughly 40% of colonists who favored continued allegiance to the Crown, which makes it all the more ironic that modern day "Tea Baggers" fashion their movement after the actions of this country's most revered liberals.

What you have to say makes a little more sense if you are talking about Democrats, Republicans and modern day politics as opposed to traditional liberals, conservatives and political philosophies. Today, politics is all about constituencies and has little or nothing to do with political philosophy. These days, politicians on both sides of the aisle pander to well defined groups of voters. It's no secret for example that blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic or that white evangelicals overwhelmingly vote Republican. Moreover, the American public is divided into distinct groups along the lines of education, wealth, ethnicity and (obviously) gender. By the way, the Pew Research Center is an excellent site to go to and examine how these various groups are politically aligned.

In my life at least, I'm not sure if I can remember a time when politics was not this way. In fact, I think the source of just about all ineffective government has always been the result of politicians making choices based on money and votes as opposed to what works and what doesn't. You and I both can remember the constant strikes and shut-downs of the 70's. Republicans generally sided with business, Democrats with labor - and labor won.

But I guess we can both agree it was something of a Pyrrhic victory. The high cost of labor has now come back to haunt us all. Not just jobs, but whole industries have been shipped overseas in search of cheaper labor. As you know, we no longer have a textile industry in this county. Employment in the steel industry has declined from over half a million jobs in 1974 to now less than 150,000. The electronics industry is pretty much gone and the automobile industry is on life support. As these and other industries have disappeared from the American landscape, so too have the many thousands of jobs in various ancillary businesses. And Steve, gone along with these jobs are the taxes which paid for roads, schools, law enforcement, health care and yes, national defense. Back to your narrative...

I'll have to admit I'm a little irked by parts of your story line as well as a couple of comments.

In the first place, I think you want to want to design a history of American politics based on whatever happened in some alternate universe as opposed to this one. If you mark the beginning of the cold war as the end of 1945, welfare spending in this country from that point on stayed relatively modest up until 1961, where it spiked briefly as a result of unemployment benefits occasioned by a short recession, then dropped back down. As a matter of fact, except for the year 1961, welfare spending as a percent of GDP (2%) didn't exceed the level 0f 1940 until 1972. On the other hand, defense spending dropped from a war time high of over 40% to around 10% right after the war's end - and didn't decline appreciably until 1970. In other words, welfare and defense spending stayed relatively fixed for 15 years after the close of World War II. This is hardly the "dollar for dollar" match in welfare vs defense which you claim to have occurred during the height of the cold war.

Ironically, Republicans today are quick to blame Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" programs for a massive increase in welfare spending. They should read their history. Welfare spending during all of Johnson's presidency stayed below 2% of GDP. Nixon took office in January, 1969 and was succeeded by Gerald Ford, who held the presidency until 1977. It was during this period that welfare spending really took off, and climbed to a high of over 4% of GDP in 1977 - a figure not matched until 2010. Under Carter (a Democrat) welfare spending dropped from the 1977 high to under 3% of GDP in 1979. It was only under Ronald Regan that welfare spending climbed back up to 4% in 1984. Believe it or not, history shows that welfare spending generally goes up during Republican presidencies and goes down during Democratic presidencies.

I'd be remiss if I didn't respond as well to a couple of other comments you made.

You say "government manufactured the idea there was a health care crisis...". Say what? In this country we pay on the order of 3 times more than folks in other developed countries pay for health care - on top of the fact that over 10% of the population has no health care insurance of any kind. If this isn't a crisis, Rupaul isn't gay and Mama Cass wasn't fat. Furthermore, this is a crisis which hamstrings American businesses every bit as much as it does individual citizens. Think about that for a minute.

Personally, I don't need to go any further than my own place of employment to see the effects of this. Technically, I'm "covered" by health insurance. Yet in spite of this, if and when I suffer from a major illness, the odds are virtually certain what little savings I have will be wiped out by an extremely high deductible and co-pay. As a matter of fact, this has already happened more than once to some of our guys. As for the owner - who happens to be a pretty great guy - he's had to scale back coverage, increase deductibles and boost participation amounts. Yet still, his share of the cost has skyrocketed over the last few years. Steve, this same thing is happening to small business owners all over this country and to claim it isn't is, frankly, breathtaking.

Then we come to the "mythical" global warming... What irks me most about this is that your sources of authority for this claim are nothing more than unscientific, right wing "think tanks" and industry front groups. Since we have agreed to give this subject a rest, I'm only going to say that no where else but American politics can an institution which consists of amateur, untrained political hacks be considered transcendent over the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of well credentialed professionals in the atmospheric sciences.

OK, I feel better now.

