Thursday, September 17, 2009

The meaning of "general welfare" in the Constitution

In honor of Constitution Day, I am presenting a short lesson on the meaning of the term "general welfare" in the Constitution. The term appears twice. In the Preamble:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
and in Article 1 Section 8:
Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Over time, Liberals and Progressives have used these references to "general welfare" to justify unlimited expansion of federal government power. They argue that, despite the Constitution's limit on the scope of the federal government to specific enumerated powers, the government has the power to do anything if it merely states it is to benefit the "general welfare". Therefore, they argue, the federal government has the power of taxation for the purpose of redistributing wealth, of mandating the purchase of health insurance, and so on.

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, and Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote extensively about what is meant by the term "general welfare" in the Constitution. Their views reflect the original intent of the Constitution, which is its only meaning until it is amended otherwise. Madison was very specific in regards to Art.1 Sec. 8 and the words "general welfare". He said:
"To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators".

The following is a selection of additional quotes by Madison and Jefferson on "general welfare" and the Constitution:
"With respect to the two words 'general welfare', I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." James Madison in a letter to James Robertson

"If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their Own hands; they may a point teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare." James Madison

"Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." Thomas Jefferson

"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them." Thomas Jefferson

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." James Madison, 4 Annals of Congress 179, 1794

"[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." James Madison

The Framers of the Constitution explicitly stated that charity is no duty or power of the federal government. They were not against charity, at the private or state government level, but they understood that if the federal government is given the power to do anything in the name of charity, it will inevitably use charity as an excuse to expand its own size and power, and the power and liberty of the states and of the people will be diminished and eventually destroyed. We are far down that path today. It would be good on this Constitution Day for Liberals and Conservatives alike to consider the above words and wisdom of our Founding Fathers and re-evaluate their views on the proper role and power of the federal government.

I forgot to include another quote from James Madison, which encapsulates the entire spirit of the Constitution and the intended legal role of the federal government:
"Powers delegated to the federal government are few & defined. Those which are to remain in the states are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects: war, peace, negotiation & foreign commerce.... The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties & properties of the people" James Madison

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Obama unveils his plan to kill tens of thousands of American civilians

Today, the Obama administration unveiled its plan to raise car fuel efficiency requirements to 35.5 mpg by 2016.  CAFE standards force Americans into smaller, lighter cars that fail to protect passengers in collisions.  The National Academy of Sciences has linked current fuel efficiency standards with about 2,000 additional deaths per year by traffic accidents.  From USA Today:
To hit the 2016 targets, automakers plan to field more small cars and smaller engines with advanced technology. Ford Motor plans to bring an array of its small, European-market cars. Fiat-controlled Chrysler will sell versions of the Italian maker's small cars. General Motors plans to boost its offerings rated 30 mpg or more on the highway by 65%.
Apparently the Obama administration is willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of American lives in order to reduce the atmospheric content of a compound that's essential to life on Earth and has no detrimental effect on anything.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's health care savings estimate off by a factor of 4

In his speech last night on health care, President Obama stated:
Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan.
I've done a simple calculation to check the accuracy of this statement.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates Obamacare will add $1 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years.  In 2007-2008 there were 43 million and 49 million Medicare and Medicaid recipients, respectively.  The average annual administrative cost per person in Medicare was $509 in 2005 (the most recent data available), and we can assume a similar number for Medicaid.  If Obamacare succeeds beyond everyone's wildest dreams, in fact beyond what is physically possible, and reduces waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid by 100%, it will save $509 x (43 + 49 million) * 10 years = $468 billion over 10 years.  That's less than half the net cost of Obamacare.

A more reasonable estimate would be a waste reduction of 50%*, which would mean $234 billion in savings.  That's less than 1/4 the net cost of Obamacare.  Also note that the CBO's $1 trillion estimate already takes into account the cost savings proposed in H.R. 3200, so in reality Obama's savings estimate is off by a far greater amount.  There is no way reducing waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid could pay for Obamacare.

*Many conservatives argue there will be no savings at all.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The country's in the very best of hands...

One has to wonder how the 9-11 truther Van Jones made it past Obama's notoriously extensive 7-page appointee vetting questionnaire to become his "Green Jobs Czar".

Real Health Care Reform

Today my article on health care reform was published in the Orlando/UCF newspaper The Central Florida Future. Here's the link to the online version. Check out the comments too.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Canadian human rights progress; European human rights decline

There are many reasons Americans have historically differentiated ourselves from Europeans (and it's unfortunate that today some believe we should emulate Europe). One such reason is our respect for natural human rights like freedom of speech. As a consequence America has rejected the idea of "hate speech". The same doesn't hold true for Canada, where hate speech laws have been used to prosecute individuals for committing acts that in the US would be protected as basic human rights: expressing a religious belief (pastor Stephen Boisson), criticizing a religious belief (author Mark Steyn), publishing those infamous Muhammad cartoons (human rights hero Ezra Levant), and allowing visitors to post hateful comments on your website (webmaster Marc Lemire), even if the comment is left "by a police officer posing as a racist".

It should come as a shock to Americans that these simple acts are viewed as crimes by our neighbors to the north (the Canadian government, not necessarily the Canadian people). In defending these prosecutions, Canadian Human Rights Commissioner Dean Steacy recently stated: "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value". This sentiment prompted a call for Congress to put Canada on the watch list of human rights abusers.

