Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

27 May 2009

Erasing the Remnant of Constitutional Government

Obama has chosen Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the position opening on the Supreme Court upon Justice Souter's retirement. She has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit for 10 years. Justice Souter was no champion of individual rights and was notable in his defense of the City of New London in taking the land out from under Susan Kelo's home. Sonia Sotomayor looks at this point to be a still more consistent enemy of the individual and of property rights. She is, however, full of empathy for those Obama cares about, or at least likes to pose as caring about. She is also an enemy of the successful and those hard-working people who may be on their way to becoming successful.

Obama mostly has his way with the Congress. Congress is capable of making the occasional symbolic assertion of independence when Obama wants them to do something hugely unpopular with Americans, but really no more than they know he will tolerate. In any case, neither the President nor the Congress have been concerned about the Constitutionality of the laws they enact and ratify for a long while. Such little protection as Americans have comes in those rare cases when Americans overwhelmingly recognize an act of Congress as both unconstitutional and unpopular with them or it comes from the Supreme Court serving as an infrequent brake on the erosion of our liberties. Congress and the President have become consistent treats to Constitutional government, while the Supreme Court has been a very inconsistent protector of the Constitution.

Obama, as much as FDR, wants to change the Supreme Court to make its road bumps to his barreling socialist diesel truck as minuscule as possible. His favored group identity agenda, his taking control of the energy industry and all those other industries that use energy, his pending takeover of the medical insurance business, his transfer of business assets to the unions at the expense of investors and the future of the businesses so robbed, his enthusiasm for the massive transfer of wealth from the private sector to the public sector, his desire for unchecked unilateral power in the hands of the President, and his desire to encourage and require Americans to serve government in myriad unpaid or underpaid ways, all appear well-served by his appointment of Judge Sotomayor.

She has made it clear that she thinks a Latino woman makes better decisions than white men. Well, I am sure that some Latino women make better decisions than some white men. But, it is no less offensive a statement to say what she has said than it would be to say that white men make better decisions than Latino women. And frankly, the latter statement might be more defensible on average than the former, since white men may be a bit more rational on average than are Latino women. When hiring someone for a job, averages are irrelevant, however. It is the ability and the character of the individual that count. When it comes to picking judges, we should surely look very closely at the individual and pick that individual who will prove the best defender, protector, and preserver of the Constitution and of those laws which are constitutional. It may be a good thing to have a female Latino Supreme Court Justice, provided she is a true champion of the Constitution and the individual rights it was intended to protect. Of course, in the context of our times, I will be delighted with anyone of any race or gender or national background who is such a champion of the rights to the individual.

Among Judge Sotomayor's poor judgments was her unargued dismissal of the Ricci vs. DeStefano case in which the City of New Haven denied firefighters a promotion though they passed the test which was to decide on their promotion. The city simply decided that there were too few minority members who passed the test, despite its having been carefully designed to discriminate against no minority or at least those minorities approved by government currently. Sotomayor was one of three judges on the review panel and apparently had no empathy for the 20 firefighters who passed the test, including the one recognized minority member who passed it. Empathy is always selective for those of the left. It selectively ignores the capable and favors the incompetent and the unprepared. It bestows itself upon those who meet certain group identity parameters and discriminates against those who do not. It substitutes approved group identities for individual character and ability. It is as simply bad as the discrimination in favor of white males once was in the Antebellum South. The logic is slightly different, however, since the Antebellum South favored white males because they thought they had more ability and better character, while now the left favors those groups they believe have less ability and less good character and consequently can only enjoy material success with the helping hand of the politicians and the force of government.

Judge Sotomayor also was on the panel that issued the Summary Order in Didden v. Village of Port Chester. Richard Epstein, a defender of property rights, has written about this case in Forbes. Judge Sotomayor sat on the review panel that upheld the decision against Bart Didden and his partner Domenick Bologna. Richard Epstein says,
The case involved about as naked an abuse of government power as could be imagined. Bart Didden came up with an idea to build a pharmacy on land he owned in a redevelopment district in Port Chester over which the town of Port Chester had given Greg Wasser control. Wasser told Didden that he would approve the project only if Didden paid him $800,000 or gave him a partnership interest. The “or else” was that the land would be promptly condemned by the village, and Wasser would put up a pharmacy himself. Just that came to pass. But the Second Circuit panel on which Sotomayor sat did not raise an eyebrow. Its entire analysis reads as follows: “We agree with the district court that [Wasser's] voluntary attempt to resolve appellants’ demands was neither an unconstitutional exaction in the form of extortion nor an equal protection violation.”
Apparently, property rights have no standing with Judge Sotomayer. Not only is she opposed then to those who do not meet with her approval in terms of their group identity, but she is also opposed to those who own property. This is not an example of rational empathy and it surely is not an example of the rule of law, most especially not of Constitutional law.

