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Dude, With Keyboard » 2009 » December

Archive for December, 2009

Andrew Sullivan hearts Barrack Obama

Andrew Sullivan, who thinks he’s the only true conservative on the planet (by conservative, we mean anything but), continues his wishful thinking that his saintly hero will turn it around. His latest crutch is a chart that shows that Obama’s approval ratings are similar to Reagan’s because their respective economies were in the toilet at roughly the same stage of their presidencies. This would be interesting except that their respective policies have complete opposite solutions to the economic doldrums they face. We know that Reagan’s had a positive impact. Why Obama’s policies have the same effect when they have underlying ideas that are completely counter to Reagan? Why would increasing the cost of labor, the cost of healthcare, the cost of energy, a record deficit and national debt (yes, Reagan raised the debt, but not remotely to these levels), and bailouts that encourage companies to become to big to fail, help the economy in any way? The economy will have a small bounce back. That’s the natural order of things. But it won’t happen in sort of big way. It’ll mimic western European stagnant growth mixed with high unemployment. And the media will spin it as herculean success. But the reality will be that Obama’s policies hurt economic growth. Reagan’s encouraged it. I’m betting the Obama/Reagan pole numbers will diverge as Obama’s term continues, unless the media really bails him out with their press releases disguised as news shows. And Andrew Sullivan will lead the charge.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The word in question? Catastrophe. The global warming industry is bolder and bolder about using the term “catastrophe” to describe the predicted effects. But, none of the predictions by even the IPCC rises to that level. Oh wait, here we go:

Emissions cuts proposed by the world’s leading countries fall far short of what is needed to prevent catastrophic global warming, according to a study released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate change summit.

Even if countries adopted the most ambitious targets that each has put forward, the global average temperature would still rise by 3.5C by the end of the century and make large parts of the world uninhabitable.

Uninhabitable? Like what? Norway in the winter? Alaska? Palm Springs? Most of Russia? Nepal? Saudi Arabia? The Austrailian outback? I’d love to know what is meant by uninhabitable. This isn’t a sci-fi movie. Technology and engineering has done a whole heck of a lot to make areas that would have been thought “unihabitable” habitable. There is no proof to support such claims. Wait, whose making the claim?

Lord Stern of Brentford, the world’s leading climate change economist, has also concluded that, even assuming each country formally adopted the tightest targets in the ranges they had proposed, the temperature would still rise more than 2C.

In July, the world’s leading economies agreed to limit the increase to 2C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Lord Stern said the world needed to cut emissions from 47 billion tonnes of CO2, the predicted figure for next year, to 44 billion tonnes by 2020.

Lord Stern said that there was a gap of up to 5 billion tonnes between the cuts that the most ambitious targets would deliver and what was needed to reach 44 billion tonnes by 2020.

That would be the same Lord Stern who wants any climate deal to make meat practically unaffordable. And his claim to fame is that he’s a “climate economist” (for the Labor party in the UK – read: socialist). Uh huh. I’d put good money that the very concept of a “Climate Economist” didn’t exist before the global warming industry created it.

Like Paul Ehrlich, Lord Stern has no concept of the vital natural resource known as human ingenuity. They have no idea how resource scarcity works, how technology adapts, and humans continue to be humans. They just want control and and policies to make us poorer. Let me be clear, if the choice is us choosing to be poorer to avert this so called catastrophe or to accept that Miami is going to have two feet of water running down its streets around 2085, then I’ll choose the latter.

How do you take back Al Gore’s Oscar?

I’m a huge fan of Instapundit and Pajamas Media, and I really don’t like Al Gore, but this “rescind Al Gore’s Oscar” meme is a bit silly (the link is not the first discussion on this on either site this week). Rescind it for what? Dishonesty? The Academy cares about honesty in documentaries? This would be a first. Look, Gore was dishonest before the ClimateGate scandal. Even his AGW allies haven’t made claims of a 20ft rise in the oceans. And there was plenty else that was patently false or radically exaggerated.

The Academy gives Oscars to Michael Moore for goodness sakes. If a movie has an anti-American, or anti-Christian slant it moves way up the list for consideration. ClimateGate does not disprove man made global warming. It merely makes the science less credible. There is a difference between an unproved theory and a falsehood. I get that rescinding Al Gore’s Oscar would be a high profile defeat of AGW, but that’s not the battle to be fighting because its not going to happen and makes our side look silly trying.

