Tuesday, September 29, 2009

About that "Hockey Stick"....

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Steve McIntire at Climate Audit has peeled back the obfuscation of the infamous "Hockey Stick" graph. In the latest installment, McIntire lays out the evidence leading to the logical conclusion that the data sample, from which the Hockey Sick graph was produced, were cherry-picked to produce precisely that effect, and when the rest of the data are included, the Hockey Stick disappears entirely.

The "scientists" who produced the Hockey Stick have, in the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo "some 'splainin' to do".

Monday, September 28, 2009

RIP: William Safire

William Safire has died at the age of 79. In his long career as a columnist, he wrote two different kinds of columns, both of which influenced me greatly. Safire was both a small-l libertarian and a language maven (which is not quite the same thing as a martinet). He wasn't afraid to call out Republicans when he thought they deserved it, even if I didn't. And on those rare occasions when we disagreed, he forced me to dig deep and check my premises, for his arguments were always well thought out.

His "On Language" columns, in particular, may have helped fuel my appetite for understanding how words and their meanings have evolved. I have long believed that sloppy language breeds sloppy thinking. When we have a President who can, with a straight face, claim that a reporter looking up the definition of "tax" in Merriam-Webster's dictionary is doing so in order to stretch it, we will sorely miss a lover of language like Safire.

Godspeed, Bill.

Do not pass GO

The "Baucus Bill" mandates that all Americans must buy health insurance. If you choose (as a supposedly free citizen) not to buy health insurance, you will be levied a fine tax.
And what would happen if you (as a supposedly free citizen) refused to pay that fine tax?

We're gonna need bigger jails.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

United Breaks Guitars, part 2

Return with us to those thrilling days of ....... July 15th, 2009?

As you may recall when we last saw our hero, he was in the midst of a battle with United Airline over the mishandling of his Taylor guitar. Dave promised United that he would release 3 songs about the incident. We brought you the first song back on July 15th. Dave has now released song #2. So here it is for your listening pleasure...

[Ed. note] Added link to part 1 so you don't have to look it up

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Way it Ought to be Sung!

A friend sends this along with a comment:

"As football season approaches, there will be many variations, but this is the real deal."

"This is beautiful, as the anthem was written not like some pop singer trying to 'stylize' it."

"And we can add auto racing also."

The Battle Hymn of Obama

Picture of Jesus with a group of children, but Obama's face instead of Jesus' face, by Darleen Click of proteinwisdom.comBy now, if you haven't been hiking the Appalachian Trail or something, you've seen and heard the video of a bunch of grade-school kids chanting "Mmm, mmm, mmm! Barack Hussein Obama!", including a line virtually lifted from "Jesus Loves the Little Children".

(The magnificent graphic was created by Darleen Click of Protein Wisdom.)

You may have missed the part after the chanting, where the kids sing the praises of Obama to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Well, that deserves to be mocked, too:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the House's healthcare plan
Even though its countless pages make it really hard to scan
And anyone who disagrees might just as well be Klan!
Pelosi marches on!

  Glory, glory to Obama
  Glory, glory to Obama
  Tell your daddy and your Mama
  His plans are marching on!

He's apologized for everything the country's ever done
CO2's at fault for warming; please just disregard the Sun
You have no right to question him, for after all HE WON!
As ACORN Marches on!

(Repeat Chorus)

It's our duty as Americans to do just what he says
He looks so good on television; better in hi-rez
We will censure any congressmen who disrespect the Prez
Gleichsaltung marches on!

(Repeat Chorus)

Now let's listen to the Cactus Cuties do the real Battle Hymn of the Republic:

[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]

Well. There's your problem.

When I first read this quote, I was sure the reporter got it wrong. So I had to find out.
Yep, he actually said it.
"I'm not interested in victory."

Words fail me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mike Rowe: The War on Work

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and countless other shows on Discovery Networks speaks about the War on Work. This should be mandatory viewing for all government employees.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Picture is Worth....

davidbugnon -- My latest creation: Hannah Giles carving up a giant #ACORN on Twitpic
UPDATE: ACORN Baltimore sues Giles, O'Keefe, and Breitbart.

Remember folks. Discovery isn't just a cable channel.

UPDATE 2: There is now a Legal Defense Fund

A Rock Star in the White House?

