"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"You're Going to Pay" Goes Viral

This self-produced music video about the federal debt has gone viral on Instapundit and Ace of Spades and Powerline, three of my favorite conservative blogs.   But it's so good (not just the message, the music is cool too) that I have to link it:

Summertime -- Time for Some Hot Fun

We're in the hottest part of the summer now, so it makes sense to get some sweaty summer music going:



 Billboard has a list of the Top 30 summer songs of all time.   Fun to be had!

Black Swans in Turkey and Syria

We are all focused on the debate in Congress over lifting the debt ceiling.   The whole thing seems like Kabuki theater to me... a dance of weirdly costumed and weirdly behaving people that supposedly has great meaning, but which seems to an outside, objective viewer to be a purposeless, symbolic, ritualized sham.   We have a $3.8 trillion dollar budget.  It is scheduled, through the miracle of baseline budgeting, to go up by roughly 7% a year, or $250-300 billion every year.   If we cut a whole trillion dollars over ten years, with very little of it "front-loaded," we haven't really cut much of anything, have we?   But the markets will be mollified for a time anyway, and the Senators and Congressman can all pretend as if they've done something meaningful.  

Meanwhile, the world goes on with unpredictable events that could be cataclysmic in consequence -- Black Swans, to use the current vernacular.*   Here are two:

News that the top echelon of Turkey’s military offered their joint resignations is not much of a surprise, given ongoing politicized trials against particular officers, and the general acceptance that a secular military is at odds with an increasingly Islamicized government. But there will be lots of long-term ramifications. Turkey, as an historical window on the West, has been praised as about the only Middle East Islamic nation that accepted democracy without foreign imposition, and is often referenced as proof that there is nothing antithetical between constitutional government and a resurgent Islamism.

But with such departures of secular officers, the message grows more complicated and may be that if a high-ranking military official is Islamist, the way to advancement is assured; while the old secular path leads nowhere. Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah seem to be more the eventual models, in which the military becomes a protector of Islam and ensures that the armed forces serve rather than prevent the insidious religious take-over of social institutions.



We're not spending a lot of "news" time noticing these events, but I suspect that in the long-term they're more important than whether Congress does the inevitable and votes to raise our debt limit one more time.   (This is not to say that the long-term inability of the American government to control its profligate spending isn't of enormous consequence, only that this particular instance of raising the debt limit isn't the huge deal it's made out to be.)



* The term comes most prominently from the recent book The Black Swan:  The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.   The Regular Guy just started it, and will report at some point.   One of his most interesting points is how, since no one knows what's really going on, reading the newspaper is a waste of time, because we always spend time noticing the unimportant items, and never notice the huge things that are happening.  
  


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Today in History - Apollo 15


Forty years ago today, on July 30, 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and Jim Irwin landed on the moon, and explored the surface using the first Lunar Rover.  

Forty years ago!   The abdication of the moral responsibility of Americans (humans) to explore the cosmos since then is disgusting to me.   What are we alive for if not to explore space?   Is it all just Social Security and Medicare from now on?   I guess it is.

Man, what we might have done.   That will be the epitaph for America, I'm afraid.  

Birthday Today - Thomas Sowell


Thomas Sowell, the great economist and -- for lack of a better way of saying it -- purveyor of common sense, turns 81 today.   His books and articles are an ongoing recipe book for thinking and writing clearly.  My favorites include A Conflict of Visions, The Vision of the Anointed, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, and Intellectuals and Society, all of which take different tacks toward diagnosing and deconstructing the "intellectual" hubris of modern liberalism.
 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Imagining $14.3 Trillion in Debt

This guy does a pretty good job.   But the fact is that the amount of national debt, even if it were reasonable, would still dwarf planes and buildings, etc., because we're a big country.   300 million people can handle a lot of debt.   The real problem is imagining the debt we have now, not as a gross debt that dwarfs the Empire State Building, but the debt per taxpayer that dwarfs what we owe on our cars, our college loans, our houses.   As everyone ought to know, the real taxpayers (the top 10% who pay more than 70% of the income taxes) are the people who really "owe" the national debt, just like it's me who owes money we've committed to pay for my son's Catholic boys high school, not my son (who doesn't have any income).   Those top 10% (and that's just of the 140 million or so filers) are the real "debtors" who are going to have to pay the vigorish to the Chinese someday.   So there are about 14 million of us who are going to have to pay off the $14 trillion in national debt.   Now we're talking.... that's about $1 million per taxpayer in that upper income group.

Put it that way and it really does sound scary big.

Is Obama a "Loser"?

Peggy Noonan in the WSJ thinks so.   Here is the key passage from her article:
The past few weeks I've asked Democrats who supported him how they feel about him. I got back nothing that showed personal investment. Here are the words of a hard-line progressive and wise veteran of the political wars: "I never loved Barack Obama. That said, among my crowd who did 'love' him, I can't think of anyone who still does." Why is Mr. Obama different from Messrs. Clinton and Bush? "Clinton radiated personality. As angry as folks got with him about Nafta or Monica, there was always a sense of genuine, generous caring." With Bush, "if folks were upset with him, he still had this goofy kind of personality that folks could relate to. You might think he was totally misguided but he seemed genuinely so. . . . Maybe the most important word that described Clinton and Bush but not Obama is 'genuine.'" He "doesn't exude any feeling that what he says and does is genuine."
Well, maybe.   Maybe Obama is an aloof, unloveable guy, bad at retail politics, wrong on policy, a poor communicator (amazingly, after the paeans to his speech-making ability during the 2008 campaign), a poor tactician on Capitol Hill, etc.   He's a loser on substantive things.  But I don't think that means that he necessarily loses in 2012.   Consider:

1. The economy may still be bad, but it likely will be turning around and heading back in the right direction simply as a matter of the business cycle.
2. To the extent that the economy is still bad, he's positioned himself to blame the GOP, and the mainstream media will help him do it with billions of dollars of free advertising (read:  the nightly news). 
3.  The unions will be out in force.   Believe it.   We're seeing it here in Wisconsin on a small scale.   In 2012 it will be huge.
4.  He starts with probably a 10% advantage because of the monolithic black vote.   They'll turn out again in 2012 to protect their guy.
5.  He got Osama bin Laden.   Oh, sure, it was an operation long in the works, an operation driven by intelligence derived under the Bush administration's policies.   It doesn't matter.   He got bin Laden.
6.  Most important of all, the GOP has a habit of nominating flawed candidates.   Romney would be a flawed candidate (too centrist, and then the big problem of the Massachusetts health care plan that looks a lot like Obamacare).   Bachmann?   Please.   I like her, but she's not ready.   Palin?   Too much baggage.   Rick Perry?   He'd be my guy right now, but we don't know much about him, and I wonder whether the nation is ready for another Texas governor.  