20 May 2009

Ed Crane - Obamacare: Medical Malpractice

I just read the Cato Policy Report for May/June 2009 and Ed Crane's Message from the President entitled Obamacare: Medical Malpractice makes some good points. First, he points out that "America is a land of free individuals. Socialized medicine is not what we are about -- and with good reason, both philosophical and practical."

As I have said repeatedly, socialized medicine turns the members of the medical professions into slaves. It raises bureaucrats into the Gods of our medical needs and the services to be allowed. It treats each and every one of us individuals as simply a statistic. The idea becomes one of degrading the judgment of the health care professionals and of the patient. Only the needs of the politicians and bureaucrats matter in a socialized medicine scheme. Of course their needs will allow them to sell their decision-making power to the highest special interest bidder of the moment, but the special interest bidder will himself be in a very precarious position.

But back to Ed Crane: He notes tha:
  • Eight out of ten of the most recent major medical innovations, ranging from MRIs to hip replacement, have come from the United States.
  • Americans have access, on a per capita basis, to three times as many CT scans as Canadians and four times as many as Britons.
  • The average wait for treatment by a specialist in Canada is 18 weeks. Patients are more likely to die waiting and often suffer greatly with pain while waiting.
  • British women have nearly double the risk of dying from breast cancer compared to American women.
  • British men are six times more likely to die from prostate cancer compared to American men.
  • There is a severe shortage of doctors even in America. Does this have anything to do with the likelihood that the American medical profession is being very seriously threatened with a takeover by government?
  • He notes that Obama's plan to create a heavily subsidized federal insurance will kill off private insurance plans and result in the government plan being the only insurance left standing. This is a backdoor approach to the nationalization of the health insurance and health care professions.
As with education, health care is too important to be entrusted to the government. It is also, like education, much too critical to the maintenance of a society of free individuals.

18 May 2009

The Puzzling Pelosi Affair

You may be wondering what I might be referring to. After all, Nancy Pelosi appeared clearly to have been lying that she was not briefed by the CIA in 2003 that they were using the enhanced interrogation method of waterboarding. This is a method many call torture and the Bush administration banned its use after a period of use in 2002 and 2003 for being too odious. It might be possible that she would not remember when she was briefed, but it is very hard to believe that she would not remember that she was so briefed. Now she has admitted that she was. Nothing is puzzling about this, except her behavior. This is not the puzzle I wish to address today. She is a very foolish woman, so I am not going to waste my time worrying about why she does the puzzling things she does. Mark Steyn has written a history-commentary on this Polosi affair. Here is a 9 December 2007 account of what Congress knew in the Washington Post.

There were quite a few accounts in the fall of 2007 that waterboarding had been used. If Nancy Pelosi actually did believe that the CIA had only described waterboarding as a possible tool they might later use, rather than one they had used, why did she not speak out against it then given that she now considers it torture and the news reports had removed it from an hypothetical method? Or, if she still believed the CIA had not used it, and that it was only for possible future use, why did she not perform her leadership responsibility and use her great influence with the mainstream media to correct the record? Or if she believed the new reports then, why did she not call for an investigation of the way the CIA had misled Congress then? Was it just that by this time, the claim that the Bush administration was engaged in torture was just too juicy a presidential campaign issue so it had to be saved for the latter part of that campaign? Was it better for the Democrats to feign ignorance for the time period prior to the fall of 2007 news reports? Why didn't the current controversy of Pelosi and what and when did she know it not come up in the fall of 2007? If she were a responsible leader, it would have.

This is my beef on the issue. Whether she was lying or the CIA and other Congressmen were lying is an interesting issue, but it is not nearly as critical as the clear and great abrogation of responsibility Nancy Pelosi has shown one way or another on this matter. If the news reports were wrong or she had believed the CIA briefings as she says she remembered them, she had a responsibility to set the record straight, one way or another, with the American people. She failed us. Her judgment definitely failed, whether her memory failed her or not.

Anyone who has paid attention to this woman over time cannot help but understand that she plays the people for dupes and that her near constant grin is because she thinks she is putting one over on us.

17 May 2009

Some Good, Some Odd Beliefs

I was looking at the latest Fox News Opinion Poll today and saw some very good, but also some incongruous beliefs held by Americans.

First, the most encouraging belief is that most Americans (60%) believe that "No matter what the outcome, the court should follow what the Framers meant when they wrote the Constitution.", while only 26% agreed with "If necessary, the court should ignore what the Framers meant to reach the outcome it feels is appropriate for today." 8% believed in some mix of these two interpretations of the Constitution. Surprisingly, more Democrats agreed (44%) with the Framers' intent than with the felt appropriate for today interpretation. Republicans agree with the Framers predominantly (78%), while 61% of independents went with the Framers.

