Have you ever noticed how some people seem to ignore facts that might undermine the case they are trying to make and/or place unreasonable limits on the discussion? The reason for this, presumably, is that they are more concerned about winning the argument than arriving at the right answer.
To be honest, none of us is immune from this criticism. Rationalizing one’s own beliefs and behavior is an innate human tendency. Mistakes were made (but not by me); Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts, Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson, 2007.
Fans of ever bigger, more controlling government (Side A) do seem to be among the worst offenders in the political realm, however, if only because they currently dominate the national discussion of some crucial issues. And when they stray from the principles of honest debate, they should be called out for it. This entry will review some recent examples.
1. Global warming alarmists attack skeptical scientists – Believers in the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT) have been dismayed in recent years by an extended pause in the run-up of average global temperatures. Their reactions have included rebranding the issue as “climate change,” and allegedly manipulating historical global temperature records to show the desired warming trend. Obama and his crumbling climate change narrative, Liz Harrison, Townhall.com, 2/13/15.
This statistical manipulation goes back decades, or at least current scientists are playing with numbers that are decades old, to make the temperatures match their theories. It didn't occur to them that anyone would check, or that their manipulations would cause significant weather events in the past to literally disappear. Iceland suffered severely economically in the 1970's due to a severely cold season, and radical increase in sea ice. The new models created by doctoring numbers made that event disappear, since now it appears that Iceland really wasn't that cold during that time period.
Polling indicates that only about 1/3 of Americans view global warming as a serious threat. As for the notion that this is a scientific issue, sentiment about MMGWT is skewed along partisan lines. Alarmism cools: Only 32 percent of Americans still worry about global warming, Gallup says, Jennifer Harper, Washington Times, 3/25/15.
Less than a third of Americans are now concerned about global warming and climate change: 32 percent fret about those environmental factors says the annual Gallup Environmental survey, released Wednesday. Naturally, there’s a partisan divide: 13 percent of Republicans are concerned about global warming and climate problems, compared to 52 percent of Democrats.
Under the circumstances, it wasn’t surprising to see renewed attacks on scientists who question the orthodoxy that rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere due to the combustion of fossil fuels have somehow become the prime driver of global temperatures. If you can’t counter scientific reasoning, discredit the source!
Thus, there were claims that Dr. David Legates (UD climatologist) and Dr. Willie Soon (Boston-based astrophysicist) had failed to disclose funding for their research, which created a potential conflict of interest. An inquiry from Rep. Paul Grijalva (D-AZ) to the University of Delaware president was supposedly intended to “establish the impartiality of climate research and policy recommendations published in your institution’s name and assist me and my colleagues in making better law.” UD professor caught in controversy, Jeff Montgomery & Molly Murray, News Journal, 2/27/15.
The precipitating factor may have been a recent article by Soon, Legates and others, which underscored the weaknesses of the primary evidentiary support for the MMGWT. Climate science smear campaign, John Greer, News Journal, 3/16/15. Scientific evidence collected by thousands of researchers shows that climate has always been changing from natural causes mostly related to the Sun, that it was warmer 1000 years ago than now, that sea level rise is not accelerating, and polar bear populations are healthy and expanding since a 1973 treaty restricted hunting. The problem for man-made global warming believers is that there is no credible empirical evidence to support their theory and their case depends almost entirely on computer models. Soon and Legates raised the ire of warmists because they and others coauthored a recent article "Why models run hot" published in Science Bulletin, showing that computer models exaggerate the possible future warming from CO2. Instead of trying to address the science of the paper, the warmists attack the scientists.
Rep. Grijalva sent similar inquiries about other skeptical scientists to various universities and institutions, while making no effort to investigate possible conflicts of interest for scientists on the other side. Climatist jihad? Paul Driessen, Townhall.com, 2/28/15.
