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11/30/2009
WALKBACK COMPLETE: US RECOGNIZES WINNER IN HONDURAN ELECTION

What can you say? How often does the United States stake out a clear, unequivocal position on a major foreign policy event and then, over the course of a few months, slowly walkback from their original position to come around and embrace exactly the opposite point of view?

This is the Obama administration in all its amateurish glory. When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was invited to leave back in June, the administration took the same side as the thugs and dictators of the world, calling it a “military coup” even though the Honduran Supreme Court had ruled the action legal and the Honduran parliament had passed a resolution supporting it.

The administration then imposed severe restrictions on visas for Honduras and other punishments in order to prove to the leftist thugs in Latin America like Chavez and Eva Morales that the US was on their side in the crisis. And notably, as late as September, the US was saying that they would not support or recognize the Honduran elections which took place yesterday.

Back then, according to this Bloomberg piece by Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, the United States stood against democracy in Honduras:

The U.S. won’t recognize a scheduled November election in Honduras without a resolution to the political crisis that began with a coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in June, a State Department aide said.The U.S. has told the “de facto regime that because of the environment on the ground, we will not recognize the election,” Philip J. Crowley, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said in Washington yesterday.

On Sept. 27, the de facto government led by interim President Roberto Micheletti banned protests and suspended other civil rights for 45 days and denied entry to an Organization of American States delegation seeking to negotiate an end to the three-month standoff in the Central American nation.

At an emergency meeting of the 35-member body of the OAS in Washington yesterday, both sides were criticized for their actions.

In case you were wondering, nothing has changed since this piece was written. Zelaya snuck back into the country and is hiding in the Brazilian embassy, but no “resolution” to the crisis by the “de facto” government has been realized.

Unless you want to say that free and fair elections in which 60% of the Honduran people went to the polls and voted to elect Porfirio Lobo, an opponent of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, by a landslide.

The BBC:

The poll was held five months after Mr Zelaya was forced out at gunpoint, with an interim government taking over.

Mr Lobo is seen as a unifying figure. He won 56% of the vote, with over 60% of registered voters taking part.

A clear winner and high turnout were what the interim government were hoping for to give the election legitimacy.

But regional powers Argentina and Brazil have said they will not recognise any government installed after the election, arguing that to do so would legitimise the coup which ousted an elected president, and thus set a dangerous precedent.

Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva also said that Mr Zelaya will remain in its embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa - where he has been living since he secretly returned to the country in September - until the government gave assurances for his safety.

The US, meanwhile, said it would accept the election results.

Funny how the Obama administration didn’t announce their change in policy. They allowed South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint to break the good news to the American people earlier this month. DeMint had just returned from a trip to Honduras and reported on the “de facto” government’s efforts to make the election inclusive, and fair.

From MercoPress:”

I am happy to report the Obama Administration has finally reversed its misguided Honduran policy and will fully recognize the November 29th elections” added Senator DeMint.

“Given this commitment, which Senator DeMint has requested for months, he will lift objections on the nominations of Arturo Valenzuela to be Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs and Thomas Shannon to be US Ambassador to Brazil”.

Several Latin American countries - including, disappointingly, Brazil - will not recognize the vote. But it appears that Honduras has survived the effort to delegitimize its government by the US and other leftist bullies in the region.

The real story, of course, is the unbelievably amateurish actions of the Obama administration in not supporting democracy in Honduras in the first place. Many said at the time that the almost off the cuff reaction by the White House to Zelaya’s ouster was mishandled from the start and based on incomplete information. This view was buttressed when, in August, the Law Library of the Library of Congress issued a report by the Congressional Research Service that declared the Honduran government’s actions legal and justified. Democrats were furious and tried to get the report withdrawn - and for good reason. It made the president and his advisors look like they didn’t know what they were doing.

So Honduras has a new president, elected by 56% of the voters, and Manuel Zelaya (whose term ends on January 27) will soon be a footnote in Honduran history. And as Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal points out, it was the Honduran people and government - with no help from the US - who stood defiantly against most of the world and proved that they have what it takes to make democracy work.

Unless something monumental happens in the Western Hemisphere in the next 31 days, the big regional story for 2009 will be how tiny Honduras managed to beat back the colonial aspirations of its most powerful neighbors and preserve its constitution.

Yesterday’s elections for president and Congress, held as scheduled and without incident, were the crowning achievement of that struggle.

National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo was the favorite to win in pre-election polls. Yet the name of the victor is almost beside the point. The completion of these elections is a national triumph in itself and a win for all people who yearn for liberty.

The fact that the U.S. has said it will recognize their legitimacy shows that this reality eventually made its way to the White House. If not Hugo Chávez’s Waterloo, Honduras’s stand at least marks a major setback for the Venezuelan strongman’s expansionist agenda.

The losers in this drama also include Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Spain, which all did their level best to block the election. Egged on by their zeal, militants inside Honduras took to exploding small bombs around the country in the weeks leading to the vote. They hoped that terror might damp turnout and delegitimize the process. They failed. Yesterday’s civic participation appeared to be at least as good as it was in the last presidential election. Some polling stations reportedly even ran short, for a time, of the indelible ink used to mark voter pinkies.

The American people will not be informed of this pitiful about face by our government. But the Honduran people don’t need our State Department’s blessing or condemnation to know what they have accomplished this day.

By: Rick Moran at 8:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (20)

11/29/2009
THE GRAHAM-DeMINT AXIS OF THE GOP

I would hesitate to go so far as to say that the argument taking place in South Carolina by partisans for Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint is a microcosm of the debate between “moderates” and conservatives across the country. In the first place, someone with a lifetime rating of 90 from the ACU (Graham) can by no means be considered a “moderate” anything. Secondly, Graham’s difficulties have been heightened by his own potty mouth trashing of conservatives who disagree with him. Calling someone a “bigot” because they want tighter border security is not the way to win friends and influence conservatives.

Rather, the debate is over whether Republicans should assist the Democrats in governing the country. This is the real issue, at least in South Carolina, where Lindsey Graham has demonstrated a desire to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats on key issues like cap and trade and the Sotomayer nomination. In short, the difference is in what we used to call the “temperament” of the legislator. And there are many who believe a legislator cannot hold to any principles if they parlay with the enemy.

And DeMint? Anyone who claims allegiance to a political party and makes a statement that he would rather have only 30 true believing GOP senators as opposed to a majority who held varied positions on some issues needs to have an intervention by some adult, and be sent away where he can weave baskets until he comes to his senses. The prescription on the bottle of pills on which he has overdosed reads: “Take two every day and destroy the Republican party.” His idea is that rock solid stupid.

From a New York Times article on the South Carolina situation:

Their grievance list was long: it cited the senator for calling opponents of immigration law change “bigots,” holding the Republican Party “hostage” by participating in bipartisan maneuvers, voting for the Wall Street bailout and tarnishing the ideals of freedom.