Now the complete brain warp:
  • 69% of the voters in the Presidential Election voted for Obama who does not believe in interpreting the Constitution as the Framers intended it to be interpreted. The only way this should be possible is if Obama did not win many of the Democrat votes in the today's interpretation category, but did win pretty much all the Independent vote, but only those who believe in the Framers' interpretation. Of course, we know this is not the case, so here is a complete disconnect on this most critical issue between what the voters believe in and how they voted.
  • 42% believed Hilary Clinton would make a good Supreme Court Justice. This cannot be squared with the 60% belief in the Framers interpretation of the Constitution.
  • 32% believe Al Gore would be a good Justice. This one can be mathematically squared with the 60% belief in the Framers intent, but in practice, it is clear that it is not so.
Clearly, the people have no idea at all about what major politicians think about the Constitution, have no ability to judge their actions for their Constitutionality, and/or have no idea what the intent of the Framers of the Constitution was!

On the good side again, only 1% believed a woman should be disqualified to serve as a justice of the Supreme Court because she was a woman, only 2% believed a minority member was disqualified to serve, and only 17% believed a homosexual was disqualified.

It turns out that Independents are the people who believe that most other Americans are less happy than Democrats and Republicans think they are. But, when asked how happy they are themselves, Independents are almost as happy as Republicans. Neither of them are anywhere near as happy as the power wheedlers are. The Democrats are having a heyday apparently.

Government Abuse of Building Permit Power

The Cato Institute Daily Podcast for 14 May 09 features Tim Sandefur, an adjunct scholar at Cato, discussing examples of local government abusing their control of building permits to deny the permit requester the right to vote or to charge them exorbitant fees. Permits are supposed to be the means to eliminate public safety hazards, but they are actually now used for much more. They are used with high fees to reduce general taxes. They were used in the most famous case on such matters to impose beach access for the general public over the land of a family who wanted a permit to add a second story to their home. That case went to the Supreme Court, where the argument that the home blocking the view of the beach from the highway was ruled no excuse to impose an unrelated requirement for a public easement on the property owners.

The featured issue in the podcast is that of the Griswolds of Carlsbad, CA. They wanted a permit to add two rooms to their home for their grandchildren when they came visiting. Carlsbad said they would grant the permit if the Griswolds would give up their right to vote "No" on property assessments! You might think this is really unreal. But, similar permit cases in Santa Rosa, CA and Missoula, MT have occurred in which the requester was required to give up the right to vote if they were to receive the permit.

While we are the subject of permits, I will add that permits are also used as a tool to enforce building codes, many of which require the use of expensive and old-fashioned materials which are difficult to install. These requirements are often not updated often and are designed to require the permit requester to use expensive, licensed tradesmen. They are also designed to keep pre-built housing from competing with the local builders who will hire local workers. In reality, permits and building codes are used for many purposes other than safety purposes. They are another tool in the hands of the power seekers in local government.

14 May 2009

Waxman Horsetrades for Votes on Carbon Tax

The Houston Chronicle published an interesting article by Jennifer A. Dloughy on the horsetrading Democrat Henry Waxman is doing to get the approval of enough of his House Energy and Commerce Committee members that it can be brought up for a vote in the House. He has reduced his requirement that CO2 emissions be decreased by a catastrophic 20% in 2020 to a catastrophic 17% reduction. Dlouhy writes:

To exceed the limits, power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other industries would have to buy emissions allowances on a new carbon market. But after weeks of negotiations, committee Democrats have agreed to give away 35 percent of the allowances to electric utilities, 15 percent to trade-sensitive industries such as timber and steel manufacturing and a small number to the auto industry.

Still undecided was the question of how many allowances should be given to refiners, with the final number likely to rest between 1 percent and 5 percent.

She notes that Texas Democrats Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez want these allowances for Texas refineries. Rep. G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina wants tax relief for low-income households. Once again, the politicians are busily deciding who will and who will not get slammed by the increased energy costs that the Waxman-Markey cap and trade carbon bill will cause.

Of course, I am seeing no evidence that most of us are going to be able to escape these terrible costs. For every politically powerful special interest that gets a pass, at least initially in order to get a bill passed, the rest of us will bear a still greater burden. Since the most productive people in America are always too busy working to protest or to lobby for special provisions in their interest, it is always the most productive and the most hardworking who are burdened the most with these costs. This is usually not a pass for those who may be less productive, however. The politicians usually pretend to make provisions to help them, but these provisions are hardly ever more than a fig leaf. The vast majority of Americans always suffer when the politicians start picking the winners and the losers in society.