Now if you are still reading this and not laying on the ground in the middle of an apoplectic fit, allow me to say I actually do agree with a lot of your thinking.

Steve, we are in the middle of a horrible recession. Just how bad it is can be gauged by the fact that The People's Republic of China, which lay in utter economic ruin just 60 years ago, is today the world's largest exporter - exceeding the value of U.S. exports by about two hundred billion dollars annually - and as a result finances almost a trillion dollars of our Federal debt.
And speaking of the debt, some bold economists are now beginning to conclude that it cannot ever be repaid.

Now I have no doubt that government bears a huge share of responsibility for this recession. But in a larger sense, it is more of a problem which is organic to the way American society has evolved. In essence, what we have done as a people is maintained a standard of living on borrowed money. Most Americans today have come to believe that not only can they have it all and have it now, but also that they are naturally entitled to it. And, when they are told they can't have it, they turn to government to provide it for them. If we are ever going to get out of this pickle we are in, this sense of entitlement has got to stop.

Personally, I believe the best place to start is by electing political leaders with the guts to tell Americans the truth - as opposed to what they want to hear. Politicians on the left are telling us that government can buy us a way out of this recession with borrowed money. On the right, they are telling us that if government shrinks by half, all of a sudden, magically, American industry will get rolling again on the road to prosperity. Neither of these promises really engages some fairly daunting realities.

We need politicians who engender the trait which is not only lacking in politics, but in American society as a whole: trust. We need politicians who can enter a room, hash out their differences and emerge with workable programs. They don't do that these days because the American public has come to view comprimise as a form of weakness.

Now I hate to close this on a negative note, but I honestly don't think we will ever elect the kind of leaders we need until we learn to trust each other. Steve, you and I have incredibly vast differences on a host of issues. But the fact that we can air these differences and at least try to reach an understanding is precisely the model I'm talking about. For instance, you accuse Democrats of deliberately engineering a fake climate crisis. But I hardly think you believe I myself am part of that deception. Frankly, I feel the same way about you. Despite what you often say which goes against my own beliefs, I would't believe for a second that you are trying to deceive anyone.

In short, I trust you. And you know something? I'd rather elect a person I trust than one who simply tells me what I want to hear.


Friday, February 5, 2010

A Pox On Both Your Houses

There has been a lot of recent talk, mostly from the Democratic Party, about "reaching across the aisle" and "cooperation" - as though this were a New Idea that was previously impossible to achieve. The problem for political ideologues is that there are two kinds of "cooperation". One is genuine compromise, where respective groups treat 'politics' as the art of the possible, always with the national interest put ahead of any partisan positions. While this has happened with notable success in the past, such times do not happen as often as they should.

By example, in the dark days of the Cold War, the US was targeted by 25,000+ nuclear warheads. This was not an imaginary threat, although some 'historians' have made statements the threat wasn't real. That view likely suffers from a case of 20-20 hindsight, because anyone that lived during that time *knows* the threat certainly SEEMED real... The annual parade through Red Square of missile and tanks were real. The Hungarians, Czechs and East Germans had no doubt in their minds.

The common and jointly accepted(?) political strategy of the time (i.e., Contain Communism) dictated that communist countries must be 'blocked' from any type of expansion and left to themselves as much as possible, where they would crumble in upon themselves. (It should be noted those countries believed capitalist system would collapse, too.) This containment policy required extreme patience and a lot of resources (mostly financial). While we waited, the other side looked for our weak points and made strategic and tactical probes against positions where we appeared vulnerable.

To be sure, there were very few True Communists in the USSR - most had set their ideology to the side in favor of pursuing simple imperial-style conquest in its various forms. But even those efforts had to be closely monitored - requiring more financial and ever increasing technological resources - because the Containment Strategy could not permit 'war to feed war'. None of this was hidden or secret. Anyone who gave the situation a serious, rational look - after removing any rose-colored glasses, of course - could see the obvious in front of them. This was generally true regardless of party or ideological beliefs.

However, the Liberal wing of American politics went a step farther and put a slightly different spin on things. The (real) Costs of the Cold War could not be allowed to impede Progress, at least what constitutes Progress according to the Liberal Agenda. The solution was to insure financing of the Cold War was matched, dollar for dollar whenever possible, with various plans and programs to further their ideological agenda. Such thinking (e.g., vote buying) proved to be effective - because it seemed the electorate returned Representatives and Senators to office because they brought money to the home folks - and this approach was ultimately adopted by both sides of the Congressional aisle. This lead to the Great Society and (later on) No Child Left Behind, to mention two examples of numerous 'progressive' programs as desired and established by both parties.

