Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Global warming and corrupted science

I have long been only a mild skeptic of the received wisdom on global warming/climate change, largely because I simply haven't taken the time to delve very deeply into the science, although Pat Michael's latest book seems pretty sound to me. As Mark Landsbaum notes in this post on the Register's Orange Punch blog, what seems fairly certain in the wake of the leaked/stolen material from East Anglia's climate gurus, is that there was pretty active work to cement an orthodoxy -- the virtual opposite of real science -- by climate change believers. I'm not sure whether data was manipulated in truly egregious ways, but there's little doubt it was manipulated to some extent. That's not the kind of thing people utterly secure in their acceptance of the "scientific consensus" should feel impelled to do.

Anthroprogenic global warming theory in some form may turn out to have some validity. But the revelations in the various e-mails undermine its credibility a lot more than most of the MSM is prepared to admit -- yet.

Health care uncertainty

Harry Reid rounded up 60 votes for the Senate to open consideration of his awful health-care proposal, but final passage is still a long way off. As this Register editorial explains (and as has been in the news for days), Sens. Lieberman, Nelson, Lincoln, Landrieu and others are unlikely to approve a public option. Whether they can win other retrenchment I don't know for sure. But even if something passes, it could well be a little less awful than what a full-force Obama/Pelosi/ReidCare would have inflicted on us. And there's just a chance gridlock will doom it.

I did a piece for Sunday's register Commentary section that is mostly constructive -- what might be an acceptable fallback position if ObamaCare fails and Congress gets an uncharacteristic urge to pass something that might actually help. I warrant that the Register has offered more constuctive ideas on health care over the past few months (accompanied by vigorous criticism of various pending proposals) than any other mass medium. Not that we seem to have had any influence.

Soft-pedaling George Shultz and the drug war

I've been meaning to get to this piece by the WSJ's Mary Anastasia O'Grady for some time. I'm not sure whether to be amused, dismayed or encouraged. She interviewed George Shultz, Reagan's Secretary of State, a longtime Hoover fellow and now co-chair of something called the North American Forum. Much of the column discussed the problem of violence in Mexico related to Mexican president Calderon's decisions to take the drug-war rhetoric seriously and use the military to make war on the cartels. Mary introduces Shultz's perspective:

"He has long harbored skepticism about interdiction as a solution to drug abuse in the U.S."

"Long harbored skepticism about interdiction"???!!! He has been on the record for about 20 years as opposing the drug war -- all of it, including heroin and the hard drugs -- as staunchly as Milton Friedman did (I'm sure Milton influenced him, as he did almost everyone he had even a passing acquaintance with). The drug war has failed because it tried to repeal the laws of supply and demand. It's time to end it -- perhaps gradually, accompanied by honest dissuasives about the dangers of certain drugs -- but with its utter elimination as the goal. I quizzed Shultz about some of these issues when I spent my week as a Hoover media fellow. And surely Mary Anastasia O'Grady knows this.

Yet newspaper opinion pages have their cultures, and I suspect the Journal's is not quite ready for a full-fledged denunciation of the drug war by one of their own -- a guest column, perhaps, "balanced" by a screed from a drug warrior, but not by one of their own. The tender eyes of Journal readers are presumably only ready for gentle hints regarding "skepticism about interdiction," not for being reminded that the sainted President Reagan's trusted Secretary of State, one of Reaganite conservatism's revered Wise Men, would end the drug war tomorrow (or at least institute liberalizations leading to that end.

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if Mary herself is as ready to end the drug war as any rabid libertarian, but is trying to introduce the idea indirectly and obliquely, doing as much as the Journal will let her get way with. I don't know this, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The culture is shifting on this issue.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Global warming cooling off?

The big news over the weekend was that a bunch of e-mails and other material from the UK's East Anglia University's climate change department were leaked/stolen/whatever. Mark Landsbaum, who follows this issue much more closely than I do, thinks they're extremely significant, telling me today there's evidence of conspiring to make sure non-enthusiasts of warming didn't get published, and evidence of data that didn't fit the hypothesis being suppressed or simply ignored. Was AGW (anthropogenic global warming) a scam from the get-go, or did it seem true until the data stopped supporting it and other theories (sunspots?) came to seem more plausible? Pat Michaels of Cato, says it's not a smoking gun, it's a mushroom cloud.

