Sunday, January 31, 2010

The outrage of inequality

There are people who claim that marriage equality is unimportant because gay couples can secure the same legal rights before the law as other couples merely by paying thousands of dollars to attorneys to draw up a web of contracts for them to sign. Such people are either woefully misinformed, intentionally dishonest, or making the claim for some reason of a personal nature—perhaps they simply want to deny gay people equality of rights but don't wish to appear bigoted. They harbor their bigotry in their heart they just don't want you to know about it.

The reality is that life isn't as simplistic at the anti-equality advocates claim. Consider the case of Dennis Engelhard and Kelly Glossip of Missouri. The two met in 1995. Kelly was raising a two-year-old son from a previous relationship. Kelly and Dennis fell in love. Together they bought a home and raised Kelly's son together.

Dennis worked as a highway patrolman. On Christmas Day he had stopped to help at the scene of a minor accident. As he was standing on the side of the road another car lost control in the snow and slammed into him, killing him. It was a traumatic time for Kelly and for the son the two men had raised together. But quess what? Kelly doesn't legally exist, neither does his son. Yes, they are living, breathing, human beings who had shared the life of Dennis Engelhard, but when it comes to the law they don't exist. They are strangers to Dennis.

Engelhard's co-workers knew he was in a long-term relationship and that he and Kelly were raising a son together. It wasn't a secret. A blog at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says:
If Engelhard had been married, his spouse would be entitled to lifetime survivor's benefits from the state pension system — more than $28,000 a year. But neither the state Highway Patrol pension system nor Missouri law recognizes domestic partners. A fraternal organization that provides benefits to the families of troopers killed in the line of duty is also unsure if it will help Engelhard's partner.
The "fraternal organization" decided they wouldn't help either, but more on that in a moment. The Governor priased Engelhard publicly for his service and referred to him merely as a "son and a brother" preferring to not even acknowledge that his partner, and their son existed. Patrolmen were with Glossip at the hospital where Engelhard was pronounced dead. The head of the local Highway Patrol said Engelhard was "an outstanding trouper. His lifestyle had no bearing on his career." So, it wasn't that the actual nature of the relationship was a secret.

The spouse of a heterosexual trooper killed in the line of duty would receive death benefits, as would the children. But the law in Missouri, thanks to the hard work of loving, compassionate, good Christians, specifically says that gay couples are not allowed to be recognized as spouses. The asshole Republican who chairs the Joint Committee on Public Employee Retirement, Ward Franz, was asked about the case. He said: "I personally feel that a relationship should be between a man and a woman. They still love each other and care about each other, but I don't think we can change the law for that." No, of course not, why recognize relationships that are based on love.

Let us turn to Backstoppers. They raise funds for law enforcement workers and fire fighters who are killed in the line of duty. They used Engelhard's death to urge the public to donate to their group. Below is a video on that. (More text is below that but the video formatting distorts the space slightly and it may appear this post ends there.)

Backstoppers handed a check for $5000 to Engelhard's mother, not to his partner of 15 years. The director of the group, Ronald Battelle, says that they were not originally aware that Engelhard had a spouse of 15 years. But he also says it doesn't matter. Since its a gay relationship it doesn't count legally and, "The parents are the legal next of kin." Engelhard's spouse, and the son they raised, just don't count.

And the police fraternal outfit, Masters, has benefits for the family of deceased officers just not for gay families. The head of the group, Fred Mills, said: "We have never paid benefits to a girlfriend or boyfriend. It's always been spouse and/or children." Of course, Engelhard and Glossip considered themselves spouses but the law wouldn't allow them to legalize that relationship.

What has shocked me has been the intellectual disconnect that the bigots go through to justify this. According to them, there is no discrimination here. No unmarried "partner" of a police officer qualifies for recognition. Of course, the unmarried partners of heterosexual officers are legally able to marry while the partners of gay officers are forbidden to do so. So the logic of bigotry goes like this: "You don't need the right to marry, since you can have all the same rights as straight couples, through expensive legal contracts. But, you can't have the death benefits given to the spouses of deceased officers because you were not legally married and the law says you are legal strangers."

The head of a right-wing "think tank," the Missouri Family Network, Kerry Messer, dismissed the matter. He said: "Common law marriage doesn't exist in Missouri for a very good reason. It throws other laws into a tailspin and muddles every other policy. The state says 'get married or live with the status quo' That's true for gays and heterosexuals." What sort of moron is this man? The state doesn't tell gay couple they can marry, he helped make sure of that. It specifically says, "You may not marry."

I should note that the church that the couple attended set up a memorial fund for Dennis Engelhard and has said they will use the funds to help Glossip and the couple's son. The church also had a memorial service with Glossip and his son recognized. Rev. Mike Kinman, provost of Christ Cathedral, said: "Even if we have a state that's not going to to acknowledge a love and acknowledge a relationship, we're going to do that. And part of how we do that is by writing those checks. And so I encourage you to give, and to give generously."

The official funeral, attended by hundreds of police officers, never recognized Glossip or the boy. And anyone who doesn't think these laws are driven by pure hate and bigotry need only read the vicious and vile comments left at news sites about this story. It is shocking how monstrous people can be.

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Onion does it again. Hilarious.

Please note that someone complained to Youtube that this video contains nudity and sex. It doesn't but that shows you what lengths people will go to in order to censor things that bother then—they will lie. So, if you are looking for nudity or sex, this is the wrong video. If you want a good laugh then enjoy.

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Some thoughts on the letters of Paul.

My regular readers will know that I’m an atheist. Those who have read this blog for sometime will also remember that I spent some time in seminary. That’s seminary, not penitentiary—though there were times the two were quite similar.

I concluded that the concept of god simply didn’t make sense—that there was no reason for me to believe. I bode no ill will for those who conclude differently, in spite of believing that they conclude wrongly. And I have had an abiding interest in all things theological. I studied the belief systems of the major branches of Christianity and many of the less well-known sects as well.

So, in spite of my utter lack of faith, or a belief in the supernatural, I continue to study the subject of religion—Christianity in particular. Christianity has had a major impact on Western society. I live in Western society, so it behooves me to study this influence—especially since I have concluded that the influence of Christianity has not been benign.

One of the courses I am currently listening to isabout how the Bible can into existence. It is not a topic that we actually spent much time studying in seminary. My seminary believed the Bible was the infallible, wholly inspired, word of God. At the time, I was trying very hard to agree with them. Even then I was seeing flaws in that claim.

And, my continued study of the origins of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, goes a long way in explaining why the seminary ignored this historical approach. We were told to believe, to have faith, to never question, and were never taught how the Bible evolved.

Even if we stick to just the New Testament the history is inconvenient, at least for the fundamentalist interpretation. Of course, there was no such thing as the New Testament for most of the years of early Christianity. Christianity spread by word of mouth, not by the Bible, as there was no Bible.

In the course I am currently taking there has been some discussion on the letters of Paul to the various local churches. These letters are in fact the earliest writings of what became the New Testament. The New Testament is not chronologically collected. The gospels were written decades after the death of Jesus, and in all likelihood, by individuals who never saw or meet Jesus.

Similarly the letters of Paul, which make up a huge portion of the New Testament, were written by someone who never saw Jesus alive. Paul did claim to have a vision of Jesus sometime after his death and claimed resurrection. And, as a result of this alleged vision, Paul went around seeking converts to his brand of Christianity. He was quite successful at it too, creating small churches throughout the region of Asia Minor.

After Paul left an area he often heard of problems with his converts. So Paul would write them letters trying to set them straight, or give them guidance. Those letters, and others attributed to Paul, are now much of the New Testament

But, there is no reason to think that Paul, when he sat down to write those letters, believed he was writing the infallible, inerrant, word of God. No doubt he did think his doctrines were straight from God, but then so do most believers. But surely Paul thought he was writing a letter to some specific people trying to give them advice and guidance. He was merely sending a letter. Had the computer/internet been invented in Paul's lifetime we, no doubt, would be reading emails from Paul, not epistles.

