Archive for December, 2010

I predicted this

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

I have already predicted this. The weasels among the effete left are already looking for an excuse to keep ROTC off campuses. Don’t Ask has now been repealed and gays may openly serve in the military, hopefully with more maturity than Private Manningserved his country. Now the political left will have to find another excuse. How is this ?

It should not be forgotten that schools have legitimate and moral reasons for keeping the military at bay, regardless of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They can stand with those who for reasons of conscience reject military solutions to conflicts.

It’s a shame Mr McCarthy hasn’t had the opportunity to experience what the lack of a competent military can bring. I’m not sure Mr McCarthy would go as far as the World Socialists.

WikiLeaks and Private Manning are being targeted because they have done what a cowardly and spineless media has refused to do—tell the truth about the crimes of American imperialism. Working people in the United States and around the world must demand the dropping of all threats and charges against WikiLeaks, an end to the government harassment and targeting of whistleblowers, and the immediate release of Private Bradley Manning.

But, if the truth were told, I think we could find very similar thoughts somewhere in his cranium. After all…

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace. If a school such as Harvard does sell out to the military, let it at least be honest and add a sign at its Cambridge front portal: Harvard, a Pentagon Annex.

Colman McCarthy, a former Post columnist, directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington and teaches courses on nonviolence at four area universities and two high schools.

Yes, I think those thoughts are in there.

Here is another opinion on McCarthy’s magnum opus.

Colman invokes Martin Luther King. King certainly urged non-violent protests against Jim Crow and the Vietnam War; but was he a pacifist? Did he oppose in retrospect, say, the Civil War? That is, did he deplore Lincoln’s military decision to restore the Union without slavery? Perhaps non-violent protests might have won a secessionist South back into the Union by the 1920s or 1930s without slavery. After all, what is a mere 60 or 70 years more of slavery?

Well put.

Changing The Sign On The Global Warming Equation

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

By Bradley J. Fikes

According to climate change scientists:

— An earth warmed by man-released CO2 will experience great climate disruptions such as warmer winters in the Northern Hemisphere.

— An earth warmed by man-released CO2 will experience great climate disruptions such as colder winters in the Northern Hemisphere.

This isn’t an either-or choice. Peer-reviewed scientific papers by those believing in man-caused climate change make both cases.

Here’s a press release from a 2001 paper by NASA scientists saying that warmer winters are on the way.

“NASA scientists input all of these factors in a climate model and concluded that greenhouse gases are the primary factor driving warmer winter climates in North America, Europe and Asia over the last 30 years. They found that greenhouse gases, more than any of the other factors, increase the strength of the polar winds that regulate northern hemisphere climate in winter.

“Using a computer model that simulates climate through interactions of ocean and atmosphere, scientists input current and past levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor and nitrous oxide. They found that greenhouse gases such as those increase the strength of polar wind circulation around the North Pole.

“The polar winds play a large role in the wintertime climate of the northern hemisphere. The winds blow from high up in the stratosphere down to the troposphere and eventually the Earth’s surface. When they strengthen, as they do from increases in greenhouse gases, they blow stronger over the warm, moist oceans picking up and transporting warmer air to the continents. Thus, warm air from the Pacific Ocean warms western North America, and the Atlantic Ocean warmth is shared with Eurasia. When winds are stronger, winters are warmer because air picks up heat as the winds blow over the oceans. When winds become weak winters become colder.”

According to that particular NASA computer model, anyway. NASA also published similar research predicting warmer winters in 1999.

But according to research released in 2010 by at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference, we’re due for colder winters from climate change.

“Cold and snowy winters will be the rule, rather than the exception,” says Dr James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States. Dr Overland is at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference (IPY-OSC) to chair a session on polar climate feedbacks, amplification and teleconnections, including impacts on mid-latitudes …

“While the emerging impact of greenhouse gases is an important factor in the changing Arctic, what was not fully recognised until now is that a combination of an unusual warm period due to natural variability, loss of sea ice reflectivity, ocean heat storage and changing wind patterns working together has disrupted the memory and stability of the Arctic climate system, resulting in greater ice loss than earlier climate models predicted,” says Dr Overland.

“The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic,” he says.

This purported effect of climate change is getting a lot of press now, with the intense winter weather we’re experiencing. Bryan Walsh, a loyal supporter of climate change theory at Time magazine, this month wrote the obligatory story informing the masses that yes, the frigid weather is consistent with global warming.

“The theory seems counterintuitive, but as Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who writes the great Wunder Blog at Weather Underground, put it in a recent post, it makes sense: ‘This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar — the refrigerator warms up, but all the cold air spills out into the house.’ The planet overall is still warming — and the Arctic fastest of all — but the cold air from the far north can result in biting winter weather and major storms, for a while at least.