We’ve elected leaders who tell us we are all doomed

What Mark Steyn said:

“The gravest challenge that we face is climate change . . . Every one of our compatriots must feel concerned”—Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the French Republic;

“The climate crisis threatens our very survival”—Herman Van Rompuy, “president” of “Europe”;

“We cannot compromise with the catastrophe of unchecked climate change”—Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom;

“Generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children . . . this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”—Barack Obama, president of the United States.

The science is so settled it’s now perfectly routine for leaders of the developed world to go around sounding like apocalyptic madmen of the kind that used to wander the streets wearing sandwich boards and handing out homemade pamphlets. Governments that are incapable of—to pluck at random—enforcing their southern border, reducing waiting times for routine operations to below two years, or doing something about the nightly ritual of car-torching “youths,” are nevertheless taken seriously when they claim to be able to change the very heavens—if only they can tax and regulate us enough. As they will if they reach “consensus” at Copenhagen. And most probably even if they don’t.

As they say, read the whole thing.

A Most Predictable Bubble Popping

I had the good fortune to visit Dubai a couple of years ago. If you look at it strictly as a tourist or perhaps from an academic standpoint, Dubai is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Its an Arab Vegas, sans the gambling. When I was there, you can’t fathom the sheer volume of cranes. Think of a downtown area like Houston, Atlanta or Miami. Dubai had 5 or 6 of those under construction simultaneously. Its like the Sheik called up all the big time architecture firms and said “let’s see all of your expensive overly ambitious mothballed building plans and decide which ones we can build in the dessert.” Visually, it is a stunning place. Yes there is an underbelly with the Sharia law, the migrant worker underclass and all the busted dreams. Again, strictly from a tourist standpoint its an eye popping sight

And I told everyone I knew when I came back that I’d be shocked if they filled a third of the office and residential space they were constructing back then. Dubai was very expensive when I was there. I knew a crash would come. I just didn’t know when. Looks like it might be upon us.

The other Palm projects and The World, despite the computer-generated images in the tourist brochures and websites showing green trees and completed houses, are a collection of imported rock and dredged sand on which building work has stopped.

Even more fanciful plans — for a massive seawater canal to be dug around the city to enable waterside properties in the desert hinterland, and another vast offshore island complex called The Universe, are no longer mentioned.

Work on dozens of new skyscrapers continues but building has slowed to a crawl on others. More than 40 per cent of newly built offices are already untenanted, and the available space is expected to double by 2011.

Thousands of the migrant labourers who were bussed in from their desert camps to build Dubai have left as the construction boom faltered. The investment bank UBS thinks that the population of Dubai is shrinking.

The borrowed money has not just gone on property. A state-of-the-art metro train system, operated by Serco, opened amid much fanfare in September at a cost of $7.6 billion. At 9.30am on a Thursday the station at Dubai airport’s cavernous Terminal 3 is empty. The train into the city, capable of carrying more than 640 people, has 21 on board.

Western expats who have been here for a decade or more are still well ahead on their investments even if, as some forecasts predict, house prices dip by 70 per cent from their peaks

This was as predictable as the sun coming up. This was a pure bubble, almost entirely artificially created. Financed with oil money that counted on oil prices going through the roof for the foreseeable future and a philosophy of “if you build it, they will come.” Many did come. Its the primary business hub in the Arab world. But, not enough came. And with a global recession, that’s not going to be corrected anytime soon. With any rapidly developing nation, once your bubble pops, its damn hard to get that investor confidence back, unless there is something fundamentally sound under it all. I’m not sure Dubai has those fundamentals. That amazing stretch of sand will be the topic of many a doctoral thesis over the next couple of decades.

Hillary’s nice try

I sympathise with Secretary of State Clinton on this and she strikes mostly a proper tone.

The US and our partners will have an enduring commitment to the region. Ultimately, we recognise that only the Afghan people can decide what kind of nation they want to build for themselves. And only the Pakistani people can ensure their country’s democratic future. That is why we are working as partners in both countries. The United States has no interest in occupation — we seek partnerships based on mutual respect, mutual interest and mutual trust.

As the President said, our goal is to isolate those who destroy, to strengthen those who build, to hasten the day when our troops will leave, and to forge lasting friendships in which America is a partner, and never a patron.

But I think her expectation that success in Afghanistan is the “world’s responsibility” is nothing more than chin scratcher posturing. Would the dictator wannabe in Venezuela care two bits about our success in central Asia? Would Afghanistan’s neighbor to the west? The answer is, of course not. They do not want democracy to succeed. Its really that simple. Moreover, would the people of the Congo or Rwanda be able to do a damn thing to help (leaving aside whether they actually cared to)? Its silly. NATO is not the world, but is the one most capable of doing something and its the one most threatened, outside the local population in central Asia. Islamic fascism IS a global threat but Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not. The Taliban is quite local to the area. Al Qaeda picks its targets carefully and they can’t target as many places as the used to because of our war against them. But they can certainly cause a lot of problems in central Asia.