Some seem to think that politicians are a necessary correction on the winner-loser decisions of the free market of Capitalism. Actually, the free market neither makes such decisions, nor designates anyone a loser or a winner. It only leaves the doors open for people to voluntarily manage their own lives and allows them the personal decisions on how they are going to do that. The market does not decide who is going to trade with whom for what. You do that as an individual. You decide how much TV you are going to watch, how many hours you are going to sleep, how many and which books you are going to read or study, where you are going to live, which profession or trade you are going to pursue, how many hours you are going to work, and how focused you are going to be as a worker. Capitalism is the system that allows individuals to be individuals. The socialist or statist alternative takes these choices away from you and puts them in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats who do not know you as an individual and have their own personal agendas to pursue.

Can you imagine the problems simply to decide who has exceeded the limits on CO2 emissions? How do you set the limits? Are they done by different formulas from industry to industry. What are the formulas for home use? What are the formulas for driving? Perhaps no industry can use more energy tomorrow than 83% of what it used yesterday, so does this mean that no new industries will be allowed to come into existence? Maybe they get to buy the allowances of high energy use industries such as aluminum refining, which are likely to vanish. Does this then mean that no new airplanes will be built because we will have no aluminum alloys? Steel making should also vanish. Does this mean no new cars and no steel-framed buildings are to be built?

Then, how on earth do they monitor what every company and every individual is using in energy. Of course they will come up with schemes to run the carbon tax system, but it will become very arbitrary and chaotic. The horsetrading by special interests going on now to get this bill out of committee is piddling compared to what will go on when every company and every person is screaming over the increased cost of energy. If something is passed by Congress, many a Congressional head is going to roll in up-coming elections. Finally, we will get some turn-over in Congress!

If this Waxman bill or a more compromised bill does not pass, we will still see much destructive meddling by the EPA. The EPA is determined to create energy chaos quite without any further help from Congress.

Part of the reason I keep pounding on global warming and energy use and restriction issues is because these are blatant examples of irrational judgment run amok in academia, Washington, and in much of the popular culture. There really is little excuse for this nonsense. I know that most people are capable of doing a better job of figuring these things out. With so much at stake, why do so few people use so little of their brain-power to understand these issues?

13 May 2009

Roy Spencer Estimates CO2 Effects of Man & Nature

Dr. Roy W. Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, on 11 May 2009 posted a very interesting examination of the sources for the atmospheric CO2 measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. He asks if we are sure that all of the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is due to man-made emissions. Then he does a remarkably simple calculation to show that it is not. Indeed, it is not even remotely the dominant contributor. And, it boggles the mind that after billions of dollars of federally funded climate research and the constant claim that the increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 require us to make drastic lifestyle changes and drastically reduce our manufacturing base, that none of these well-funded scientists have previously performed this simple calculation. It turns out that he says that only 10% of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to human emissions, while the rest is due to changes in sea surface temperature.

That the effect of man's emissions is small compared to the natural effects is not at all surprising to me. I have long thought that an effect of this scale was most likely. Admittedly, the issue is dependent upon many natural sinks and sources of CO2, but Spencer notes that these natural sinks and sources are about 20 times the size of the anthropogenic source, which I believe to be an underestimate of how much greater those sources and sinks actually are.

The first graph in his post compares the measured rate of increase in CO2 with the increase in man's emissions. The measured rate of increase appears to be about 60% of man's emission increase, so about 40% of man's emissions are very quickly removed from the atmosphere. This is data from the last UN IPCC report of 2007, though it is updated to 2008. So, it seems clear that claims that man's emissions remain in the atmosphere for 50 to 100 years are silly. The measured CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has strong seasonal variations and is strongly affected by warm El Nino and cold La Nina effects. It is clear that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is strongly affected by the ocean temperature.

Next, he shows the Global Average Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly data, which show an average rise since about 1975 and it is plotted from 1958. Since about 2002, there has certainly been no increase in the sea surface temperature. He notes that some of the release of CO2 by the oceans is the "Coke-fizz" effect, but that there is now strong evidence that biological activity also plays a major role. To this, I would point out that the precipation of carbonates from sea salts plays still another important role.

Spencer then shows that the atmospheric CO2 concentration lags the sea surface temperature by about 6 months, which shows that the sea temperature causes the CO2 atmospheric increase, not the other way around.

So, Spencer then tries to apply a very simple model to the change of atmospheric CO2 in which the time dependence of the increase is assumed equal to the sum of a coefficient times the sea surface temperature increase and a coefficient times the man-made emissions increase. He finds a best fit with the man-made emissions increase coefficient equal to 0.1 and shows that it is better than the case with 0.2, for instance. This model explained 50% of the variance of the Mauna Loa measurement.

He observes that the best model fit indicates that the ocean is a net source of CO2 for the atmosphere when the average global sea surface temperature amomaly is -0.2 degrees C in the HadSST2 data set. This implies that the sea became a net source of atmospheric CO2 about 1930.

