Thursday, December 31, 2009

Judge Slaps Down Blackwater Prosecutions

The 2007 incident in which Blackwater guards shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad may be coming to a close. I am not impugning guilt on the part of the guards. The government used statements that the guards were compelled to make as part of the State Department investigation into the shooting to build their prosecution. Judge Ricardo Urbina (pictured) trashed the prosecution's misconduct in the case. H/T to Volokh Conspiracy for information on the judge's decision:

In their zeal to bring charges against the defendant in this case, the prosecutors and investigators aggressively sought out statements the defendants had been compelled to make to government investigators in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and in the subsequent investigation. In so doing, the government’s trial team repeatedly disregarded the warnings of experienced, senior prosecutors, assigned to the case specifically to advise the trial team on Garrity and Kastigar issues, that this course of action threatened the viability of the prosecution. The government used the defendants’ compelled statements to guide its charging decisions, to formulate its theory of the case, to develop investigatory leads and, ultimately, to obtain the indictment in this case.
Interestingly, most commenters at DailyKos are supporting the rule of law, despite the general blood lust against Blackwater on the left. A little ray of hope?

Continuing the Fight on Obamacare

The Christmas recess is giving the health care debate a break from the news cycle, or is it the other way around? Regardless, I think that it is important to keep fighting on this issue for a number of reasons.

1. It's not over yet, although things look bad. Pelosi can probably get enough Blue Dogs in line and you knew all along that the "progressives" who vowed to block any bill without a public option were blowing smoke. If the far left succeeds in getting a public option into a conference committee bill, then passage in the Senate becomes doubtful. See leftist discussion here and here, from the left wing Firedoglake on Pelosi's difficulties.

2. Even if something is passed, most of it won't take effect right away, except the taxes. The Democrats have always tried to built support for social welfare programs by getting a constituency hooked on the benefits (see Medicare) so as to make repeal impossible. Because of their need to get this piece of stupidity scored as "not budget busting" (LOL) they have front loaded the taxes, but not the benefits. As the taxes impact the economy, they will have a negative impact. Meanwhile, with no "benefits" forthcoming, the GOP can campaign safely on a promise of repeal. Probably the only popular part of the package will be the promise of portability or the ability to keep one's coverage during job changes. Since this has always been part of the conservative/libertarian discussion, the GOP can promise not to repeal that provision.

3. The debate has focused attention on free market solutions to problems in the health care insurance system. Shame on the GOP for not tackling the issue when they had majorities. However, this debate provides the intellectual ammunition needed to carry on the debate. We may need to eventually repeal the bill bit by bit; having substitute free market mechanisms to solve the real problems with health insurance will be necessary to make it palatable.

Look forward to carrying on this discussion.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


At least those were the President's words regarding the crotch-bomber's unsuccessful attempt to blow up Northwest flight 253. The President is also backing down on the AG's comments that Umar worked alone. But my question is what is the President's administration going to do about it, other than punish airline passengers for their successful effort in stopping terror attacks, by taking a closer look at their underwear. If I wanted that, I'd be spending more time at the Horse & Cow.

So far, all I have heard is talk of "systemic failures." That's bureaucratic for "no one is to blame, so no one will be held accountable." As usual, Obama sounds great, until you analyze the actual information content of what he is saying.

Terrorism is all about making society less free and more repressive and generally unlivable, because of the threat posed. There is no reason to believe that this attack couldn't have been prevented, so imposing new restrictions on society only advances the jihadist agenda and unnecessarily so.

The other meme given the lie is the one that Democrats are somehow more competent than Republicans to operate the machinery of government. I read this on Daily Kos over the last two years so many times as to induce nausea. The fact is that most of what occurs in government is the result the efforts of nameless, faceless bureaucrats like myself. The role of the either political party is to appoint the right people to lead and to induce change at the top necessary for improved performance. This is very difficult for either party to accomplish, because they are both very ideologically oriented and requires a deep understanding of management. Given the nature of our political system, the upshot is that government needs to be as small as possible, so that management attention can be brought to bear on the problems, like national security, that government is actually meant to solve.

