Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin Points


Beldar: Non-scandal involving Gov. Palin: Even though he's an admitted child-abuser who Tasered his own step-son and used a deadly weapon to break the law, Trooper Wooten still has a job.
Little Green Footballs: Talk about a tin ear; for a campaign that already has a well-deserved reputation for being elitist and arrogant, to attack Palin for being a small-town mayor is blazingly dumb.
Patterico's Pontifications II: The fact is that neither candidate picked a VP on the test that Bush established for himself — is my selection ready to step in as President on our first day in office together if the need arose?
....

What about Palin? To whom does she appeal that warranted her pick?

She’s a social conservative so she appeals to the GOP base more than most of the rest of the VP candidates. She’s also a reform conservative — she challenged the corrupt GOP machine in Alaska and took out the sitting GOP governor in a primary. In that fashion she fits the McCain mold as a reformer, thereby appealing to independents.

But, more than anything, she’s an arrow aimed at women voters who to one degree or another still feel marginalized by the Obama campaign’s handling of the Hillary-factor.

Patterico's Pontifications I: DRJ: Justin Levine already posted on the possibility that McCain may pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his VP. I’m starting this thread so you will have a place to comment.

I like this. I hope it’s true.

....

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I think this is a home run.

Power Line: I'm very disappointed that John McCain would put someone as inexperienced and lacking in foreign policy and national security background as Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Power Line: Paul and I have already voiced our concerns about John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for Vice-President. Now it's time to look at the upside. In fact, there is a lot to like about Palin. To begin with, her nomination provoked a typically mean-spirited reaction from the Obama campaign...

Prarie Pundit: OK. I am surprised. I thought she was an attractive candidate, but she has been out of the buzz for over a month. I think it really shows how determined McCain is to go after the Hillary vote that is still angry with Obama and his campaign. I have no idea how effective she will be on the campaign trail or dealing with Biden in a debate. I am not sure what state she will bring into McCain's column. Romney would have solidified Florida and given McCain a chance in Michigan.
....

The Obama campaign has reacted in a very petty way by ignoring her more recent accomplishments and characterizing her as a mayor of a small town in Alaska with no experience. This is a big mistake and it is reminiscent of how they have been alienating women voters this year. It also overlooks the fact that she has had more executive experience than anyone on the Democrat ticket.

Clayton Cramer: James Lindgren over at Volokh Conspiracy points out that at a Clinton supporter website, there is a vast swarm of enthusiasm for Palin. I suspect that there are Democratic women who are going to vote for McCain/Palin just because there's a woman on the ticket. That's a terrible reason--just like the very large number of Democrats who are going to vote for Obama/Biden just because's there a black person on the ticket.

....

I wish that I could say that the McCain/Palin ticket is an extraordinarily strong one. It really isn't. But once again, the Democratic Party's fixation with leftist anti-Americanism and tokenism has caused them to pick an embarrassingly weak person for the top of the ticket. Even Hillary Clinton would have been a stronger choice than Obama--and that's quite a statement from someone who find Clinton to be destestable.

Ronald Bailey (Reason Magazine): Just a quick round up of what I could find about Gov. Sarah Palin's take on various scitech issues.

Little Green Footballs: ...I was disturbed to learn of Sarah Palin’s apparent support for creationism. However, as I posted in a comment earlier, she does not appear to be the fanatical type who wants to force or sneak the teaching of creationism into public school science classrooms.

....

Looks like Palin made an off-the-cuff statement during a debate on a hot topic, didn’t really expect the criticism she’d get, and then softened her position considerably in a follow-up interview. But to quote just the first part of her statements on creationism and ignore the second is misleading; because in the clarification she’s describing a position that doesn’t cause me (a staunch anti-creationist) any discomfort.

Tammy Bruce: As an authentic feminist and independent conservative I am thrilled with McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for Vice-President.

Hugh Hewitt: To get a sense of the huge enthusiasm among conservatives for the Sarah Palin pick, scroll down the postings at RobinsonandLong.com which aggregates the most important center-right voices.

Kim Priestap (Wizbang): Stefanie Pomponi Butler at MOMocrats, a Daily Kos site for Leftist moms, refuses to consider Sarah Palin a legitimate candidate because she's a conservative, pro-life woman who didn't get to where she is on her husband's coattails.

Jim Lindgrin (Volokh Conspiracy): You would not believe how the Sarah Palin pick is playing out at the Hillary Clinton Forum

....