That’s not the only theory. Judah Cohen, the director of seasonal forecasting at the environmental research firm AER, has written that increasing seasonal snow cover in Siberia may drive extreme winter weather. Even as the planet has continued to warm and the Arctic has melted, seasonal snow cover has increased in Siberia, especially north of high Asian mountain ranges like the Himalayas. (As the climate warms overall, the atmosphere can hold more moisture, which can lead to more precipitation — falling as snow in places like Siberia that remain relatively cold.) All that Siberian snow creates a dome of cold air near the mountains, which bends the passing jet stream. Instead of flowing west to east, the jet stream moves in a more north to south fashion, carrying cold air south from the Arctic in the eastern U.S. and in Europe.”

Warmer winters or colder winters — those advocating global warming theory have certainly covered their bases.

In another version of this post, I said Time’s Bryan Walsh deserved an award for climatological contortionism, for earlier reciting the premise that climate change would be bringing warmer winters. Here’s one of his posts saying so, in 2009. Excerpts:

“Warming will make skiing, ice-skating and snowmobiling pastimes of the past in many areas of the Northeast, decimating the multibillion-dollar winter-sports industry. The center of maple-syrup production will shift from New England to Canada, and production of apples and other produce that depend on cooler winters will decline.”

“The predictions, based on unchecked growth in carbon emissions over the next several decades, are scary. Equally scary is what has already happened. The assessment shows that over the past few decades, winters in the Midwest have warmed by a few degrees, and the number of winter days without frost has increased by about a week.”

Bacteria, Bowels and Health

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Most people do not understand that we live in a sea of bacteria. There are bacteria, and related organisms called Archea, at the bottom of the sea and probably deep into the earth. The vast majority of these bacteria do us no harm and, in fact, some are necessary for health and even life. For example, if a patient has been taking antibiotics for several weeks, their blood clotting may be seriously impaired. This is because vitamin K is manufactured in the gut by bacteria, which are killed off by antibiotics.

Antibiotics have another undesirable effect on bacteria in the gut. The bacteria which are sensitive to that antibiotic are killed off and this leaves room for more dangerous bacteria, which are resistant to the antibiotic, to take up residence. My professor of surgery had a theory, which I have not seen proven, that harmless bacteria are the best adapted for life in the gut. If they are killed off by antibiotics and replaced by pathogenic organisms, removal of the antibiotics will allow the harmless organisms to reestablish themselves, displacing the pathogenic strains. I saw evidence of this in his and my own patients.

He kept a pure culture of Escherichia coli, a common colon bacterium, in the hospital lab. This strain was sensitive to all antibiotics so would be quickly killed off in their presence. Many of his elective surgery patients would come in for surgery with highly antibiotic resistant organisms in their colon. This was because they had been taking antibiotics, usually for diverticulitis. If these patients developed an infection postop, most common antibiotics would be useless. What he did was to stop all antibiotics and give the patient a dose of the lab E. coli in a malted milkshake. On admission, we would take a culture of the patient’s stool and have the lab check sensitivity to the common antibiotics. Usually, we found that the stool organisms were resistant. A couple of days after the dose of sensitive E coli had been given (I never asked the patients if they knew what was in the milkshake), the stool culture was checked again. In almost all cases, we found that the resistant organisms had been replaced by sensitive ones.

The residents at the County Hospital used a variant of this method on elective colon surgery patients. Since the lab was not about to keep a culture of sensitive organisms for us, we used an alternate source for them. Patients coming in for simple surgeries, like hernia repairs, who had not been on antibiotics and who had not been around hospitals, had a stool sample taken. That stool specimen was mixed with a malted milkshake and given to the colon surgery patients. Needless to say, they were not told the contents of the milkshake. We were less able to test the effect because the labs were very uncooperative with any of these exotic concepts. Still, I think it worked although we now know that the bowel flora is actually not what we thought it was in the 1960s. The anerobic organisms, like Clostridia, were not well understood and Bacteroides had not been discovered. It is now known that 90% of colon organisms are anerobic, meaning they cannot survive in an oxygen containing atmosphere. Many species have not been discovered because they cannot be cultured. They also produce nutrients, like fatty acids, that are essential for the health of the colon mucosa. There is even a disease called “diversion colitis” that is due to diversion of the fecal stream, by a colostomy usually, from the lower colon.

Why am I bringing up these old war stories ? There is a lot of interest right now in how colon bacteria affect normal health. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is much in the health news. There is a theory that it is caused by bacteria in the bowel that produce too much gas and cause other irritating conditions.

Researchers have built a strong case that bacteria may be the actual culprit. Mark Pimentel, M.D., a colleague of mine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who heads the GI Motility Program, has spent the last decade studying IBS, specifically the role bacteria may play in causing the condition. He and his colleagues unveiled the results of a large clinical study during Digestive Disease Week earlier this year in New Orleans. This study showed an antibiotic is effective in providing long term relief of IBS symptoms – excellent news for a large number of IBS sufferers.