Dr. Spencer then surmises that the most likely cause of the long-term warming of the oceans has been a decrease in cloud cover over the oceans. He points out that this is hard to show, however, because the ocean cloud cover data over the last 50 to 100 years is not very good. We now know of other factors as well. Among these are dust blown out over the oceans and from volcanic eruptions, both of which produced less dust during the last warming period.

I will add that in addition to terms dependent upon the ocean surface temperature and man's emissions, one needs to add the effect of land mineral and soil absorption and emission of CO2, which will depend upon both temperature and soil water content variations. Adding this effect will explain even more of the variance in the Mauna Loa CO2 atmospheric concentration measurements.

12 May 2009

Joe Barton: Try going back to 1875

An opinion piece by Republican Representative Joe L. Barton on the consequences of the Waxman-Markey global warming legislation was published in the Washington Times on Sunday 10 May 2009 which was very interesting. Barton is the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Barton notes that those who back the Waxman-Markey global warming bill call it "back to the future." This is because the bill requires that Americans use no more fossil fuels in 2050 than we did in 1875! Or that we generate as much CO2 each as the people of Haiti do now. Barton says:
Radical environmentalists think such a CO2 level will be heaven on Earth, but the place that has actually achieved it is a nation swimming in bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, typhoid fever, dengue fever and malaria, with 47 percent illiteracy and a life expectancy of 49 years. So excuse me if I remain unconvinced.
He says that despite the mounting realizations of the awful impact of the Democrat cap and trade carbon bill, the Obama administration still wants it badly as a means to fund its programs with between $646 billion and $2 trillion of revenues over a ten year period. Of course, they plan to pretend that only the rich are paying this tax, which they will pretend is not a tax.

Republicans asked the Congressional Budget Office to establish the cost of the bill, but they say they cannot do it because they have no "access to the actual numbers on permit allocations." So, no one really knows what it will cost, but some have tried to come up with estimates. It is thought that your electric bill will go up by 77 to 129%! Filling your gas tank will go up 60 - 144%. The cost of natural gas and home heating oil will about double.

The National Association of Manufacturers believes the cap and trade bill will cause the loss of 3 to 4 million net jobs. This allows for a few additional wind generator and solar power jobs. The Heritage Foundation believes the job loss will be between 1.8 and 5.3 million jobs. Charles River Associates estimates the loss of jobs to be as high as 7 million. Many of the lost jobs will appear in other countries who are wise enough not to pass cap and trade carbon emissions and energy tax bills.

If my electric and gas bills double at my laboratory, that is the equivalent of losing one-third of the money needed to pay an employee. Either a full time employee has to be released altogether or one has to become a two-thirds time employee. This is not going to make this good person's quality of life improve. Someone will have to thank the Democrats for their loss. Of course this is my loss also. Worse yet, this assumes that there will be enough power to keep my laboratory running at all. As I have pointed out, labs use and require lots of electricity and it must be dependable electricity. It does not look as though the Democrat-Socialist-Radical Environmentalist-Anti-Human Party wants us to have the electric and other power that we need to to have a civilization with continuing progress, an enriching choice of life options, and good health, security, and comfort. Life was a good deal more iffy and hard in 1875.

11 May 2009

Computer Model Fails to See Cosmic Ray Climate Effect

Jeffrey Pierce and Peter Adams of Carnegie Mellon University published a paper on a computer model they constructed which failed to show a cosmic ray effect strong enough to effectively produce the low altitude clouds required by the 1997 theory of physicists Henrik Svensmark and Eigel Friis-Christensen of the Technical University of Denmark as a cloud nucleation response caused by cosmic ray flux. Svensmark and Friis-Christensen showed data offering an excellent correlation of this low cloud cover and the cosmic ray flux. This has come under scrutiny because it is a contender as an alternative theory to man-made CO2 in the atmosphere causing global warming. A review in Science called "Study Challenges Cosmic Ray - Climate Link" of the Pierce and Adams paper is being used to cast doubts on the cosmic ray effect on cloud cover and hence on the climate. Doug Hoffman at puts the computer model paper and the review in Science in context here.

A paper by Vieira and da Silva in 2006 showed that there was a similar high correlation of southern hemisphere cosmic ray flux with cloud cover.

Hoffman's comments on the SKY Experiment and the upcoming CLOUD Project to test and measure the effect of cosmic rays on cloud formation using aerosol and cloud chambers are most interesting. These experiments are real attempts by physicists in CERN projects to actually study the relation of cosmic rays to cloud nucleation effects. The SKY Experiment has produced preliminary verification of the effect and the bigger CLOUD Project is now underway with widespread backing and involvement. Meanwhile, Pierce and Adams have fed numbers into a computer program where the physics is not yet known and concluded that there is no relation between low altitude clouds and cosmic rays! When the physics is understood, it will make sense to construct and use computer models to try to see what the effects on climate will be. But, how can you do this and expect meaningful results before the physics is known? Apparently in the church of radical environmentalism this can be done.