People kept many of Paul's letters, copied them over and passed them around. Or, more likely, someone read them aloud since most Christians were illiterate. Paul was seen as the one who converted them to this new “one true” faith. So his advice was taken seriously.

But there is no indication that anyone, at the time, thought these letters were the “word of God.” That came much later. There is actually some evidence that, while they clearly admired Paul, they didn’t take care of his letters very well. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, known in the New Testament as First Corinthians, Paul makes mention of his previous letter to the Corinthians. First Corinthians is not the first letter to the Corinthians at all. It is actually, at the very least, the second letter Paul wrote the church in Corinth. Paul makes mention of this in chapter five, verse nine.

Paul continued some of the points he made in his first letter, in his second letter. So far no copies of the first letter have survived. Apparently the church in Corinth did not think that Paul’s first letter was the infallible word of God. They thought it was a letter from Paul chastising them for immorality. We know the first letter was preaching at the Corinthians about sex because Paul wrote them telling them “not to company with fornicators.” I would think that if either Paul, or the Corinthians, thoughts these letters were the inspired, infallible word of God, then they would have been a little more careful with the letter that they lost. Surely Paul, had he ever thought of his letters the way contemporary fundamentalists do, would have been far more diligent and kept copies of each one.

My point is, that if you believe you are holding in your hand the only copy of the inspired, inerrant word of God then you are going to be pretty damn careful not to lose it. But the Corinthians apparently did lose it, or someone did along the way. And Paul didn’t see any reason to keep a back-up copy of “God’s word” either. I suggest that neither Paul, nor the Christians in Corinth, understood the letters of Paul to be the word of God.

Actually, at no point in the early history of the New Testament was text treated as the literal word of God. People treated it the same way they would any collection of stories. When the various manuscripts, that were later collected and called the New Testament, were copied—the only form of duplication in existence at the time—the scribes often added their own flourishes or deleted things they didn't like. And apparently no one bothered to carefully proof read the copies as thousands of variations between ancient New Testament writings survived to this day. This attitude indicates they didn't think they were handling the inerrant word of God, otherwise they would be more careful about the errors, and editing, they were making.

Oddly, modern fundamentalist refer to their view of the Bible as the “old time religion” yet, it is not actually the oldest, of the old time views. It seems fairly clear to me that Paul, and those he converted, never saw his epistles, or letters, the way modern fundamentalists do. Fundamentalism is not returning to how Christians first viewed these letters at all.

My view is that the letters of Paul are interesting historical documents explaining his beliefs and some of the problems in the churches he founded. They help explain how and why some Christian doctrines survived and others died out, or are now branded heresy. Paul’s letters are important because he, far more than Jesus, is the true founder of Christianity. Paul’s brand of Christianity is the one that ultimately won out, of all the different versions of the faith alive at the time he was. So studying his letters tells us a lot of the evolution of the Christian religion. But there is no reason to think that anyone at the time they were written, including Paul, saw these letters the way modern fundamentalist do today.

Illustration: How Rembrandt imagined Paul.

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Crony Capitalism

One of the great myths, pushed by both Right and Left, is that Big Business is needs Big Government to keep it under control. In reality, Big Business usually advocates Big Government because it knows that it is able to control the regulatory process for its own benefit. And it does. The political Left, some of whom are well-meaning but naive, often plays up this alleged conflict to their benefit. Obama, in his State of the Union speech, played that same note over and over. He denounced Wall Street and Big Banks yet he has lavished billions of dollars on the groups he attacked and his own administration is riddled with officials he picked directly out of the very companies he was deriding. It's a con job from start to finish.

John Stossel discussed crony capitalism in this episode of his new show and I thought it well worth watching.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Prof. Mike Hulme on the politics of climate claims.

Prof. Mike Hulme is one of the most well-known of the warming doomsayers. He teaches at the University of East Anglia, in the UK. He is also surprisingly candid. (He is NOT the person in the photo to the far left, although he is on the Left.) Recently Hulme participated in a debate on the warming issue. The topic was along the lines: Do science and economics support government action on climate change?

Hulme opened the debate, and the first thing he did was dismiss the debate topic itself. I took very precise notes of his words. Since I watched this on video, I stopped the presentation every couple of seconds so I could write down, word-for-word, precisely what he said. Hulme said: "Yes, I believe in government action on climate change, not action that is driven and determined by either science or economics, but action that is decided on of political ideology, risk evaluation, ethical judgments, public deliberation and a democratic sensibility."

Hulme said that we should be clear that "neither science nor economics should determine government action. ...I make this claim about neither science nor economics driving government action because I believe it should be determined by politics. Politics which is, if you like, the conduct of social relations involving authority and power in order to make decisions. Politics is what we have. And that is where government action and policy should be formulated."

Hulme was also quite happy to say what political ideology he uses. He said that the debate needs to start out with a discussion of the role of government. As he put it: "Is our preference for a small and minimalist state? Or is it for a large and interventionist state?" He said: "My own personal instincts, and my own political beliefs are for a more interventionist state, than for a minimalist one. So, for example, I believe in a state that would play a significant role with regards to wealth redistribution both within and between societies."

An interesting confession I think. He wants a state that redistributes wealth "within and between societies." Now, unless Hulme means something unusual by "societies" he is speaking about international wealth redistribution. Ask yourself what kind of state is necessary to redistribute wealth between different nations. Is he speaking about global governance where the UN or some similar body has the ability to confiscate wealth in productive nations and redistribute it to unproductive nations? He's wasn't entirely clear on that but I note that numerous warming groups have pushed for international control of markets to "stop the warming crisis."

This raises some interesting questions. Are the claims about warming the prime issues for these activists or are they secondary issues? Are the prime issues those of global governance, economic central planning and wealth redistribution instead? Hulme didn't seem to be saying that his politics is the result of his science, but that instead, his science is heavily influenced, perhaps solely influenced, by his politics. Is this debate primarily politics disguised as science? That certainly has been my view since the Green Left discovered warming claims to push a very precise political agenda.

I previously argued that much of the Green agenda was created after the collapse of socialism around the world. Old socialist arguments no longer had any credibility and thus the centralized state with economic planning needed a new veneer to cover up the cracks and worn parts. It is my belief that the many of the most ideological types on the extreme Left flung themselves into the environmental movement precisely because they it as a vehicle to relabel their ideology and give it the cloak of science once again.

In a column that Hulme wrote he said: "Too often, when we think we are arguing over scientific evidence for climate change, we are in fact disagreeing about our different political preferences, ethical principles and values systems." Hulme says that the field of science has become a debate platform, not about science, but about politics and that we "fail to engage in honest and robust argument about our competing political visions and ethical values." He says science is too uncertain and incomplete and that is "especially the case with the science of climate, a complex system of enormous scale." Hulme says he thought climategate was good since it might push the real debate into the spotlight and the real debate is "about political beliefs and ethical values."

Some years ago I wrote a political column that was published weekly. Typically they paired the column with one written by a woman I knew. She was a hard-core socialist and, a recent search online about her, reveals that she is still a socialist. She is an activist with the Democratic Socialists of America and says her goal, as well as the DSA's goal, is "to establish socialism as a political force in the U.S. and around the world by training mobilizing socialist activists...." After the collapse of socialism she became director of the Global Warming Project for the non-scientific Union of Concerned Scientists (membership does not require scientific credentials at all, just cash).

