Mittwoch, November 25, 2009

Who Will Rid Me Of This Troublesome...

The Archbishop of Canterbury was a troublesome man to the King. He consolidated Church holdings and took revenue from the King, King Henry II, to support the activities of the church.

Taking money from the King is rarely a good idea. Henry, in order to control the Church in England, largely to finally reduce corruption amongst the clergy, made the clergy subject to the secular court, meaning that the Church was no longer supreme over everything (but, perhaps, the King). The conflict came to a head at the Constitution of Clarendon, where the independence of the clergy was to be tamed and the link to Rome weakened. While the Archbishop of Canterbury didn't reject the reforms, he didn't sign on to them either. Because he failed to sign the 16 Constitutions of Clarendon, he was convicted of contempt of the court and fled the country.

He did return when the King backed down some under threat of excommunication from Rome. A diplomatic solution was found: however, the young King was coronated by the Archbishop of York, in defiance of tradition, and the Archbishop of Canterbury excommunicated the Archbishop of York, as well as the Bishops of London and Salisbury, and didn't stop there: he was on a roll, excommunicating his opponents.

The King was sick, but rose and cried thus:

What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?

This is a tad long, so it's been shortened in the popular history to "Who shall rid me of this troublesome priest?"

Which brings me to this.

Dr. Phil Jones, infamously now of the leaked emails, wrote this regarding an editor:

I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.

Well, that puts a lot into perspective, doesn't it?

The arrogance, the theological nature of discussion, the extreme intolerance of those behind AGW is now clear and visible to everyone.

Let us be thankful that the fate of the skeptics is not that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered in the Church for his transgressions agains the King.

History, thankfully (and despite probably how the AGW folks now feel about the skeptics), doesn't always repeat.

Dienstag, November 24, 2009

On the road...

I'm on the road right now and while there's a lot to say, it's gonna have to wait.

Suffice to say: the AGW proponents really have to prove their case now, rather than claim "we're the consensus": a manufactured consensus, one that deliberately represses legitimate dissent while claiming the sanctity of science.

We now know that science here has not been serviced well. The politicization of the subject can be clearly laid to the feet of folks like Hansen who quite apparently now have politicized this since Day One...

And you can get some mighty fine cheeseburgers in Ohio... :-)

Freitag, November 20, 2009

The Rules Of the Game...

Well, well, well.

There's this group called "futerra". Cute little name play there: future terra, the future of the earth.

According to their web site:

Futerra is the sustainability communications agency; from green to ethical, climate change to corporate responsibility. For over eight years we've helped you save the world.

They put together a little pamphlet called "The Rules of the Game".

Why were the principles created?

The game is communicating climate change; the rules will help us win it.

These principles were created as part of the UK Climate Change Communications Strategy, an evidence-based strategy aiming
to change public attitudes towards climate change in the UK. This is a 'short version' of a far longer document of evidence that can be found at There is plenty of evidence relating to attitudes towards and behaviour on climate change, general environmental behaviour change and the whole issue of sustainable development communication. As we reviewed the research for these principles, one 'überprinciple' emerged: "Changing attitudes towards climate change is not like selling a particular brand of soap – it's like convincing someone to use soap in the first place." At first glance, some of the principles may seem counter-intuitive to those who have been working on sustainable development or climate change communications for many years. Some confront dearly cherished beliefs about what works; a few even seem to attack the values or principles of sustainable development itself.

However, these principles are a first step to using sophisticated behaviour change modelling and comprehensive evidence from
around the world to change attitudes towards climate change. We need to think radically, and the Rules of the Game are a sign that future campaigns will not be 'business as usual'. This is a truly exciting moment.

It is an exciting moment, but not for the reasons they may think: this documents the concerted and systematic effort to manipulate the public. This is a clear admittance that the science isn't on their side (if it truly were, then this'd all not be necessary).

Let's think about this for a moment: the push is for an "evidence-based strategy". What is an evidence-based strategy?

Well, there's a link above to the Department Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - what should be a graveyard of technocrats - but seems to be very keen on setting up the end game instead. What do I mean?

According to this, evidence-based policy is basically "based on this evidence, we have to do ... a, b and c". It's all about replacing political policy with one that reduces political choice of how to handle problems. Politics basically becomes irrelevant: it makes no difference whether conservatives or social democrats are in power, the important thing is that the technocrats involved make the decisions "based on evidence" that if a is the problem, you solve the problem by doing b, c or d, but not x, y or z.

But of course that means that the politicians are fundamentally removed from the system, and given the increasing appearance that the AGW data - the evidence - has either been faked, severely distorted or that politics has trumped actual science, this means that someone was trying to cook the evidence to make the policy changes automatic...

There are six major sections. I've reformatted somewhat to make it easier to read, but haven't changed anything else.

1 blowing away myths

Many of the oft-repeated communications methods and messages of sustainable development have been dismissed by mainstream communicators, behaviour change experts and psychologists. Before we go into what works, our principles make a 'clean sweep' of what doesn't:

1. Challenging habits of climate change communication

Don't rely on concern about children's future or human survival instincts Recent surveys show that people without children may care more about climate change than those with children. "Fight or flight" human survival instincts have a time limit measured in minutes – they are of little use for a change in climate measured in years. Don't create fear without agency. Fear can create apathy if individuals have no 'agency' to act upon the threat. Use fear with great caution. Don't attack or criticise home or family It is unproductive to attack that which people hold dear.

2. Forget the climate change detractors

Those who deny climate change science are irritating, but unimportant. The argument is not about if we should deal with climate
change, but how we should deal with climate change.

3. There is no 'rational man'

The evidence discredits the 'rational man' theory – we rarely weigh objectively the value of different decisions and then take the clear self-interested choice.

4. Information can't work alone

Providing information is not wrong; relying on information alone to change attitudes is wrong. Remember also that messages about
saving money are important, but not that important.


The arrogance here is significant and telling: the arrogance is clear and disturbing. There is no rational man: well, there goes the basis for all of economics and a chunk of psychology right there. That is what I mean by arrogant: we are all apparently just a bunch of emoting idiots to be manipulated at will.

2 a new way of thinking

Once we've eliminated the myths, there is room for some new ideas. These principles relate to some of the key ideas emerging
from behaviour change modelling for sustainable development:

5. Climate change must be 'front of mind' before persuasion works

Currently, telling the public to take notice of climate change is as successful as selling tampons to men. People don't realise
(or remember) that climate change relates to them.