It even criticized Mr. Graham, a Republican and the state’s senior senator, as having “stated on many occasions that his primary concern is to ‘be relevant.’ ”

The party had no such criticism for the other senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint.

In fact, Mr. DeMint, a Republican in his first term, is the leader of a movement to pull the party in the opposite direction from Mr. Graham’s conciliatory approach. The political action committee he founded, called the Senate Conservatives Fund, backs only candidates who are rock-solid conservatives, and adherents to his views have led the efforts to censure Mr. Graham.

The two senators say they are friends whose differences are exaggerated by the news media, and Mr. DeMint has not personally criticized Mr. Graham or called for his censure.

But their contrasting strategies have brought home to South Carolina the struggle over the future of the Republican Party and have put them on opposite sides of important Senate primaries in states like Florida, where Mr. DeMint supports a vocal conservative, Marco Rubio, and Mr. Graham supports Gov. Charlie Crist.

In California, Mr. DeMint supports Chuck DeVore, in defiance of the national party leadership and Mr. Graham, who said he would campaign for Carly Fiorina.

Here in South Carolina, Mr. Graham’s vote to confirm Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, among other positions, has cost him the support of many conservatives, as have his comments that voters want politicians to reach across the aisle and that Republicans need to do a better job of attracting younger voters and minorities.

I have taken pains in the past to point out that DeMint’s idea of conservatism and someone who lives in the northeast (where only 6% of the population have a favorable view of the GOP) may differ wildly - ON THE ISSUES. The fact that so many conservatives confuse “issues” with “principles” shouldn’t surprise anyone considering they get most of their information from people like Rush Limbaugh who make the exact same mistake. A northeastern conservative can hold to the exact same principles as a southern conservative but differ in the ideological lens through which they view the world. Why this makes a northeastern conservative suspect goes to the heart of the debate in the party today.

Issues and principles are not the same, have never been the same, and will never be the same. And someone like Graham who gets a 90% lifetime conservative rating and is seen as a “moderate” by many conservatives proves my point spectacularly. In this case, DeMint conservatives are confusing temperament with principles. Just as many on the right believe that criticizing their idols like Palin, Limbaugh, and other cotton candy conservatives makes someone, somehow, less beholden to conservative principles than they. Principles be damned - it’s whether you are sufficiently hateful toward the opposition that is the yardstick where someone’s conservative bona fides are measured. If conservatism was a philosophy today instead of a rigid, ideological religion, such nonsense would be laughed out of the room.

Madness.

I disagreed with Graham on Sotomayer, cap and trade, and the judges compromise. And I resented his intimations that he held a superior moral position on immigration reform - something that smacked of arrogance even if he was pandering to Hispanics by playing it that way. But Graham has been a reliable conservative vote on so many other issues, one wonders why his apostasy in these few cases would condemn him to be cast into the outer darkness by conservatives. It only proves that the DeMint notion of a party in lockstep and a prisoner of its own rigid ideology, will probably dominate the landscape in 2010.

At what cost? Let’s be frank and acknowledge that the DeMint idea of conservatism is much more ideological than pragmatic, more beholden to the holy writ of purity than reason and logic, and requires a plethora of litmus tests on issues to join his scowling band (ideologues have no sense of humor at all). Couple that with the belief that saying anything halfway nice about the president or the political opposition disqualifies one from membership and you have the perfect recipe for a permanent, minority party.

Perhaps this has to happen in order for a revival to take place. Perhaps the DeMints of the party have to be beaten so badly that they are once and for all, totally discredited in the eyes of conservatives in the rest of the country. Only then can a reasonable, pragmatic conservatism emerge that acknowledges adherence to DeMint principles, but lowers the ideological temperature to be more inclusive.

It may very well be that DeMint’s southern fried conservatism will do very well in 2010. Certainly the Democrats are helping out a ton there. But beyond that, the future is clouded by notion that events may very well play more into the Democrat’s hands in 2012 and whatever gains made at the polls in the Mid-Term elections would be washed away.

America is not an ideological country. And believing the route to majority status can be achieved by being more wild eyed and rigid than the opposition is a losing proposition. I’m not sure that Graham’s approach is 100% the way to victory. But it’s a damn sight closer to what’s needed than where DeMint wants to take the party.

Destination DeMint: Over a cliff.

By: Rick Moran at 11:03 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

11/28/2009
IT’S STILL A GOOD IDEA TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS

With the unraveling of the temperature aspect of global warming, what about the other half of the equation?

What about the rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

The AGW theory rests on two pillars; the rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere correlated with the rise in temperatures over the previous several decades. As even Ken Trenberth of CRU pointed out in one of the hacked emails:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong.

Since 1998, temps have flatlined while CO2 levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise. No amount of massaging the models can make that singular fact go away.

But let’s leave temperature problems behind and concentrate on CO2 levels. Are these measurements a fraud too? Are dozens of independent measuring centers in collusion to show a dramatic rise in CO2 levels in the troposphere?

This is the problem that deniers have when they say the entire AGW theory has been “debunked.” There isn’t a “consensus” that CO2 levels are rising. It is a measurable fact, independently confirmed around the world.

The problem for AGW advocates has always been to answer the question, what does it mean for climate? Most atmospheric physicists will not hazard a guess in that direction. Temps don’t concern them. They are interested in the chemical and molecular makeup of the atmosphere.

And right now, CO2 levels are about double what they were before industrial civilization.

(How scientists measure CO2 levels is one of those jaw dropping little tricks that impress to no end laymen like me. They measure gasses that have been trapped in air bubbles on the Antarctic ice sheet. They can date the samples using a fairly simple formula and are reasonably certain of their accuracy.)

Is this rise in CO2 a cause for concern? About 500 million years ago, CO2 was 20 times higher in the atmosphere. The average temp was much hotter (no polar ice caps) and oxygen content was also much higher. Life flourished in these hotter temps and the extra oxygen allowed for gigantic growth of the dinosaurs.

What’s different today is that the oceans are acting like a carbon sink, absorbing up to 70% of man made emissions. While the IPCC has said it is uncertain what effect this will have on the biosphere, there are already some indications that lower life forms - algae, plankton, coral - are slowing in growth.

If you understand that about 70% of the world’s humans depend on the oceans for their lives, you begin to see the outlines of disaster. Plankton and algae are absolutely vital to the food chain in the oceans and if they start disappearing, so do a lot of other life forms. The coral are also a huge part of life in the ocean and their colonies are slowing in growth dramatically in some parts of the ocean where there are reliable measurements.

It is too soon to blame this on rising levels of CO2 exclusively but the correlation is troubling. There is also the chance that warming oceans would change the almost magical currents that recycle ocean water around the world, bringing warm water from the south Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to the northern latitudes in Europe and America which makes the climate much milder than it otherwise would be.

(Ocean temps are another question and that data too, has suffered from inaccurate and suspect measurements.)

