Monday, December 21, 2009

Is the Reid Bill is Unconstitutional?

I was talking to my friend and fellow blogger Matt James about this very subject last night. Sure enough, along comes Richard Epstein, one of the most impressive legal scholars in America to make the case that the Senate bill has serious Constitutional flaws.

His crituique is thoughtful, well reasoned and in my opinon clearly wrong. Professor Epstein makes a devestating argument that Reid's bill borders on the profoundly stupid. Fair enough as far as it goes. But I think his application of Duquesne Light Co. v. Barasch, 488 U.S. 299 (1988) to the instant matter is badly flawed.

We remain in my view, free to drive our economy off a cliff. The Supreme Court won't save us.


The article is here.

Trotsky: Behind the Myth.


Trotsky has always been something of an icon for the intelligentsia, and it is not hard to see why. He fitted the perception that dissenting intellectuals like to have of themselves. Highly cultured, locked in struggle with a repressive establishment, a gifted writer who was also a man of action, he seemed to embody the ideal of truth speaking to power. The manner of his death solidified this perception, which has shaped accounts of his life ever since.

Trotsky was a charismatic leader whose appeal extended across the political spectrum. When Trotsky was on the run from Stalin, H L Mencken offered to give him his own library (Trotsky refused because he did not want to be indebted to a reactionary). The Bishop of Birmingham signed a petition on Trotsky's behalf, and he was invited to become rector of Edinburgh University. Maynard Keynes tried to secure asylum for him in England, a campaign supported even by the power-worshipping Stalin-lover Beatrice Webb. Literary notables like Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy joined the chorus of adulation. A hero-martyr in the cause of humanity, Trotsky deserved the support of every right-thinking person.

This has never been a terribly plausible view of the man who welcomed the ruthless crushing of the Kronstadt workers and sailors when they demanded a more pluralist system of government in 1921, and who defended the systematic use of terror against opponents of the Soviet state until his dying day. Introducing a system of hostage-taking in the Civil War and consistently supporting the trial and execution of dissidents (Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, liberal Kadets, nationalists and others), Trotsky never hesitated to endorse repression against those who stood in the way of communist power. This much has long been clear, but the full extent of Trotsky's role in building Soviet totalitarianism has not been detailed - until now.

More here.

Climategate: McIntyre and the ‘Divergence Problem’

If the full Briffa series had been included, the figure would look rather different. The hook upward, the blade of the hockey stick, would have been much less dramatic, the implied global warming much less significant. By truncating the data as they did, the global warming looks much worse.

And as the Climategate emails show, this was the result of a long discussion of how to best deal with “pressure to present a nice tidy story.” A story that fit the IPCC’s political goals, whether it suited the science or not.



Read the whole thing. It's helpful for understanding some of the issues relating to the "hockey stick" graph which suggested sudden, drastic global warming.

The Bilingual Ban That Worked.

In 1998, Californians voted to pass Proposition 227, the “English for the Children Act,” and dismantle the state’s bilingual-education industry. The results, according to California’s education establishment, were not supposed to look like this: button-cute Hispanic pupils at a Santa Ana elementary school boasting about their English skills to a visitor. Those same pupils cheerfully calling out to their principal on their way to lunch: “Hi, Miss Champion!” A statewide increase in English proficiency among all Hispanic students.

Instead, warned legions of educrats, eliminating bilingual education in California would demoralize Hispanic students and widen the achievement gap. Unless Hispanic children were taught in Spanish, the bilingual advocates moaned, they would be unable to learn English or to succeed in other academic subjects.

California’s electorate has been proved right: Hispanic test scores on a range of subjects have risen since Prop. 227 became law. But while the curtailment of California’s bilingual-education industry has removed a significant barrier to Hispanic assimilation, the persistence of a Hispanic academic underclass suggests the need for further reform.

More.

Energy-efficient traffic lights can't melt snow.

Photo taken after a fatal crash in Oswego, Ill. on April 6, 2009. Source AP/Oswego Police.