I was grabbing a bite of lunch yesterday in a little barbecue joint that has Fox News on the TV, so when they broke in to go live to Obama's comments on the economy I watched while I finished eating. Now the sound was turned down so I couldn't hear what was being said, but what I saw was amazing. Obama was bouncing around shaking hands. Then he bounced up on stage, went by the podium, hugged a woman and then stepped up to began.

"My God" I though. "I've finally figured it out. He thinks he's a blooming rock star!"

Now I don't know if Obama and his handlers didn't realize that the cameras were on....or they just don't care how he looks; but what I saw was in no way Presidential or dignified. The man has no clue what kind of image he is projecting. And I probably would not have caught it if the sound had been turned up because I would have tuned it out and not have been paying attention.

Interestingly a friend who I told about this went to the Fox News website and tried to find the clip.....and said that he couldn't. So I don't know if Fox didn't save it or just has not posted that portion of the clip. But I would like someone else to see this and tell me if I'm imagining things. Because for all his faults, and they were many, I never saw Bill Clinton behave that way. And certainly not W or Reagan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

RTC: Dog Whistles and Golf-Ball-Stealing Monkeys

Is this a racist story?

The story is told of a golf course in India. Apparently, once the English had colonized the country and established their businesses, they yearned for recreation and decided to build a golf course in Calcutta. Golf in Calcutta presented a unique obstacle. Monkeys would drop out of the trees, scurry across the course, and seize the golf balls. The monkeys would play with the balls, tossing them here and there.

At first, the golfers tried to control the monkeys. Their first strategy was to build high fences around the fairways and greens. This approach, which seemed initially to hold much promise, was abandoned when the golfers discovered that a fence is no challenge to an ambitious monkey. Next, the golfers tried luring the monkeys away from the course. But the monkeys found nothing as amusing as watching humans go wild whenever their little white balls were disturbed. In desperation, the British began trapping the monkeys. But for every monkey they carted off, another would appear. Finally, the golfers gave in to reality and developed a rather novel ground rule: Play the ball where the monkey drops it.

It appears to have originally been told in a book by an Episcopal minister, and used a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks in a sermon at Cincinnati's First Congregational Church (UCC):
Needless to say, on Tuesday, 9-11, the monkey dropped the ball in the worst possible place in all of our collective memories.
Now Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO7) has retold the tale to the Values Voters Summit over the weekend (Story starts at 1:13 if you want to skip the preamble):

Apparently, this story is an example of "dog whistle" racism. My ears aren't good enough to pick up on the racism. Maybe it's because I still remember eight years of George W. Bush being "Chimpler". Or maybe it's just because I'm not losing my fracking mind.

If there were any doubt that The Card is thoroughly played out, this should be it.
[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Charlie and the Constitution Factory

Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY15) saw fit to explain his vote against de-funding ACORN:

The Constitution impels Congress not to pass a bill of attainder that would punish a named individual or group without a judicial trial. The amendment would punish ACORN after allegations surfaced last week that two of the organization’s staff members, who have since been fired, counseled their clients to break the law − a role the Constitution explicitly leaves for the courts.
Michael McAuliff of the New York Daily News wants us to know "This, some will recall, was the argument many Republicans made against taking back bonuses paid out by AIG.". Rangel and McAuliff fail to appreciate the differences between those two situations, and how the term "bill of attainder" does not apply to the ACORN situation.

When Hot Air's Ed Morrissey brought up Rangel's remarks in his "Week in Review" webcast on Friday, I enunciated a definition of the term in the show's chatroom, and briefly described how it didn't fit the situation. Ed responded, calling me a language "martinet", but he seemed to agree with my point that Rangel had abused the term. Well, most folks don't use the term "martinet" positively, but when the Left and the media (but I repeat myself) twist language to pervert its meaning, maybe it takes a martinet to untwist it (although a martini might help too, with or without a twist).

Let us begin with some history. The British government, from which our own legal traditions descended, centralizes effective power in the Parliament; the majority party/coalition in the House of Commons controls the executive branch, and until recently, the highest judicial body was the House of Lords. There is no Constitution in the sense we use the term. The only limitations on the power of Parliament are self-imposed. Those who rebelled against what they saw as an oppressive central government were determined, when they set up their own government, to put strict external limits on its power. The legitimacy of our government is based on the subjugation of all authority to the Constitution; any attempt to wield power that is not authorized by it is a violation of the contract we make with each other as citizens.