However, as we watch the managerial incompetence of this administration be compared to the previous one, I will enjoy my measure of schadenfreude as the Democrats eat the crap sandwich they have made for themselves.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bumper Sticker of the Year

I saw this bumper sticker on the drive to work this morning, and because it applies to so much of this year's news, I decided that it merited nomination for bumper sticker of the year:


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Talking With Liberals About Health Care

Most of my discussions with self described liberals on the health care debate founders on the subject of "health care as a right." I admit that this infuriates me, but I wonder why it is such a strongly held belief. I actually have not found a cogent answer from the left on this subject. But trying to understand so that I can persuade leads me to conclude that health care is viewed as a right, because it is something that people could needlessly die without, but are incapable of providing for themselves. Food and water would then be rights as well, under this logic, but normally in America, people can get enough to eat. But this still presents an opportunity to argue against the statist grab for control of the entire industry. Just as food is necessary for survival, we only provide food stamps to those in need. So too should our approach to health care be minimalist, providing emergency services to all, our present policy in fact, and some sort of health insurance assistance to those truly too poor to buy their own health care. I haven't tried out this line of reasoning with anyone yet. What do you think?

War of Terror Continues - Even if Some Are In Denial

The attempted bombing of a Northwest flight bound for Detroit reminds us that even if we are no longer pursuing a "war on terror," that war is pursuing us. The terrorists are going to look for ever more ingenious methods to attack civilian targets with suicide bombers, that much is clear. But it is disturbing that the attacker was on a known terror suspect watch list for two years. I suppose the airlines will step up their efforts to further humiliate the traveling public in the name of security, when in fact the suspected terrorist was already a suspected terrorist.

My utmost sincere admiration goes out to Jasper Schuringa who reacted quickly to put out the fire and subdue the suspect which prevented an explosion. The last three attempts at terrorism on U.S. airline flights have been thwarted by passengers, not law enforcement. How and why this is true eludes me, but I welcome your suggestions. Here is the list with links:
I heard on the news that new rules will be imposed restricting passengers from leaving their seats the last hour of the flight, but given that passengers are the one's preventing terrorist attacks, is that wise?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Announcing B-Daddy's Other Blog

I started The Liberator Today to further the cause of freedom. That necessitates a politically oriented blog which is where I choose to keep the focus. But, I also want to write about management, religion, technology and culture; so I started another blog, B-Daddy's Other Blog, on Christmas day no less. If you are interested in any of that, please pay me a visit.

Weekend Music - Merry Christmas

Mrs. Daddy loves Christmas lights. Around this time of year, we spend a couple of evenings driving through local neighborhoods looking for the best light displays. What a treat to find this video that combines her favorite Christmas carol with this nice light display.

Carol of the Bells - Computer Controlled Christmas Lights from Richard Holdman on Vimeo.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Early Christmas? Senate Plays Scrooge to DC Schoolchildren

Racist Tea Party Goers Oppose Democrat/Obama Plans for DC Schools

Duplicitous and Shameful, is how the WSJ characterizes the Senate's recent vote to kill Washington DC's Opportunity Scholarship program. I couldn't agree more, and it comes just in time for Christmas. Notice how the Democrats always claim that everything they do "is for the children" except when they might cross their union paymasters. (BTW: Health care also screws the young disproportionately.) You can just feel the evil oozing from this paragraph:

"Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA," declared the union in a letter sent to every Democrat in the House and Senate in March. "We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the pilot program. Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress."
Is the NEA the most evil organization in America? Maybe not compared to Tony Soprano, but give them credit, they are working on it.

Helping the President keep his campaign promise to kill programs that have proven ineffective, the Senate sent President Obama spending bill that phased out the program. How ineffective you ask? Here's a quote from an Earth Times article:
The reading effects of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) show the largest achievement impact of any education policy program yet evaluated in a randomized control trial by the U.S. Department of Education and reveal an important trend toward increased reading gains for students the longer they remain in the program, according to the evaluation’s principal investigator, Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas.

Republicans need to get off their dead rear ends, NOW, and make a campaign promise to restore funding for this effort. If there was ever an issue that combines core principles with the desire to reach out to minorities, this is it. Please check the Weekly Standard blog for pictures of those protesting this outrageous action by the Congress. This is fertile ground for the Freedom Coalition.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stupid Editorial Headline of the Week

Goes to Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, for this doozy:

Banks Don't Belong in the Student Loan Business

Because it turns out that the government would be so much more efficient at this task. For reals, that's his argument, because banks make a profit, the government could perform the role cheaper. Then he turns around and states that the government will outsource the servicing of loans anyway.

Along the way he distorts the fact that colleges switched to direct loans from the feds under extreme arm twisting from the Department of Education.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Political Calculus of Health Care

Looking ahead to 2010, the political calculus of health care's impact on congressional elections leads me to an unsettling conclusion, namely that Republicans would be electorally much better off allowing a health care bill to pass that was crappy enough to anger both the left and the right. Dean has pointed out that the left is getting whipped into rebellion over the shape of the health care "reform" coming out of the Senate. Jay Cost of RCP sets the table for this line of reasoning by analyzing Harry Reid's dilemma in assembling 60 votes in the Senate.