In other words, you can beat Obama with a generic Republican, but I don't know if you can beat him with an actual Republican.  

So, is he a "loser"?   I hope so.   But it will be a close-run thing.   And, if he wins in 2012, look out.   We're really screwed.  

Birthday Today - Alexis de Tocqueville et al.


It's Alexis de Tocqueville's birthday.   Born in 1805, he published his great work, Democracy in America, in 1835.   No one before or since has seen so deeply into the strengths and weaknesses of a government by the people for the people.   I wonder what de Tocqueville would have said about our current government's debt crisis?  

Oh, that's right.   He actually knew it would happen:
"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."

"[Democracy] can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy."
Tocqueville didn't call this a "tipping point," but he would have understood the concept.  

***

It's also the birthday of William Powell, one of my favorite actors of the 1930s.   Powell, born in 1892, and famously married for a time to Carole Lombard, starred with Lombard in one of the great screwball comedies of the era, My Man Godfrey, where Lombard picks up Powell off a garbage dump as part of a society soiree/scavenger hunt and turns him into the family's butler:





***

Also, as a bonus for the Regular Son, who is an enormous Springsteen fan, it's Patty Scialfa's birthday (the Boss' wife).  She's 55, seven years younger than the Boss.  Here she is singing from her first solo album that came out in 1993 .   Not bad:


Girl of the Day - More Justified Please (Joelle Carter)

The new show I'm watching, Justified, on FX, about a deputy U.S. Marshal in eastern Kentucky, has as a side-story the romantic entanglements of the sheriff with his ex-wife (played by Natalie Zea, yesterday's Girl of the Day), and a trampy local girl named Ava Crowder, played by Joelle Carter.   She's sort of OK, I guess, if you like this sort of thing, which, of course, the Regular Guy does:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meanwhile, Back on Planet Earth... The Sky Is Apparently Not Falling

The Regular Guy has long been a global warming skeptic.   This story gives me even more ammo:
NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.
Look, this is the way science is supposed to work.  A scientist makes a hypothesis (anthropogenic global warming).   Another scientist gathers data that could prove or disprove that hypothesis.   If that data contradicts the hypothesis, the first scientist is supposed to rethink the hypothesis, either explaining why it's still true despite the new data, or else rejecting it and coming up with a new theory.   Step 1 (models of global warming) was fine; Step 2 (gathering of data) appears to be proceeding as it should; now all we need is for the scientific community to gradually work there way around to rejecting AGW.  

The problem is that there are a lot of dollars involved in grants, carbon credit trading, green technologies, etc., if AGW is true; and there are not very many dollars involved if AGW is false.   If the answer is "it's just the weather," then no one gets richer or more powerful, not Al Gore, not the scientists, not the government bureaucrats.   We all just go back to doing what we were doing.

Birthdays Today

These two birthdays don't go together.   You were warned.

First, it's Marcel Duchamp's birthday.   Born in 1887, Duchamp was one of the key figures in modern painting, associated with the cubist, Dadaist and surrealist movements.   Not necessarily my cup of tea, but paintings like this have, if nothing else, a historical value:


Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912


The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, 1923

It's also Rudy Vallee's birthday.   The pop crooner from the 1920s was born in 1901.   I remember him best as the Chairman of the Board of Worldwide Widget in the musical, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying from the 1960s with the great Robert Morse (now on Mad Men).   But here he is when he was just becoming famous -- sort of an early prototype for Frank Sinatra (or a bad Bing Crosby) -- singing "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover" in 1929:




A different world.  On the other hand, thinking about Vallee singing in 1929, with the world about to go off a cliff economically, maybe it's not that different after all.




Which Way Has the Debate Really Shifted?

Politico, a left-leaning political website, today suggests that liberals are angry because the debate over the debt ceiling has shifted the national discourse to the right so that we are now talking about cutting spending and restraining our debt, rather than talking about progressive policies (national health care, higher taxes on the wealthy, etc.):
For the moment, most Democrats are a lot more united than Republicans on the debt debate. But they are increasingly restive as they balance loyalty to Obama and their commitment to preserving entitlement programs and tax equity, core principles they see as being chucked overboard in the interest of appeasing tea party Republicans.
Even the least painful resolution to the crisis — a plan backed by Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that is a cocktail of deep cuts in discretionary public spending and infrastructure improvements without a whiff of the tax-the-wealthy agenda that has been a staple Democratic demand — is poison to many progressives.
“Every policy outcome for liberals is a loss at this point,” a senior party operative said, reflecting the prevailing view among progressives that the alternatives mulled by Obama in the debt talks range from the awful to the unthinkable.

“We may win on the politics,” the operative said, “but the policy battle is lost. It’s just depressing.”
I think this may be true in the short-term.   Right now we're talking about cutting spending, at least in theory.   But, in the long term, the new baseline for the budget appears to be somewhere around the $3.8 trillion level, where just ten years ago we were at $1.8 trillion.   We've entered the realm of the permanent stimulus, the permanent 25% of GDP federal government.   The Era of Big Government is not over; the Era of Big Government has simply become the new normal.
  
In other words, the debate has shifted, but it's shifted inexorably further and further toward normalizing the idea that big government at all levels represents an untouchable, permanent reality. 

Three Great Points About the Debt Ceiling Debate

Here are three great points about the debt ceiling debate from three of my favorite bloggers.   The first is from Roger Simon, explaining why President Obama not only doesn't have a plan, but can't have a plan:
President Obama’s been taking a lot of flak lately for not having a plan. First it was about Libya, but now — even more importantly because, as we know, all politics is local (until it’s not) — about the budget.

The latest White House porte-parole Jay Carney has consequently been taking all kinds of in-coming himself about “where’s the President’s budget plan,” “why doesn’t he have a plan,” etc.

Well, the reason for the latter is simple: because he can’t. The minute the president evinces a budget plan, the game is up. No liberal budget will stand up to scrutiny. There is no money left for deficit spending in our aging society. The welfare state is kaput. It’s gone — probably for generations to come.