This distinctively American implementation of "Separation of Powers" enforced by a written constitution came from Enlightenment philosopher Baron de Montesquieu's idealization of the British system into truly separate entities. Our constitution explicitly forbids a member of Congress, the executive, or judiciary, to serve in either of the other two branches of government at the same time. It then sets about to forbid any of the three branches from doing the job of the other two, while giving each of them some ability to check the powers of the others. For good measure, the first batch of amendments take many matters out of the hands of the national government, reserving most power in the hands of the state governments and individual citizens (who serve on juries both grand and petit, elect state and local governments to enact laws, and directly make law in the fashion of the New England Town Hall or through initiative/referendum as their state constitutions and local government charters provide).

Representative Rangel appeals to one of the explicit prohibitions on the power of Congress to make law: Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 3, which states simply enough: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." But what do those phrases mean?

The English translation of ex post facto is simply "after the fact". The primary purpose of punishing criminal behavior is to deter it. We do this by making laws that codify behavior that is subject to punishment, and what that punishment can be. People who might be tempted to engage in such behavior will consider the consequences, and most will refrain from doing so. But once the behavior has occurred, it cannot be deterred by strengthening its punishment. Punishing someone for an act that was legal when they did it is tyranny, if not sadism.

The "bill of attainder" is a bit more complicated:
A legislative act pronouncing a person guilty of a crime, usually treason, without trial and subjecting that person to capital punishment and attainder. Such acts are prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
The word "attainder" itself refers to the cancellation of civil rights. As part of a judgment against a convicted criminal, he could lose the right to own property, and therefore pass it to an heir upon his death. (In cases of treason, that death could be quite grisly.) The term of art for the government stripping the criminal's heirs of their inheritance is "escheatment" or "corruption of blood". It was common for the Crown to escheat the assets of those condemned to death after a judicial conviction, but occasionally one would be killed in the act of committing his crime, or tortured to death in an effort to gain a confession. Dead men can't be tried, so a bill of attainder would be proposed in Parliament to escheat those assets away from the heirs. After all, it wouldn't do to let the son of a traitor inherit the family estate, and any titles of nobility the old boy had.

This practice, especially when performed in distant Westminster (where Colonials would find it difficult to have their side heard), was one of the many grievances that led to the American Revolution.

In particular, what constituted "treason" tended to depend quite a bit on who happened to hold sway in Parliament at the time. Factions loyal to a recently-deposed monarch could find themselves declared traitors by those who deposed him. Thus, many British bills of attainder also criminalized behavior ex post facto, prompting the conjunction of the two in Art. I §9 ¶3. A separate prohibition against corruption of blood is in Art. III §3 ¶2, where "treason" is defined so as to minimize political prosecutions, and allow the Loyal Opposition to disagree without fear of reprisal. (Eric Holder should take note of this.)

Although the traditional meaning of "bills of attainder" included capital punishment, the Supreme Court has interpreted their prohibition to include lesser forms of punishment. In Cummings v. Missouri it defined the term thus:
A bill of attainder is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without a judicial trial.

If the punishment be less than death, the act is termed a bill of pains and penalties. Within the meaning of the Constitution, bills of attainder include bills of pains and penalties. In these cases, the legislative body, in addition to its legitimate functions, exercises the powers and office of judge; it assumes, in the language of the textbooks, judicial magistracy; it pronounces upon the guilt of the party without any of the forms or safeguards of trial; it determines the sufficiency of the proofs produced, whether conformable to the rules of evidence or otherwise; and it fixes the degree of punishment in accordance with its own notions of the enormity of the offence.
In the case of the AIG bonuses, employees agreed to work for a lower base salary, with performance bonuses tied to objective measures of productivity. They did the work, hit the targets, and thereby earned the bonuses. To declare after the fact that the bonuses are too high, and seize the money earned by those workers would clearly violate both parts of Art. I §9 ¶3., and the Fifth Amendment "takings" clause as well.