These are the only Clinton Forum comments I've read so far — no cherry-picking. Incredible!

UPDATE: In the comments below, someone is so stunned by this outpouring that he thinks the Clinton Forum is a Republican site. It's a real site for die-hard Clinton supporters. I've now read posts going back to March (the forum started in February).

If the McCain Campaign had such brilliant and energetic grassroots supporters that they could plant 300,000 pro-Hillary comments on one website starting in February, selling Hillary merchandize, and raising money for Hillary -- all the while knowing that Hillary would lose nonetheless, I would be very impressed (and more than a bit frightened). Can the McCain campaign even get 300,000 comments on their OWN campaign website, let alone a fake one?


And so it begins

And so it begins

Sarah Palin has just been selected as John McCain's running mate. Before her name was even officially announced, the attacks began. Patrick Casey has a piece at The American Thinker addressing the most likely attacking points:
First - "Palin has no experience". That's an easy one to dismiss. Sarah Palin has had more executive experience, meaning experience in running either a business or a government, than either Barack Obama or his running mate, Joe Biden. She has more executive experience than even her running mate, John McCain. Governor Palin served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska from 1999 to 2002. She was elected as President of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. She was elected as Governor of Alaska in 2006. And she has quite a few concrete achievements, considering the amount of time she's been in office.
Second - "Palin's part of the corrupt GOP establishment in Alaska (Stevens, Young, etc.)". That's an even easier one to dismiss. Governor Palin has always run as the anti-corruption candidate. She served as Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004, when she resigned in protest over the actions of her fellow Alaskan GOP leaders, including then-Alaskan Governor Frank Murkowski. She was furious over the fact that they ignored her reports of rampant GOP corruption. When she chose to run for Governor, the GOP establishment ignored her and supported the incumbent Murkowski. Palin beat him, and went on to beat former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles with no support from Alaskan GOP leadership. She has actively supported and helped the GOP primary opponents of current indicted Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, and denounced both of them often in public.
Third - "Palin used her position as Governor to get back at the man whom her sister was divorcing, and fired the man who refused to fire her sister's ex-husband". This is the slimiest attack that the Democrats and the media will launch. It concerns a current investigation into allegations that Governor Palin fired former Alaskan Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because he would not bend to her will.....

And so it begins...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Global warming, every 1500 years

Hysteria over global warming has gripped the affluent countries of the world.

This is an astonishing set of events, given that there is no evidence human-emitted CO2 has actually raised the earth’s temperatures significantly. The evidence we have is a warming, which began about 1850, and mostly occurred too early to be blamed on human-emitted greenhouse gases. The total warming from 1850 to the present has been 0.7 degrees C—but 0.5 degrees of the warming occurred before 1940. Eighty 80 percent of humanity’s greenhouse gases emissions came after that date.

Our scientists have shown great enthusiasm in documenting the 1,500-year climate cycle, and our media have demonstrated marvelous talents for mobilizing public opinion in support of a very modest global warming. Now, the engineering professions must demonstrate their ability to adapt our societies to a less dramatic but equally pervasive challenge of warming adaptation.

Drilling: 2¢ in 10 years?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last Tuesday dismissively referred to pro-oil-drilling demonstrators chanting “Drill here! Drill now!” as the “2-cents-in-10-years-crowd.” She may have to revise her insult strategy, since it seems that some mere pro-drilling posturing by President Bush has already helped reduce the price of gas.

The “2-cents-in-10-years” slam refers to the anti-drilling environmentalists’ primary argument that even if we expanded domestic oil production, it would have only a marginal impact on gasoline prices far into the future.

Getting back to Pelosi’s derogatory “2-cents-in-10-years-crowd” comment, it seems as if it was debunked before she uttered it. Bush’s revocation of the executive order — which without similar congressional action amounts to little more than a political statement in favor of increasing the oil supply — has possibly already reduced the price of gasoline by 38 cents in 30 days.

The mere prospect that the U.S. might get serious about increasing the supply of oil has sent speculators scurrying for cover. Imagine what would happen if we actually explored, drilled and produced some of that offshore oil — which, by the way, could be way more than 18 billion barrels. The U.S. Minerals Management Service estimated in 2006 that the quantity of undiscovered technically recoverable oil in the outer continental shelf is between 66.6 to 115.3 billion barrels of oil.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama Proposes Tax Cuts for Child Molesters

From the Campaign Spot at NRO:

Here in Denver, I just saw an Obama television ad, hitting McCain for proposing, "$4 billion in tax cuts for oil companies." When you cut the corporate tax rate, then yes, oil companies get tax cuts, as does every other company - alternative energy companies, car companies, brewers, construction companies, restaurant chains, etc.

