Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Twilight Years, Part I

Cassandras and Sirens

During the twenties and the thirties, Britain was afflicted with a profound pessimism. There was a widely shared angst that civilisation (a very significant and loaded term) was coming to an end and a long night of barbarism was about to descend upon European civilisation generally and upon Britain specifically. And Britain, at the time, regarded itself as the leader of the civilized world.

This period of two and a half decades has been highlighted recently through the publication of Richard Overy's The Twilight Years: The Paradox of Britain Between the Wars (New York: Viking/Penguin, 2009) which has received acclaim. In effect, the study of any period of history has implicit significance if can help us understand man—his devils and demons, his pride and passions, his nobility and fragility. All good historical studies provoke questions and reflections upon our own days under the sun. They also inevitably lead us to think about the future.

Overy's work achieves all of this, which is not unexpected since it is a work of social and intellectual history by a master of his craft. It traces how Britons were thinking about themselves and their culture and their dark fears for the future. In Overy's treatment we learn much about the transition of Enlightenment optimism to post-Enlightenment pessimism. This pessimism still dominates in the West. (“The world is bad; it is going to hell in a hand basket, and only the government can save us.” Variations on this theme abound, and have done for the past eighty years in the West.

What we do not often credit, however, is that the relentless wail of the sirens calling for more and more government, rules, regulations and controls is predicated upon a deep, pervasive, and persistent pessimism. The dominant cultural consensus is that the civilised world is fundamentally stuffed up; it is broken. It needs fixing.

The Inter-War years were the time when the shift from pervasive optimism to persisting pessimism occurred in the West. It goes without saying that dominant cultural moods (whether optimistic or pessimistic) are expressions of the dominant religion of the time. What is particularly interesting is that the switch from relentless optimism to prevailing pessimism about the future in the twenties and thirties did not reflect a change in the dominant religion. Enlightenment rationalism continued as the established and dominant religious faith, even as it has to this day. This is not unexpected. When man asserts himself to be the measure and master of all things, reality eventually annoyingly intrudes; the more extreme the previous optimism had been, the deeper the disappointment upon the dashing of hopes is likely to be.

Although Overy does not say so, we believe his research illustrates clearly enough that pessimism and despair and desperation is the natural and abiding world-view of Enlightenment rationalism.

A second theme developed and traced by Overy is the impact made by the educated elites of the time. Almost all from the perspective of their respective fields were in the vanguard crying doom and woe. In every case the experts and intellectuals—who had assumed the mantle of prophets and priests within the established religion of secular humanism—misread and misdiagnosed reality. But to add insult to injury their prescriptions for preventing the collapse of civilisation ranged from the barking mad to the positively dangerous. Their “solutions” were far worse than the actual problems they intended to resolve.

In many ways, the solutions of the experts (whether sociologists, eugenicists, economists, psychiatrists and psychologists, historians, political scientists, philosophers, and dominant literary figures) became self-fulfilling prophecies. Their advice, to the extent that it has been followed, has made the world into a far more difficult and dangerous place.

In the West we have been gripped in recent years by climate change mania that has announced then end of civilisation as we know it. This mania has been an almost purely Western phenomenon—notwithstanding the attempt to dress it up as a global concern. Recent events have stripped away the framing and positioning, and climate change mania is now clearly displayed as a Western syndrome.

The hysteria has been fed by “experts”, by the prophets of our culture—the academics and the scientists. The people are troubled with nightmarish visions of the future. They have been provoked by the siren song of, “Something must be done.” Guilt, blame, darkly pessimistic prognosis, harbingers of catastrophe, a reverence for science and its ability to save us, and “solutions” which would bring untold suffering upon the entire human race.

All of this is eerily reminiscent of what occurred in Britain in the Inter-War years. It turns out the apple has not fallen far from the tree these seventy years later. We are reminded of the wise words of Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This is why a careful study of, and reflection upon, the critical Inter-War years is so important.

In the forthcoming series of posts we will endeavour to summarise the main aspects and critical features of this period as Overy recounts them for us. We will thereby endeavour to learn much about our own days.

Friday, 29 January 2010

You Have Been Warned

The Bane of Herod

In 1994 the great Professor Roger Nicole wrote a letter to to Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade, upon his retirement from the Supreme Court, answering the question of how he will be remembered. (Hat Tip: Justin Taylor)

It is a superb letter.
April 13, 1994

Mr. Justice Harry A. Blackmun
United States Supreme Court
Washington, D.C.

Your Honor:

The Orlando Sentinel reports that in the prospect of your impending retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court you are wondering what you will be remembered for...

To my mind nothing else that you ever have done can approximate the impact of your support of the majority opinion of the Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade.

This has opened the door to millions of abortions...

for the sake of expediency or selfish motives. It has encouraged millions of women and thousands of physicians to participate in this murderous course.

In 4 B.C. Herod the Great ordered the killing of perhaps a few dozens of babies, but his name remains famous for this "massacre of the innocents" (Matthew 2:16).

In the Civil War of 1861-65, one of the bloodiest on record in terms of the size of the armies involved, there were perhaps close to 500,000 casualties. But Roe vs. Wade has made already 30 million victims since 1973, and this number grows every day.

In World War II, the USA suffered somewhat more than 400,000 deaths due to the conflict: this is only 1/75th of the number of the abortion hecatomb.

In the Viet Nam hostilities there were some 60,000 fatalities. You would need 500 Viet Nam walls, enough to encircle the whole of D.C., to record those put to death by abortion.

The infamous holocaust engineered by the Nazis brought death to some 6,000,000 Jews and other innocent people. The name of Hitler is inextricably associated with this monstrous atrocity. Yet Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Treblinka and others together exterminated only one-fifth of those whose life was snuffed out before birth by Roe vs. Wade.

The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor cased the death of 2,300 Americans, and President Roosevelt, who surely cannot be accused of being politically right wing, stigmatized this occasion by calling it "a day of infamy." Now two "decades of infamy" have cost our nation a loss as great as 13,000 "Pearl Harbors."

Rest assured, therefore, your Honor, that this legacy of yours will ever be remembered and that your name will be associated with it. And unless you repent, when you appear before the Supreme Court of God you may well hear the verdict, "Your brothers; [and sisters'] blood cries out to me from the ground" (Genesis 4:10).


Roger Nicole, Ph.D. (Harvard)

P.S. If your parents had practiced what you believe, you might have been aborted, and the United States might have been spared this abomination. If my parents had practiced it, you would not receive this letter.

Lord of the Sceptics

Give Lord Monckton a Medal

Climategate's repercussions continue to ripple out through the scientific world. The thing which has grabbed most attention recently has been the puerile behaviour of the IPCC. Whilst it had talked itself up as the paragon of scientific process and rigour, the emerging reality shows the exact opposite. It turns out that one of the IPCC's favorite "authoritative" sources has been the WWF, an environmental pressure group.

Miranda Devine profiles the visit of Lord Monckton to Australia in a column in the Sydney Morning Herald. He has emerged as one of the more influential sceptics, and is now being listened to more than ever before. We observe here a pattern, oft repeated in the history of science. By far and away the majority of sceptics come from outside the "academy"--they are private individuals, scientifically trained, who out of their own resources and time have doggedly pursued the chicanery, lies, while ignoring the scorn and invective heaped upon them by the establishment.

Monckton is a classic of the syndrome.

Climategate gives lord of the sceptics plenty of ammunition

Miranda Devine
January 28, 2010

The visit to Australia this week of Lord Christopher Monckton - the world's most effective global warming sceptic - couldn't have been better timed. Hot on the heels of the "Climategate" email leak, which called into question the "tricks" used to sex up the case for the war against global warming, have come back-to-back revelations tarnishing the reputation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

First domino down last week was the claim in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 - the one that won it a Nobel Prize - that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. As one of the most dire climate change outcomes, this claim received enormous publicity and was often cited by politicians.

But, it turns out, the evidence was based not on credible peer-review science, but on an unsubstantiated report by the environmental group World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

It stemmed from a 1999 beat-up in the popular journal New Scientist that featured an interview with an obscure Indian scientist, Syed Hasnain, who has since admitted his glacier prediction was "speculation".

Hasnain now works for the Energy and Resources Institute in Delhi, whose director-general, Rajendra Pachauri, is also head of the IPCC.

Even murkier is the fact the glacier furphy reportedly netted lots of grant money for the institute. "My job is not to point out mistakes,'' Hasnain told The Times of London. ''And you know the might of the IPCC. What about all the other glaciologists around the world who did not speak out?"

Yes, what about them indeed. Are scientists just cowardly?

