Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Today's definitions: "Democrat fiscal responsibility" and "gridlock"

Democrats are quickly demonstrating their contrast with spend-happy Republicans by cutting some spending -- by looking to spend $463.5 billion of our hard-earned dollars. The bill needs to clear the Senate also, but consider the House circus antics a taste of things to come. Behold the Democrats' concept of "fiscal responsibility."

I have yet to hear a credible explanation (excuse?) for why Democrats' claims of "spending within our means" is feasible, let alone morally acceptable. Then again, there's no reason for tax-and-spend liberals to learn Bastiat's simple lesson: economic output ("income") is finite, so therefore spending an extra x% of GDP means having to take x% from people's paychecks. It doesn't matter that the Democrats claim they'll just tax "the rich," because as I've explained from the time I started blogging, taxing the rich only deprives the poor of that money. At best it's a pure transfer of spending, but in reality, the spending of their taxes is less efficient: bureaucratic overhead eats up a not unsubstantial percentage, and as Friedrich Hayek explained, bureaucrats just don't have the requisite knowledge to make our decisions for us. Oh yes, and on top of that, heavier taxes on "the rich" discourages them from producing as much. Isn't that brilliant, then, to have a super-graduated tax system? You get less revenue overall, a lot of the money goes to waste, and the lower tax brackets (who should not have an equal vote when they can have power over other people's taxes) will continue electing the politicians whose game is to win 51% of the vote by promising to tax the other 49%.

But Democrats aren't the only crooks. A good part of this country's sad state of affairs is that "tough budget choices" to both Democrats or Republicans doesn't mean deciding between two things when they can only afford one. Republicans want both and will borrow to get them. Democrats want both and will hike taxes to get them.

Now, here's a great illustration of what happens when the two parties compromise:
For agencies and accounts targeted by Bush for outright cuts, a budget freeze is in fact a victory. Amtrak's federal subsidy would remain steady at $1.3 billion, about $100 million less than sought by the railroad's many advocates in the Senate. That's a lot better that the $900 million proposed by Bush or the $1.1 billion passed earlier by the House.
So Bush's proposal doesn't go through, and the Democrats in the House can't get their way. And what happens? Gridlock, a budget freeze, and Amtrak winds up with more of our hard-earned tax dollars.

God damn, people. I'll say it again: storm's coming.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Blogging has been very light, I know

I wanted to thank those of you who still check in regularly. Real life has been tiring me out a bit for the last half-year, with lots of things to do on the weekends, and this latest Blogger bungle still has me pissed off. Blogger support has yet to e-mail me back, and I just don't have the time to find out how to fix my blog back to where it was. Moreover, those of you who have my blog business cards know I didn't go cheap, and I'll be damned if I'll shell out money for new ones because of Google's screw-up.

But, I guess I'm one of the damned anyway. I'll be hosting the kegger party in hell, it'll be great.

And the Iranians take a page from John Kerry's playbook

First, An Iranian lawmaker announced that it was installing 3000 centrifuges at a uranium enrichment plant. Then, an Iranian nuclear official denied it.

What explains the flip-flop? Did Iran actually install the centrifuges before it didn't install them? Or, imagine this exchange when a certain Iran nuclear official pays a visit to a certain Iranian lawmaker as part of damage control.

Simorgh: Alaeddin, have you always had camel dung for brains?!

Boroujerdi: Hossein, what in the name of jihad are you talking about?

Simorgh: Look, Ahmadinejad is as angry as with you as a father would be with his raped daughter. Why did you announce we're going ahead with the centrifuges?

Boroujerdi: Well the whole world knows it, right? Even our friend ElBaradei admits it.

Simorgh: What are you, the son of an infidel? Let ElBaradei talk all he wants, because this Western illusion of an "international community" either doesn't believe him or doesn't care a dinar's worth. Meanwhile, we need you to keep quiet so Ahmadinejad can keep play the stall game.

Boroujerdi: Who needs to stall? Soon enough we'll have nuclear weapons, and Hezbollah can destroy Western cities.