Of course, there’s always that canard about taxing the rich. That will save things. But the truth is even if you tax the rich at 100%, it barely sets back our entitlement crisis a year or two, while virtually bankrupting the few job creators who remain.
So no wonder Obama doesn’t have a plan. What would it be?
Next we have the great Ace from Ace of Spades HQ:
Republicans have a big problem with Clinton. I get that. I was on the impeachment train myself. I had the pompoms for removal from office.
But our hatred of Clinton is preventing us from using him for our own purposes.
To wit: How about asking the public, "In 1998, under President Clinton, with a 3.8% unemployment rate and GDP growth of 4.5% per year, did you feel the government was too cruel and too vicious to the poor and sick?
The Democrats are always claiming that are cuts are vicious.
Oh?
In 1998 we spent -- I'm not sure, exactly, but eyeballing it from the figures I see, let's say it spent $1.6 trillion.
If the government was not hard-heartedly cruel and callous spending $1.6 trillion in 1998 -- if, by all liberal accounts, Clinton was doing okay by the poor -- then what exactly is the problem with spending that amount now?
Oh, okay, in inflation. Add in a very generous $0.8 trillion to account for that and that adds up to $2.4 trillion.
If we were spending $2.4 trillion now we wouldn't have a deficit.
I'd go Ace a step further.   Do you think government spending as a percentage of GDP was too low in 1938 at the height of the New Deal?   Do you think it was too low as a percentage of GDP in 1963 when JFK was President?   Do you think it was too low as a percentage of GDP in 1998 when Bill Clinton was President?   Let's take the average federal-government-spending-as-a-percentage-of-GDP for those three slices of time in liberal utopia, and let's say that's what we should be spending now.   The figures?   1938: 7.7%.   1963: 18.6%.   1998: 19.1%.    (Source here.)   I'll take the 15.1% average and run with it... based on current revenues we'd have a surplus and be able to start paying down our debt (an admittedly alien concept to the inside-the-Beltway crowd).   Heck, I'd even take the 1963 and 1998 average of 18.8% or 18.9%.  I could live with it.   What we can't live with is the projections from the Obama Administration of spending 24-25% of GDP ad infinitum.   Are liberals really telling us that FDR, JFK and the Comeback Kid were all cruel when they set their budgets?

Finally, the irreplaceable Mark Steyn:
If the CBO’s scoring is correct — that [the original Boehner plan] reduces the 2012 deficit by just $1 billion — then the ”cut” represents what the United States borrows every five hours and 20 minutes. In other words, in the time it takes to photocopy and distribute Boehner’s “plan,” the savings have all been borrowed back.

As for the rest, I’m philosophically opposed to “entitlements” because they strike at one of the most basic principles of representative government — that a parliament cannot bind its successor. But the same objection applies to jelly-spined legislators announcing grand plans for bazillions of savings years after their term of office has expired. Who knows what’ll be happening in 2017? Maybe North Korea will accidentally nuke the South Sandwich Islands and we’ll be expected to chip in for reconstruction.

That leaves now. And, in terms of spending now now now, the entire political class has made itself a global laughingstock. A month of shuttling back and forth between the Capitol and the White House for “a real, enforceable cut” of $1-7 billion? Boehner might as well have gone to the Turks & Caicos for July and worked on his tan.

Downgrade’s a-comin’.
Doom.   And gloom. 

Girl of the Day - Natalie Zea

As I may have mentioned, I've started watching a new show called Justified, with Timothy Olyphant, who played the sheriff on the HBO show Deadwood.   It's very good so far and particularly in depicting the anachronistic clan culture of Harlan County in Eastern Kentucky.   Olyphant plays a Deputy U.S. Marshal, while Walton Goggins (of The Shield) plays his nemesis, a white-supremacist/criminal gang leader.  

Anyway, Natalie Zea plays the ex-wife of Olyphant's character, and she's awfully easy on the eyes, as TV actresses tend to be:


The Regular Guy Returns Refreshed


The Regular Family spent the beginning of this week on Lake Okoboji in northern Iowa, boating, swimming and otherwise recreating with the in-laws (which makes us the out-laws, I suppose).  Great fun had by all, and I heartily recommend vacations where there's no Internet and no cable TV.  

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Birthday Today - Daniel Radcliffe


It's Daniel Radcliffe's birthday today.   He's 22.   I can't help thinking that, with the end of Harry Potter, his acting career is likely to change somewhat.   He looks young, and he's small, so I can't see him transitioning too smoothly into adult roles.   But then, after the millions he's made on the Harry Potter films, he can bankroll his own projects and still have plenty left over.  

He might be the luckiest kid on the planet, having fallen into that role.   On the other hand, I'm also pretty sure that his fame, which is staggering, comes at some price. 

On the whole, I might prefer being a Regular Guy. 

Girl of the Day - Teri Polo


Another TV actress of middling fame whom I have liked over the past couple of decades is Teri Polo, and particularly her guest spot on one of my all-time favorite shows, the ill-fated, two-seasons-only comedy-drama about an ESPN-like national sports show called Sports Night.   Here's a great, romantic scene with her (with red hair) and Josh Charles as her sort-of boyfriend, Dan Rydell, one of the sports anchors:

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Spacemen


The last space shuttle mission is over.   Done, finis, caput.   Sayonara, spacemen!

This makes me so sad.   The space shuttle was probably a bad idea, and wildly too expensive for what it accomplished.   Why did we stop at the moon and say, now let's just be content with shooting a flying brick into close earth orbit?   Why didn't we say, to hell with it, whatever else we do, Americans are going to Mars?   As Mickey Rourke said in the great movie, Diner, "If you don't got dreams, you got nightmares."   Now we have a national nightmare of a sea of debt and no Mars landing to remember it by, just a lot of medical bills for baby boomers, and flat screen TVs to watch Star Wars on TBS.

James Lileks had a similar impulse, perhaps because he's of a similar age, when The Right Stuff wasn't a movie, it was what we were seeing as little kids on the nightly news:
NASA is keen to tell you there’s a still a future for sending Americans into space, but there’s a general cultural anomie that seems content to watch movies about people in space, but indifferent to any plans to put them there. This makes me grind my teeth down to the roots, but I suppose that’s a standard reaction when the rest of your fellow citizenry doesn’t share the precise and exact parameters of your interests and concerns. That’s the problem when you grow up with magazines telling you where we’re going after the moon, with grade-school notebooks that had pictures of the space stations to come, when the push to Mars was regarded as an inevitable next step.