The mendacity of the IPCC came to light when the Indian Government fact-checked its glacier claim. Belated scrutiny of the 2007 report has uncovered other bogus claims, and at least 16 WWF references.

The next domino to fall was the IPCC's assertion that global warming was to blame for weather disasters such as hurricane and drought. The Sunday Times in London reported this was based on an unpublished scientific paper that had not been peer reviewed, and that, when it was published in 2008, had found no link.

The latest revelation is that an IPCC claim about the Amazon rainforest was also drawn from a WWF report. The IPCC says it is simply a "human mistake" to parrot WWF press releases, as if they are credible science and not green propaganda, and no one bats an eyelid.

Well, except Monckton, who has been batting his considerable eyelids (large because of a thyroid ailment) for years over bogus claims. He even succeeded in having a table in the 2007 report corrected after he pointed out that it overstated sea-level rises tenfold.

Having been singled out for vilification last year by Kevin Rudd in an extraordinary speech, Monckton finds the times suit him well.

Rudd's vehemence attracted the attention of semi-retired engineer John Smeed, who splits his time between Lane Cove and Noosa. He and another engineer, Case Smit invited Monckton to Australia, footing the $100,000 bill for his eight-city tour from their own pockets, offset by donations.

I was invited to a small lunch for Monckton this week, hosted by Smeed and a Newcastle engineer, Jeff McCloy.

In person, Monckton is taller and more serious than he appears on screen. Being a mathematician he has a logical mind, as well as irrepressible self-confidence, which makes him a formidable opponent for climate alarmists.

Andy Pitman, a co-director of the University of NSW's Climate Change Research Centre, complained on ABC radio this week that climate sceptics are so "well funded, so well organised [and] have nothing else to do … They are doing a superb job at misinforming and miscommunicating the general public, State and Federal Government."

Huh? How can climate alarmists pitch themselves as the underdog when they have had on their side the full force of government (and opposition until lately), media (apart from a few individual holdouts) and big business?

Public opinion has changed as the credibility of the IPCC ebbs, the crippling cost of climate change measures becomes apparent and the array of rentseekers and phonies grows. Monckton is a man whose time has come because he owes nothing to anybody and he has the capacity to interpret the science to a public looking for answers.

As an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, he learnt that when you make policy about an issue which is outside your expertise, you must distil it down to one proposition. In this case, how much will a given increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause warming? The answer determines whether or not you spend trillions of taxpayer dollars "and wreck the economies of the West".

Monckton pored over scientific papers on climate sensitivity and concluded the IPCC exaggerated climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide at least sixfold, so we have time cautiously to decide whether or not to attempt to change global temperature.

In any case, he says, what if every nation agreed to cut emissions by 30 per cent in the next 10 years? The "warming forestalled would be 0.02 celsius degrees, at a cost of trillions. There's no point doing it."

The last refuge of alarmists is the precautionary principle, in which we "give the planet the benefit of the doubt". But Monckton says bad policy guided by the precautionary principle has already led to the death of millions of people as the transfer of farmland to grow biofuels meant less food, higher prices, food riots and starvation.

He cites the United Nations special rapporteur Jean Ziegler, who said growing biofuels instead of food when the poor were starving was a "crime against humanity".

Monckton says public opinion is "galloping" in his direction, which bodes ill for Rudd as he prepares to push through his emissions trading scheme next month.

And we note in passing that scepticism may be coming back into more fashionable vogue. The UK's government's Chief Science Advisor, John Beddington has been reported in The Times as saying:
He said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”

But the bald reality is that if climate change predictions had been consistently couched in the language of possibility, or even probability, rather than certainty they never would have gained the traction politically that it has. The climate conspirators knew this which is why they moved rapidly to advocacy and political machinations. The "science is settled" mantra was born, and used to browbeat sceptics and paint them either as ignorant luddites or tools of "big oil". Thankfully, the sceptics persisted.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Banishing the Neo-Platonists

Dorothy Sayers on Work

From Dorothy Sayers’s essay, “Why Work?” in Creed or Chaos (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949):

The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

. . . Let the Church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade—not outside of it. The Apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meant they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word. But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meant for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word.

The official Church wastes time and energy, and moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work—by which she means ecclesiastical work. The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage-farming.

Hat Tip: Justin Taylor

Fighting Bribery

Would Zero Koha Notes Work Here?

We posted recently upon the endemic corruption that exists in China, where "fragrant grease" is required to get official approval for virtually any economic activity. Corruption is not isolated to China. India is also notoriously corrupt and lower level public servants have made the bribe an art form.

A rather quixotic idea is apparently helping break down the institution of bribery: zero rupee bank notes. An anti-corruption Non Government Organization, called 5th Pillar has started issuing the notes. The idea is that the poor and defenceless can use these false banknotes as a protest against officials who will not do their jobs until someone pays them money--which, of course, is officially illegal.

The concept is explained as follows:
The zero currency note in your country's currency is a tool to help you achieve the goal of zero corruption. The note is a way for any human being to say NO to corruption without the fear of facing an encounter with persons in authority.

Next time someone asks you for a bribe, just take your country's zero currency note and hand it to them. This will let the other person know that you refuse to give or take any money in order to perform services required by law or to give or take money to do something illegal.

Strange as it may seem, apparently these protest bank notes have an effect. Vijay Anand, 5th Pillar’s president recently explained how it works.
According to Anand, the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse, widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the organization has collected many stories from people using them to successfully resist engaging in bribery.

One such story was our earlier case about the old lady and her troubles with the Revenue Department official over a land title. Fed up with requests for bribes and equipped with a zero rupee note, the old lady handed the note to the official. He was stunned. Remarkably, the official stood up from his seat, offered her a chair, offered her tea and gave her the title she had been seeking for the last year and a half to obtain without success. Had the zero rupee note reached the old lady sooner, her granddaughter could have started college on schedule and avoided the consequence of delaying her education for two years. In another experience, a corrupt official in a district in Tamil Nadu was so frightened on seeing the zero rupee note that he returned all the bribe money he had collected for establishing a new electricity connection back to the no longer compliant citizen.

Anand explained that a number of factors contribute to the success of the zero rupee notes in fighting corruption in India. First, bribery is a crime in India punishable with jail time. Corrupt officials seldom encounter resistance by ordinary people that they become scared when people have the courage to show their zero rupee notes, effectively making a strong statement condemning bribery. In addition, officials want to keep their jobs and are fearful about setting off disciplinary proceedings, not to mention risking going to jail. More importantly, Anand believes that the success of the notes lies in the willingness of the people to use them. People are willing to stand up against the practice that has become so commonplace because they are no longer afraid: first, they have nothing to lose, and secondly, they know that this initiative is being backed up by an organization—that is, they are not alone in this fight.

This last point—people knowing that they are not alone in the fight—seems to be the biggest hurdle when it comes to transforming norms vis-à-vis corruption. For people to speak up against corruption that has become institutionalized within society, they must know that there are others who are just as fed up and frustrated with the system. Once they realize that they are not alone, they also realize that this battle is not unbeatable. Then, a path opens up—a path that can pave the way for relatively simple ideas like the zero rupee notes to turn into a powerful social statement against petty corruption.

We could do with some of these notes in New Zealand. We could call them zero Koha Banknotes. Imagine how a certain now convicted and imprisoned Cabinet Minister might have been cut off at the pass if a particular Thai tiler had handed him a Koha Note, instead of working on his houses for "free". And it could have saved one Owen Glenn an enormous amount of money if he had paid Winston Peters his simony money in zero Koha Notes. Not to mention his large donation to the Labour Party in zero Koha Notes. His gong would not have cost him real coin, then. Not to mention those smelly immigration deals in exchange for "donations" to a certain political party.

Oh, but hold on. We are getting confused. All those shady deals had to do with bribing officials and politicians to do wrong, not with getting them to follow the law. Zero Koha Notes would not have worked at all. It strikes us that New Zealand's corruption is more like the Chinese than the Indian variety.
In India, public officials require bribes to persuade them to do their jobs. In China, officials receive bribes in order to bend, if not break the law. And so, it seems, is the case in New Zealand.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Earthly Clay on our Heavenly Boots

Douglas Wilson January 17, 2010
Posted in Blog and Mablog

I want to begin by noting the importance of being loyal to a bunch of things -- in every area of life. I do not speak of idolatrous loyalty, but rather a fierce kind of Chestertonian loyalty to the piles of stuff and collections of people that God surrounds all of us with.