Unfortunately, this administration has stopped mentioning the war on terror and have started using the foolish Orwellian term “man caused disasters“, on top of that. Fighting anything with “Islam” in the title is a non-starter with these people. Besides, the Taliban won’t be coming to South America anytime soon, though Islamic terror might. Asking the world to help in Afghanistan is a naked attempt to spread the risk and everyone will see right through it. Most other countries know who their enemy is and will use whatever means they can to prevent its import in their borders. But going half-way around the world to fight in the dessert ain’t happening.

I also have a problem with this:

This week, President Barack Obama reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to our core goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and prevent their return to either country.[Italics mine]

I thought Pakistan was where Al Quaeda was. I never knew they left. In fact, that’s where then candidate Obama said we should go to get them, if need be.

It is certainly a difficult problem we face in central Asia. We’ve done a poor job in securing Afghanistan (so much for U.N. backed multi-lateralism) and Pakistan is a bit of a Pandora’s box. I thnk how to deal with Pakistan is possibly a more difficult policy question than the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But, I know this: our stalwart belief that Islamic fascists can be negotiated with is nonsense. Its only slightly more crazy than co-existence. Until we talk more honestly about this, and stop worrying about the Arab street, we will get nowhere, while constant apology will do nothing but confirm Osama bin Laden’s bet of the strong horse.

An aside: Sadly, while I think the policy differences would be small, Hillary would have not been the type to bow to monarchs and the like (yes, I know she’d still probably wear the head scarf, maybe). I think she would have done less apologizing, partially because she backed many of the Bush policies. And having been first lady, she would have been more keenly aware of the nastiness of the world where as her boss seems to be stuck with the conventional wisdom of the Ivory tower of Harvard humanities departments. She also would have assembled a team whose professionalism would have been less likely take a back seat to arrogance. Well, I think that’s what would have happened anyway. As much as I dislike our president’s policies, its still very important to me for our president to be respected for what he represents (the good ol’ US of A) rather than who he wishes to make happy (our enemies, as well as the fawning foreign press). I could be wrong here, but I think Hillary would have struck a better tone.

A Jobs Summit Run by People with No Earthly Idea How to Create Jobs

Anti-growth marxists are having a jobs summit. This is fitting I suppose, since they think jobs are created with the wave of a magic legislated wand. What is actually a bit sad is that the people in the Obama administration are possibly unaware that the biggest proposals they’ve put forward make job creation more difficult. They are so economically ignorant that they think people create jobs via government coercion and not because they, well, need a job done. The same officials who think that rich people hoard their money now need those same rich people, who they’ve been attempting to punish for their success, to actually create jobs. Of course, they want input from organized labor to make sure the job creation is, I don’t know, unionized? I mean why are the same groups that push anti-job policies getting a seat at the table? (yes, I know, its because they paid well for their seat).

As John Stossel puts it when asking the innocent question, Who Creates Jobs?:

At least the Administration talks about the private sector:

“We want to make sure it is not just the public sector doing this in a vacuum,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama. “It’s important we engage the private sector as well.”  Administration officials, however, have excluded major trade associations from the summit… .

Some of those groups privately complain that their job creation ideas, including enactment of stalled free trade deals that they say would boost exports, are opposed by labor unions, which will be heavily represented at the forum.

The White House, which has clashed with some of the business groups over their opposition to health-care reform and other initiatives, says it has met repeatedly with those organizations and wants to hear fresh ideas.

Yes. I am sure those “fresh ideas” will come from the trade unions whom the White House just hasn’t heard from much over the past year. At the summit they will also hear from environmental groups “Green for All” and “Coalition for the Green Bank.” I’m sure they’ll have great ideas for job creation.

Will at least some free-market economists get to speak?  No.  The White House will hear from Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, and Jeffrey Sachs. “Fresh ideas” won’t be heard from these folks.

Yeah, Paul Krugman, one of the few people less deserving of a Nobel prize than the president. Tax and Spend! That’ll work! Look how well it worked for FDR! It only took 8 years and a World War to get us out of the last economic crisis this big. And be sure to get ideas from the unions, whose primary job is to get more money, benefits and stringent work rules for labor. We’ll create jobs by making it more expensive to hire people. Brilliant!