I can see the reason for taking our time – develop new engines, perfect technology, gather the money and the will. It’s not like anything’s going anywhere. But it’s not like we’re going anywhere if we’re not going anywhere, either – when nations, cultures stop exploring, it’s a bad sign. You’re ceding the future. If you have a long view that regards nation-states as quaint relics of a time in human history when maps had lines – really, you can’t see them from space! We’re all one, you know – then it doesn’t matter whether China or the US puts a flag on Mars. It’s possible a Chinese Mars expedition would commemorate the first boot on red soil with a statement that spoke for everyone on the planet, not a particular culture or nation. It’s possible. But history would remember that they chose to go, and we chose not to.

So what’s the attachment, really? Childhood attachment to Star Trek fantasies, geeky fascination with spaceships, adolescent marination in sci-fi visions of rockets and moon bases and PanAm shuttles engaged in a sun-bathed ballet with a space station revolving to the strains of Strauss, phasers and warp six and technobabble and the love of great serene machinery knifing through clouds of glowing dust? Probably. It’s not over, I know – but it’s like watching the last of Columbus’ ships return, and learning they’re cutting up the mast for firewood, and no one’s planning to go back any time soon. At first you look at the ocean and imagine what’s out there, because that’s what you’ve been doing all your life – and then you lean to stop wondering, because it reminds you of the day you saw the last ship leave.
If some Presidential candidate would run on a platform of cutting Social Security and Medicare to the bone and instead funding a mission to Mars, he'd get my vote.   Life isn't about making sure that Grandpa can get his two artifical hips down the aisle to the slots in the casino; a man's reach ought to exceed his grasp, or else what's a heaven for?

Who's Obstructionist Now?

UPDATE:

Bumped to the top.   Just minutes ago Senator Jim Demint hit all the right notes in this diatribe against Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats:
“It is outrageous that every Senate Democrat voted against even allowing a debate on balancing the budget within 10 years, a plan supported by two-thirds of Americans with wide support across all party lines. Why are Senate Democrats so afraid to debate a balanced budget? Cut, Cap, Balance is the compromise plan that passed the House and can end the wasteful spending that caused this debt crisis. It gives the President the debt limit increase he has asked for in return for immediate spending cuts, enforceable spending caps, and a constitutional amendment to force Washington to stop spending more than it brings in.

“The President and Democrats have been beyond reckless in this debate, refusing to offer any serious solution to our fiscal crisis. The only plan the President has offered would increase our debt by $10 trillion and push our nation into bankruptcy.

“I urge Republican leaders to stop letting the President to drag you back like children into secret meetings where he pretends to do something constructive. The President created this crisis by irresponsible spending and borrowing that has left our economy in shambles, and if he’s unwilling to simply agree to balance the budget in 10 years then he is not a credible negotiating partner.

“No more closed door meetings, no more phony compromises that don’t solve the problem, no more useless commissions. We have a balanced approach supported by a bipartisan House majority that ends our debt crisis if just four Senate Democrats would keep their promise and support a balanced budget.

“We must pass Cut, Cap & Balance to keep our nation from falling off a fiscal cliff.”
*****

The House, by a vote of 234-190, including five Democrats in the majority, passed "cut, cap and balance" this week, which cuts federal spending by $110 billion next year, caps future spending at 19.9 percent of the gross national product, and introduces a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.   Not a great bill, perhaps -- $110 billion for next year is too little (roughly 10% of the projected deficit), and 19.9% is too much (historical norms have been around 18% of GDP) -- but it's a real piece of legislation that has been proposed, debated and passed by one of the two houses of Congress.  

Today, the Senate, by a vote of 51-46 along straight party lines -- not one Democrat voting out of lock-step with their leadership -- chose not to even permit "cut, cap and balance" to be debated in the Senate, notwithstanding polling data showing that 66% of Americans would support the bill:
23. In another proposal, Congress would raise the debt ceiling only if a balanced budget amendment were passed by both houses of Congress and substantial spending cuts and caps on future spending were approved. Would you favor or oppose this proposal?

July 18-20 2011
Favor 66%
Oppose 33%
No opinion 1%
Oh, by the way, that's a CNN poll.   Not Rasmussen.   Not Fox News.   CNN.

Look, Paul Ryan proposed a budget and the House passed it.   Now the House has passed "cut, cap and balance."   Meanwhile, we're going on 814 days since the Democrat-led Senate has passed a budget.   Where's the Senate Democratic plan to balance the budget?   Where's the President's plan?   Where are the specific cuts they're willing to make?   Where's the meat?   And when they have an actual bill that's been passed  by the House by a significant majority, whose members were before the American voters only 8 months ago and were elected on precisely this issue, the Senate won't even debate it?  Really?

Where's the mainstream media on this?   Out to lunch, that's where.

Today in History - Jimi, Really?


A weird fact about July 22nd.   On this day in 1967, Jimi Hendrix quit as the opening act for the Monkees.

I don't know what's weirder, that Jimi Hendrix was ever the opening act for the Monkees; that the Monkees, an imaginary rock band created for a TV show, were touring; or that they're still touring now, 44 years later.

Birthday Today - Edward Hopper

The great American realist painter, Edward Hopper, was born today in 1882.   Sometimes, when everything seems to revolve around politics, it's good to remember that there's more to life, and that there are beautiful things to look at, and that now we are so lucky that they are at the touch of a finger.   For instance, one of my all-time favorite paintings, Hopper's "Nighthawks," painted in 1942, which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago:



I'll tell a little story about the Art Institute.   A few years back (before the economics of law firms changed), our firm threw an annual party at the Art Institute.   The occasion was our expansion into Chicago by merging with another, smaller firm located there.   Anyway, we rented out the museum for dinner and a tour, and at one point my wife and I found ourselves alone in a gallery of 15-20 Monets.   Beautiful, beautiful paintings, and a cherished moment... one of those "how did we get here" moments of luck where you thank God you're alive and you're together to see something wonderful.  

Those kinds of moments in a marriage, in a life, don't depend on the CPI, or the Unemployment Rate, or the federal budget deficit, or what's going on in Pakistan or Iran, or the price of oil.   Life is bigger, and better, than we often allow ourselves to recognize.  

