Thursday, November 05, 2009
Junk Science Returns to the White House
Regardless of your tribal affiliations, were you cautiously optimistic when our new president promised to "restore science to its rightful place" in the formulation of public policy? Were you embarrassed by the prior occupant's politicization of issues that should have been decided on a more scientific basis? Did you assume that Barack Obama would surround himself with apolitical science advisors unencumbered by embarrassing anti-science baggage and free of culture-war axes to grind?
To paraphrase a once famous mayor of New York - So how's he doing so far?
You're probably aware that the H1N1 swine flu vaccine supply has fallen dangerously short of the level required to protect the most vulnerable among us. In the spring Federal officials predicted that as many as 120 million doses would be available by now, as opposed to the 16 million doses that actually arrived. Flu vaccine is tricky to make under the best of circumstances, but there are scientifically safe and proven ways to stretch supplies. Are you aware that the Federal Government refuses to allow the use of adjuvants that can be used to produce twice as many doses from the same vaccine stock? This despite the fact that over 40 million doses of flu vaccine containing adjuvants have been dispensed in Europe over the past dozen years without any indication of a safety issue. Some people denied shots because of this decision are going to die. Does this policy sound scientific or political?
You're probably aware that a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal was removed from children's vaccines in 2001 to mollify activists promoting the theory that thimerosal causes autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there was then and is still now no scientific evidence linking thimerosal to autism. Despite numerous peer-reviewed studies as well as the empirical fact that autism rates have not plunged since the 2001 thimerosal ban, as one would expect if the preservative were a leading cause of this heart breaking illness, the administration recently made a decision that further reduced the supply of H1N1 vaccine. It switched our country's emergency H1N1 vaccine order from multi-dose to single-dose vials, causing production chain backups as vendors scrambled to accommodate the last-minute switch. Why the change? Because single-dose vials contain a lower concentration of thimerosal. Some people denied shots because of this decision are going to die. Does this policy sound scientific or political?
Did you know that despite the melting ice cap there are estimated to be five times as many polar bears wandering the northern regions of our planet today than there were fifty years ago? Studies indicate that the biggest threat to polar bears are not present climate conditions but forecasts of future conditions made by climate models. These are the same models that have been unable to explain why the hottest year on record was actually 11 years ago despite increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and that the world's oceans appear to be cooling. This has not stopped the administration from proposing that 200,000 square miles of land, sea, and ice along the northern coast of Alaska be designated as "critical habitat for this iconic species." Does reading this statement make you wonder whether polar bears are genuinely endangered or merely charismatic? Does this policy sound scientific or political?
Did you catch the recent peer-reviewed article by Princeton's Tim Searchinger in Science magazine on the impact of biofuels on global warming? The authors found that "corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%." Has the White House called for a halt on ethanol subsidies and blending mandates? Is Obama asking legislators to heed the scientific evidence and pull back from this widely recognized economic and ecological blunder? No. Does this policy sound scientific or political?
Have you looked at the background and track record of the chief scientist the president chose to advise him? In a book co-authored earlier in his career with Population Bomb alarmist Paul Erhlich, Presidential science advisor John Holdren discussed the merits of adding a sterilant to public drinking water supplies to reduce population growth. The book goes on to note that "compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution." You see we, dear readers, are not citizens meant to be served by our government. We are pollutants. Does this policy sound scientific or insane?
The Obama Gang: Tyranny by a Thousand Cuts
Never have so few wreaked so much havoc on so many in so little time.
As Americans continue their dalliance with redistribution and collectivism—policies now being reversed or even shunned in other parts of the world—the process takes on the aura of a car wreck, an out-of-body experience seemingly taking place in slow motion. Yet the pace at which we are surrendering our fundamental rights is not a protracted deterioration but instead is breathtakingly quick, considering the fundamental damage visited upon our democratic system by the Obama administration in its brief tenure of less than ten months. Never have so few wreaked so much havoc on so many in so little time.
The free Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia is a too-convenient tool to illustrate a point and this column usually (but not always) resists the temptation. In the Age of Obama, however, its definition of the phrase "Death by a thousand cuts" is just too perfect to ignore: "The political tactic of making gradual changes over time so that nobody notices or those that do notice do not raise much of a protest."
Creeping normalcy —the way a major negative change, that happens slowly in many unnoticed increments, is not perceived as objectionable. And, for those Americans not blissfully unaware of the seismic political shifts taking place: Slow slicing, a form of torture and execution originating from Imperial China. Thus is the current state of Washington politics -- a case of what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have called "defining deviancy down."
The very audacity —a characteristic held in high regard by the president —with which the administration has attacked groups of private citizens exercising their right to speak out is perhaps unprecedented in American politics. During the government's massive bailout of the car companies, bondholders who complained that their private property was being precipitously expropriated so that valuable interests could be delivered to Obama's union enablers were publicly vilified as malefactors who were erecting obstacles to the "rescue" effort. In fact, these genuine company creditors were protesting actions by which the administration turned centuries of bankruptcy law on its head, thereby wiping out important private property rights in order to repay a political debt.