Well, it is obviously a PR maneuver. Unemployment is high. People showed [concern] on Election Day in November that the administration and Congress are spending all their time on health care, which is not a high priority. High priority is the economy.

It is the conceit of liberals in power to imagine that the government not only should but can create jobs. Outside of world wars, it doesn’t. Generally it gets in the way.

I mean, there are things that you can do by clearing the brush:

Number one, kill health care with all of the job-killing mandates and penalties which are holding up employment.

Secondly, kill cap and trade, which will destroy what’s left of the industrial Midwest.

Kill the stimulus package, and distribute the remaining billions either to individuals or to the Treasury.

The other thing they can do is to approve the free trade agreements with Columbia and South Korea, which will create American jobs …

And lastly, and the most important here, is sort of a reprise of 2008 — lift the unbelievably absurd restrictions on drilling for gas and oil, which would create a gold rush of jobs in the country and help us in terms of national security and the economy.

Put another way, has there been a single policy put forth by the administration or the Democratic Congress put forth a policy that would actually grow the economy or jobs? Its one thing not to actually have pro-growht policies. Its quite another to have anti-growth policies which this administration seems to be especially innovative at. Borrowing $1.4 trillion is not a pro-growth policy. Getting out of the free markets way will create jobs.

I Doubt It

I don’t see the rationale that James Hansen is the ClimateGate leaker. I mean its a juicy theory, and appealing, but I don’t see the motivation. He’s a radical (unless he’s had an about face I’m unaware of). A believer that man is damaging mother earth. That’s his faith. Wanting Copenhagen to fail because its too half-hearted is not the same as making the science look fraudulent. I don’t see how that helps Hanson’s case, because it damages the credibility of the theory, not just a few professor’s with sway at the IPCC. The only way it helps is if he’s so confident in his position, he’s willing to throw some powerful like minded guys under the bus if its going to make the science more transparent.

What I mean is this: If the science of climate “change” were to become far more open and the skeptics, with access to everything, couldn’t properly shoot AGW down, then they’d be able to say, or rather they’ll say regardless, that the Science REALLY is settled. The policy makers and media backers want AGW. They need it. Gives them more power and makes everyone, except those with the power, poorer, which is a good thing to them.  So maybe Hansen wants to eliminate rivals and make the science more open, so he leaked the e-mails and code hoping the science would survive. Its possibly, but not really plausible. From what I know of Hansen, he’s really not THAT smart or lucky.

I think this is more straightforward. The leaker is almost certainly someone on the inside, an intern or maybe just someone who grew a conscience or possibly some techie sysadmin who was snooping. I don’t know. I’d be shocked if the leaker was a true hacker doing it remotely. I’d be equally surprised if it was a radical environmentalist like Hansen. I don’t see how a scorched policy makes him more credible.

Al Gore’s Ponzi Scheme?

I really like this comparison of Al Gore to Bernie Madoff. I’m not prepared to call Al a criminal (yet) but he’s definately pushing a questionable crisis and associated policies that have made him rich.

Obama’s Budget Director is Delusional

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised from the administration that brought you fiscal responsibility to the tune of a $1.4 trillion deficit and trying to pass of the silly shell game of jobs “saved or created.” Budget Director Orszag said:

“The bottom line is the bill that is currently on the Senate floor contains more cost containment and delivery system reforms in its current form than any bill that has ever been considered on the Senate floor period,” the Office of Management and Budget director told reporters during a conference organized by the publication Health Affairs.

All the nationalized health care systems on the planet have not lowered costs, though they may have, for short periods of time, slowed the cost growth. And even then, any cost containment was achieved by lowering care quality and quantity. But, one thing that will not happen is a “reform”, i.e. something to make it better, of the delivery system. You’ll get higher premiums in the short term, and lower quality care and ultimately fewer choices over the long term. Under either the House or Senate plan. I guarantee it, though it take a few years for that truth to hit home, probably sometime after Obama leaves office in January 2013. You really think that all this time, the issue of delivering better care was that not enough D.C. base bureaucrats were involved? And do you really think nationalized health care will lower costs? Just because people like Andrew Sullivan thinks the public option is fiscally conservative (I wish I were kidding), doesn’t mean its true.

Obama et al are offering make believe “reform.” Its a power grab. Real reform would involve more competition, fewer government mandated middlemen between the doctor and patient and tort reform. For starters.

The Difference between a Whistleblower and a Criminal is…

…the side of the political spectrum you make happy. The priceless Senator Barbara Boxer thinks the main thing to be concerned with on ClimateGate is the criminal act of the person who released the e-mails and source code that showed the ethical and scientific shortcomings of major players in the global warming business.