By this standard, Obama's tax plan offers tax cuts for child molesters and serial killers.

This is what happens when a candidate makes a silly charge, and the press doesn't make an issue of it. They keep repeating it and repeating it, because it's clear that there's no consequence.


Who Lied about Iraq?

Randall Hoven writes at American Thinker:
Do not believe that post-invasion intelligence invalidates our justification for using military force against Saddam's Iraq. The truth is the exact opposite. The US was fully justified to use military force against Iraq, even knowing what we know now -- especially knowing what we know now. We should not allow the false story -- almost accepted as fact -- as we head into a Presidential election, to go unchallenged.
Our invasion of Iraq was not based on a public relations drive; it was based on Public Law 107-243, otherwise known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, passed by the 107th Congress in October of 2002 .
....
Feel free to read all 23 clauses. The Authorization never claims that Iraq had large stockpiles of modern WMD in 2002, which later became, for no good reason, the threshold used for validation by the media and administration critics. (The logical fallacy employed by Bush's critics here is the "straw man.")
....
So what was found post-invasion? The Duelfer Report noted that 53 chemical weapons were found.

"Beginning in May 2004, ISG recovered a series of chemical weapons from Coalition military units and other sources. A total of 53 munitions have been recovered." (Found on page 97 of Annex F of Volume 3.)

That number later grew to over 500 chemical weapons. You can now check the "large stockpiles of chemical weapons" off your checklist (even though the Authorization did not claim they existed in 2002 or later).
....
As to concealment, note the following Duelferisms.

  • The word "conceal" is found 57 times in Volume 1 alone.
  • "Many locations associated with previous WMD programs and sites under monitoring by the United Nations have been completely looted... Often there is nothing but a concrete slab at locations where once stood plants or laboratories."
  • "We cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war."
  • "ISG technical experts fully evaluated less than one quarter of one percent of the over 10,000 weapons caches throughout Iraq."
....
The Duelfer Report is three volumes of "I don't know." Post-invasion intelligence is no more trustworthy than pre-invasion intelligence.
....
Did the Authorization try to "prove that Iraq had connections to the 911 terrorists"? Was that proved false?
Again, no and no.
....
Were any al Qaida members in Iraq at the time of the Authorization? Yes, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his cell. The most recent Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the matter concluded the following .

"[Pre-war administration] statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other al-Qa'ida-related terrorist members were substantiated by the intelligence assessments. Intelligence assessments noted Zarqawi's presence in Iraq and his ability to travel and operate within the country.
"Postwar information supports prewar assessments and statements that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in Baghdad and that al-Qa'ida was present in northern Iraq."

This report is the product of a Democrat-controlled Senate committee, chaired by John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), in a Democrat-controlled Senate.
....
Judge Harold Baer ruled in Federal court that Iraq was indeed partially responsible for the September 11 attacks, enough so that the plaintiffs could be awarded damages against Saddam's Iraq . The judge ruled there was "a sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to draw inferences"

"that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda.... Iraq collaborated in or supported bin Laden/al Qaeda's terrorist acts of September 11... Iraq provided materiel support to al Qaeda and that it did so with knowledge and intent to further al Qaeda's criminal acts."

Judge Harold Baer is not some 10-Commandment-Displaying Reaganite; he was appointed by President Clinton. Significant testimony in the case came from James Woolsey, President Clinton's CIA chief from 1993 to 1995.
And there's more. Read the whole thing.

Approving Drugs

Instapundit has a post wondering if the FDA is getting too cautious about approving new drugs.

IS THE FDA getting too cautious in drug approvals? If it is, people will die who shouldn't. But it's less likely to get blamed.

Years ago, I think it was John Campbell who proposed that we license quacks. (Um... "Practitioners of Alternative Medicine".)

Anyone who had an unapproved medical treatment could hang out a shingle and treat people, provided:

1) The licensed quack could only claim to be licensed as a quack – he could not claim any legitimacy for this treatment, or any sort of sanction except that the Medical Establishment knew this person was practicing.