Girl of the Day - Dana Delany

Another of my favorite TV actresses from 20 years ago was Dana Delany of China Beach, an interesting (but not great) show about nurses in Vietnam:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another CEO Weighs In On Obamanomics

Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, had this to say in an interview with Investors Business Daily:
IBD: If you could sit down with Obama and talk to him about job creation, what would you say?
Marcus: I’m not sure Obama would understand anything that I’d say, because he’s never really worked a day outside the political or legal area. He doesn’t know how to make a payroll, he doesn’t understand the problems businesses face. I would try to explain that the plight of the businessman is very reactive to Washington. As Washington piles on regulations and mandates, the impact is tremendous. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I just think he has no knowledge of this.
Wow.  I mean it:  just wow.  

The Regular Guy Believes.... We Are Not Undertaxed

In thinking about the debate over the federal debt limit and how to deal with the federal budget deficit going forward, let's posit a few things:

1.  There is a gap between what the federal government has committed to spend and what it expects to bring in as revenues through taxes.   We call this gap the "budget deficit."

2.  All parties, Democrats and Republicans, agree (at least they give lip service to) the premise that closing this gap is important.   Put differently, I doubt any sitting politician of any party would not agree with the proposition that balancing the budget would be a desirable thing.

3.  There are logically three (and only three) ways to balance the budget: you can lower spending until it equals revenues; you can raise revenues (taxes) until they equal spending; or you can do some combination of both.  

4.  For those like the President who believe that the budget gap should be closed in whole or in part by raising revenues, their logical premise is that Americans are undertaxed at present.  

Does the premise that Americans are undertaxed make sense?  Is it supported by evidence? 

First, forget about whether it's called income tax, or corporate income tax, or capital gains tax, or social security tax, or Medicare tax, or property tax, or license fees, or tolls, or import duties, or sales tax; and forget whether it's called federal, state or local tax.   Those are all just words.   It's all just the government's different ways of getting their cut from what Americans produce every year.   Let's put the question in its simplest form:  What percentage of GDP is taken up by government as revenues?

Well, here are the figures, all of which are drawn from the web-site http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/.   

Year       Pct. of GDP

1910          7.7%
1920         13.0%
1930         14.7%
1940         17.6%
1950         22.7%
1960         29.0%
1970         30.9%
1980         31.8%
1990         33.2%
2000         36.9%
2007         36.7%        

Notice anything?   It always goes up.   And, since the 1960s -- the "Great Society" -- it's always been upwards of 30%.

Ask Americans this:  do you think that government deserves more than a third of every dollar you make?   More than a third of every dollar that anyone makes?

I didn't think so.

To close the current year federal budget deficit of $1.6 trillion on a GDP of roughly $15 trillion, you'd have to hike current rates of total taxation to somewhere north of 40% of GDP.   40 plus percent.   On every dollar Americans produce. 

Do you think Americans want to pay that? 

I didn't think so.

So.... what does the Regular Guy believe?

1.  We are not undertaxed.
2.  Since 1950 or so, America has been the subject of a grand experiment in turning a great country into a socialist state incrementally, almost as if they were trying to do it without anyone noticing.   That experiment, as the credit-rating agencies are about to conclude, has been a failure.
3.   The only way back from the abyss is to cut spending, cut spending, cut spending.  Cut, cut, cut.   And then cut some more.

What do Scott Walker and Rick Perry Have in Common? Jobs.

Here's two facts that are connected, but don't expect to hear about the connection from the mainstream media.

First, Wisconsin in June created more than half of the nation's net jobs gains, adding 9,500 jobs out of the country's total of 18,000 new jobs.  
State officials note that in the first six months of 2011, Wisconsin’s total private sector job growth of 1.7% has been almost twice the national rate of 0.9%; and in the manufacturing sector job growth has been more than twice the national rate, 3.2% compared to 1.2%.

Wisconsin total nonfarm job growth (1.4%) has been more that twice the national rate (0.6%).

Governor Walker has made job creation a focus of his platform, vowing to help Wisconsin’s private sector create a quarter of million new jobs by the end of his term.
Second, Texas has created 45% of America's jobs since June 2009, when the recession officially ended.   Hmmm, I wonder why:
Texas has no state income tax. Its regulatory conditions are contained and flexible. It is fiscally responsible and government is small. Its right-to-work law doesn't impose unions on businesses or employees. It is open to global trade and competition: Houston, San Antonio and El Paso are entrepĂ´ts for commerce, especially in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Based on his conversations with CEOs and other business leaders, Mr. Fisher says one of Texas's huge competitive advantages is its ongoing reform of the tort system, which has driven litigation costs to record lows. He also cited a rule in place since 1998 in the backwash of the S&L debacle that limits mortgage borrowing to 80% of the appraised value of a home. Like a minimum down payment, this reduces overleveraging and means Texas wasn't hurt as badly by the housing crash as other states.
What do they have in common?  A pro-business conservative governor:  Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas.  

Birthday Today - Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway was born today in 1899.   Hemingway was undoubtedly my favorite writer when I was a young man, and was a big influence on me in terms of how I thought about literature.   Having said that, in the fullness of time I tend to think of him as a young man's writer who wrote essentially romantic small fictions about an idealized "manly" life in a prose style that too often slipped into self-parody.   ("It was a good fish.   It tasted good.   We wiped our hands on our pants and went back to camp."  Etc.)  As a grown-up I much prefer the novels of writers like John Marquand or James Gould Cozzens, who write about adult, professional men dealing with the crises of ordinary life.   Less existential perhaps, but ultimately deeper and truer.  

But there was a time when I really loved passages like this from the Hemingway short story, "The End of Something":
They sat on the blanket without touching each other and watched the moon rise.

"You don't have to talk silly," Marjorie said. "What's really the matter?"

"I don't know."

"Of course you know."

"No I don't."

"Go on and say it."

Nick looked on at the moon, coming up over the hills.

"It isn't fun any more."

He was afraid to look at Marjorie. Then he looked at her. She sat there with her back toward him. He looked at her back. "It isn't fun any more. Not any of it."

She didn't say anything. He went on. "I feel as though everything was gone to hell inside of me. I don't know, Marge. I don't know what to say."

He looked on at her back.

"Isn't love any fun?" Marjorie said.

"No," Nick said. Marjorie stood up. Nick sat there, his head in his hands.

"I'm going to take the boat," Marjorie called to him. "You can walk back around the point."

"All right," Nick said. "I'll push the boat off for you."

"You don't need to," she said. She was afloat in the boat on the water with the moonlight on it. Nick went back and lay down with his face in the blanket by the fire. He could hear Marjorie rowing on the water.

