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Monthly Archives: November 2009

The CRU Hack

November 20th, 2009 - 12:13 pm

Related link at PJ Media:  Hacker Releases Data Implicating CRU in Global Warming Fraud

The WSJ reports that the “Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain was hacked yesterday, apparently by Russian black hats, and thousands of sensitive documents, including emails from climate scientists dating back a decade, were posted online.”

Some of the old emails from scientists made public apparently make references to things like “hid[ing] the decline,” referring to global temperature series and different ways to slice and dice climate data.

In all, it seems there are more than 3,000 files in the hacked folders, which have been reposted in various places on the Internet.

The big Copenhagen summit had lost a lot of its appeal in recent days, as world leaders kept dialing down expectations for the climate talks. Maybe this will spice things up.


The PACmen

November 19th, 2009 - 7:08 pm

Money is the lifeblood of politics.  And there’s a lot of it. The 2008 elections represented the first time when the combined campaign fundraising efforts of the two major Presidential candidates topped more than a billion dollars. Barack Obama raised $750 million dollars. McCain raised $370 million.  But the bare sums don’t tell the whole story. Political money is fraught with meaning.

Each political dollar has a history. It comes from a variety of sources, each restricted in its own way. Some money can only be spent for party activities.  Other monies can be counted toward promoting issues. A relatively small amount of money can be used to explicitly elect or defeat a candidate for political office. This is called “hard money”. “Soft money” on the other hand is the general term given to funds that can be used for “other activities not directly related to the election of specific candidates.” In order to have a sufficient number of dollars for a variety of purposes each candidate must be able to draw from a variety of financial springs if he is not to go dry.

Viewed from the other side of the transaction, political money represented a similarly semantic but by no means symmetrical aspect.  In the eyes of contributors, political money provids a means to an end: to cleanse or corrupt; to obstruct tyranny and further its ends; to build a railway through a town or around it,  according to the intent of those who offered it up. If money was the original sin of political life  it was also the most common vehicle for reform. To some money was a ticket to hell; to others it paved the road to heaven.  The same dollar bill could assume as many meanings as those who gave or took it intended.  It was all things to all men in the hope that it would somehow save some.


Green eggs and ham

November 19th, 2009 - 9:40 am

The New York Times published a joke in December 1942 about a soldier writing home to his mother from camp. “The food in this camp is absolute poison. And such small portions.” The Dean of the Harvard Medical School, Jeffrey S. Flier, writes that the same thing is true about health care “reform”: it will take everything that is bad about the current US system and give patients more of it. In the process, it will also take everything that is good about the status quo and give people less of it in the future. The bad news is that certain food items in the camp will remain “absolute poison”; the good news is that  it will be available in really generous portions. Flier analyzes the current system’s problems:

Our health-care system suffers from problems of cost, access and quality, and needs major reform. Tax policy drives employment-based insurance; this begets overinsurance and drives costs upward while creating inequities for the unemployed and self-employed. A regulatory morass limits innovation. And deep flaws in Medicare and Medicaid drive spending without optimizing care. …

In discussions with dozens of health-care leaders and economists, I find near unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape, the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it. Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care’s dysfunctional delivery system. The system we have now promotes fragmented care and makes it more difficult than it should be to assess outcomes and patient satisfaction. The true costs of health care are disguised, competition based on price and quality are almost impossible, and patients lose their ability to be the ultimate judges of value.


The devil you know

November 18th, 2009 - 8:23 am

The UK Times says a top French counterterrorism judge has concluded from his investigations that the Pakistani intelligence had until at least until recently close relationships with the Lashkar-e-Taiba with the knowledge of the CIA. However, his sources implied that the Pakistanis were reneging on their agreement not to train foreigners by moving them around during CIA inspections. This implies that while the US was long aware of Pakistani clandestine activities, they had accepted them to some extent but wanted assurances that their targets would be limited. In the event, they were not limited enough.

Jean-Louis Bruguière, who retired in 2007 after 15 years as chief investigating judge for counter-terrorism, reached this conclusion after interrogating a French militant who had been trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba and arrested in Australia in 2003. … Willy Brigitte, the suspect, told Mr Bruguière, that the Pakistani military were running the Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp where he spent 2½ months in 2001-02. Along with two Britons and two Americans, Brigitte was driven in a 4×4 through army roadblocks to the high-altitude camp where more than 2,000 men were being trained by Pakistani regular army officers, he said.


Forlorn hope

November 17th, 2009 - 11:18 am

Corruption and poverty in the Third World are often observed together.   But which causes which? Which is the chicken and which the egg? Take the town of Juarez in Mexico, which is right across the border from El Paso, Texas.  The BBC recently characterized the violence there as a struggle between the forces of law and order and violent drug cartels. Good versus evil. But others are not so sure. Some residents, who refused to be named, saw the drug cartels as a symptom of the lack of law and order in Mexico. In that narrative, the government was simply another gang fighting for the very same spoils the drug cartels were striving for.