1A) Above all else, there was no guarantee that the treatment offered by the licensed quack would improve whatever condition was being treated. Indeed, it could even make things worse. That's the risk you take by going to a quack.

2) Licensed quacks were required to keep careful records of all patients they treated, and the outcomes of treatment. These records would be made available to medical researchers on request, with reasonable restrictions intended to safeguard patient privacy. (Though sacrificing privacy might well be another cost of going to a quack.)

The reason for provision 2 was that if a new and unapproved treatment turned out to work, the evidence would be in the practitioner's records. True, without a control group, it might not be as solid as we'd like, but if Witch Hazel cures 50% of her cancer patients, and the national average cure rate for the same cancer is only 30%, that would be enough to attract researchers willing to set up a proper study.

Maybe a similar thing could be done with drugs.

The FDA could institute several levels of approval. The highest level would be the standard adhered to nowadays: the FDA guarantees the drug is at least as safe as doing nothing, and more effective than a placebo, and (apparently) no side-effects that could prompt litigation.

Lower levels of approval could be implemented, with higher levels of possible risk, down to "licensed snake oil" which has no guarantees except it does contain oil from snakes, and that if it turns out to work, whoever's selling it has been required to keep records that will show that fact.

So cancer patients could buy FDA approved shark cartilege, or FDA approved laetrille, or FDA approved whatever else is being offered. Because all of these would be licensed as "snake oil", there would be no guarantee that any of these things would actually work, or even be safe to ingest. They would contain real, certified laetrille, shark cartilege, or whatever, but whether they do anything is not the FDA's problem at that level.

Just a thought.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Deniers -- a Book Review

From the Heartland Institute
Written By: Review by Jay Lehr, Ph.D.
Published In: Environment & Climate News
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
Lehr writes:

Lawrence Solomon, a longtime environmental activist, began wondering a few years ago how it could be that some scientists were questioning the apparently solid consensus that humans are causing a global warming crisis. He began seeking them out, and interviewing them on the topic.

Before long, Solomon came to realize a substantial number of the world's leading scientists are making a very strong case that humans are not causing any sort of global warming crisis.

In 2006 he began publishing his interviews with these leading scientists in Canada's National Post newspaper. In his outstanding new book, The Deniers, Solomon presents the best of these interviews, while sharing additional insights for which his newspaper columns did not have room. Solomon's book breaks new ground in the global warming discussion, presenting the most important scientific evidence in the words of the scientists themselves.

This is an excellent book. It is written for non-scientists, and I guarantee you will understand every word. It will inspire you as you witness the courage of the deniers to take a stand and endure the wrath of global warming activists for having the audacity to report sound science.

The Population Bomb

Paul Ehrlich famously predicted famines at the end of the last century, in which hundreds of millions of people would starve to death.
Forty years later, no such mass starvation has come to pass. While there have been tragic famines resulting in millions of deaths since 1968, none occurred because global food production failed to keep pace with population growth the core of Ehrlich’s hypothesis. Per capita global food production has, instead, increased by 26.5 percent between 1968 and 2005, according to the World Resources Institute. The number of people who starve to death daily declined from 41,000 in 1977 to 24,000 today, according to The Hunger Project, an organization combating global hunger.
One bit caught my attention...
Ehrlich also fretted in "The Population Bomb" that we were depleting the world oxygen supply by paving terrestrial areas, burning fossil fuels and clearing tropical forests. Green party campaigner Peter Tatchell recently reasserted this claim in the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian. “Compared to prehistoric times, the level of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere has declined by over a third and in polluted cities the decline may be more than 50 percent,” Tatchell wrote.
But as physicist LuboŇ° Motl points out in his blog, the oxygen scare is nonsense. Atmospheric oxygen has been at 20.94 percent or 20.95 percent for thousands of years, amounting to about 150,000 tons of oxygen per capita. Motl estimates that, at most, any atmospheric oxygen drop due to the combustion of fossil fuels might — at most — be 0.02 percent, a loss that could easily be offset by natural oxygen-producing processes.

That oxygen decline is an interesting claim. If the level of oxygen in the atmosphere has actually declined by as much as is claimed due to pollution, someone should have noticed by now. If we take the current level of 20.95% as two-thirds of some prehistoric standard, then a drop in cities to one half of that would mean the oxygen levels are as low as 16%.