He lay there for a long time. He lay there while he heard Bill come into the clearing walking around through the woods. He felt Bill coming up to the fire. Bill didn't touch him, either.

"Did she go all right?" Bill said.

"Yes," Nick said, lying, his face on the blanket.

"Have a scene?"

"No, there wasn't any scene."

"How do you feel?"

"Oh, go away, Bill! Go away for a while."

Bill selected a sandwich from the lunch basket and walked over to have a look at the rods.

Girl of the Day - Janine Turner


Janine Turner was the girl lead on the romantic comedy set in Alaska, Northern Exposure, roughly 20 years ago.   When my wife and I were first dating, it was our favorite show, and we watched it weekly, waiting for the Alaskan girl-pilot, Maggie O'Connell, to get together romantically with the New Yorker-doctor Joel Fleischman, who unaccountably has been exiled to rural Alaska to pay off student loan debts.  

Here's a cool scene from the show:



Janine Turner is also a vocal and prominent Texas Republican, which is cool. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Right Curmudgeon Is No More, Long Live the Regular Guy

I used to have a blog called "The Right Curmudgeon," and for the nine months I've been doing this blog, I've posted under that name here, mostly out of sheer laziness and ineptitude (too much work to make 2-3 clicks and change it on Blogster).   Going forward, however, I've decided to lay The Right Curmudgeon to a well-deserved rest, and will post simply as The Regular Guy, so that when I talk about The Regular Wife and The Regular Son and The Regular Daughters and The Regular Dog, you'll know that it's all in the family.

Here, for instance, is the Regular Son and the Regular Dog over the weekend, playing long-range fetch using a tennis ball and a lacrosse stick:


Obamacare and Jobs

Steve Wynn of Vegas casino fame got a lot of press with his diatribe against Obama yesterday.   The point of the rant was that Obama's regime of hyper-regulation and redistribution of wealth is a job-killer:
And I'm telling you that the business community in this country is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.
Just so.   Now the Heritage Foundation has weighed in with a study entitled "Recovery Stalled After Obamacare Passed," detailing the chilling effect the passage of Obamacare had on private sector job-creation.   The contrast between before April 2010 (when Obamacare passed) and after April 2010 is stark:


Ouch!   That's pretty persuasive to me.   Here's the punchline from the report, in the sedate tone of social science:
The economy is experiencing an unusually slow recovery. While the labor market improved steadily from January 2009 to April 2010, it suddenly stalled in May. This coincided with the passage of President Obama’s health care overhaul, which significantly raised both the costs and uncertainty involved for businesses providing employer-sponsored health insurance. Many businesses report that this legislation is holding back hiring. The data suggest that these complaints are not idle.
I'll be blunter.   The difference in private sector job-creation before and after Obamacare passed appears to be about 60,000 jobs a month.   It's about 16 months since then, so we're nearing a difference of 1 million jobs attributable to the passage of Obamacare.   In his vain effort to create his own legacy and to shift America toward a socialist state, Obama has screwed a million Americans out of their livelihoods.  

Gang of Six - The Flim-Flam Men

UPDATE 2:

Bumped to the top.   Now Hugh Hewitt weighs in on the "Gang of Six" plan:
The half-baked "proposal" is a thinly veiled, massive tax hike which will never ever get through the House of Representatives as it would spell economic disaster for the country and political catastrophe for the GOP.  It is hard to fathom what these senators are thinking, but the days of "trust us" are long gone, and if even one Republican standing for election in 2012 votes for this I will be shocked, and they will almost certainly be primaried.

The conservative base and Tea Party activists did not send a House Republican majority back to D.C. to raise taxes.  How anyone could miss this fact is beyond me, but obviously some have.

Really, how hard can this be to understand: Cut spending and do nothing but cut spending until the budget is back at 19% of GDP, and then if the Congress can pull that off, get to tax simplification.
What we need is to lay out specific cuts that we would make and demand that the President and the Democrats do the same.   Period.
*****

UPDATE:

James Capretta at National Review Online calls the "Gang of Six" plan the "worst plan ever."   Here's the money quote:
If this “reconciliation”-style package of tax and entitlement changes gets supermajority support in the Senate, then the Senate would move on to the third part of the Gang of Six proposal: a Social Security reform package that closes the long-term financing gap. Again, with Democrats in control of the Senate and the writing of legislation, this almost certainly would mean another large tax increase. The Social Security plan would then be attached to the legislation containing the other tax and entitlement changes, and sent to the House (probably on a take-it-or-leave-it basis).

In short, the Gang of Six has essentially offered a plan in which Republicans would hand over control of the budget process to Democratic senators and hope for the best. Enough said.
*****

When I hear the word "bipartisan," I think:   "The GOP just got rolled."   Apparently the "Gang of Six" in the Senate have put together a plan that the President thinks is close to what he wanted, including tax increases (disguised as tax reform/tax simplification) and a nod toward entitlement reform (vague promises of gaining efficiencies in Medicare) and some "immediate cuts" (that aren't immediate, and likely aren't cuts), along with a promise of new commissions to study further cuts.   Yuck!   Our rule should be:  if the socialist demogogue BHO likes it, it's bad.

As always, Mark Steyn cuts to the chase:
Americans who care about the solvency of this nation ought to be seriously annoyed at the contempt for them shown by the Gang of Six “plan,” which even by the standards of “bipartisan” deal-making is a total joke.

Even if you take seriously their figure of $3.7 trillion in savings over ten years, that represents a clawback across a decade of about two years of current deficits.
If you take Jeff Sessions’s figure of $1.2 trillion in savings over ten years as being closer to the mark, that takes a decade to reverse about three-quarters of the 2011 deficit.

Neither of these numbers is sufficient. Both lead to national suicide.

If you take the Gang’s figure of half-a-trillion dollars in immediate “aggressive deficit reduction” seriously, that represents about what the U.S. government borrows every four months. What’s “aggressive” about that? And what’s immediate about it? It’s all unspecified “discretionary spending caps” and “process reforms” that will collapse like soufflĂ©s ten minutes after the signing ceremony. Obviously it’s appealing to Democrats: It accepts their view that 25 percent of GDP should be the new baseline for national (“federal” no longer seems quite the word) government spending. But what’s in it for Republicans?

We are sending a consistent message to the world that the political structures of the United States do not allow for meaningful course correction. That does far more damage to the “full faith and credit” of America than failing to hike the debt ceiling.