My take is that the frustrated left led by the likes of Kos and Howard Dean, will withhold cash, support and maybe even votes in 2010, if health care "reform" passes in its rumored current form. (I say rumored, because no one can tell for sure what is actually in the bill at any moment.) Given the enraged and energized state of the right-leaning electorate and the lack of Obama at the top of the ticket to get out the African-American vote, this could be an immense disaster for the Democrats. Further, as I pointed out earlier, the moderates in middle-America would suffer under new taxes that would immediately raise employment costs, without a single benefit until 2013.

Mitch McConnell has come under criticism from Rush for not doing enough to stop this bill. But if Mitch was the evil genius he's sometimes accused of being, then he might be fine tuning his opposition to get the bill to be as crappy as possible, to then just let it pass. Alternatively, he might just be along for the ride at this point, thinking he has a win-win. If health care passes as is, he scores big and if health care loses, he still scores big. An old friend of mine, Jeff, once told me "Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity." That might apply here.

Weekend Music Chill

Blog post of the month, maybe of the year, is by Zombie on his Zomblog, titled "Why America Really Hates Universal Health Care." To play a little homage to a blogger who is frankly a little "out there," this weekend's music is from Kernkraft 400 and their seemingly ubiquitous ZombieNation. Sorry about the lack of any meaningful video, but none of the other embeds were family friendly.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Sucky Ideas for Health Care

Just when I thought they had exhausted the playbook of sucky ideas for health care legislation, the Democrats reach for an oldie but goodie, more regulation. From the LA Times article:

The change sprang from a compromise made to placate conservative Democrats wary of a new government program. But shorn of a "public option," the Senate healthcare bill has reverted to a long-established practice of leveraging government power to police the private sector, rather than compete with it. Despite the resistance among Republicans and conservatives to more government regulation, even the insurance industry has agreed to broad new oversight of their business in exchange for the prospect of gaining millions of new customers.
I hate how Democrats think that Tea Party protesters are in the hands of big business, it's a slander. I always hate these kinds of short-sighted sell out by the business community, they are only going to get screwed in the end. Better for them to pull out all the stops to prevent passage, especially when that passage looks in doubt now.

Let's recap Obama's goals for health care legislation from his own web site:
  • Reduce the cost of health care.
  • Increase the number of insured.
  • Ensure those with pre-existing conditions are covered.
  • Protect Medicare.
  • Create a more competition through and insurance exchange and "public option."
  • Do not increase the deficit.
How does strangling the industry with more regulation accomplish any such goal? In fact it harms the goals of cost reduction, increasing the number of insured and protecting medicare.

Meanwhile the LA Times article goes on to criticize the idea of more regulation, because it will not kill private insurance fast enough. OK, they don't actually say that, but it's pretty clear that's the author's vision.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Quick Hitters

I thought about an explanation for my absence from blogging, but I remembered a post-game quote from one of the players explaining why Navy was able to come back after a bad first half last weekend. He said Coach Niumatalolo's most frequent catch-phrase is "No excuses, no one cares." More than a rebuke against whining, it also means you need a short memory for failure and should just focus on moving forward to success.

At the end of a video-teleconference at work this week, one of the participants wished everyone a Merry Christmas. Unbelievably, a senor Navy officer stated afterward, soto voce to me, "You can't say that." I was aghast and just walked away. PC really is running amok in the Navy today.

HotAir has become my favorite news source. They tipped me to this lengthy article about the real reason people hate government run health care. Once the government is paying for health care, or your employee for that matter, we all end up paying for other people's stupid choices in lifestyle and behavior. The result?

Because that’s what socialized medicine does: it turns each of us into a little fascist. A nagging nanny who tells other people what to do and how to live.
Now, I really don’t care if you overeat, smoke like a chimney, hump like a bunny or forget to lock the safety mechanism on your pistol as you jam it in your waistband. Fine by me. And as a laissez-faire social-libertarian live-and-let-live kind of person, I would never under normal circumstances condemn anyone for any of the behaviors listed above. That is: Until the bill for your stupidity shows up in my mailbox. Then suddenly, I’m forced to care about what you do, because I’m being forced to pay for the consequences.