According to OSHA,
"Hazardous atmosphere" means an atmosphere that may expose employees to the risk of death, incapacitation, impairment of ability to self-rescue (that is, escape unaided from a permit space), injury, or acute illness from one or more of the following causes:
....
(3) Atmospheric oxygen concentration below 19.5 percent or above 23.5 percent;
This would make it illegal to work in cities. Don't you think someone would have said something by now?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More about "twins"

Because this seems to be in the process of being relegated to the status of urban legend, let's see what sources I can find for the claim that Karen Matthews thinks "twins" means two children who have the same father.
From Times Online:
 
More than 200 police officers were searching last night for a nine-year-old girl who went missing on her way home from school.
....

Neil Hyett, Shannon’s uncle, said that dozens of local people helped with the search for his niece. “We’re extremely worried. Her brother, who is 11, has gone missing in the past, but not Shannon,” he said. “It was absolutely freezing. Minus 6. All the adults were cold, so how cold would she be?” Mr Hyett, 36, a coach driver, said that his niece’s disappearance was out of character. “She’s a quiet girl and very shy. She’s normally the first one home from school out of all her friends.”

Mr and Mrs Hyett said that Shannon lived with her mother, her stepfather, Craig Meehan, 22, a supermarket worker, two brothers aged 11 and five, and a two-year-old sister. Mrs Hyett said that Shannon also had a twin brother, Ian, who lived with their father in Huddersfield.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3406043.ece

 

Karen Matthews, Shannon’s mother, has seven childen by five fathers. Shannon was thought locally to have a twin brother who lived with their natural father. It emerged this week that the two children were born a year apart. Their mother called them twins merely because they had the same father. When a female relative was giving interviews about the missing child on the day after Shannon disappeared, her husband loudly reminded her to charge “a fiver for a feel” \, then roared with laughter at his own wit.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3463481.ece

 
While I'm at it, this piece appeared in the Daily Mail on March 17.
 

What does "twins" mean?

You couldn't avoid doing a double-take when you read it.

Karen Matthews, mother of the missing schoolgirl Shannon who thankfully was discovered alive and well a few days ago, referred to her daughter and one of her other six children as "twins". These children are actually aged nine and ten.

But Ms Matthews says they are twins because she thinks that's what you call children who have the same father.

With seven children by five different men, she seems to have no idea of what having the same father actually means.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lucy: Some 'splaining to do?

The fossil known as Lucy has been labeled as one of the "Icons of Evolution" by creationists. One of the claims: the fossil has been modified in order to make it "fit" the evolutionary story.

During the question-and-answer session after the talk, it was asked how alleged human ancestors like “Lucy” fit into this framework. The speaker said he had seen a video in which a scientist (perhaps the discoverer of “Lucy”) “allowed himself to be filmed” using a rotary saw to modify the pelvis or femur of the fossil to make them fit together in a manner consistent with a bipedal posture. Although one attendee expressed surprise that the original fossil bones would be tampered with in this manner, the general sense in the room seemed to be that this was not too surprising, because scientific work is not really objective. These people had no trouble believing that, since the scientists assumed that “Lucy” was a human ancestor, they felt justified in modifying the evidence to conform to what they knew the answer “had to be.” As the speaker later wrote to me, “The assumption of naturalism and belief in the evolutionary model is the lens through which all evidence is examined and interpreted.”

So has the evidence been faked? G.P. Jellison, with the Alliance for Science, looks at what really happened.

My experience has given me a different perspective. Although scientists are human beings, I have found that they generally exercise high standards of intellectual integrity and professional ethics (with, of course, some lamentable exceptions). “Cooking evidence” is unacceptable, and forging evidence is career suicide. The self-correcting nature of scientific culture weeds out arguments based on faulty reasoning or evidence. I also found it inconceivable that the original “Lucy” fossils would be mutilated in the manner described. It was clear that this creationist physics professor had seen something and honestly believed what he was saying, but I was sure there was more to the story.

And indeed, there is.

In this report, I won’t try to prove that A. afarensis was bipedal or an evolutionary ancestor of Homo sapiens. Although I have opinions on these matters, I am not an anthropologist and have nothing to say that isn’t available in any mainstream anthropology textbook. Rather, I address the narrower question: why was the 288-1 pelvis cast cut up with a rotary saw and reassembled? In particular, was this the result of “evolutionary assumptions” as the creationist speaker said, or was it driven by objective scientific criteria? I do feel I have something to say about this because I’ve obtained information from the scientist who did the work, Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy.