•Dr. Soon is not the only target. The Climate Jihadists are also going after Robert Balling, Matt Briggs, John Christy, Judith Curry, Tom Harris, Steven Hayward, David Legates, Richard Lindzen, and Roger Pielke, Jr. More are sure to follow, because their work eviscerates climate cataclysm claims and raises serious questions about the accuracy, credibility, integrity and sanctity of alarmist science.
• If a couple [of] million dollars over a decade’s time creates near-criminal conflict-of-interest and disclosure problems for skeptic and realist scientists, what effects do billions of dollars in research money have on alarmist researchers and their universities and institutions? Few, if any, alarmist researchers have disclosed that their work was funded by government agencies, companies, foundations and others with enormous financial, policy, political and other interests in their work – in ensuring that their conclusions support manmade factors and debunk natural causes.
Perhaps the most devastating response was that of Richard Lindzen, a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at MIT. The political assault on climate skeptics, Wall Street Journal, 3/5/15.
• . . . all predictions of warming since the onset of the last warming episode of 1978-98—which is the only period that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attempts to attribute to carbon-dioxide emissions—have greatly exceeded what has been observed. These observations support a much reduced and essentially harmless climate response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.
•Mr. Grijalva’s letters convey an unstated but perfectly clear threat: Research disputing alarm over the climate should cease lest universities that employ such individuals incur massive inconvenience and expense – and scientists who hold such views should not testify to Congress. After the [New York] Times article, Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) also sent letters to numerous energy companies, industrial organizations and, strangely, many right-of-center think tanks (including the Cato Institute, with which I have an association) to unearth their alleged influence peddling.
•At least, Mr. Grijalva’s letters should help clarify for many the essentially political nature of the alarms over the climate, and the damage it is doing to science, the environment and the well-being of the world’s poorest.
Comment: The MMGWT must stand or fall on the evidence. Personal attacks of this nature are out of place, and they should be stopped – immediately.
2. FCC seeks to regulate the Internet – On February 26, by a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a sweeping set of regulations over the Internet that asserts vast new powers for the agency. This was done without publishing the 300+ pages of regulations beforehand and soliciting (let alone heeding) public comments thereon.
The purported reason for the regulations was to guarantee “net neutrality,” meaning that all Internet traffic should move at the same unit price regardless of volume. The alternative was to permit variable pricing approaches, which might result in high volume users (e.g., Netflix) being required to pay premium prices or accept slower service. Knowledgeable observers doubted that the overall results of the FCC action would be positive. After “net neutrality” win, FCC’s power needs to be dialed back, Christopher Harper, Washington Times, 3/4/15. Although I won’t defend the ISPs [ATT&T, Comcast, Verizon, et al.], the characterization of the decision as a victory for consumers overlooks the likelihood of poorer connections, higher costs and lengthy legal battles for which the public will pay millions of dollars.
Even assuming net neutrality is a sound principle, there was a lot of language in the regulations that appeared designed for other purposes – which the companies pushing for FCC action probably had not bargained for. Net neutrality’s babes in toyland; Netflix, Google and Tumblr sent the Internet into Washington’s heart of darkness, Daniel Heninger, Wall Street Journal, 3/11/15.
Mr. [David] Karp [of Tumblr] and the rest of the 20-something and 30-something Peter Pans in the app development world should find their way to the 80-something communications lawyers and lobbyists retired in Florida for a tutorial on what it’s like trying to get Washington off your back once it has climbed on. Here’s the tweet-length version: You are going to pay and pay and pay. To save you, Washington will bleed you.
What had actually been set in motion, it seemed, was an assertion of power to regulate Internet content and services based on standards that ultimately boil down to the FCC’s discretion. Saying “so long” to the First Amendment; Net neutrality enables Washington to say whose speech is free, Tammy Bruce, Washington Times, 3/16/15.