6. Use both peripheral and central processing

Attracting direct attention to an issue can change attitudes, but peripheral messages can be just as effective: a tabloid snapshot
of Gwyneth Paltrow at a bus stop can help change attitudes to public transport.

7. Link climate change mitigation to positive desires/aspirations

Traditional marketing associates products with the aspirations of their target audience. Linking climate change mitigation to home
improvement, self-improvement, green spaces or national pride are all worth investigating.

8. Use transmitters and social learning

People learn through social interaction, and some people are better teachers and trendsetters than others. Targeting these
people will ensure that messages seem more trustworthy and are transmitted more effectively.

9. Beware the impacts of cognitive dissonance

Confronting someone with the difference between their attitude and their actions on climate change will make them more likely to change their attitude than their actions.

Telling the public to take notice of climate change is as successful as selling tampons to men.

A telling comparison. Neither are needed.

The rest is the usual marketing messages that any good business school will sell you for a large fee.

3 linking policy and communications

These principles clearly deserve a separate section. All the evidence is clear – sometimes aggressively so – that 'communications in the absence of policy' will precipitate the failure of any climate change communications campaign right from the start:

10. Everyone must use a clear and consistent explanation of climate change

The public knows that climate change is important, but is less clear on exactly what it is and how it works.

11. Government policy and communications on climate change must be consistent

Don't 'build in' inconsistency and failure from the start.

This is nothing less than the call for the repression of dissent and the silencing of critical voices within the community, something that has been seen for years.

4 audience principles

In contrast to the myths, this section suggests some principles that do work. These principles are likely to lead directly to a set of general messages, although each poses a significant implementation challenge:

12. Create 'agency' for combating climate change

Agency is created when people know what to do, decide for themselves to do it, have access to the infrastructure in which to act,
and understand that their contribution is important.

13. Make climate change a 'home' not 'away' issue

Climate change is a global issue, but we will feel its impact at home – and we can act on it at home.

14. Raise the status of climate change mitigation behaviours

Research shows that energy efficiency behaviours can make you seem poor and unattractive. We must work to overcome these
emotional assumptions.

15. Target specific groups

A classic marketing rule, and one not always followed by climate change communications from government and other sources.

Energy efficiency behaviors can make you seem poor and unattractive?


What shale we now expect:: some sexy movies due out now on the flash and style of riding your bike to work? Action films about staying at home for holiday?

5 style principles

These principles lend some guidance on the evidence of stylistic themes that have a high chance of success:

16. Create a trusted, credible, recognised voice on climate change

We need trusted organisations and individuals that the media can call upon to explain the implications of climate change to the
UK public.

17. Use emotions and visuals

Another classic marketing rule: changing behaviour by disseminating information doesn't always work, but emotions and visuals usually do

In other words, the classic NGO approach: tug on your heartstrings so that we can support our Pringle Brigade members out there padding their resumes!

6 effective management

These principles are drawn primarily from the experience of others, both in their successes and in the problems they faced:

18. The context affects everything

The prioritisation of these principles must be subject to ongoing assessments of the UK climate change situation.

19. The communications must be sustained over time

All the most successful public awareness campaigns have been sustained consistently over many years.

20. Partnered delivery of messages will be more successful

Experience shows that partnered delivery is often a key component for projects that are large, complex and have many stakeholders.

Well, to be honest: this isn't anything new. As a matter of fact, it's pretty much boiler plate Marketing For Idiots prattle with all the right buzz words and key phrases.

But here we thought the image that the AGW folks were trying to put up for public consumption was that of the Noble Scientist warning the masses that Big Business was hiding the true story of how Corporate Greed was destroying Mother Nature.

Instead, they're the ones using the tools of modern marketing to use emotions and manipulation to reach their goals. Ironic, don't you think?


This, if and only if it is shown to be legitimate, is the proverbial smoking gun.

Almost literally.

I'll be most interested in the five-page PDF titled "The Rules of the Game" which is the game plan for everyone to follow.

Lot of careers about to be destroyed. Scientific fraud, even if for the noblest of causes (which this is not), remains scientific fraud.

Dienstag, November 17, 2009

WTC as Metaphor...

I've commented on the absurd situation surrounding the rebuilding of the WTC before.

And yes, it was a comment to a post by Bret Stephens at the WSJ.

He's reminded once again that there has been, functionally, no progress there, and that indeed there are multiple ways of viewing the WTC at this point in time.

It's where what effectively amounts to a show trial is now scheduled to be turned into a media circus.

It's where literally thousands of people are waiting for closure and rebirth.

It's also where petty scrabbling and pathetically disgusting incompetence has led to no reconstruction.

What I liked best, though, was his description of how to handle the execution of those responsible:

I have long thought it would be a good idea to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his accomplices to lower Manhattan. In my concept, the men would be taken by helicopter to a height of about 1,000 feet over Ground Zero and pushed out the door, so that they, too, could experience what so many of their victims did in the awful final flickering seconds of their lives.

Sure, that's a revenge fantasy. But it is a fitting one.

But what I really want to talk about here is the WTC as metaphor: a metaphor for how screwed up things really are.

After eight years in which the views and interests of, inter alia, the Port Authority, NYPD, MTA and EPA, the several governors of New York and New Jersey, lease-holder Larry Silverstein, various star architects, the insurance companies, contractors, unions and lawyers, the families of the bereaved, their self-appointed spokespersons, the residents of lower Manhattan and, yes, even the fish of the Hudson river have all been duly consulted and considered, this is what we've got: a site of mourning turned into a symbol of defiance turned into a metaphor of American incompetence—of things not going forward. It is, in short, the story of our decade.

Barack Obama, energetic and smart, was elected largely to change all that. But the thrust of his presidency so far has been in the direction of bloated government, deficits and health-care bills; paralysis over Afghanistan and Iran; the convulsions over Gitmo and the CIA torture memos. And now this: An effort to demonstrate the purity of our methods and motives that is destined, as all these things have been, to wind up as the legal equivalent of Ground Zero. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for whom no real justice will ever be meted, understood his targets well.

The President of these United States, Barack Hussein Obama, is indeed a failure of monumental proportions, comparable directly to the clusterf*ck of the WTC. The petty and the fearful, the corrupt and the power-hungry, the thugs wearing purple shirts and the ladies of pink appear to be calling the shots: too many died on that day to let their legacy be squandered and frittered away. Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves.

Think of it this way: as long as the WTC is not rebuilt, things will not get better. There is a malaise here, a sickness unto the heart, the ritual self-loathing of what once was the great liberal tradition in the United States, poisoned by greed and corruption from within and deliberately targeted for subversion from outside.

