Penn Jillette, the world-famous magician (and fellow of the Cato Institute), has a saying: “Everybody got a gris-gris.” By that, Jillette means everyone has some irrational belief or superstition, something one believes even when knowing it is an unreasonable. We carry these superstitions through life like talismans, and we defend them when confronted with the cold light of reason. My gris-gris is NASA.
These days, when some world leader or politician speaks of the climate—the weather is what is happening right now wherever you are—they are not talking about sunshine or rain. They are talking about a devilishly obscene way of raising money by claiming that it is humans that are threatening the climate with everything they do, from turning on the lights to driving anywhere.
Much has been written and argued, from all sides in the global warming debate, about the meaning of the asserted 17-year pause in global warming. Is a 17-year pause significant? Is a pause even occurring? Does the pause signal a longer-term halt to global warming or even a long-term cooling trend? Would a resumption of global warming to pre-pause rates end the global warming debate? A look at recent temperatures and their appropriate context provides helpful meaning to the much-discussed global warming pause.
Dear President Obama,
For nearly six years, now, you have declared your intention and desire of being my Nanny-in-Chief. Your original campaign slogan of “Hope and Change” was really a promise of “Control and Command.” Well, Mr. President, I have a request: Mind your own business.
Recently while discussing the political knowledge, or lack thereof, of the average U.S. citizen, a thought occurred to me. Ideally, this is how it should be. Government in America was designed to be small, very limited and irrelevant to the day-to-day life of the average American.
This Molly Ball piece on the metric which best determines the outcome of elections makes for a fascinating read: essentially, it demonstrates that when Republicans don’t lose the working class by a wide margin, they do well, and when they lose it by 20 points, they don’t. Throw out all the other measures of race and religion – and Republicans even spot the Democrats the ten points! – and the share of the working class vote determines the outcome:
The United States is a political anomaly. Throughout time there has never been a nation so politically, culturally, and militarily dominant. Rome, even at its height, had rivals. So too did the British Empire, which at its apex made pretense to the rule of the waves, in spite of near constant challenges to its power from forces seeking to upset or supplant it. The international stability and peace created by these great empires, the Pax Romana and Pax Britannica, the Roman Peace and the British Peace, served in their times to guarantee security and relative prosperity within their spheres of influence. Yet they could never do so unchallenged.
In a recent appearance before a congressional committee, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told them that the agency’s proposed sweeping carbon-regulation plan was “really an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control.” If the plan isn’t about pollution, the primary reason for the EPA’s existence, why bother with yet more regulation of something that is not a pollutant—carbon dioxide—despite the Supreme Court’s idiotic decision that it is. Yes, even the Court gets things wrong.
It’s too soon for champagne, but perhaps a beer is in order. In a 2-1 decision in the case of Halbig v. Burwell, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the Internal Revenue Service cannot interpret the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as allowing subsidies for those Americans who purchase health insurance from the federal health insurance exchange known as Healthcare.gov. This is because the text of the law specifies that subsidies or tax credits are available for insurance purchased on state-created exchanges.
The subject of tax inversion, in which American firms avail of lower tax rates in foreign countries by merging companies in those countries, has become very topical in the last couple weeks thanks to a decision by Abbvie, a drug company, to merger with Shire, an Ireland-based firm and move its headquarters overseas. One of at least 47 tax inversions in the last decade, the Abbvie-Shire deal is the largest such action yet, worth $54 billion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, President Obama and Democrats in Congress have become apoplectic with rage at the audacity of a business making a prudent decision to escape bloodsucking taxes.
At the Examiner, Gene Healy writes about why the Rand Paul/Rick Perry initial sparring is good for the foreign policy debate on the right. Whether it’s good or bad in the long run, I do believe it illustrates a number of challenges Republican candidates in 2016 will have to deal with, and the difficulty of assessing where the Republican base is headed at a time when few leaders have run in tandem with its shifting views on national security and foreign policy.
When asked to imagine the birthplace of our contemporary republican democracy, most educated people point to the democratic traditions of ancient Athens and to the institutions and offices of the Roman Republic. Yet, Athens was destroyed and its democracy destroyed centuries before the birth of Christ, and the Roman Republic succumbed to imperial despotism in 27BC. These shining examples continued to burn as embers of remembrance long after their practical extinction, thanks to a political and intellectual class dedicated to the preservation of ancient documents and knowledge. But while preserving the records, the successor states of both Athens and Rome were neither democratic nor republican in character.
Most Americans would agree that liberty and freedom are values fundamental to our nation, but, if questioned, do they really know the intent of their meanings, or have they changed through time? David Hackett in his book,Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas, shows how liberty and freedom form an intertwined strand that runs through the core of American life. But like DNA, liberty and freedom have been transformed and recombined with every generation. Hence, the earliest colonies shared ideals of liberty and freedom may have evolved into different meanings today.
Prominent libertarians have been making the news with various proposals to build libertarian paradises free of government control. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has perhaps been the most vocal, with his support for building floating free cities in international waters well known. While such grand visions may be possible to achieve, they are still a ways off from fruition. If you are looking for a libertarian refuge in the here-and-now, however, there is a place for you to go: New Hampshire.
Panel 17 of the 9th International Conference on Climate Change was on the subject of “Peer Review, Herding, and the Reliability of Climate Science.” Anyone interested in the way science is actually conducted and the problems with the prevailing peer-review system can find a lot of interesting material in the discussion.
A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of bureaucratic incompetence played out in Ireland over the last several days. American country music star Garth Brooks was scheduled to play five concerts in the Croke Park arena, one of the largest venues in the country. In all, 400,000 tickets were sold. That is an astonishing number, considering Ireland’s population is just under 4.6 million. Close to one in ten citizens was planning to attend!
The 6th Panel of the International Conference on Climate Change was based around three men who worked with NASA. The group called, The Right Climate Stuff, focused on the actual facts and data related to the climate change debate. This information filled panel is a can’t miss for ICCC9.
This summer’s elections to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, marked a radical swing against the greater centralization of power in the hands of Eurocrats in Brussels. A great many of the Euroskeptic parties that had big wins were the French National Front and the British United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Other Euroskeptic parties on the continent, in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece, and elsewhere, also made out quite well. It was a wake-up call to many European leaders who had been complacent and tried to label Euroskeptics as fringe or extremist. The performance of UKIP in particular, which beat all three mainstream parties in the election, made those labels ridiculous.
There is value in citizens informing themselves about the basics of science, particularly science that is having a major impact on public policy. When science is high on politicians’ agenda, it has to be high on citizens’ agenda too. That is often difficult in the realm of science, which often requires specialist knowledge and a large amount of time to dedicate to the pursuit. However, there are useful primers readily available and written for public consumption that can serve as a solid basis on which voters can develop learned opinions.
Slowly but surely, Washington is waking up to the idea that the current surge in populism is not some flash in the pan, but a real and sustained trend in politics on the right and left. Distrust and frustration with an economic and political system that rewards, defends, and bails out the wealthy, powerful, and well-connected while leaving the middle and working class to get squeezed by stagnant wages and the higher costs of the basic staples of life, has made things which were once considered humdrum politics as usual suddenly controversial.