Congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory

I meant to post this yesterday, but time got away from me:  many, many, many congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory.  I never doubted that they would win, but I certainly understood that each Marine and Afghan soldier faced the risk that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for that victory.

Naturally, the Times, rather than celebrating a great military feat, is already trying to set up new (and in Times-land, almost certainly insurmountable) hurdles for our troops.  I have no doubt that our troops will do just fine.

For a reminder about what out-of-control, murderous troops really look like, read this story of the way in which Soviet soldiers raped the women who found themselves in the soldiers’ path during WWII.  There are no, and I mean no, stories like that about our American troops, whether one is looking at WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan.  (Indeed, I bet I could say the same for American troops going back to the Revolutionary War.)  Sure, there are always renegade men who go off and do bad things, but these same men appear periodically in our cities and towns too.  Bad guys exist, but American troops have proven definitively that they are part of a good institution, one that does not use rape as a weapon.

Drifting a little further afield, the fact that American men are not rapists even when they have the power of the military behind them, is also a useful reminder about what a misanthropic religion Islam is.  (And no, I didn’t get confused and substitute misanthropic for misogynistic.)  While it’s certainly true that one of Islam’s most glaring deficiencies is its desperate desire to subjugate women out of fear of their sexuality, it’s quite obvious that the Islamists hide from feminine sexuality because they believe men to be inherently weak.  In the Islamic world, the theory goes, any man, upon seeing a woman, will be incapable of refraining from raping her.  That is a scathing indictment of men.

In stark contrast, American men are civilized creatures.  Sure, they might leave the toilet seats up, scratch their crotches in public, and belch at inappropriate times, but when push comes to shove, they are models of self-control.

So, in thinking it through, congratulations are due to our Marines, not only for being great warriors, but also for being great human beings.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

One of the minds behind NPR — argumentum ad ignorantiam

Some months ago, I read and enjoyed Michael Sragow’s fine Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master. It’s clear from the book that, as a director, Fleming was the last of a dying breed — a gentleman in Hollywood and, of course, a truly great director, responsible for such classics as Red Dust, Gone With the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz.

What I also read and enjoyed very much this morning was Sragow’s description of his run-in with NPR (appearing as part of a larger article about Fleming’s ability to avoid the limelight, even as his stars and his movies shown ever brighter):

OVER a year ago a producer for National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” interviewed me about whether my book, “Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master,” would be worth the host Terry Gross’s time. The result was a mildly farcical call and response. Fleming, I said, molded as many great stars as any director in Hollywood, including Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland and Jean Harlow. The producer responded, “Then why haven’t I heard of him?” I explained that he was not a self-promoter, hired no publicist and left no diaries or journals. But he did direct pictures that defined movies for generations of Americans, smash hits like “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Captains Courageous” and “A Guy Named Joe.”

The producer repeated, “Then why haven’t I heard of him?” I added that he died young, at 59, in 1949. Not only that, his best director friends, Howard Hawks and King Vidor, and respected colleagues, like David O. Selznick, outlived him and later took much of the credit for his work.

Again the producer asked, “Then why haven’t I heard of him?”

I said that’s why I wrote the book.

The problem wasn’t simply the producer’s argumentum ad ignorantiam.  It’s also the persistence of conventional wisdom.

NPR — paid for in significant part by taxpayers, ardently liberal in its outlook, and guided by idiots.

Will you all join me in remembering this wonderful phrase — argumentum ad ignorantiam — the next time you read the newspaper or listen to a TV show?

Does algore have any tone other than hysterical?

I truly intended to fisk algore’s op-ed at the New York Times, in which he explains why global warming is still so important that the world should continue its task of turning him into the first green-based billionaire.  I was foiled, however, by the fact that I couldn’t step giggling as I read his hysterical hyperbole.  I mean, really, just look at this opening paragraph (italicized emphasis mine, although I’m sure algore heard that shrill emphasis in his own head as he wrote):

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.

The hysteria continues unabated in subsequent paragraphs:

Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil.

[snip]

We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands.

[snip]

But unfortunately, the reality of the danger we are courting has not been changed by the discovery of at least two mistakes in the thousands of pages of careful scientific work over the last 22 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer.

And so it goes, with one overwrought opining after another.  What’s incredibly funny, though, is algore’s attempt to defuse the collapsing science.  Taking it like a man, he admits that there are just a few problems:

It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.