But the doubling of CO2 levels in the atmosphere cannot be ignored, nor can the rise of the gas in the oceans. That’s why it makes sense to make a concerted effort to reduce our emissions even if the temperature isn’t rising. There may or may not be a direct relationship between rising temps and rising CO2 levels. But dramatically rising atmospheric and ocean levels of the gas require us to take steps that are prudent, and that won’t destroy our economies in the process.

First and foremost we must wean ourselves from oil and coal as our primary source of energy. Whether we are at peak oil is not an issue. Demand is rising incredibly fast and supplies will be very tight. This is not a temporary problem. Globalization has allowed many third world economies to begin growing at astronomical rates while China and India’s energy requirements are also off the charts. Supply simply can’t keep up with demand even if we drilled every drop from our own coasts and wring every molecule out of what we have on land while demanding OPEC companies dramatically increase their output.

The way out of our bind is not through solar power, or wind power, or nuclear power, but a combination of all three with a little geothermal thrown in for good measure. If we started now with a crash course, we could build 100 nuclear power plants in the next 20 years. Sure, we’d have to bite the bullet and find the political will to store the waste. But perhaps somewhere in the next 20 years, Breeder reactors would be perfected where the fuel could be recycled. All it needs is political leadership and the will to make it work.

Solar and wind power are much more problematic. Industrial scale solar is not feasible at the present time. Neither will wind power be anything more than a local solution for decades to come. But the process of changing that must start now. Weaning ourselves from foreign oil should have been a top national security concern for the last 30 years and we could cut our reliance in half by 2030 if we started now.

The president’s alternative energy plans are, for the most part, sound. The goals are unrealistic (10% energy produced by alternative energy by 2020 where we produce less than 3% today), but there’s plenty of money for research and development. More than $80 billion over the next 5 years will be spent developing everything from new solar cells to batteries that will power the next generation of electric cars.

Even without global warming, these ideas are sound investments in our future. No cap and trade. No silly carbon gimmicks. No UN takeover of our economies. And no destruction of the oil and coal industries. In fact, we should step up our exploration and drilling while finding ways to burn fossil fuels more cleanly. That last is necessary so that we don’t choke on our own industrial waste, while making our cities healthier places to live.

We don’t need global warming catastrophism to see that it is simple common sense to find ways to lower our emissions of greenhouse gases like CO2. Draconian targets are not necessary nor would they likely be achievable anyway.

Perhaps it’s time to separate the concept of CO2 emissions from rising temperatures. If we could address CO2 as an independent issue, we might see the efficacy of lowering emissions for its own sake rather than have the issue get mixed up in the messy politics of global warming.

By: Rick Moran at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (21)

11/27/2009
WARMING ADVOCATES: ‘REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL!

1-61

The human mind is an extraordinary organ, isn’t it? Perhaps one of its greatest fetes is its ability to compartmentalize information so that one side of the brain can ignore what the other side is trying to tell it. In extreme cases, this results in psychosis where the ignored memory is buried deep in the subconscious but still manifests itself in the outward behavior of the patient.

In the case of warming advocates, the logical side of the brain is being shut down so that the emotional part of the brain can continue as if nothing has happened recently that challenges their deeply held views toward climate change. It is a classic dissociative response, as Wikpedia describes it:

Dissociation is an unexpected partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s conscious or psychological functioning that cannot be easily explained by the person. Dissociation is a mental process that severs a connection to a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity.[1] Dissociation can be a response to trauma, and perhaps allows the mind to distance itself from experiences that are too much for the psyche to process at that time.[2] Dissociative disruptions can affect any aspect of a person’s functioning.

Now, a rational response to Climategate among warming advocates would be to examine the document dump from the CRU hack, and realize at the very least that serious questions about data on which much of the temperature theories regarding AGW are based need to be answered. There is no need to abandon one’s overall belief in AGW to do this. All that is needed is to challenge one’s basic assumptions about what we think we know.

But that isn’t happening - at least, not by most AGW believers. What is ironic is that perhaps the least rational warming advocate (and political commentator) George Monbiot (whose name became synonymous with “Moonbat”), has penned the most rational response among the promoters of AGW.

I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people’s denial. Pretending that this isn’t a real crisis isn’t going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We’ll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.

[...]

Some people say that I am romanticising science, that it is never as open and honest as the Popperian ideal. Perhaps. But I know that opaqueness and secrecy are the enemies of science. There is a word for the apparent repeated attempts to prevent disclosure revealed in these emails: unscientific.

The crisis has been exacerbated by the university’s handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond. RealClimate reports that “We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.” In other words, the university knew what was coming three days before the story broke. As far as I can tell, it sat like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for disaster to strike.

The tack of AGW advocates seems to be to concentrate solely on the release of the emails to make their case that the evidence can be construed different ways by different people.

Just for fun, let’s concede that point to AGW advocates. Their problem is that the emails only constitute 5% of the released documents and the real meat of the hack - so far - has been the revelations about computer codes used to power the models on which so much of the temperature evidence is based. In a word, they are “buggy” - and thus, other scientists would find it impossible to replicate their experimental results.

Even beyond that, is the little reported, and perhaps even more disturbing news from New Zealand where the scientists working for the government’s climate lab were stupid enough to attempt to put one over on the public via the release of a climate graph along with the raw data from temperature stations around the country. To make a long story short, while the graph showed an alarming increase in temperature over the past century - ostensibly due to human activity - the raw data on which the graph was based tells another story:

What did we find? First, the station histories are unremarkable. There are no reasons for any large corrections. But we were astonished to find that strong adjustments have indeed been made.

About half the adjustments actually created a warming trend where none existed; the other half greatly exaggerated existing warming. All the adjustments increased or even created a warming trend, with only one (Dunedin) going the other way and slightly reducing the original trend.

The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below. There is nothing in the station histories to warrant these adjustments and to date Dr Salinger and NIWA have not revealed why they did this.

One station, Hokitika, had its early temperatures reduced by a huge 1.3°C, creating strong warming from a mild cooling, yet there’s no apparent reason for it.

We have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emissions of CO2—it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.

Why would a temperature graph supposedly based on raw data readings from stations around New Zealand show a different result when others attempt to apply the same data points to their own graph?

I am not a scientist so I don’t know if there is a logical explanation for this. There may be. The scientist in charge - David Wratt - gave this explanation for the discrepancy:

The NIWA climate controversy took a new twist tonight with the release of new data from the government run climate agency.

Reeling from claims that it has massaged data to show a 150 year warming trend where there isn’t one, NIWA’s chief climate scientist David Wratt, an IPCC vice-chair on the 2007 AR4 report, issued a news release stating adjustments had been made to compensate for changes in sensor locations over the years.

While such an adjustment is valid, it needs to be fully explained so other scientists can test the reasonableness of the adjustment.

And Wratt is refusing to release the data so that other scientists can duplicate his results - except for one temp station:

Wratt is refusing to release data his organisation claims to have justifying adjustments on other weather stations, meaning the science cannot be reviewed. However, he has released information relating to Wellington temperature readings, and they make for interesting reading.