Dr. Lovejoy is a professor of anthropology at Kent State University. He is also an adjunct professor of anatomy at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and a member of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Case Western University. He is a Technical Advisor to the Coroner’s Office of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland); people’s lives literally depend on the integrity and accuracy of his scientific analysis. He has published more than 100 articles in scientific publications, and was recently elected into the National Academy of Sciences, one of the top scientific honors in the nation.

Jellison e-mails Lovejoy to learn what went on with the Lucy fossils.

When all is said and done, the reconstruction is far from arbitrary:

Clearly, the reconstruction was not done cavalierly; it was, rather, guided by objective constraints of the most obvious sort – the pieces had to fit together! Lovejoy wrote to me:

I was simply doing what any human will do if they want to keep a teacup that they've dropped and broken....The kinds of procedures we have done here would be admissible in any court (I also do forensics) because anyone could easily reproduce the result in an entirely independent way (give two experts two of the same [broken] teacups and see what they look like when they've been glued back together).

The correctness of the reconstruction could be verified by the “fit” that was achieved. As Figure 3 shows, the front and back sides of the pelvis were fractured in different ways. They were reconstructed independently of each other; when the task was finished, the front and back segments had to fit closely along a curved interface. The reconstruction passed the test.

In other words, Lucy stands up quite well as evidence for the evolution of something.

Secession and Slavery

Volokh Conspiracist Ilya Somin has a couple of posts on the role slavery played in the secession of the Confederacy from the United States. His assertion is that slavery was the major issue for most of the Southern States.

Some commenters on my posts on secession (here and here) doubt my claim that the southern states seceded in 1861 for the purpose of preserving slavery. After all, they point out, Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans had promised not to abolish slavery in the states where it existed. This is a common point advanced by those want to claim that slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War. Indeed, it was first advanced by apologists for the Confederate cause in the immediate aftermath of the War in order to paint the Confederacy in a more positive light by demonstrating that it was fighting for "states' rights" rather than slavery. But the claim doesn't withstand scrutiny

Confederate leaders repeatedly stated in 1861 that the threat Lincoln's election posed to slavery was the main reason for secession. In January 1861, soon-to-be Confederate President Jefferson Davis said that his state had seceded because "She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races." Davis was referring to well-known speeches by Lincoln and other Republicans citing the Declaration in criticism of slavery. Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens similarly said that "slavery . . . was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution" and that protecting it was the "cornerstone" of the new Confederate government. Many other Confederate leaders made similar statements.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's not like the CSI TV show

Lots of uncontrolled science takes place in court.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Instead of war, how about...

A friend of mine, Tom Digby, once proposed that instead of going to war over disputes, countries could field football teams, and the results of the game would determine the winner. (In practice, I think the losing side would start a shooting war.)
Steve Sailer has a solution for disputed border territories.
On the other hand, if it's assumed something has to be done about a disputed territory, the optimal way to settle it is often via a mutual auction. If both Russia and Georgia want South Ossetia, they should put their money where there mouths are. Auction off South Ossetia with the highest bidder paying that sum to the loser of the auction.
In a way, of course, war is an auction. Each side imposes costs on the other, in terms of casualties, destruction, and suffering, until one side or the other drops out of the bidding. Sailer's proposition would have the auctions limited to the payments of goods, rather than the infliction of bads. But what mechanism would there be to keep the bidding parties from throwing bads into the mix? If one side says, "if you outbid us, we'll bomb your factories," there must be some mechanism to impose a cost that makes taking that step very much not worth it.
We like to say war should be the last resort. Practically speaking, war is always the last resort, even if only because no one's come up with anything worse.

Doublethink

Gagdad Bob has a post, entitled "Evolutionary Creationism", where he looks at inconsistencies.
How do we reconcile God and Darwin, Adam and evolution, kings and chimps, Elvis and Scatter?
....
Let me preface this by saying that I am more or less willing to adopt what science determines to be "true" -- within sharp philosophical limits, of course -- for the same reason that I am willing to accept the advice of my doctor that if I don't take insulin I will die.