That Hulme is openly saying that the global warming debate is not a scientific one, but a political one, is refreshing. Such honesty is rare with his compatriots in the warming trenches, even if their private emails showed them acting precisely like political lobbyists and not like scientists. But I suspect Hulme won't attract much of a following from his fellow warmologists. The reason is simple. They realize that if they presented their campaign in openly stark political terms, they would lose the debate. The public is not quite willing to march toward massive state interventionism is the name of of politics. And since the public isn't willing to march in that direction they need to be stampeded instead. And the way to do that is to try to scare the hell out of them using scientific theories.

While Hulme is honest, his fellow warmologists are tactically smarter. They know that when it comes to politics, honesty is not the best policy. So they will continue to pretend, in public at least, that they are dispassionate scientists without a political agenda who are merely urging policies that are necessary due to the massive crisis that they say we are facing. And, if some silly blogger, writer, reporter, whoever, points to the political agenda they will act offended and howl in derision. Politically that is actually their best option.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

When Nanny is there all sex is unsafe sex.

We all worry about teens and the risks associated with sex. No one wants young girls to get pregnant or for teens to spread venereal diseases. Like it or not, to the extent that so-called sexting replaces actual sex as an expression of erotic needs, it replaces higher-risk sexual activities with lower-risk activities.

But state laws make all teenage sex dangerous. It isn't dangerous because there are consequences to actions that nature imposes. In nature there is always a cost to something. Governments, however, like to screw around with that premises. So they minimize the risks of some bad things by subsidizing them. For instance, government will subsidize tobacco growing, help subsidize people who get cancer from smoking, provide "insurance" to people who build in flood planes, etc. All of these are cases where government lowers the cost of risky behavior thus encouraging more of it.

At the same time Nanny increases the risks artificially in other areas. Two teens exchanging dirty photos are clearly less at risk than if they were bonking behind the swingset unless the authorities get involved. At that point it becomes very dangerous indeed. The fact is, that even the safest sex, for young people, is highly dangerous when politicians take note. This was what two randy students in Valparaiso found out recently.

The middle school students had used their cell phones to exchange nude photos. Now these two kids are charged with being child pornographers. The girl involved apparently forgot to turn off her cell phone in school. The phone rang and the teacher confiscated it. Local papers report: "The teacher told police the girl asked to delete something from the phone before it was turned over to the administration, but that request was denied."

Now this immediately raises some questions. While I can see the school requiring students to turn off cell phones, and I can even fathom why they might have the right to confiscate a ringing cell phone from a student, what I don't see is how they had any right to search the contents. Merely asking to delete somethings from the phone is not a justification for a warrantless search.

Of course, the busybody schoolteacher, and remember in government systems teachers are part of the State, apparently told the police. And somebody, and I would bet without a court order, went through the phone. That was when they discovered that a few days ago the girl, and a boy from the school, had exchanged racy photos.

Now, if you want the pure hypocrisy of the State on this matter consider the justification used by Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek. The local paper says she "said young people don't understand the ramifications of texting nude photos... She said a nude picture could end up being shared with half the school and could get in the hands of people who seek out child pornography."

Think about this. If a kid takes an erotic photo of him/herself the whole school could find out. But to protect kids from having that happen the State, in this case Cheryl acting as the State, makes sure the entire school finds out. And, to top it off, she prosecutes the kids, they can face jail time, and they can be forced to register as sex offenders depending on the whims of the prosecutors or the law.

So, to protect a couple of "stupid kids" from some bad consequences we will subject them to even worse consequences, some of which can plague them till the day they die. And need I point out that the actual consequences for the kid are worse when the photos end up, not in the hands of someone who seeks out such things, but in the hands of teachers, school officials, police officers and prosecutors.

We all know the reality of schools. Once the police got involved, and the boy and girl in question were arrested, it was only minutes before every single student knew who was arrested and why. The police may not release the names because they are minors but there is no privacy. And when all the kids knew, it was only a few hours before all the mothers knew, and when all the mothers knew, you can bet most the town found out shortly afterwards.

Now, without condoning what these kids did, can anyone tell me how the situation could have been worse for the couple, if they weren't being "protected" so much by the police and school officials? When will people figure out that most legitimate problems are merely made worse by state intervention? If the goal is to minimize harm to kids, shouldn't we keep them out of the clutches of the police and, dare I say it, the teachers.

In a related matter: I highly recommend the horrifying documentary The War on Kids, by Ceving Soling. This documentary ripes into the increasingly authoritarian nature of state education in America. As shocking as the documentary is I was even more shocked to read a positive review in the New York Times. The review said:
A shocking chronicle of institutional dysfunction, “The War on Kids” likens our public school system to prison and its disciplinary methods to fascism. At least now you know why little Johnny won’t get out of bed in the morning.

Arranged in sections that range from merely interesting to downright horrifying, this provocative documentary suggests a system regulated by fear and motivated by the desire to control. Tracing the evolution and application of zero-tolerance policies on drugs and violence, the director, Cevin Soling, amasses overwhelming evidence of institutional overreaction. When an 8-year-old can be suspended for pointing a chicken finger and saying “Pow,” we know that common sense has officially left the building.

Impassioned interviews with educators, authors and medical professionals — and some very perceptive students — warn of the consequences of surrounding children daily with armed security guards and surveillance cameras.
Whatever you do, get yourself a copy of this video from our friends at Laissez Faire Books.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is it news or satire? With the Travel Nazis Who Can Tell?

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I find I can even like a Republican—sometimes.

There are two species that I have not been overly fond of: politicians and Republicans. So it is not highly likely that I would have some positive things to say about a Republican politician who is NOT "officially" running for President, which, in political newspeak, means he is running for President. But I do have some good things to say about one of them. That one is Gary Johnson the former governor of New Mexico.

Recently I was invited to a small get-together of people with Johnson. I listened with interest. And while Johnson isn't exactly where I'm at politically, he seemed to consistently be "almost there" on most issues. I am happy to attribute the "not quite" there views as necessary concessions in the political marketplace. Johnson is almost libertarian across the board. In that sense I think he is far superior to Ron Paul, who was clearly unlibertarian in several ways.

Johnson, for instance, says on immigration: "Fences don't work and won't work." Ron voted for the wall on the border. Johnson wouldn't go as far as I would on immigration but his view isn't bad. He wants to make it easier to "document workers" coming to the US, make it easier to come and doesn't like throwing out people who have lived here and established a life for themselves as productive individuals. I'd go farther but this is a damn good start.

In 1988 Ron Paul was "personally" against abortion but didn't campaign for state control, something he changed views on when he last ran for office (as he changed his positions on immigration as well). Johnson says he is personally opposed but "the decision is best left to the individuals involved." I can live with that as well.

Republicans go bonkers on war. Johnson says he is against the war in Iraq and opposed it as governor. He says that the "should resort to military action only as provided for in the Constitution." Again, I can live with that—and so could billions of other people.

I told Johnson that there are three issues that divide libertarians from conservatives in the current political debate: drugs, immigration and equality of rights for gay people. So I put him on the spot about the one he had not addressed that evening. He immediately said he would support civil unions for gay couples. Again, that is about 80% there. But compared to other candidates, a consistent 80% there on issues is pretty damn good.

I asked him about the Defense of Marriage Act and his first inclination was to oppose repeal. I mentioned the law denies equal rights in ways that libertarians ought to be concerned. The father of our host for the evening asked me to clarify. So I pointed out the obvious case that a heterosexual American can marry a non-citizen and bring their spouse to America to live with them but that gay Americans are denied that right by law. Johnson didn't seem to realize that was the case and that the Defense of Marriage Act prevented a policy of equality. But he was a governor not a federal legislator so I can excuse that lack of awareness. Johnson immediately said he may have spoken too soon and said what I mentioned, "just doesn't seem fair." Hey, that's a better answer than you can get out of Ron Paul or Bob Barr.