If an antibiotic is helpful, what about other bacteria that may not cause the irritation ? WE hear a lot the past few years about “probiotics” on the radio. What are they ?

Our bodies are a complicated ecosystem full of flora. In fact, the bacteria outnumber our own cells by 10 times. There are around 10 trillion cells that make up the human body, and we have around 100 trillion bacteria cells in our digestive tracts.

As more people become increasingly aware of the importance of this “good bacteria,” hundreds of products in recent years have attempted to catch our eye by promising to help our troubled stomachs. Probiotics, defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host,” have become a big business. During a casual flip through the television channels, I frequently encounter commercials filled with attractive women gushing that their digestion has never been more regular thanks to certain yogurts or other products.

There may be something to some of those claims.

Probiotics include both yeastlike members of the saccharomyces group and teria, which usually come from two groups: Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. Probiotics are sold as capsules, tablets and powders, as well as in a growing number of foods. Among them, yogurt, yogurt drinks, kefir, miso, tempeh, as well as some juices and soy beverages. Sometimes the bacteria were present originally, and sometimes they are added during the preparation of the foods.

I have for many years prescribed yogurt and lactobacillus containing milk, available in the supermarket, for my patients recovering from conditions in which they took antibiotics.

Despite its narrow range of participants, the study confirmed that probiotic yogurt aided many of those involved. “We have shown that simply giving a probiotic drink to elderly patients who are prescribed antibiotics reduces their risk of getting diarrhea,” says Mary Hickson, a research dietician at Imperial College in London and the lead author of the study.

Gastrointestinal illness is a common side effect in an antibiotic’s battle against bacterial infection. Antibiotics don’t just go after the bad guys — they also kill some of the beneficial or neutral place-holding flora in our digestive tracts. This collateral damage allows deleterious organisms to establish themselves, often inflicting abdominal distress and discomfort as a result. Yogurt, like other “probiotic” foods, helps to promotes the growth of favorable bacteria in our digestive tracts. These microorganisms assist us in absorbing nutrients from our food and also occupy valuable real estate so that pathogens cannot proliferate and make us sick.

It’s nice to see the theory catch up with practices that I and others have been using for 40 years. Those patients who got the fecal milkshakes never knew how advanced the therapy they were getting really was.

Is an ice age coming ?

Monday, December 20th, 2010

There is a great deal of argument about the reality of anthropogenic global warming. Al Gore is on one side and the weather seems to be on the other. People are even talking about the “Gore Effect.” This is unexpected cold weather that seems to follow Al Gore around. If he comes to town to give a speech about how the world is warming, expect a cold snap or even snow.

Right now, Britain, and much of Europe, are enduring a terrible winter. This has been called the worst winter in Britain in 100 years. The British Met Office predicted a warm winter. London, however, was prepared for snow. A lot of snow. The result has been that London has kept up quite well with the weather except for Heathrow Airport which has been closed for two days. Why did London city do better than Heathrow and most of the rest of Britain ?

The Mayor explains.
He uses a private weather forecaster who is getting more and more respect from people who have to know about the weather, like farmers and business people. And the Mayor of London.

Is it really true that no one saw this coming?

Actually, they did. Allow me to introduce readers to Piers Corbyn, meteorologist and brother of my old chum, bearded leftie MP Jeremy. Piers Corbyn works in an undistinguished office in Borough High Street. He has no telescope or supercomputer. Armed only with a laptop, huge quantities of publicly available data and a first-class degree in astrophysics, he gets it right again and again.

Back in November, when the Met Office was still doing its “mild winter” schtick, Corbyn said it would be the coldest for 100 years. Indeed, it was back in May that he first predicted a snowy December, and he put his own money on a white Christmas about a month before the Met Office made any such forecast. He said that the Met Office would be wrong about last year’s mythical “barbecue summer”, and he was vindicated. He was closer to the truth about last winter, too.

He seems to get it right about 85 per cent of the time and serious business people – notably in farming – are starting to invest in his forecasts. In the eyes of many punters, he puts the taxpayer-funded Met Office to shame. How on earth does he do it? He studies the Sun.
He looks at the flow of particles from the Sun, and how they interact with the upper atmosphere, especially air currents such as the jet stream, and he looks at how the Moon and other factors influence those streaming particles.

He takes a snapshot of what the Sun is doing at any given moment, and then he looks back at the record to see when it last did something similar. Then he checks what the weather was like on Earth at the time – and he makes a prophecy.

Many of us climate skeptics believe that the sun controls our weather and Piers Corbyn believes that the last three winters could be the harbinger of a mini ice age that could be upon us by 2035, and that it could start to be colder than at any time in the last 200 years. He goes on to speculate that a genuine ice age might then settle in, since an ice age is now cyclically overdue.”