I earlier commented on BwD that Krauthammer should let Iowahawk do the satire and Charles "the Hammer" should stick to the wonky stuff. Iowahawk returns the favor with a very lengthy post on the machinations behind "value added homogenized data" proving AGW. It's worth a read, especially if you have a technical background.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekend Music Chill

This weekend's music is from a time in my life, pre-nuptial so to speak, when I hung out at the Equestrian, Bovine Sanctuary and Memorial Ballroom. This tune was one of our favorite's on the jukebox, and the sailors liked to sing along and occasionally give performances which can't be described in a family-friendly blog. I don't listen a lot of country, but this is one of the best of all time, just listen to the lyrics.

A little more about the famous place here, scroll half way down.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Quick Hitters

This administration seems hell bent on making our problems worse, every day. Some examples.

Headline from WaPo.

U.S. pushes for emissions cuts from China, developing nations.

As if that is really going to happen. India's announcement that they will slow emissions growth (different from actually cutting emissions) by 20%-25% is little more than status quo. China will just cheat. So America will suffer the job killing consequences of a demonstrably ineffective policy of cap and trade, which won't even cut CO2 emissions, much less impact the environment.

The EPA, as expected, ruled that CO2 is a harm to the environment. However, to make such a finding they must show that humans are being harmed. In the technical document a number of unproved assertions are made. I would love for this to go to court, where their data can be exposed. Here is a quote:

It is very likely that heat waves will become more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting in a future warm climate, whereas cold episodes are projected to decrease significantly.
Tell that to Dallas.

Meanwhile, Obama is calling for Stimulus III because the first two are working so well to keep down the unemployment rate. This recession is a recovery from asset bubbles due to government intervention in the economy. Until those are unwound and overall debt is reduced, businesses are not going to be able to bring the country out of economic doldrums. By continuing the failed policies of the past, only more so, Obama is making the economy worse. Further, small businesses are facing uncertainty over health care costs, cap and trade costs, potential continuation of Sarbanes-Oxley auditing, and the expiration of death tax relief. No wonder the economy isn't growing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Government Medical Regulation Could Cost These Girls Their Lives

The three girls pictured in this video have a rare bone marrow disease, Fanconi anemia, which often leads to leukemia. They need bone marrow transplants. Their parents are seeking to encourage people to see if they are matches by rewarding the donors with a $3,000 scholarship. But they could go to jail for up to five years if they carry out their plan. The alternative? Wait, perhaps in vain, for a donor, and watch their little girls die slowly.

The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984 treats compensation for marrow donors as though it were black-market organ sales. Under NOTA, giving a college student a scholarship or a new homeowner a mortgage payment for donating marrow would land everyone—doctors, nurses, donors and patients—in federal prison for up to five years.

Note the relation to the proposed health care legislation in the Senate. One size fits all regulations intended to reduce the costs of health care will certainly kill more Americans than the present system.

H/T Institute for Justice.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Notes from Today's Sermon: Marxism

Pastor Jim had a powerful message today based on the themes from Mary's song. Among the themes he touched on were that Jesus came for all people, but his message is especially resonates with the poor and outcast. He also took on the leftist argument that Christianity merely allows the poor to tolerate their condition, when in fact it calls all men to treat each other with love, the opposite of oppression. But Pastor's remarks are on Marxism are really quotable:

Marx is famously quoted as saying that religion is the opiate of the masses. But what is really true is that Marxism is the opiate of the so-called intellectual. It has been used to justify the slaughter of millions more than any other belief, all in the name of a system that has proved to be a profound failure.

For those intellectuals who think that the Marx quote is taken out of context, link here to show that he is explicitly calling out religion for being what later leftists would call a form of "false consciousness."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Afghanistan and Resolve from the Commander in Chief

The President's speech at West Point this week seemed to solve a tricky political problem for him. It didn't alienate his base too much, and it didn't give Republicans cause to call him out as a limp-wristed liberal breaking his only national security campaign promise. Polling indicates that slight majorities of Dems, Repubs, and Indies all sort of approve of the new strategy, so clearly this was political brilliance. Democrats are glad there is a timetable for withdrawal, Republicans that there is most of a surge.

I heed Dean's call for support for the President's policy; but I must object to particulars nonetheless. Obama's safe speech reminds me of the football coach with a slim lead who punts late in the game and goes into the prevent defense against Peyton Manning. Few will fault him for the safe play calling, but his team loses anyway. In the same way, Obama is signaling his preparation for failure. His lack of enthusiasm and his very quick pronouncement that the surge will only last 18 months are not signs of a man committed to victory, a word that did not enter his speech. McChrystal asked for 40,000 troops for a reason; maybe that reason is that he needed 30,000 and figured he'd never get all he asked for so better to aim high. But by fudging the number to appease his base, Obama looks like a man not fully committed to the strategy he himself laid out last March. Further, the Taliban believe that they are in it for the long haul; by setting a timetable, he has given them cause for greater resolve; they just need to wait this guy out. As George Washington proved over 200 years ago, the key element to winning an insurgency against a remote power, is to keep you army in the field. The insurgent can suffer loss after loss, but as long as his forces continue to demonstrate the capacity to strike back, the war is not over.