“You call it ‘Climategate’; I call it ‘E-mail-theft-gate,’” she said during a committee meeting. “Whatever it is, the main issue is, Are we facing global warming or are we not? I’m looking at these e-mails, that, even though they were stolen, are now out in the public.”

Boxer said her committee may hold hearings into the matter as its top Republican, Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), has asked for, but that a criminal probe would be part of any such hearings.

I especially liked the part about a criminal probe being part of the hearings. The chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (a committee in the UNITED STATES Senate) will perform a criminal probe of a leak in a BRITISH university. As you may have heard, she worked very hard to become a Senator, apparently so she could ignore basic American civics or concepts of legal jurisdiction.

These leaks make things uncomfortable for her global warming alarmist allies so this person committed a crime. But, when you are whistle blower against the military or Dick Cheney, then you are some sort of hero. In fact, there should be some sort of law that protects your heroic act against the forces of evil. From David Harsanyi:

But could this possibly be the same Boxer who once sponsored the The Military Whistleblower Protection Act.

The same Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer who held hearings over a Environmental Protection Agency whistleblower who claimed the Bush administration had an unwillingness to address greenhouse-gas emissions.

The same Boxer who believes in whisteblowing on defense contractors and for nurses?

Many of those seem like reasonable protections. How about protecting the people who exposed potential scientific fraud funded by government?

Again, its all about WHO you blow the whistle on.

Great kid, don’t get cocky

Megan McCardle is slowly coming around to the impact of the ClimateGate scandal. Still, she wants everyone to know that she still isn’t one of those crazy skeptics. Would make the beltway camaraderie that much more uncomfortable if she steps farther out on that limb.

She does make the valid point though that this scandal does not DISPROVE anthropogenic global warming. So, I think the calls by the skeptics (particularly the Inhoffes and Glen Becks of the world) that this proves that AGW is a “hoax” or a “fraud” are prematurely taking their victory lap. The political wind behind the alarmist position is still at full speed ahead and the media is trying like hell to bury the story.

I think the skeptics need to be very measured in this and focus on the core issue and core goal: prevent any international regulatory scheme to solve the supposed crisis. Let the academics hammer out the science. But, the whole problem with this episode is that the science has been heavily politiczed, primarily by statists who need a good excuse to forever increase the size of the state. That’s the target.

I frankly don’t know what role CO2 plays in global temperature. I get the idea of it being a greenhouse gas and that should be straightforward enough. But, we know that we have had periods of cooling when CO2 was increasing and we know that we have had dramatic periods of warming before industrial CO2 was ever a large factor on this earth. The reasons for these “oddities” have never been explained to my satisfaction. Then there is the flaming ball of fire in the sky. I have searched in vain for the science that says the sun is NOT a significant factor. Given its role in heating the earth, and given that we’ve never been able to properly study what the sun actually does beyond some nice theories, why wouldn’t a minor change in the sun’s output have a marked change in our climate? It can heat a planet a very damn long way away from it. A minor blip for the sun’s disposition could be major for us. I think its entirely possibly that AGW is just another example of man’s narcissism. It must be us! We must be the ones screwing it up. And as long as we believe that, then we also get to believe we can prevent it. Its very comforting, except for part about some government and multi-government regulations that will make you poorer.

The bottom line is this: The Science is Not Settled. Even if you believe the causality, can you REALLY state with certainty the predictions? We wouldn’t bet a significant part of our income on a 10 day forecast but we want to bet the planet’s prosperity on a 100 year forecast? I’m sorry, the precautionary principle cuts both ways. This is not an “asteroid will hit the planet” or “mass plague” type of catastrophe. Study it more and clean up the science. Then make some predictions. Then wait 5-10 years to see if those predictions were accurate. If yes, then we revisit the global policy angle. But not until then. That’s The Point.

Great, now can you find another trillion to cut?

Via Google alerts, comes this innocent attempt to balance the budget…the 2008 budget that is. The author demonstrates just how difficult it is if you don’t wish to raise taxes or shut down entire departments (or, in the case of the Obama administration sign any legislation that encourages people to do business). In the author’s scenario, he had to cut big chunks out of defense, social security and Medicare. Fair enough, I suppose. In the end, he’s able to find the $459 billion needed to balance that budget. So, where can we find the extra trillion we need to cut for the 2009 deficit? Its a bit like writing an article about  how I could have saved money on dinner last night while ignoring the fact that I then came home and ordered a 50″ LCD on the credit card.

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