Rebuild the WTC. Rebuild it now.

But not that designed-by-committee-and-implemented-by-fools plan that has been bogged down by the small-minded and drained of vigor by the parasites that litter lower Manhattan, but redone with a vision of something bolder and better than ever before.

Don't sit and wallow in that self-pity and fear that appears to strangulate any sort of vision left in the City. That is the way of the petty, of the fearful, of the timid and of the pathetic.

Instead, go for the future. Dare to be great. dare to have a vision, with warts and faults, but dare to get things done.

It's what America is all about.

Sonntag, November 15, 2009

Climate Change, Despair, Copenhagen and the Rage of the Watermelons...

There's an emerging meme amongst the climate alarmists.

Of despair.

The APEC summit, you see, didn't go well: Asian countries no longer expect anything realistic to come of the Copenhagen conference due to start in a few days. While this is, in and of itself, eminently realistic, it has led to despair.

You see, the draft of the treaty calls for nothing less than the suborning of all human activity to counteract what the climate alarmists believe to be the approaching cataclysm.

Despite plenty of scientific evidence to the contrary?

What? You say that the scientific evidence is overwhelming and that the consensus must be true?

How do you explain, then, this?

That's right: 450 scientific, peer-reviewed articles questioning the consensus and taking a critical view of the evidence of the alarmists.

In a recent post, I said you need to follow the money: someone here has already called it the Climate-Industrial Complex. It has become a multi-billion dollar industry, living parasitically off government money, intolerant of challenges to its supremacy and, above all, all but a religion in name, a secular religion dedicated to a forced collectivism that puts the Soviets and Maoists to shame in its sheer scale and ambition.

You can see the basic philosophy here, at the deliciously ironically named web site "Common Dreams", authored by Naomi Klein, that incoherent spokesperson of the economically illiterate left:

Among the smartest and most promising - not to mention controversial - proposals is "climate debt," the idea that rich countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate crisis. In the world of climate-change activism, this marks a dramatic shift in both tone and content. American environmentalism tends to treat global warming as a force that transcends difference: We all share this fragile blue planet, so we all need to work together to save it. But the coalition of Latin American and African governments making the case for climate debt actually stresses difference, zeroing in on the cruel contrast between those who caused the climate crisis (the developed world) and those who are suffering its worst effects (the developing world). Justin Lin, chief economist at the World Bank, puts the equation bluntly: "About 75 to 80 percent" of the damages caused by global warming "will be suffered by developing countries, although they only contribute about one-third of greenhouse gases."

Climate debt is about who will pick up the bill. The grass-roots movement behind the proposal argues that all the costs associated with adapting to a more hostile ecology - everything from building stronger sea walls to switching to cleaner, more expensive technologies - are the responsibility of the countries that created the crisis. "What we need is not something we should be begging for but something that is owed to us, because we are dealing with a crisis not of our making," says Lidy Nacpil, one of the coordinators of Jubilee South, an international organization that has staged demonstrations to promote climate reparations. "Climate debt is not a matter of charity."

This isn't about any sort of climate change: this is nothing less than the attempt to bully the industrialized nations into transferring trillions of dollars to the environmental movement. This has nothing to do with climate change: this is nothing less than the attempt to prey upon those in the west who have permanently guilty consciences, who fervently believe that they are the ones to blame, regardless of why and what is being claimed.

Equally important, the idea is supported by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - ratified by 192 countries, including the United States. The framework not only asserts that "the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries," it clearly states that actions taken to fix the problem should be made "on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities."

The reparations movement has brought together a diverse coalition of big international organizations, from Friends of the Earth to the World Council of Churches, that have joined up with climate scientists and political economists, many of them linked to the influential Third World Network, which has been leading the call. Until recently, however, there was no government pushing for climate debt to be included in the Copenhagen agreement. That changed in June, when Angelica Navarro, the chief climate negotiator for Bolivia, took the podium at a U.N. climate negotiation in Bonn, Germany. Only 36 and dressed casually in a black sweater, Navarro looked more like the hippies outside than the bureaucrats and civil servants inside the session. Mixing the latest emissions science with accounts of how melting glaciers were threatening the water supply in two major Bolivian cities, Navarro made the case for why developing countries are owed massive compensation for the climate crisis.

This has nothing to do with climate change: this is the fury of the left, the fury of the NGOs, the fury of those who want everything but are not willing to actually do anything, the fury of the chattering class demanding their due, indeed demanding it all. It is the fury of the non-governmental technocracy, committed to subduing all and everything that stands in their way of achieving the brave new world of climate justice.

And I chose that word carefully.

And unless we pay our climate debt, and quickly, we may well find ourselves living in a world of climate rage. "Privately, we already hear the simmering resentment of diplomats whose countries bear the costs of our emissions," Sen. John Kerry observed recently. "I can tell you from my own experience: It is real, and it is prevalent. It's not hard to see how this could crystallize into a virulent, dangerous, public anti-Americanism. That's a threat too. Remember: The very places least responsible for climate change - and least equipped to deal with its impacts - will be among the very worst affected."

That, in a nutshell, is the argument for climate debt. The developing world has always had plenty of reasons to be pissed off with their northern neighbors, with our tendency to overthrow their governments, invade their countries and pillage their natural resources. But never before has there been an issue so politically inflammatory as the refusal of people living in the rich world to make even small sacrifices to avert a potential climate catastrophe. In Bangladesh, the Maldives, Bolivia, the Arctic, our climate pollution is directly responsible for destroying entire ways of life - yet we keep doing it.

From outside our borders, the climate crisis doesn't look anything like the meteors or space invaders that Todd Stern imagined hurtling toward Earth. It looks, instead, like a long and silent war waged by the rich against the poor. And for that, regardless of what happens in Copenhagen, the poor will continue to demand their rightful reparations. "This is about the rich world taking responsibility for the damage done," says Ilana Solomon, policy analyst for ActionAid USA, one of the groups recently converted to the cause. "This money belongs to poor communities affected by climate change. It is their compensation."

If you go and read the whole thing, you see that Naomi Klein really isn't interested in actually doing anything about climate change: she talks the talk about decentralized biomass in India, but really: this isn't about climate change.

This has everything to do with empowering the dictators and petty thugs of those Third World countries that want nothing else than billions to play with to create their own versions of paradise on earth (of course, their citizens tend to view these paradises as prisons of social experimentation, but that should be obvious to anyone not of the left). The key meme here is that the industrialized west - note how the environmental horrors of socialism in all its forms are ... conveniently ignored - owes the poor of this world everything and it is a matter of social justice that reparations get made.