But fear not, fair climate panic maidens — mistakes happen.  Fortunately for those whose life’s goal is to line algore’s pockets, consensus still exists notwithstanding these “little” mistakes completely undermining the AGW theory.  Read what algore writes carefully.  He offers no science to support AGW despite the mistakes.  Instead, he simply assures us that there is consensus and, to justify his assurance, reiterates, boot-strap style his existing, and increasingly discredited, theories:

But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.

[snip]

Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.

I don’t know about you, but it seems tacky that algore ignores the icky little fact that earth’s climate has changed constantly for the past, oh, about 3 billion years.  Or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that an incredibly wooden guy has a hard time comprehending a fluid situation.  (And yes, that’s a nasty, ad hominem attack on my part, but there’s no getting past the fact that, when you think algore, you don’t think of a flexible mind).

Suspecting that the ordinary American, after the past couple of years of cold winters and cooling global temperatures, might be inclined to discount his ravings, algore assures us that you should definitely discount the information of your own eyes and senses, not to mention all those newspaper articles you’ve been reading:

Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.

Algore’s reasoning, which seems to say that actual weather proves nothing, should come as a surprise to everyone who has noticed that, no matter the weather — heat, cold, snow, ice, sun, hurricane, even earthquakes — we are constantly assured that everything results from AGW.  So contrary to algore’s statement, one can apparently tell what’s going on just by looking out the window, as long as one always attributes what one sees to anthropogenic global warming.

If you feel the yen to giggle and be dismayed periodically, please take the time to read algore’s hysterical diatribe refuting collapsing science with algore-approved conclusions.  As for me, I’m simply grateful that the whole edifice is collapsing.  As the earth’s stewards, it is our responsibility, and it works to our benefit, to keep our environment as clean and beautiful as possible.  Doing so, however, does not require mass wealth transfer to algore and other Third World Nations (that word “other” is deliberate there), it does not involve upending our economy and lifestyle, and it does not require destroying our national security needs.  Instead, it simply requires us to use our American ingenuity to make things better, rather than to use our algore induced paranoia to make things insane.

The common bonds between Iraniah Mullahs and the Democrats *UPDATED*

Several years ago, when Bush Derangement Syndrome was at its peak, I tackled the “he’s got his finger on the button and he’s going to blow up the world” meme that anti-war activists were so shrilly screaming.  I pointed out that there was no evidence whatsoever to indicate that George Bush was an apocalyptic person.  Indeed, every indication was that he was someone who fought reluctantly and defensively only — that is, he wanted to protect America from destruction at the hands of another.  That his information was wrong, that the threat from Iraq was something of a Potemkin threat, with Hussein blustering about his capabilities to elevate his profile, doesn’t take away from the fact that Bush engaged with Iraq, not to destroy Iraq, but because he believed America was at imminent risk from Iraq’s destructive capabilities.  (Incidentally, I believe that much of Iraq’s arsenal, whether it rose to the level of WMDs or not, is currently sitting comfortably in Syria, except for the bit that Israel destroyed in 2007.)

How different are the Mullahs.  Western pragmatists (including Leftists in deep denial about the nature of Apocalyptic Shia Islam) believe that Iran is merely bloviating for effect when it constantly insists that Israel will be reduced to ashes.  They believe that Iran is merely trying to gain regional stature by creating functional nuclear weapons.  After all, they say, Iran knows that, if it launches a nuclear bomb at Israel, two things will happen:  First, Israel’s last act before its own destruction will be to destroy Iran (assuming Israel has that long-range nuclear capability itself).  Second, Iran will become a pariah among nations for committing this genocidal act, which will lead to the downfall of the Mullahs and the end of their dreams.  As for this last, considering the rampant antisemitism on the rise around the world, considering the region in which Iran is located, and, right now, considering the man in the White House, I don’t believe that for a minute.  Iran will get her hand politely slapped at the UN, and the world will continue as usual, minus a few million Jews.

The last argument in the pragmatists’ quiver is that, even if Israel can’t destroy Iran, and even if Iran doesn’t become a pariah nation, Iran will not drop the bomb because, if she does, as many Muslims will die as will Jews.  After all, not only does Israel have a huge Arab population, it is surrounded by Muslims — in the West Bank, in Gaza, in Egypt, in Jordan, in Lebanon.  Nuclear bombs have fallout, and many millions of Muslims will die along with the hated Jews.

