Comments Posted By Foobarista
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kim_tn, how about all the hurricanes, tornadoes, and bad hair days ascribed to AGW? The AGW types screwed their own political pooch when they tried to argue that Katrina was some sort of AGW "revenge".

Once they did that, they set up a rhetorical way to track AGW: hot=yes, cold=no, and they created an implicit straight-line assumption that each year would be hotter than the last. (It appears from some of the ClimateGate emails that even they were surprised that the earth didn't cooperate with this assumption, although even if one accepts CO2=AGW, there are other forcers, like the Sun, which vary a lot and cause more moving parts and hinder a pure linear assumption.)

They tried to slip the noose with the "climate change" dodge, but it didn't work.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 8.12.2009 @ 20:09

For me, warming itself isn't as interesting as the assertion that CO2 emissions is the main "driver" of warming. It is pretty much not disputed that there was a period of warming from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, with stable temps for about ten years, and some cooling since 2005 or so. CO2 emissions have been on a nice straight trajectory during that time.

For this grand CO2 "mitigation" strategy to have any meaning (beyond side-effects, some of which I'll agree are good, but many of which are very bad and hugely expensive), CO2 has to be forcing warming and the CO2 forcing rate has to be predictable to the point of making actionable policies.

We don't have an answer on CO2's forcing "power" in our actual atmosphere, and we most certainly don't know enough about this forcing rate to make policy - all the reductions are basically numbers pulled out of the butts of various bureaucrats, or based on numbers from sims that can't pass regression (ie, they can't "forecast the past").

There are even some studies from paleo-climatology which show that CO2 rates rise _after_ warming events, possibly due to warming oceans releasing CO2. Since we just came out of a mini-Ice Age that peaked about 400 years ago, this could be going on as well.

In other words, I think there's good reasons for getting off oil and doing other straightforward things to allow us to generate energy without dirty burning of fossil fuels, but let's dispense with the hysteria and "we're DOOMED!!!!11!1! if we don't do this yesterday!" stuff.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 8.12.2009 @ 16:39


Surprisingly, for a "rightie", I'm actually more confident than many. The 1930s had a whole bunch of Very Smart People (tm) who were impressed by the Soviet Union and its "reforms", which did look impressive when compared with the US of the day. Even Hitler and Mussolini had significant numbers of admirers, who saw in the Nazis and Fascists movements that rallied their countries into rapid economic growth, strong leadership, and a united citizenry, and the evil they were doing wasn't widely known at the time and was being treated as "he said, he said" in the media.

The case for being impressed by these places was a heck of a lot stronger than admiring Venezuela or Cuba today.

And the US had some seriously nasty stuff going on with our own Tiananmen Square equivalent in the "Bonus March" takedown, etc. The US was seriously isolationist right up to 1941, when Japan did us a great, big, fat favor by attacking Pearl Harbor, followed by Hitler's even bigger favor of casually declaring war on us the next day.

But when push came to shove, the country rallied, and I figure we'd do the same thing today if confronted with powerful, existential enemies attacking our country and its very foundational principles.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 20.11.2009 @ 21:31


For my part, the reason I mistrust "idea" arguments is because of the rank ineffectiveness of modern American government. Why bother arguing that people "deserve health care" if our government is incapable of delivering it efficiently and effectively, and the program on the table is a power-grab by the SEIU and lobbyists? Why bother with theories about "improving the public schools" if the unions and political machines running them will thwart you at every turn? Why bother with debates about infrastructure if the implementation turns into a massive porkfest, with contracts costing far more than they should?

Obama has tried to argue that this take is "cynical", but so what? Cynics are often right. And this is why Randian stuff is so popular nowadays (even though I'm not personally a big "Objectivism" fan myself).

Sure, there are many selfless heroes in public service, but simple statistics show that there are not enough of them to offset the massive waste and corruption in the system.

This is the reality on the ground, not just at the federal level, but at the state and local level too.

I suppose Rick's blog is an "idea blog", but beautiful ideas aren't worth diddly-squat if they can't be implemented.

If you want my idea on this, it's that government needs a massive restructuring. Currently, it's organized in a fashion that would be familiar to Teddy Roosevelt's bureaucrats, while organizational structures in other areas of life are completely different.