This failure to understand that getting the physics right is essential to getting meaningful computer modeling results, should cause the rational reader to hold these climate models in low esteem.

On Fairness Claims that Social Force is Necessary

The principle argument for socialism is that life is not fair and society must try to make it more fair. To do this, society must have a government which forces people to act so that life becomes more fair. Usually, those ways in which life is not spiritually fair are too complicated for anyone to imagine that governments can do much to make life more spiritually fair, so they concentrate on what they consider the material measures of fairness. This is further simplified to become material equality.

It is true that life is not fair. Some have a genetic intelligence factor which is greater than that of others. Some are tall, while some are short. Some are beautiful and some are not. Some are genetically disposed to be too skinny and some to being too fat. Some are born to good parents and some to bad parents. Some are born to wealth and some to poverty. Some are genetically prone to early cancers and heart problems, while some are not. Some are caught up in a plague or some other epidemic, while others escape. Some are ruined or killed by vicious criminals, or by robber barons or migrating tribes, or by the local despot. Some may invest years in a company only to see it strangled by a labor union which takes it over. Life is not fair.

We all know this. There are different ways to respond to this fact of life. The socialist says we should use the force of government to make life more fair. Unfortunately, this does violence to the idea that we should not initiate the use of force against others. The socialist claims that initiating the use of violence against others is justified if some of the imbalances of genetic values and chance in life can be lessened. Of course, when selling this idea, he or she almost always pretends that the desired lessening of unfairness can be achieved at little cost and refuses to address the high cost of creating a society in which a philosopher ruler or a democratic plurality of voters imposes their will by force upon others in their quest for what they think is fairness for everyone. Of course, their idea of everyone is always oversimplified to become some groups of people who will be favored in the adjustments, while others will be disfavored due to some combination of having more of what is being adjusted or having less political power.

Because life is complicated and life is not fair, the effort to adjust it for fairness for all people or more practically, some people, is a never-ending and evolving quest. The sets of people being helped and the sets of people who are forced to help are ever-changing. There is no way to establish the rule of known law or of intelligible law. Today, one must adjust the social consequences of differing intelligence, tomorrow the differing activity levels, the day after the different eating habits, the day after that the different sexualities, the day after that the differing mental healths, the day after that the differing ideas of climate control or stasis, then the income due to investors must be lowered so it is not so great compared to a migrant farm worker's income, and on and on. What measure of well-being is to be adjusted and what group is to be helped at the expense of what other group is an ever-evolving matter of fashion. It is also inherently a brutal game of political power. It is a recipe for chaos.

Frankly, women are more impressed by the argument from fairness for socialism than are men. There are many more women in the Democrat or Socialist Party than there are men. As with women's clothing fashions, what they take to be the fashionable measure of fairness of the day requiring governmental adjustment is constantly changing and it changes with as little rational reason as their clothing fashions change.

Many believe it possible to somehow use social force to rationally adjust the many factors of life to make life more fair for at least the average person or for those who are sub-average. There are many problems with this idea. First, there is no such thing as the average person. Second, it is harmful to anyone to have government designating them as sub-average, or even for that matter as average. The minute some socialist points at you and says life has not been fair to you and you are in such need of their help as to justify their using force to rob someone else of something you need to give it to you, you should be very indignant. Even it they try to disguise the robbery of someone else so you can receive the stolen goods by claiming those goods are yours by right, you should see this as a medical gown exposing your rear side. This is a flimsy costume designed only to fool the most simple-minded. You may look at me and think I am average, but I do not think I am average. Indeed, no one should think they are average. We should all be thinking of how we are going to make the most of whatever it is that we have that gives us our best chance to achieve our values. Most people really do have some things that they are truly good at. If they can identify those things or in some cases even just have the dedication to the idea of having some such traits, they can often translate that into an enhanced ability to achieve their values and to become happy.

Because life is complicated and the forces of politics are not capable of reconciling themselves with complexity, the government will always fumble about and create some new unfairness even as it attempts to reduce some perceived unfairness. Fairness cannot be achieve in the politicians' culture of sound bites. Government cannot recognize individuals as such. It can only recognize fairly large groups or occasionally the small group with much political power. Government is always a bull in a china shop. It is always a fire in a hay barn. All the dreams of rationally managing government with a wide agenda and scope have proven that this cannot be done. Government cannot even get good and affordable toothpaste to the right people at the right time. How often does this need to be proven before socialists will acknowledge its truth? If it cannot deliver toothpaste, how can it deliver more complicated values such as equal substantial wealth, equal quality education, equal security against criminals, equal quality housing, and equally interesting work? Governments have tried to deliver all of these goods or services on an equal and "fair" basis, but have never succeeded in doing so.