MILWAUKEE – Cities around the country that have installed energy-efficient traffic lights are discovering a hazardous downside: The bulbs don't burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm — a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death.

"I've never had to put up with this in the past," said Duane Kassens, a driver from West Bend who got into a fender-bender recently because he couldn't see the lights. "The police officer told me.


Too bad really. I tend like this sort of clever sort of gadget that offers real cost savings (unlike a lot of hair shirt environmentalism which tends to be about feeling like you're doing something). In real life, there are lots of unforeseen variables that can erase any savings in the blink of an eye.

More.

h/t The Wife.

Making Criminals Out of all Americans.

The 1988 law at issue aims at public corruption and corporate misconduct, but sweeps far too broadly, criminalizing schemes to "deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."

If that language seems a little, well, intangible to you, you're not alone. Hurling hypotheticals, the justices strained to find a limiting principle that could prevent the law from covering an employee reading a racing form on the clock (Stephen Breyer) or calling in sick to go to a ballgame (Antonin Scalia). Of some 150 million workers in the United States, Breyer told Drebeen, "I think possibly 140 million of them would flunk your test."

The court's struggle with the "honest services" statute points toward a larger issue: the burgeoning problem of overcriminalization.


Read the whole thing.

London Street Scenes (1903).

Pascal's wager for the new age.

Below is a very brief summary of the conclusions from the climate scientists themselves -- those who believe in man-caused, catastrophic global warming.

  • The globe warmed about 0.6o and the oceans rose about six inches in the last hundred years, according to the U.N. IPCC. (I use Celsius throughout unless otherwise noted.)
  • We are now in what is called an interglacial period, or the time between ice ages. Previous interglacial peaks were three degrees warmer than now. In Antarctica, these previous peaks were actually six degrees warmer.
  • Since the last ice age, the oceans rose about four hundred feet. Most of that occurred before the pyramids were built (and well before modern use of fossil fuels), but the trend for hundreds of years up to the present has been rising sea levels.
  • The sea ice of the south polar ice cap has grown in the last thirty years.
  • Climate scientists have fairly recently recognized a climate cycle they now call the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. "The cause of the oscillation is not well understood, but the cycle appears to come round about every 60 to 70 years." They think this is why temperatures over the last eight years or so do not show the continued warming their models predicted. This and other cycles (Pacific Decadal Oscillation, El Niño, La Niña) are not included in the IPCC climate models.
  • The sun does appear to account for "at least 10 to 30 percent of global warming measured during the past two decades," according to two Duke University physicists. While they were quick to remind us "that their findings do not argue against the basic theory that significant global warming is occurring because of carbon dioxide and other 'greenhouse' gases," they note that IPCC-type climate models do not include any solar influences.
  • The "ice caps" on Mars shrank over all three years of initial observation by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions, 2005-2007.
  • Glaciers in the northern hemisphere generally have been shrinking for about seven hundred years, while those in the southern hemisphere have been shrinking for the last sixty-five hundred years. (You might notice that those times precede the modern use of fossil fuels.)
  • Himalayan glaciers, 230 of the largest mid-latitude glaciers in the world, have been growing since at least 1980.

One could go on. Remember, these are the things that climate alarmists generally concede. So far, I see only slight warming and sea-level rise, nothing that looks unprecedented for an interglacial period, and nothing that looks unnatural. Everything is totally consistent with a planet that is near an interglacial peak and following cycles of various periods (from one year to 40,000 years) that are "not well understood."


More.

The 35-Year War on the CIA.

For the past 35 years, American liberals have attacked and vilified the CIA with a fervency that borders on holy war. Their antipathy toward the CIA and its works has been reflected in Hollywood films from Three Days of the Condor in 1975 to Rendition in 2007; in popular thrillers like Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy published in the 1980s, as well as the Matt Damon movies based on the novels that came out in this decade; and in lengthy nonfiction exposes of CIA misdeeds by leftist critics like John Prados (Safe for Democracy: The CIA’s Secret Wars)and David Wise (The American Police State). In this view, the CIA has conducted itself around the world in monstrous fashion—sometimes in the service of a barbaric chief executive and sometimes to undermine a purer president—and in ways that merit and justify hatred of the United States outside our borders.