The current political parties fragmented away from their respective origins, adopting new persona. The Republicans tended to focus on taxation and business efforts (e.g., private enterprise, capitalism), while the Democrats embraced social reforms and legalism (e.g., legislating from the bench as needed). Within each party, the 'Progressive' leadership took charge. This evolved to where control of the tax monies raised by fiscal conservatives to battle deficits produced by social engineering efforts became the real battleground.

Effectively, the Republicans were the tax collectors for Democratic spending projects. In the later stages of the 20th Century, the Republicans returned to a measure of political power, but instead of returning to their roots, chose to focus instead on the “Feel Good and Get Re-elected” strategy employed so effectively by Democrats for years. This means the Republicans, lead by their so-called 'Country Club' subset, simply changed the spending from favored Democrat programs to spending on favored Republican programs. Thus, government spending spirals ever upward; the only change is in which side benefits from the largess. The only winners were the ever-more-expanding core of lobbists, whose ranks began to swell as former 'public servant' found out the path to Real Money in your own pocket was to influence the spending habits of congress-critters for all stripes.

Slowly, the taxpaying public is finally becoming aware of this bait-and-switch situation. We've seen a couple of recent elections with unexpected results which SHOULD be defined as the application of “throw the rascals out”. However, the winning side tends to see their victory as justification for THEIR spending programs. We are starting to see yet-another voter rebellion: once again, the driving force will be “throw the rascals out”. It remains to be seen if either major political party will learn anything from these results.

The message - which is apparently too difficult to digest for the entrenched political class - is quite simple:

“Look, you jokers... No new taxes: don't worry about trying to tax him or her, us or them, low, middle, or high income... taxes are high enough! What you really need to do is CUT THE SPENDING! Balance the budget by shrinking government. Sure, there will be some tough choices; that's what we hired you to do (remember: you work for us, not the other way around). And while you're are at it, make darn sure we taxpayers get a good value for our money you're spending. Government is enormous, government service is minimal, our roads are disintegrating, travel service is horrible, unemployment is over 10%, and WE, the tax paying public, ARE NOT HAPPY! (and, by the way, we're watching you like a hawk - if you can't/won't do the job, we'll find someone else.)”

Yep - it's clear the American people do not want more government and higher taxes. Unfortunately, there are plenty of those “Country Club” Republicans who are willing to reach across the aisle to 'get something done'. This is a critical year: this is the year to return to the simple principle that government is not the solution, government is the problem. If you want an analogy, after years of cutting off our nose to spite our face, we have decided we will accept a less than ideal nose, rather than have our face continually disfigured.

“But What about Health Care Reform?” --- The problem with health care reform, which has caused it to backfire like most of the top priorities of the current administration, is that this was not a major concern, and certainly not THE primary concern of most people, before it was created as a campaign issue (or talking-point distraction). Continually telling people that they want something, does not change the fact that most do not. Before all of the rhetoric and hyperbole got rolling, most people had little more than a passing interest in the subject, and were relatively satisfied with our health care system as a whole. Sure, there are problem areas here and there, mostly related to ever-increasing costs - but nothing to justify tearing the whole thing down to build a new house of cards.

What concerns most people is getting or keeping a job, not losing a house, not being killed by inflation, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, not being taxed to death. There are also concerns about personal security, terrorism, and other such things. Instead of dealing with these issues, the government manufactured the idea there was a health care crises, decided to do something about the mythical global warming, and created a huge, still largely unspent, slush fund under the guise of an economic stimulus package. Wrong. In addition to mishandling the priorities they assigned to issues, the solutions offered were not the solutions most wanted. In many cases (cap-and-tax comes to mind), the 'solution' had nothing to do with addressing the supposed problem. Wrong again.

I don't want to go into more detail on certain areas - we've been over a lot of that too often. My point is: where the government is doggedly and desperately trying to go - remember: I'm talking about BOTH parties here - is NOT the direction most people want to be taken.

Consider the difference between leaders and rulers: A leader takes people where THEY want to go, while a ruler takes them where HE wants to go. By ignoring the wishes, complaints, and misgivings of the majority of citizens, the Democrats have clearly shown which style of government they prefer. That said, the Republicans are hardly a better choice. The leadership of both parties seem to consider themselves as some kind of intellectual super-citizen: where THEY know what is better for US than WE are capable of determining on our own. They suggest (demand?) that we accept a sleek and slippery authoritarianism, which allows them to remain firmly in control as they stake their hopes for national regeneration on cliques of bossy technocrats reporting to a charismatic leader, protected by liberty-stomping cohorts of 'secret policemen' (e.g., various czars, cabinet officials, an entrenched bureaucracy, etc.).


