Bully In Chief

President Obama has given new meaning to the term “bully pulpit”. I have read and watched in amazement as more and more stories emerged of the President strong-arming investors to give up their rights and financial interests under threat of a public derision from the White House. I can understand the President encouraging the involved parties to come to an agreement, but to flat out threaten them into compliance is outrageous.

Michael Barone, via the Washington Examiner, describes the core of this story:

[I was angered] when I heard what bankruptcy lawyer Tom Lauria said on a WJR talk show that morning. “One of my clients,” Lauria told host Frank Beckmann, “was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under threat that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight.”

Lauria represented one of the bondholder firms, Perella Weinberg, which initially rejected the Obama deal that would give the bondholders about 33 cents on the dollar for their secured debts while giving the United Auto Workers retirees about 50 cents on the dollar for their unsecured debts.

Did you catch that? The President thought that a reasonable solution was to give a better deal to the unsecured debts of the UAW than to the secured debts of the bondholders. Then, when someone representing the investments of those secured bonds objected, he was threatened by the White House! When the President of the United States overrides the risk-reward calculations involved here, the whole foundation of free markets begins to collapse. You can’t change the natural tension without significant consequences.

It’s not unusual to see this kind of bullying in Third World countries where the victims are threatened at the point of a gun. In the most productive capitalist society in all of human history, though, the only thing worse than threatening to kill the CEO is threatening to ruin the company’s reputation in the press. Bad press can cripple a good company and will destroy a weakened one. This is a fate worse than death for a corporation.

I’m not surprised by the direction and plans articulated by President Obama. What amazes me is the pure chutzpah involved. I like this observation from Clifford S. Asness in his open letter:

The President’s attempted diktat takes money from bondholders and gives it to a labor union that delivers money and votes for him. Why is he not calling on his party to “sacrifice” some campaign contributions, and votes, for the greater good? Shaking down lenders for the benefit of political donors is recycled corruption and abuse of power.

It’s bad enough when the President tries to pass unfair or un-Constitutional laws. It’s worse when he simply acts as if they don’t exist and ignores them. It’s just crass when he ignores the law and tries to pay off friendly organizations in the process.

Subsidized Mediocrity

I’ve long been skeptical about labor unions. It’s not that they don’t provide a useful service, it’s just that I believe the negatives far outweigh the positives. This article in the LA Times is actually a well-researched investigation into the problem of tenure for public school teachers and how it protects laziness, incompetence, and borderline criminality. Jason Song backs up the premise he lays out in the early paragraphs:

It’s remarkably difficult to fire a tenured public school teacher in California, a Times investigation has found. The path can be laborious and labyrinthine, in some cases involving years of investigation, union grievances, administrative appeals, court challenges and re-hearings.

Not only is the process arduous, but some districts are particularly unsuccessful in navigating its complexities. The Los Angeles Unified School District sees the majority of its appealed dismissals overturned, and its administrators are far less likely even to try firing a tenured teacher than those in other districts.

Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that something has gone sideways when it’s so hard to rid our schools of unqualified teachers that the authorities simply move them around? Can’t we agree that something needs to change when the preferred method of pushing a teacher out is to harass with in-class observations and vaguely threaten to make life uncomfortable? And, finally, can’t we agree that the unions are part of the problem when they pass the buck with quotes like this?

“The union is bound by law to defend our members, and we do,” said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. “That should in no way deter the resolve of the district to do their job, which is to help failing teachers to get better, or, if they can’t, to work to get rid of them.”

So, the same unions that have created the byzantine dismissal processes with review panels an multiple appeals are saying that it’s not their job to help excise the deadwood? In fact, it’s their job to defend the deadwood and it’s the district’s job to prove them wrong. But, fret not, because they assure us that the kids come first.

Reason #418 why we homeschool.

David’s Second Gig

Well, the camera is better and so is the video. However, David wore a dark shirt so he disappears a bit into the background. Also, I’m still learning how to prepare the video in a way that doesn’t take forever to download. This looks better, but it’s a bit bigger. I hope you enjoy anyway. There were certainly no problems with the performance.

The Earth is Warming, So What?

I think some folks may still confuse my position. I do not deny that the Earth has been warming over the last several decades. I happen to think that some measuring mechanisms are flawed and produce skewed data, but generally I do believe that we have been warming. Furthermore, I think that we’ve been cooling again over the last several years. However, my skepticism is that human beings have anything to do with either change.

There is simply overwhelming evidence that the Earth warms and cools all on its own and it happens independent of human behavior. Matt Patterson’s article at Pajamas Media is the most concise summary I’ve seen (thanks to Powerline for pointing me to it).

Make no mistake — the earth has warmed.  Unfortunately for the climate-change catastrophists, warming periods have occurred throughout recorded history, long before the Industrial Revolution and SUVs began spitting man-made carbon into the atmosphere. And as might be expected, these warm periods have invariably proven a blessing for humanity.

In his summary, Patterson nails what I think is the motivation for those pushing the AGW mythology:

Why, then, do otherwise sensible people believe that we are both causing the current warming and that the warmth is a bad thing? To me it seems some grotesque combination of narcissism and self-loathing, a mentality that says at once “I am so important that my behavior is causing this” and “I am so inherently tainted that it must be bad.”

Where does this arrogance and low self-image come from? Well, that is a theological discussion that we should save for another day.

Correlation and Causation

So, if correlation does not imply causation, what does non-correlation imply?