The despair of the watermelon people can be seen here. Humanity, for them, is the problem, and the obvious stupidity of anyone not agreeing with them.

That's a great way to persuade folks to give up their lifestyles and put on the hair shirt that the climate activists want us all to wear (excepting, of course, themselves).

The reaction of the climate activists to those who remain critical is to criminalize their critics, as can be seen here. Anyone not belonging to the true believers should be executed. Literally: there are calls for Nuremberg-style ecological crimes tribunals and for the "denialists" to be strangled in their beds.

Talk about denial. It is the climate activists who are in denial and despair. See here for the denial and see here for the despair.

You see, climate activism has long since descended into belief and religion: this is not my argumentation, but rather the argument brought by an activist who was let go because, he claimed, of his belief: see this for the ... rest of the story. The key quote:

Sustainable Development, which sprung fully-armed from the fretful socialist head of the UN's Brundtland Commission, is indeed a religion, and it has a devil: capitalism. It thus seems suicidal for any company to accommodate it, let alone embrace it. It has no workable definition except for the feel good notion of "looking after the future." It explicitly rejects free markets as leading to resource exhaustion and environmental destruction. As such it is not based on science, much less economics, but on primitive pre-market assumptions, which just happen to be very useful to prospective "global governors."Bingo.

Climatism is not just a belief system, it is an activist belief system. It demands not merely repentance of carbon sin, but jihad against the emitting infidels.
Again: bingo.

The rage of the Watermelons - green outside, red inside - knows no bounds: daring to criticize them must mean you are mentally ill.

Haven't we seen that sort of thinking before? Ah, yes: the Soviets were experts at declaring their opponents to be mentally ill and hence needing such therapy as heavy sedation, psychiatric torture and electo-shock to persuade those with false consciousness to join with the party to ensure the inevitability of historical progress.

How little things have changed. The sycophants and supporters of that horribly failed social experiment are back: as Watermelons, wrapping their Soviet-era beliefs in the mantle of saving the world.

Once again.

It was Marx himself who said that history repeats itself, largely as farce. The irony of that is delicious.

Copenhagen will fail because ... it should. It has nothing more to do with the environment and everything to do with a power grab of unprecedented dimension.

Samstag, November 14, 2009

Of Potemkin Villages...

According to this, Potemkin villages were those erected by Григо́рий Алекса́ндрович Потёмкин (Grigori Alexandrovich Potyomkin-Tavricheski), to deliberately mislead the Russian Empress Catherine II about her new acquisitions in the Crimea (along the Dnjeper River), making them appear to be something that they weren't, namely valuable additions to the realm:

...the close relationship between Field Marshal Potyomkin and Empress Catherine made it likely that she was aware of the fictitious nature of the villages. Thus, the deception would have been mainly directed towards the foreign ambassadors accompanying the imperial party.

Regardless, Potyomkin had in fact directed the building of fortresses, ships of the line, and thriving settlements, and the tour – which saw real and significant accomplishments – solidified his power. So, while "Potemkin village" has come to mean, especially in a political context, any hollow or false construct, physical or figurative, meant to hide an undesirable or potentially damaging situation, the phrase may not apply to its original context.

Well we have a modern update to this, as can be seen here.

The idea, right now, that Israel and those neighbors with which it has no peace accord - which means Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza - have even a remote chance of reaching some sort of peace accord is the modern Potemkin village, with the goal of deluding the chattering classes in the West that there can be such an agreement. As such, it takes pressure off the Israelis and gives legitimacy to the Syrians (God knows they need as much as they can get).

What Mr. Totten, however, fails to mention is who is interested in keeping up the conflict more so than anyone else: Iran.

And in an aside: there are those who do not need Potemkin Villages.

As can be seen here.

Unannounced, quiet, away from the limelight, President Bush did what President Obama failed to do: he did the right thing and was there for the victims' families, for as long as they needed.

What a difference.

Freitag, November 13, 2009

Cui prodest?

That is, of course, Latin for "Who Profits?"

It is also the title of a article by Владимир Ильич Ленин, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, published first in Pravda #84, April 11th, 1913.

The core statement is:

When it is not immediately apparent which political or social groups, forces or alignments advocate certain proposals, measures, etc., one should always ask: “Who stands to gain?”

The man, monster that he was, did get that one right: it is an excellent basis for critical analysis of political events. Follow the money and you see where the real interests lie (and yes, that is a deliberate pun...).

In the IBD, Grace-Marie Turner has done exactly this: she's taken a look as to why the AARP is clearly acting against the interests of retirees in the US.

Surprise, surprise, surprise:

The AARP takes in more than half of its $1.1 billion budget in royalty fees from health insurers and other vendors that market services with the organization's name. Medicare supplementary policies, called "Medigap" plans, make up the biggest share of this royalty revenue.

The AARP has an interest in selling more, not fewer, Medigap plans, of course. But there is a competitor on the block. A growing number of seniors are enrolling in a new form of Medicare coverage — Medicare Advantage — where they don't need Medigap.

In other words, the AARP is supporting legislature that will take money from the pockets of senior citizens (by cancelling $400 bn of Medicare spending) and put it into their own pockets instead.

The AARP isn't a lobbying group or interest group for its members: it has become a parasitical business preying on them.

Corruption indeed takes many forms. This is a particularly perverse one.

Donnerstag, November 12, 2009


I haven't commented on the Dodd bill to consolidate financial overview largely because it's hard enough to try to understand the health reform bill at over 1900 pages, let alone a financial reform bill of over 1300 pages from a man who has been so thoroughly corrupted by the very folks he was supposed to be monitoring.

But this is intriguing.

Thomas Frank is basically the resident liberal at the Wall Street Journal, their man of the Left.

He asks one fundamental question: What if those in control don't believe in oversight?


However, Mr. Frank goes on to say, basically, that the danger is that someone committed to deregulation will be put in charge, meaning that that greatly beloved dogma of the left, that deregulation is the root of all evil in finances, would not become policy.

I have a slightly different take on that: the real danger is not that a deregulator comes in who wants to get rid of oversight, but vastyl worse. This would be someone who is nominally interested in regulating the industry but is instead dedicated to making sure that oversight doesn't work, so that his friends can game the system and make their personal fortunes while destroying healthy banks and investments.