The administration and its congressional acolytes have in similar fashion attacked citizens who have exercised their free speech rights at the numerous health care town meetings held all over the country. Administration officials and the Democratic congressional leadership have demonstrated a remarkable ability to selectively ignore opinion polls that do not support their objectives, and they have responded to the rising chorus of objections to their health care "reform" plans by calling into question the motives and integrity of plain citizens who are not falling in line. The Obama gang prefers to meet these objections with ridicule and contempt rather than concern and respect, with the obvious objective of bullying Americans into silence on the subject. Meanwhile, every effort is being made to ramrod through a plan—almost any plan, at this point, no matter how wrongheaded—before more Americans realize what is happening and speak up. These are the politics of intimidation, coercion and menace, Chicago writ large on a national scale.
The administration's thin-skinned and vindictive nature is perhaps best reflected in its rabid attacks on the Fox cable network, something so unseemly, petty and undignified that it sets a standard in political overkill not seen since Nixon's enemies list. It took Nixon far longer than ten months to develop the bunker mentality so evident within the Obama team.
Along with these attacks on freedom of expression has come significant erosion in property rights. At the same time the aforementioned bondholders were being stripped of their assets, hundreds of automobile dealers, some in business for several generations, woke up one morning to a government proclamation that they were no longer in business, instantly reducing to ashes some franchises that had been valued in the millions of dollars. This totally opaque process was overseen by one of many "czars" appointed by the president to conduct large-scale government business, people who were neither vetted nor approved by any other branch of government. Shareholders in public companies suddenly have found their boards of directors circumvented or completely made irrelevant by government fiat. Hapless taxpayers underwrite countless bailouts of favored industries, seemingly without end, often propping up for purely political purposes companies with outmoded business models that would quickly fail in a free enterprise environment. Just today the government announced its third—count them—bailout of GMAC, one of many instances of throwing good money after bad.
While busy muzzling Americans and redistributing their wealth, the administration has been hyperactive on the international front. Its activities include abandoning long-time allies like Israel as it "reaches out" to hostile governments in places like Iran and North Korea. It has double-crossed countries like Poland, whose government took significant risks in agreeing to a missile-shield deal largely disavowed by the president and his advisors. The administration has forsaken principles of democracy by ignoring a brave and persecuted opposition in Iran and attempting to reinstall an ousted tyrant in Honduras. And all the while the president has shamed his country by courting tyrants and offering apologies for the supposed injustices America has heaped upon the rest of the world.
Featherbedding stimulus job numbers
Featherbedding occurs when paychecks are issued for nonexistent employees and the money goes directly into union coffers. Thousands of the jobs Obama officials say were saved or created by the stimulus program are no more real than those invisible positions invented by unions to bulk up their treasuries. We know this to be the case because as Obama’s chief economist, Christina Romer, admitted several weeks ago, “It’s very hard to say exactly because you don’t know what the baseline is, right, because you don’t know what the economy would have done without [the economic stimulus program].”
Even if we take at face value the White House claim that it created or saved all these jobs with approximately $150 billion of the economic stimulus money, a little simple math shows the taxpayers aren’t getting any bargains here: $150 billion divided by 650,000 jobs equals $230,000 per job saved or created. Instead of taking all that time required to write the 1,588-page stimulus bill, Congress could have passed a one-pager saying the first 650,000 jobless persons to report for work at the White House will receive a voucher worth $230,000 redeemable at the university, community college or trade school of their choice. That would have been enough for a degree plus a hefty down payment on a mortgage.
Actually, taxpayers would be better off with such a deal, too, compared with the reality of the Obama stimulus program. Among the top 10 stimulus contracts awarded, there is the one for nearly $339 million that allegedly created or saved 41.19 jobs, or about $8.3 million per position. It was even worse with the $258 million contract to Brookhaven Science Associates in New York, where 25 jobs were saved or created, at a cost of $10.3 million per position. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the ranking House minority member of the Joint Economic Committee, said it best: “What we know for certain is that 2.7 million payroll jobs have been lost since the Obama stimulus was signed into law, hundreds of thousands of more jobs are being lost each month, and America is so deep in debt, China and France are lecturing us to get our financial house in order.”
I have just put up on my home page a collection of what I think are some California toons. You can access them directly here or here. They are some of the funniest I have seen.
Iran: Regime thugs beat, gas protestors : "Iranian police fired teargas during clashes with opposition supporters trying to stage a demonstration in central Tehran on Wednesday and made several arrests, witnesses said. … Witnesses said police beat the opposition supporters in a bid to break up the rally but the crowd of several hundred refused to move. Opposition supporters have since June been staging protests in Tehran against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a presidential they claim was massively rigged.”