Girl of the Day - I Like Ike Version (Deborah Kerr)

With the looming financial fiasco of America's national debt on the horizon, one looks wistfully back to a time of balanced budgets and cars with fins.... the Fifties!   So, here's one of my favorite actresses from that era, Deborah Kerr, in perhaps her most memorable role, in From Here to Eternity:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doing Good in Afghanistan

UPDATE:

Here's a great first-hand report on the situation in Afghanistan from Captain Pete Hegseth, Princeton '03.

******

America tends to understand our military's role in Iraq and Afghanistan through the prism of politics.   Is this development good for Bush or bad for Bush, good for Obama or bad for Obama?   We forget that there are young men and women (mostly young men) doing hard things in difficult circumstances in those countries, all the while trying to represent our country in the best way.   We need to pay a lot less attention to how those wars affect Presidential races, and much more attention to the heroes in our armed services, both those who get medals for valor in combat, and those who just do the daily hard work of making those countries a better, safer, more civilized place to live.

Anyway, here's a picture from Afghanistan of my nephew, a sergeant with the 101st Airborne (note the Screaming Eagle patch), handing out toys to Afghani children.   Lest we forget.



We're so proud of him.

Connecting the Dots to the Future



Things I've noticed in the past 24 hours:

1.  My daughter wanted to play the song "Forget You" (original title: "F*** You") by Cee Lo Green on the piano.   She needed sheet music.   We went on a site called musicnotes.com, and downloaded software that not only gives you the sheet music, but plays along with it, highlighting the notes, so you can hear what it's supposed to sound like.   Cost for software:  free.   Cost for music:  $4.95.  

2.  I DVR'ed my favorite show, Breaking Bad, even though I had watched it on Sunday night for the season premiere.   Then, last night, I fast forwarded through it to the climactic scene to watch it again, missing the non-essential parts and skipping the commercials.   This is increasingly how we watch television:  in short snippets, choosing to watch only what we want.   Youtube is the new model.  

3.  Borders has officially gone completely bankrupt.   “The company said in a statement Monday that it was unable to find a buyer willing to keep the company in operation and will sell itself to a group of liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources. Borders’ roughly 400 remaining stores will close, and nearly 11,000 jobs will be lost, according to the company.”  I wonder how many people have been hired to manufacture Kindles?   In Asia.  

4.  Meanwhile, there is this story about how to cut college costs with Kindle Textbook Rentals. “Kindle textbooks can typically be rented for any length between 30 to 360 days – you pay only for the time you need and can extend or buy anytime.”   Technology is increasingly setting us free from rackets like book publishing (huge markup), textbook publishing (even huger), and, the biggest racket of all, college education (you can create a perfectly good curriculum for a college student online for free using courses that can be found here).  

When I was born we watched TV in black-and-white and there were three channels.   When I was 21, some of my friends who were college seniors, trekked down to the computer science building to "type" their senior theses on computer terminals connected to a mainframe.  Others felt lucky to have electric typewriters.   Mine was manual.  

When I was 23 and out of college, I used to call in to an 800- number late at night to get baseball scores.   ESPN had just started, but my apartment building (in Manhattan!) didn't have cable yet, and I wouldn't have been able to afford it anyway.   The telephone calls were 50 cents each.   Now I follow Cardinals games pitch-by-pitch on my Blackberry over the Internet.

When I was 25, I got my first PC; it had 512 kb of memory, and the screen showed the text in a weird greenish-orange text, and you stored your papers on floppy disks.   Now you can by an iPad with 64 GB of memory.    You do the math.

I got my first cell phone at 40, and my first Blackberry at 47.   Now I take pictures of my kids on my phone and send them instantly to my mother.   Now I can listen to music on my phone; check the Internet; get email; review documents, etc.  

What will life be like in another ten years?

Girl of the Day - Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner is one of those actresses who, although tremendously talented, basically lost her looks as she got older, and therefore couldn't play the "type" she had played as a younger woman.   The same thing happens to some men, although (somewhat unfairly) it seems to happen to men later.   Tom Hanks is an example, although he obviously has enough bank that you can't feel sorry for him, but the trailer of his new romantic comedy with Julia Roberts makes him look old and jowly.   (I can sympathize, believe me.)

Anyway, it's Kathleen Turner's birthday today -- she's 57 -- and so it's not a bad time to recall what an incredible hotty she was when she first came on the scene in the thriller Body Heat with William Hurt:

Vegas Weighs In

Steve Wynn, the billionaire CEO of Wynn Resorts, with casinos and hotels in Las Vegas and Macau, had this to say about the business climate under Obama:

I'm afraid to do anything in the current political environment in the United States. You watch television and see what's going on on this debt ceiling issue. And what I consider to be a total lack of leadership from the President and nothing's going to get fixed until the President himself steps up....

And I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems, that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration.And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America.

You bet and until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it's not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. And a lot of people don't want to say that. They'll say, God, don't be attacking Obama. Well, this is Obama's deal and it's Obama that's responsible for this fear in America.

The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest, their holding too much money. We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody's afraid of the government and there's no need soft peddling it, it's the truth. It is the truth. And that's true of Democratic businessman and Republican businessman, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid. I support Democrats and Republicans. And I'm telling you that the business community in this country is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.




That's going to leave a mark.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fake But Accurate? Try: Creepy Even If True.

UPDATE:

Bumped to the top.   Apparently the author of the book that contains this highly-revealing scoop about Obama's mother's health insurance is refusing to talk to reporters about it.    Byron York of NRO has the story, but Ace at Ace of Spades has the conclusion in a nicely baked, one-sentence souffle of a comment:
They'll decline to market their own books in order to puff up Obama and protect him from all negative coverage.
Who got to her and told her that her next book deal will be a wee-bit bigger if she lays low?   Doesn't anyone want to ask the question in the MSM?   (Of course not.   Silly me.)

*****


Ann Althouse blogs today about a story in the New York Times recounting how a new book has caught President Obama in a lie.... about his own mother's death!   Here is the Times:

During his presidential campaign and subsequent battle over a health care law, Mr. Obama quieted crowds with the story of his mother’s fight with her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage.

In offering the story as an argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions by health insurers, the president left the clear impression that his mother’s fight was over health benefits for medical expenses.

But in
“A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” author Janny Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument....
Althouse says that she doesn't "accept that the President could have an innocently false memory about this story..... Those terrible, heartless corporations have been a theme of the Obama presidency. He has been trying to structure American brains around that idea, so he can win acceptance of policies that most Americans don't want, and that story of his personal agony played an important role in pushing through an immense federal power."