Anyway, Mark wrote this editorial for the Register, calling for more complete analysis of the data released and a full investigation into how it came to seem all right to suppress information and the implications for the underlying science -- and for confidence in the integrity of scientists. The unraveling may be only beginning.

Interesting times indeed!

Rivalry week underway in SoCal

Somewhere I have a book on college sports rivalries that doesn't even include UCLA-USC. Whoever wrote it must not have been in Southern California during the week the two schools meet for football. Those with an actual connection to one or the other school -- I attended UCLA off and on '61-'67, didn't get a degree but learned a lot -- get a little crazy, and locals without a real tie tend to choose up sides as well. During the 1960s -- Zeno, Beban, Prothro, O.J., John McKay -- you really could throw the record away -- it was going to be a tough, hard-fought game decided at the end. Maybe it's not a "great" rivalry because it goes through periods of one-sidedness -- UCLA has won only once during the Pete Carroll era, a win that shocked everybody.

This year I'm trying not to set myself up, but I'm hardly the only one who thinks UCLA has a solid chance. At USC, losing 8 defensemen to the first two rounds of the NFL draft and having a true freshman querterback finally took their toll, most recently in those embarrassing losses to Oregon and Stanford. They had a bye week last weekend and I'm sure Carroll will have them prepared to see beating the Bruins as redemption, and they probably have the raw talent to do it, if Barkley is on.

However, after a miserable middle with 5 Pac-10 losses, the Bruins have regrouped and won their last three games. I'm still concerned that we can't seem to score a touchdown in the red zone -- the two touchdowns against Arizona State both came from defensive takeaways -- but the defense is playing very well, and Prince at least seems able to get the offense within field goal range. We're remembering the Neuheisel has built winners wherever he has coached. I'm wearing the colors all week and looking forward to a good game.

Founders Day at Freedom, Inc.

I'm pretty sure it was Cathy Taylor's idea for Freedom Communications to mark R.C. Hoiles's birthday, Nov. 24, as Founders Day (though it might have come from somebody in corporate). I can't remember when we first did it -- 5-6 years ago? Anyway, we try to highlight some aspect of R.C.'s life and ideas, and their importance to the larger freedom movement (R.C. was never quite satisfied with the term "libertarian," though I suspect he would eventually have acquiesced to using it more often. He died in 1970, just as the modern libertarian movement was starting to define itself -- having libertarians kicked out of YAF in 1969 was a key moment, leading Don Ernsberger to found Students for Individual Liberty (SIL) and marking something of a divorce from the conservative movement.

Founders Day is whyI did the piece on R.C. for Sunday, and this editorial that ran today. The little pamphlet from which I extracted quotes (intro and transitions written by D.R. Segal, I'm pretty sure -- gee, he was a fun guy yet unquestionably sharp as an executive) said that if journalism were a person R.C. was its hair shirt.

This is a bittersweet Founders Day for us, and not just because of the sorry state of the newspaper business just now. Sometime early next year Freedom Inc., family-held for so long, will be officially owned by a consortium of banks, having emerged from Chapter 11. We don't expect they'll want to change editorial policies at the Register, but will hang onto properties that are at least modestly profitable until there's a decent market for them. But we don't know. I understand why "may you live in interesting times" is a Chinese curse. But I'll continue to interpret it as at least part blessing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Celebrating R.C. Hoiles

Here's the piece I referenced in a previous post about Phebe Adams, R.C. Hoiles's last secretary, who offered us some insights we had not had into just what kind of a person R.C. Hoiles was. I still find his personality a bit elusive. He was undoubtedly somewhat crusty; that much we get from any number of people who knew him. Yet he inspired tremendous loyalty, though he never paid worth a hoot (though he apparently also had soft spots and/or loyalty went two ways.

At any rate, as the piece argues, he was not only influential insofar as the Register and other freedon newspapers carried libertarian stuff, but he had a considerable impact on the then-tiny libertarian movement in the 1940s and 1950s and on into the 1060s (he died in 1970). I didn't iknow him, but I'm proud to be at an insitution he established.