Today a major ruling in the Lemire case marks a victory for the cause of human rights in Canada. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which concerns hate speech, was found to be in violation of Canadians' Charter Right to freedom of expression. While this ruling only applies to the Lemire case and it will certainly be appealed, one can hope that this is the first step in toppling the regime of censorship in Canada.

Conversely, in Europe today: Dutch prosecutors are charging an Arab cultural group under hate speech laws for posting a cartoon on their own website. I won't post the cartoon here because I don't want the Dutch police coming after me (just kidding, I live in America - here it is), but here's the description:

The cartoon shows two apparently Jewish men standing near a pile of skeletons with a sign that says "Auswitch," presumably representing the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.

One pokes a bone with a stick and says "I don't think they're Jews" and the other answers, "We have to get to the six million somehow."

The Arab European League posted their cartoon as an "act of civil disobedience" in response to the Netherlands' refusal to prosecute a Dutch lawmaker for including cartoons of Muhammad in a film. One might presume the AEL's objective is not to contest hate speech laws, but to have them enforced against those who insult Islam. However, according to the article, the AEL chairman has stated he believes anyone should be allowed to publish insulting material in the interest of public debate.

In 2005 free speech activists around the world rallied in support of the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of Muhammad and prompted worldwide protests by Muslims. Will free speech crusaders come to the defense of Muslims this time around?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Private Health Insurers: Devils, Saints, or just Humans?

Congress is about to vote on one of the most consequential bills in American history, and proponents of the Obamacare bill refuse to present a real, fundamental analysis of the situation they're trying to address.

What are the problems, what are the goals, and what can we do to address the problems directly to achieve those goals? This kind of discussion is nowhere to be heard among Obamacare supporters. Even the President himself avoids it. Instead he simplistically states that there are 50 million uninsured in America, as if that were the problem. It's not - it's a symptom of the problem. Many problems, in fact. The correct questions to ask are: who are these 50-million uninsured, and why are they uninsured?

I've answered those questions previously. Suffice it to say that any plan that treats the symptom rather than the disease is doomed to failure. One of the big symptoms is that the costs of health care and insurance for that care are rising faster than the rate of inflation. The "diseases" causing this symptom can be divided into two overlapping categories: those concerning the insurance industry, and those concerning health-care providers (e.g. doctors, hospitals). In this post I address the former.

Private Health Insurers: Devils, Saints, or just Humans?

Democrats have suddenly re-branded their health bill "health insurance reform", rather than "health care reform". Nancy Pelosi has gone as far as to call insurance companies "villains". Liberals, Obama included, regularly lambaste the insurance industry for profiting from hard-working Americans' suffering - never mind the fact that insurance companies profit when their customers are healthy, and lose money when they get sick. So let's take a look at the insurance industry. Are their profits unreasonable? Are they milking their customers and benefiting from their suffering?

UnitedHealth Group, the country's biggest health insurance provider, has 70 million customers. In 2007, UnitedHealth made $4 billion in profit. That's a lot of money, but how much is that per customer? Or a better question: how much are consumers paying in their monthly premiums for UnitedHealth's big profits? The answer: ($4 billion) / (70 million * 12 months) = $5 per month.

That's right, Americans are paying $5 per month for their insurance companies' profits. Is a $5 monthly profit excessive, evil, and villainous? Let's say my individual insurance premium is $180 per month. If we completely wiped out all insurance company profits - i.e. transformed health insurance into a non-profit industry - my premium would only be lowered to $175 per month. And remember: that $5 provides all the incentive for these companies to exist and offer their services in the first place.

With this information any reasonable person can conclude that the "for-profit" insurance model is not one of our health care problems. But if only $5 of Americans' monthly premiums accounts for insurers' profits, how does the rest of the cost break down?

In the year 2000, administrative cost in the insurance industry was $256 per customer annually, or $21 per month. That number includes profits and other expenses that aren't really "administrative costs", such as taxes and health services provided directly by the company. So if my monthly premium was $180, removing all administrative costs - i.e. if the insurance company were to operate non-profit and at 100% efficiency - would lower it to $159. That $159 is essentially the per-person cost of the health care services used by all 200 million insured Americans. Health insurance reform can't touch that cost - unless they want to ration care.

Is $21 per month a reasonable amount to pay for the administration of an insurance policy? It's not wholly unreasonable, but I would prefer to pay less. The problem is, by 2005 that amount had ballooned to $38 - almost double! And that's still less than in government-run programs like Medicare, which had administrative costs of $32 per person in 2000 rising to $42 in 2005.

Why have administrative costs increased so rapidly, in both the public and private sector, and how do we fix it? High administrative costs are a sign of inefficiency. There is no uniform or sure-fire way to increase efficiency. Less paperwork, lower cost of doing business - including the cost of compliance with state regulations, higher worker productivity, better company organization - all these things could help, but the extent to which and the means of achieving these results will vary from company-to-company and institution-to-institution.

The interesting thing is, according to fundamental economics, a high degree of inefficiency should never manifest in an industry operating in a free market. Competition and the incentive to maximize profit should lead to improved efficiency over time. In light of this, one thing is clear: the insurance industry is not operating in a free market.

That the health industry is devoid of free market forces is widely-recognized, but ignored by Obamacare proponents. The lack of competition in health insurance, which is largely the fault of bad regulations at the state level, has caused that industry to bloat and swell with inefficiency. The rising cost of health insurance is not the fault of the insurance companies; it is human nature to become inefficient when the driving force for efficiency is removed. The same thing would, and does, happen to any company in any industry when competition is lacking.