Here’s the rub. Up until 1927, temperatures for Wellington had been taken at Thorndon, only 3 m above sea level and an inner-city suburb. That station closed and, as I suspected in my earlier post, there is no overlap data allowing a comparison between Thorndon and Kelburn, where the gauge moved, at an altitude of 135 metres.

With no overlap of continuous temperature readings from both sites, there is no way to truly know how temperatures should be properly adjusted to compensate for the location shift.

So it’s back to square one with the onus of proof squarely on the government scientist to release the data so that his work can be verified.

One would think that before we employ methods like cap and trade or other draconian carbon reducing gimmicks to cut our emissions, that we make sure it is, 1) necessary, and 2) that it will actually save the planet. As for the latter, there is no reliable information that drastically cutting CO2 emissions will do anything to slow warming. It’s not even clear that it will reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. As for the former, I agree somewhat with Eugene Robinson:

The fact is that climate science is fiendishly hard because of the enormous number of variables that interact in ways no one fully understands. Scientists should welcome contrarian views from respected colleagues, not try to squelch them. They should admit what they don’t know.

It would be great if this were all a big misunderstanding. But we know carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and we know the planet is hotter than it was a century ago. The skeptics might have convinced each other, but so far they haven’t gotten through to the vanishing polar ice.

Well, that last by Robinson depends on what you read. Antarctica’s ice is growing, while the Arctic ice seems to be shrinking.

Is the planet hotter than it was a century ago? If it is - and the thrust of Climategate revelations would seem to indicate that this is once again, an open question - is it a statistical fluke, a natural hiccup in the gradual warming we have seen for the last 10,000 years made more pronounced by a measured lack of solar storms? Or has it been caused by industrialized civilization?

Trillions of dollars, the health and vibrancy of the world’s economies, and perhaps the future of life on the planet depends on the answer. I don’t think it too much to ask that we get it right. And those AGW advocates in denial over this growing scientific scandal - perhaps the biggest since Piltdown Man was shown to be a hoax - need to reunite the two sides of their brains that are in conflict and get to work.

By: Rick Moran at 10:57 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

11/26/2009
ALL OF A SUDDEN, THE SCIENCE ISN’T ‘SETTLED?’

The meltdown continues among those who sought to stifle scientific debate about man made global warming by claiming the science proving such was “settled,” or “solid,” or undeniable.”

Latest to make an ass of himself is Alan Combs who is a few days behind the curve as far as what the CRU hack has revealed:

Climate scientists who just released “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” say ice sheets are melting at an increased rate, and future sea-level rise will be higher than previously forecast. But scientific evidence means nothing to those with an anti-global warming agenda, who point to illegally hacked mails to try to prove that global warming is a hoax. Sadly for them, the anti-global-warming hysteria isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sadly for Alan, the emails constituted about 5% of the total information that has been spilling out on to the internet for nearly a week now. Charlie Martin went into the “Harry Read Me” file that was kept by a harried programmer who couldn’t replicate the “scientific” findings of Mann and Jones because the computer code they used to reach their conclusion was such a mess. Earth to Alan: If you or others can’t duplicate your experimental results - in this case, temperature data - then your theory doesn’t pass muster.

Then there’s Marc Sheppard’s piece that delves more deeply into the codes and finds enormous problems with them. Evidence of fraud? The jury is out on that. But even giving the scientists in question the benefit of the doubt any fool can see that their theory on millenial temps is in deep, deep trouble.

Except the science is settled, right? Al Gore said so back in 2007:

Even once-skeptical Republicans are coming over to Gore’s side — and it seems the debate has shifted from arguing whether there is a climate crisis to disagreement over how to fix it.

The science is settled, Gore told the lawmakers. Carbon-dioxide emissions — from cars, power plants, buildings and other sources — are heating the Earth’s atmosphere.

Others agreed:

John Quiggin, economist

* “There’s no longer any serious debate among climate scientists about either the reality of global warming or about the fact that its substantially caused by human activity…” [2]

David Milliband, UK Environment Minister

* “I think that the scientific debate has now closed on global warming, and the popular debate is closing as well”[3]

Camilla Cavendish

* “The science debate is effectively over. The Stern review means that the economic debate is all but over. Only the political debate is left…”[4]

The science has never been “settled,” or “closed, or “effectively over.” There is good evidence that supports the theory and good evidence that rejects it. What is so hard about accepting that fact? What is so difficult about having an open debate without having skeptics compared to Holocaust deniers and Nazis?

Colmes and others who are seeing the ground shift under their feet as their long held beliefs are revealed as not set in stone, are dealing with this situation by saying they were for open debate all along and it is the skeptics that were for closing it!

RealClimate - a creature of the very lab where the emails and other data emerged - is now sounding a reasonable note:

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

They sound almost reasonable, don’t they? Of course, the real skeptics in the scientific community did not accuse the CRU or any other lab of being communists, or part of a global conspiracy. That’s for the nutcases who are saying today that the entire warming theory has been “disproved.” No responsible skeptic has made that claim as far as I can tell. If they have, they are as bad as Colmes and his ilk who are ignoring the probability of at least some fraud and certainly an effort to stifle dissent in the crudest way imaginable at the CRU lab.

George Monbiot blames…the skeptics!

It is true that much of what has been revealed could be explained as the usual cut and thrust of the peer review process, exacerbated by the extraordinary pressure the scientists were facing from a denial industry determined to crush them. One of the most damaging emails was sent by the head of the climatic research unit, Phil Jones. He wrote “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

One of these papers which was published in the journal Climate Research turned out to be so badly flawed that the scandal resulted in the resignation of the editor-in-chief. Jones knew that any incorrect papers by sceptical scientists would be picked up and amplified by climate change deniers funded by the fossil fuel industry, who often – as I documented in my book Heat – use all sorts of dirty tricks to advance their cause.

Yes - all that “extraordinary pressure” from fellow scientists determined to “crush them” brings out the momma in me. I just want to wrap my arms around Jones et. al. and protect them from those mean old meanies who disagree with them.

Proof that deniers are all funded by oil companies - or even prominent ones like Lindzen or McIntyre - is a little scarce from George. And how ironic is it to accuse skeptics of “dirty tricks” when the emails show that Jones and Mann used every trick in the book to keep dissenting views out of important journals?

But Monbiot sees a “crisis” for the global warming community. I don’t see it as a crisis at all. This is the absolute best thing that could have happened to the debate over climate change.

When I asked Charlie Martin on my show the other night whether I thought this would slow down cap and trade and other AGW gimmicks he thought it wouldn’t, although cap and trade may already have been dead in the US senate. But I have to disagree. The story is out there despite an amusing refusal by the major media to cover it. What makes it amusing is that they still believe they are the gatekeepers with the ability to keep a story they don’t like under wraps. But people get a lot of their news now from the internet and there is just no way this story will die anytime soon.