It is highly irrational not to learn from history. History has many lessons about what governments can and cannot do. History is not devoid of governments which tried to produce equality among its people for some brief part of the history of this nation or that. But, that history was always short and always followed by an orgy of force against the people that made them most miserable. Oftentimes, the carrot of equality was only held out so those claiming to offer it could acquire power and then yank the carrot away and replace it with the whip or the gun to the head.

Can it not be argued that it is unfair for government to use more force against one person than another? If equality were a value which every person should be committed to pursuing, then surely we should be as adamant that there be equality in the actions that government takes in its dealings with each of us. If government takes a bauble from me, should it not also give me a bauble of equal value? If it does not, it is violating the principle of equality. This, by the fairness principle, should mean that we are all in a zero-sum game with government, so what is the point of playing this game? Especially given that it is a game involving deadly force. If I object that the bauble taken from me was worth more to me than the bauble given me, the government will require that I shut up and live with it, or else. But of course, I know that equality is not really a principle of broad applicability, so there is no intention that the actions of government will be fair to each and every individual. Yet, does this not show the unsuitability of even trying to make equality a goal of government action? It is not an achievable goal by its very nature.

Wisely, the American Founders and the Framers of the Constitution recognized that government was force and a crude instrument for managing society. They saw that it had always been necessary, but also a huge danger in its own right. The government powerful enough to give you what you want, was seen as powerful enough to take all that you want away from you. Historically, governments very commonly did just this. So, government was not to give us all we want and it was also not to be made strong enough to pretend to be pursuing equality for all of us except for our equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution made no pretense of giving us equal happiness. It only said government should not block our efforts to personally achieve our happiness. This formula proved incredibly successful. Individuals could truly manage their own lives, identify their own values, and act to acquire the values they had identified. Man prospered as never before and man became happier, healthier, and more secure than ever before in history.

As men pursued their happiness, they were aware that some among them had been dealt unfair hands by chance. These same Americans who had no governmentally imposed requirement to be charitable or to rob one another so some could receive the stolen goods and services to be elevated to a more "equal" status in some sense, became the most charitable people on earth. They still are today. We are not unaware that bad hands are dealt some people at some point in their lives, or even for their entire life. We help, but we do this on the moral basis of voluntary action, not on the immoral basis of forced action.

Socialist government does not like competition. When government becomes the agency of charity, if it can be called charity when it is carried out by theft by organized gangs of thugs, it acts to squelch competition. This is exactly what Obama tried to do when the charitable deductions of wealthy people were to be given lower levels of deductability than were those of people with less income.

There is nothing more unfair than to have the value you have poured the hours of your life into achieving taken from you by force. If you were a farmer in the Dark Ages and a gang of cutthroats poured over the hill on horses, armed with steel swords, covered with body armor and possessing shields, and carried away your wife, your child, your only pig, all the loaves of bread your wife had baked, and trampled your wheat field, you understood that the most important thing you could ask of others was that they not use force in dealing with you. If you were strong enough to oppose that gang of cutthroats you would surely do so. Now, multiply that gang of cutthroats by a hundred or a thousand and arm them with machine guns, scoped rifles, tanks, and helicopters and have them take 44% of whatever you have invested the many hours of your working life into making and you have the unfairness of today in America. They still swoop down on you, the individual, in massive force and demand what you have produced by your own effort and take what they want. You do not know when they will come and you do not know what they will steal from you tomorrow. You know only that you are their slave, at least 44% of the working hours of your life.

We no longer have the rule of law, we have instead the rule of the momentary fashion, as Obama showed by forcing banks to keep money they do not want, by forcing the GM CEO to give up his position, and by giving the assets of Chrysler not to the lawful highest priority investors, but to the labor union. This is a system which has pretended to be justified by seeking fairness for the average guy and the downtrodden, but makes its livelihood by preying on the rich and setting up the average guy with the carrot to be yanked away and replaced by the whip. The average guy will soon become aware of the huge indebtedness that he will have to help pay off with higher taxes and/or by suffering at the hands of inflation as we did in the 1970s. Of course many of Obama's followers do not remember the 1970s or know any history. Some of those who do are too power-hungry to be detered by such knowledge. Some wish to see equal poverty for everyone, no matter if this means that everyone will be made worse off in terms of their options to manage their own lives and their health, security, and prosperity. Others are drawn in with simple-minded ideas of fairness. Together, there could be no more effective a crew of cutthroats swooping over the hill and descending like locusts striping the land of all value in the act of ultimate unfairness, the act of taking what they want by force from those who produced it by pouring their own lives into the effort.

09 May 2009

Hiring in the Extended Obama Recession

I hired a scientist in December 2008 and another in April 2009. As noted above, we are awaiting the graduation of a new materials scientist who will begin working in June, if he accepts our position offering. Hiring people in a recession is a risky business, but it is when a small laboratory has its best opportunity to hire good people.