We need AT LEAST two opposing parties. Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union were nations run by a single political party, as are most of the terrible little former colonies in the Third World. IMHO, it is best that America *NOT* follow that path, even if the party in control is the Modern Republicans, but especially true if it is the Democrats. The lesson here, that we always seem to be relearning, is that you can not trust politicians, and that government is merely a tool. The good craftsman is always in control of his tool, never the other way around.

Disagreement on policy is not a question of patriotism or desire or motivations or intentions... it is a question of JUDGMENT. Both sides love their country and want the country to move forward; but there should be clear and distinct differences within each party on HOW the country will move forward. We-the-people can choose our desired direction accordingly. That means you DO NOT tell us what WE want or WHERE we (should) stand: just tell us where *YOU* stand and what objective principles YOU are willing to fight and sacrifice *OUR* hard-earned dollars for...

The ultimate responsibility lies with the VOTING populous. And as long as the taxpayers outnumber the moochers, the country has a chance to survive. The race is nearly too close to call. We get exactly the type of government we demand and require.

- Steve

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Changing Status of Climate Change

To begin -- the ClimateGate controversy demonstrates there are legitimate concerns about the CRU datasets and manipulation of the climate modeling system as a whole. The much trumpeted and balleyhooed peer-review process has effectively descended into a farce of near-criminal proportions.

Further, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently recanted its own conclusions and proclamations on glacial melting occurring before 2035, aka GlacierGate, said conclusions based on a single, non-peer-reviewed article by the WWF advocacy group.

To make matters worse, and proving this was not an isolated situation, the same thing happened again, aka AmazonGate, where the IPCC published and promoted claims of the impending endangerment of some 40% of the Amazon rainforest. (Bizarrely, even the WWF's own report on the Amazon forest doesn't support this conclusion. You'd think the IPCC's peer-review process would have caught that...)

Then, in a classic case of kicking-them-while-they're-down, there is the PachauriGate revelation, where Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, was identified as chairman of the board or otherwise connected to several companies positioned to profit handsomely from current climate change proposals. Hardly a disinterested party. (And have you looked at Al Gore's business interests lately?)

* sigh *

Worse, this entire situation has devolved into a series of sniping attacks by both sides against the other. (Yes, I am guilty as charged. Mea culpa.) However, regardless of which position anyone supports, here is the key point:

If we can't trust scientists, and scientists are the ones telling us we can't trust other scientists, how can we trust the scientists telling us not to trust other scientists?

A puzzlement... But to continue...

- If the global temperature monitoring system were viewed as a 'lab instrument' it has never had even ONE DAY where it could remotely be considered to be 'in calibration'. Worse, not only is the instrumentation itself 'uncalibrated', it is systematically being 'adjusted' to ensure that it shows a warming trend. Significant numbers of data points are simply 'made up' (i.e., 'interpolated') from stations located sometimes over 1000 km away. Example: a single station now supplies all the data for Canada north of 65 degrees (and that location is frequently described as the 'Garden Spot of the Arctic'). In many instances, stations showing cooling trends are systematically dropped from data reporting.

- It's arguable *ALL* terrestrial surface-temperature databases exhibit very serious problems which render them USELESS for determining accurate long-term temperature trends. The data have been skewed to the point of overstating observed warming both regionally and globally. Instrumental temperature data for 1850-1980 have been widely, systematically, and uni-directionally 'adjusted' to the point they cannot be credibly support the assertion of significant "global warming" in the 20th century.

- Global terrestrial temperature datasets have been critically compromised, if for no other reason, than because ¾ of the 6,000 stations which once existed are no longer reported or tracked(!) There has been a severe bias towards removing higher-altitude, higher-latitude, and rural stations, leading to a further overstatement of warming due to contamination by urbanization, changes in land use, improper siting, and inadequately-calibrated instrument upgrades. Numerous peer-reviewed papers have shown the overstatement is 30-50% from heat-island contamination alone, and when combined with the cherry-picking of observation sites and interpolated data grids, the heat-island bias could easily be more than 50% of any reported 20th-century warming. Thus: The temperature data bases are seriously flawed and cannot be trusted to assess climate trends or VALIDATE climate model predictions.

- In the oceans, critical data are 'missing' and uncertainties about what we do have are real. It has been presented by some that comprehensive coverage of ocean data has only been available since 2003... and that data shows no warming. Ouch.

- Satellite temperature monitoring has provided an alternative to terrestrial stations in compiling the global lower-troposphere temperature record. Their findings are increasingly diverging from the station-based constructions consistent with evidence of a warm bias in the surface temperature record. Changes have been made to alter the historical record to mask cyclical changes that could be readily explained by natural factors such as multi-decadal ocean and solar changes.