This will give new impetus to skeptics who may find the atmosphere to publish their findings a little friendlier. And if their papers are bogus, or flawed, they will be handled the way all science should be handled; their peers will vet their findings ruthlessly and thoroughly. If they can’t stand up to scrutiny then they will be rejected. And the same goes for the other side in the debate.

It won’t be perfect. One thing those emails honestly show is that the scientists are human. They are as susceptible to human emotions like jealousy, anger, and envy as non-scientists. They are not robots and therefore, the process will not be without problems.

But it is a process that has served us well for 500 years and has led to astonishing breakthroughs in knowledge despite the problems. Eventually, the observed phenomenon and measured data will give us enough facts to honestly reach conclusions about AGW - hopefully without much political pressure. That last may be a pipe dream but if anything can teach the scientific community to leave politics to the side, it is this scientific scandal that is as much about the politics of global warming as anything else.

By: Rick Moran at 10:28 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

11/25/2009
THE ABSOLUTE MORAL AUTHORITY TO ACT LIKE AN ASS

I like Uncle Jimbo over at Blackfive. He usually has something interesting to say about hot military issues and is passionate about defending our people in uniform.

He is a retired Special Operations Master Sergeant so his bona fides to comment on this Allahpundit post are not in question.

It is his over the top, un-called for response to Allah’s observations about the Special Forces men who captured a wanted terrorist and now face assault charges, that is the issue. And Jimbo does not come out of the scrum looking very good. In fact, he raises some issues that need addressing not so much because Allah needs defending (if he wishes, Allah can do that himself), but because in a democracy with an all-volunteer military, there are lines in debate that must not be crossed by either side.

Here’s what Allah wrote about the event:

I like Goldfarb’s take: “A fat lip? That’s enough to get you rough military justice from the Obama administration, but blow up the World Trade Center and you get all the due process rights of the civilian criminal justice system.” Even so, the fact that this turd got the Iraqi authorities involved may have left Central Command with little choice here. The last thing the military needs right now is another detainee-abuse headache, especially with some Iraqi pols already leaning on them about withdrawal. Giving the SEALs a zero-tolerance wrist slap reminds other troops not to do anything more seriously stupid that might be exploited politically. And it will be a wrist slap, I’m sure: The last thing The One needs after shipping KSM off to NYC for his close-up is the image of SEALs being hauled off to prison for busting some jihadi in the face. In fact, according to Fox, the SEALs requested a court-martial rather than nonjudicial punishment, presumably because they know full well how awful this looks for the military. Prediction: Wrist slap.

Jimbo thinks Allah too dismissive:

Aww c’mon now. I do my best to avoid red on red fire, but sometimes it is absolutely called for. Noted beta male and “many moons ago” entertaining blogger Allahpundit at Hot Air throws three Navy SEALs under the bus just to appease people who are only safe to be appeased, himself included, because of these rough men. No link from me.

Yes, yes, lets all whip it out and compare. No doubt Jimbo’s is bigger than Allah’s. But beyond the testosterone challenge to the “beta male,” there is a an unsettling reference and echo of the “chickenhawk” argument used by the left against supporters of the war who criticized soldiers that came out against the conflict; only those who enjoy the absolute moral authority of having served or who are serving, can criticize the military.

Jimbo returns to this despicable lefty meme at the end of his tirade:

I realize you get paid to say controversial shite all day long. Every once in a while you ought to take a gander at who gives you the freedom to flap your freakin’ gums and think twice before you decide that zero-tolerance demands that your betters suffer for some bullshit like this. Don’t offer the PC losers cover, ever. They will use it against my friends.

Who, in fact, gives Allah the “freedom to flap [his] freakin’ gums” about anything? That would be the Constitution, of course, and the men and women who make its precepts come alive.

Some of them are in the military, our intelligence services, our Coast Guard. I would argue that it’s also the cop on the beat, the sheriff on our interstates, and the state police who also stand watch over our freedoms as well. No law and order - precious little freedom.

And behind them, a veritable army that keeps our military supplied with equipment and the tools necessary to do their job. Our hero warriors are not alone on a hill, standing a silent sentinel to protect us. He is not naked, armed with a spear to fight off the wolves and brigands who would attack us. In addition to possessing the courage and dedication to duty, he is the best armed, best equipped, most technologically advanced, most deadly tool of war civilization has ever seen. And he didn’t get that way all by himself.

The rest of us who were not called to service - and there is little doubt in this day and age that military service is a calling - are as much a part of the defense of this nation as Jimbo. We are grateful for his service, grateful for his comrades who are still serving. But to posit the notion that they alone have the ability, the right to criticize or comment on their efforts to defend us is arrogant posturing.

Allah’s rather mild observations about the politics of the situation may have been off putting to some. Clearly, he was unaware that a “wrist slap” would have serious repercussions for the careers of the Special Forces soldiers who captured the terrorist, as Jimbo heatedly points out.

But to use the chickenhawk argument as Jimbo is doing to lambaste the writer is sickening - and ironic given Jimbo’s remonstrance that Allah was criticizing the soldiers “just to appease people who are only safe to be appeased… because of these rough men.” It is ironic because he is using a lefty meme to criticize Allah for believing as they do - strange rhetorical bedfellows indeed.

The military is not infallible, as Jimbo has pointed out frequently. But neither should those who serve in it be elevated to a separate, higher moral plane in our culture. Being a member of the warrior fraternity in America is a voluntary undertaking. While this bestows a responsibility which the rest of us are not encumbered, no special rights are granted as a result of their volunteerism that would endow their speech with extra impetus, or give their thoughts a patina of moral infallibility - most especially when the argument is advanced that not having served in the military makes one less concerned, less morally responsible for our national security, and hence, their criticism less valid.

All of us contribute to our national defense what we can, where we can. It is a sophist’s argument that serving or not serving matters one whit to the power and cogency of one’s arguments. Some of Jimbo’s criticism of Allah’s analysis rings true. But he was dead wrong to bring up the chickenhawk meme to try and discredit it.

By: Rick Moran at 10:42 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (21)

11/24/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: CLIMATE CHANGE ON TRIAL

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome technology writer Charlie Martin to discuss the CRU scandal and its implications for science, for AGW, and for society.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 6:26 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

THINKING IMPURE THOUGHTS IS MORE THAN A MORTAL SIN IF YOU’RE A REPUBLICAN

When I was in grade school (St. Raymond, Mount Prospect, IL), there was a ritual that we looked forward to every Friday afternoon.

Along about two O’Clock, the nuns would herd us into the church so that the good priests (and they were good) could hear our confessions.

Now I don’t know how confession is done today in the Catholic church, having lapsed into first apostasy, then agnosticism, and finally atheism. But back then, you went into a closet sized little room with a wall separating you and the priest where you were supposed to spill the beans on all the sins you committed for the past week.