Are we now in a Dalton Minimum ?

Well, it doesn’t look good. How long before the climate science people open their eyes ?

it is a full two years since the month of solar minimum, this was a good opportunity to update a lot of graphs of solar activity.

Read the whole thing.

The lame duck session

Monday, December 20th, 2010

If Harry Reid has his way, the lame duck session will continue until Christmas. He is trying to get all the left wing legislation that Democrats were afraid to pass before the election, passed now that they have lost the election. There is some question about the ethics of this but ethics do not rank high on Senator Reid’s priorities. Looking at the behavior of his family in Nevada is a hint of that state of mind. Nancy Pelosi does not require explanation.

The Tax bill- The “Bush Tax Cuts” were the rallying cry of leftists since 2002 and 2003. Even Senator McCain, to his discredit, campaigned against “tax cuts for the rich” in 2000 when he was running against Bush. Many forget just what the economy was like in 2000. The Clinton Boom, as even Republicans refer to it, was a combination of holding the line on taxes after his initial tax increase in 1993, and the internet bubble. Even Hillary took her final bonus from the Rose Law Firm on December 31 to avoid her husband’s tax increase that was to be retroactive to January 1. That tax increase and the health care project Bill Clinton entrusted his wife with, were the reasons for the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. The result was pretty dramatic.

That is a pretty interesting chart. First, it shows that the Clinton bull market only began after the 1994 election. I had invested in gold stocks when Clinton was elected and they did quite well. Everybody anticipated a typical Democrat inflation. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate what George Bush and Alan Greenspan would do to the dollar to try to keep the Clinton crash in 2000 from continuing. Even Greenspan was heard talking about reflating the economy after 2000 with a housing bubble. Anyway, the Clinton boom was due to the Republican Congress. After 2000, they lost their way.

The chart also shows a comparison to the 1929 crash which was also a low interest rate consequence. Benjamin Strong, the president of the New York Fed, was trying to balance gold flows between the US, England and Europe, especially Germany and France. The US had a huge hoard of gold after World War I. To try to keep the gold from all flowing into the US, he kept interest rates low. He might have seen the danger in time but he died of tuberculosis in 1928.

Had the tax rates increased on January 1, there was considerable risk of a “double dip” recession. Now, I think that risk is lessened. Obama seems to be recognizing that his course was untenable. Not so the other Democrats in Congress, especially the House.

Harry Reid was shocked when he failed to get his monstrous budget resolution passed in the Senate. To grease the skids, he had included earmarks requested by Republican Senators earlier in the year. I have read that Daniel Inouye, Chair of the Appropriations Committee of the Senate, included those earmarks without any request from the Senators involved. The Senators wavered but responded to the entreaties of Mitch McConnell for unity. Now, the new Congress will be able to shape the new budget and start the reform.

The DREAM Act has been sold to the public as applying to college students and volunteers for the military but it is far wider than that. Actually, it applies to anyone under 35 and all they have to do is swear they have applied to college or to the military. There is no actual obligation to serve or to enroll and attend college classes. Wisely, it was blocked although it will keep coming back. Ultimately, a limited amnesty might be achieved once the border is really secured with a fence. There is no point in considering such legislation until we have border security. We also need better treatment of applicants of legal immigration.

The DADT bill was passed repealing the federal policy. There was a persistent misunderstanding that this was military policy. It was not and efforts were made to confuse the issue by those opposed to the military. Some of the elite colleges that had expelled ROTC in the 60s are making noises that they will allow ROTC programs once again now that the policy has been repealed. We will see. The gay issue was only the latest excuse for the anti-military views of left wing faculty and I expect to see more obstacles appear.

The economy would respond to real evidence that spending will be cut and taxes will remain stable at present levels. The anti-business tone of this administration will remain and we will see if Obama can restrain the temptation to intervene by executive order, like the EPA attempt to regulate carbon. I hope that will be slapped don by the new Congress.

I hope the START treaty is stopped as it is unnecessary and may be harmful to efforts at ballistic missile defense, which the left opposes on general principles. Hopefully that will end the lame duck session.

W-w-weather Is Not C-c-climate

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

By Bradley J. Fikes

It’s the standard disclaimer of believers in anthropogenic  global warming whenever there’s a period of unusual cold: you can’t discern climate from singular weather events. And it’s true, although some AGW believers sing a different tune when the weather is unusually warm.  In those cases, we’re told, the warm weather is a foretaste of what we can expect from global warming.

This increasingly (in)famous article in the UK Independent predicting milder winters is an example of the double standard. Dated March 20, 2000, the article stated:

“Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

“Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

“The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London’s last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.”

However, 10 years after the article, Britain is enduring what may be a record-setting period of cold. From the Dec. 18, 2010 UK Daily Mail: (emphasis mine)

“Swathes of Britain skidded to a halt today as the big freeze returned – grounding flights, closing rail links and leaving traffic at a standstill.