I mean... put it this way. As it so happens, my mother was a Christian Scientist, and I attended Christian Science Sunday school until the age of 10 or so. In fact, you could say that my mother was a devout Christian Scientist, with the exception of the Christian Science part. That is, when we left the plane of theological abstraction for the world of concrete reality, we took medicine and went to the doctor, just like anyone else...
One fertile source of inconsistencies turns out to be Barack Obama.
The other day, I heard a brilliant analysis of Obama by Rush Limbaugh. He was pointing out that the reason he is reduced to such a stuttering prick (to quote Tommy DeVito) when off the teleprompter, is that he is a deeply divided person, either consciously or unconsciously (and undoubtedly both, in my opinion). He is the polar opposite of, say, Ronald Reagan, who always knew what he thought and could answer any question, for it was simply a matter of returning to first principles and applying them to the problem. Very scientific, if you will.

But one of the intrinsic problems in being a liberal is that you can never reveal your first principles, because if you explicitly articulate them, people will be repelled at what a contemptuous and supercilious asshat you are. Therefore, you must always couch them in terms of "compassion," or "helping the little guy," or "healing the planet," or "unity," or some other such blather. So in that regard, Obama is dealing with a more general problem that is intrinsic to liberalism, which is How to Fool the Idiots. One must be very cautious, because even the idiots are only so stupid. Thus Obama's constant verbal ticks: "uh, uh, uh, let me, uh, say this, uh, uh, I've been completely, uh, consistent about this, blah blah blah."
....
Anyway, in Rush's analysis, he was pointing out that Obama is running several campaigns simultaneously, and that it is obviously a struggle for him to keep them all straight in his head, thus the great difficulty in being consistent and giving straight answers. Because of this, he is always one gaffe away from a major meltdown. For example, he's running one campaign for blacks, but an entirely different one for whites. (I won't even review the whole list, because it would take too much time, and I've already made my point; here is a list of the various irreconcilable positions which Obama must hopelessly try keep straight in his mind.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those Unused Oil Leases

Newt Gingrich responds to the charge that oil companies aren't drilling on the oil leases they already have.
Bingaman, Rahall and fellow drilling opponents accuse the oil industry of “sitting on” 68 million acres of “non-producing” leased land. They want to force energy companies to “use” this leased land within ten years – or lose all exploration and drilling rights.

America can only hope the proposed law is Bingaman and Rahall’s clumsy attempt at political jujitsu. The alternative is that the politicians in charge of committees that determine US energy policy are confused and ludicrously disconnected from reality.

First, lease agreements already require that leased land be used in a timely manner. The 1992 Comprehensive Energy Policy Act requires energy companies to comply with lease provisions, and explore expeditiously, or risk forfeiture of the lease. So the Bingaman-Rahall “solution” effectively duplicates current law.

Second, and more disturbingly, Bingaman and Rahall’s groundless accusation and proposed legislation rely on the absurd assumption that every acre of land leased by the government contains oil. Obviously, that’s not the case.

The truth is, finding oil is a long, complex, cumbersome, expensive process.

....

Most of the time, all this painstaking, expensive initial analysis concludes that the likelihood is too small to justify drilling an exploratory well, since the cost of a single well can run $1-5 million onshore, and $25-100 million in deep offshore waters. Only one of three onshore wells finds oil or gas in sufficient quantities to produce it profitably; in deep water, only one in five wells is commercial. Thus, only a small percentage of the leased acres end up producing oil.

This is important because it means most of those 68 million acres Bingaman and Rahall want to force oil companies to drill actually don’t have enough oil to make it worth drilling. Either they know that, and are trying to deceive us; or they don’t know it, because they haven’t done their homework.

....

That’s hardly “sitting on their leases.” But those leases will be “non-producing” until 2010. Clearly, a “use it or lose it” law will do nothing to change these hard realities.

Further complications often stymie energy companies from obtaining and using leased land.

Every step in the process must be preceded by environmental studies, oil spill response plans, onsite inspections, and permits. The process takes years, and every step is subject to delays, challenges – and litigation.

....

We don’t need a “use it or lose it” law – or more cheap-rhetoric, big-oil conspiracies. Congress simply needs to allow drilling on the 60% of onshore federal oil and gas prospects and 85% of Outer Continental Shelf prospects that it has placed off-limits.

Furthermore, instead of a “drill it or lose it” law, we need a “permit or pay” rule:

* When the government sits on permit applications for more than six months, companies no longer have to pay lease rents; instead, they get interest on their bonus payments and expenses to date, and lease terms are extended.