The children of El Paso’s Glen Cove Elementary School have not been told that a gunman shot their classmate dead. Nor have they been told that someone across the Rio Grande in Mexico thought nothing of killing the seven-year-old. Or that the gunman left Jociel Ramierez alone to die, as the blood seeped out of his body on a busy roundabout. … He may not be the first US citizen to be killed in what have been called Mexico’s drug wars, but he probably is the youngest. His death is also a vivid illustration of how low Juarez has fallen, and how little the Mexican authorities seem able do about it.

When Felipe Calderon became president almost three years ago, he declared war on the drug cartels that he blamed for the breakdown of law and order across the country. … The Mexican government believes that given time it will win the fight. … some are beginning to question that certainty … People like Jociel Ramierez’s aunt, who prefers not to be named for fear of retribution, and who has a different solution to the problem: “We have to end corruption, maybe that’s the way to finish it.”


High society

November 15th, 2009 - 3:39 pm

The Telegraph explains what Lord Smith of Finsbury believes is necessary to Save The Earth. The idea is simple: everyone should be given a ration coupon corresponding to a carbon allowance. The free people of the world may thereafter go about their business, provided they pay out of their carbon allowance for everything they do.

It would involve people being issued with a unique number which they would hand over when purchasing products that contribute to their carbon footprint, such as fuel, airline tickets and electricity.

Like with a bank account, a statement would be sent out each month to help people keep track of what they are using. If their “carbon account” hits zero, they would have to pay to get more credits. Those who are frugal with their carbon usage will be able to sell their unused credits and make a profit. Lord Smith will call for the scheme to be part of a “Green New Deal” to be introduced within 20 years when he addresses the agency’s annual conference on Monday.

Finsbury, who is the chairman of Britain’s Environmental Agency, “is a British Labour politician, and a former Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister. He was the UK’s first openly gay MP, coming out in 1984 and, in 2005, the first MP to acknowledge that he is HIV positive.”


In sickness and in health

November 15th, 2009 - 1:20 pm

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post summarizes a report prepared by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services which attempts to estimate the effect of President Obama’s healthcare “reform” efforts. The Center is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to Montomery, the report says that half a billion dollars in “savings” will come from reductions in medical benefits to seniors. But despite the lower payouts, the reduction in total spending will be much less than advertised.

In the face of greatly increased demand for services, providers are likely to charge higher fees or take patients with better-paying private insurance over Medicaid recipients, “exacerbating existing access problems” in that program, according to the report from Richard S. Foster of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. …

Democrats focused Saturday on the positive aspects of the report, noting that Foster concludes that overall national spending on health care would increase by a little more than 1 percent over the next decade, even though millions of additional people would gain insurance. Out-of-pocket spending would decline more than $200 billion by 2019, with the government picking up much of that. The Medicare savings, if they materialized, would extend the life of that program by five years, meaning it would not begin to require cash infusions until 2022.


Kilcullen vs Sullivan

November 13th, 2009 - 9:39 am

Barack Obama says he won’t be rushed into making a decision about Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that Obama wants to show that whatever he decides, whenever he decides it, that he has considered all of the options carefully. “President Obama has not made a decision about his new military strategy for Afghanistan. And the White House is happy to say so.”

The White House has been eager to show that Mr. Obama is engaged in extensive deliberations before making what is likely to be one of the most debated decisions of his presidency. Drawing on studies of how decisions were made to escalate the war in Vietnam, Mr. Obama and his aides seem intent on showing the nation and the world that he is not being rushed by the military, nor making a judgment without considering the long-term implications.

However, one of the men who played a key intellectual role in formulating the counterinsurgency plan in Iraq says that President Obama’s indecision is risking a disaster on the scale of the Suez debacle not only for the US, but for NATO. The Guardian reports:


The politics of detection

November 12th, 2009 - 2:12 pm

The Hill quotes Rep. Pete Hoekstra as saying the White House is withholding information on the Fort Hood attack. It was not clear what Hoekstra was referrring to.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) said administration officials delayed briefing members of Congress about the alleged gunman, raising “red flags” about what the White House was hiding. “When they withhold information, you always start asking questions,” Hoekstra told Fox News. “That’s what raises red flags. What do they know that they don’t want us to know?”

CBS says Hoekstra has complained that neither the FBI nor the CIA have been forthccoming with Congress after initial signals that Hasan had been in contact with persons overseas.

A writing exercise

November 11th, 2009 - 5:36 pm

Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic thought Obama’s speech at the Fort Hood memorial was the greatest he had ever written. The full text is on Ambinder’s site.

Today, at Ft. Hood. I guarantee: they’ll be teaching this one in rhetoric classes. It was that good. My gloss won’t do it justice. Yes, I’m having a Chris Matthews-chill-running-up-my-leg moment, but sometimes, the man, the moment and the words come together and meet the challenge. Obama had to lead a nation’s grieving; he had to try and address the thorny issues of Islam and terrorism; to be firm; to express the spirit of America, using familiar, comforting tropes in a way that didn’t sound trite.

I thought I would try my hand at speechwriting to emphasize what should have been said. Although my version is less than soaring, it touches upon issues which ought to be have been addressed. My amateurish attempts and an actual video of Obama’s Fort Hood address taken by a participant are after the Read More.