Wednesday, November 27, 2002

An Insult to Science

Global warming, that is. Which is to say that the projections concerning global warming are based in large part on assumptions about trends in industrial activity and other human activites that generate greenhouse gasses. These assumptions are based in economic predictions. It turns out these assumptions are seriously flawed in that they grossly over-estimate future green house gas production.

Anyone puzzled by the science behind Kyoto should take a look at the economics. In the words of one leading economic modeller, the central 100-year economic projections behind Kyoto and global warming policymaking is an "insult to science" and "an insult to serious analysis." And that's probably the good part of any criticism. It is also clear that the economic work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is driven by systemic ideological preferences for state intervention.

A vocal group of economists around the world -- including some of the leading figures in the field of global economic modelling -- believe the core economic analysis behind the United Nations climate change initiative is based on seriously flawed modelling principles. If their analysis is correct, the central scientific tenets of global warming, including 100-year carbon emissions forecasts and temperature increases, are likely grossly exaggerated.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Freedom, More or Less

An argument has broken out in the pages of conservative publications of whether or not Americans as a people are freer now than we were, say, 50 years ago. Many conservatives think we are less free, and they seem quite adamant about it, based mainly on the expansion of the government that intrudes on our lives.

I have long called the people who are critical of the idea that we are a nation of increasing freedom “victim conservatives” because they are so wedded to the idea that they are victims of an oppressive government.

What this usually misses is that conservatives are all for government where it is necessary, and it is often necessary to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the people.

For example, those who think that we were so much freer in the 1950’s should talk to Catholics, blacks, Latinos, gays, and lesbians from that era.

It reminds me of the point made by one historian (I forget who) who pointed out that when the founding fathers talked about “freedom” they were talking about markedly different things: In New England they were talking about freedom of (not freedom from) religion; in the South they were talking about freedom to run their plantations the way they liked, which included keeping slaves; in the West they were talking about freedom from taxes and laws; and in no case were they talking about freedom for everyone.

No doubt when Southern slave owners had to give up their slaves they bemoaned their loss of freedom even though there was an obvious increase in freedom for all the people. When New Englanders lost the ability to exclude people with other religious beliefs from their communities they bemoaned their loss of freedom to do as they pleased in one particular area even while their right to continue to believe as they wished was more solidly established in the law. And, when people in the West started having to pay revenue on whiskey they bemoaned their loss of freedom even as their taxes went to pay for roads and other things that expanded their horizon and increased their overall freedom. And I suspect that this is where the victim conservatives are coming from -- it is a kind of tunnel vision that misses the forest of overall freedom for the trees of particular types of freedom.

Friday, November 15, 2002

GOP vs Trial Lawyers

The Democratic Party these days is not much more than a collection of special interests -- unions, feminist organizations, the NAACP, gays and lesbians, and, most of all, trial lawyers.

Politics in this country is down to them against all the rest of us.

PEOPLE who say, "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the two political parties," or "It doesn't matter who wins," are in for a big surprise watching the 108th Congress tackle tort reform. Right out of the box, there's terrorism insurance. Presidential advisor Lawrence Lindsey says Congress' failure to provide coverage is delaying more than $10 billion in construction projects and holding us on the verge of a double-dip recession. New York City is being particularly hard hit because of the risks of covering high-rise and "trophy" buildings.

The problem is the usual one: Trial lawyers insist on punitive damages.

The Bush administration is willing to commit the federal Treasury to coverage because private firms can't be expected to pay the damages if al Qaeda sets off a nuke in Lower Manhattan. But the trial lawyers and their representatives in Congress (a k a "The Democrats") aren't satisfied. They want to be able to blame someone - insurance companies, the government, anyone with money - if terrorists strike. That will enable them to blow the combination at Fort Knox.

Thursday, November 14, 2002


"The 'real' terrorist threats are George W. Bush and his band of brown-shirted thugs."

Sandra Bernhard

Comedian and Activist

"Anyone that would blow up the Pentagon would get my vote."

Richard Berthold

U-NM Professor

"[catching illegal immigrants] is a very, very low priority, and I think it should be a low priority."

Doris Meissner

Former Clinton INS Commissioner

"This New York thing is being blown out of proportion... Who gives a f***about New York when elephants are being killed?"

Lee Ryan

Boy Band, "Blue"

"Hunting is just a wonderful opportunity for someone who would want to do a terrorist act. They don't have to report their whereabouts and can be lurking anywhere. They can lurk in groups."

Anne Muller

Wildlife Watch

"[the American flag] is a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression."

Jennie Traschen

MIT Professor

"The Pentagon as a legitimate target? I actually don't have an opinion on that."

David Westin

President of ABC News

"We know we can't make the world risk free, but we can reduce the risks we face, and we have to take the fight to the terrorists. If we have the will, we can find the means."

Bill Clinton (1997)

Former President

"The war against terrorism is terrorism. The whole thing is just bullsh*t."

Woody Harrelson

Actor and Activist

"The Bush foreign policy team seems to be suffering from untreated bipolar disorder."

Madeleine Albright

Former Secretary of State

"If I see someone that's got a diaper on his head, and a fan belt around that diaper... that guy should be pulled over and checked."

John Cooksey


"When I see the American flag flying, it's a joke."

Robert Altman

Movie Director