The solution to this problem is not more state or federal control, as in Obamacare, because the monopoly of government also suffers from a lack of competitive forces. Rather, the solution requires a re-working of anti-competitive state regulations and a market-based approach to increase consumer choice and cost-based decision-making.

UPDATE: Health Insurance Industry Ranks 86th in Profit Margins

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Foreign Policy Dichotomy

On Drudge Report today, contrasting headlines:

US revokes visas for Honduran officials, and:

USA, British envoys attempting to open talks with Taliban.

So let me get this straight: the Obama administration is willing to open dialogue with the murderous Taliban, but is unwilling to speak with the constitutionally-legitimate, democratic government of Honduras.

Would someone from the press PLEASE ask Obama to explain this dichotomy?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Global Warming Update: Whistleblower Leaks Raw Temperature Data

In my recent post I examined the scientific evidence for global warming and found that there's no evidence at all. I pointed out that the so-called "global temperature" graphs purported to show a recent rapid rise in temperature are based on bad science, dubious data, and are wrought with almost infinite statistical uncertainty. Meanwhile, there is a wealth of consistent, reliable data from land-based and satellite measurements that show no warming trend. The data reveals the truth: global warming is not happening.

I also mentioned that those famous "global temperature" graphs were produced by climate activist scientists who have not disclosed the methods, calculations, or raw data used to generate those graphs. Steve McIntyre, the Canadian mathematician-turned-climate-researcher, editor of Climate Audit, co-winner of the 2007 Weblog Award for Best Science Blog, and exposer of the Michael Mann "hockey stick graph" fraud, has been filing Freedom of Information requests to the various government agency gatekeepers of raw climate data. So far he's been stonewalled; it appears governments are not willing to reveal raw data from the studies they've used to promote global warming. I wonder why this could be?

But there is hope. Just yesterday, a mole within the Hadley Climate Research Unit leaked their raw data. Note that the "global temperature" graph featured on the Hadley CRU homepage is one I outed as being totally bogus.

Now that the raw data is in McIntyre's hands, maybe an honest and open analysis will reveal the truth about temperature trends from this dataset. My guess: it will conform with the many consistent data sets and show there is no warming trend. McIntyre is continuing his efforts to acquire additional raw data through his FOI requests.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama's policy on Honduras threatens freedom and democracy in Latin America

Why doesn't the mainstream media take on Obama for his stance on Honduras? Is it because the reporters are ignorant of the situation? Or because they think the American people don't care about a small country that happens to be our near neighbor and ally? Or do they simply avoid criticizing Obama at all costs?

The Honduran crisis is almost a month old. That means Obama has had plenty of time to read the Constitution of Honduras and realize that what he has called a "coup" is really the legitimate government of Honduras defending the rule of law. Their Constitution explicitly demands that anyone who attempts what Zelaya did be removed from office and deported:
Article 239: No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.
Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.
ARTICLE 42: Citizenship is forfeited by those who:
5. Incite, encourage or support the continuity or re-election of President of the Republic
Article 374: It cannot be reformed, under any circumstances, the previous article, this article, the Constitutional articles related to the form of government, the national territory, Presidential term-limits, the prohibition of a President to be re-elected, and the requirement and prohibitions on who can and cannot be President.
Zelaya attempted to do each of the things prohibited by Articles 239, 42, and 374:
  • The term for President of Honduras is 4 years. Article 239 prohibits anyone who has served as President from running again. Zelaya attempted to remain President beyond his 4-year term. By this action, the Constitution says he must immediately resign the Presidency and be barred from any public office for 10 years.
  • Zelaya desired to remain President beyond his 4-year term. He made this known publicly, which explictly violates Article 42, and by doing so Zelaya has forfeited his Honduran citizenship.
  • Zelaya tried to hold a referrendum to extend the Presidential term limits so that he could hold the Presidency beyond the Constitutional 4-year term. The referrendum was barred by the Supreme Court, so he enlisted the help of Hugo Chavez, who printed the ballots in Venezuela and shipped them to Honduras. Zelaya's illegal referrendum violates Article 374, which explicitly prohibits reforming Presidential term limits.
So there you have it. The Constitution of Honduras demands that, for his actions, Zelaya be removed as President and stripped of his Honduran citizenship. That's exactly what happened: Zelaya was removed from office and exiled.
Yet the AP is still supporting Obama's assertion that this carrying-out of Constitutional law was a "coup". In addition, so-called Latin America expert Vicki Gass says "Constitutional order and rule of law have to be restored", meaning reinstating Zelaya as President. How the AP could cite an "expert" who hasn't even read the Honduran Constitution is beyond me.
Obama's decision to support a man who attempted to usurp his country's Constitution and instill himself as a perpetual dictator is the most outrageous and shameful American foreign policy I have ever witnessed. I would expect this from the U.N. and Europe, but I'd hoped that even under Obama America was still a nation that stood for freedom in the world. It's sad to be proven wrong in such spectacular fashion.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Data Reveals the Truth: Global Warming is Not Happening

With the cap-and-trade bill making its way through Congress, I think it's time to express my opinion on the subject of climate change and global warming. I am not an expert in the field, but I am a scientist and the points I make are scientifically valid and correct to the best of my knowledge.

The debate over global warming can be distilled to two basic questions:

(1) Is the earth undergoing an unusual period of warming? and,

(2) Is the warming caused by the man-caused increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration (and if so, what can we do about it)?