If we are loyal in idolatrous ways, we soon discover that such loyalties are binary, with other loyalties not tolerated. But if we are loyal in Trinitarian ways, we discover that our loyalties are textured, layered, tangled, and glorious. And the more of them I have, the more grateful I am, and the more grateful I am, the safer I am in this perilous world. This is the only protection against lying ideologues and ideologies.

The ideologue has read fat books, and has thought deep thoughts. He is bitingly cynical about those of us who crawl on the earth, as he observes us all from his balcony of abstractions. He can line up ideas, end to end, and has all kinds of reasons for his lack of natural affection. This phenomenon occurs whether we are talking about culture, politics, marriage, or theology. It is countered, not with more ideas for him to line up in a row, but with a host of molecular connections -- from those who have paid membership dues in Burke's little platoons.

The ideologue is afraid to clutter up his life, because it might distract him from the Cause, whatever the Cause might be. Like Lenin, who did not want to listen to music because it stirred up unwanted sentiments, the ideologue views everything that lays a claim on our loyalties with suspicion. Don't you know that money could have been given to the central committee? Don't you know that a few more sacrifices would advance the cause of world missions? Don't you know that this ointment could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor? The ideologue is constantly jockeying for position, and is always ready to throw a sharp glance . . . or elbow. As Ambrose Bierce put it once, exhortation is to put the conscience of another upon the spit, and roast it to a nut brown discomfort.

The problem is, that in the world God made, everything lays claim to our loyalties, and everything does right to do so. If we love God, He shows us how to love our neighbor rightly. If we love God, He causes all our loves and loyalties to sort themselves out into wonderful patterns. He is not threatened by any of it. Just as the crystal patterns of the snowflake form in mystical ways, so also the glorious connections of a biblical life, crammed full of interesting things, form up in mystical ways.

Never trust a man who wants to arrange things he has no affection for. Never give authority to a man who wants to govern things in accordance with an Idea. And it doesn't matter if it is a good idea -- in fact, the better the idea, the worse everything will be if he gets his way. Nothing worse than clinical and pristine accuracy.

What sorts of loyalties need to be sorted out? God has fashioned the world in such a way that these things vary from person to person, family to family, and nation to nation. That's as it should be. There is a lot of fun overlap, there are things completely different, and there are fun vists to other people's homey customs -- like my introduction the other day to the tim tam slam. You can ask the Australians about that one.

But, speaking for myself, what kind of loyalty jumble are we talking about? Well, this would include, but not be limited to: the submarine service, Scotland, my wife's neck, the pie faces of my grandchildren, fourteen and counting, the Westminster Confession, the creeks and inlets of Maryland, the Lord's Supper, Southern Baptists, the evergreen forests of Idaho, mowing the lawn, bicameral legislatures, King Alfred, the book of Romans, the faithfulness of Augustine, the illustrations of Thomas Watson, oatmeal for breakfast, hot coffee at a truck stop in Wyoming in the early morning, a good book and a roaring fire, broadband, American cheerfulness, cussedness, and generosity, the Winchester rifle, preaching the Word, and pick up trucks. I may have inadvertantly left some things out. In that order? No, that was a random order. The order would change depending on what the circumstances were.

The lists that every one of us could (and should) generate makes some people think that we are just lining up thousands of actual or potential idols. Well, sure. This is a sinful world, and bad things happen in it. But my experience shows that idolators are far more likely to be focussed and narrow than expansive and generous. This is because there is only one God who can keep track of all the things that I have to be grateful for, and ought to loyal to. But in order to have that God, the triune God of Scripture, keep things in order, I must honor Him above all things. If I honor and worship Him rightly, He will keep the rabble of my many affections in order.

The ideologue detects the presence of such affections, and assumes some sort of idolatry. But it is actually the absence of loyalties, the deadening of natural affections, that is the tell tale mark.

The point? It is a variation of a point that I believe Richard John Neuhaus once made. It is this: when I stand before God, I will of course have nothing to commend myself apart from the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But I will nonetheless stand before Him as an American, a churchman, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a son, and a brother. If I try beforehand to divest myself of these connections, as though they were earthly clay on my heavenly boots, then I have radically misunderstood what God has called us to do.

US Supreme Court Strikes a Blow for Freedom

Infamy, Perfidy, or Righteousness?

The US Supreme Court has blocked the gradually growing restrictions upon free speech in that country, at least insofar as political speech is concerned. This is significant because, as has been observed, free political speech is the most important kind of speech to be free, at least in a limited-government polity.

The Court's decision has sent shock waves through the political establishment in the US. Some political leaders are hailing it as a wonderful victory; others are declaring that it is a day of infamy, when democracy became terminally ill. Which is correct?

Free political speech in the US has been successively restricted. It began when, under the indirect influence of socialist ideology, the idea took hold that money could buy elections. If that were true, owners of capital could end up buying political power--not so much through bribery, but through shouting out opposing voices in elections. Capitalists could control the billboards, the newspapers, the electronic media, and the public messages because they could all be bought. Poorer, less wealthy people, would have their voice drowned out.

In New Zealand we find this argument to be very familiar. It is a line that has been run by the socialist left in this country consistently since Noah was a lad. It lay behind the infamous attempts by the last Labour government to restrict and control political speech prior to the most recent election.

Of course, realistically, there may be some risk that some wealthy cabal might buy sufficient public media influence that an electorate can be duped into voting for something which is not really in their "best" interests (as defined by someone else, naturally). But upon examination this notion is simplistic ideological nonsense. It rests on the naive assumption that owners of capital all think the same way and are uniform in their political opinions. Naturally, socialists think this way, for "capital" is a class, with defined and prescribed uniform class interests. But the real world is far from Marx's ivory tower.

Secondly, the best protection against a conspiratorial monied interest gaining undue influence preventing other views or voices being heard is to open up political speech to more people with money.

In an attempt to prevent the spectre of capitalists exercising "undue" influence on elections in the US the government had restricted corporations (businesses, unions, political lobbies, NGO's) from speaking during an election campaign. It had quixotically decided that when the Constitution protected free speech, it was the speech of individual voices, not corporate voices, such as corporations. How absurd was that?

As Justice Scalia has explained:
In any economy operated on even the most rudimentary principles of division of labor, effective public communication requires the speaker to make use of the services of others. An author may write a novel, but he will seldom publish and distribute it himself. A freelance reporter may write a story, but he will rarely edit, print, and deliver it to subscribers. To a government bent on suppressing speech, this mode of organization presents opportunities: Control any cog in the machine, and you can halt the whole apparatus. License printers, and it matters little whether authors are still free to write. Restrict the sale of books, and it matters little who prints them. . . .

[W]here the government singles out money used to fund speech as its legislative object, it is acting against speech as such, no less than if it had targeted the paper on which a book was printed or the trucks that deliver it to the bookstore. . . .

It should be obvious, then, that a law limiting the amount a person can spend to broadcast his political views is a direct restriction on speech. That is no different from a law limiting the amount a newspaper can pay its editorial staff or the amount a charity can pay its leafletters. It is equally clear that a limit on the amount a candidate can raise from any one individual for the purpose of speaking is also a direct limitation on speech. That is no different from a law limiting the amount a publisher can accept from any one shareholder or lender, or the amount a newspaper can charge any one advertiser or customer. (Hat Tip: Patterico)

Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, summarises the Supreme Court decision as follows:
The court overruled decisions it had made 20 years ago and stated that corporations, labor unions and public advocacy groups could spend unlimited funds advocating the election or defeat of candidates for federal office, meaning Congress or the White House.

In 1907, Congress passed the Tillman Act banning corporations from donating money directly to federal candidates. Corporations still won't be able to do that. But what they can do under the court's Thursday ruling is run their own campaigns advocating the election of someone or the defeat of someone. All they have to do is disclose what they are spending and on whom.

Under the new rules, or more correctly with no rules, you as a voter may have to ask yourself why is the Teamsters Union or Goldman Sachs or some other corporation or labor union spending all this money to defeat or elect this congressman or senator.

That is not a bad thing to know. I believe this will be offset by allowing for more competition and that will be a good thing. Raising money is the most difficult part of running a campaign. Many a good candidate falls short because he or she can't meet the hurdles that have been set up to protect incumbents.

The floodgates for money will obviously be opened by the court's decision and that may give good candidates the opportunity to compete against incumbents who have tremendous government resources that help them run year-round campaigns on taxpayer dollars.

Equally important, it will allow candidates to run effective campaigns against millionaires and billionaires who self-fund their campaigns. Michael Bloomberg recently spent over $108 million of his own money to win his third term as mayor of New York. The recently defeated governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, spent over $100 million of his own money in his races.
What restrictions, financial or otherwise, upon free speech do is protect the political incumbents from competition and put up barriers to entry for newcomers seeking political office. They effectively establish a political incumbent over-class. It may not be their intended effect, but it is their actual effect. And it is severely deleterious to a democratic polity. The Supreme Court's decision effectively emasculates the considerable advantages built up by those endowed with incumbent political power.