Althouse's point is a good one, that this President has made a habit of pushing anecdotes about his personal life that, in his followers' minds, are "fake but accurate."   His mother's inability to get coverage for her medical problems as she died thus, even if fake, is accurate in portraying the evils of the insurance industry, and thus useful to the left as propaganda for a national health system.   The ends (nationalized health care) justify the means (lying).

But to me, there's something even worse happening here, something that shows the President not just to be an unscruplous propagandist for the left, but shows him to be.... well, creepy.

First, he's telling a story about his mother's death.   His own mother!   This ought to be a sacred moment in his life, something that is too private, too personal to be used as a piece of propaganda.   It's one thing to dine out on the third-hand suffering of acquaintances... that's gossip, and we've all done that.   It's another thing to use what ought to be a son's most profound emotional memory to make a political point.   It's ugly.   His own mother!

Second, and something that literally cried out for someone to follow up with Obama during the campaign of 2008 and (since that didn't happen) today:  even if it were true that his mother couldn't pay her medical bills as she was dying, how exactly is it that she was concerned that it would "bankrupt" her family?   In 1995 when she died, Barack Obama was a graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law School, a lawyer with the Chicago firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Galland, a Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, on the board of directors of the Woods Fund, the Joyce Foundation and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.  He had just published his memoir, Dreams From My Father.   Michelle Obama was a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law who was, at the time, the executive director of a major Chicago non-profit.   Both had previously worked at a very prominent Chicago firm of Sidley & Austin; both could easily have gone to any major law firm in Chicago and gotten plum (and lucrative) jobs.   Meanwhile, the President's mother, Ann Dunham, had only one other child, Maya Soetero, who had already graduated from college (Barnard College at Columbia); Ann Dunham was also divorced; she thus had no dependents.   How exactly would her medical bills bankrupt her family?  If she ran through her savings and her insurance didn't cover it, she would have been eligible for Medicaid at the very least.  

Meanwhile, what kind of creep with a Harvard Law degree and a plum professorship and a book contract lets their mother worry about going bankrupt from medical bills?   What kind of creep doesn't step up with an offer to pay?   What kind of creep doesn't change jobs, change plans, do anything to make sure that their mother has the best care possible?

President Creep is the answer.

Global Warming Hoax Redux

It will come as no surprise that the Regular Guy thinks that the "global warming" scare of the past two decades has largely been a hoax.   I thought so, and said so, early and often, for a lot of good and sufficient reasons:

1.  The same cabal of leftists, activists and "scientists" in academia told us when I was a teenager that the world was cooling and descending into an ice age.   The prescription:  more government intervention and less evil capitalism.   Funny how they always have the same prescription, no matter what the diagnosis is... it's almost as if selling the prescription matters more than whether the science is right.

2. The notion that the earth is "warming" or "cooling" over a short period makes no sense to me, and never did.   The planet is 5 billion years old.   It has warmed or cooled in cycles throughout that period.   Human life is a blip.   The industrial age is a blip of a blip.   It's arrogance to think that we're having an important effect on climate compared to, oh, the freakin' Sun, for instance.

3.  I don't trust professional scientists:  they, like anyone else, have career incentives that are geared toward getting appointments, getting grants, getting money.   Once they're down the path toward a theory of global warming, it becomes hard to break through that institutionalized set of incentives.   Haven't these people ever read freakin' Thomas Kuhn and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

4.  Human error and human laziness.   Are you telling me that there's no chance that the people who are reporting temperatures at thousands of locations across the globe aren't making routine mistakes all the time?   That the thermometers aren't getting out of calibration?  That the locations of the thermometers aren't changing their characteristics?  (A thermometer located in a field in 1950 is read every day by an ever-changing series of technicians who are more and less dedicated and more and less intelligent and more and less precise and more and less attentive to details; meanwhile, the field gradually is surrounded by buildings and parking lots and cars and activity.   Voila!   The average temperature changes over time.   Surprised?   I'm not, and I don't think anyone with a remote sensitivity to human nature should be.   But that doesn't mean that the actual temperature has changed a whit.

So this article from Forbes struck me funny today, and particularly the sentence I've bolded below:
There is no statistically significant warming trend since November of 1996 in monthly surface temperature records compiled at the University of East Anglia. Do we now understand why there’s been no change in fourteen and a half years?

If you read the news stories surrounding a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Boston University’s Robert Kaufmann and three colleagues, you’d say yes, indeed. It’s China’s fault. By dramatically increasing their combustion of coal, they have increased the concentration of fine particles in the atmosphere called sulphate aerosols, which reflect away solar radiation, countering the warming that should be occurring from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide....


Reality may be a bit simpler, or much more complicated.  But the reason this is all so important is that if there is no good explanation for the lack of warming, then an increasingly viable alternative is that we have overestimated the gross sensitivity of temperature to carbon dioxide in our computer models.

One problem is that we really don’t know how much cooling is exerted by sulfates, or whether they are just a convenient explanation for the failure of the forecasts of dramatic warming.  The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which grants itself climate authority, states that our “Level of Scientific Understanding” of the effects range between “low” and “very low,” with a possible cooling between zero (none)  and a whopping 3.5 degrees (C) when the climate comes to equilibrium (which it will never do).  That’s a plenty large range from which to pick out a number to cancel about as much warming as you’d like.
On the one hand, the amount of sulphate aerosols from coal-burning power plants in rapidly industrializing China (and presumably India too) are presumed to have a significant effect on temperature.   On the other hand, the very people who have foisted "global warming" on us, the UN's IPCC, don't have the foggiest idea of what the nature and magnitude of those effects are.   Somewhere between 0 and 3.5 degrees (C)?   Really?   When the whole theory of global warming is based on a one-century temperature change of less than 1 degree (C)?   Really?

Science depends on having its hypotheses be falsifiable when confronted with evidence.   A belief that cannot be falsified is not science, but religion.   The global-warming religion won't let its hypothesis be falsified; it demands that we accept it as "settled."   But we can't make serious political and economic decisions based on a hypothesis that is, at bottom, a tenet of faith, not science.  And we certainly can't bet our world economy (and the lives of real, not hypothetical, human beings) on a conjecture that depends on measurements that include a factor (the effect of sulphate aerosols) that we don't understand and can't measure within, oh, 350% of the magnitude of the thing we're trying to measure (global temperature).