Reason magazine reports, “And yet even though the rules are now available for all to see, it remains somewhat unclear how exactly they will work in practice.” The New York Times notes the FCC is “set to decide what is acceptable on a case-by-case basis. The regulations include a subjective catch-all provision, requiring ‘just and reasonable’ conduct. What counts as ‘just and reasonable’ will, naturally, be up to the whims of the FCC.”
If the FCC breaches the longstanding understanding that the government should avoid regulating the Internet, moreover, rest assured that other government agencies will be emboldened to get in on the action – with who knows what results. Federal Election Commission to consider regulating online political speech, Rudy Takela, CNSnews.com, 2/11/15.
The commission has seen proposals to regulate even issue advocacy referencing federal candidates that is disseminated on the Internet," [Commissioner Lee] Goodman told CNSNews.com. "That could reach YouTube videos, blogs, and websites like [the] Drudge Report,” he warned.
The FCC is theoretically an independent agency, but its new regulations were apparently issued at the behest of the president. In effect, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was browbeaten into changing his position that the Internet should not be regulated as a public utility. The Obamanet crack-up, L. Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal, 3/22/15.
Nov. 10 was the turning point. The day began with Mr. Obama issuing a surprise video insisting on the most extreme regulation for the Internet, submitting it to laws written in the 1930s for Ma Bell. The same morning, a group of protesters swarmed Mr. Wheeler’s house, blocked access to his car, and demanded that he obey the president.
A related point was the support for FCC regulation from left-leaning groups, which presumably had something more in mind than neutral pricing for Internet traffic. [George] Soros, Ford Foundation shovel $196 million to “net neutrality” groups, [send] staff to White House, Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, 2/26/15. Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment: “The biggest money in this debate is from the liberal foundations that lavish millions on self-styled grassroots groups pushing for more and more regulation and federal control.”
One might think corrective action would take the form of legislation to overrule the FCC regulations, but this seems unlikely in the current political climate. For the time being, the only realistic options are submission or litigation. A busy fortnight in DC offers a valuable reminder, 3/9/15.
Writing before the text of the regulations was made available, one legal analyst identified three general lines of attack: (1) Statute does not apply because the Internet is not a “telecommunications service,” (2) The rules were written on the fly without solid supporting evidence, i.e., are “arbitrary and capricious,” and (3) The rules violate free speech. While the third argument is the easiest to understand and most powerful, it tends to prove too much, i.e., could raise questions about the overall mission of the FCC. Can net neutrality survive the impending onslaught of lawsuits? Brendan Sasso, National Journal, 3/5/15.
The first lawsuits were filed last week in the DC and 5th Circuits. US regulator sued by broadband companies over net neutrality rules, newsmax.com, 3/24/15.
Comment: The FCC power grab is outrageous, and we predict it will ultimately be defeated. But if the matter is left to the courts, it will take years and millions of dollars to resolve, with lots of confusion and disruptive uncertainty in the meantime. Too bad!
3. Faux arguments offered for keeping the spending party going – As previously reported, some of the charges leveled against the Republican budget plans (both of which were passed last week, leaving reconciliation between the House and Senate plans as the next step) seem less than candid.
Notably, these plans propose revenue neutral tax reform, not a big tax cut for the well to do. The president’s tax cut claim was not supported by the text of either the House or Senate plans, and apparently was based on viewing his proposed tax increases on this category of Americans as establishing a new baseline – compared to which the Republican proposals would represent a cut. GOP budgets face uphill battle, 3/23/15.
However ill-founded, the tax cut claim has been made repeatedly – most recently last Saturday. Transcript, president’s weekly address, 3/28/15.
. . . this week, when Republicans rolled out their next economic idea, it had nothing to do with the middle class. It was a new, more-than-$250 billion tax cut for the top one-tenth of the top one percent of Americans. That would mean handing out an average tax cut of $4 million a year to just 4,000 Americans per year, and leaving the rest of the country to pay for it.