No queer marriage in Maine: "Maine voters have repealed a state law that would have allowed gay couples to marry. With 84% of the precincts reporting, those against gay marriage had 53% of the vote last night. The outcome amounts to a heartbreaking defeat for the gay rights movement, particularly as it occurred in a north-eastern New England state, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage. On the ballot in the state was a ‘people’s veto’ of a law passed this spring, that made Maine the sixth state to extend marriage to same-sex couples. The law was put on hold after conservatives launched a petition drive to repeal it in a referendum.”
Buffett thinks the worst is over: "Berkshire Hathaway has announced plans to acquire the 77.4 per cent of Burlington Northern it doesn't already own in a deal that values the railroad operator at $US34 billion ($38bn), plus $US10bn in debt. The deal, priced at a 31.5 per cent premium to Burlington's most recent close, would mark Berkshire chief Warren Buffett's largest acquisition, boosting his minority stake in the second-largest US railroad by revenue in what he termed an "all-in wager" on the US economic recovery. Berkshire Hathaway, which already owns 22.6 per cent of Burlington Northern, is placing the bet at the tail end of a five-year "rail renaissance" that saw rail volume and pricing soar, only to have the recession cut deeply into traffic and profitability.... Burlington and the other top railroads, including Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern, are considered barometers of overall economic activity because of the breadth of goods they ship. Mr Buffett has said in the past that he uses weekly railroad carload data by railroads as a proxy for the health of the economy."
Claude Levi-Strauss dies: "French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, who helped shape Western thinking about human civilisation, has died at the age of 100. Trained as a philosopher, Levi-Strauss shot to prominence with his 1955 book Tristes Tropiques (A World on the Wane), a haunting account of travels and studies in the Amazon basin and one of the 20th century's major works. Paying tribute, President Nicolas Sarkozy gave “homage to a tireless humanist, a curious academic who was always in search of new knowledge, to a man free of any sectarianism or indoctrination. Levi-Strauss was a leading proponent of structuralism, which sought to uncover the hidden, unconscious or primitive patterns of thought believed to determine the outer reality of human culture and relationships. Among the more striking conclusions of his work was the idea that there is no fundamental difference between the belief systems and myths of so-called “primitive” races and those of modern Western societies. Levi-Strauss was born in Brussels in 1908, the son of French Jewish parents from the German-speaking region of Alsace." [More here]
Man jailed over pointing lasers at airliners: "A California man who aimed a handheld laser at two passenger jets arriving at John Wayne Airport south of Los Angeles has been jailed for two-and-a-half years, justice authorities said yesterday. Dana Welch, 38, was sentenced after being convicted at a trial in April where he was accused of shining a laser at two Boeing jets as they approached the airport in May last year. The first plane, a United Airlines jet, was carrying more than 180 passengers and crew while the second, an Alaska Airlines aircraft, was carrying more than 80 people, a US Justice Department statement said. A pilot of the United flight was struck in the eye by Welch's green laser beam and suffered "flash blindness." One of the pilots of the Alaska Airlines plane was forced to duck under a glare shield after the beam was shone into the cockpit. Welch was the first person in the United States to be convicted at trial of interfering with aircraft pilots by shooting lasers at their planes."
Tory Mayor of London saves film-maker from girl gang attack: "The Mayor of London has saved a woman who was being attacked by a group of hoodies. One of the gang was brandishing an iron bar, but that didn't stop Mr Johnson going to the aid of Franny Armstrong when he heard her cry for help. Documentary film-maker Miss Armstrong was walking home in Camden on Monday night when she was surrounded by a group of young girls. She was sending a text message and did not notice the girls until they pushed her 'quite hard' against a car. She said she feared they were about to mug her. 'I noticed that one had an iron bar in her hand - it was frightening,' she added. She called out for help to a passing cyclist, who turned out to be Mr Johnson. He approached the girls, shouting: "What do you think you are doing?". The girls dropped the iron bar and ran off. Mr Johnson picked up the iron bar and chased after them on his bike. He returned to the woman a few minutes later and insisted on walking her home. 'He was my knight on a shining bicycle,' she said."
Dangerous Airbus fault still not fixed: "A Jetstar plane may have last week suffered the same malfunction that brought down an Air France jet over the Atlantic, killing all on board, five months ago. At 1.30am on October 29 the pilot of the Jetstar Airbus 330-200 reported an instrument blackout as the jet carrying 200 passengers passed through storm clouds midway between Japan and the Gold Coast. During the six-second blackout, the automatic pilot malfunctioned and fluctuating readings were transmitted by one of the jet's three airspeed indicators - a similar situation to what the pilot of the Air France jet is said to have reported in his final radio message before his aircraft broke up and plunged into the ocean. Jetstar said last night that early indications were the airspeed sensing system suffered a momentary interruption, after which the instruments returned to normal. "The crew remained in full control of the aircraft at all times and responded in accordance with training and procedure," an airline spokesman said. "We are also liaising closely with Airbus." He said several parts were replaced during a detailed examination of the jet before it was allowed to resume flying. The Jetstar and Air France jets were similar models - Airbus 330-200 jetliners."
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 1:39 AM