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Actual data is a good thing

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 November 2014

For all the claims and accusations and back and forth about Antarctic sea ice (and its relevance to global warming), you might suppose that we have a good way to measure it. You’d be wrong.

We’re only now starting to get a handle on it. See Underwater Robot Measures Thickness of Antarctic Sea Ice

“Sea ice thickness and its variability in the Antarctic remains one of the great unknowns in the climate system,” said sea ice expert Ted Maksym of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

Unlike in the Arctic region, where large declines in thickness have been measured in recent decades, scientists do not really have a good handle on the average Antarctic sea ice thickness or on any possible trends there, Maksym said.

So despite the fact that it was a big unknown the partisans knew for absolute certain that it’s been shrinking. (Or increasing.)

It’s important to listen to what people say about an issue when they are not in the middle of a heated debate. That’s when you tend to get the more honest assessment of what’s going on.

-- 1 comment  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-25  ::  Greg Krehbiel

How slippery is that slope?

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 November 2014

I tend not to take slippery slope arguments all that seriously. The fact that one thing leads to another logically does not mean it will do so practically. People have gag reflexes and instincts and taboos built into their psychology, and I usually hold out the hope that they will save us from too deep of a descent into madness.

The trouble is that western liberalism seems to have found a way around those restraints, and slippery slopes are indeed becoming quite slippery. The speed with which same-sex marriage has become accepted is an example.

Jonathan Haidt has discovered that “educated” people, and people near universities, even if they aren’t educated, are far more able / willing to dispense with their moral sentiments and approach a question “rationally” — that is, according to the modern, western, distorted view of what a rational morality would look like.

Now this: Is it now OK to have sex with animals?

It’s a disturbing article.

Why, then, is [this story] a big deal? Because it’s perhaps the most vivid sign yet that, in effect, the United States (and indeed the entire Western world) is running an experiment — one with very few, if any, antecedents in human history. The experiment will test what happens when a culture systematically purges all publicly affirmed notions of human flourishing, virtue and vice, elevation and degradation.

Or, in other words, what happens when you ignore human moral sentiments and try to build a morality based on a naive, Google-like sentiment. “Don’t be evil.” Or, “Who am I to judge?”

The author attributes the problem to “an absolute ethic of niceness.” Because judging isn’t nice.

[T]here has never been a human society built exclusively on a morality of rights (individual consent) and an ethic of niceness, with no overarching vision of a higher human good to override or compete with it.

That doesn’t frighten the “educated,” because they’re stardust. They’re golden. Everything is different this time, which is the time of man. The Age of Aquarius. Get on the right side of history, man, or get left behind!

It’s a huge and very dangerous experiment. Nobody knows where it will lead or end. We are flying down a dark tunnel with no clue whether it opens up into a beautiful mountain vista or ends in a stone wall. But the odds have to favor the stone wall.

Why is this cultural experiment a big deal?

Because it stands as a stunning testament to our ignorance about ourselves. Roughly 2,500 years since Socrates first raised the question of how we should live, several centuries since the Enlightenment encouraged us to seek and promulgate scientific knowledge about the universe and human nature, Western humanity seems to have come to the conclusion that we haven’t got a clue about an answer. There is no consensus whatsoever about what ways of life are intrinsically good or bad for human beings.

This is why I am a conservative and not a libertarian (even though I’m registered politically with the Libertarian Party). I believe in the wisdom of the past, and I completely do not trust the Westons, Withers, Frosts and Filostratos of the world.

-- 2 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-25  ::  Greg Krehbiel

It’s not a lack of courage, it’s a wrong-headed view of the world

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 November 2014

Bret Stephens’ article on the prospects of Iran getting a nuclear weapon is worth reading, but I think he comes to the wrong conclusion. He says Obama is whitewashing the reality in Iran out of cowardice. I don’t think that’s it at all.

I think Obama came into office with the intent of making the U.S. a less dominant power on the world stage. He said as much in his campaign.

Obama distrusts U.S. and western power in the world and, like many liberals, is ashamed of the “arrogance of U.S. power.” That’s why he dismisses American exceptionalism and started off his presidency apologizing for everything. He wants a more equitable sharing of power between the nations, and that means, among other things, a nuclear Iran.

It’s not so much that he wants a nuclear Iran as that he doesn’t want an America strong enough to stop it. When you look at how and where Obama was raised, listen to what he said in his campaign speeches, and then compare those things with what he actually does in foreign policy, it seems to paint a fairly clear picture.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on foreign policy or on Obama’s mind, I’m just a guy offering an opinion. And my opinion is that “take the U.S. down a notch” is the key to understanding Obama’s foreign policy.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-25  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Ban suitcases with wheels?

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 November 2014

This is a silly story, but somewhat near to my heart.

Venice wants to ban suitcases with wheels.

Their concern is the noise of the wheels on cobblestones, which, honestly, probably would make a horrible racket.

I realize the wheels are incredibly convenient, especially when you’re going through an airport, but I hate those suitcases because of the mess they make of my daily commute. They’re a hazard to the movement of a crowd of people.

When everyone piles off the commuter train and we walk, drone-like, towards the subway, we all give one another an appropriate amount of room — a foot or two. Then somebody drops the wheeled suitcase and lets it dangle a yard behind them and it makes a mess.

The obvious solution is for people to have some manners and not extend their suitcases without checking to make sure it’s safe. But the intersection between “people with manners” and “D.C. commuters” is not a large enough set.