I should mention that if we were really lucky, confessions would last until three O’Clock which meant no more school for the day and an early start to the weekend. (In 8th grade, a few of us rowdies would make sure of this by spending 5 minutes listing our sins, thus assuring a glacial pace to the proceedings. One of the priests caught on and, although amused, asked us not to commit such sacrilege against the sacraments again.)

To be honest, I hated the whole idea of confession. I thought back then that it was one of those little tortures the Catholic Church invented to control their flock. The priest, after all, knew damn well who most of the penitents were - especially in my case since we lived 3 doors down from the rectory. What better way to control another than know their sins?

At any rate, the way I “confessed” was tell the priest stuff like “I sinned against the 2nd commandment 10 times, the 6th commandment 5 times, the 7th commandment twice…and I had impure thoughts 3 times!”

“Impure thoughts” at my age was making goo-eyes at Rene Russo and wishing I could see her with almost no clothes on while kissing her - on the lips! Our nuns (Sisters of Mercy) were very, very big on impure thoughts and constantly warned us how such could lead to hellfire and damnation.

It was all made up anyway. As a 14 year old, you probably have “impure thoughts” three times a minute much less in a week. And counting the transgressions against the second commandment of taking God’s name in vain would have required a room-sized computer to properly calculate.

Anyway, it’s a good thing some Republicans are on the ball when it comes to those in the party who might be thinking “impure thoughts” and thus transgress against the “principles” for which the GOP stands:

The battle among Republicans over what the party should stand for — and how much it should accommodate dissenting views on important issues — is probably going to move from the states to the Republican National Committee when it holds its winter meeting this January in Honolulu.

Republican leaders are circulating a resolution listing 10 positions Republican candidates should support to demonstrate that they “espouse conservative principles and public policies” that are in opposition to “Obama’s socialist agenda.” According to the resolution, any Republican candidate who broke with the party on three or more of these issues– in votes cast, public statements made or answering a questionnaire – would be penalized by being denied party funds or the party endorsement.

The proposed resolution was signed by 10 Republican national committee members and was distributed on Monday morning. They are asking for the resolution to be debated when Republicans gather for their winter meeting.

The resolution invokes Ronald Reagan, and noted that Mr. Reagan had said the Republican Party should be devoted to conservative principles but also be open to diverse views. President Reagan believed, the resolution notes, “that someone who agreed with him 8 out of 10 times was his friend, not his opponent.”

Looking over the list, I am happy to report that I support at least 8 and maybe 9 of the litmus test positions. (Long time readers might have some fun by guessing which one - or two - I can be considered “impure” for not supporting):

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

A few quibbles; what is “effective action” against Iran and North Korea (#7)? I don’t support military action unless they are an imminent threat to us or Israel (or South Korea).

Also, “rationing and denial of health care” (#9) is already with us in private insurance company decisions. Is it the GOP position that it is ok for private industry to ration but not government? Tell that one to the old folks.

Of the rest, I think DOMA has got to go. Otherwise, I score well on this test and demand my copy receive a Gold Star and that I get an extra ration of chocolate milk at lunch.

But what’s the point? About 99% of Republicans support 8-10 of those litmus tests. Probably 90% support all 10. Instead of silly, stupid gimmicks, why not just come out and say, “Snowe, Collins, Crist, and the rest of you RINO’s get squat from us!” Why go through the rigmarole of pretending to weed out apostates by giving grown men and women a childish “test” of purity?

I will answer that by saying simply that we have a bunch of idiots in charge of the party. They - the elites - think they are being quite clever by trying to satisfy the base by showing that they are getting tough by denying funds to those who don’t quite measure up to “conservative principles.”

You want conservative principles” How about prudence? How “prudent” is it to brand the Obama administration “socialist?” What about “probity?” Integrity and honesty is lacking in a party that tolerates its members festooning bills with earmarks. What about “variety” which is a Kirkian principle of eschewing systems that promote a “deadening conformity?” What are these litmus tests but the very definition of conformity?

What about the principle “that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.” I see quite a bit of “permanence” in those 10 litmus tests, but no room for the American virtue of “change.” It’s the same old, same old in this stale repetition of talking points, not a reaffirmation of the viability of conservatism in American society.

Yes, deny funds to those who make a mockery of party principles and conservative ideas. This isn’t rocket science. Everybody knows who they are and party leaders are only making the GOP look ridiculous by making candidates act like 10 year olds, forcing this kind of conformity in the form of a “purity test” on them.

The nuns at St. Raymonds would no doubt have approved, however. Nothing they liked better than sniffing out “impure thoughts.”

Perhaps the next missive from national party leaders will contain the “penance” that must be performed before the transgressors get back in their good graces.

Five “Our Fathers” and whole recitation of the rosary ought to do the trick.

By: Rick Moran at 10:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (29)

11/23/2009
‘THE COST OF DYING:’ FALSE CHOICES OR THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN HEALTHCARE?

I watched this 60 Minutes segment last night on “The Cost of Dying” with extraordinarily mixed emotions. From anger to fear to horror, I have rarely had such an emotional reaction to an issue.

But once past the knee jerk outrage, I began to assess the moral and ethical dimensions of the problem and am extremely unsettled in where these questions lead me.

Some background on the segment:

Last year, Medicare paid $50 billion just for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients’ lives - that’s more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education.

And it has been estimated that 20 to 30 percent of these medical expenditures may have had no meaningful impact. Most of the bills are paid for by the federal government with few or no questions asked.

You might think this would be an obvious thing for Congress and the president to address as they try to reform health care. But what used to be a bipartisan issue has become a politically explosive one - a perfect example of the costs that threaten to bankrupt the country and how hard it’s going to be to rein them in. Dr. Byock leads a team that treats and counsels patients with advanced illnesses.

He says modern medicine has become so good at keeping the terminally ill alive by treating the complications of underlying disease that the inevitable process of dying has become much harder and is often prolonged unnecessarily.

“Families cannot imagine there could be anything worse than their loved one dying. But in fact, there are things worse. Most generally, it’s having someone you love die badly,” Byock said.

Asked what he means by “die badly,” Byock told Kroft, “Dying suffering. Dying connected to machines. I mean, denial of death at some point becomes a delusion, and we start acting in ways that make no sense whatsoever. And I think that’s collectively what we’re doing.”

Now for the moral questions raised by the piece; How much do we, as a society, value individual life? At what point does what’s good for the many outweigh what’s good for the one? Should anyone - insurance companies, government, or a “death panel” - have the right to tell a patient and their family when it is time to let go of life and allow the natural progression of their disease to kill them?

All of these questions and more like it are asked with the costs associated with end of life treatment always in the background. And it isn’t just the costs. It is the tremendous amount of health care resources devoted to people who have no hope of recovery but make choices like this patient:

Charlie Haggart is 68 years old and suffering from liver and kidney failure. He wants a double transplant, which would cost about $450,000. But doctors have told him he’s currently too weak to be a candidate for the procedure.

At a meeting with Haggart’s family and his doctors, Dr. Byock raised the awkward question of what should be done if he got worse and his heart or lungs were to give out.