“And tonight the nation was braced for another 10in of snow and yet more sub-zero temperatures – with no let-up in the bitterly cold weather for at least a month, forecasters have warned.

“The Arctic conditions are set to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond and as temperatures plummeted to -10c (14f) the Met Office said this December was ‘almost certain’ to become the coldest since records began in 1910.”

And in the UK Independent itself, we read:

Millions of Britons faced travel misery today with planes grounded, rail services cancelled and roads rendered impassable on what is traditionally the busiest weekend before Christmas.

Plunging temperatures and heavy snow saw large swathes of the country grind to a standstill, as London’s Gatwick Airport closed its runway and British Airways cancelled flights at Heathrow.

This is the third year of unexpectedly cold winters in Britain. In January, 2009, AGW uber-believer George Monbiot wrote a weather-is-not-climate column in the UK Guardian:

“The thought that I might never skate outdoors again feels like a bereavement. I pray for another cold snap, even though I know it will bring all the nincompoops in Britain out of their holes, yapping about a new ice age.”

In January, 2010, Monbiot recycled the same column:

Yes, it is colder than usual in some parts of the northern hemisphere, and warmer than usual in others. Alaska and northern Canada are 5-10C warmer than the average for this time of year, so are North Africa and the Mediterranean. The cold and the warmth could be related: the contrasting temperatures appear to be connected to blocks of high pressure preventing air flow between the land and the sea.

But in 2005, Monbiot likened the weather to climate. Of course, that was during a relatively warm British winter. From Monbiot’s Dept. of Double Standards:

“It is now mid-February, and already I have sown eleven species of vegetable. I know, though the seed packets tell me otherwise, that they will flourish. Everything in this country – daffodils, primroses, almond trees, bumblebees, nesting birds – is a month ahead of schedule. And it feels wonderful. Winter is no longer the great grey longing of my childhood. The freezes this country suffered in 1982 and 1963 are – unless the Gulf Stream stops – unlikely to recur.”

Well, the Gulf Stream has not stopped, and Britain is freezing. So what happened to the confident prediction of AGW believers in 2000 that “snow is starting to disappear” from Britain?

Perhaps Monbiot will tackle that in his third “weather-is-not-climate” column. Thanks to Britain’s icy weather, it  should be due any day now. A dose of humility about the difficulty of predicting climate wouldn’t hurt his credibility.


DISCLAIMER: This is my opinion, and not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times.

The crisis of the intellectual

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

I was directed to an excellent post by Walter Russell Mead today. It is on the subject of the American social model and the coming era of tumultuous social unrest as the old welfare state model collapses. Europe is already seeing this collapse as nations like Greece face bankruptcy and England deals with the consequences of severe cutbacks in social spending to avoid it.

The US is facing similar economic consequences if the level of spending is not addressed soon. The 2010 elections show that the people recognize the crisis but the “political class” seems less concerned.

“It’s telling to note that while 65% of mainstream voters believe cutting spending is more important, 72% of the Political Class say the primary emphasis should be on deficit reduction,” Rasmussen said.

“Deficit reduction” is code for raising taxes. Spending is heavily embedded in the culture of the political class.

Mead is concerned that the intellectual demographic, those with advanced degrees and careers denominated by thinking rather than doing, is unable to cope with the new situation.

There’s a lot of work ahead to enable the United States to meet the coming challenges. I’m reasonably confident that we remain the best placed large society on earth to make the right moves. Our culture of enterprise and risk-taking is still strong; a critical mass of Americans still have the values and the characteristics that helped us overcome the challenges of the last two hundred years.

But when I look at the problems we face, I worry. It’s not just that some of our cultural strengths are eroding as both the financial and intellectual elites rush to shed many of the values that made the country great. And it’s not the deficit: we can and will deal with that if we get our policies and politics right. And it’s certainly not the international competition: our geopolitical advantages remain overwhelming and China, India and the EU all face challenges even more daunting than ours and they lack our long tradition of successful, radical but peaceful reform and renewal.

No, what worries me most today is the state of the people who should be the natural leaders of the next American transformation: our intellectuals and professionals. Not all of them, I hasten to say: the United States is still rich in great scholars and daring thinkers. A few of them even blog.

His concern is that the intellectuals seem caught in a mind set that goes back to the 19th century and the Progressive Era.

Since the late nineteenth century most intellectuals have identified progress with the advance of the bureaucratic, redistributionist and administrative state. The government, guided by credentialed intellectuals with scientific training and values, would lead society through the economic and political perils of the day. An ever more powerful state would play an ever larger role in achieving ever greater degrees of affluence and stability for the population at large, redistributing wealth to provide basic sustenance and justice to the poor. The social mission of intellectuals was to build political support for the development of the new order, to provide enlightened guidance based on rational and scientific thought to policymakers, to administer the state through a merit based civil service, and to train new generations of managers and administrators.