-- 2 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-25  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Looters, human life and property

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 November 2014

I grew up with a pretty heavy “law and order” inclination, and when it came to things like riots and looting I always thought the ring leaders should be shot. E.g., anybody setting a fire, breaking a window or inciting violence would be shot on sight, no questions asked. I’d start with rubber bullets, then move to lethal force if required. In my opinion, a governor who didn’t apply enough force to stop a riot was unfit for the office.

I still feel that way, but I’ve also come to appreciate the value of restraint. A human life is worth more than a TV set, or a building, so I can understand why some people take a more passive approach.

Still, it’s a hard line to draw. Even though human life is more valuable than property in an abstract sense, it is morally legit to shoot a man who breaks into your house, and it would be reasonable to use deadly force to protect your livelihood — e.g., to prevent people from burning down your store.

There comes a point where the rioters aren’t only damaging property, but are endangering lives. At that point the government has to intervene with whatever force is necessary to stop it.

In any event, the police should be recording it all and the prosecutors should be busy for months identifying people and pressing charges. I never understand why people get away with rioting. The people who rioted last August should be in jail.

If I was the governor of Missouri I would have warned people ahead of time that rioters would be shot on sight, and I would have imposed a curfew as soon as any riots began.

Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not a governor.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-25  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Greatest catch of all time?

by Greg Krehbiel on 24 November 2014

I don’t often comment on sports on this blog, but I had to post this. If you haven’t seen it you really need to, even if you don’t like football.

Odell Beckham hopes it’s not greatest catch of all time

It’s an astonishing catch.

-- 3 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-24  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Boehner on Congressional inaction

by Greg Krehbiel on 24 November 2014

Maybe I’m reading / listening to the wrong stuff, or maybe I’m missing some important details, but Rep. Boehner has consistently said that the reason he’s been unable to pass an immigration law is that the Republican conference doesn’t trust Obama to enforce any law they might pass.

That makes sense. What’s the point in working out all the details of a law if Obama is simply going to do what he wants to do? They point to his implementation of Obamacare as an example of his willingness to go outside the letter of the law.

I haven’t heard that side of the issue come up very often, which seems odd to me. It’s not as if it’s some crazy comment by a back bencher.

It’s possible that it has been discussed and I’ve missed it. It’s possible that people simply don’t believe Boehner’s explanation, or that people who know more about Washington than I do simply discount that explanation as nonsense. E.g., Obama has deported more people, etc. etc., so all this stuff about not trusting him to implement the law is just smoke.

Maybe, but it seems to me the dominant story line is “Republicans caused this by their inaction.”

-- 7 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-24  ::  Greg Krehbiel

SNL mocks Obama on amnesty

by Greg Krehbiel on 23 November 2014

You’ve probably seen this, but it’s pretty funny.

HT: Dave.

-- 4 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-23  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Lies that disqualify

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 November 2014

Any politician — no, any person who wants his public opinions to be taken seriously — who repeats the “women only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes” lie is immediately branded in my mind as someone who lies for political purpose. Either that or he’s too lazy to have looked into it, or too dumb to understand it. In any case he is disqualified from any serious consideration.

Why should anyone believe a word from the mouth of someone who repeats such a silly and misleading lie?

I contrast this sort of thing with positions that I disagree with. For example, some people believe that raising the minimum wage will help the working poor, or that regulating access to “assault rifles” will limit gun violence. I don’t agree, but those are just policy differences. I can respect people who hold such positions, even though I think they’re wrong.

Then there are “facts” like “humans are causing climate change.” That’s a very complicated stew of issues, and I can understand how and why people might fall on various sides of it.

The 77 cent thing is simply a lie. It’s a ridiculous, silly lie that has been disproven over and over again. It’s the sort of thing that should cause crowds to throw rotten tomatoes and boo the miscreant off stage.

What are some other examples of bald-faced lies that politicians tell? I don’t mean things that are up for debate, or things that spring from a different social or political opinion. I mean things that are simply and irrefutably wrong.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Even if Obama is right on substance …

by Greg Krehbiel on 21 November 2014

… he’s dead wrong on process and he should suffer some penalty for it.

I heard most of the president’s lecture last night, and what he is intending to do doesn’t sound all bad. I’ll have to read some of the reaction to hear the other side, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that what Obama did was 100% right.

He’s still wrong to do it.

His justification for acting alone is that Congress hasn’t passed “a bill” — by which he means “comprehensive immigration reform,” which goes way beyond what he did last night. IOW, he’s mixing apples and oranges. He’s saying that since Congress won’t give him the big bill that he wants, he’ll steal a little part of it.

What he should have done is proposed a bill that contained only the things he did last night. If Congress refused to do that, then — perhaps — he could make the case for going it alone.

As it stands he has no justification for doing what he did, even if the policy itself is 100% right.

And before anyone says “Republicans did the same” I will paraphrase Jonathan Swift who says that use of “precedent” means “things done illegally before can be done legally now.”

David Gergen takes a similar position in his column today: Obama’s dangerous move on immigration

Update: This is funny. Flashback: Barack Obama on the “biggest problems we’re facing”

-- 5 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-21  ::  Greg Krehbiel

2014-11-20 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Throwing down the gauntlet
2014-11-19 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
You can’t make this stuff up
2014-11-19 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
What blogs do you read?
2014-11-19 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
First, burn all the schools