I'm not enough of a wonk to know the solution, but there's definitely a systemic management problem at all levels of government, and until this is addressed, normative arguments about what it should do are irrelevant.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 18.11.2009 @ 04:24


Polls are very tricky things. When they're nice and nebulous, and the thing being polled is "out of the blue" and is unlikely to be immediately implemented, people will say "sure, free lunches are nice, and/or I want to be a nice person and take care of people", unless they have an ideological disposition against big government or high taxes - which, sadly, many people don't have.

When the question gets more precise and becomes something like "how much are you willing to pay (either by taxes, a weaker economy, deficits, etc) to give a free lunch to someone else", support drops.

Of course, all free-lunch questions are the latter, but it isn't clear until people have been paying attention to the topic for awhile.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 13.11.2009 @ 13:20


If you believe that government workers generally are selfless servants of the people, who carefully use the people's resources to advance the Greater Good, I suppose you'll want the government to do more.

If you believe that government workers and departments generally put their own careers and agendas first, government functions are inefficiently organized, money is spent money wastefully and regarded as manna from heaven, workers - much less departments - rarely suffer penalties for ineffectiveness, and all act to advance the goals of government while wrapping them in the mantle of the Greater Good, you'll want government to do less and be smaller.

Both groups can't be right.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 10.11.2009 @ 18:33

The sad thing is that many people I know are starting to look for places to escape when the poop hits the fan. The sadder thing is that I'm one of them: I refuse to pay 50%+ of my income to the various levels of government, no matter how much they argue that someone "deserves" it more than I do. We've been looking at New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and even Israel (I'm not Jewish, but I'm a startup techie). Some of these places have nominally more "left wing" governments, but they're not as corrupt as we are, if for no other reason than they're a lot smaller. Also, Americans are simply bad at bureaucracy - our skill is business, not governance.

If you can't influence politics by the vote, you change it by leaving.

The problem is that the rational thing to do is to leave if you can. Staying and fighting is irrational.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 10.11.2009 @ 12:40


The thing that did in Sc. was her long association with government unions, both for her and her husband. Government unions have become absolutely toxic in expensive states like NY and CA, and even otherwise leftish people are turned off by them.

Even the hoary "unions good, remember the 1920s" arguments no longer have much force for government unions, which have no purpose but to make government more expensive and less efficient.

But my guess is if Sc. wasn't so deeply plugged into the unions, she wouldn't have been opposed so strongly.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 1.11.2009 @ 13:55


Among all of Obama's numerous pushes, this is one of the few I generally agree with, but the "green jobs" riff is just a riff.

The items that involve lower-skilled manufacturing will be done in China or Mexico because we'll need these goods to be cheap in order for the economics to have a chance of working. Those that involve high-end manufacturing will be capital-intensive and won't involve a lot of new workers. The pushes that involve home construction will be at least partially done by contractors hiring illegals just as is done now. Those that involve government will be done by the lavishly paid, politically connected, unionized contractors who do government work.

Just because it is "alternative" doesn't mean it lives in some zone by itself outside the forces that shape the rest of the economy.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 24.10.2009 @ 12:51


Part of the problem is the rise of "postmodernist" philosophy. Its basic premise is that truth can't be separated from "context", so there's no "objective truth", and its basic rule of analysis is "deconstruction". Once a person accepts this premise, there's no possibility of defining shared first principles, since they all can be "deconstructed" into nothingness. This eventually leads to "might makes right" utilitarianism and the idea that truth is irrelevant without the power to impose it.

These ideas have spread into all sorts of areas, and has had enormous effects in politics as well as all things media-related, including pundits of whatever variety.

Postmodernism is anti-rationalist and is the descendant of the counter-enlightenment concepts of guys like Nietzsche and Rousseau.

For all that, in many ways the pomos have a point. What we call rationalism is rooted in Western concepts of a lawful, orderly, materialist universe that behaves predictably once the rules are understood, so "other things being equal" scientific-method testing and debate is possible. But there are other ideas of how the universe works, including some that handle many situations better than pure rationalism.

Comment Posted By Foobarista On 22.10.2009 @ 17:38

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