People have long complained that the political elites in Washington, caucused with the liberal-academic-media complex, are now completely out of touch with the common person in the US, whom they dismiss as belonging to the non-educated classes. The Supreme Court's decision is going to change all that.
The court's decision adds another uncertainty to an already nervous Congress and will make some senators and representatives who thought they were election-proof get back out and start listening to their voters. Following Tuesday's upset in Massachusetts, where Democrats lost a Senate seat they had held for 57 years with the election of Scott Brown, many more members now know they are not invincible.

To make our Congress work for us, we have to make it listen to us.

Tuesday's election was the wake-up call and the court's decision will make our system more competitive. A Congress listening to the voters is what will make it relevant to us again. There will certainly be campaign abuses, as there are now, and many will not be happy with the court's ruling, but the full disclosure law lets you know who is doing what and that's a good thing.

Sure, Washington is scrambling to figure out what this all means. But I must agree with Chief Justice John Roberts, who in his own separate opinion, said that upholding the limits would have restrained "the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy."
A friend sent us an e-mail lamenting the Court's decision, raising the spectre of the US being taken over by an oligarchy of monied capitalists. The exact reverse is the case. Monied interests such as George Soros and Warren Buffett are notorious political liberals. Other monied interests are not. And in the end, while money might talk, it does not necessarily say the same thing, nor does it necessarily make people listen. But it does make for a much more vibrant political debate, and one much less controlled by the incumbent political machines--that is, the present ruling class.

And one other salutary effect: the Court's decision will remove the quasi-monopoly of the media over political discourse that has existed in the US. For under the previous restrictions, media (although corporate entities) were exempt from the prohibitions on corporates engaging in political speech. Now, every corporate, profit making or not, will be pretty much on a level playing field. Either the mainstream media will reconnect pretty swiftly with the despised "uneducated classes", or their evident demise will be hastened.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Mugged by Ultrasound

Why So Many Abortion Workers Have Turned Pro-Life.

By David Daleiden and Jon A. Shields
January 25, 2010,

(This article was recently published in the Weekly Standard.)

Abortion rights activists have long preferred to hold themselves at some remove from the practice they promote; rather than naming it, they speak of “choice” and “reproductive freedom.” But those who perform abortions have no such luxury. Instead, advances in ultrasound imaging and abortion procedures have forced providers ever closer to the nub of their work. Especially in abortions performed far enough along in gestation that the fetus is recognizably a tiny baby, this intimacy exacts an emotional toll, stirring sentiments for which doctors, nurses, and aides are sometimes unprepared. Most apparently have managed to reconcile their belief in the right to abortion with their revulsion at dying and dead fetuses, but a noteworthy number have found the conflict unbearable and have defected to the pro-life cause.

In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, second-trimester abortions were usually performed by saline injection. The doctor simply replaced the amniotic fluid in the patient’s uterus with a saline solution and induced labor, leaving it to nurses to dispose of the expelled fetus. That changed in the late 1970s, when “dilation and evacuation” (D&E) emerged as a safer method. Today D&E is the most common second-trimester procedure. It has been performed millions of times in the United States.

But although D&E is better for the patient, it brings emotional distress for the abortionist, who, after inserting laminaria that cause the cervix to dilate, must dismember and remove the fetus with forceps. One early study, by abortionists Warren Hern and Billie Corrigan, found that although all of their staff members “approved of second trimester abortion in principle,” there “were few positive comments about D&E itself.” Reactions included “shock, dismay, amazement, disgust, fear, and sadness.” A more ambitious study published the following year, in the September 1979 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, confirmed Hern and Corrigan’s findings. It found “strong emotional reactions during or following the procedures and occasional disquieting dreams.”

Another study, published in the October 1989 issue of Social Science and Medicine noted that abortion providers were pained by encounters with the fetus regardless of how committed they were to abortion rights. It seems that no amount of ideological conviction can inoculate providers against negative emotional reactions to abortion.

Such studies are few. In general, abortion providers have censored their own emotional trauma out of concern to protect abortion rights. In 2008, however, abortionist Lisa Harris endeavored to begin “breaking the silence” in the pages of the journal Reproductive Health Matters. When she herself was 18 weeks pregnant, Dr. Harris performed a D&E abortion on an 18-week-old fetus. Harris felt her own child kick precisely at the moment that she ripped a fetal leg off with her forceps:

Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes—without me—meaning my conscious brain—even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life.

Harris concluded her piece by lamenting that the pro-choice movement has left providers to suffer in silence because it has “not owned up to the reality of the fetus, or the reality of fetal parts.” Indeed, it often insists that images used by the pro-life movement are faked.

(Pro-choice advocates also falsely insist that second-trimester abortions are confined almost exclusively to tragic “hard” cases such as fetal malformation. Yet a review of the literature in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that most abortions performed after the first trimester are sought for the same reasons as first-trimester abortions, they’re just delayed. This reality only intensifies the guilt pangs of abortion providers.)

Hern and Harris chose to stay in the abortion business; one of the first doctors to change his allegiance was Paul Jarrett, who quit after only 23 abortions. His turning point came in 1974, when he performed an abortion on a fetus at 14 weeks’ gestation: “As I brought out the rib cage, I looked and saw a tiny, beating heart,” he would recall. “And when I found the head of the baby, I looked squarely in the face of another human being—a human being that I just killed.”

In 1990 Judith Fetrow, an aide at a Planned Parenthood clinic, found that disposing of fetal bodies as medical waste was more than she could bear. Soon after she left her position, Fetrow described her experiences: “No one at Planned Parenthood wanted this job. .  .  . I had to look at the tiny hands and feet. There were times when I wanted to cry.” Finally persuaded to quit by a pro-life protester outside her clinic, Fetrow is now involved in the American Life League.

Kathy Sparks is another convert formerly responsible for disposing of fetal remains, this time at an Illinois abortion clinic. Her account of the experience that led her to exit the abortion industry (taken from the Pro-Life Action League website in 2004) reads in part:

The baby’s bones were far too developed to rip them up with [the doctor’s] curette, so he had to pull the baby out with forceps. He brought out three or four major pieces. .  .  . I took the baby to the clean up room, I set him down and I began weeping uncontrollably. .  .  . I cried and cried. This little face was perfectly formed.

A recovery nurse rebuked Sparks for her unprofessional behavior. She quit the next day. Sparks is now the director of a crisis pregnancy center with more than 20 pro-life volunteers.

Handling fetal remains can be especially difficult in late-term clinics. Until George Tiller was assassinated by a pro-life radical last summer, his clinic in Wichita specialized in third-trimester abortions. To handle the large volume of biological waste Tiller had a crematorium on the premises. One day when hauling a heavy container of fetal waste, Tiller asked his secretary, Luhra Tivis, to assist him. She found the experience devastating. The “most horrible thing,” Tivis later recounted, was that she “could smell those babies burning.” Tivis, a former NOW activist, soon left her secretarial position at the clinic to volunteer for Operation Rescue, a radical pro-life organization.

Other converts were driven into the pro-life movement by advances in ultrasound technology. The most recent example is Abby Johnson, the former director of Dallas-area Planned Parenthood. After watching, via ultrasound, an embryo “crumple” as it was suctioned out of its mother’s womb, Johnson reported a “conversion in my heart.” Likewise, Joan Appleton was the head nurse at a large abortion facility in Falls Church, Virginia, and a NOW activist. Appleton performed thousands of abortions with aplomb until a single ultrasound-assisted abortion rattled her. As Appleton remembers, “I was watching the screen. I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. .  .  . After the procedure I was shaking, literally.”

The most famous abortion provider to be converted by ultrasound technology, decades ago, is Bernard Nathanson, cofounder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the original NARAL. In the early 1970s, Nathanson was the largest abortion provider in the Western world. By his own reckoning he performed more than 60,000 abortions, including one on his own child. Nathanson’s exit from the industry was slow and tortured. In Aborting America (1979), he expressed anxiety over the possibility that he was complicit in a great evil. He was especially troubled by ultrasound images. When he finally left his profession for pro-life activism, he produced The Silent Scream (1984), a documentary of an ultrasound abortion that showed the fetus scrambling vainly to escape dismemberment.