It’s interesting that one of the comments, a lengthy one, exactly restates this issue but supports this model and argues with Mead that it is still superior.

Second, there are the related questions of interest and class. Most intellectuals today still live in a guild economy. The learned professions – lawyers, doctors, university professors, the clergy of most mainline denominations, and (aspirationally anyway) school teachers and journalists – are organized in modern day versions of the medieval guilds. Membership in the guilds is restricted, and the self-regulated guilds do their best to uphold an ideal of service and fairness and also to defend the economic interests of the members. The culture and structure of the learned professions shape the world view of most American intellectuals today, but high on the list of necessary changes our society must make is the restructuring and in many cases the destruction of the guilds. Just as the industrial revolution broke up the manufacturing guilds, the information revolution today is breaking up the knowledge guilds.

He goes on to criticize medicine as a guild but I think he is unaware of the rapid changes going on in medicine today. The image of the family GP is quickly shifting to the multispecialty group with primary care provided by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Those who want a personal relationship with a primary care physician, or even a favored specialist, will increasingly be required to pay cash for the privilege as many doctors who want to continue this model of practice are dropping out of insurance and Medicare contracts because of the micromanagement and poor reimbursement.

In most of our learned professions and knowledge guilds today, promotion is linked to the needs and aspirations of the guild rather than to society at large. Promotion in the academy is almost universally linked to the production of ever more specialized, theory-rich (and, outside the natural sciences, too often application-poor) texts, pulling the discourse in one discipline after another into increasingly self-referential black holes. We suffer from ‘runaway guilds’: costs skyrocket in medicine, the civil service, education and the law in part because the imperatives of the guilds and the interests of their members too often triumph over the needs and interests of the wider society.

Almost everywhere one looks in American intellectual institutions there is a hypertrophy of the theoretical, galloping credentialism and a withering of the real. In literature, critics and theoreticians erect increasingly complex structures of interpretation and reflection – while the general audience for good literature diminishes from year to year. We are moving towards a society in which a tiny but very well credentialed minority obsessively produces arcane and self referential (but carefully peer reviewed) theory about texts that nobody reads.

Once again, costs in medicine are a subject by themselves but the solution does not lie in controlling doctors incomes. With respect to the academic institutions, I have personal experience here and will describe some of it. The Humanities have been hollowed out by a trend to both politicize and to leave the subject behind as “critical thinking” goes on to analysis that has little to do with it. The Sokol Hoax is but one example.

The Sokal affair (also known as Sokal’s hoax) was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the magazine’s intellectual rigor and, specifically, to learn if such a journal would “publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if it (a) sounded good and (b) flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.”[1]

The hoax precipitated a furor but did not result in much improvement in such publications. My daughter had personal experience when her freshman courses in English Composition and American History Since 1877 both contained numerous examples of political and “social justice” alteration of the subject matter. For example, she was taught that the pioneers in the west survived by “learning to live like the Native Americans.” The fact is that the pioneers were mostly farmers and ranchers and the Native American tribes of the southwest were hunter gatherer societies who did not use agriculture or animal husbandry. She was also taught that the “Silent Majority” of the 1960s were white people who rejected the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thus they were racists. Even Wikipedia, no conservative source, disagrees:

The term was popularized (though not first used) by U.S. President Richard Nixon in a November 3, 1969, speech in which he said, “And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.”[1] In this usage it referred to those Americans who did not join in the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the time, who did not join in the counterculture, and who did not participate in public discourse. Nixon along with many others saw this group as being overshadowed in the media by the more vocal minority.

She has since transferred to another college.

The foundational assumptions of American intellectuals as a group are firmly based on the assumptions of the progressive state and the Blue Social Model. Those who run our government agencies, our universities, our foundations, our mainstream media outlets and other key institutions cannot at this point look the future in the face. The world is moving in ways so opposed to their most hallowed assumptions that they simply cannot make sense of it. They resist blindly and uncreatively and, unable to appreciate the extraordinary prospects for human liberation that this change can bring, they are incapable of creative and innovative response.

I think this is the source of the “media bias” so prominently referred to by the Right and by many who are not politically focused. This is why talk radio and Fox News have been such huge successes to the consternation of the political class and their supporters. Charles Krauthammer famously said, “Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox News) found a niche market that contained 50% of the population.”

The Tea Parties are another manifestation of the frustration of the general population with the political class but also with the intellectual class that seems to be wedded to the first. The university community is, at least in the non-science segment of it, to be increasingly isolated from the concerns of the society that supports them. CalTech has for many years had a Humanities program to expose science and engineering students to culture. Unfortunately, a student in a large university will find much less culture and much more politics in Humanities departments these days.