Given all of the best efforts of Obama and his socialist cohorts to create investor uncertainty, I am not being a good example of Going Galt. My laboratory is neither in an industry in Obama's gunsights nor large enough yet for him to try to milk us of all of our equipment and human capital. Of course, when he has stolen all he can from the bigger fish in the commercial realm, he will come after us and all of the other small businesses. And since some of my clients are pretty big fish, they have reason to be very worried in the near future. This is especially true if they have union workers, since Obama has made it clear with his handling of Chrysler and Government Motors that he will serve the interests of union leaders even if it means breaking long-established contract and property-rights laws.

The card-check law the unions want may result in the unionization of many small businesses. This in turn will put those unionized small business more and more in the socialists' gunsights, since they wish to find every opportunity to strengthen the unions with goodies taken from dirty, rotten capitalist pigs, such as small businessmen or any other businessmen. The unions will try to devour small companies using card-check to get to these goodies.

But, there is a countervailing effect which is going to surprise the unions and the socialists who back their avarice for stolen goods. Investors will understand the connection between the unions and the theft of capital which they will practice with the help of the union-pandering socialist government. The moment a company is unionized or it is clear that an attempt to unionize it is underway, its investors will seek to dump it. Investor discrimination against unionized companies will become much stronger. Investors will still want to invest, but they will seek out companies which will be hard to unionize, seek out non-commercial bonds, and invest abroad. All Americans will be hurt by this, but what else can an investor do given the strong-arm of brutal socialist government? Unionized companies will not be able to get adequate capital in the free market and will become dependent upon government to prop them up. Of course, this has been the case to a considerable degree in the past, but the flight of private, voluntary capital will be more massive and more and more only government will be able to keep unionized companies on life-support.

American workers have already seen the connection between company failure and unionization. This is why labor union membership in the private sector has fallen so drastically as a percentage of the workforce in the last 55 years. 35.7% of all workers in the private sector were union members in 1953. Now only 7.6% of private sector workers are union members. This is why the labor union leadership is desperate for card check, as are those Democrat politicians who are dependent upon the union leaders for campaign money and labor. They must do something to force workers to join the private sector unions those workers recognize as the cause of a slow death for the companies that employ them.

Thus, both investors and able workers will shun companies that are unionized. There is nothing new in this. This is a tried and true pattern. We have seen the effects in the U.S. in the big steel companies who came out of the 1950s and 1960s thoroughly unionized. We have seen the effects upon the American automobile companies. We have seen the effects throughout Europe. There is no rocket science involved in understanding what will happen.

I believe this recession was caused by the oil-price shock which preceded it by 9 months as explained by Alan Reynolds. See my earlier post on 11 April 2009 on his excellent article. The recovery from this recession was delayed by the lack of confidence in the private sector and the panic of Paulson and Bernanke toward the end of the last Bush administration. Then, incredibly, the people elected Obama to bring on change, which he has done with a socialist vengence against American investors, American manufacturers, American financial institutions, business owners and managers, non-union American workers, and all of the consumers of American goods who will hereafter pay higher prices for almost everything. This massive mistake by the American people will cost them dearly with a much delayed recovery and many added deadwood drags on all commercial activities and most of our individual efforts to pursue our happiness.

I strongly advise you to do a great job of insulating your homes and business buildings, because all of us are soon going to be hit by much higher heating and cooling costs, thanks to Obama and his allies in the uncompetitive wind generation and solar power industries.

Travelled for Deposition as Expert Witness

I have not posted much this last week since I had to travel to Hartford, Connecticut for a deposition as an expert witness. It is a bit of a grueling process to be questioned by a lawyer for six and a half hours, mostly because I find myself becoming a bit frustrated in spending so much time explaining things to someone who understands so little. The teacher and the science enthusiast in me wants to succeed in explaining the science. If the matter goes to court, the expert witness function is perhaps best served if the opposing side's lawyer does not understand anything. None of the cases I have been involved in have ever gone to court however, so perhaps my efforts to explain the science leave the opposing counsel with sufficient understanding that they realize they must settle out of court.

In any case, the whole effort took enough time away from the lab that I could not spend time writing on this blog. It does not help that we are effectively a bit short-handed while I train a new scientist employee and await the imminent graduation of another scientist getting a M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering.

04 May 2009

Pete Du Pont - Sapping America's Energy

This is an Opinion piece by Pete Du Pont in The Wall Street Journal from 16 April 2009, which is well worth reading to learn more about the Waxman-Markey gangland takeover of energy use in America in their fraudulent American Clean Energy and Security Act. It spells out a few of the problems that we need to be aware of in order to fight this monstrosity to the death.