You see, that is basically what happened in the Sub-Prime crisis. Those who were directly in charge of oversight - of circling the wagons to make sure that risks didn't spiral out of control - failed in their jobs, knowing full well they were gambling with the system. But they thought because they had been able to game the system so well for the benefit of themselves and their friends - Rahm Emmanuel made his fortune this way, amongst other Democrats of note - that they ignored the warning signs and ended up imploding the system.

Hence: the reason to reject the Dodd proposal comes best from a man of the left.

What indeed do you do when those in control don't believe in oversight?

A Weak President...

Well, it certainly looks like history is repeating: a President, by all indications a smart fellow, cannot make up his mind because he doesn't like the options being presented to him.

See here.

The last time we had such a President was Carter, and I don't think I need to enumerate his failings.

But this time it's President Obama who is, effectively, openly declaring his inability to make decisions based on reality:

President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

The whole point of having his national security team provide options is for him to make a decision: instead, this:

Military officials said Obama has asked for a rewrite before and resisted what one official called a one-way highway toward war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations for more troops. The sense that he was being rushed and railroaded has stiffened Obama's resolve to seek information and options beyond military planning, officials said, though a substantial troop increase is still likely.

Reading between the lines: President Obama doesn't like the reality of the situation and wants the reality to change.

Right in keeping with the cluelessness of the Democrats in general, this underscores how dangerous President Obama's policies are increasingly becoming.

The evolving U.S. policy, already remapped early in Obama's tenure, increasingly acknowledges that the insurgency can be blunted but not defeated outright by force.

And this is where the current administration is throwing it all away: by believing this.

Any insurgency that has a safe haven is very, very difficult to beat. However, it can be done: Vietnam was an example of this. The establishment of safe hamlets, which did involve forced relocation, dried up the ability of the North Vietnamese - the Viet Cong was no longer a player in the conflict after being devastated in the Tet Offensive - to hide their troops amongst a largely passive rural population. This is why the North had to use large-scale conventional attacks to defeat the South.

The insurgency in Afghanistan can be defeated, but it means redrawing the face of the country and relocating hundreds of thousands of tribal members to safe zones, and then ruthlessly destroying the ability of the Taliban to operate out of safe havens across the border. It means actually waging a war, going after the enemy, rather than trying to protect civilians and avoid civilian casualties. It means significant cooperation with the Pakistanis to finally bring the Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan under direct control.

Only 2% of Pakistan's population lives there, but as the government of Pakistan exercises, at best, only nominal control over the region, winning this conflict means ensuring that this is not the safe haven for the Taliban that it has been for the last 8 years.

And it is the Taliban that has control there. These territories are the safe havens for the conflict in Afghanistan: without dealing with this, the war will be fought in Afghanistan. It makes vastly more sense to take it to the source.

What does this mean? It means that both the US and Pakistan governments have to relocate just over 3 mn civilians into government-controlled enclaves, one city and one tribe after another, fighting the Taliban hidden amongst these civilians as you go.

It's not a pleasant option, nor is it a simple one: however, by drying up the ability of the Taliban to hide amongst the tribes and to be able to withdraw across the borders, Afghanistan will recover: the Taliban are not native to Afghanistan, but rather want to impose themselves on that country.

Abandoning the Afghanistan government to the Taliban because it's not perfect and can't handle running the country is sheer stupidity.

But apparently the President's chosen plan of action...if and when he gets around to deciding.

Mittwoch, November 11, 2009

Profit Motives, Greens and Al Gore...

The driving force behind any economic activity is the profit motive: ignoring the idealistic and the altruistic portions of society (too few to make a meaningful impact anywhere outside of a Star Trek Federation fantasy society), people do things because it is in their own interest to do so: the profit motive is what drives human activity, not merely purely economic activity, but virtually all activity if you include non-material profits in the analysis.

This is what makes the drive to remove profit motives from health care doomed from the start.

But that's not the central part of this post.

This time it's the hypocrisy of our favorite eco-freak, Al Gore.

As can be read here.

Al Gore funds not just one, but two climate change non-profits.

But not ... entirely out of the goodness of his heart: they are essentially propagandists that support the work that his ... other activities do.

Like financing (and hence owning the technology of) alternative energy sources.

Which will only be feasible of their use is legislated, as they cannot compete in any way, shape or form in current energy markets.

So remember that when the vote comes down to force the use of technologies "to save the planet", you're not going to be saving the planet.

But you will be making Al Gore richer.

So even the holiest of holiest in the Green scene is driven by ... the profit motive.

Ain't capitalism great? Even when it's not supposed to be capitalism...just that it is. But with a different face.

Dienstag, November 10, 2009

Statistics, USA Today and ... Integrity

There are times I come close to despair (not that I succumb: despair is a mortal sin).

This is one of those times.

According to the headline, "Economists See Threat In Climate Change"

The article then quotes: 94% of economists surveyed think that the US should join climate agreements to limit global warming.


Nope: they surveyed 289 environmental economists who had published climate-related studies.

Talk about cherry-picking: this is the reason why surveys richly deserved the utterly abysmal reputation that they "enjoy".

This is like asking 289 murderers if they think the legal system is too harsh.

This is like asking 289 nurses if they think they are underpaid.

This is like asking 289 teenagers if they think their parents are being too restrictive.

This is like asking 289 terrorists if they think the War on Terror is overdone.

This is like asking 289 teachers if they think their course load is too heavy.

This is like asking 289 police officers if they think the courts are too lenient.

This is like asking 289 prostitutes if they think their pimps are abusive.

This is like asking 289 drug users if they think junk is too expensive.

This is like asking 289 students if they think their teachers shouldn't grade so hard.

See the point?

To underscore the complete and total lack of journalistic quality at USA Today, understand this quote:

"Many observers look at economists as skeptics of the need for (climate) mitigation," says economist Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. But "most accept the unquestionable consensus from the natural scientist that the planet is warming and humans are to blame."

The language is telling: it's an unquestionable consensus.

Things that are unquestionable are things of dogma, superstition and belief.

But not science.

A proper sampling would have used 289 names chosen at random from, say, the membership of the American Economic Association.

But that proper sampling wouldn't have given the folks who did the survey - The Institute For Policy Integrity - the results that they wanted.

But...wait a second...

The Institute For Policy Integrity????

This is what they say about themselves:

The Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI) is a non-partisan advocacy organization and think-tank dedicated to improving the quality of governmental decisionmaking.


Sponsored by the New York University School of Law, and housed in the Frank J. Guarini Center for Environmental and Land Use Law, IPI consists of a board of advisors of leaders in government, business, and policy; members of the Law School's world-class faculty; and a team of staff and fellows dedicated to the Institute's mission.