Simorgh: You fool! Didn't you ever think that the Jewish state, which we talk about destroying while thumping our chests, could turn our cities into glass before we know it? So stop braying like such a talkative donkey, before you make the infidels feel really threatened.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

One of the funniest things I've seen in a long time

Sunday, January 21, 2007

This is the sorriest crap I've seen in a long time

For those of you who have heavily customized your Blogspot blogs, as I have done, FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR SANITY, DO NOT UPGRADE TO BLOGGER BETA. I've just wasted the last two hours of my life trying to get things back to the way they were, only to have to start over again.

God damn, I am so pissed that it's indescribable. Google and their "No longer beta" nonsense!

I always hesitated to drop Blogspot, but now I'm wondering: I know some blogging software packages will transfer posts exactly as they are, but can any transfer old comments too? And is there an easy way to have visits to the old blog redirected automatically to the new URLs, short of manually editing every last entry?

Did I say I was really pissed?

Turkey's own Lee Harvey Oswald

Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian journalist in Turkey, was shot two days ago. Just outside the offices of the paper he wrote for, an assailant fired three shots point-blank into Dink's head. A teenage suspect has now confessed, after police captured him based on a tip from his own father.
Police were investigating whether the teen acted alone or had ties to a group.

The suspect's uncle Faik Samast told private NTV television that he didn't think his nephew was capable of acting alone.

"He didn't even know his way around Istanbul," Samast said. "This kid was used."
Whether he was pushed by a single person or influenced by a group, there's just something Lee Harvey Oswald about all this. "I'm just a patsy!"

I haven't seen anything yet on his hometown, but note that the assassination was in Istanbul, and the kid was caught in Samsun. Here is a map of Turkey indicating Istanbul, and here is one indicating Samsun. They're about 500 miles apart according to those maps, which, going by pure distance, would be like Oswald having been found in a Kansas or Mississippi movie theatre.

Maybe the kid was just stupid to keep the gun on him, or maybe he was set up. Perhaps he really did do it and was instructed not to throw away the piece, or perhaps this is an elaborate frame job. That he was caught on video is persuasive but not necessarily convincing, because of today's sophisticated editing technology. And most of all, as a matter of human history, it's not unheard-of to frame someone for political gain. Now, I'm not saying anyone in the actual Turkish government had anything to do with this, but after the acquittals of Orhan Pamuk and Ipek Calislar, apparently somebody decided that if the courts couldn't punish the crime of "insulting Turkey," other means could and should be employed to silence the next critic.

Or is there another factor at play? Little Green Footballs thinks there is, noting something that is mysteriously being removed from most major media:
The assassination of Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink is being universally portrayed as ethnic strife, a political act by Turkish nationalists against an Armenian critic.

Call me Mr. Suspicious, but when I see the entire media monolith pushing an idea like that with so much enthusiasm, I start looking for the real explanation.

And the real explanation, as with so many of these media smokescreens, is jihad. Turkish-Armenian editor shot dead in Istanbul. (Hat tip: Paul.)
NTV television said Dink had been shot three times in the head and neck.

Muharrem Gozutok, a restaurant owner near the newspaper, said the assailant looked about 20, wore jeans and a cap and shouted "I shot the non-Muslim" as he left the scene.
This little piece of essential information is now being excised from all wire service and media reports.
The Wikipedia article cites a source (in Turkish, though, so I can't read it for myself) that says, "Dink's close friend Orhan Alkaya stated that the three-shot assassination technique was a signature mark of the Turkish Hezbollah."

There's merit to this line of thought. At the end of the ABC news article is a curious revelation about an apparent accomplice, which says much about Turkish justice:
Police detained six other suspects, including Yasin Hayal, who was convicted in the bombing of a McDonald's restaurant in the Black Sea city of Trabzon in 2004, Turkish news reports said.
So that jihadist SOB served only a couple of years, after injuring six people in a bombing he later celebrated with anti-Western slogans?
Yasin Hayal made a show when he was taken out from the Trabzon Security Directorate for health control. He said that he performed the raid to punish the Americans interfering with Afghanistan and Iraq. He called out, "Death to the unbelievers. The Americans will die." Yasin Hayal said to the reporters, "I will bomb the Russian Consulate and HSBC. Shoot the legend now."
Charming fellow. But of course, he's only practicing his peaceful religion...right?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How Calderon will drive more Mexicans to the U.S.