This war has also been enshrined in one disastrous liberal-led “reform” of the CIA after another. The wreckage reaches back to congressional hearings conducted in the 1970s, to the disastrous cutbacks in CIA activities under Jimmy Carter, and to the Clinton administration’s ban on sharing intelligence between the CIA and domestic law enforcement.

So what is it about the CIA that makes liberals and Democrats lose their common sense? The FBI’s record of abuse of American citizens’ civil liberties is far longer and more egregious, as its treatment of Martin Luther King suggests. During Vietnam and other contentious periods of the Cold War, the FBI opened far more secret files on Americans and conducted far more unauthorized break-ins and wiretaps than the CIA could ever have contemplated. Yet the FBI has never been subjected to quite the same relentless serial abuse on Capitol Hill or in the popular culture as the CIA. Indeed, the Obama administration is not the first to send in the FBI to rescue the CIA from itself.

One cannot deny that Republican administrations have made disastrous decisions regarding the CIA as well. And there is no covering over the fact that the CIA has sometimes been its own worst enemy—not least when it decides to act on the advice of its liberal critics. At any rate, a serious examination of this implacable hostility toward America’s leading spy agency on the part of the American Left over the course of the past 35 years reveals a great deal about the nature of modern liberalism itself and its often self-destructive course.



More.

Something New To Worry About: Anthropogenic Continental Drift.

There are of course, two sides to everything.

Now, everyone knows that continental drift is a natural, ongoing process of the Earth, just like climate change.

The continents, and the tectonic plates they are attached to, shift about and grind into each other, causing mountains to be rucked up into the sky and volcanoes to erupt, and earthquakes, and other geologic shit of this nature.

What you may not know is that this process, while unstoppable, can be slowed down tremendously. We can save lives this way, and more importantly, beachfront property. But we haven't been doing it.
Our inaction in saving lives- and some really sweet bungalows- is tragic. Tragic.

How can we slow down this destructive process?
One word, friends: friction.

How do we enhance the natural friction that keeps these gigantic continents from slippy-sliding all over the place, crushing everyone that you love and burying their wicked bitchin' summer rental cottages in hot lava?

We need to extract the dangerous lubricants that are hiding deep in the Earth.

Right now, under the ground, possibly thousands of feet under your very...uh, feet...are vast deposits of a black, menacingly slippery substance that scientists refer to as 'oil' [TX pron: awl].

We gotta get that shit out of there, stat! Our recalcitrance in this regard is frustrating and downright dangerous. The time to act is now.

No matter the cost, humans must find a way- with specialized pipes and pumps, perhaps- to reduce these vast deposits of 'oil' that imperil us all.

Who knows? We may even find a use for it.



More here.

Ah, Those Thoughtful, Nuanced Democrats.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) helpfully explains that those opposing Obamacare are birthers and fanatics in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups.

Simply astonishing.

The polling on this is now at 41% for, 51% against. Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann, Jane Hamsher and Markos Moulitsas have all come out against it. I had no idea the right-wing fringe was so inclusive.

Climategate: The Perils of Global Warming Models

Here’s a surprise: These public interpretations are influenced by such factors as political, religious, environmental, financial, and scientific opinions. In their public revelations, do the interpreters explain all of their underlying biases? By now you know the answer: absolutely not.

When these are introduced into the equation we obviously have strayed so far from scientific fact that it is not even in sight anymore.

So we need to think very carefully before we take major actions (e.g., spend a few trillion dollars based on climate predictions, wind energy projected performance, etc.) that are almost entirely based on computer models.

What to do? Should we just scrap all computer models?

No, that’s the other extreme. Computer models have merit — but shouldn’t be the tail wagging the dog.

More here.