IPI advocates for reform before courts, legislatures, and executive agencies. By reaching out and building coalitions with traditional nongovernmental organizations, IPI facilitates their effective participation in the regulatory process. IPI is also dedicated to contributing original scholarly research in the areas of environmental, public health, and safety policy.

Given their extremely poor sampling practices, which they justify as representing the opinion of "experts", they are scarcely non-partisan: a non-partisan advocacy organization is perhaps the greatest oxymoron of them all.

Just what you get when you let lawyers wander around without supervision. Garbage in, garbage out.

Sorry: this is the work of hacks of the very worst kind. Not because I am a skeptic: it is an affront to statistical sampling and analysis. That is something that us empirical folks take very, very seriously.

At least 94% of us...

Sonntag, November 08, 2009

Democrats, Dishonesty and Due Diligence...

Well, the Democrats on the House side of the hall have done it: there's been a bill passed to reform the US health system. Just that "reform" is an odd way to spell "ruin".

No time for due diligence and careful analysis: rammed through the House on a Saturday night without enough time for the public to even read the final bill and let their Representatives know what they think of the legislation. Of course, that was the goal.

First of all, from here:

The legislation would require most Americans to carry insurance and provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford it. Large companies would have to offer coverage to their employees. Both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defied the government's mandates.

Insurance industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions would be banned, and insurers would no longer be able to charge higher premiums on the basis of gender or medical history. In a further slap, the industry would lose its exemption from federal antitrust restrictions on price gouging, bid rigging and market allocation.

What's wrong with this? First and foremost, it means that the insurance industry is now targeted for destruction. This legislation ignores the fundamental nature of the of the insurance industry: how consumers buy coverage to remove risks. Now that the insurance industry may not discriminate between risk groups, we have the removal of risky behavior from discrimination. This is heavily in keeping with the general tone of Democratic party political theory: socialization of all risky behavior, i.e. anyone can take whatever risks they want, society will pay. Or, more exactly, the taxpayers will pay, since this is where the money comes from.

Great idea: risk takers in the financial industry have had their mistakes paid for by the taxpayers, now risk takers in the health industry will have the same. Homosexual with frequent sexual partners and no protection? Not a problem, the US taxpayer will pay for your AIDS treatments and finance funding for treatment exploration, if not a cure. Drug user and mental health problems? Not a problem, the US taxpayer will pay for your recovery and then finance your next drug-induced psychotic episode.

How will the insurance companies react? Simple: when price discrimination in insurance is no longer permitted, then prices will rise so that everyone pays for the risky behavior (and extremely high costs) of a few.

This is a bi-partisan bill, but not the way the House Democrats wanted it:

The bill drew the votes of 219 Democrats and Rep. Joseph Cao, a first-term Republican who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans. Opposed were 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats.

Ha! The opposition is bi-partisan, not the support. The 219 Democrats means also that the Democrats saw 38 of their own members, over 15%, reject the bill. One Republican along for the ride - who as a freshman member of the House also saw enormous pressure from the President himself on this - does not make this a bipartisan bill...

Insurance industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions would be banned, and insurers would no longer be able to charge higher premiums on the basis of gender or medical history. In a further slap, the industry would lose its exemption from federal antitrust restrictions on price gouging, bid rigging and market allocation.

This is what will kill the industry: they will be crucified using anti-trust legislation. Plain and simple.

Now, conservative Democrats attached something that made it possible for them to support the bill: abortions are only permitted under certain conditions (incest, rape, mother's health), but how long does anyone think this will stand up either in a court of law or under the legislation pressures? The conservative Democrats can't take back their vote when the Senate version comes back to the House in Committee, meaning that the removal of this language is largely meaningless.

What is particularly dishonest about the bill is that many of the income categories aren't indexed to inflation: hence more and more folks not currently included in certain mandates will end up in those categories due to inflation. This means that this aspect of the bill thus passed in the House will in any case lead to higher taxes and higher costs.

What is further dishonest was the fact that La Pelosi and her minions pounded this out behind closed doors, despite President Obama's commitment to doing it out in the open.

Fundamentally, this is a deeply flawed Bill that will fail to reach what it purports to do, will enrich many who are heavy campaign contributors and which will reduce the quality of care.

Yep, sound about right for Chicago politics. The name "Chicago" comes from the Potawatomi "Chick-Agou" which means "Bad Smell", given to the area where Chicago was founded because of skunk cabbages growing in the bogs of the local river.

Seldem has a name come to mean exactly its origins...

Freitag, November 06, 2009

Further Data Points For The Trend XIV...

Two links today, neither of them very pleasant, both from the WSJ.

First of all, this.

Gasparino is correct: the unindicted co-conspirator in the financial meltdown was, is and continues to be the Federal government, dedicated to throwing money at problems, especially now that money, due to effectively no interest rates, is basically "free".

Here are some key points:

The conventional wisdom as perpetuated in the media is that these bailout mechanisms are unique, designed to ameliorate a once-in-a-lifetime financial "perfect storm." They are unique, but only in size. ...

The first mortgage market meltdown of the mid-1980s, spurred by the Fed's supply of easy money, was among the most painful market upheavals in the history of the bond market. The pioneers of the mortgage bond market, Lew Ranieri of Salomon Brothers and Larry Fink of First Boston (the same Larry Fink now considered a sage CEO at money management powerhouse BlackRock), lost what were then unheard-of sums of money. (Mr. Fink concedes to losses of over $100 million.)

"What happened then was a dry run of what was to come," Mr. Fink recently told me, as he looked back on the market he created, which would eventually lie at the heart of the most recent financial crisis. Wall Street took excessive risk in mortgage bonds amid the easy money supplied by the Fed—and lost. When the crisis began, the Fed under then Chairman Alan Greenspan slashed interest rates—as it would do after Orange County, Calif., declared bankruptcy in 1994 because of bad bets on complex bonds; and again in 1998 when the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) blew up; and of course in the bond-market crisis of 2007 and 2008. The lower rates each time lessened the pain of the risk-taking gone awry, and opened the door for increased risk down the line.

The risk thus adverted didn't go away: at best, such systemic risks go into remission when money is thrown at them, but it increases the moral risk that we have raised, basically, a generation of bankers whose concept of risk is heavily distorted by the inviolable fact that the upside risks were all theirs but the downside risks were all carried by the taxpayers.

This is a fundamental moral hazard that has led us here: it's also one that was at best carefully hidden and at worst deliberately obfuscated.