Marijuana reform progressing

As I predicted in a Register article six months ago or more, the concept of marijuana legalization continues to gain ground. Today's Washington Post has a piece noting the AMA's recent reversal to support medical marijuana, various polls -- 44% in favor and gaining according to Gallup -- and the changed attitude of activists, who actually see light at the end of the tunnel. And here's a piece on Michael Patrick Carroll, so far the only Republican in the New Jersey legislature to support legalization of medical marijuana. Apparently his experience with sick relatives has had an impact on him. He also doesn't get apoplectic at the idea of legalization for adults. Would that there were more Republicans like him.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peter Drucker's 100th birthday

Cathy Taylor, our opinion editor and my boss, made a point of attending classes with the great management pioneer Peter Drucker when she was the Register's business editor. Today would have been Drucker's 100th birthday. In commemoration the Register reprinted a piece Cathy did in 1992 just after completing Drucker's class. The fact that Peter Drucker taught for many year's at Claremont is an example of the cultural and intellectual resources available in Southern California that are not often appreciated when people think of the area as la-la land (which it is also, to some extent). I'm quite appreciative of New York City and much of what it has to offer, and would not want to be without the NYT. But SoCal has much to offer as well.

Obama's dud of a trip

I suspect that if in some alternative universe I were ever elected president I would take as many foreign trips as possible, as quickly as possible, just for the experience. While some of his earlier trips seemed to have objectives, or at least events that could be spun as creating a new tone (e.g., the Cairo speech), Obama's Asia trip seemed more like a get-acquainted or even a tourist excursion. He certainly didn't break any ground; if anything he reinforced longstanding U.S. policy, which is to keep an inordinate number of troops in Japan and South Korea long past their due date. Doug Bandow wrote a piece suggesting some real changes that could be made in Asian policy, starting with withdrawing troops that have little or no function with the Cold War over, and firming up economic relations with China, with which there's little or no reason to be confrontational. I linked to it in a post I did for the Register's Orange Punch blog, and we actually got some fairly thoughtful comments back and forth. Take a look.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Kelo postscript: from tragedy to farce

It is almost too rich. New London CT, wanted to please Pfizer, which it had induced to build a facility in town, in part through corporate welfare (not sure whether it was tax forgiveness or what), so they condemned a modest-income neighborhood after getting a fancy-schmancy proposal from a developer. Susette Kelo fought this obvious abuse of eminent domain but the Supremes said it was just fine to push people out of their homes for the promise of a public "benefit" (the Constitution says "public use") in the form of more tax revenue for the city misrulers. Well, the development plan fell through some years ago so the land is lying there unused, most of the houses torn down. And now Pfizer has announced it's closing the plant.

Why can't cities just have low taxes and reasonable regulations (not that I wouldn't prefer zero of each) and let businesses develop in response to consumer/business demand? Why the urge these petty tyrants have to micromanage and direct everything, with taxpayers money? Oh, maybe that's why. Other peoples' money, no downside risk to them. We should at least ridicule them regularly, however.

Meeting Phebe Adams

Had a marvelously fascinating day at work today. R.C. Hoiles's last secretary, who worked for him from 1966 to 1970, when he died, came in for lunch and she and Cathy and Mark and I talked extensively about the old days, giving us, I believe a more rounded picture of what R.C. was like. Phebe would be about 84 now, but she's quite spry and her mind and memories functioning well. We mentioned there was still something a little remote about R.C.'s personality or persona to those of us who had not known him (he died in 1970, I came to the Register in 1980, and had only seen him at a conference briefly before (in 1969 I think) and didn't know anything about him then.

Phebe said she thought that he was basically shy, though he was always ready to talk about freedom, and that may have given people the impression he was a little distant. But he was warm and humorous with the people he knew and felt comfortable with.

It was Cathy (Taylor's) idea to ask her in. We're writing on Founder's Day, near his birthday, when we remind people of aspects of his legacy, for Sunday. I'll link to it when it goes online.

Samuel Adams -- getting his due?