But his immediate rethink tells me he is someone who has basic principles down and if new information is provided is open to reconsidering his views.

Interestingly Johnson gets a point I've made in this blog several times. Recently I argued the election of Brown in Massachusetts was not an endorsement of Republican views, anymore than the election of Obama was an endorsement of nationalized health care or Obama's views. Only a few days ago Johnson told the Union Leader in New Hampshire that it would be a "a mistrake for Republicans" to view the Brown victory "as some sort of mandate." He said all voters were doing was showing "a real disgust with those in office. It isn't a shift to Republicans. It's just, 'Get whoever's in there out." That is barely different than what I said.

As governor Johnson vetoed 750 different pieces of legislation that crossed his desk. Compare that to Dubya who never met legislation that he didn't like. As governor of New Mexico Johnson vetoed more legislation than all 49 other governors combined. That reminds me of the joke about what do you call a 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea: a good beginning. I don't know how many laws Johnson didn't veto but 750 is a good beginning.

While I was unimpressed with the Ron Paul of 2008, and only moderately happy with the Ron Paul of 1988, I feel a bit more comfortable with Johnson. I'm not comfortable enough to give an unqualified endorsement—I doubt I ever would be. But I am comfortable enough to say he deserves some attention by individuals who, like myself, believe in less politicial interference in markets as well as in the social sphere. If you are sick and tired of the Ayatollahs from evangelicalism running, and ruining, the Republican Party then Gary Johnson may be the man for you, especially if you still want someone who understands the need for free markets and low taxes.

I am 90% confident, based on the conversation with Johnson, that he will be running for president. He can't declare his candidacy now because of the way the government regulates his group, Our America. But it appears, like most other issues, that when it comes to official declaring his presidential ambitions he's 80% of the way there. And that's also good enough for me. Give him some thought.

Photo: Yes, that is Johnson. The snow gear was necessary since this is him recently climbing Mt. Everest. When he wants to do something, he does it. And he does want to run for president.

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More IPCC improprieties says BBC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change purports to be a scientific body, or at least wants people to see them that way. In reality they are a very political body which uses science to justify specific political agendas. And, in my opinion, the political agenda comes before the science.

We have already reported on the IPCC's use of material from a political lobby, reporting it as if it were peer-reviewed science. That was the World Wildlife Fund's report that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. (Actually the trail is more convoluted than that, so read the original post on the matter here and here.) As a BBC column noted: "This turned out to have no basis in scientific fact, even though everything the IPCC produces is meant to be rigorously peer-reviewed, but simply an error recycled by the WWF, which the IPCC swallowed whole."

That same column now describes "another howler" from the IPCC.
Then at the weekend another howler was exposed. The IPCC 2007 report claimed that global warming was leading to an increase in extreme weather, such as hurricanes and floods. Like its claims about the glaciers, this was also based on an unpublished report which had not been subject to scientific scrutiny -- indeed several experts warned the IPCC not to rely on it.
One has to wonder precisely how much material the IPCC uses which openly violates their own claim that they only use peer-reviewed material for their reports. Instead, it appears they use any report that bolsters their political agenda, whether peer reviewed or not.

This blog has previously reported that leading experts on hurricanes have specifically repudiated the IPCC claims in the past. But now it appears that the author of the material, quoted by the IPCC to bolster their extreme scenario, himself repudiates the IPCC's use of his material. The BBC column says: "The author, whod didn't actually finish his work until a year after the IPCC had used his reasearch has now repudiated what he sees as its [the IPCC's] misuse of his work."

So the IPCC took a partially done study, that had not gone through peer-review and used it to try to whip up fear about more severe hurricanes. The author of the report, when he finished it, concluded: "There is insufficient evidence to claim a statistical link between global warming and catastrophe loss." Ooops, the IPCC jumped the gun. Of course, according to their own PR and protocol they shouldn't have even used the report in the first place.

The BBC piece notes that the British government spent millions on account of the unsubstantiated, and now repudiated, claim by the IPCC.
Yet it was because of this -- now unproved -- link that the British government signed up to a $100 billion transfer from rich to poor countries to help them cope with a supposed increase in floods and hurricanes. It was also central to many of the calculations in Britain's Stern Report, which might now need to be substantially revised. Now after Climate-gate, Glacier-gate and Hurricane-gate -- how many "gates" can one report contain? -- comes Amazon-gate. The IPCC claimed that up to 40% of the Amazonian forests were risk from global warming and would likely be replaced by "tropical savannas" if temperatures continued to rise.
The column says the claim about the Amazon is "backed up by a scientific-looking reference but on closer investigation turns out to be yet another non-peer reviewed piece of work from the WWF." It notes that the authors of the piece, cited by the IPCC as scientific proof, are not scientists at all. One is "an Australian policy analyst" and the other "a freelance journalist" for the left-of-center Guardian and a "green activist." The author of the BBC column, Andrew Neil, writes:
Every time I have questioned our politicians about global warming they have fallen back on the mantra that "2,500 scientists can't be wrong", referring to the vast numbers supposedly behind the IPCC consensus. But it is now clear that the majority of those involved in the IPCC process are not scientists at all but politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs and green activists. They may -- or may not -- still be right or wrong but what has become clear in the past couple of months is that, contrary to what many leaders have claimed, the science as promulgated by the IPCC is very far from "settled" and that there are important questions still to ask. The mainstream media has been slow to do this. The bloggers, too easily dismissed in the past, have set the pace with some real scoops -- and some of the mainstream media is now rushing to catch up.
All I can say is: "Amen." Whether or not you think man-made global warming is melting the glaciers, I can say that they credibility of the IPCC is melting away even faster.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Years of abstinence programs but higher pregnancy rates

Teen pregnancy rates have risen in the US by 3%, the first reversal in the downward trend that started in 1990. Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association, a group that only exists because of Bush redirecting money from your pocket into theirs, says the rise in pregnancy rates is "another opportunity to throw a barb at abstinence education." Abstinence doesn't need education. Abstinence is doing nothing and any idiot can do nothing. On the other hand, responsible sexuality takes information and knowledge—two things that religious loons think are dangerous even for adults.

For teens, 15-17, the pregnancy rate reached its highest point in 1990 and it steadily declined, year after year, until 2006 (the data for 2006 is what is now being released.) In 2006 it rose for the first time since the high in 1990.

Apparently all that government effort to stop teen sex hasn't worked. In 2007 the government crowed that teens were having less sex than ever before. The bureaucrats reported that in 2005 47 percent of high school students reported they were sexually active, down from 54 percent in 1991. The government said that lowering of reported sexual activity was good and that it lead to lower "birth rates." But teen pregnancy rates went up, not down. And by 2006 birth rates were also up.

Less sex is supposedly taking place but pregnancy rates are up. That would seem to indicate that what changed is that fewer teens are now taking precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy—and for most teens being pregnant is unwanted. This would seem to verify the criticism of the abstinence programs that what they do is encourage reckless sexuality among teens.

The dilemma for the moral conservative (or immoral conservative, depending on your point of view) is that teens are having less sex but there are more pregnant teens. Perhaps sex education does "encourage" sex but it would seem to encourage responsible sex. And perhaps abstinence encourages less sex but it would seem to discourage responsible sex as well. So, is the choice between more teenage sex with less pregnancies or less teenage sex with more pregnancies?

If you can only have one or the other which should the conservative support? I guess it depends on whether or not the conservative in question actually cares about teens getting pregnant more than he is horrified by teenage sexuality. My guess is that practical conservatives, who worry because teen pregnancy creates social problems for the teen, will want less pregnancy. But the moralistic conservative, imbibed with "biblical morality" will think the sex itself is immoral and be thrilled that there is less of the "dirty" activity going on in general, even if the result is more ruined lives. And, when it comes to the social problems of girls becoming mothers, the moralistic conservative is likely to see that as nothing more than the "wages of sin,
" which are a good thing since they discourage "immorality."