And that’s where the pragmatists show themselves to be ignoramuses.  They actually believe that the Mullahs care whether Muslims, Iranian or otherwise, die.  The Mullahs don’t.  Their Shia religion is an apocalyptic one, and one that doesn’t care whether man or God ignites the maelstrom that brings about the returning of the missing imam and the end of days.  In that, their apocalyptic fervor is quite different from the Christian belief in an apocalypse.  As I understand it, the latter predicts the Apocalypse’s ultimate arrival, but does not believe that man is the instrument that will bring it about.  God will, when he wills.

For the Mullahs, then, there’s a distinct virtue in simultaneously wiping God’s enemies (Jews and the hated State of Israel) off the earth and in simultaneously bringing about the end of days.  That the latter might involve the deaths of millions, including Iran’s own citizens, is completely irrelevant.  The goal matters, and the collateral damage just has to be accepted as part of that greater good.

I promised in the title of this post that I would compare Mullahs and Democrats.  I will or, rather, Andy McCarthy will explain that the Democrats, too, do not care about self-immolation if it will lead to their own apocalyptic vision, which is the destruction of America’s evil capitalist, individualist system, and the emergence, like a phoenix from the ashes, of a socialist promised land.  Any pragmatist Republican fantasies that Democrats will retreat in the face of failing poll numbers are just that — fantasies:

I think our side is analyzing this all wrong: Today’s Democrats are controlled by the radical Left, and it is more important to them to execute the permanent transformation of American society than it is to win the upcoming election cycles. They have already factored in losing in November — even losing big. For them, winning big now outweighs that. I think they’re right.

I hear Republicans getting giddy over the fact that “reconciliation,” if it comes to that, is a huge political loser. That’s the wrong way to look at it. The Democratic leadership has already internalized the inevitablility of taking its political lumps. That makes reconciliation truly scary. Since the Dems know they will have to ram this monstrosity through, they figure it might as well be as monstrous as they can get wavering Democrats to go along with. Clipping the leadership’s statist ambitions in order to peel off a few Republicans is not going to work. I’m glad Republicans have held firm, but let’s not be under any illusions about what that means. In the Democrat leadership, we are not dealing with conventional politicians for whom the goal of being reelected is paramount and will rein in their radicalism. They want socialized medicine and all it entails about government control even more than they want to win elections. After all, if the party of government transforms the relationship between the citizen and the state, its power over our lives will be vast even in those cycles when it is not in the majority. This is about power, and there is more to power than winning elections, especially if you’ve calculated that your opposition does not have the gumption to dismantle your ballooning welfare state.

Nor is there any consolation to be had in a Republican sweep in November.  Even if the Republicans grab the majority in both houses, they will not be able to pass veto-proof bills undoing the reconciliation damage heading down the political path.  Obama, after all, is every bit as interested in transformation as the rest of the current crop of Democrats and will willingly sacrifice himself by vetoing bills aimed at undoing a government takeover of 1/6 of the American economy.

Democrats are political martyrs, willing to die for the cause.  This willingness explains Obama’s silly double-talk, where he urges compromise on the one hand and, on the other hand, says his way or the reconciliation highway.

And really, when you think about it, the martyrdom here is minimal.  No actual crucifixion, no arrows, no flayings, no nuclear annihilation.  Instead, you pack your bags, board a plane, and head off into the sunset of six figure speaking gigs, corporate jobs, and endless media adulation.  That is, until the whole system implodes and the true anarchy begins.

Cross-p0sted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  From Andy McCarthy’s savvy predictions to Nancy Pelosi’s small brain and loud mouth:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her colleagues to back a major overhaul of U.S. health care even if it threatens their political careers, a call to arms that underscores the issue’s massive role in this election year.

Lawmakers sometimes must enact policies that, even if unpopular at the moment, will help the public, Pelosi said in an interview being broadcast Sunday the ABC News program “This Week.”
“We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress,” she said. “We’re here to do the job for the American people.”

[snip]

Her comments to ABC, in the interview released Sunday, seemed to acknowledge the widely held view that Democrats will lose House seats this fall — maybe a lot. They now control the chamber 255 to 178, with two vacancies. Pelosi stopped well short of suggesting Democrats could lose their majority, but she called on members of her party to make a bold move on health care with no prospects of GOP help.