I just finished reading Ira Stoll's biography of Samuel Adams, and here's my review in the Register. I found it fascinating. I've always had the impression Samuel, John's older cousin, was a key figure, maybe even central, in the American revolutionary period. But there's been the impression that he was a bit too much of a firebrand, maybe not quite respectable, perhaps a bit fringey compared to some of the now-better-known founders. He did come early to a conviction that independence was the necessary step, but aside from not being rich, as many of the founders wwre, he was viewed as a solid citizen, being elected and reelected to positions of responsibility, fromn the Boston Meeting to the Massacusetts legislature to the Continental Congress to lt. gov. and gov. of Massachusetts. I also hadn't known how deeply religious he was -- the last of the Puritans perhaps, embodying the best of that tradition, which was fading during his lifetime.

I noticed that the book was on sale at my local Costco for about ten bucks. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bruin football better, basketball not so much

In our department at work almost everybody but me went to USC, so there were some long faces this morning. When I suggested that the USC-UCLA game just might be competitive this year, it was almost too much for them to bear. But the Trojans have obviously been operating on fumes the last few weeks while the Bruins just might be shaping up into a real team. Certainly the Washington State win was impressive -- though WSU unfortunately this year is a doormat for just about everybody. As to USC, we need to think about Arizona State first, while USC has a bye week. I suspect they'll be fired up for the UCLA game, but UCLA could be pretty fired up too.

I just watched the UCLA basketball team lose in double overtime to Cal State Fullerton, breaking a 37-game winning streak against non-conference non-ranked at Pauley (boy is that an ESPN geek type statistic). Having lost four starters and having to rely on a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, and having a bunch of injuries, which made for disjointed practices, it is perhaps to be expected that it will take a while for this team to gel. I suspect Fullerton will turn out to be pretty good from the way they played (especially if they stop blowing easy layups). I don't know what to expect from the Bruins. They did come back from a double-digit deficit to force overtime, but all those missed threes and free throws! The sportswriters say there's talent there. I hope so.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

PelosiCare could lead to fewer insured

Here's the editorial the Register ran after the House passed PelosiCare last Saturday. It focuses on the likely perverse effects of an individual mandate enforced by a modest fine combined with a mandate that people with preexisting conditions be accepted without a financial penalty. Significant numbers of healthy people would choose to pay the fine and not get health insurance until they came down with something or developed a condition likely to require pricey treatment. The pool would be mostly high-risk patients so premiums would have to rise.

Other shortcomings of the bill, likely to be treated in more detail later include a virtual band on Health Savings Accounts, a hefty tax increase on capital gains, and a thoroughly phony approach to "tort reform" likely to empower trial lawyers even more. Not to mention the new flap over abortion. Whee! I'm pretty sure this version doesn't pass and there's a chance (though slim I think) that nothing will pass.

Gridlock is our friend.

Can Cannabis improve autism?

Here's a thoughtful article from the UK's The Independent centered on a woman in Rhode Island, where medical marijuana is legal whose 9-year-old kid has autism and to whom he gave a "special tea," achieving remarkably positive calming results. Not a cure, but helped the kid function more normally, with fewer side effects than the prescription drugs they had used previously. A follow-on raises thoughtful questions civilly.

How 'bout them Bruins?

I haven't exulted yet over the fact that my Bruins finally won a football game in the Pac 10, narrowly defeating Washington (which beat USC earlier!) 24-23. It wasn't a pretty game, but it had its consolations. Kevin Prince, our redshirt Freshman quarterback who has shown flashes of competence but not enough, was injured toward the end of the second quarter, suffering a concussion that has the coaches still pampering/protecting him in practice. He's expected to start this week, but given things we have learned about concussions in recent years they may be ultra-cautious.

That left the game in the hands of Kevin Craft, last year's 20-interception goat and this year's third-stringer. He wasn't brilliant, but he was good enough to get the job done. The offensive line even did a fairly good job of protecting him much of the time, though there's still plenty of room for improvement there.