The biggest problem with Representative Rangel's ridiculous reasoning is that it tacitly makes the ridiculous Leftist assumption that not giving public funds to a person or organization is the same thing as taking money or other property from them. We have become so accustomed to that assumption that even some conservatives seem to accept it, but it is untrue. Those funds are the property of the US taxpayer, not ACORN or any other government contractor, unless and until the contractor is lawfully engaged to perform work, and the contract faithfully executed.

The measure Rangel voted against does not call for incarceration of ACORN employees, the levying of monetary fines, or withholding of funding for any work that ACORN has already done in conformance with existing laws; It doesn't even call out ACORN by name. It only specifies restrictions on organizations' eligiblity to participate in any future funding based on certain activities. And ACORN is clearly covered by those stipulations.

If we must compare ACORN to AIG, the closest analogue would be for Congress to order that as a condition of the bailout, the bonus programs be cancelled for work done in the future, while allowing bonuses that had already been earned to be paid. Those employees have the right to be paid for the work they did under the terms in force when they did the work. They are not entitled to compel the continuation of those terms in perpetuity.

Rangel and his political allies embody just such an "entitlement" mentality; like the hereditary British nobleman, they believe our money belongs to them, year after year, in ever-increasing amounts. When tax rates are reduced, they call it "giving tax breaks to the wealthy". That is a corollary of the above. There is a difference between not taking private funds from a person or organization and giving it to them. The government does not give a taxpayer what is already his by not taking it from him.

No one has a "right" to get paid to administer government programs, and we don't have hereditary titles of nobility (the Kennedys notwithstanding) that treat power over others as if it were a personal right. Such titles are explicitly forbidden by the Constitution. On the contrary, we taxpayers have the right to a government run as cleanly and efficiently. We elect representatives to attend to that.

Congress is given great latitude in executive oversight. It has the authority to require Senate confirmation for any executive position, and can investigate how our money is spent. Congress is entirely within its legitimate power to direct the executive branch that funds it has authorized to run government programs only be awarded to individuals or groups that meet strict standards of conduct. In doing so, it is fulfilling its obligations under the original Contract With America. That's not something I can always say with a straight face.
[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another O'Keefe Undercover Video

Before he went undercover in person to expose what kind of people ACORN employs, James O'Keefe showed how willing Planned Parenthood was to accept racist contributions specifically for reducing the number of black babies:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time to Revoke The Card

I'm done. The recent spate of people willing to play The Race Card against any and all opposition to The Won's policies have pushed me to the point where I just don't care anymore.

Jimmy Carter, Janeane Garofalo, and the Newsweek cover may be the most blatant, but there have been so many it's not worth listing them all. Once upon a time, the word "racist" meant something. I recently tried to clarify that definition. But now I'm not sure the word can ever again mean anything close to what it once meant.

There are two ways to examine what words mean. One is to look at the definition in the dictionary and see how it may apply. The other is to observe how the words are actually used. Based on the latter, I have come to the an inescapable conclusion.
The effective meaning of "racist" today is:
"You disagree with a leftist. Shut up!"

From now on, whenever someone says a person or behavior is "racist", I'm going to stop them, and insist that they make the case for it or retract it. No one gets to throw out an accusation of "racism" as if it were an established fact. If they refuse to back up the accusation, I will say "How dare you use that word without any proof that it applies!"

When someone is summarily accused, "convicted", and punished without a due process hearing in which they can defend themselves from the charge, there is a word often used to describe the process.

We call it a "lynching".

I'm not going to stand by and let it happen.

[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I agree 100% with President Obama

Kanye West is a jackass.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Critiquing the Speech: Mandates

I subjected myself to President Obama's health care speech, and some things really struck me about the illogic he tried to foist upon us. I'll zero in on a single issue here: Mandates

President Obama said this about mandates:

If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people's expensive emergency room visits.
There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.
This defies logic.

Those people who can afford coverage are the ones willing and able to pay for their health care out of their own pockets, reasoning that they'll pay less that way than if they buy insurance. Only if they're among the few people who have more paid out in benefits than they pay in as premiums will they come out ahead by buying the insurance. They're gambling that it won't happen to them if they go without any health insurance at all, and the odds are on their side.

Some people, (like Whole Foods employees) purchase low-premium, high-deductible policies that are unlikely to pay a dime for an individual employee in any given year. That way they're covered if they're in the group that actually runs up more bills than premiums over the long term, saving themselves from financial ruin if they're unlucky. But the President's proposal would take that choice away. It will force people to spend money on insurance they have rational reasons not to buy.