“Time is up,” she said. “We really have to go forth.”

Her comments somewhat echoed those of President Obama, who said at the end of last week’s bipartisan health care summit that Congress should act on the issue and let voters render their verdicts. “That’s what elections are for,” he said.

An even better Slim Whitman recording of “I remember you”

This is a more mature Slim, singing “I Remember You” at a slower, richer pace than in the last video I posted of the same singer, same song, with an absolutely stunned Andy Kaufman (at 1:25) drinking in the beauty of Slim’s performance:

And here’s the original recording, from The Fleet’s In, with Dorothy Lamour (and, in a non-musical role, an uncomfortable, but sweet, Bill Holden), 1942:

Liberal euphoria over this report assumes that very high intelligence is actually something useful and boastworthy *UPDATED*

I can say without exaggeration that I’m a pretty smart person.  Not brilliant, but definitely a long-tail on that part of the bell curve dedicated to higher IQs.  I used to think this mattered tremendously.  The older I get, though, the less impressed I am by my own intelligence or by anyone else’s.  What’s become clear to me is that what matters is a person’s functionality, not his smarts.

I’d actually started to figure this out during my Junior High and High School Years.  One of my classmates was a girl named Trixie.  When it came to native smarts, I could run rings around her.  Except that, when it came to grades, I didn’t.  Trixie had something I lacked — self-discipline.  While I procrastinated wildly as to every project that came my way, Trixie buckled down and got to work.  Her brains may not have been quite as up to snuff as mine, but her values outstripped me so much that brains became irrelevant.  (She was also an extremely nice person, much nicer than I was, for what that’s worth.)

I shouldn’t have been so surprised by Trixie, because my own family history revealed the same pattern.  My Uncle was a bona fide genius.  The Jewish Gymnasium in Berlin, which was probably one of the best schools in early 20th Century Germany (which also means one of the best schools in the world) characterized him as one of the most brilliant students they’d ever had.  He was also a Communist and a general malcontent.  Not only did he not make anything with his life (which could be attributed to the dislocation of WWII), he was an active failure in his own life.  He was going to show the world how great Communism was by failing.  He may have been smart, but he was self-destructive.

My Mom describes him and his wife living in Denmark, in a squalid one-room apartment, which was all they could afford on his salary as a very low-level civil servant.  Her most vivid memory is the fact that, when they had runny noses, they’d blow their noses into their hands, and then wipe the results on the wall.  I shudder even to think of it.  So much for genius….

Certainly we need our brilliant people, the Einsteins and Pasteurs and Bill Gates, but they are often people of limited functionality, some of whom are as self-destructive as they are constructive.  It’s in the great middle that our strength lies — people who can balance functional intelligence, native good sense, and solid morals.

All of which explains why I’m totally unimpressed by a study purporting to show that liberals are smarter than conservatives.  Even if it’s true, that’s not necessarily something to boast about.

UPDATE:  When you get to 3:30 in this brilliant Andrew Klavan video, you’ll understand why it’s a perfect coda to this post:

The British attempt their own Tea Party

The British, who represent what America will be in 20 years if Obama-stuff continues unchecked, are being offered a way out.  Daniel Hannan, the brilliant British conservative speaker, is hosting a Tea Party.  Here are details.  So far, fewer than 100 people are scheduled to show but that doesn’t mean more won’t show, nor does it mean that this isn’t a decent start.  The real question is whether Brits have been so propagandized that they are incapable of political self-defense, or whether their still lurks in their hearts the lust for independence that made them the freest nation in the world before America came along to usurp that position.

And to those who do attend, my favorite inspiring video for the impact just a small group can have (starting at 2:30):

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for the SEIU and other unions? *UPDATED*

There are some things that seem immutable, right until a collapse that, in 20/20 hindsight, seemed inevitable.  Just think of the Iranian Revolution, the Fall of the Berlin wall and . . . the SEIU?

For some time, the Service Employees International Union has appeared to be a permanent fixture on the political and economic scene.  With a friend in the White House, friends in Congress, and aggressive purple-shirted adherents fanned out all over the nation, how could one believe that it was anything but a locust plague lasting in perpetuity.  It had POWER.