I'm not surprised that years of government abstinence programs would lead to higher pregnancy rates. Couterprodutive results are often the result of government meddling. With that in mind I can't say I'm hopeful for the state of the middle class now that Obama has pledged to protect them. I've watched how government programs in the US "protect" kids and it isn't pretty. I've seen how we our government went in to Iraqi to "protect" people from Saddam Hussein. And I've seen how the drug warriors protect us from drugs and the travel Nazis protect us from terrorists. Perhaps we should just kiss the middle-class good bye now and get it over with.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hayek v Keynes: The Rap Version

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Life catches up.

Sometimes life catches up and one doesn't have time to blog. Ideas run through my head daily but finding a few minutes to sit down and write is harder to find. I had to work on a business proposal and it simply had to come first.

I can do two things at once I just can't write two things at once. But I did have some time to work and enjoy an old television. The other day I was out on errands and simply had to stop to use the restroom. So I knew of a large used bookstore that sells lots of DVDs and has decent public restrooms so I made a beeline for the place. As usual I couldn't resist looking around the DVDs to see what I could find.

For the first time I came across the complete set of DVDs for Sliders. Produce by Tracy Torme the show had something of a strong libertarian streak in it. The first two years explored politics more than later years. In fact, Fox broadcasting started telling Torme how to produce the show and it turned to crap. I can't think of a worse botch-up in television history than what Fox did to the show once the pencil-pushers started deciding how to write scripts. It got so bad that Torme, who created the series, walked out on it. A wise move actually considering how bad the series became.

While writing I went through abour 4 hours of the first season. The show tells with parallel universes where everything is the same but different. In the first episode the Soviets have control of the United States. I am looking forward to watching the first two seasons again and see some of the demise of the show in Series Three. If the last two are available, I don't know. Nor do I care.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Return of the Mugwumps.

You know Obama is in trouble when the Democrats can't hold on to Ted Kennedy's seat. Make no mistake about it, very few voters in Massachusetts voted for Scott Brown, the new Republican Senator. They voted against Obama, in particular they voted against his push to grab health care as a political prize for the party of government.

I have long argued that the independent voters, those who think for themselves and aren't ruled by party loyalty, vote for the candidate they despise the least. Or they vote for the party they despise least. There used to be a coattails effect, where local candidates won office because the popularity of the leader of their party. That hasn't been true for a long time. Now we have the skunk effect. Candidates perceived to be close to the major politician who stinks the most, pick up his scent and voters reject him.

For several years the biggest stench in Washington came from Dubya. The result was loss after loss for the Republicans. That meant wins for the Democrats.

Stupidly the Democrats took that as a mandate to put the Bush big government programs on super-steroids. The Democrats very dumbly thought that people voted FOR them, instead of AGAINST Bush. This caused them to be ambitious as they really believed America had gone over for European style socialism. But they never had the support of the majority of voters, they just disgusted them less than Bush was doing at the time.

Bush is gone, not in prison as one would hope, but at least gone. Dubya is no longer the big stench in DC. That honor goes to Obama, who has ambitions to remake America into something that the European Left would worship, much as they worship the man himself. Like all messiahs before him Obama is a fraud. And the independent voters turned on him very quickly.

The independent voter is an interesting demographic. They tend to like lower taxes, tend to support freer markets, and don't seem obsessed by the moralistic rubbish that the Christians in the GOP love to salivate over. They seem vaguely libertarian in their sentiments. The Democrats would sell their grandmother to get state control of the economy, the Republicans would burn her at the stake in order to ram antiquated religious values down the throats of the public. Neither party is remotely close to holding libertarian values—even the Libertarian Party has trouble doing that, preferring to run two conservatives at the top of their ticket last time around.

Unthinking parasitic Democrats are wedded to their party and won't budge. They want the right to pick the pockets of others. Unthinking theocratic Republicans are wedded to their party and want the right to plunge the country into some religiously-motivated revival of the Dark Ages. Independent voters are in the middle, not particularly thrilled by either set of choices. So they rock back and forth between the two parties depending on which party has repulsed them the least during that election.

This happened once before in American politics. It was the 1880s and many Eastern liberals, that is liberal in the classical tradition, abandoned the Republican Party to elect Grover Cleveland, one of the least lethal men to occupy the White House. These men tended to me pro-free market and anti-imperialist. In fact many were involved in the Anti-Imperialist League of America at the time. Including in the Mugwump camp were old classical liberals like E.L. Godkin, William Graham Sumner, Moorefield Storey and Edward Atkinson. They were derided for supposed sitting on a fence, with their mug on one side and their wump on the other side—this to refer to the ease with which they could from Republican to Democrat and back again. I always admired the Mugwumps.

The Mugwumps were often involved with the struggle for equal rights for blacks, many were closely tied to the now unnecessary abolitionist movement to abolish slavery. For instance, Moorefield Storey, was a founded of the NAACP but a free market advocate. They embraced sound money, opposed US foreign interventionism, wanted small government and were not particularly inspired by some moralistic, religious agenda. In modern day terms they sound an awful like the "independent voter." The difference is that today's independent voters are even more Mugwumpish than the Mugwumps. They will turn on a party in the course of just one election cycle.

Take independent voters in Virginia and New Jersey. In the last presidential election they were repulsed by Bush so they voted for Obama. But only last November both states elected Republicans as governor because the independent voters had already abandoned the Democrats.

This is what we saw in Massachusetts. It was only more dramatic there because the seat had been Ted Kennedy's seat for some many years. When it became apparent that the vote in Massachusetts was going to be close, the Democrats pulled out all the stops. They even sent Obama into the state to push for their candidate, Martha Coakley. All they managed to do was grab the skunk from the White House and throw him into the arena with their Senatorial candidate. She was bad enough on her own, but was unelectable once she had been sprayed with the essence of the Obama skunk. Instead of shoring up Coakley's support Obama's presence reminded independents of precisely why they didn't want to vote for her. Republican Scott Brown, who is no gem I might point out, only increased his lead as a result.

Polls show that independent voters simply are not positive toward either the Republicans or the Democrats, only 25% of them see one of the two major parties in a favorable light. Democrats are trying to remarket themselves by ignoring the take-over of health care and focusing on anti-business rhetoric—an area that is totally fraudulent with them as they are the worst corporatists around. Obama, who showered billions on big banks, went to Massachusetts and attacked Brown saying the "bankers" have enough votes in Washington. Obama should know, he's their number one supporter.

Voters weren't buying it. And Obama's presence reminded them that they simply don't want a state take-over of health care. The result was that Ted Kennedy is now spinning furiously in his grave, which might explain the cold weather that has gripped the planet.

The big mistake the Republicans will make is that they will crow that Brown's win is an endorsement for their big government programs, the same error the Democrats made when voters rebelled against the GOP for inflicting Bush on the country. The truth is that even the Washington Post found that 58% of voters want smaller government. And neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are offering that—they are too enamored with the power.

The Mugwump is back and he's pissed. And I, for one, am happy to see it.

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Finnish TV show looks at Climategate.

A television program from Finland looks at what was revealed in Climategate. In Finnish with English subtitles. About 30 minutes.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another IPCC scandal is fully exposed.

On Dec 24th, 2009, this blog reported on a scandal that was brewing within the exclusive club of hysterics known as the InterGOVERNMENTAL Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC had reported, as highly probably, that the glaciers in the Himalayas would melt, due to global warming, by the year 2035.