A couple of other blog posts are worth reading on this subject. One is here and the other is here. They are both worth reading in full.

The left and conspiracy theories.

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Fifty years ago, a book was written about political conspiracy theories. It was called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It was written in 1964 and has been a staple of the left ever since. Its theme was the paranoia of the political right that was looking for communists in the State Department and harassing Hollywood actors and writers. It was specifically directed at Senator Barry Goldwater who was the Republican nominee that year. It is still in print with new material contributed by Sean Wilentz, an Obama supporter and leftist professor of history.

It has been an article of faith on the left that conservatives are paranoid about such subjects as communists (Although defenders of Alger Hiss were disappointed to find him in Soviet archives as a spy) and foreign threats like the Soviet Union and militant Islam. The left now says that they knew all along that the USSR would collapse and Reagan had nothing to do with it. Fortunately for them, You Tube was not around in those days to record speeches to the contrary. The threat of militant Islam is the latest example of a threat dismissed by the left. President Obama has embodied this concept in his “reaching out” to Iran and Syria. Nancy Pelosi even conducted her own diplomacy while Bush was president by visiting Syria to convince them we were a friend. The left does not seem to be discouraged by failure to respond.

Recently, especially since Obama has been president, the conspiracy forces seem to be stronger on the left. The “9/11 truthers” are represented even in the administration. Jones, of course, was too nutty to represent a serious threat but it is suggestive.

Jones’s genius as an ideological entrepreneur was to mine white liberal anxiety — they are quite aware of their own NIMBY hypocrisy — by selling them the “green jobs” shtick to reconcile class/racial guilt with environmental enthusiasm, thus making them feel better about themselves.

That’s why Jones rose so far. That’s why he was such a “progressive” star. That’s why, as top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett put it, “we’ve been watching him” and were so eager to recruit him to the White House.

In the White House no more. Why? He’s gone for one reason and one reason only. You can’t sign a petition demanding not one but four investigations of the charge that the Bush administration deliberately allowed Sept. 11, 2001 — i.e., collaborated in the worst massacre ever perpetrated on American soil — and be permitted in polite society, let alone have a high-level job in the White House.

He was “outed” and recently had a free lance reporter expelled from a “open to the public” meeting he was holding.

I read leftist blogs to find out what the other side is thinking. Here are some recent examples. In a post about the current struggle over the Bush tax rates, Steve Benen says:

There’s a reasonable case to be made that we’re looking at a cumulative effect. For much of the left, the concessions, many of which seemed wholly unnecessary, are just becoming intolerable. The party’s messaging, tactics, and inability to compromise effectively are just exasperating, and the apparent fact that Republicans will get an extension of a failed tax policy has led some to throw up their arms in disgust and proclaim, “I’ve had it.”

I get that. It’s a sentiment that obviously makes sense.

The Democrats are committed to static analysis of tax effects. A tax cut loses revenue while a tax increase adds revenue. Now why are the Democrats, who have large majorities in both houses of Congress, unable to block this Republican effort to keep tax rates the same? It can’t be good economic policy because Steve Benen said so. What could they do to convince Republicans the Democrat position is the better choice ? Here are some theories.

You’re sending the message the richest of the rich actually control this country, and in order to get a few crumbs for the common man, the rich need to be paid off with borrowed money – money that the common man (and woman), and their children, will be obligated to pay back, with interest. That does not bode well for the future of America.

Posted by: delNorte

So the rich and the corporations control the country. That is probably the most widely accepted conspiracy theory in the country. It is accepted by the left and many independents.

I think it’s a confluence of reasons: 1) It’s a simple issue with little to no nuance. There is no good reason to extend the cuts to the rich (outside of politics). 2) OTOH, the bank bailout and the fin reg are/were very complex issues which did not satisfy anyone’s sense of justice for holding responsible those to blame for the mess we’re in.

Posted by: You Don’t Say

Now, there is another theory. There is no reason to keep the tax rates the same for those with incomes over $250,000 except politics. Here is a person who does not believe that small business creates jobs. I doubt he would be impressed by this video. That business owner makes $300,000 and employes about ten people. Raise his taxes and what happens ? Who cares ?

There is absolutely NO convincing case that extending tax breaks for the super-wealthy is good for the nation; quite the reverse — it signals that the unabated looting of America is now in full swing;

Here’s more the same from another commenter.

What strikes me is there is no discussion of economics and how the economy works. OK. “Trickle Down” doesn’t work. “Tax cuts for the rich” doesn’t work. What does work ? Silence.

This morning, the This Week program on ABC, in its new incarnation with Christiane Amanpour, spent the entire show on DADT. They said not a word about the economy. DADT will not be repealed so why spend an hour on it two days after the unemployment rate went up again to 9/8% ? The political left is bored by economics and the national economy. They are far more interested in social issues like DADT or gay marriage. I can understand this because so many of them are government employees, or academic institution employees or low level employees of private organizations who have nothing to do with managing the business. They don’t know how private business is managed, they have never signed the front of a paycheck, and have no idea how people make decisions about investing because, aside from 401ks, they have no contact with it.