Felipe Calderon, the former energy minister who was sworn in last month as Mexico's new president, has a plan:
Mexican president launches jobs program

MEXICO CITY - President Felipe Calderon launched a program Monday to create jobs for young Mexicans and curb the flow of millions of migrants to the United States.

The program will give cash incentives to companies for hiring first-time job holders. Calderon, who took office in December, campaigned on promises to boost employment opportunities in Mexico, vowing to be the "Jobs President."

A conservative who narrowly won the July election, Calderon is under pressure from a strong leftist opposition to alleviate poverty affecting half the country's citizens.

While he has criticized U.S. immigration policies, such as a proposed border fence, he says Mexico must stem the tide of immigration by increasing opportunities at home.

"Employment is the biggest door to get out of poverty. It is the only path to substantially raise a family's quality of life," Calderon said as he signed a decree for the "National First Job Program" in the presidential palace. "To move Mexico forward, we have to create more and better jobs."

The government will also pay into social security for first-time job holders for one year. Calderon said some $300 million has been set aside for the initiative and that it will help millions of women who have never worked and struggle to support their families.

"Work is the only thing that guarantees women true liberty," he said.
Shades of FDR! So much for Calderon being an advocate of the free market. He's just a Nixon-in-Friedman's clothing, nothing more than a Keynesian who gives lip service during the campaign. Like any good interventionist, he's confused himself that economic progress means creating more jobs. That is as far from the truth as you can get: economic progress is based on creating real wealth, not giving everybody a job. As Caroline Baum of Bloomberg once reminded us so long ago: if you want 100% employment, institute a hunter-gatherer society, in which everyone struggles to make a living.

Good lord. What his plan will actually do, apart from any true stimuli like desperately needed foreign investment in Pemco, is encourage more Mexicans to leave for El Norte as employment prospects at home grow worse! Keynesians never seem to have understood that, though their central banking gods may inflate the money supply at will, money is still finite at any given time. If you recall from Bastiat's "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen," because government cannot spend a dollar without depriving a taxpayer of that dollar, there is no net economic gain. The same applies to "creating work."

Calderon will necessarily use tax money to create jobs, but if the taxpayers still had their money, it would have supported jobs anyway. They would have bought goods and services, or saved it, with no need for government to tell them how, but now here cometh Santo Felipe with his unholy gospel. Under his guidance, the Mexican government will soon start spending x to create a job paying y pesos a year, but in the end, the economy will lose x as deadweight loss. Before, the job would have come into being on its own. After, a job based upon artificial need will be created for someone, but at a cost to everyone else.

You might be thinking, "Deadweight loss, yadda yadda, so what?" Because that x is lost, because that x was money taken via taxes, there will be less x for the taxpayers to spend on goods and services. When that happens, the economy will necessarily suffer, which will encourage more and more Mexicans to head north for greener pastures. In a perfect universe, Calderon's plan would merely shift employment. Most likely, however, money will be lost from disincentives, and especially from bureaucracy. Like Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins benefited from the New Deal, Calderon's Trato Nuevo will certainly create new work for "employment administrators." It amounts to a community earning $1000 but effectively having $990, because someone takes 1% to tell them what to do with it. I call that "economic friction," on the same principle that energy transfer always suffers some loss in the form of heat, not in the way that competing economic actors will bear certain emotions towards each other.

But, the interventionists argue, the job would never have existed without government "priming the pump." Nonsense! The argument is a hollow one, once we examine the circumstances and realize that it is Mexico's government that creates economic barriers in the first place. What will the graduated tax system do but drive more and more savings out of the country, depriving the domestic economy of investment capital and jobs? The barriers are also in no small part from the rampant corruption, which does not stem from any "disparity" in wealth, but rather from government's failure to enforce the rule of law.

The problem is not the mere fact that some people have more wealth than others, but that certain people use wealth and other influence to sway police, judges, bureaucrats and politicians, and that the rest of the people have no means of obtaining justice. I don't say "justice" as in the socialists' conception of economic equality, but to mean that the law is applied equally to everyone, and that crimes are suitably punished. Instead of promising to create jobs, Calderon should focus on the decades-old problem of corruption, and then the jobs will come. I suggest he start by executing bribed police officers and judges to put the fear of God in the rest.

