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Assume a Recovery

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from National Review, Checkmate: The Economic Chess Masters Play a Losing Game by Kevin Williamson:

That the Obama administration is foundering from an economic-policy point of view is not news. Barack Obama & Co. represent the very freshest and most imaginative thinking of the 1930s — stimulus, public works, monkeying with the minimum wage, political favoritism for union constituencies, the ancient superstition that simply putting money in somebody’s pocket makes the nation richer through the miraculous power of the economic multiplier, etc.

What about the knowledge to use that awesome power effectively? There’s an old joke about an engineer, a priest, and an economist trapped at the bottom of a deep pit: The engineer looks for a way to get a handhold on the wall, the priest prays for deliverance, and the economist says, “No problem. First, assume a ladder.” Assume you know what the balance of trade in sugar should be, assume you know what McDonald’s fry guys should earn per hour, assume you know what the mix of energy sources used in electricity generation should be . . .

Those assumptions are running up against a persistent and unpleasant reality just now.

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The GOP Search for a New Speaker

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Authoritarianism Masquerading as Science


from The 97 Percent Solution by Ian Tuttle at National Review:

Surely the most suspicious “97 percent” study was conducted in 2013 by Australian scientist John Cook — author of the 2011 book Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand and creator of the blog Skeptical Science (subtitle: “Getting skeptical about global warming skepticism.”). In an analysis of 12,000 abstracts, he found “a 97% consensus among papers taking a position on the cause of global warming in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are responsible.” “Among papers taking a position” is a significant qualifier: Only 34 percent of the papers Cook examined expressed any opinion about anthropogenic climate change at all. Since 33 percent appeared to endorse anthropogenic climate change, he divided 33 by 34 and — voilà — 97 percent! When David Legates, a University of Delaware professor who formerly headed the university’s Center for Climatic Research, recreated Cook’s study, he found that “only 41 papers — 0.3 percent of all 11,944 abstracts or 1.0 percent of the 4,014 expressing an opinion, and not 97.1 percent,” endorsed what Cook claimed. Several scientists whose papers were included in Cook’s initial sample also protested that they had been misinterpreted. “Significant questions about anthropogenic influences on climate remain,” Legates concluded.

Also from National Review from Jonah Goldberg, The 97 Percent ‘Statistic’ — Is There Nothing It Can’t Do?:

Jonah Quotes from Bast and Spencer on the origin of the 97%.

The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists—of the 3,146 who responded to the survey—does not a consensus make.

Jonah continues:

They go on, but I don’t want to reprint the whole article here. Besides the more important point is that consensus — manufactured or otherwise — is not how science is done. “Settled science” — another concept Mair invokes — is an oxymoron. The whole point of science is to unsettle what we know at any given moment. Personally, I am more open to the claim that global warming is happening and is a potential problem than some of my friends on the right (my views line up pretty well with Matt Ridley’s for what that’s worth). But when I listen to people like Mair invoke the Union of Concerned Scientists and deny objective facts by hiding behind the skirts of a bogus statistic, it gives me no confidence that these are the kinds of people who should have anything to do with formulating public policy.


From any objective mind this 97% was deeply suspect, just given the nature of the issue. Upon any minimal examination this 97% number is absolutely bogus. It is absolutely media malpractice to even use it. Yet it has been repeated by the President, the Secretary of State, and it was repeated like a mentally disturbed robot in the Cruz / Sierra interview. Winston Churchill noted that a lie can make its way around the world several times before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

This is not the first time such tactics have been used to push a policy by exaggerating the problem. During the health insurance debate the number of uninsured  people was listed at 46 million.  It was also a bogus exaggerated number but it was successful in helping the pass the monstrous ACA.  I noted that when the president signed his signature bill he announced that now 30 million uninsured people would be covered.  No one grasped the magic of 15 million fewer uninsured he accomplished at the stroke of  pen.  After 5 years about 8 million net uninsured gained coverage.  This is getting closer to the actual number to begin with.  Ironically if they had used the more accurate 10-13 million uninsured it would have made the results look better, but it would have seemed like less of a crisis and maybe the bill would not have been passed. But to many ends justify the means.

Those of us who are accused of being anti-science for ever doubting this consensus understand the difference between science and authoritarianism masquerading as science. When this 97% becomes discredited then the proponents discount the actual number and  simply say that there is still a majority support.  This may be the case, but when the proponents and skeptics actually know so little about the science itself and we are harped upon by our leaders and policy makers to accept a consensus that is so easy to totally discredit, then one has to question what else are they exaggerating.  This not only discredits those seeking a realistic  view of policy but it discredits the scientists themselves and the public’s faith in our scientific institutions.  Scientists and the public deserve much better treatment.

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Pseudo Science

from Making It All Up by Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard

Behind the people being experimented upon are the people doing the experimenting, the behavioral scientists themselves. In important ways they are remarkably monochromatic. We don’t need to belabor the point. In a survey of the membership of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 85 percent of respondents called themselves liberal, 6 percent conservative, 9 percent moderate. Two percent of graduate students and postdocs called themselves conservative. “The field is shifting leftward,” wrote one team of social psychologists (identifying themselves as “one liberal, one centrist, two libertarians, two who reject characterization,” and no conservatives). “And there are hardly any conservative students in the pipeline.” A more recent survey of over 300 members of another group of experimental psychologists found 4 who voted for Mitt Romney.

The self-correction essential to science is less likely to happen among people whose political and cultural views are so uniform. This is especially true when so many of them specialize in studying political and cultural behavior. Their biases are likely to be invisible to themselves and their colleagues. Consider this abstract from a famous study on conservatism [with technical decoration excised]:

A meta-analysis confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism: death anxiety; system instability; dogmatism​—​intolerance of ambiguity; openness to experience; uncertainty tolerance; needs for order, structure, and closure; integrative complexity; fear of threat and loss; and self-esteem. The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.

Only a scientist planted deep in ideology could read such a summary and miss the self-parodic assumptions buried there. Yet few people in behavioral sciences bat an eye. “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” which this paragraph is taken from, has been cited by nearly 2,000 other studies, accepted as a sober, scientific portrait of the “conservative” temperament.

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Carter and Israel


from National Review in 2002, Jay Nordlinger wrote Carterpalooza


 No one quite realizes just how passionately anti-Israel Carter is. William Safire has reported that Cyrus Vance acknowledged that, if he had had a second term, Carter would have sold Israel down the river. In the 1990s, Carter became quite close to Yasser Arafat. After the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia was mad at Arafat, because the PLO chief had sided with Saddam Hussein. So Arafat asked Carter to fly to Riyadh to smooth things over with the princes and restore Saudi funding to him — which Carter did.

You who read Impromptus have heard me say: When I was growing up, I perceived the Arab-Israeli conflict as a great civil-rights drama. The white oppressors were the Israelis, and the black sufferers and innocents were the Arabs, in particular the Palestinians. Menachem Begin, I thought, was George C. Wallace, and his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, was Bull Connor. (This was in the early ’80s.)

Well, blow me down. I had never heard anybody else — a soul — say anything like this. But here is Carter, to Douglas Brinkley, Carter’s biographer and analyst: “The intifada exposed the injustice Palestinians suffered, just like Bull Connor’s mad dogs in Birmingham.”

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