This handful of stories is representative of many more. In fact, with the exception of communism, we can think of few other movements from which so many activists have defected to the opposition. Nonetheless, the vast majority of clinic workers remain committed to the pro-choice cause. Perhaps some of those who stay behind are haunted by their work. Most, however, find a way to cope with the dissonance.
Pro-choice advocates like to point out that abortion has existed in all times and places. Yet that observation tends to obscure the radicalism of the present abortion regime in the United States. Until very recently, no one in the history of the world has had the routine job of killing well-developed fetuses quite so up close and personal. It is an experiment that was bound to stir pro-life sentiments even in the hearts of those staunchly devoted to abortion rights. Ultrasound and D&E bring workers closer to the beings they destroy. Hern and Corrigan concluded their study by noting that D&E leaves “no possibility of denying an act of destruction.” As they wrote, “It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment run through the forceps like an electric current.”

Jon A. Shields is assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. David Daleiden is a student there.

An "Old Friend" Returns

Leviathan is Back, But It Never Went Away

Big Government is back, The Economist tells us in a recent article. Actually, it never really went away--it just hibernated for a few years. Now, however, it is out of the cave bigger, hungrier, and more rapacious than ever.
Fifteen years ago it seemed that the great debate about the proper size and role of the state had been resolved. In Britain and America alike, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton pronounced the last rites of “the era of big government”. Privatising state-run companies was all the rage. The Washington consensus reigned supreme: persuade governments to put on “the golden straitjacket”, in Tom Friedman’s phrase, and prosperity would follow.

Today big government is back with a vengeance: not just as a brute fact, but as a vigorous ideology. Britain’s public spending is set to exceed 50% of GDP (see chart 1). America’s financial capital has shifted from New York to Washington, DC, and the government has been trying to extend its control over the health-care industry. Huge state-run companies such as Gazprom and PetroChina are on the march. Nicolas Sarkozy, having run for office as a French Margaret Thatcher, now argues that the main feature of the credit crisis is “the return of the state, the end of the ideology of public powerlessness”.
Notice that vast expansions of government size and power occurred at the hand of "conservative" political administrations just as much as left-wing governments, and alike, it happened during the times of economic boom (artificially stimulated though it were through loose monetary policies and debt).
Yet even before Lehman Brothers collapsed the state was on the march—even in Britain and America, which had supposedly done most to end the era of big government. Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor and later its prime minister, began his ministerial career as “Mr Prudent”. During Labour’s first three years in office public spending fell from 40.6% of GDP to 36.6%. But then he embarked on an Old Labour spending binge. He increased spending on the National Health Service by 6% a year in real terms and boosted spending on education. During Labour’s 13 years in power two-thirds of all the new jobs created were driven by the public sector, and pay has grown faster there than in the private sector (see chart 2).

In America, George Bush did not even go through a prudent phase. He ran for office believing that “when somebody hurts, government has got to move”. And he responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 with a broad-ranging “war on terror”. The result of his guns-and-butter strategy was the biggest expansion in the American state since Lyndon Johnson’s in the mid-1960s. He added a huge new drug entitlement to Medicare. He created the biggest new bureaucracy since the second world war, the Department of Homeland Security. He expanded the federal government’s control over education and over the states. The gap between American public spending and Canada’s has tumbled from 15 percentage points in 1992 to just two percentage points today.
All the while the people clapped and cheered. Their governments were "doing things" for them. In New Zealand, when the previous (Labour) administration deliberately planned and executed an expansion of entitlements to ensure that most of the middle class became recipients of entitlements, known as Working for Families, there was no resistance--only thankful, outstretched hands. By the time the government changed to a "conservative" administration, Working for Families had become one of the vitally important entitlements that had to be conserved. (Actually, the name of this new entitlement is a perverse irony. "Working for Families" was supposed to refer to the kind paternalistic government "working" for families. This of course is a sleight of hand. Everyone receiving "Working for Family" entitlements has other people working for them--like slaves. They work, government takes, and a subset of society receives.)

The Economist article goes on to point out some of the intrinsically bad things about Leviathan's return. It then rather lamely concludes by suggesting we had all better have a serious think about the role of government ought to have in our society, and work out what governments do well and what they do not. But having recourse to a "common-sense pragmatism" to answer this question is ostrich-head-in-sand type stuff. Western governments will not be rolled back: they will merely hibernate for a time, only to re-emerge bigger than ever. It is politically impossible.

New Zealand is a classic example of this truth. Facing imminent national economic bankruptcy--that is, a genuine crisis--Muldoon's eastern-bloc command economy was reformed by Roger Douglas in the eighties. But it was a pragmatic reformation: Douglas's slogan was "There's got to be a better way." It was a change led by an academic elite which had been influenced by Milton Friedman and pro-free market economists, largely in the US. It represented a pendulum swing. Parts of the economy were reformed, and the government was stripped of some powers. But what remained untouched were two impossible-to-change foundations of Big Government: welfare entitlements and government redistribution. So, within thirty years, despite the Douglas reforms, Big Government is now back in New Zealand, bigger than ever before. Hello, darkness, my old friend.

We cannot be sure whence the following quotation came, but it definitely hits the nail:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always then followed by a dictatorship.
Arguments amongst pragmatists about where the line ought to be drawn between the government and the private sectors are irrelevant. Wherever that line might be drawn by academics and theorists, it will ever be nothing more than a worthless Maginot Line rapidly outflanked by panzer-like electoral realities driven by the lust, greed, covetousness, and envy of the voter. All Western democracies rest upon immoral foundations that finally will cause them to self-destruct, at least as democracies. It it only a matter of time.

The commandments, "Thou shalt not steal", and "Thou shalt not covet" prohibit voters from demanding, or political parties from offering, state entitlements and the expropriation via taxation from one citizen and distribution to another. These evils are just as immoral as murder. It is only our modern social conditioning which pans the former as acceptable and continues to reject the latter (except in cases like abortion).

But these convictions will not hold sway in Western democracies until the vast majority of people also embrace the first table of the Law, particularly, "Thou shalt have no other gods in My presence." We believe this will indeed happen in time. In the meantime, we work with our own hands and raise our children to fear God and be free of, independent of, the State and maintain at all times a clear, generous eye toward the weak and the needy. Nowadays, to live this way is to lead a truly revolutionary life.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Letter From America

Pleasing Lady Michelle

A Lesson for Democrats in Massachusetts, and One in D.C.

By David Bahnsen on January 18, 2010

[Editor's note: this was written on the eve of the historic Massachusett's election which rejected Democratic control of its representation in the US Senate.]

Earlier this year the SNL comedian Al Franken was sworn in as a Senator in the state of Minnesota. The reason he defeated Norm Coleman is because he cheated, and cheated egregiously. The only reason it was ever close was because Norm Coleman was part of a Republican party that was being justifiably taught a lesson by the voters.

Tomorrow, January 19, I believe Republican Scott Brown is going to win the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy. . . . Win or lose, the only reason this race is even close is because the Democratic Party is justifiably being taught a lesson by the voters: Cool your horses.

Unlike some of my conservative friends, I do not buy into the idea that the country is undergoing a Damascus Road conversion towards individual responsibility. I believe that will happen some day, and I think there is a blatant rejection of Obama-style-Euro-statism going on right before our eyes, but I still shudder at the willingness of too many contemporary Americans to yearn for government programs as the solution to their problems.

However, despite the fact that there is work to be done (lots of it) by conservatives, there is no question that the so-called Obama mandate of 2008 was a farce, and when ideological egomaniacs with visions of collectivist grandeur dancing in their heads decide that they have been anointed to usher in a new era of big government, the DNA of America still shouts back: what do you think you are doing? The $1 trillion stimulus bill was pretty bold, wouldn’t you say? If I had been in a coma the last ten years (not too long), and woke up to read my article, I would just assume the author was using “trillion” for its hyperbolic effect; obviously, that could not be an actual number. But alas, it is.

How about the bailout of the automakers? Cap-and-trade legislation? Abusive sweetheart deals for unions everywhere one looks? The largest tax increase in U.S. history? Mark your calendar: 12/31/10. Oh yeah. And then there is “health care reform”, the kind of reform where costs go up and services get cut. Has this been an ambitious first year for this President? It seems moderate for his radicalist supporters, because as Paul Krugman says, the stimulus was too small, and the health care package not progressive enough. But as the Brown/Coakley debacle shows in Massachusetts, a referendum election if there ever was one, the American people may not have finalized their understanding of Keynes vs. Friedman, but they do smell a deficit-growing rat when it overstays its welcome. Martha Coakley is a victim of the Obama rat gone mad.