But a funny thing is happening.  While the SEIU may have POWER, it isn’t doing it’s actual job, which is to represent workers.  Otherwise, how to explain the fact that government workers in Marin County, one of the bluest of blue spots in America, are dumping the SEIU (emphasis mine):

County of Marin public employees dissatisfied with representation by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have petitioned to replace it with their own locally controlled union, the Marin Association of Public Employees.SEIU represents more than 1,500 of the county of Marin’s total 2,100 employees. The Marin Association of Public Employees represented county workers and the employees of a number of other local municipalities and public agencies for years before joining SEIU, which has 2.2 million members, in 1983.

In January, a petition requesting the decertification of SEIU was submitted to the county. Maya Gladstern, a systems support analyst with the county who is helping to coordinate the campaign for the association, said at least 30 percent of county workers have signed the petition, the minimum required for decertification.

“It’s a way of giving the employees of Marin more and better representation,” Gladstern said.

[snip]

Gladstern said most of the complaints about SEIU stem from the union’s decision, three years ago, to merge many of its smaller local unions in California into four large locals.

“So we lost our small local,” Gladstern said. She said the union lost its permanent office, its executive director, three union representatives and an administrative aide.

“We went from having a local office where we could meet in private to meeting in the county cafeteria,” Gladstern said.

Gladstern said the union’s strike fund, which amounted to about $80,000 to $100,000, has been absorbed by SEIU, and the Marin employees are likely to see an increase in their union dues from 1.2 percent of their salary to 1.75 percent.

(Read more about the SEIU in Marin here.)

Of this last, emphasized, paragraph, my friend Steve Schippert has this to say:

Where I come from, that’s called stolen. Small union shop decides to roll on with the big boys, who can surely twist more arms and harder to get the workers more. When the Big Dogs end up taking from the workers (their offices, their local leadership and staff in order to do what all statist union leaders seek – central control), said workers decide that the Big Dogs were predators. And realize that they took their strike funds “for the better service to the whole” of course, and won’t be giving the money back.

Because, you see, it’s not about the workers. It’s about the Union and the top of its food chain. If it were about the workers, the strike funds garnered from those who paid into it would stay with those from whom it was extracted.

But it ain’t about them. Is it?

Any questions?

In many ways, you can change the names and nouns and this describes quite presciently what the beloved Health Care process will be like. There just won’t be any “petitioning” to replace the new Big Dog bosses.

When asked why I don’t teach in a public school and take summers off, my answer is a principled and monetarily costly, “I do not do unions.” I will die broke, in debt and hungry first. All on my own.

Marin’s county workers aren’t alone when it comes to feeling disaffected by the union’s loyalty to them.  With the recession, one of the things that is becoming patently clear to American workers is that unions really only have one constituency:  union management.  For both workers and employers, unions are simply an economic drain.  Certainly the numbers point to growing disgust with the whole institution:

Unions are losing the public-relations battle. A survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that public approval of labor unions has declined significantly during the last three years.

Positive attitudes toward unions have fallen in most demographic groups. Forty-one percent of those surveyed say they have a favorable view of labor unions, while nearly the same amount has an unfavorable view at 42 percent. The results are a 17-percent decline from the last poll taken in January 2007, when a majority of people (58 percent) had a good view of unions while 31 percent thought otherwise. (The findings reinforce a 2009 Gallup poll that said only 48 percent of Americans approve of labor unions—an all-time low since 1936.)

I certainly see that disaffection in my community and, for most people, it revolves around a single source:  schools.  All the lovely, liberal people where I live are discovering that the teacher’s union has a profound effect on their children’s education.  And somehow, liberalism flies out the door when one’s own children are the sacrificial lambs at the altar of liberal ideology.

I’m seeing that play out very clearly with one of the teachers at my son’s school.  This person is a cancer, loathed equally by parents and students.  The teacher is lazy, inept, vicious, erratic, and just about everything else you can think of that makes a teacher hateful and ineffective.  I’ve complained repeatedly to the administration and been told in carefully coded language that there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this teacher.  Thanks to union contracts, unless this teacher murders a student or praises Republicans, it’s a lifetime sinecure.  (And of course, one of the teacher’s sins is to advocate illegal immigration, but that’s okay….)

What’s fascinating is that, when I “innocently” ask those parents who rail about the teacher why the teacher is still there, I get a two word answer:  “The union.”  They understand that there is an institution standing there between their child and a quality education and, damn, if they don’t resent it.  They’ll still speak lovingly of unions in meat-packing plants in Arkansas, but they’re getting pretty sick of what’s going on in the school district in their own back yard.