I only ask because it’s very difficult to see how CO2 is even remotely correlated to temperature change. The International Conference on Climate Change met in New York earlier this month to discuss the latest in the science on the issue. The breath of fresh air was that this really was about the science and not the politics. You can review the proceedings here. (Thanks to Powerline for reminding me about this conference and picking out some of the best charts). Click the images to see them full size.

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If there’s any correlation at all, it’s to solar activity and not to CO2 levels. How long to will they keep drawing connections to disconnected data?

Oh, and as an exclamation point, here’s some fairly clear evidence that we are not, in fact, warming at all.

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Maybe it’s just me, but that graph sure seems to be rolling downwards. What exactly were we looking for again?

 

David’s First Gig

David has been playing drums at home for quite some time. He finally had the opportunity to practice with the band that plays for his church youth group and, a few days ago, he had the chance to play in front of an audience for the first time.

Enjoy.

Click the picture to watch the 15 minute video. It may take a little while to download.

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Relative or Absolute?

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has detailed graphs and charts showing the extent of Arctic sea ice. They’ve recently noted that they were suffering from a short-term problem called “sensor drift” that gave false readings on Arctic ice coverage. It happens from time to time and they try to adjust for it. This seems to be a responsible way to manage scientific data collection. The problem comes with some shifting claims made later in the article.

You see there are two major methods for measuring ice coverage. There is the SSM/I sensor and the newer AMSR-E sensor. The AMSR-E is more accurate, but has only been collecting data since 2002. The SSM/I is less accurate, but has a longer track record. This leads to a scary sentence at the end of the article:

Some people might ask why we don’t simply switch to the EOS AMSR-E sensor. AMSR-E is a newer and more accurate passive microwave sensor. However, we do not use AMSR-E data in our analysis because it is not consistent with our historical data.

This can lead to cries of “they’re using the data they like and ignoring the more accurate sources” which isn’t quite true. Actually, what they claim is that they want to continue to use the less accurate data because they have a longer history and, therefore, it is easier to determine trends. The argument is that recognizing trends is more important than the actual measurements.

I’m willing to buy that, but that’s not what they were saying last May:

Taken together, an assessment of the available evidence, detailed below, points to another extreme September sea ice minimum. Could the North Pole be ice free this melt season?  Given that this region is currently covered with first-year ice, that seems quite possible.

So, here’s a claim that the NSIDC can predict actual measurements of ice coverage (namely, a prediction of zero or near-zero levels). So, despite the fact that their recent sensor drift problem was off, at times, by over 193,000 square miles and they knew that the AMSR-E data was more accurate, they were willing to make absolute measurement predictions last May. Now, they play down any concerns with their data collection by falling back to the “trends” argument.

Sure sounds like they want to have it both ways.

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

At what point in a discussion do you give up attempting to make your opinion clear because the other side has given up the logical framework necessary for debate? I may not be there, yet, but when the other side begins to make simple claims that are clearly non sequiturs, I have to think about it.

My near-exasperation is triggered by a Reuters article with the headline “Global warming seen worse than predicted”. In reading such an article, you would expect to hear some scientific claim that new evidence has shown how the planet is warming faster than originally thought. You would expect to see some charts and data that explain how recent temperature data has been wrong. The  first paragraph even leads you to this expectation.

The climate is heating up far faster than scientists had predicted, spurred by sharp increases in greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries like China and India, a top climate scientist said on Saturday.

But, it’s not until the end of the article that you realize that there is no new data about temperatures. There are no new techniques showing that we’ve calculated global averages wrong. No, what is new is a larger-than-expected amount of greenhouse gas being pumped into the atmosphere by the rapidly growing industrial sectors of China and India.

So, if there is more greenhouse gas and, yet, the temperatures haven’t changed or corrected, how exactly does that show that global warming is worse? In fact, it seems pretty clear that, over the last decade, global temperatures have cooled. Not that you’d read that widely. Therefore, I come to the following conclusion (and, maybe this is too convoluted for those scientists mentioned above): Greenhouse gas generation by human enterprise is increasing faster than we thought. Global temperatures are cooling, or at least, leveling off. Therefore, greenhouse gas generated by human activity has little or no effect on global temperatures. Did I lose you?

Greenhouse gas: I do not think it means what you think it means.

More, Not Less

At various times in 2008, I read stories about how polar bears were endangered because Arctic ice was disappearing. We were even told that entire North Pole could melt entirely. Once again, a funny thing happened on the way to doomsday. The ice came back.

The level of sea ice in the Arctic finished the year at the same level as 1979 when satellite measurements were first taken. Why? Well, according to this DailyTech article, it got really cold and the wind was weaker (wasn’t global warming supposed to cause higher temperatures and more hurricanes?). The writer asks the obvious question:

Why were predictions so wrong? Researchers had expected the newer sea ice, which is thinner, to be less resilient and melt easier. Instead, the thinner ice had less snow cover to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, and therefore grew much faster than expected, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Wait. So, experts in their field were incorrect in predicting whether ice would get thinner or thicker? They couldn’t sort out the complex dependencies between insulating snow, ice break-up, and cold temperatures? They weren’t just slightly off-base, but had predicted precisely the opposite of what happened?

I’m comfortable saying this out loud now: Anthropogenic global warming is a hoax based on bad science that has been politicized for the express purpose of imposing wide-ranging controls over the global economy and personal freedoms. It has snowballed to the point that well-meaning scientists and public servants were caught up in fighting for a fraud.

Let 2009 be the year the truth is stated and believed by those who know better.