- NOAA and NASA, along with CRU, were among the driving forces behind the systematic declarations of 20th-century "global warming". These organizations should return to the critically vital task of data gathering - just maintain the integrity of the data collection process (and long-term storage!) and then provide data to various researchers as requested for independent analysis.

- A comprehensive external assessment of the surface temperature database records of CRU, GISS and NCDC "chaired and paneled by mutually agreed to climate scientists who do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the evaluations" is critically needed IMMEDIATELY.

- Any reports which rely on the global data by both the UN's IPCC and the US GCRP/CCSP groups requires a FULL and IMPARTIAL investigation and audit.

* * * * *

Now - The following conclusions are MINE and dive into the realm of motivations and motives - which cannot be proven with any certainty - but, with that said...

First, the current proposals (supposedly) designed to address the AGW concerns - “cap-and-tax”, emissions trading, etc. - should be set aside until (a) the accuracy of the underlying supporting science can be confirmed and (b) the proposal be proven to accurately monitor and address the stated issue. IMHO, the emission trading systems currently proposed for the US and elsewhere - or as implemented in the EU - are 'phantom' trading mechanisms which offer no detectable effect on ANY aspect of climate, and (apparently) have all the identifying marks of a government-supported Ponzi scheme... The only ones likely to benefit from such systems are the traders... Why else are the larger world-wide banking institutions - e.g, the same folks that brought us the real estate collapse - be among its strongest backers?

Second, it can be reasonably argued that (1) the main climatology data centers have been and are continuing to produce fraudulent evidence in support of AGW, (2) the centers have actively concealed data and reports which contradict the AGW premise, (3) the responsible 'scientists' in charge of the centers have used the respect of their positions to personally attack the professional status and integrity of individuals and groups who question their findings, and (4) the majority of major climate experts are funded by governments (national and international), for the (apparently) express purpose of providing a 'scientific' and technical justification for the expansion of government power over individuals worldwide - not for 'solving' a climate 'problem'.

Third, the most important conclusion we can reach from all this, is that we don't really know what many of our experts have been assuring us that they *do* know - and that political leaders around the world including the President of the United States - are far more certain of the results of the available "science" than scientific evidence itself objectively warrants.

Fourth, the unjustified reliance on computer model predictions - especially when those models to not accurately reflect or track with real-world observations - needs to be scaled back immediately. Whenever you deal with a large-scale and extremely complex system like the climate, you will, by definition, have a significant level of 'uncertainty' about the model results. And when you consider the rate of change, local effects, and - most importantly - the measurable effect of mankind's actions (positive and negative) increases that level of uncertainty.

Fifth, climate scientists - on BOTH sides - should completely and fully release the data and calculations behind their analysis and predictions. They should be less hostile to those who disagree with them, and show a little humility that THEY MIGHT BE WRONG. I strongly believe increasing the openness about the scientific uncertainties surrounding climate science would have the long-term effect of increasing public confidence in the science behind it, rather than continue to undermine it. That will not eliminate the danger that some people (scientists and non-scientists) will continue to manipulate the data for their own agenda-driven ends, but the benefits from being open far outweigh the potential danger (which will come out in the wash eventually). NOTE: I think it’s healthy to properly pursue and welcome skepticism at all levels. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. Bullying tactics of any kind or form are self-destructive and childish in the extreme.

Consider... a company as large and complex as Boeing can have its stock prices drop due to lower earnings in a three-month period than was predicted by analysts. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of hours consumed by a multitude of stock researchers using independent (and proprietary) computers models dedicated to predicting those future earnings. Boeing (and these analysts) have access to incredibly accurate data about Boeing's operations and prospects - and yet they still can't get it right over such a short period of time.

Yet climate scientists seem quite content to place their trust (and ours) in the modeling results of a vastly more complex system (climate), for a time period spanning multiple decades or even centuries. They do this even when it has been proven there are real integrity issues with the source (raw) data. The impact of their predictions and associated proposals to address climate concerns have vastly more impact on the world as a whole - yet precision and accuracy, not to mention comparison of the model to real-world observable events, seems to be, at best, an afterthought... Curious.

That's enough for this rant...

- Steve

* * * * *
one source, among many: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf (Caveat: Are the authors well-known “deniers”? Yes. So what? That does not disqualify them from evaluating the available data or the evidence presented by AGW proponents. And, yes, they are trying to disprove AGW claims - that's the job the peer-reviewers are supposed to do, isn't it? Remember: it only takes ONE confirmed contrary observation from *any* source to disprove a theory.)
* * * * *