Easy money wasn't the only way government induced the bubble. The mortgage-bond market was the mechanism by which policy makers transformed home ownership into something that must be earned into something close to a civil right. The Community Reinvestment Act and projects by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, beginning in the Clinton years, couldn't have been accomplished without the mortgage bond—which allowed banks to offload the increasingly risky mortgages to Wall Street, which in turn securitized them into triple-A rated bonds thanks to compliant ratings agencies.

The perversity of these efforts wasn't merely that bonds packed with subprime loans received such high ratings. It was also that by inducing homeownership, the government was itself making homeownership less affordable. Because families without the real economic means to repay traditional 30-year mortgages were getting them, housing prices grew to artificially high levels.

In other words: the markets were distorted, deliberately so, by those whose political gains were manifold and whose political risks were ... completely ignored, as they represented a black swan event. Well, black swan events are a bit like asteroid strikes: they don't happen very often, but when they do, everything changes.

This is where the real sin of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac comes into play. Both were created by Congress to make housing affordable to the middle class. But when they began guaranteeing subprime loans, they actually began pricing out the working class from the market until the banking business responded with ways to make repayment of mortgages allegedly easier through adjustable rates loans that start off with low payments. But these loans, fully sanctioned by the government, were a ticking time bomb, as we're all now so painfully aware.

A similar bomb exploded in 1998, when LTCM blew up. The policy response to the LTCM debacle is instructive; more than anything else it solidified Wall Street's belief that there were little if any real risks to risk-taking. With $5 billion under management, LTCM was deemed too big to fail because, with nearly every major firm copying its money losing trades, much of Wall Street might have failed with it.

Fundamentally, this is what happens when you mess around with markets, try to game them. what do I mean? Gaming a market means trying to have the market results behave the way you want them to: if you want more poor people to own homes, then force the banks to give them loans. When these loans don't perform - poor people can't afford houses, no matter what your politics may be - then it's the fault of the policies, not the market.

I've said here again and again that markets don't care. Markets are implacable, ruthless and cold: markets are the mechanisms by which supply and demand are resolved, and if you try to game the markets - which is what past Administrations (especially Democratic ones) did and continue to try to do - you always make things worse. Always.

But just like a bad engineer who has taken a good plan and "improved" it by paring away safety margins, fiddling with the programs that distort markets doesn't solve the problem: after making it painfully obvious that they do not understand anything about markets, the Administration decides that a new plan to force the markets to behave will work. They have not realized the fundamentals, that the Gods of the Copybook Headings are taking their toll now and that there is no way to game markets, to force markets to change their behavior to meet political goals.

You see, that is the real problem.

With so much easy money, with the government always ready to ease their pain, Wall Street developed new and even more innovative ways to make money through risk-taking. The old mortgage bonds created by Messrs. Fink and Ranieri as simple securitized pools had morphed into the so-called collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), complex structures that allowed Wall Street banks as well as quasi-governmental agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to securitize ever riskier mortgages.


All of which brings me back to Mr. Fortsmann's comment about policy makers helping turn a cold into cancer. What if the Fed hadn't eased Wall Street's pain in the late 1980s, and again after the 1994 bond-market collapse? What if policy makers in 1998 had allowed the markets to feel the consequences of risk—allowing LTCM to fail, and letting Lehman Brothers and possibly Merrill Lynch die as well?

There would have been pain—lots of it—for Wall Street and even for Main Street, but a lot less than what we're experiencing today. Wall Street would have learned a valuable lesson: There are consequences to risk.

Not for politicians there isn't: politicians take the stance that there are no consequences to the risks that have been taken, taken over the last several decades, starting with the Great Society programs and heading downhill ever since. I won't believe that there are risks for politicians until Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank are defeated at re-election.

You see, that is part of the problem. Lack of political accountability. Right now it is clear that government attempts to game the markets have gone so completely, totally bat-shit-crazy wrong that anyone with half a functioning brain should realize that you can't game markets.

Pretending that it works because the effects didn't show up immediately is part of the reason why we're in the situation we're in, compounded by dishonest economists who should never be working in their profession because they obviously don't understand that you can't game markets.

The second link is not unrelated: it's about how recent administrations - Obama and Clinton - have set us up.

And are lying to our faces about it.

Fundamentally, any tax that isn't indexed to inflation will increase over time as inflation increases: that is simple math.

But math that the Congress critters who write such laws apparently think we're too stupid to understand. By continuing to do so, by deliberating failing to index to inflation, politicians can create the perfect deal: achieve a goal while lying about it at the same time.

The goal: increase revenues to fund pet projects (and I include health care reform as a pet project),

The lie? That this will only be paid for by the rich, or that you'll only be affected if you make over any given amount. All the common folk will get benefits without having to pay for them.

The reality is that inflation will drive people into those higher brackets, and that success will be punished. Make more money and we'll take more of it away, accelerating the rate at which we take money from you (that's called a progressive tax system and that's exactly how it works).

When it comes to tax revenues, setting a tax without indexing it for inflation is downright dishonest at worst and simply sneaky at best: more and more will move into that tax bracket without being told from day one that this was the goal, the whole point of the scheme: how to separate you from your money without actually having to tell you that was the plan, simply by "forgetting" to index a tax to keep track with inflation.

This gets worse when you realize that one of the easiest and safest ways of getting out of deficits and debt is to inflate your way out. It's also the worst and riskiest way of doing it. Contradictory? Nope: it's the easiest and safest for the politicians, but the worst possible way and the riskiest for everyone else involved.

See the pattern there? Risk avoidance at the cost of transferring the risk from one group to another?

I'm not the kind of guy who easily takes up a populist hue and cry about rotten, corrupt politicians. I know a few, and they've been pretty much upstanding folks who are willing to take responsibility for what they do.

But then again, they're not Democrats.

Mittwoch, November 04, 2009

Fox In Amongst The Chickens...

This is what happens when you let the fox guard the hen house.

Now, Barney Frank's a clever fox: he wants to keep his job guarding the hen house and hence doesn't go and kill the chickens himself. Rather, he sets it up so that his other fox buddies can get the chickens; he'll get his own share.

This is the abandonment of clear and understandable standards and the introduction of ad-hoc standards settings without any reasonable control whatsoever over who sets the standards.

Having emptied out savings of the country, the Democrats now want to be able to remake the financial industry into a spoils system that will, of course, reward the diligent and obeying and punish those who dare pursue their own goals and fail to bow to the wisdom of their betters.

And I am, of course, not in any way, shape or form suggesting that Barney Frank is in any way foxy. If anything, the exact opposite.