Expert glaciologists said the claims were total rubbish. But the IPCC was refusing to back down. The head of the IPCC, who has no degrees in the fields over which he presides, launched some very public attacks on people who actually are experts on glaciers because they were challenging settled climate dogma—I mean theory.

This blog said that the evidence used by the IPCC was bogus. None of it was based on peer-reviewed papers, contrary to IPCC rules. And we noted that the IPCC “expert reviewer” responsible, Murari Lal, cited several sources for this startling claim—not a one of them considered a legitimate scientific source. He quoted a claim by World Wildlife Fund, another by UNESCO and a brief mention in an article in New Scientist. None of these had peer review or were legitimate sources for the purposes to which the IPCC put them.

As this blog pointed out even these three sources were deceptive. The WWF report was actually quoting the article from New Scientist. It was not a source, merely someone else repeating the same unverified claim. I wrote:
To have this happen right on top of the Climategate episode does not bode well for the IPCC and it's political agenda. Whatever case the skeptics may or may not make on warming, the antics of the IPCC and the top warming alarmists around the world gives more than enough reason to see this more as a political movement than a scientific one.
I stand by that assessment. And now we learn more including that the IPCC may withdraw this bogus claim entirely. So much the settled science and consensus, at least when it comes to glaciers in the Himalayas.

Lal is trying to excuse his bogus claims, published by the IPCC as fact. He says: “I am not an expert on glaciers and I have not visited the region so I have to rely on credible published research. The comments in the WWF report were made by a respected Indian scientist and it was reasonable to assume he knew what he was talking about.” So, Lal admits he published this extreme claim about glaciers on nothing more than the hearsay report from a political lobbying group like the World Wildlife Fund. There was no attempt to verify the claim, there was no scientific data investigated, no peer reviewed reports read. It was published simply because one IPCC office “assumed” it must be right. Why that assumption? Because skepticism is discouraged by the IPCC.

I have argued that the IPCC is acting like cops and prosecutors who are convinced they got the culprit in some horrendous crime. Because they are so sure they ignore evidence to the contrary and anything that appears to point in the direction of their “suspect” is lauded as being all the proof they need. Once you are so sure you have it right you simply grab anything that seems to verify your case while routinely ignoring everything that doesn’t. I believe that this is what was behind the IPCC publishing entirely fictitious statements about the glaciers in the Himalayas.

The London Times now reports that the IPCC is on the verge of withdrawing the claim. The Times also wonders, as do I, why someone with no expertise in the field of glaciers “was overseeing such a report.” So much for having experts at the IPCC acting as the gatekeepers for what is, and isn’t acceptable climate science.

They report that New Scientist ran an article, not a scientific paper, which was entirely based on a “short telephone interview” with Syed Hasnain, “a little-know Indian scientist.” Hasnain had no scientific research to back up his thought on the glaciers. He has admitted it was entirely “speculation.” Now Lal says: “If Hasnain asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, then I will recommend that the assertion about Himalayan glaciers be removed from future IPCC assessments.” Consider that Lal seems to be saying that an outright refutation from the original source is necessary to remove the claim but that absolutely no scientific research was needed to include it in the first place.

As controversy about these absurd claims were circulating the author of the original article in New Scientist, Fred Pearce, came forward with some additional facts. He said: “Hasnain told me that the was bring a report containing those numbers to Britain. The report had not been peer reviewed or formally published in a scientific journal and it had no formal status so I reported his work on that basis.” It had no “formal status” at all but it confirmed the scare mongering of the politicians who run the IPCC and that was just good enough for them.

Pearce says that since then he obtained an actual copy of the report and discovered “it does not say what Hasnain said.” The date 2035 was entirely absent and the report only discussed some glaciers not the entire range of glaciers.

The Times says that this rather unsubstantial report in New Scientist remained ignored from 1999, when it was published, until 2005 when the lobbying group World Wildlife Fund used it to prove the glaciers are melting. As they report: “it was a campaigning document rather than an academic paper so it was not subjected to any formal scientific review. Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.”

Let us pause to recap this. A scientist, using pure speculation, makes an off-the-cuff claim to a reporter. It is allegedly based on a paper that was never subjected to scientific scrutiny. But it doesn’t matter since even the paper didn’t substantiate the off-the-cuff remark. That remark is then taken by a lobbying group and publicized a few years later, as if it were fact.

At this point the pure speculative, off-the-cuff, inaccurate portrayal of a paper that was never subjected to scrutiny, is picked up by a IPCC author who is writing about a field of which, by his own admission, he knows very little and is no expert. Once it appears in the IPCC report it is then treated as global warming gospel.

According to the Times, “Pearce said the IPCC’s reliance on the WWF was ‘immensely lazy’ and the organization needs to explain itself or back up its prediction with another scientific source.”

Just remember this the next time someone cites the IPCC report as an impeccable example of science at work. I never thought that myself. I considered it an impeccable example of how politicized science works and this sorry affair seems to support that assertion. In the world of politics you don’t need science, all you need are speculative assertions made without foundation and spread by political lobbyists. That is certainly what we got here.

UPDATE: Here is how New Science, the source of the IPCC claim, has editorialized on the matter. They aren't happy. Click to enlarge.


Get this: the source for the false claim was Syed Hasnain, who used pure speculation as the basis for his remarks. The IPCC spreads these remarks as if they are proven science. The head of the IPCC is a bureaucrat, with no credentials in climatology named Rajendra Pachauri. For my take on Pachauri go here. Pachauri, who has been called a leading climate expert by left-wing publications, studied economics and industrial engineering. He does have business interestes, however, in alternative energy, a field bolstered by warming hysteria. When Hasnain's speculation was being questioned by leading experts in the field, Pachauri was very vocal in defending the bogus claims. He went on the attack against anyone questioning Hasnain.

Along with running the IPCC, Pachauri is a director of something called The Energy Research Institute. It appears that Hasnain, the source for the false allegation about the glaciers, is actually employed by Pachauri's TERI. Using the IPCC claims of a Himilayan crisis TERI went to the Carneige Corporation to seek funding for "research, analysis and training on water-related security and humanitarian challenges to South Asia posed by melting Himilaya glaciers." They received $500,000 for that research. With that money Pachauri set up a team a TERI headed by Hasnain. How incestuous! So, Hasnain invents a "speculation." Pachauri's IPCC uses the speculation and reports it as fact. With IPCC backing of the speculation, Pachauri seeks, and receives half a million dollars to set up a project to "study" the problem that Hasnain speculated into existence. And then Hasnain is hired by Pachauri to lead the project. How very convenient for both of them. This is the ethics of the man heading the IPCC.

And things may get very hot for Pachauri, not just because of the scandals brewing under his watch at the IPCC, but with TERI as well. The Times of India is reporting that TERI is being subjected to "due diligence" by the British Department of Internation Development. Apparently the British government had given 10 million pounds to TERI and now is questioning Pachuri who "enjoys a lavish lifestyle; his Delhi home is in the Golf Links area, the most expensive stretch of residetial real estate in India, and he is famous for his $1,000 suits." The more scrutiny the IPCC gets the more it stinks.

James Delingpole, at London Telegraph, put it this way:
So, to recap: in the course of a garbled phone conversation a scientist accidentally invents a problem that doesn’t exist. This gets reported as if gospel in an influential Warmist science magazine and repeated by a Warmist NGO, before being lent the full authority of the IPCC’s fourth assessment report which, as we know, can’t be wrong because it is vetted by around 2,500 scientists. Then, on the back of this untrue story, the scientist gets a cushy job at the institution whose director is also in charge of the IPCC.
If you want some idea of how TERI Europe, which Pachauri is a director of as well, is hiding revenue from scrutiny read this enlightening article also in the Telegraph. It is said that fish rots from the head down, I don't know if that is true, but it sure seems the IPCC does.