Corruption need not be completely vanquished to have an effect. All it will take for Mexico to keep its investment capital (the fuel for job creation) is for wealthier Mexicans to become less quick to hide their money overseas. Also, some may have paid bribes out of extortion, and that money will instead be spent on honest jobs, or be saved so it can be invested in creating honest employment. At worst, with only the latter occurring, there will be a perfect transfer of employment. More likely, the total effect will be that wealthier Mexicans grow encouraged to keep more money at home, and more will be produced for the rest of Mexico.

Keep in mind, though, that even the best real stimulus for Mexican employment will not completely curb Mexican emigration. As long as the United States is doing better economically and politically, Mexicans will keep coming here.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

No need for caution: free markets at work, part II

Previous: No need for caution: free markets at work

That previous post is from August 2005, in which a couple were overjoyed to buy a 50-inch plasma TV at Best Buy for $3800. Their website today lists a 50-inch HP model for $2300. So was that couple foolish to buy technology when prices had only started to come down, since most everyone knows you can save money by buying later? Not at all. They placed a higher value on having the TV then, and their increased happiness turned out to cost $1500 for 17 months. Perhaps they went into debt to buy the TV, but that is still their preference.

Sharp revealed on Friday that it will open a new factory in Mexico, in addition to a new plant in Japan. The article explains that Sharp used to be the leader in LCD TVs, but it now trails Sony, Samsung and Philips. If Sharp's expansion is successful, that's good for both Sharp and consumers. If it is not, it is still good for consumers, who will continue to benefit from lower prices. Either way, consumers win.

And look what else this is doing: new jobs for Mexicans that pay well, which will allow them to buy more U.S. goods. Both sides are left better off. Protectionists, in their ignorance, would argue that Sharp should just move the jobs to the U.S. in the first place. But that would make the TVs more expensive (both to produce and when they are sold), meaning fewer people would buy them, and economic output would be less overall. As always, the protectionism would benefit a few while punishing the many. But when the labor-intensive production is based in Mexico, Mexicans have jobs, and their newfound income will enable them to buy capital-intensive goods made north of the Rio Grande, thus supporting Americans' jobs.

It should not surprise believers in the free market that there is still so much competition, despite prices coming down. The free market system rewards both producers and consumers simultaneously, because they are left free to pursue their own best interests. And why shouldn't both sides win? As Bastiat explained, "Man produces in order to consume. He is at once both producer and consumer." On the other hand, socialism makes clear delineations between the two, rewarding only consumers while simultaneously punishing producers, or vice-versa: government may give producers strong incentive, but at a higher cost to consumers, or consumers may be given incentive by price controls, which discourages producers. By separating the two sides to people's economic lives, socialism hinders the natural balance at which societies prosper and flourish.

Will "worshippers of government" (my favorite of all Bastiat's terms), from full-blown socialists to the "progressives" who believe government must "help," ever look at the myriad examples of modern technology and finally understand that government can never stimulate nor inspire invention and creativity? And with regard to social customs, look at what the free market hath wrought, things government takes credit for but could have never effected. Only the uncompetitive, slothful and tyrannical need fear free markets, which is precisely why the supporters of government intervention can always be lumped into one of the three.

On the other hand, Sharp's executives did not need the national governments of Japan and the United States to tell them to expand production in this way and that. Sharp's executives, and their advisors, were capable of making the decision on their own, based on the risk that they calculated. It should be obvious that they had far more incentive to be careful in calculating risk, because it's after all their money, as opposed to government bureaucrats who characteristically make careless decisions with other people's money.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stupid news of the day

And you didn't even have to read the New York Times.
Luxury car market surges despite sputtering US economy

DETROIT, United States (AFP) - The luxury car market in the United States is gunning higher even with high fuel prices, the economy sputtering and much of the auto industry spinning its wheels.
A quick check of GDP and unemployment figures at the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics can demonstrate that the American economy is hardly stalling, as these doomsayers would have you believe. While third quarter GDP came in at 2%, unemployment remained at 4.5%. I recall some reporters recently admitting this as "historically low," but that's about it. Now were a Democrat in the White House, national news every night would tout unemployment as evidence of a boom, or overall American happiness, "despite misleading GDP statistics that can't tell the whole story."