Bill Clinton mastered the art of playing the middle – governing from the center-left while occasionally throwing a bone to the center-right. Obama, a beneficiary of extraordinary voter angst at the wasted Republican leadership of the 2000’s, felt like such niceties were beneath him. . . .

[I am] betting that the lesson falls on deaf ears. Extremist ideology is decidedly non-pragmatic. Obama will sacrifice a lot more Martha Coakley’s on his way to an America that his wife can finally be proud of.

James Renwick was Speaking the Truth

It's Far Worse Than the Pollyannas Will Admit

When a storm broke around the blogosphere over the NZ temperature record being "massaged" by government climate scientists, the official climate science spokesman, Dr James Renwick protested that all the adjustments to NZ's temperature record were done following well-established, best-practice international procedures. We now know that he was speaking the truth. This revelation deserves official recognition: from now on international best-practice adjustments of raw temperature data will be designated as the Renwick Coefficient.

It has been revealed that this "international best-practice" has been employed building not just the CRU global temperature database in the UK, but also the two leading global temperature data bases in the US: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

Before we dive down into some of the details, let us consider the odd fact that both NOAA and GISS have recently announced that 2009 was one of the warmest ever year on record, yet there was an odd discrepancy in play. GISS claimed 2009 was the second warmest year on record; NOAA reckoned it was the fifth warmest year on record. (We also note in passing that both NOAA and GISS temperature data is derived from land based temperature stations, whereas satellite temperature data shows 2009 as the 15th coldest in 31 years.)

Why the discrepancy between the two databases, and why the very divergent result from satellite data? Something clearly is not right.

It turns out that the discrepancy between NOAA and GISS is easily explainable. Both have applied the Renwick Co-efficient to the raw data; both have adjusted more recent temperature data upwards; both have guessed and interpolated the data; consequently both databases show different results. When scientists start massaging raw data, guess what? The data itself becomes guesswork and mere opinion and probably prejudiced opinion, at that. (Now, we are not objecting to scientists guessing when data has gaps, or is unavailable. What we strenuously object to is that the fact of guesswork is not disclosed. Every temperature pronouncement from GISS and NOAA should, by law, be required to disclose that the pronouncement is made on the basis of adjusted or interpolated data, not on the basis of actual temperature measurements.)

A recent article in American Thinker details how painstaking research upon the methodologies and employed guesswork of these two "institutions of science" shows that the Renwick Coefficient is alive and well.

Here is a summary what the forensic investigation of NOAA and GISS is tossing up. Firstly, NOAA:

1. Cherry Picking of Global Temperature Sites. There are 6,000 thermometers scattered over over the globe. NOAA has reduced the dataset to only 1,500. That represents a 75% reduction in the sampling population. And, as the article points out, all recent temperature records are derived from this significantly reduced dataset.
Now, 75% represents quite a drop in sampling population, particularly considering that these stations provide the readings used to compile both the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) and United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) datasets. These are the same datasets, incidentally, which serve as primary sources of temperature data not only for climate researchers and universities worldwide, but also for the many international agencies using the data to create analytical temperature anomaly maps and charts.

2. Clear Selection Bias in Favour of Warmer Stations.
It seems that stations placed in historically cooler, rural areas of higher latitude and elevation were scrapped from the data series in favor of more urban locales at lower latitudes and elevations. Consequently, post-1990 readings have been biased to the warm side not only by selective geographic location, but also by the anthropogenic heating influence of a phenomenon known as the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI).

For example, Canada’s reporting stations dropped from 496 in 1989 to 44 in 1991, with the percentage of stations at lower elevations tripling while the numbers of those at higher elevations dropped to one. That’s right: As Smith wrote in his blog, they left “one thermometer for everything north of LAT 65.” And that one resides in a place called Eureka, which has been described as “The Garden Spot of the Arctic” due to its unusually moderate summers.
The Renwick Coefficient at work.

3. Earlier Temperature Stats Include the Colder Records. In the NOAA database, earlier temperatures include the colder (higher) temperature station data; the later, more recent temperature data do not. Voila. A warming trend immediately emerges.
. . . baseline [older] temperatures to which current readings are compared were a true averaging of both warmer and cooler locations. And comparing these historic true averages to contemporary false averages – which have had the lower end of their numbers intentionally stripped out – will always yield a warming trend, even when temperatures have actually dropped.
This is as unscrupulous and perverse as someone who claimed to show a warming temperature trend over seven days by recording the temperature in the household freezer for five days, then in a hot bath for the following two days. Amazing and hard to believe it might be--but that is precisely what NOAA has done. This is the Renwick Coefficient at work.

So much for NOAA. Now, a quick look at GISS and the magical tricks it performs upon the raw data. Remember that the global data set has now been reduced to 1500 temperature stations. But, in an effort to give the appearance of a true global temperature data set, GISS divides the entire surface of the globe up into an 8,000 box grid. Now, there are only 1,500 current readings that survive in the database: how do you get them to fit into 8,000 boxes? Well, you make one temperature reading cover an awful lot of territory, that's how--a 1,200 kilometer radius to be exact.

4. (Warmer) Temperature Stations are Used as Proxies for Colder Areas. Consider the following example with respect to Hawaii.
It seems that all of the Aloha State’s surviving stations reside in major airports. Nonetheless, this unrepresentative hot data is what’s used to “infill” the surrounding “empty” Grid Boxes up to 1200 km out to sea. So in effect, you have “jet airport tarmacs ‘standing in’ for temperature over water 1200 km closer to the North Pole.”

Maybe this is an isolated problem. Not at all. Consider Bolivia, a mountainous country--therefore cooler. But how does GISS record Bolivia's temperatures these days? By using proxy stations which just happen to be located in the Amazon jungle or at a beach in Peru 1,200km away. The actual Bolivian temperature data was excluded from the database from 1990 onwards (it was included before that time). This is the Renwick Coefficient at work. Upshot: the data appear to show that Bolivia is getting warmer--but it is pure chicanery and lies.

Those responsible for this fraud need to be exposed, named, and shamed.

On another related front, Climate Audit has now exposed the extraordinary lengths to which the charlatans at GISS will go to to cover over errors and mistakes. In around August 2007, the guys at Climate Audit noticed a mistake in GISS data in the January 2000 data series. They kindly pointed it out to the good, honest folk at NASA (which runs GISS). Rather than correcting the problem by removing the error from their post-2000 data, they decided to go back and adjust all their pre-2000 data, in effect blowing a smokescreen over their mistake. This literally meant adjusting (changing) millions of historical records in their database.

The Renwick Coefficient at work again.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

A Brief Explanation for the Europeans
Obama Nation Building

Written by Douglas Wilson in Blog and Mablog, Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In my previous post, I noted that it appears that the Lord has delivered us from health care. Now I admit that this is a curious expression, especially for our European readers, who wonder at the strange psychology exhibited, even for an American, when someone expresses their gratitude to God for His mighty deliverance, and the foe that went down in ignominy was a "health care bill."

Ah, yes. I take your point. Health care is simply short for government-run health care, which is to say, lousy health care, and fueled by tyranny. To advocate it is therefore to say, "Yes, we know that the quality of the care will go way down, but at least we get to lie, cheat, and steal in the funding of it." Not a compelling argument, to my way of thinking.

So allow me to explain, in brief, my views on the health care proposals currently being contemplated, in case there was any ambiguity.

Universal, tax-funded health care is a vain imagination thrust at an unwilling republic by beetlewit Marxists, who think that unlimited free supplies will have no impact on demand. And the media, cheerfully windsurfing as they like to do, on the breezy gusts of the NPR zeitgeist, have failed to do the math for us. They failed to follow the logic of the late Sen. Dirkson, who said, and I paraphrase, adjusting upwards, "A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money." Those who set out to explain how this newest offering of free wealth for everybody will be so good are lying as fast as a dog can trot. Lie after lie, fallacy after fallacy, and our investigative journalists in the mainstream media just sat there like a tomato can.

The powers that be cooked up this hell brew and wanted us to drink it, and we are in the process of declining. If legislative bills were in a sartorial contest, this one would be a badly dressed leper. Obama has been like the guy at the dance who just straightened his tie, expecting the girls to do the rest. And then they didn't.

Square Pegs in Round Holes

Why Tax Reform is Politically Dead

The media has been all in a lather over tax "reform" this week. Every substantial recommendation of the Government's Tax Working Group has been slammed.

The hype about the Working Group had been substantial: it was a core government initiative (thus, would be taken seriously by the government); everyone knew that the tax system is stupid and distorting (therefore, public support existed for "reform"); the government had taken nothing off the table (thus, it was not bound not to act--very important to the Prime Minister); the folk making up the Working Group were acknowledged experts (that is, they were not ideologues whose views could be easily dismissed); the Report would present a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to put things right (so, we were to expect major changes).