Photo: IPCC experts at work.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

October 17, 1989: 5:04 pm - San Francisco.

I can tell you precisely where I was on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 in the evening. Unlike thousands I wasn’t at the World Series game not far away. I was at my desk. I had just written a stinging letter of protest to the New York Review of Books. They had trashed a book written by two friends of mine, mainly by distorting beyond recognition, what was said in the book.

I don’t remember whether it was the rumbling sound I heard or the shaking that I felt which I noticed first. Perhaps it was both simultaneously. It almost felt like a wave of sound and motion coming at me from the south. As it hit my keyboard started bouncing around on my desk. I desperately tried to press the save commands to preserve my work but the screen turned a deathly black before I could. I was tempted to hang on to my chair but instead jumped up and stood in the doorway lest something fall on me.

It seemed to go on for minutes—but it didn’t. It was over in just a few seconds. The only immediate sign that anything had happened was that the lights were still out. I ran to the door and looked up and down the street. All the electricity was out; there were no traffic lights. In their “green” wisdom the city of San Francisco ran their mass transit almost entirely on electricity. In other words, they had built a system that couldn’t operate during an earthquake. Tens of thousands of people were stranded.

In minutes many of those thousands came streaming down the sidewalk, a constant flow of humanity trying to get home. Because I was standing there people started asking me if they could use my phone, they offered to pay. I refused such payments figuring it was the least I could do. Throughout the crisis the phones continued to operate, and in 1989 the cell phone was unknown. Soon a line formed inside my office as people waited their turn to check in with loved ones—just wanting the assurance of knowing they were safe.

Between callers I used the line to phone a friend in San Diego. He was able to fill me in on the news that I couldn’t get locally. I had learned the magnitude of the quake. It was thought to be 7.0, or 7.1 or 6.9. Any of the options meant it was big—it wasn’t “the big one” but it was big enough.

The first thing I noticed was that the shuttle services that took people to the airport and back were running up and down the street giving people free rides. I knew this was quite illegal as the government was anxious to protect their monopoly of “mass transit.” The shuttle services figured that no one would have time to enforce the law and that need surpassed bureaucratic regulations. About the only people who used the crisis for their own ends were the San Francisco police. Within a few minutes of the quake they turned up in the Castro, heart of the gay community, and started ordering the bars to close. Any excuse to harass the gays—that was the motto of the San Francisco police.

People coming in the store filled me in on something else that took place. They told me traffic in downtown was flowing relatively smoothly, in spite of all the marooned busses blocking the streets. Apparently the homeless and winos of the city picked themselves up off the sidewalks and doorways where they camped out and started directing traffic. That always amazed me, as they rarely seemed sober enough to find their own way around. Perhaps it was still too early in the day for them to have to have collected enough from panhandling for the rotgut bottles they bought on the cheap.

Word started coming in about the real disasters. The first I heard was “the bridge is down.” It was one of the most startling and shocking words I’ve heard. My first thought was that the Golden Gate Bride had collapsed—a truly horrifying idea, not just because of the loss of life it would entail but also because of the loss to the culture and beauty of the city. It was a monument to man, one that deserves to stand for centuries. Instead I soon learned it was the San Francisco Bay Bridge where a section of the upper deck collapsed onto the lower.

There were startling videos of a woman driving off the collapsed section. Apparently the government had some employees on the bridge directing traffic. And they were directing traffic into the collapsed area, not away from it. It was the beginning of a string of deaths directly related to state incompetency.

In terms of deaths, moving from lower to higher, we would have to go next to the Marina District. This area of the city had been literally created for the Pacific-Panama Exposition of 1915 to celebrate San Francisco’s rise from the ashes of the 1906 quake, which destroyed most of the city. The Exposition was built in an area of marshes and wetlands. San Francisco authorities had used landfill to build extra space for the fair. And when the fair was over they sold the new land to developers for housing projects.

Considering that the exposition was built due to the quake of 1906 you would think they would have been reticent about using landfill. Areas of landfill, when shaken violently, have a tendency to liquefy. All stability is lost. The landfill projects of 1915 were homes to thousands of people by 1989 and when the next big quake struck the Marina District liquefied and building after building crashed to the ground; many with their occupants still inside. But still the death toll here was mercifully low—four people.

The bulk of the deaths were all on the Cypress Freeway across from San Francisco in Oakland. This was a two-tier highway with an upper and lower deck. The state of California had also built it on landfill and it used designs that were known to the state to be insufficient during an earthquake. For years the government had said they would retrofit the structure but, like government is known to do, they procrastinated. The original architecture of the freeway was asking for trouble and at 5:04 on October 17th, 1989, trouble arrived. Within seconds the upper deck came crashing down on the lower deck taking the lives of 42 people.

Around the collapsed structure lived some of the poorest people in the Bay Area. There was poverty and there was crime. But that day there was heroism and decency. The people of the neighborhood flocked to the collapsed structure. With makeshift ladders they climbed into the rubble and started rescuing trapped motorists. One by one they pulled people out of the rubble, even though it was well known that a second quake, often a more powerful one, could follow the initial one.

Eventually government workers arrived and chased away people. Then the bureaucrats stood their scratching their heads as they decided whether or not to try and rescue people. The poor folk of the neighborhood merely snuck around the structure to the other side, where the bureaucrats couldn’t see them and continued rescuing people. Teams of people with rescue dogs arrived to help only to be rejected by the government emergency workers who argued it wasn’t safe enough to send the dogs in. I clearly remember at one point them announcing that they would conduct no further rescues having determined no one else could have survived. A day later a dehydrated man was pulled still alive from the rubble. He died that day in hospital. Had they not stopped the rescues officially he may well have lived.

Between the collapsed bridge, the Marina and the Cypress disaster, you have the bulk of the deaths in 1989 quake. All directly related to incompetent government action. Workers on the Bay Bridge directed cars toward the collapse, not away from it. The buildings in the Marina collapsed because the government had filled in wetlands in 1915 and sold that land to developers specifically so they could build housing. And the Cypress collapsed because of the combination of landfill for its foundation and a structure that the government knew was unable to stand a large quake—much as the government knew the dikes around New Orleans could not withstand a major hurricane.

I remained in my office for another hour before deciding to lock up and walk home. As I got to the corner one of the few gas busses in operation pulled up. It was jammed with people, as you might expect. The door opened and the bottom step inside was vacant. I hopped on until it reached Castro. Along the way I looked out the door window. From the Marina District I could see the smoke from the fires that had broken out. The fire department simply couldn’t respond that day. All the official reports I read later spoke of the hundreds of citizens who started battling fires before any official help arrived.

Throughout the city, the reports later showed, individuals, untrained in rescue work, climbed into buildings and brought out the wounded or helped those just too shaken up to know what to do. The police, who apparently had time to roust gay men from the bars in the Castro, said they were spread too thinly to help the public very much. That help came from the people of the city, not from those who rule them.

My apartment was total chaos. The entrance to the apartment was on the second floor, but the apartment was mostly on the third floor. The stairway was up to the flat was cluttered. Dozens of rare movie posters in frames had come crashing down onto the stairs. Glassware was shattered everywhere. Thousands of books from my library were in large heaps on the floor. A terrified cat was huddled in a corner fearful that it would be blamed for the mess. Bits of glass were being found everywhere for weeks afterwards.

It was getting dark and there was still no electricity. I had a couple of battery-operated televisions but needed batteries. My flat mate headed to the Walgreens to buy batteries and candles. He told me that when he got there it was pitch dark. The employees were at the door with flashlights. People queued up outside the door and one-by-one told the employees what they needed. The employees would take the flashlights and go inside hunting for what the people needed. Batteries and candles, however, were free. There was no charge at all, just people who lived in the neighborhood helping their neighbors in a time of difficulty.