I’m not unaware of the fact that unions have their place — perhaps only in history, but it’s still a place.  At the turn of the last century, the employers’ ability to exploit their workers was an overwhelmingly negative force, and one that needed to be countered.  But we’re not living in 1890 or 1910.  Instead we’re living in 2010 and unions, rather than defending illiterate, helpless employees against grasping employers, are themselves a corrupt and grasping group, destroying industries, rendering government bloated and ineffective (except where it’s dangerously intrusive and overwhelming), and generally acting as a significant drag on a moribund economy.

UPDATE:  Shortly after I wrote the above, I learned that Obama has appointed SEIU head Andy Stern to his debt panel.  While it is a reminder of how closely tied our president is to a corrupt organization, it doesn’t change my point.  Even if the head has a crown, can the entity survive if the body is dying off?  My post describes a dying body.  Yes, SEIU can damage America for some time to come, but I think its heyday is over.

Just a thought about rising medical costs

One of the main problems with medical costs is insurance itself.  My son had oral surgery today (tied to orthodontic stuff).  The cost was horrific.  I didn’t think about it twice.  Aside from the fact that the oral surgeon came highly recommended (and it was my son under the knife, after all), I had no incentive to look for someone cheaper or to bargain with the doctor.  My insurance will pay about 60%-80% of the cost, and the remainder is, to my mind, a reasonable fee to pay out of my own pocket for the procedure he underwent.

I learned this lesson a long time ago.  As befits someone as highly strung as I am, I’m a night-time tooth-nasher (bruxism).  Although I belonged to Kaiser when I got my first jaw guard (back in the early 1990s), Kaiser didn’t make jaw guards, so it sent me to an outside provider.

I saw this orthodontist for about 4 minutes, his staff made a mold, he sent the mold to the lab, the lab made the jaw guard, I went back to the office for a 10 minute fitting — and that was the end of it.  I paid out of pocket for the jaw guard ($250, which was a reasonable price to me in terms of ending headaches and jaw pain), and Kaiser paid the orthodontist bill, which came to $800!

Because the person working in Kaiser’s payment office, the one who cut the check, had no vested interest in the bottom line, Kaiser never went to that orthodontist and said what any direct consumer would have said:  “Are you out of your cotton picking mind?!  Are you actually charging me $800 for less than 15 minutes of your time, plus 10 minutes of your staff time?  No way am I going to pay that bill.”  As it was, Kaiser paid 100 cents on the dollar.

Just something to think about it….

As for me, between paying work and a needy son, I’ll be incommunicado today (or, I probably will be).  Hope you all have a lovely Friday, and please feel free to leave any interesting comments you like here, including your take on yesterday’s summit.

Scorching logic and hard facts from Paul Ryan

Obama is so insulated behind his compliant media and his worshipful staff, I wonder if he’s ever heard before the facts Ryan spells out so clearly here:

My favorite line:  “Hiding spending does not reduce spending.”  Brilliant core statement about the myriad flaws in the bill.  Also, he drills in on the core difference between the two parties:  whether people or government should control their access to health care.

Insurgents in blue land

Marin County — bluest of blue spots on the American political map.  And yet, just today, a friend of mine spotted the following posted anonymously on the bulletin board at a well-traveled supermarket in Sausalito:

More than 5,000 years ago, Moses said to the Children of Israel, “Pick up your shovels, mount your asses and camels, and I will lead you to the Promised Land”.

About 75 years ago, Roosevelt said “ Lay down your shovels, sit on your asses, light up your Camels, this IS this the Promised Land”.

Now Obama has stolen your shovels, taxed your asses, raised the price of Camels, and mortgaged the Promised Land.

Furthermore, I was so depressed last night, thinking about Health Care plans, the economy, the wars, lost jobs, social security, etc., I called Lifeline, the suicide help line. I got a freakin’ call center in Pakistan. I told them I was suicidal.

They were all excited. They asked if I could drive a truck.

No wonder Babs Boxer is getting nervous.