The Big Three automakers may be in trouble, but they are not the American auto industry. Toyota is on its way to becoming the number one auto manufacturer in the U.S., with many of the cars produced right here -- by American workers making good money at good jobs in superior factories, overseen by superior management. And the middle-class auto workers' livelihoood depends on the rich having money to spend. When government hikes taxes on the rich, as the Democrats aim to do now that they've regained control of Congress, the rich have that much less to spend, and auto workers might have the tax money redistributed as handouts, but only after the bureaucracy takes its cut. This is assuming that the rich will have as much incentive to earn the same as they did before.

Another stupid headline was something I saw during lunchtime. Tonight I linked to the version on BusinessWeek's site, in case the original article on Yahoo News gets "updated" or disappears:
Stocks tumble in early afternoon trading

Wall Street fell in an erratic session Tuesday as investors weighed the impact of lower oil prices and remained wary about corporate earnings after Sprint Nextel Corp. issued a profit warning.

Investors lost some of their recent ebullience going into the earnings season, worried that 18 straight quarters of double-digit growth in Standard & Poor's 500 companies might be ending. The market was skittish after Sprint Nextel warned 2007 results will miss analyst projections and another half-dozen companies warned Monday that fourth-quarter results will come up short....

In early afternoon trading, the Dow fell 43.26, or 0.35 percent, to 12,380.23.

Broader stock indicators also declined. The S&P 500 index fell 5.72, or 0.40 percent, at 1,407.12, and the Nasdaq composite index shed 10.86, or 0.45 percent, to 2,427.34.

While there was plenty of action in the stock markets, fixed-income trading remained range bound with little economic news for traders to act on. Bonds edged lower, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury up to 4.67 percent from 4.65 percent on Monday.
The Dow closed at 12,416.60, down 6.89 (0.06%). The S&P 500 closed at 1412.11, down 0.73 (0.05%). The NASDAQ closed at 2443.83, up 5.63 (0.23%). They did recover from their noontime lows, which weren't that drastic, considering wide swings during the day are not uncommon.

And the updated article by the same reporter? "Dow Drops Nearly 7 As Oil Prices Decline" -- as if those few points were even worth mentioning as a "drop." How about "flat"? How about "regains the day's losses," or is that just too optimistic for these spreaders of doom and gloom?

So say after me: big fucking deal. I strive for optimism, though I don't let it cloud my perception of reality. If and when things are bad, I acknowledge that. Still, it pisses me off to see reporters constantly looking for the bad angle.

Another story I saw, or perhaps a different version of this one, blamed falling oil prices for stock prices' overall decline. Really now. For the last three years, you couldn't avoid financial punditry about oil prices depressing the economy and stock markets. Which is it?

There are some companies that produce energy resources and are components of the major stock indices, but so are other companies that buy energy resources, particularly retailers. When fuel costs go down, retailers and consumers benefit. The wonderful thing about the free market is that, left to their own, buyers and sellers can maximize profits, rather than depending on central planners to control fuel prices. In a free market, Bob at ExxonMobil and Jane at Wal-Mart will have their jobs based on competition, rather that at the whim of a central planner who hikes oil prices to create work for more Bobs, or reduces oil prices to create work for more Janes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

And speaking of well-dressed hypocrites

Al Sharpton is considering running for president (again). And you thought Joe Biden had everything against him?

Perhaps Sharpton, like Hugo Chavez, ought to spend less money on fancy clothes and more on helping the poor. Then again, it's far easier for these vipers, these demons from the pit of hell, to satisfy their warped sense of pseudo-charity by using government to steal money from the rest of us. And they dare call it "Christian" when it's the furthest thing from God's love.

Birth of a dictator

Are Venezuelans starting on the road to full-fledged tyranny? I think it's more that for a long time, they've been on a street which only now is being renamed to something more apt.
Chavez: Will nationalize telecoms, power
Venezuela's Chavez Says He Will Nationalize Telecommunications, Electrical Companies

CARACAS, Venezuela Jan 8, 2007 (AP)— President Hugo Chavez announced plans Monday to nationalize Venezuela's electrical and telecommunications companies, pledging to create a socialist state in a bold move with echoes of Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba.