* When environmental groups lose their legal actions, they pay the companies for the court costs, delays and attorney fees.

When you go to the ballot box this fall, remember who’s really behind the outrageous prices you’re paying for the energy that makes your job, home, car and living standards possible.

Remember the simple solution: Issue leases and permits. Drill here. Drill now. Pay less.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Myths about Drilling for Oil

(Hat tip: Betsy Newmark)

You've heard them – arguments raised to oppose granting oil companies access to ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling. This editorial from the Washington Post looks at these statements with a critical eye:

But there are three "truths" masquerading as fact among drilling opponents that need to be challenged:

Drilling is pointless because the United States has only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. This is a misleading because it refers only to known oil reserves. ... By 2006, after major advances in seismic technology and deepwater drilling techniques, the MMS resource estimate for that area had ballooned to 45 billion barrels. In short, there could be much more oil under the sea than previously known. The demand for energy is going up, not down.

The oil companies aren't using the leases they already have. As we pointed out in a previous editorial, the five leases that have made up the Shell Perdido project off Galveston since 1996 are not classified as producing. Only when it starts pumping the equivalent of an estimated 130,000 barrels of oil a day at the end of the decade will it be deemed "active." Since 1996, Shell has paid rent on the leases; filed and had approved numerous reports with the MMS, including an environmentally sensitive resource development plan and an oil spill recovery plan that is subject to unannounced practice runs by the MMS; drilled several wells to explore the area at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars; and started constructing the necessary infrastructure to bring the oil to market. The notion that oil companies are just sitting on oil leases is a myth. With oil prices still above $100 a barrel, that charge never made sense.

Drilling is environmentally dangerous. In 1971, the Interior Department instituted a host of reporting requirements (such as the resource development and oil spill recovery plans mentioned above) and stringent safety measures. Chief among them is a requirement for each well to have an automatic shut-off valve beneath the ocean floor that can also be operated manually. According to the MMS, between 1993 and 2007, there were 651 spills of all sizes at OCS facilities (in federal waters three miles or more offshore) that released 47,800 barrels of oil. With 7.5 billion barrels of oil produced in that time, that equates to 1 barrel of oil spilled per 156,900 barrels produced. That's not to minimize the danger. But no form of energy is perfect or without trade-offs. Besides, if it is acceptable to drill in the Caspian Sea and in developing countries such as Nigeria where environmental concerns are equally important, it's hard to explain why the United States should rule out drilling off its own coasts.

Monday, August 04, 2008

People who think the earth is flat

From the BBC News Magazine:

On 24 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission took a photo now known as Earthrise. To many, this beautiful blue sphere viewed from the moon's orbit is a perfect visual summary of why it is right to strive to go into space.

Not to everybody though. There are people who say they think this image is fake - part of a worldwide conspiracy by space agencies, governments and scientists.

Welcome to the world of the flat-earther.

Flat earth theory is still around. On the internet and in small meeting rooms in Britain and the US, flat earth believers get together to challenge the "conspiracy" that the Earth is round.

"People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers," says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee, reacting to the new Microsoft commercial.

"Many use the term 'flat-earther' as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism."

Mr Davis, a 25-year-old computer scientist originally from Canada, first became interested in flat earth theory after "coming across some literature from the Flat Earth Society a few years ago".

"I came to realise how much we take at face value," he says. "We humans seem to be pleased with just accepting what we are told, no matter how much it goes against our senses."

Mr Davis now believes "the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite - it stretches horizontally forever".

"And it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep", he adds.

James McIntyre, a British-based moderator of a Flat Earth Society discussion website, has a slightly different take. "The Earth is, more or less, a disc," he states. "Obviously it isn't perfectly flat thanks to geological phenomena like hills and valleys. It is around 24,900 miles in diameter."

Mr McIntyre, who describes himself as having been "raised a globularist in the British state school system", says the reactions of his friends and family to his new beliefs vary from "sheer incredulity to the conviction that it's all just an elaborate joke".

So how many flat-earthers are around today? Neither Mr Davis nor Mr McIntyre can say.

Perhaps we should require that "both sides" be taught in the science classes of our schools.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Orson Scott Card on Same-Sex Marriage

A number of people seem to be ticked off at Card's latest column.

The lightning rod in his piece seems to be:

What these dictator-judges do not seem to understand is that their authority extends only as far as people choose to obey them.

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.