There was an amusing exchange about passports yesterday. It began with this:

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, leader of the Bloomberg faction of the Bloomberg party, was interviewed en route to China, where he was seeking to open diplomatic ties between Cathay and the colorful principality he governs. A quote: “If you look at the U.S., you look at who we’re electing to Congress, to the Senate — they can’t read. I’ll bet you a bunch of these people don’t have passports.”

Imagine that ! People who don’t have passports ! Anyway, the funniest part was a comment that the writer was being interviewed about tea parties by a German journalist. She asked him if he had a passport and he told her that he had lived in Germany as a child. I can’t find the link now and I wish he had asked her if she had ever owned a share of stock. Economic ignorance seems to be requirement for leftist credentials. Not only ignorance but disinterest.

Lawyers and nuclear power

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

I thought this column, not authored by me, was so important that I am posting it here. I do not understand the eco-left. Do they expect us to live a cold and dark existence ?

By Carl From Chicago-

Due to a failure of our “de-regulation” initiative (I put it in quotes because we just re-regulated differently) with energy the United States has basically ceased investing in base-load power plants, which are comprised of 1) nuclear 2) coal 3) large-scale hydroelectric. Instead we have been generally just extending the lives of our existing assets and building natural gas fired peaking plants and letting our reserve margins erode.

While this has many impacts to the United States over the long term (in the short term we benefit from lower rates as we delay the reckoning of having to invest massive amounts in capital construction in the future rather than starting it now and spreading it out over many years) one other extremely bad negative element has not been adequately discussed. The United States is frankly losing any ability to construct or build nuclear or coal plants efficiently while China is using their scale and continued capital investment to refine construction techniques and standardize processes to build an industry that will be miles ahead of their US equivalent.

The December, 2010 issue of the magazine “The Atlantic” has an article titled “Why the Future of Clean Energy is Dirty Coal”. While I don’t share their focus on “clean” energy, they did have a section on the scale of investment in China that was staggering. From the article:

China is preparing, by 2025, for 350 million people that don’t exist now. They have to build the equivalent of the US electrical system, that is almost as much added capacity as the entire US grid – by 2025. It took us 120 years…As China meets its capacity, it is likely that the best technologies will be commercialized and applied here faster than everywhere else.
In addition to the scale of their investment, their specific investments are also growing more advanced:

For the last 30 years we have not been able to build a coal-to-gas conversion plant in this country… China has done many. That is what we need to learn from them, all that production and operating experience.
Why are they able to get so much done? Well for one thing they don’t have a lawyer and regulation plagued “system” that adds billions (literally) to the cost of a plant without necessarily improving its efficiency or safety; and it punishes new designs that might be INHERENTLY safer than older, operating designs by limiting the ability to move forward in the first place.

In America, it takes a decade to get a permit for a plant… Here, they build the whole thing in 21 months.

As discussed in many of my other posts, the “nuclear renaissance” in the US was an illusion, as is aptly summed up by the current state of ongoing nuclear construction projects in the USA from wikipedia:

As of September 2010, ground has been broken the Vogtle project and one other reactor in South Carolina. The prospects of a proposed project in Texas, South Texas 3 & 4, have been dimmed by a falling out among the partners. Two other reactors in Texas, four in Florida and one in Missouri have all been “moved to the back burner, mostly because of uncertain economics”.
Vogtle works only because Southern Company is a well capitalized utility, and South Carolina works only because SCANA (the utility in that state) has “old school” regulation that allows them to capture the costs of new construction in their rate base as they build it, which is how ALL of the existing nuclear plants in the United States were originally built. We have hope for Texas and in general I always support nuclear power but it will be an uphill battle.

According to this article, China has TWENTY FIVE nuclear plants under construction. While we are battling lawyers and regulators they are able to actually site, build, construct and start operation of brand new nuclear facilities, with designs that are significantly more advanced than the vast majority (existing fleet) of US reactors, which date to designs from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

China is learning lessons about large scale construction and operation of brand new designs while we are trying to extend the lives of our existing, ancient reactors and delivering hot air of plans that won’t materialize, such as the aborted plan to jump start construction in the US, a plan that I pointed out long ago won’t work for a variety of financial and regulatory reasons.

We are losing our ability to even compete. Our only hope is that China will be helpful to us in selling us the technology 20 years from now to build the next generation reactors when our existing fleet has completely broken down and we realize that betting on “alternative” technologies is a drop in the bucket when compared to base load requirements.

Copied from Chicago Boyz.

And Jerry Brown has big plans for “alternative energy” in California.