Chavez, who will be sworn in Wednesday to a third term that runs until 2013, also said he wanted a constitutional amendment to eliminate the autonomy of the Central Bank and would soon ask the National Assembly, solidly controlled by his allies, to give him greater powers to legislate by presidential decree.

"We're moving toward a socialist republic of Venezuela, and that requires a deep reform of our national constitution," Chavez said in a televised address after swearing in his new Cabinet. "We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it."

Before Chavez was re-elected by a wide margin last month, he promised to take a more radical turn toward socialism. His critics have voiced concern that he would use his sweeping victory to consolidate more power in his own hands....
Well gosh, as a matter of historical record, socialist leaders have never tried to seize more power...right?

So you tell me: why is this man smiling?

Nice suit, Hugo, and the gold cufflinks are a nice touch. According to your own socialism, shouldn't you be dressed no better than anyone else, or does your egalitarianism not apply to spending the public's money on your wardrobe? Or are you just trying to impress Cindy Sheehan?

I'm not saying it's wrong to dress well (I for one probably devote too much energy to that), just that it's hypocritical for Hugo to go around in fine clothes while preaching "equality" -- not to mention blaspheming the name of Jesus Christ.

Previously on ChavezWatch:
He's the new king...of the socialist moonbats
King of the socialist moonbats, part II
King of the socialist moonbats, part III
Moonbats in love
"For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction"
Why drink? Venezuelans probably want to forget about Chavez for a while
Sic semper evello mortem tyrannus

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Global warming hysteria: when the paranoid worry there isn't anything after them

The shocking news today. Well, it was meant to be shocking:
Group: ExxonMobil paid to mislead public

WASHINGTON (AP) — ExxonMobil (XOM) gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in an effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted Wednesday.

The report by the advocacy group mirrors similar claims by Britain's leading scientific academy. Last September, The Royal Society wrote the oil company asking it to halt support for groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change."

Many scientists say carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks are warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse, melting Arctic sea ice and alpine glaciers and disturbing the lives of animals and plants.

ExxonMobil called the scientists' report Wednesday "yet another attempt to smear our name and confuse the discussion of the serious issue of CO2 emissions and global climate change."

ExxonMobil lists on its website nearly $133 million in 2005 contributions globally, including $6.8 million for "public information and policy research" distributed to more than 140 think tanks, universities, foundations, associations and other groups. Some of those have publicly disputed any link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' strategy and policy director, said in a teleconference that ExxonMobil based its tactics on those of tobacco companies, spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies or emphasizing only selected facts.
Tom DeWeese back in December had a good takedown of the pseudo-scientists, exposing them for the academic bullies they are. I again quote Thomas Jefferson:
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments.
He was talking about religion, but today "mainstream" science is effectively its own religion. Question a tenet held by the vast majority, and you'll be subjected to an Inquisition. Maybe you won't be burned at the stake, but for daring to question, you can kiss goodbye to peer review and speaking invitations. I'm not saying that a scientist has a right to require that others associate with him, but I question the others' publicly professed committment to truth when they act in such a manner.

Last September, Craig Bohren, professor emeritus at Penn State, gave a refreshingly objective analysis of the global warming debate. Since, the interviewer noted, he has no stake in either side, he could offer the following:
The issue of global warming is extremely complicated, and it transcends science. Views on global warming are as much determined by political and religious biases as by science. No one comes to the table about this issue without biases. So I'll state some of mine.

My biases: The pronouncements of climate modelers, who don't do experiments, don't make observations, don't even confect theories, but rather [in my opinion] play computer games using huge programs containing dozens of separate components the details of which they may be largely ignorant, don't move me. I am much more impressed by direct evidence: retreating glaciers, longer growing seasons, the migration of species, rising sea level, etc.