This is just the opposite of what insurance is supposed to be for. We buy insurance to cover events that are rare and very bad for our finances, like the untimely death of a parent with children to support. We know that insurance companies make profits, and their employees earn salaries, their suppliers need to be paid, etc. We buy insurance knowing that in the long run we're likely to lose a little money, to protect against the risk that we lose far, far, more.

It is stupid to purchase insurance for things that are relatively likely to happen, but not particularly expensive. For those things, we should budget our money, saving up so we can afford to pay for them. But managing our own finances wisely is too much like personal responsibility, anathema to community organizers who insist on "social responsibility".
[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Olbermann, Glenn Beck, and Joe the Plumber

By now everyone with an Internet connection is probably aware that Keith Olbermann wants dirt on Glenn Beck:

From the Washington Independent, linked below, after the jump:
Glenn Beck’s Twitter feed has become a must-read. In a message from last night, Beck told his followers to “FIND EVERYTHING YOU CAN ON CASS SUNSTEIN, MARK LLOYD AND CAROL BROWNER.”

I don't know why I've got this phrasing in my head, but: Find everything you can about Glenn Beck, Stu Burguiere, and Roger Ailes.
Olbermann is engaging in some common Leftist techniques here, which are in desperate need of deconstruction.

Like the war declared against Joe the Plumber after he dared commit lèse majesté against The One, Olbermann is attacking the messenger. Somehow, he thinks that he can invalidate what Beck has told us, if he is able to dig up some dirt on Beck. That shouldn't be too tough; Beck is a recovering alcoholic who admits to have been a real dirtbag when he was on the sauce.

It doesn't matter if we like Beck or not. I sometimes think he's melodramatic, but he performs a valuable service by bringing out indisputable facts (including video of the man's own words) that the MainScream Media refuses to notice. Olby thinks that proving Beck has committed some infraction in any way changes those facts. It doesn't. The facts stand on their own merits. Logicians refer to this particular fallacy as ad hominem (against the man), because it fails to address those facts.

But the way the quote was worded, it appears that another common Leftist trope is in play. It's called "moral equivalence". Olbermann deliberately words his call for dirt on Beck, his producer, and his TV boss, using similar language to Beck's call for evidence against Obama Administration officials. He is implicitly employing another fallacy, with its own Latin name (don't they all have one?): tu quoque (you too!). Can anyone object to Olbermann doing to Beck what Beck is doing to Sunstein et. al.?

Yes, we can! There is actually an exception to ad hominem being a fallacy: When the argument is about the judgement, temperment, or veracity of someone we are being asked to trust with power, or whose testimony is being considered to judge someone's guilt, then ad hominem attacks aren't fallacious at all. They go to the heart of how that person will wield that power, or whether we can justly convict someone based upon that testimony.

If Glenn Beck held, or were a candidate for office, so that his signature on some piece of paper or oral instruction to subordinates could coercively direct billions of dollars of money (either by government spending it outright, or forcing individuals and businesses to spend it), or he were a witness at a trial, then whatever dirt can be found on him could be quite relevant. Unlike those he's been exposing of late, (apparently soon to include Sunstein, Lloyd, and Browner) he is not any of those things. In fact, he has told his audience not to trust him:
So do I ask you to trust me? Nope. Instead, I ask you to do something that this whole broken system of government and media has taught you not to do: trust yourself. Empower yourself. Take charge of your own life. Don't take my or anyone else's word for anything. Read, question every angle and trust your gut.
On the contrary, it is President Obama who asks us to trust him personally, that his ability to lead, to surround himself with the right kind of people to follow his leadership, will make all the difference. Beck is showing us what kind of people they are, and by extension, what kind of person Obama is. By unleashing the Kossacks on Beck, Olbermann shows us what kind of person he is.

[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]
UPDATE: Olbermann has called off the Kossacks, at least for now:
I am talking about calling off the Baker Street Irregulars - while reserving the right to reactivate them.
It seems Olby read an NYT columnist express some reservations similar to my own, and decided he didn't want to "be Glenn Beck" by getting down in the gutter with him.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Climate Chains