With the batteries I was able to get both televisions working. With the candles we could start cleaning up the mess. One of the news stories that evening was that dozens of restaurants had banded together and opened up serving areas in the city parks. They used charcoal grills and propane stoves to cook. They announced that the lack of electricity meant all their food would go bad. So they decided to cook it all in the parks and give it away to anyone who wanted to eat.

There was little in the way of crime during this disaster. People were too busy helping one another. Strangers helped strangers. Accountants climbed into the destroyed homes of the elderly and helped rescue them when the police and fire department couldn’t. The poor in Oakland risked life and limb, and arrest, to pull the living from the rubble of the Cypress Freeway. Up and down the main streets the airport shuttles, in defiance of the law, gave people free rides, just wanting to help people get home to the people they loved.

Across the city housewives, students, and others had grabbed hoses to fight the fires that broke out while the city fire fighting system failed for the most part, much as it did in 1906. It was the homeless and the panhandlers who directed traffic that day.

Civil society rose to the task that faced it that October day. Government failed. What we got was bureaucratic edicts, which if obeyed, would have cost more lives. The vice president flew into town and got into a catfight with the mayor. They sniped at one another and tried to score political points while people were in mourning for the lives that were lost and trying to rebuild what they could.

Say what you will about the people of San Francisco. But when they were needed they rose to the occasion and supported one another. They should uncommon courage and common sense and they were the real heroes that day. Many of them, perhaps most, had faith in big government—and I can’t understand why they still do. But the bureaucrats and politicians failed them, much as they later failed the people of New Orleans.

Conservatives like to ridicule “San Francisco liberals” but I hesitate. As much as I oppose the modern liberal agenda, as a distortion of true liberalism, I can’t bring myself to deride the San Francisco liberal. My memory of their heroic deeds that October day are too strongly etched in my mind. I won’t forget the generosity of the stores handing out batteries and candles for free. I can’t ignore the way the restaurants fed people in the parks, or the way the shuttles ferried people back and forth. The image of the homeless and panhandlers in the intersections directing traffic won’t leave me. And the hundreds of people who risked their lives to climb into the rubble of collapsed buildings or the Cypress Freeway must always be remembered.

On October 17th, 1989, in the face of a disaster, government failed. The ideology of the people of San Francisco failed. But the people themselves did not fail. They proved to be courageous, caring, compassionate and capable. They were able to do what the political structure they had put their faith in, was unable to do.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

A particularly loathsome creature

I am not fond of politicians in general. I have a natural aversion to anyone who feels they ought to be in a position of power over others. Anyone who wants power can't be trusted with it. Now and then a new life form emerges from the political cesspool, one so low and loathsome that it deserves special mention. One such entity is Martha Coakley who wants to be a Senator from Massachusetts, replacing Ted Kennedy.

Like Kennedy, Coakley is a Democrat. But don't assume she's soft on crime. No sir! Not Martha. She so hard on crime she doesn't mind incarcerating innocent people. No wonder the police chiefs in Massachusetts have endorsed her.

Coakley is one of those left-wing authoritarian types who "protects children" even if it means incarcerating innocent people for imaginary crimes. For purposes of this article let us ignore her odious role in fighting the abolition of the victimless crime of smoking pot and instead concentrate on her role in pushing the day care center scare of the 1980s. You may remember that large numbers of panicky parents were convinced by law enforcement that their little darlings were being attacked by Satanists in day care centers across the country. It was all bullshit, but bullshit makes good fertilizer and many a political career has been nurtured by scaremongering and lies. Coakley's career was one of them.

Coakley was involved in the bogus Fells Acre Day Care case where prosecutors "interrogated" children until they made absurd and impossible accusations. Then the prosecutors used those claims to convict the owners of the day care center of these impossible accusations. For instance, one accusation was that a wide butcher knife was plunged into a 4-year-old's anus, where it got stuck. But, call the Vatican on this because its a miracle, there were no cuts, no blood, no damage of any kind. Don't try that at home, the results won't be as miraculous.

Three innocent people were convicted in this panic-driven case and Coakley was up to her reptilian neck in it. She slithered about the case like a cobra seeking out a terrified rabbit for dinner. She hissed, struck and sank her fangs into the case with relish. It was great for her career—after all look at her now, running for the U.S. Senate. Two of the women who were convicted eventually got out of prison with "time served" when the evidence mounted that they were innocent. One woman had her conviction overturned while the other died waiting for justice.

But Gerald Amirault was not so lucky because he was man. Coakley argued that the women could be let out because women only "molest" (not that any such thing happened here) because of the presence of a male predator—imagine if someone said that about blacks and whites: "White criminals are only criminals because of the presence of black predators." The public would scream if such a claim was made on racial grounds, and rightfully so. But in Coakley's world of left-wing feminism such claims about men are perfectly acceptable.

The Massachusetts state's parole board was convinced that Amirault shouldn't be in prison. They unanimously voted for him to be released from prison. But that would put a question mark over Coakley's political career and hamper her ambitions. Like most real predators she is quite happy to advance herself over the bones of those she has destroyed along the way. So Coakley then lobbied acting Governor Jane Swift to deny the commutation of sentence. Coakley didn't want an innocent man walking the streets telling the world how she had destroyed his life.

Eventually Gerald Amirault finished his sentence for the imaginary crimes. Coakley had the option of trying to declare him "sexually dangerous" which would mean he remains incarcerated for the rest of his life, even though his sentence had been filled. (The state uses paid witnesses who declare anyone the state wants incarcerated as "sexually dangerous" allowing a life sentence to be imposed on the basis that the paid witness pretends to know that the convict is likely to reoffend.)

Coakley didn't do that, but not because she was getting soft. She was trying to avoid having the bogus evidence she used brought up in court again. She had ambitions and she didn't want that to happen. As the Wall Street Journal noted, if such a ruling were sought, "there would have to a virtual re-trial of the entire Amirault case. The DA had to have been deterred by the prospect of parading into a courtroom with the incredible fantasies extracted from Mr. Amirault's alleged victims--about secret rooms, magic drinks, animal butchery, assaults by a bad clown." The excuse used by Coakley and Swift, for denying release for Amirault was that he refused to admit his guilt.

It should be noted that these cases were prosecuted by left-wing ideologues not by right-wing Christians, like the case in Bakersfield. Coakley is a left-wing Democrat. She came into the Amirault case as prosecutor toward the end of the trial. The original prosecutor was Scott Harshbarger who now runs the left-wing lobby Common Cause. In the infamous McMartin Day Care Center case the prosecutor was Lael Rubin, Rubin is a left-wing Democrat as well and a supporter of Obama. Her husband, David Rosenzweig, another lefty, helped whipped up the hysteria over the case through his reporting for the LA Times. As Edgar Butler, in Anatomy of the McMartin Child Molestation Case wrote that Rosenzweig, was having a relationship with Rubin, that began before the McMartin trial so he published articles favorable to Rubin's case, while ignoring all the red flags.

Similarly another journalist from the left, Edward Lempinen, of the San Francisco Chronicle, published a series of breathless claims about Satanists attacking children in some concerted conspiracy. Lempinen basically acted as a hack for two obsessed police officers in that case. He has now gone on to promote global warming hysteria instead, not that this is a big improvement. At the time, the uncritical, very unscientific Lempinen, claimed that Satanists were involved in "scores" of child abuse cases—cases which fell apart due to lack of evidence. Apparently he hasn't changed his standards for his crisis d'jour.

While it is true that politically-driven conservatives may push hysteria as well, and have. We can't ignore that in the prosecution of innocent people as "child abusers" that many committed leftists were involved, aided by the uncritical journalism of biased journalists like Rosenzweig and Lempinen.

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