In this post I address the first question: is the planet warming? Even many “skeptics” say that it is. You can google “climate change” and find graphs showing a sharp warming trend in recent years, and easily convince yourself that global warming is real. A scientist, however, must consider not only these graphs, but how they were constructed – the raw data, the methodology – to determine their validity.

I have done so, and I've concluded that global warming is NOT happening. Or more accurately, there is no reliable evidence that it is happening. The figures and "facts" used to demonstrate global warming are unreliable and the analyses invalid, while the voluminous reliable data show that the warming trend claimed by global warming proponents does not exist.

The bogus "hockey stick" graph

First let's start with the famous “hockey stick” graph. There are several versions of this graph, produced by different climatology groups, and they show the same thing: from the year 1000 until about 1900 the “global temperature” has varied mildly up and down, but from 1900 onward it skyrockets (hence the term “hockey stick”).

This graph, constructed mostly by Michael E. Mann, has been so criticized and discredited for its bad methodology and mathematics that it is now considered totally bogus and bordering on scientific malpractice. In fact, Mann's statistical algorithm has been shown to produce that “hockey stick” shape even when fed random data. Any conclusions based on this or similar graphs should be discarded.

The impossible task of calculating "global temperature"

Now that the issue of the "hockey stick" graph is out of the way, let's address a real scientific problem. How does one calculate the average "global temperature"?

The reality is that it is so difficult to determine the average temperature of an entire planet that it's reasonable to say there is no such thing. Of course scientists try to calculate it anyway and this is done through several means, which can be divided into two categories: direct measurements, typically limited to modern times, and temperature reconstructions, for hundreds to thousands or millions of years ago. For this post I will limit the discussion to modern direct measurements.

Bogus "global temperature" calculations

Throughout modern history humans have recorded the temperature of the air where we live. Since the late 1800s this has been done in an organized fashion, with standardized equipment set up in meteorological monitoring stations around the world. This continues to today, and the recordings are now assembled in a centralized database.

The problem is that the meteorological stations cover only a tiny fraction of the global land surface. To extrapolate an average temperature for the entire planet from this sparse and sporadic data requires generous assumptions and mathematical calculations which, to my knowledge, have only been publicly described in a qualitative way. Nevertheless, some scientists have used this data, and found that their calculated "global temperature" has been rising rapidly in recent years:

The above “global temperature” graph was originally produced by Dr. James Hansen. Dr. Hansen runs NASA GISS, and is responsible for nearly every graph and study cited by global warming proponents. He is also a famous climate activist who argues that CEOs of fossil fuel companies should be put on trial for "high crimes against humanity and nature". He is the same Dr. Hansen who, along with actress Daryl Hannah and 30 other climate activists, was arrested in June 2009 in a protest at a coal mining facility in West Virginia. His strange behavior and climate activism should not necessarily disqualify his research, but it is clear he is not following the impartiality and professionalism that should be expected of respectable scientists.

Look at the above figure in detail. It traces the “global temperature” from 1880 to today using a single line. The green “error bars” on the graph are not really error bars – they don't reflect uncertainty in the “global temperature” calculation, but “account only for incomplete spatial sampling of data”. I've already mentioned the impossibility of calculating an average “global temperature”, but even without that understanding any honest scientist could point out that this graph is absurd. The number of meteorological stations and the fraction of global area covered have changed dramatically from 1880 to today. Therefore any comparison of global averages necessarily draws from vastly different data sets from year to year. Despite the best efforts of the researchers, this will skew the averages over time. The construction of this graph is an interesting exercise for curiosity's sake, but it cannot be relied upon to draw conclusions about global climate.

To further demonstrate this point, take a look at this video, which shows how the temperature network has grown since the 1890s, and then dwindled in modern times:

Every scientist knows that when half the data points are thrown out it is bound to skew the results.

Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, the raw station data must be thoroughly processed and manipulated to yield an average "global temperature". NOAA has published the temperature difference between the raw data and the processed numbers used in their climate figures. The result is their "adjusted" data shows an additional 0.5 degree (F) temperature increase over the past 5 decades that is not present in the raw data:

Reliable temperature measurements show no warming

The only reliable and scientifically accurate way to determine temperature trends is to limit our analysis to consistent data sets. By this I mean temperature measurements made using a single reliable method, at a single location or over a consistently-well-covered region of the globe, for an extended period of time. It just so happens that many such data sets exist, and they offer no evidence of global warming.

The most reliable and consistent temperature record in existence uses a single measurement method over a very large contiguous area and length of time: the meteorological record of the United States of America. I have downloaded the data and plotted it with no modification:

As you can see, there is no warming trend in the United States. This fact is well-known, but global warming proponents claim it is an anomaly – that for reasons unknown the USA is not experiencing global warming. Is it a coincidence that the single most reliable temperature record in the world shows no warming and is discounted as an unexplainable anomaly, while the dubious and scientifically-invalid calculation of “global temperature” shows warming and is heralded as fact? (Also note that the USA graph includes the artificial 0.5-degree warming that, as shown above, NOAA added to the raw data.)

If the lack of warming in the USA temperature record is really an anomaly, then what about other consistent temperature records from around the world?