So it's Washington State this weekend, now the lone cellar-dweller. The Bruins are favored by 17 or so, but bad things tend to happen to UCLA in Pullman. Washington State will be desperate to get its first win, so it's as well to take nothing for granted. Beer and guacamole are already laid in.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Iraqi election agreement not a bad sign

I've noted elsewhere the irony that just now the U.S., in the form of Ambassador Christopher Hill, has been manically trying to micromanage the parliamentary process ion Iraq to produce the agreement just reached on an election law to govern the elections scheduled for January -- to some extent trying to create or coax along a process that should lead to scheduled troop withdrawals and the eventual abandonment not just of micromanaging but managing Iraq at all. Even now, Hill is less like an overlord and more like a lobbyist; U.S. influence is still pervasive but not necessarily decisive. That's not a bad situation as the Register opined; assuming there's not massive violence during the period surrounding the election (not necessarily an entirely safe assumption) we should have "only" about 50,000 troops in Iraq by next August or so, and virtually none a year after that. I hope it works out that way.

I suspect most Americans see the Iraq war as a disaster from which we were lucky to escape without more lasting damage -- though there are still war enthusiasts out there convinced we acted wisely and are succeeding. It is difficult to understand why so much of the political class works so hard to avoid seeing that further escalation in Afghanistan is likely to be even less satisfactory than Iraq has been. It smells of an empire in decline with a sadly out-of-touch aristocracy in charge. It's just sad so many decent Americans in the military will have to be sacrificed to the delusions of old men.

Berlin Wall ironies

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I did a piece for the Register Sunday Commentary section pondering why our political culture doesn't make a bigger deal of the event that triggered perhaps the greatest episode of political liberation at least in modern history, the gradual collapse of the communist enterprise in Russia, its satellites and its disappearance as a factor in geopolitics. I argue that we haven't yet as a culture come to grips with the shortcomings of communist theory, in part because it has implications for the shortcomings of soft socialism, with which right and left seem to be contented insofar as it is in place (Medicare, etc.) though disagreeing on how quickly it should be expanded.

When I was in Berlin in 1999 we stayed in a fairly new hotel in the former eastern sector, just a few blocks from Brandenburg Gate. Sections of the wall had been kept in place as a reminder, along with Checkpoint Charlie. But the remarkable thing was the lack of any sense of division, though there were differences. A new friend and I went barhopping almost 'til dawn one night, checking out perhaps a dozen hard by Humboldt University. Walking down Unter den Linden one saw fashionable shops, embassies, restaurants, some with sidewalk service -- a pleasant promenade. Further on were Humboldt U., museums, churches, a synagogue and opera houses, and that bizarre radio/TV tower, which we explored fairly thoroughly. The joke was that the national bird was now the crane, there were so many construction cranes all over Berlin. You could still see bullet-made pockmarks on museums and Humboldt U. buildings in the eastern sector, but the atmosphere was one of building, growth and optimism.

So where have I been?

I can offer some reasons for not entering more posts on this blog, all of which make some sense and are valid, but there may be a whole greater than the sum of the parts. I followed the World Series and have been watching a lot of football. The ranks at work have thinned out, at least temporarily for various periods of time, due to Steve Greenhut leaving, having a week or so before Brian Calle came on, then some Mark Landsbaum time off and Brian's trip to India -- 10 days, expected back tomorrow. I've done the Sunday Commentary cover piece the last five weeks in a row; when the department is in sync it's more like every third week. After that much writing involved with gainful employment, I haven't necessarily had that much new to say or felt like writing at all.

Aspects of this blog vacation have been nice; I've spent more time just talking or sitting with Jen of an evening, and I think it's been good for us. We'll have a gang over for Thanksgiving (don't know how we got suckered into that) and some housecleaning/pickup/minor projects will be and has been needed. So I've not been idle.

Anyway, I'm at it tonight and expect to be so more in coming weeks.

Monday, November 02, 2009

At least they showed signs of life

I guess I'm a hopeless homer, but I choose to take a certain comfort from the fact that the Bruins were able to score two touchdowns and successfully go for two on both in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Getting into the end zone when in the red zone has been a problem all year. Nice that Kai Forbath is a terrific placekicker, but we need to score touchdowns.

Of course it's disappointing that they then let OSU score a touchdown to win. But given a bit more time I wouldn't have been surprised if they had come back and scored again. I'm still hoping for better than 4-8 this year.