Dienstag, November 03, 2009

Climate Change, Copenhagen and Futility...

Well, the FT has now also swallowed the Kool-Aid and have gotten on the bandwagon of We're All Going To Die If Copenhagen Isn't Ratified.

It's sad to see the death of a skeptical voice.

This is what I mean (from here):

...skepticism of the reality of climate change is either unfounded or, when warranted, does not mean nothing needs be to be done. We cannot be certain (until it is too late) that continuing to emit carbon at our current pace will lead to disaster; but we do know that if we do, the chance of a catastrophic outcome is high enough to make insuring against worst-case scenarios the rational response. Surely the financial crisis has taught us that a low-probability tail risk is still a risk.

First of all: there is no one amongst the skeptics who deny that there is no climate change: no one. But what is being pointed out, for those who are actually willing to listen instead of trying to silence the skeptics with shrieks of rage, is that we don't know why. If the climatologists are honest, instead of being dependent on grant money intended to prove anthropogenic warming, they tend to agree.

The fundamental dishonesty of the scientists is what drives me to distrust them: the refusal to share data, the extremely poor (at best) when not directly dishonest usage of statistics to make the data support their story. I need only point to the utter dishonesty of Mann et al with their infamous and completely constructed "hockey stick" to underscore the fact that climatologists need to prove their case openly and honestly, rather than rely on "'cause I say so" and refuse to share their data. They also need to get skeptical statisticians on their side by opening up about their methodologies in plain language and openly available.

They are not doing this: hence my fundamental skepticism, above all because they are indeed beholden to moneyed interests who are financing their work. Right now they have the believability of scientists who white-washed the risks of cancer from cigarettes.

In other words, none.

Take a look at the Copenhagen draft and you can see, as I have pointed out here before, that this is nothing less than a power grab to subsume all human activity to prevent something that happens naturally.

And that which happens naturally is climate change.

Here I am a friend of the other Copenhagen initiative: that rather than try to spend billions correcting the past - which is all that the Copenhagen accord attempts to achieve - we need to spend monies changing the future.

Impoverishing the industrialized countries to do so, based on science that has ceased to be empirical and borders on religious dogma, will go down in history as the rebirth of forced state collectivism with all the human suffering and agony that always accompanies such attempts of those who think they know better to order their lessors around...

You see, there are risks that cannot be insured against. That the world's climate is changing as it has in the millenniums before humans and will long after we are gone is not something you can change or influence except at the margins.

The FT's favored solution, global cap and tax, ignores the fundamental truth about undeveloped and developing countries: even if they were to get all that money - $500bn/year! - from that cap-and-trade regime (and it would be a regime, complete with the jack-booted enforcers to ensure that you have no pets and take only one airplane trip in a lifetime), what would they do with that money?

Create jobs? Doing what? If they industrialize, they can't sell their pollution rights. If they don't do anything, they fritter the money away and will raise a generation who can only live on the largesse of the industrialized countries. "Green jobs" are a cruel hoax and myth.

This is going to end very, very badly: it is obvious to me that the actions being proposed have not been thought through based on the fundamentals that need to be analyzed: the economics of the situation. For the ecologists/watermelon people/politicians, economic considerations are something that just gets in the way of their brave new world. So they are ignoring the real world, the economics of the situation, in order to ram a program through that gives them the powers they claim to need.

That way lies madness.

But we've seen how the road to hell is paved with the very best of intentions. The paving companies, I imagine, for this job will be exempt from having to cover their Co2 emissions for that job.

We will see the US being bullied in Copenhagen, A weak President, a servile Congress preoccupied with counting the deck chairs, and a press that has not merely drunk the Kool-Aid, but insists on making sure that everyone does, will seal the deal and turn over the key to the cupboard in the greatest looting of wealth that this planet has ever seen.

Montag, November 02, 2009

Getting A Handle on Why Elites Fail...

First of all, a hat tip to NeoNeoCon: she got there first.

There's a fundamental thread in liberal thought: that they are smarter and more clever than the rest of us, and hence of course we should do as they say. Scratch a liberal with an education and you'll generally find someone who is quite proud of their academic achievements - I have found fewer vain than academics from obscure fields - and who really, really do believe that they would do a much better job if only their lessors could be persuaded to simply do what is quite obviously so good for them.


First of all, Dunning-Kruger Effect: a cognitive bias where the unskilled aren't aware of this lack of skill and think very highly of themselves, while those who are indeed skilled tend to underrate their abilities.

Second of all, and closely related, illusory superiority, also known as the "Lake Wobegon Bias" for that fictive town where all the children are better than average.

Third, and closely related as well, "clever sillies", those whose native intelligence (and high degree of education) nonethless does not prevent them from engaging in, well, silly behavior (truthers, 9/11 conspirators, etc). Here the problem is one of a fundamental inability to have anything remotely resembling common sense.

What's the point of covering these three cognitive biases?

First of all, this. We know that the Great Society of the Democrats in the 1960s created more problems than it solved (and indeed it failed to solve most of the problems it tried to, given that the War On Poverty was clearly won by poverty); La Pelosi and her Democratic friends are driving at high speed off a cliff to bring the Great Society programs to their logical conclusion. Smart people doing some really dumb things are fine in the private world, but we're talking trillions here.

Second of all, this. It's more subtle: here we are talking about the continuing delusion of the left that socialism didn't really fail, it just wasn't done properly. The article I link to doesn't make that case, but rather underscores how this position is untenable. For the arguments that socialism wasn't wrong, see here, here and here for but a few of many such articles.

In either case, it's extremely tempting to tell those involved that they are stuck on stupid: however, as many involved are demonstrably smart, yet so very wrong, there's got to be an alternative explanation (and the suggestion that I am the one stuck on stupid is to be expected, yet, of course, quite wrong: the economics of both examples here are quite clear to anyone having common sense).

This point is brought out more clearly than I could state it here.

My experience is that having your core beliefs challenged can be an affirming experience, one that leads you to a better understanding of what you actually do believe in and why. Living as an expat abroad, I've had this happen to me on a regular basis, especially during the 1980s and during the latter Bush years: challenges that others bring, others whose intellectual abilities are quite clear, but who remain so fundamentally wrong, so unable to see that their intellectual edifices are of sand and not granite as they have believed, who while postulating a thesis fail to think things carefully through not only logically, but also based on common sense.

Without common sense, any elite is doomed to failure, because ignoring common sense leads to the worst of worlds.

I agree with Buckley: I'd rather be governed by the first 400 names out of the Boston telephone book than the academics of Harvard.