Graphs of individual temperature stations from around the world are available online. I have downloaded data from 18 stations at random. The areas sampled include eastern, western, and northern Canada, Alaska, the Arctic, the Antarctic, Australia, Europe, Greenland, Iceland, Egypt, northern and sub-Saharan Africa, and South America. I limited my sampling to mostly stations in rural areas (to avoid the urban "heat island" effect), and those with uninterrupted data extending back most of a century. An example is shown below: data from Anchorage, Alaska, and Reykjavik, Iceland. The complete set is available here.

Not one shows a dramatic warming trend. In not one location are today's temperatures unusually warm. This is a small sample of the total number of stations, but what is the probability that 18 stations selected at random would show no evidence of warming if a dramatic warming trend really exists? Or is it more likely that, as I have argued, the graphs of "global temperature" are bogus and global warming is not really happening?

The ice caps are not melting

Direct temperature measurements are not the only consistent means of determining global climate trends. Global warming proponents often claim that the melting of the polar ice caps is strong evidence for global warming. Amazingly, global sea ice data from NOAA proves just the opposite: the ice caps are not melting and global warming is not happening.

It is true that Arctic ice has been shrinking in recent years, but Antarctic ice is growing - at the same rate. The total sea ice coverage of the planet has remained unchanged ever since satellite measurements began in 1979, as depicted by the red "anomaly" line in the above graph hovering around zero. The fact that Arctic ice is melting while Antarctic is growing is a sign of shifting weather patterns, not of global warming.

Satellite temperature measurements show no warming

There is one more consistent data set: global satellite temperature measurements. Since 1979 a series of satellites in orbit have been monitoring global temperatures. The satellite data provide probably the best estimate of global atmospheric temperature trends. I have downloaded the satellite data directly from the source and plotted it below:

Where is the dramatic warming trend? The satellite data looks nothing at all like Hansen's "global temperature" graphs. It is clear from the above plot that any evidence of warming is inconclusive at best, and there is a slight cooling trend since the temperature peak in 1998. (Note: the two large spikes in the TLS data are the result of volcanic eruptions.)

Conclusion: Global warming is NOT happening
Several reliable, consistent data sets show no evidence of warming. The evidence in favor of global warming comes from heavily-processed and manipulated, scientifically-unreliable figures made by scientists-turned-climate-activists. As an objective scientist or observer, which data would you trust? The answer is clear: global warming does not exist.

In a following post I will address a different question: is the idea that man-made CO2 emissions can cause global warming a valid scientific theory?

Saddam misled the world about WMDs out of fear of Iran

FBI Interviews: Hussein Lied About WMD Out of Fear of Iran

This is old news. I've known for ages that Saddam deliberately misled the world about WMDs as a bluff to prevent Iran from invading. So why is this finally being reported by the MSM? Well, the elections are over, so now it's ok to release info that would (partially) vindicate the people who voted for the Iraq war. At least, that's my guess.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

U.N. General Assembly Demands Restoration of Honduras' Ousted President

U.N. General Assembly Demands Restoration of Honduras' Ousted President

Of course they do. Most world leaders, apparently Obama included, have dictatorial aspirations themselves. Therefore it is not their motivation to defend freedom and liberty and the rule of law, but to defend one of their own.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What happened to the days when the USA stood for freedom?

When thousands of protesters in Iran stand up for freedom and democracy and some get slaughtered in the streets, Obama won't pick sides lest he be seen as "meddling".

Yet when the democratically-elected government of Honduras acts in defense of their Constitution and ousts a dictator from the Presidency, Obama comes out in full support of the dictator and accuses the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court of staging an illegal coup.

How is the arrest of a dictator who attempted to violate the Constitution and usurp the authority of the citizens and Congress a "coup"? How is it "meddling" to support people who are fighting and dying for freedom?

Why does the United States support a leftist dictator - an enemy of freedom and friend of Hugo Chavez - in Honduras, but refuses to stand against another dictator - a sworn enemy of the United States, our allies, and freedom - in Iran?

Why is nobody asking these questions of President Obama?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another climate theory debunked

Another climate change theory down the drain: Earth's 140 million-year climate cycle is not caused by the sun's passing through the spiral arms of the Milky Way. The reason for this long-term climate cycle remains a mystery.

Coincidentally, I was listening to Coast to Coast AM the other night and the guest was talking about this climate cycle and all the crazy things that will happen to us the next time the sun is aligned with the galactic center. I think he was promoting his new book. Talk about bad timing.

Frog deformities not caused by pollution or global warming after all

For years - heck, I was taught this in school - we have been led to believe that frogs are ultra-sensitive to environmental change, and that the prevalence of frogs around the world being born with deformities such as missing limbs is a sign of pending environmental catastrophe.

This claim has now been found to be totally bogus. From the BBC:

The deformed frogs are actually victims of the predatory habits of dragonfly nymphs, which eat the legs of tadpoles.

So, is there an environmental catastrophe looming around the corner? If you think so, you need evidence, and the list of evidence that conforms to this assertion is growing smaller by the day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A new phase of ice

From the physics arXiv blog: scientists have discovered "ice XV". Well, at least it's not "ice-nine"...

Statistics reveal high likelihood of fraud in Iran election

At New Scientist, an article on a statistical analysis of the Iranian presidential election. It turns out that initial reports of fraud -- i.e. that Ahmadinejad's numbers remained almost constant as the vote was counted -- don't stand up to statistical muster. In fact, such consistency is the statistically likely result given the way the votes were counted.