But, lo and behold, surprise, surprise it turns out that the people don't like tax--and certainly not more of it. Maori reject land tax upon their ancestral land. Nobody wants to see GST increased. Taxes on rental properties will sharply decrease the rental housing stock, pushing rents up. Every proposal by the Working Group is going to hurt some group or sector--and those interest groups have lost no time in airing their opposition publicly. The upshot: the people want benefits and entitlements; but they also want someone else to pay for them. They are being heard.

The Prime Minister and Treasurer are now scurrying around trying to put out fires.

We note that some of what has been recommended is just plain immoral, if not barking mad. The Working Group has conceded that if GST were to be put up, benefits would have to be increased to compensate. The Prime Minister has already conceded that this has his support. Have these pointy-heads never heard of the beneficiary trap? They were supposed to be setting New Zealand up for tax reforms which would increase our rate of economic growth and they end up recommending a bigger and tighter beneficiary trap. And our short-sighted Prime Minister agrees.

What is obvious, but apparently not to our governors, is that the only way to have political headroom for tax reform is to lower taxes. If you are lowering taxes substantially, then you may get away with moving from direct to indirect tax, or putting a tax upon (say) rental housing stock. It becomes politically arguable. But as soon as the stake was put in the sand than any tax changes had to be "revenue-neutral" the thing was lost. The "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to get things right has dissipated (if it ever existed); we are now going to get a mere tinkering and fiddling around the edges.

But, of course, the government has no room to lower taxes. It already is spending far beyond its means. Because it refuses to cut government spending substantially it has no room to cut taxes, so tax reform is dead. Square pegs do not go into round holes.

And why, you ask, will the government not cut spending? So it can retain popular support and be re-elected in two years time. Yup. That's the objective. But, we have to admit, it is precisely what our craven electorate wants. Our government is our god, and it is reasonable to expect our gods to take care of us. And if they take care of us, we will take care of them. That's our established religion in a nutshell.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter from America

Of All Places
Obama Nation Building

Written by Douglas Wilson in Blog and Mablog, Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well, it looks as though the Lord has been very kind to us on the health care monstrosity. Not only was He kind to us, He was kind to us through the instrumentality of the people of Massachusetts. Whodah thunk?

Without getting into any rah rah republican stuff over this, which I don't think I know how to do anyway, I simply want to point to the consequences of Scott Brown's election as senator from Massachusetts. This was about as clear a referendum on the health care proposal before Congress as can be imagined. If the Democrats double down on this, and they force through passage of the health care bill despite this message, then they will have become the Demoncrats, and the tenuous bands holding our civil polity together will quite simply come unstuck. The tea parties would be ten times bigger, and they wouldn't be tea parties anymore -- more like Jolt Cola parties.

This was not a blunt message. It was a blunt instrument message.

The leadership will not want to do it, but I think there is no way that the (many) nervous Democrats in the middle will not take full advantage of the cover that this election provides to them. And this means, despite the brave talk and bluster in the days running up to this election, that the health care bill is almost certainly dead. This, despite the fact that we didn't deserve deliverance from the health care monstrosity. We still don't deserve deliverance from it. But it looks as though the Lord sent it anyway. From Massachusetts. Of all places.

Faux Mea Culpa

More Talking Needed

The Achilles heel of all venal politicians and pretenders to leadership is that they have had to make their way to office by employing lashings of "spin" which then becomes their biggest liability. President Obama is a perfect illustration of the syndrome.

We well remember his spinmeister skills on the campaign trail as he sought to deflect criticism from the Hillary Clinton camp that he was soft on defence and terrorism. Obama, of course, as a US Senator had been persistently and consistently opposed to any international US military activity period. But, facing Clinton's criticisms he needed some spin. So, in a master stroke he pronounced that the war in Iraq was bad (thus reiterating his well documented opposition to that war), but then declared the conflict in Afghanistan was the real war that the US had to fight, and by golly, he was going to do it.

Obama, of course, did not believe this for one moment, but the demands of image building, spin, framing to win popular support are relentless. And a false image has piranha teeth when it returns to bite as it inevitably does. His war making in Afghanistan has cost him a great deal of political popularity. It has cost many Americans their lives. It will cost him (and the country) far more in the years to come.

Somewhere along the journey all venal politicians actually come to believe their own press. They disconnect from reality. President Obama appears now to be profoundly disconnected from the real world.

Confronted with the Democrat's loss of a Massachusetts' federal Senate seat, Obama has manfully shouldered some blame--sort of. He trotted out a derisory mea culpa which, whilst amusing, betrays his self-capture by a virtual unreal world. According to the Times Online
Mr Obama acknowledged last night that his bond to voters had weakened. “If there’s one thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people,” he told ABC News.

He said that Americans had become consumed by a “feeling of remoteness and detachment” from Washington. “That I do think is a mistake of mine,” Mr Obama added.

OK, so Obama believes (apparently) that if he had spent more time talking with American voters they would not be so mad at him. They (presumably) would have become more comfortable with the vast increase in government spending and the explosion of debt. They would not feel so detached and alienated from their government. The implication is that Obama thinks that copious rhetoric would have maintained his political support, despite his now deeply unpopular policies.

Nothing could be further from the truth: hence his disconnect with reality. Patterico tots up the numbers:
Meanwhile, CBS reports that in his first year in office, President Obama gave 411 speeches, comments and remarks, conducted 42 news conferences, appeared at 23 town hall meetings, 7 campaign rallies, and 28 political fundraisers, and granted 158 interviews … plus trips to 30 states and 21 nations, and meetings with 74 foreign leaders.
Over four hundred speeches, comments and remarks in the first year--that is more than one a day! One hundred and fifty eight interviews--virtually one every other day. And he thinks he did not "communicate" sufficiently. What can be going through this man's mind, if he genuinely thinks that he has failed to communicate enough, and that is the reason the Democratic party has been humiliated in Massachusetts? Probably he is hankering back to the heady days of campaigning when people swooned over him and were impressed by his rhetoric--which would indicate he has now become captured by the charade of his own hype.

Has it not registered with this man that the more you talk, the less effective it is? We all know that when it comes to talking, less is more. Surely he must know this? Maybe not. But in any event he is clearly not getting the real message from his party's trouncing in Massachusetts. If that were to continue he would already be a lame-duck president: it would be over. We suspect it is.

Ironically, this would be good news. The US economy would do far better in the next two years if the Government were to do less.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

It's the Arrogance, Ma'am

Why Conservative Governments Do Better

All democracies, unless they are grounded in the Christian faith, drift inevitably into despotism. Democratic governments invariably expand their controls and regulations over all of human life.

Consequently, it is reasonable to expect that left-wing governments will hold political office for the majority of the time in modern democracies. Democracy and big-government ideologues would appear to be a marriage made in heaven. If democracies are ever drifting leftward as electorates persistently look to government for the solution even to their petty problems, then it seems inevitable that political parties with names such as Labour, Democrats, Social Democrats, or Liberals (in Canada, not Aussie) would hold the reins of power more or less persistently and consistently.

But clearly this is not the case. It turns out that despotically drifting democracies tend to prefer "right wing" or conservative rulers far more than one would expect. There are at least two reasons for this. In the first place, conservative parties and factions are themselves subject to the universal democratic drift towards despotism. If mini-skirts are "in", conservatives will wear their skirts just one centimetre longer than the labourites. They will follow the left-ward drift albeit at a respectable distance. Thus, it is relatively easy for conservative regimes to retain popular support.

As we have seen in New Zealand, when centre-right governments are returned to power their first order of business is not to scare the horses. Thus, they conserve the previous left-wing's advances of statist controls and powers. Modern right-wing governments tend to be consolidators: they have the function of making the electorate comfortable with the newly enhanced state powers. But they often do so with a "human face". They set about calming and quieting the horses, speaking mellifluously about freedoms and commitments to individual liberty and upholding the integrity of families. Uttering the words, even while continuing to maintain or even expand government despotic control, has a strangely calming narcotic effect upon skittish electorates.

Thus, democracies which really lust after bigger and bigger government, provided it continues to pay them out, tend to be more comfortable with conservative administrations. They "feel" better and more comfortable whilst the despotic drift continues.

But there is another reason why left-wing political parties do not do as well as might be expected in ever increasingly socialistic democracies. It is that they are quickly perceived to be arrogant by the electorate. The problem is that left-wing politicians tend to believe that they actually do know what is best for people: essentially more government, bigger government is better. Quickly this translates into politicians knowing what is best for voters. Left wing politicians are easily and naturally perceived as arrogant.