Comment: The well to do are already paying their “fair share,” and revenue neutral tax reform would benefit everyone. Instead of attempting to stoke the fires of class envy, Side A should join in supporting this idea.
4. Assaults on free speech are ubiquitous – It’s been drummed into Americans – by the educational establishment, the media, etc. - that certain terms or assertions should be avoided in public discourse lest someone’s sensibilities be offended. In other words, one should always be “politically correct.”
To a point this is OK, after all the ideal of good manners has been around forever and we are all probably better off for it, but the dictates of being PC can be carried too far - especially if the rules are skewed to favor certain policies or segments of the population over others. Some examples follow.
#As of this writing, Hillary Clinton is the leading Democratic candidate for president in 2016. And a big part of her appeal, apparently, is that she would the first-ever female president. Two-thirds of Americans ready for a woman in the White House, Kelly Cohen, Washington Examiner, 3/27/15.
Should the most important office in the land be filled based primarily on gender, ethnicity, or the like? To us, such characteristics seem rather superficial, and we would think the choice should be based on accomplishments, character, and judgment.
Clinton’s candidacy is yet to be officially announced, but guidelines are already being proposed as to what sort of commentary will be acceptable during the campaign with violators to be labeled as “sexist.” Curiously, none of the banned terms seem dependent on gender. Here are the words Hillary’s supporters won’t let you say, Daily Caller, 3/25/15.
Polarizing – calculating – disingenuous – insincere - ambitious – inevitable – entitled – over confident – secretive – “will do anything to win” – “represents the past” – “out of touch”
#One might think American colleges would take the lead in preserving traditional values of free speech and independent inquiry, but over the years many of them have adopted speech codes, etc., with the apparent approval of students, and become left-leaning bastions of political correctness.
Some examples: Conservative Muslim writer ousted by student newspaper at University of Michigan for writing a satirical piece about attacks on “white privilege” – Scripps College disinvited commentator George Will because he failed to embrace the progressive line (statistics and rhetoric) re sexual assault on campus – teaching assistant at Marquette banned discussion of homosexual marriage in an ethics class on grounds that it would be homophobic, and a tenured professor was benched for complaining about this decision.
Regardless of how such actions and countless others are explained, the real issue is power. [Jim] DeMint at Yale: Academic censorship as a political weapon, dailysignal.com, 3/26/15.
Academic censorship, political correctness, saying who has the right to speak on a topic and who does not, bullying those who break the taboos of this new cultural Marxism—it all adds up to a means of control. Control who gets to speak, and you control the debate. Control the debate, and you control how people think. Control how people think, and you control society.
#For all the barbarity of recent attacks by Muslim terrorists, the administration has refused to apply this label to the other side. The official term is “radical extremists” or the equivalent. Shades of the Harry Potter books, where Lord Voldemort was referred to by many as “he who must not be named.” Critics of the administration complain that it is difficult to win a war without concretely identifying the enemy.
The administration’s response is that this country cannot afford to fight a war against Islam, a peaceful religion with teachings that have been perverted by a few twisted adherents. Christians have also done some terrible things in the name of their religion, e.g., during the Crusades a thousand years ago, so who are we to be so self-righteous? Obama at National Prayer Breakfast, Charlie Spiering, breitbart.com, 2/5/15.
Although we have not heard of any arrests yet, there have been threats that people posting derogatory comments against Muslims on the Internet could be prosecuted. Federal Attorney Warns Negative Posts Against Islam Could Get You Prosecution & Imprisonment, Tim Brown, freedomoutpost.com, 6/1/13.
Comment: The right of “free speech” is not absolute. Some exceptions: Falsely “crying fire in a crowded theater,” solicitation of criminal acts, and provably false and malicious verbal attacks on others. Also, this right does not mean that people must listen to you or refrain from expressing their disapproval. Attempting to silence people whose comments are unwelcome, however, is not only unconstitutional but also socially destructive. Government officials and other authority figures should govern themselves accordingly. Top