However, there is much more interesting and convincing statistical evidence of fraud in the election. Opposition candidate Karroubi's numbers violate Benford's Law, which states that for numbers in real-life data, the leading digit follows a specific pattern. For example, the leading digit is 1 about one third of the time. Numbers from three of the other candidates follow Benford's law, but Karroubi has an unexpectedly large number of vote counts beginning with 7. The likelihood of this happening in fair data is only 0.7%, indicating that Karroubi's numbers were tampered with.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

At the EPA, science takes a back seat to political agendas

Michelle Malkin points out the farce that is "climate change" research at the EPA:
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has obtained internal EPA e-mails that show the agency willfully and recklessly disregarded scientific data that undermined the bureaucracy’s global warming zealotry.
This information is especially relevant as Congress rushes to pass the cap-and-trade nightmare on Friday.
This is a common occurrence in the scientific community: research findings that could jeopardize future funding or objectives are suppressed, either passively or actively. For example, if the government is giving out billions in research grants to study the effects of global warming, it's a sure bet that researchers who want to receive those grants will not publish works contradicting current global warming theory. In this way certain research findings or scientific opinions are passively suppressed.

Even worse, if an agency has direct political interest in the outcome of research studies -- for example findings which could be used as justification to give EPA administrators additional regulatory powers -- contrary research findings may be actively suppressed. This is what's been going on at the EPA with regards to climate change, as these internal emails reveal.

Update: The story reaches the Washington Examiner.

Why is electronic record-keeping practiced everywhere except in health care?

At Technology Review (via Instapundit), Andy Kessler discusses the medical industry's vested interest in inefficiency. Kessler points out that just about every other industry has switched to electronic records without the need for government involvement, but the medical industry has not. The question is why?

Conservatives tend to drone on about patient privacy, but I don't think that's a real issue. For example, I don't wake up every day worrying that the mountains of private data credit card companies have on me will somehow lead to a violation of my privacy.

Kessler partially identifies the true reason we don't already have electronic medical records: such records would expose the massive number of medically unnecessary tests, procedures, treatments, and outright fraud that goes on every day at our nation's hospitals. As Kessler puts it:
In those medical records lie the ugly truth about the business of medicine: sickness is profitable. The greater the number of treatments, procedures, and hospital stays, the larger the profit. There is little incentive for doctors and hospitals to identify or reduce wasteful spending in medicine.
However, Kessler misses the underlying truth, the driving force that makes this fraud possible and sustainable. Every industry has a profit incentive to get its customers to pay for unnecessary things. The reason other industries can't sustain that practice is simple: basic free-market forces. In other industries, consumers make purchases with their own money, and therefore they make choices based on cost.

Here's an analogy:

If two contractors can do an equally-good job repairing my roof, but Contractor A can do it at half the cost, and Contractor B tells me I also need to repair my chimney but Contractor A says that's a bunch of hooey - I'll go with Contractor A because I'll save money and I won't pay for unnecessary work.

However, if somebody else - say, an insurance company, or the government - comes along and tells me that they'll pay for all the roof work a contractor says needs to be done, all of a sudden the reasons I had to choose Contractor A disappear. I'll go with Contractor B, because I don't care how much it costs anymore - the money's not coming out of my pocket - and who cares if the chimney really needs fixing, I might as well get it done anyway because someone else is paying for it.

The lack of free-market competition - consumers making individual choices about where to spend their own money - is the disease that has allowed the medical industry to grow out-of-control with bloat, inefficiency, and fraud. The lack of electronic records is just a symptom of that. Forcing electronic records upon the industry is probably a good thing overall, but it will do nothing to cure the disease, and our health care woes will continue.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama botches science, makes Bush look like a Ph.D.

Via Gateway Pundit, Obama talking about his cap-and-trade proposal:

PRES. OBAMA: “At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air we breathe.” (President Obama, Press Conference, Washington, D.C., 6/23/09)
I suppose he's referring to all our carbonated beverages that are "contaminated" by this "dangerous" CO2, and that our own lungs are a grave health risk for exposing us to this CO2 "pollution" as we breathe.

If Bush had said this, the media would say he's distorting science for his own political agenda. It's far worse than "nucular", the simple mispronunciation interpreted by liberals as a sign that Bush was an idiot. What do you think are the odds that they'll make similar remarks about Obama for his blatant display of scientific ignorance?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

NASA Jupiter DIRECT vs. ARES: a no-brainer for the USA, but a no-go for USA politicians

NASA "rebels" Jupiter DIRECT system is safer, would cost $8b to develop, vs $35b for ARES, would lower cost-to-orbit from $32k/kg to $5k/kg, and can be built sooner, with existing technology. Also, the space station would have cost $1b to build with DIRECT, versus $100b with the Space Shuttle. Will we go with DIRECT? Probably not - it's less "politically viable". Thanks, Congress!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Health Care Reform: The Symptom

"Treat the disease, not the symptom" is good advice for solving any problem, but it's especially pertinent when applied to Health Care Reform. One of the first things I learned in engineering school was the art of problem solving. Step one of solving a problem is to identify the problem, and this is often more difficult than it sounds. What is the problem we face with health care in America? It's not the quality of the health care we receive: various surveys show that between 70-85% of Americans - including those without health insurance - are happy with the quality of their health care. The symptom is that we have millions of uninsured - but that's not the problem either, it's a symptom of the problem. I'll get to the problem in a following post, but first let's examine this symptom in more detail.