He said that all of the available data showed that CPR very rarely works on someone in Haggart’s condition, and that it could lead to a drawn out death in the ICU.

“Either way you decide, we will honor your choice, and that’s the truth,” Byock reassured Haggart. “Should we do CPR if your heart were to suddenly stop?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“You’d be okay with being in the ICU again?” Byock asked.

“Yes,” Haggart said.

“I know it’s an awkward conversation,” Byock said.

“It beats second place,” Haggart joked, laughing.

Should someone make the decision to resuscitate this gentleman for him? Who?

This is what end of life caregivers are asking these days. And the solution, in an echo of Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” may be hard and fast rules on what kind of care the terminally ill can demand of the system:

By law, Medicare cannot reject any treatment based upon cost. It will pay $55,000 for patients with advanced breast cancer to receive the chemotherapy drug Avastin, even though it extends life only an average of a month and a half; it will pay $40,000 for a 93-year-old man with terminal cancer to get a surgically implanted defibrillator if he happens to have heart problems too.

“I think you cannot make these decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Byock said. “It would be much easier for us to say ‘We simply do not put defibrillators into people in this condition.’ Meaning your age, your functional status, the ability to make full benefit of the defibrillator. Now that’s going to outrage a lot of people.”

“But you think that should happen?” Kroft asked.

“I think at some point it has to happen,” Byock said.

Is Byock a ghoul? Or is he talking sense? This is a compassionate conflicted man if you watch the segment. The chasm he has opened beneath our feet is both a moral and practical one and the tightrope he is asking us to walk is very thin indeed. If we decide to take these circumstances and apply universal guidelines for the treatment of the dying, won’t individuals “slip through the cracks” and be condemned to die who might otherwise outlive a doctor’s expectations with treatment? How many people who are given 2 months, three months, six months to live end up amazing their physician by surviving for years?

And then there’s the question of resources devoted to the dying. Here’s a Dartmouth researcher who did a detailed study on patients in the last two years of their lives:

The institute did a detailed analysis of Medicare records for patients in the last two years of their lives. Fisher says it is more efficient for doctors to manage patients who are seriously ill in a hospital situation, and there are other incentives that affect the cost and the care patients receive. Among them: the fact that most doctors get paid based on the number of patients that they see, and most hospitals get paid for the patients they admit.

“The way we set up the system right now, primary care physicians don’t have time to spend an hour with you, see how you respond, if they wanted to adjust your medication,” Fisher said. “So, the easiest thing for everybody up the stream is to admit you to the hospital. I think 30 percent of hospital stays in the United States are probably unnecessary given what our research looks like.”

[...]

“In medicine we have turned the laws of supply and demand upside down,” Elliot Fisher said. “Supply drives its own demand. If you’re running a hospital, you have to keep that hospital full of paying patients. In order to, you know, to meet your payroll. In order to pay off your bonds.”

And, of course, the fact that these costs are rising at a frightening pace is also driving the debate over end of life care:

“The perverse incentives that exist in our system are magnified at end of life,” David Walker, the government’s former top accountant told Kroft.

Walker used to be the head of the Government Accountability Office. He now heads the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which is a strong advocate for reducing government debt. He says that 85 percent of the health care bills are paid by the government or private insurers, not by patients themselves. In fact most patients don’t even look at the bills.

“Does that make any sense to have, I mean, most things you buy, the customer has some impact,” Kroft remarked.

“We have a system where everybody wants as much as they can get, and they don’t understand the true cost of what they’re getting. The one thing that could bankrupt America is out of control health care costs. And if we don’t get them under control, that’s where we’re headed,” Walker said.

What all of this adds up to is that America is headed for the most difficult ethical and moral dilemmas in its history - questions that go to the very heart of what our country stands for, how we see ourselves; questions that deal with our deeply held religious beliefs, and perhaps most uncomfortable of all, cultural questions about the nature of life and death.

In all of this, the individual, and choices they have been able to make in the past about how they wish to exit this world, may very well be taken from them for the “good of the many.”

(Note: I hasten to add that there is nothing in either the Senate or House bill that directly deals with these questions, although the Medicare Cost Control panel certainly has that potential.)

When a society is faced with a crisis that may lead to its dissolution, is it a higher moral choice to abandon individual ethics and morality to save it? Are we really facing this kind of moral conundrum or am I setting up a “false choice” where another solution is available but I am refusing to acknowledge it?

I would like to think I have fairly presented the questions asked in the 60 Minutes segment. My personal belief is that the issues raised are impossible to discuss at this point because of the debate over reform and the political ramifications of discussing end of life treatment that would necessarily play into the fear mongering that arises whenever “unplugging grandma” is mixed in.

Here’s Doctor Byock on that subject:

“Well, this is a version then of pulling Grandma off the machine?” Kroft asked.

“You know, I have to say, I think that’s offensive. I spend my life in the service of affirming life. I really do. To say we’re gonna pull Grandma off the machine by not offering her liver transplant or her fourth cardiac bypass surgery or something is really just scurrilous. And it’s certainly scurrilous when we have 46 million Americans who are uninsured,” Byock said.

One thing that can be done was removed from the House bill because of Palin’s fearmongering; family doctors being paid to sit down with their Medicare patients to discuss living wills, end of life options, and educating their patients on the death process. The number of people who are unaware of these simple, common sense options are staggering. The idea that this is somehow cruel or would lead to doctors recommending that patients simply allow themselves to die was idiotic when the argument was made and, if you watch this segment closely, even more idiotic now.

A word about “rationing” which is the 800 lb gorilla in the room that I have avoided because of the idea that many opponents of health care reform can’t face the fact that we are already rationing resources. What’s interesting - and gives a depth of understanding to the moral dilemma we face - is that according to the Dartmouth study, rationing would be unnecessary if we dealt with end of life issues:

After analyzing Medicare records for end-of-life treatment, Fisher is convinced that there is so much waste in the present system that if it were eliminated there would be no need to ration beneficial care to anyone.

Multiple studies have concluded that most patients and their families are not even familiar with end-of-life options and things like living wills, home hospice and pain management.

“The real problem is that many of the patients that are being treated aggressively, if you ask them, they would prefer less aggressive care. They would prefer to be cared for at home. They’d prefer to go to hospice. If they were given a choice. But we don’t adequately give them a choice,” Fisher said.

“At some point, most doctors know that a patient’s not likely to get better,” Kroft remarked.

“Absolutely,” Fisher agreed. “Sometimes there’s a good conversation. Often there’s not. You know, patients are left alone to sort of figure it out themselves.”

I can’t stand people who approach these issues as if there is no real moral or ethical dilemma; that people should either be forced to die or that they should get any care they wish in order to hang on to life even after hope for recovery has expired. We are fast approaching a time when we will forced to make this choice and there is nothing easy or pat about it.

Those so certain of the moral ground beneath their feet are oblivious to the fact that they are really standing in quicksand. And their arrogant certainty about right and wrong is exposed as the sophistry it truly is.