I have lived long enough to have seen many doomsday scenarios painted by people who profited by doing so, but which never came to pass. This has made me a skeptic. Perhaps global warming is an example of the old fable about the boy who cried wolf, but this time the doomsayers are, alas, right. Maybe, but I can't help noting that some of the prominent global warmers of today were global coolers of not so long ago. In particular, Steven Schneider, now at Stanford, previously at NCAR, about 30 years ago was sounding the alarm about an imminent ice age. The culprit then was particles belched into the atmosphere by human activities. No matter how the climate changes he can correctly say that he predicted it. No one in the atmospheric science community has been more successful at getting publicity. NCAR used to send my department clippings from newspaper and magazine articles in which NCAR researchers were named. We'd get thick wads of clippings, almost all of which were devoted to Schneider. Perhaps global warming is bad for the rest of us, but for Schneider and others it has been a godsend....

People who write alarmist books are either trying to make a buck or they have an axe to grind. For example, it is in the best interests of astronomers to scare us so that we'll pressure the government to support astronomy research more generously. The same is true for biology, medicine, atmospheric science [and all sciences]. This does not mean that the alarmists are wrong or even dishonest, merely that in assessing their claims we must always ask about the extent to which they will profit from our believing and acting on them....

In the atmospheric sciences it is difficult to get grants unless you can somehow tie your work to global warming, that is to say, to scare science. Because of my reputation, I immodestly believe that I could have jumped onto the global warming bandwagon. But I refused to do so because I would have found this repugnant....

Professors who get research money to work on aspects of global warming are not doing anything dishonest or illegal. This is not graft. But when it is in the best financial and career interests of professors to raise the alarm about global warming (or anything), we should be skeptical.

Perhaps some critics of global warming are in the pay of the oil and automotive companies. If so, they should be forthright about this. But so should folks on the other side of the debate. What fraction of their salaries comes from research on global warming?
Consider all the dollars, i.e. Other People's Money, that the government "grants" to scientists who study climate change and alternative fuels. You tell me which is worse: to have private companies fund studies -- no matter how misleading -- that support their industry, or to feed people propaganda that was paid for by their coerced tax dollars? No matter how much each side pressures me, the real sin is when I am forcibly compelled to fund a study which I may not believe.

For that reason, I personally am not as concerned with how much ExxonMobil and other oil companies give to anyone. If I suspect they're doing things with their revenue that I don't like, then I am perfectly free to deny them my business. On the other hand, it's pretty hard for me to do that with Albany and Washington, D.C.

Do federal judges deserve more pay?

It's a testament to how out-of-control the judiciary is: in a year-end message, John Roberts spent all eight pages talking about federal judges' salaries. Call me cynical, but I wonder if Roberts found himself with more Christmas bills than he thought.

Roberts would have had a point had he argued as Thomas Sowell did about members of Congress: lesser salaries won't attract top minds from the private sector. But Sowell would couple million-dollar salaries with term limits. Roberts is talking about the very opposite:
"Inadequate compensation directly threatens the viability of life tenure, and if tenure in office is made uncertain, the strength and independence judges need to uphold the rule of law - even when it is unpopular to do so - will be seriously eroded," Roberts wrote.
Sowell justifies his position by saying that while public service is a noble concept, people are still human. Robert's argument, based on tenure, is along the same lines and would have some merit, until we think about what "judicial independence" has gotten us. That's the problem with lifetime appointments: judges can pretty much rule however they'd like, and they'll get away with it.

Maybe I'll feel bad for these impoverished federal judges when Victor Marrero reverses his anti-freedom ruling that forced public law on private property. Maybe I'll think they actually deserve any sort of pay when Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer apologize and make restitution to Susette Kelo and the other victims of one of the most tyrannical judicial decisions ever.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

One big Darwin Awards list

Animal Sacrifices Maim 1,400 in Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey Dec 31, 2006 (AP)— Over a thousand Turks spent the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha in emergency wards on Sunday after stabbing themselves or suffering other injuries while sacrificing startled animals.

At least 1,413 people referred to as "amateur butchers" by the Turkish media were treated at hospitals across the country, most suffering cuts to their hands and legs, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Four people were severely injured, crushed under the weight of large animals that fell on top of them, the agency reported. Another person was hurt when a crane used to lift an animal tumbled onto him, the agency said.

Three other people suffered heart attacks and died while trying to restrain animals, CNN-Turk television reported.
"Kids, don't try this at home."