The US Census Bureau has a widely-cited statistic. There are 47 million uninsured or underinsured individuals in America. That number includes millions of illegal immigrants, but that's beside the point. 47 million is 15% of the population, so 85% of the population has full health coverage. To further define the symptom, let's examine that number - 47 million - in greater detail. The same US Census Bureau statistics found the following - and these statistics are never cited by proponents of health care reform:

- 38% of those 47 million people have income over $50,000.

- 20% have income over $75,000

- 75% of those 47 million people become fully insured within 1 year of becoming uninsured.

- 44% become fully insured within 4 months of being uninsured.

Those last two points are the most important. They signify the truth about the symptom: there are 47 million uninsured in America at any given moment in time, but it is a rotating group of people: 75% get insured a short time later. While it's not ideal to go without health insurance for several months, it is by no means a huge problem that requires a drastic solution. In truth, there are only 11 million people in America who fall through the gap between our current government programs (medicare and medicaid) and the private system to become "permanently uninsured". That is 3.6% of the U.S. population.

Let me reiterate, the symptom is this: 3.6% of the U.S. population falls through the gap between private insurance and our existing government programs. Three-point-six percent - and some fraction of those simply don't want health insurance.

People fall through the gap for a variety of reasons, but the most common is that their income is too high to qualify for medicare or medicaid, and private health insurance is too expensive for them or denied completely because they have pre-existing conditions that make them too great a risk to insure.

At the same time, a far less serious symptom is that 12% of the American population is temporarily uninsured at any given time. Again this can happen for a variety of reasons: getting laid off from the employer that was providing you with health coverage, falling on tough financial times and not being able to afford an individual plan, turning 25 and no longer being covered by your parents' insurance, or moving to a new state where your old insurance company doesn't operate (that happened to me) and taking some time to find a new one. While any of these is an unfortunate situation to be in, they are hardly catastrophic, because the odds of one requiring major medical care during the few months of being uninsured is very low - and the fact that all the people within this category become insured within a year implies that they made it through without ill effect.

Now we have identified the seriousness symptom. If we were to just treat the symptom (ignoring the underlying disease), what would be the logical course of action? Find a way to provide health insurance to the 3.6% of the population that is permanently uninsured, and if we want to go further, find a way to provide temporary - for a duration of less than 1 year - insurance for the 12% that is temporarily uninsured.

Do you think an appropriate treatment for this symptom would be the dismantling of the private insurance system that provides the highest-quality health care in the world to 96.4% of the American population, the creation of a multi-trillion-dollar government-run program, and the other various ideas proposed by Obama and the Democrats? Or do you think that is overkill and even totally off-target, like performing open-heart surgery (which might kill the patient) to fix a broken leg?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kill the Stimulus

Rasmussen: 45% of Americans favor canceling the rest of the Stimulus spending (36% oppose). Maybe they've seen this graph.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


For anyone who doesn't think the "Stimulus Bill" was a scam, look at this figure. The blue lines are from the graph Obama used to sell the Stimulus. The red dots are the actual numbers. (from Gateway Pundit)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Income Tax vs. The FairTax: Part 1

This post is Part 1 of a 2-part series on the FairTax. This part describes the terrible and unjust history of the income tax in America. Part 2 will describe one of the most popular political movements today: the moment to return power to the American people, to end the deceptive, economy-crushing and corruption-ridden income tax system and replace it with a single, simple, progressive, and fair tax: the FairTax.

I am writing this on a plane, from memory, so bear with me if I get some dates or facts wrong (I will welcome any corrections).

Let me begin by giving a brief history of the income tax in America, in order to demonstrate the unjust scam it has been since its inception. Our nation survived for 120 years without an income tax. In fact, the few times it had been proposed during those years, the idea was overwhelmingly shot down as unconstitutional. It wasn't until 1909 that the idea was given serious consideration. Congress needed to raise money for war spending, and rather than place an undue burden on the American people through its usual revenue streams, some in Congress preferred an alternative – a tax on income. As usual, the income tax was denounced as unconstitutional, and in order to quell the idea, Republicans in Congress demanded that the Constitution be amended before such a law could be considered. The Republicans assumed of course that the stronger consent required for a Constitutional Amendment would never be achieved, and the income tax proposal would die. Their error was underestimating the propensity of progressive politicians to unabashedly lie to the American public when presented with an opportunity to expand their own power.

Progressives in Congress launched a campaign for the income tax amendment. They promised, swore in fact, that the income tax would only be a temporary measure used for the sole purpose of raising war funds, that it would only be levied on the top 1% of income earners, and that the tax rate would be kept at 3%, so low as to have no perceivable effect on the economy. On the backs of these promises, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, followed shortly by the income tax law, and the slow decline of our nation began.

Of course the income tax did not go away with the end of World War I. The tax rate increased year-by-year, and it was levied on an ever-increasing proportion of the American population. As Congress became accustomed to its newfound power of taxing income, it allowed other revenue streams to fall to the wayside, and soon the federal government became entirely dependent on the income tax for its operation. However, at least some of the spirit of Congress' initial promises was maintained. At least the income tax was only used for the constitutional purpose of raising revenue. It wasn't until the 1930's and FDR that the income tax was co-opted for another, unconstitutional purpose: to redistribute wealth from those who earned it to those who did not.

Despite the lies and deception that led to the income tax, and despite its steady descent into a realm of use that would have the Founding Fathers rolling in their graves (or raising arms for another Revolution), at least the income tax remained transparent. Individuals knew the exact quantity of money they were paying in taxes, because they were required to write a check to the federal government for the amount of taxes owed on a regular basis.