By: Rick Moran at 10:56 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (52)

11/22/2009
‘IQ OF A CELERY STALK?’ WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT ONE?

“Prejudices are what fools use for reason.” - Voltaire.

Matt Taibbi this morning:

At the end of this decade what we call “politics” has devolved into a kind of ongoing, brainless soap opera about dueling cultural resentments and the really cool thing about it, if you’re a TV news producer or a talk radio host, is that you can build the next day’s news cycle meme around pretty much anything at all, no matter how irrelevant — like who’s wearing a flag lapel pin and who isn’t, who spent $150K worth of campaign funds on clothes and who didn’t, who wore a t-shirt calling someone a cunt and who didn’t, and who put a picture of a former Vice Presidential candidate in jogging shorts on his magazine cover (and who didn’t).

It doesn’t matter what the argument is about. What’s important is that once the argument starts, the two sides will automatically coalesce around the various instant-cocoa talking points and scream at each other until they’re blue in the face, or until the next argument starts.

And while some of us are old enough to remember that once upon a time, these arguments always had at least some sort of ideological flavor to them, i.e. the throwdowns were at least rooted in some sort of real political issue (war, taxes, immigration, etc.) we’ve now got a whole generation that is accustomed to screaming at cultural enemies as an end in itself, for the sheer dismal fun of it. Start fighting first, figure out the reasons later.

I must confess to the occasional foray into this kind of political “debate.” In a sense, it is irresistible. It gets tiresome writing about real issues, personalities, and “things that matter,” so a little devolution into the culture wars is sometimes just the thing to garner readers, get links, and start a lively conversation in the comments.

But is it really all a “distraction?” Many times, Americans argue by “substitution,” not able to finger exactly what it is that troubles us, and rather than explore the real reasons for our differences, use proxy issues instead. This convention is most pronounced when we try and talk about race, or more basically, our different worldviews. Most Americans don’t call out an opponent by screaming at him, “You Hegelian harlot! How dare you formulate your opinion based on the notion that Marx was right about religion being the opiate of the masses!” Instead, we just scream, “Socialist!” or “Fascist” at one another.

Is the “birther” argument a substitute for being uncomfortable about Obama’s race? Some would argue this is so. I think it deeper than that, going to the notion that Obama is so different from past presidents, not just racially, but his entire upbringing. He just isn’t like “us.” And since Americans like to think that presidents, regardless of party, share at least some of their “values,” it is much safer to argue that such a different man as Obama has no business being president because he wasn’t born here, or isn’t a “natural born” citizen.

Here, Taibbi really nails Palin to a cross:

Sarah Palin is the Empress-Queen of the screaming-for-screaming’s sake generation. The people who dismiss her book Going Rogue as the petty, vindictive meanderings of a preening paranoiac with the IQ of a celery stalk completely miss the book’s significance, because in some ways it’s really a revolutionary and innovative piece of literature.

Palin — and there’s just no way to deny this — is a supremely gifted politician. She has staked out, as her own personal political turf, the entire landscape of incoherent white American resentment. In this area she leaves even Rush Limbaugh in the dust.

The reason for that is that poor Rush is an anachronism, in the sense that his whole schtick revolves around talking about real political issues. And real political issues are boring.

Of course, Taibbi saying nothing that you haven’t read here - although, Damn! I wish I had come up with the “IQ of a celery stalk” jab first. But if you were to go to the comments below my recent PJM article, you would note that the overwhelming majority are not only Palin defenders, but that this strain of “resentment” - toward liberals, RINO’s, “elites,” or “the establishment” - colors their thinking to a degree not found anywhere else in American politics.

The left has its loons, for sure - rabidly partisan ideologues with the sense of humor of a Kangaroo and the ability to think independently of a locust. Their prejudices, however, are quite local; conservatives, Republicans, and the goober chewing, bible thumping, gun toting, rubes who live in flyover country.

But Palinites are universal resenters. I don’t think I’d go quite so far as Taibbi and bring race into the picture, but clearly these are “traditional Americans” who see the country changing politically, demographically, ethnically and are very uncomfortable about it. Palin, by speaking to their fears on a gut level, offers a refuge of sorts from the storm; reassuring those who need it that they are not alone, that there are others who share their fears.

They will tell you it’s all about “socialism” but these same folks didn’t seem to mind much when Bush pushed the prescription drug benefit, or the huge federal interference in education represented by the No Child Left Behind legislation. If Bush had gotten half the resistance on NCLB as these folks are giving the Democrats on health care, the education monstrosity would have died in committee.

I will admit that nationalizing the health care industry is a different kettle of fish altogether as is cap and trade, and card check. Government taking over 1/6 of the economy with consequences for personal liberty that can only be dimly glimpsed should be opposed. But Palin’s “death panels” demagoguery is proudly pointed to by her supporters as a “turning point” in the debate. Why fear mongering should be cause for celebration is beyond me, unless one is so besotted with ideological hatred of the opposition that reasoned debate over the many, many awful parts of the bills in question isn’t even considered.

As Taibbi points out, “reason” has got nothing to do with it:

Sarah Palin is on an endless crusade against assholes. It’s all she thinks about. She doesn’t really have any political ideas, in the classic sense of the word — in fact the only thing resembling real political convictions in Going Rogue revolve around the Trans-Alaska pipeline and how awesome she thinks it is.

Most of the rest of the book just catalogs her Gump-esque rise to national stardom (not having enough self-awareness to detect the monstrous narcissistic ambition that in reality was impelling her forward all along, she labors in the book to describe her various career leaps as lucky accidents or mystical acts of Providence) and the seemingly endless parade of meanies bent on tripping her up along the way. The book is really about her battles with these people, how much they did and do suck, and how difficult and inherently unfair life is for a decent hardworking American gal who just wants to live life, serve God, and try to be president without being bothered all the time.

Viewed through the prism of this particular brand of insanity (Palinsanity? does that work?), Katie Couric’s notorious Palin interview last year really was a cheap shot. After all, Katie was trying to nail Palin — which is mean! Who among us can’t sympathize with the experience of being sandbagged by some slick professional rival who catches you in a moment of weakness and, instead of lending a helping hand, drives a fireplace poker through your eye?

Palin has complained vociferously about press treatment of her. I agree it has been abominable, the worst, the most biased, the meanest I’ve seen since Nixon. The next question; “So? You expect you can do anything about it by whining?” Pointing a finger at the nattering nabobs of negative coverage has been tried already and only increased the venom. Smart politicians learn to ignore the slings and arrows of the press (or allow their partisans to defend them) while staying above the crap being tossed about by the likes of the NY Times or WaPo.

Taibbi is much meaner to Palin than I have been although many of his points are spot on. But unless she can somehow convince the Republican party that her appealing to our inner demons is the key to victory, she will continue to hover around 20% in the polls.

By: Rick Moran at 10:42 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (41)