Voters hate arrogance on the part of their servant-rulers. The irony is that both voters and politicians really share a common belief that governments can do it better (in virtually everything). But voters don't like to have this rammed up their noses--as it were. They like to be respected, courted, won-over. They like their politicians to do the dance of a thousand genuflections in their direction. But left-wing politicians are more hidebound by naked ideology: the risk is that ideology quickly overshadows the mincing dances towards the electorate. The lust for the "greater good" can make left-wing politicians stridently impatient.

The rapid declension of the Obama administration and the Democractic Congress in the United States is an apt illustration of the conundrum. Obama and the Democrats have been increasingly fixated upon introducing socialised medicine into the US. With good reason they believe that if they get it in now, the conservatives will never turn it back. They just know that it is going to be good for the country. At heart, we suspect the overwhelming majority of the electorate probably likes the idea that the government will be there for them in a medical emergency or costly illness. But quickly the Democrats political capital has evaporated as an electorate has felt un-consulted, jilted.

Obama and the Democrats are now tagged with elitism and arrogance. Their response is to double up and drive harder--as all ideologues will. If they continue, it is possible that the 2010 elections will send them into a generational political wilderness.

But, let us be clear. If the Republican party ends up dominating federal and state politics in the US for the next twenty-five years it will not stop the despotic drift of the US into socialism-by-another-name. It will only effect the speed of the drift and the comfort of the electorate along the way.

The only way this would not occur is if a significant majority emerges in the United States which no longer regards government as their de-facto god because they have truly repented and humbled themselves before the Living God, and received mercy at His gracious hand. Such things, however, usually take two or three generations to eventuate. And, like all true works of Messiah, they are impossible to predict; they can only be seen and known after the fact.

Regardless, all Christians who are properly taught, understand that there is no hope and no salvation in modern secular democracies. Can there be any hope in a culture which, in its final analysis, has nothing other than a creed of "our god is our belly"? But our hope ever remains in the King of all kings; His realm is inevitably growing and expanding. In the end, truly sustainable democracy will emerge all over the earth where the power of government is extensively proscribed out of the people's love for God and for their neighbours. Omni-competent despotic governments, and the secular democracies which spawned them, will be obsolete.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

The Future is the True East

Written by Douglas Wilson
Monday, January 11, 2010

We need to start thinking about church/state relations in eschatological categories. If we think of them in static categories, the Christian church will find it hard to avoid becoming reactionary. That kind of conservatism is the way of death.

The Marxists know what they are supposed to be doing right now because they have an eschatology of the state. They say that the dictatorship of the proletariat will eventually wither away, which is perfect nonsense, but they nevertheless do have an eschatology of the thing. But when believing Christians get involved in politics they are hampered by the fact that politics is inherently an eschatological discipline, and their eschatology is either lurid, confused, pessimistic, or non-existent. Why should we want to drive the car if we don't believe the car is going anywhere? Why should anybody let us drive the car?

So I want to think of where church/state relations are headed teleologically -- we need a political eschatology. This will orient us where we need to be oriented. Man was created to be informed by the past, but oriented by the future, not the past. The future is the true East.

We have been all sorts of places. History is messy and at certain times we should want to identify with the Methodists, or Moravians, or Baptists, or Reformed, because that is where the Spirit was moving at that time. There were times when some form of anabaptism was closer to center of faithfulness. We should always identify with faithfulness, whether that faithfulness was connected to "our faction" or not. But in doing this, we need to stand with those faithful saints while avoiding the false eschatologies that arose from those situations. I say this because someone can be where they ought to be, but not know where all of us ought to go. Those are two separate questions.

So the central question I am trying to ask and answer in this discussion is this: where is the Spirit taking us, considered in thousand year chunks? What is it supposed to look like 500 years before the end?

Now, that said, if the Church is everything that matters for the new humanity, then one option is that the state outside the Church goes to hell and we let it (anabaptism). Another is that the functions of the state are subsumed into the Church (which for various reasons I don't want). Yet another logical option is that the functions of the state wither down to nothing or virtually nothing because of the prevailing Edenic conditions brought about by gospel preaching. We don't have the problem of reconciliation between church and state anymore because one of the parties needing to be reconciled went poof.

The problem I have with this third option is not a logical one, but rather the fact of the prophecies of healing for the nations, and the honor and glory of kings receiving much higher and greater glory because of their submission to the Church. When kings come to Christ, their glory will grow. When kings die to their own glory, they will be raised in the glory of Another. And incidentally, though I am a minarchist (not an anarchist), and I believe that the kings of the latter glory will largely be ceremonial figureheads, I do not intend this as demeaning or as some kind of a nothing-honor.

Why would any of us think that ceremony is a trivial thing? I suspect it will be shown to be the chief thing, far better than the current techniques for lording it over people -- to wit, kicking butt and taking names -- peace through superior firepower. That is a model that has a certain rough justice about it, but we have to admit that improvements could be made. When the lion lies down with the lamb, it will not be because men with block letters on their jackets are standing over them with automatic weapons.

So my proposed solution to all this, my fourth option, is to divide a believing world into Church (believing administration of Word and sacrament) and Kingdom (believing administration of bread baking, lovemaking, candlestick making, warfare, sewage treatment, etc.) The Church is the central cathedral and the Kingdom is the parish. The Kingdom may certainly be called the Church by synecdoche, just as all ancient Israel could be called Zion, just so long as we maintain a category elsewhere that keeps them clearly distinct. I want to keep this distinction sharp because I don't ever want to have ministers of the Word too closely involved in chopping off the heads of miscreants. Wanting to do better than the Inquisition is not setting the bar too high. Whaddaya say?

No one nation replaces Israel -- there is one global Israel, an international kingdom, with the worship of Christ at the center. Let's call it Christendom. We could also think of all the individual civil societies as so many little israels, but only to the extent that the national churches are "churches." But if the universal Church is the Temple of the new order, then all the nations taken together are the outskirts of the new Israel.

The language I use for this distinction is Church and Kingdom. The Church is the heart of the Kingdom, but not everything in the Kingdom is Church proper, although it is "Church" in some sense. The Church is at the center, and Christendom surrounds her.

The early Church was not Israel complete "in itself," but was rather an entity that took on certain civil functions in a jury-rigged fashion until a believing culture around the Church had been planted. In other words, Paul told the Corinthians to handle civil disputes in the Church, not because they belonged there ultimately, but rather because it would be worse to let unbelievers handle it. But Paul's requirement of a jury-rigged small claims court in the Church disappears once the civil magistrates are all Christians, the laws are biblical, and the witnesses are sworn in on a Bible.

So America, Nigeria, Scotland, etc. never become the city of God. But they do all bring their honor and glory into the Church (Rev. 21:24, 26). They do become nursing fathers to the Church (Is. 49:23), submitting themselves to the Church, and being discipled by the Church. They all become parts of the Kingdom, they assume their station as one of the many nations of Christendom. I don't see how the leaves on the tree of life can be for the healing of the nations without the nations actually getting better (Rev. 22:2).

So the Church is not gathered into the State, with ecclesiastical functions delegated to some part of the bureaucracy. Rather, I see the nations gathered to the Church, with the remaining civil functions distinct from the Church proper, but subordinate to it. The honor and glory of the kings really is honor and glory, and that honor and glory is really brought as tribute to be laid on the altar. In other words, I don't see the nations gathering the Church, but rather the Church gathering the nations.

Remember, this is a purified Church, and not a grasping Church with a thin veneer of piety. Remember, this is eschatology, and depends upon the Spirit working through millennia. I am talking about 3500 A.D., and not proposing a sorry retread of the Sanhedrin or the Council of Constance to be implemented tomorrow.

Against this, it could be argued that in ancient Israel citizenship in the nation and membership in the congregation were identical, and so that creates problems for us in the era of an international Church, when they can't be identical. But actually I deny the premise. I don't agree that the two citizenships were identical in ancient Israel (Dt. 23:2-3). If Moabites and bastards could not come into the congregation of the Lord until after ten generations, that had to be ten generations of some sort of probationary catechumen status, presumably circumcised but maybe not. And then there were sons of Belial who were headed in the other direction. There were ways to be "cut off" from the congregation short of execution, which means that the two citizenships were logically distinct, but drastically intertwined -- like being English and being Anglican at certain points in their history.

This is admittedly a rough, preliminary sketch. But Christopher Dawson once said that the Church lives in the light of eternity, and can afford to be patient. Recall that I am a postmillennialist. We have all the time in the world.