But this last vestige of freedom could not last forever. Congress decided to tax not only individuals, but businesses and corporations as well. This grand deception may require some explanation.

Despite what we learn in high-school economics classes (if we even take them) – that corporations are legal entities like individuals – corporations hold no wealth. It is a fact that all wealth in America is owned by individuals. Corporate bank accounts are simply place-holders, because corporations are owned by individuals – namely the shareholders. So if all wealth is owned by individuals, who pays the taxes that are levied on corporations? This is a complex question, but it boils down to three main possibilities. A corporation's taxes are paid by a combination of the consumers/customers, the employees, and the shareholders of the corporation. In the most basic sense, all the money corporations pay in taxes come from the American consumer – the people who buy that corporation's products. In this sense, the cost of the taxes paid by a corporation are rolled into the price of their products.

Given this new tool – the corporate income tax – Congress was now able to raise taxes on the American people without their knowledge. Instead of raising the tax rate on individuals, Congress can deceive the public by raising taxes on corporations, and the American people falsely believe that they are not the ones paying those taxes. In fact, a team of expert economists would find it nearly impossible to calculate the actual amount of federal taxes any individual is paying today.

There is one last major deception I must describe, and that is the scam of federal income tax withholding. First let me explain what the income tax withholding and tax refund system is. It is the power of the federal government to borrow money from every American individual, at a 0% interest rate, and then repay those loans – again with no interest – a year later. Every working American is forced under penalty of law to lend money to the government (usually in hundreds or thousands of dollars), and then accept repayment with no interest under the deceptive name of a “tax refund”. This of course has the desired effect: Americans no longer feel the punch in the wallet of the taxes they are paying, because the amount is automatically and seamlessly deducted from their paychecks. Under this system, most Americans have no idea how much income tax they are paying each week, because they no longer have to physically write the checks, and they are actually happy and grateful when the government gives them their “tax refund” every year! What a scam!

How did the American people ever agree to such a terrible deal? In typical fashion: they were blatantly deceived by Congress. Congress marketed the income tax withholding bill a “Tax Forgiveness” bill. The “Tax Forgiveness” bill did two things: it forgave income taxes for the year it was passed – meaning in 1943, Americans paid no income taxes for what they owed the previous year – and it implemented the income tax withholding system for that year. Congress bribed the American people, and it worked. But wait, what did Congress do the following year? They increased the tax rate, so everyone repaid their “forgiven” taxes and then some. In the end, Americans got nothing out of the deal, except screwed, as we continue to be screwed to this day.

In Part 2 I will describe the problems, complexity, corruption, and negative economic impact of our income tax system, and contrast it with the FairTax – a simplified and fair system that will include the largest transfer of power from the government to the people since the American Revolution, and will indeed revolutionize our modern economy and insure our future prosperity against the burden of our ever-growing government.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The fundamentals of conservatism

The difference between liberalism and conservatism is not one of specific policy choices. It's a difference in fundamental philosophy, and unfortunately, many people who in their hearts and minds should be on our side don't have any idea what conservatism really is.

Conservatism is logical and based on a core set of fundamental principles. These principles are individual liberty, personal responsibility, real human rights, and freedom from an overbearing government. These principles are the philosophy of the great political minds that founded our country, and they are enshrined in our founding documents. They are based on natural law, on human nature, and on a sound understanding of economics and history. These principles are universal and do not waver with the tide of public sentiment. This is where the term “conservative” comes from. In all our decisions, we strive to conserve a government and a society based on freedom and our founding principles.

Conservatives recognize that the problems we face today – health care, the economic crisis, education, poverty, immigration – these are not separate issues. They are all connected. Our solutions to each of these problems are derived from our core principles, and in every case, we will show how these problems were directly caused by, or made horribly worse by the abandonment of those principles.

Democrats accuse us of being “pro-corporate” because we are pro-free-market. Well I've got news for you: corporations hate the free market. Why would any corporation want more competition? Free markets are not pro-corporate; they are pro-consumer. Conservatives stand against laissez-faire capitalism, which is the destroyer of free markets and as much an opposite to freedom as Communism is.

Democrats accuse us of being “pro-deregulation”. Saying you're for or against regulation is like saying you're for or against laws. It's ridiculous. Regulations aren't inherently good or bad, they're just a tool. There are two kinds of regulations. There are regulations that prevent activities that would make the market less free, and these are good. Without these regulations, free markets descend into corporate monopolies that are “too big to fail” and the consumers become their slaves, and we are seeing this today. Then there are regulations that in themselves make the market less free, and these are bad. These regulations skew the market, force activities that consume rather than create wealth, and lead to single-sector bubbles that cause tremendous damage when they inevitably collapse, as we are seeing today as well.

Democrats accuse us of wanting to make the rich richer, at the expense of everyone else. This is insane. Nobody thinks the rich need more money. But how do you start a business and create jobs? You need money, in the form of investments. The wealthy invest their money, and it is investment that makes everything else possible. There's no chicken or the egg here: with the economy, everything begins with investment. Conservative policies aren't designed to make the rich richer, they're designed to get people to invest their money. And by the way, there's another term for investment. It's “voluntary wealth redistribution”.

In closing, our goal is to convince you not only that our policy decisions are right, but that our conservative principles are right. That's exactly what our founding fathers did when they created this great nation, and it's what we must do now to save it.