Promising to withdraw when you know that the real outcome in Afghanistan depends on how shifting alliances with local warlords work out, only gives incentives to the locals to not cooperate. This single failing of his speech could be his undoing, even if he later changes his mind and argues that "conditions on the ground" dictate a longer engagement, he will have needlessly prolonged the war by giving hope to the enemy and planting doubt in our allies.

Our battle tested armed forces have learned a great deal about conducting counter-insurgency operations in the Middle East, so there is a good likelihood they will succeed. But they could sure use a little more boldness and inspiration from their leader.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekend Music Chill

Hey it's Friday and I have the day off, so it's time to post some party music. Mrs. Daddy selected the following as the official party theme song of the B-Daddy household.

Meanwhile, I'll be visiting a local college campus with the youngsters.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Climate Conspiracy Explained by Iowahawk with Mathy Stuff

Ace, of Ace of Spades, has liberated a comment from Iowahawk who normally provides hysterical satire for our amusement (see link in this morning's post). Iowahawk explains the shenanigans behind the climate research scandal in East Anglia, complete with mathy explanations of linear regression. It is a bit of a tough read, but I recommend anyone who can follow read the article. Some highlights:

2. Next, Mann et al. regressed the 100 years or so of observed temperatures against the proxy variable principle components:

y = b0 + b1*PC1 + b2*PC2 + ... + bp*PCp + error

the regression coefficients (b's) estimated from recent data were then applied to the older proxy PCs to obtain retrospective "backcasts" or "hindcasts" of the temperatures in 1015, 1016,... 1850.

Voila! The Mann et al. statistical model resulted in the now infamous hockey stick, showing a radical increase in global temperatures in recent years versus the relatively flat milenial variation. This was in large part the basis for the IPCC report.


Now, if you've been following this, Mann's entire temperature reconstruction method rests on knowing (observing) recent periodic global temperatures, y. Quibbling about principle components aside, that's the dependent variable in the backcasts. But as is now becoming increasingly plain, y was constructed from an undocumented process that took raw ground station data and ran it through a black box that included smoothing, filtering, inference, manipulation, baling wire, glue and the juice of one whole lemon. This is what the CRU people are calling "valued added homogenized data." Or what normal people call "made up horseshit." It's also the temperature data that dozens, if not hundreds of AGW studies are based on.
This is in fact scandalous to good scientific process and the real scandal is not that some emails were compromised.

We should ask ourselves why we came to this end. I believe it is because we asked science to perform a task it will never be up to. Future predictions based on scientific method will always be imprecise and will necessarily not answer the question of what to do about the situation posed. Even if it were proved that man's carbon emissions are causing temperatures to rise, it is not clear what the best policy would be to deal with it. Our values, our ideology, economics, and yes, politics, all come into play in determining a way ahead. By putting all of the pressure on SCIENCE to answer the question of what to do about increased carbon dioxide in the air, we have shifted the political fight to the realm of science, where it does not belong. The result is science that is conducted like politics. As someone else said, science may be objective, but scientists clearly are not. Given the pressure to produce an answer that would result in more grant money, one can see the economic incentives that tempted climate researchers to fudge their data. This does not excuse their ethical lapses, but in fact shows that ethics matter most when the stakes are so high. Given the defensive nature of the "researchers," the skeptics necessarily became more aggressive and unapologetic in their criticisms, which provoked an even greater "circle the wagons response." In the compromised emails, we see the East Anglia team ever more fearful that the raw data would fall into the wrong hands.

Finally and most tragically I must state that AGW is not proved, nor is it disproved; and we may never know the truth because so much raw data has been lost. And that is a real crime, because, while science may not be able to answer policy questions, it should certainly be called upon to intelligently and dispassionately inform the debate.

I would like to end on a lighter note, so here is a nice youtube video explaining it all, to music. H/T again, to Ace.

Climate Research Scientists - Before They Were Famous

I found this rare footage from the 80's that sheds some light on climate research scientists and their methods. Here they are, when they were in a previous line of work, before they were famous.