It reminds me of the plot of a bad movie

The more I hear about the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, with the ever increasing number of British passports allegedly involved, the more I wonder whether this was a Mossad led assassination, or if it’s a double blind.  You see, it strikes me as a very clumsy job, especially to think that the Mossad would compromise the passports of ordinary British citizens resident in Israel.  It seems to me more likely that some Muslim country or Muslim NGO saw an opportunity both to rid itself of someone who may have become a problem within Hamas and to smear Israel by making it look as if Israel was the culprit.  (See what I mean about the bad thriller with the surprise ending?)

What do you think?

PCUSA not only ignorant, but mercifully out of step with the American mainstream *UPDATED*

Brutally Honest brought to my attention the fact that the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) has released a statement denouncing Israel in terms that a Hamas member or Ahmadinejad could easily love:

The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) is about to release a report which denounces Israel as a “racist” nation which has absolutely no historical, covenantal, or theological right to the Holy Land. The report calls for the United States to withhold financial and military aid to Israel and for boycotts and sanctions against Israel. That’s not all. The report also endorses a Palestinian “right of return” and “apologizes to Palestinians for even conceding that Israel has a right to exist.” According to the press release, it also states that Israel’s history begins only with the Holocaust and that Israel is “a nation mistakenly created by Western powers at the expense of the Palestinian people to solve the ‘Jewish problem’.”

You can read more of PCUSA’s gibbering nonsense, along with Rick’s appropriate outrage, here.

I don’t have to inform you, my dear readers, of the many things wrong with PCUSA’s viewpoint, whether “historical,” “covenantal,” or “theological,” but I find the timing of the statement almost amusing.  You see, with exquisite ignorance and the timing that only a fool could achieve, PCUSA released that statement two days after archeologists made a major find, tying the archeological record in Israel ever closer to the Old Testament.  That would be the same Old Testament that describes a thousand years of Jewish life in Israel.  This OT record, of course, precedes a New Testament, a Roman record, a medieval European record, an Ottoman record, a British record, a League of Nations Record, a UN record, and a State of Israel record, all tying Jews to that same spot of land for another 2,500 years or so.

So about that most recent archeological find:

The greatest threat to the hopes of those who think parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up in the city, but rather when Jews start digging into the ground of East Jerusalem. Because the more the history of the city is uncovered, the less credible becomes the charge that Jews are alien colonists in what the media sometimes wrongly refer to as “traditionally Palestinian” or “Arab” Jerusalem.

That’s the upshot from the release of an amazing archeological dig conducted just outside Jerusalem’s Old City. The excavations conducted by archeologist Eilat Mazar in the Ophel area revealed a section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem. According to the press release from the Hebrew University, under whose auspices the project was carried out, the dig uncovered the wall as well as an inner gatehouse for entry into the royal quarter of the ancient city and an additional royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse as well as a corner tower. While ancient buildings are not uncommon in the city, the significance of this discovery is the fact that these edifices can be dated to the 10th century before the Common Era — the time of King Solomon, credited by the Bible for the construction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Pottery found at the lowest levels of the dig is dated to this era.

Even more telling is the fact that bullae — seal impressions — with Hebrew names were found, as well as seal impressions on jar handles inscribed with the words “to the king,” which means they were employed by the Israelite state in that time. Inscriptions on the jars, which Mazar says are the largest ever found in Jerusalem, showed them to be the property of a royal official.

Read more about this wondrous peek through time into ancient history here.

Fortunately, PCUSA’s poison, though virulent, doesn’t seem to be spreading too far or too fast when it comes to ordinary Americans and their respect for the only truly free democracy in the Middle East — and one that, like America, finds herself in the crosshairs of radical Islam.  Thus, even as the Left, including the Left appearing in the guise of faith, becomes more deeply enmeshed with purveyors of antisemitism, misogyny, anti-Christianity, and anti-Americanism, ordinary Americans are increasingly more supportive of Israel.  Indeed, according to Gallup, your neighbors and mine have reached almost new heights in their respect for this beleaguered bastion of freedom:

For the first time since 1991, more than 6 in 10 Americans — 63% — say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Fifteen percent side more with the Palestinians, down slightly from recent years, while a combined 23% favor both sides, favor neither side, or have no opinion.

You can see more data here.

Public opinion is fickle, but I think Americans’ basic goodness remains true.  Despite pressure from the media and from our American educational systems to view the Palestinians as the underdog, I think Americans are slowly beginning to see that the group that glories in washing its hands in Israeli blood, that gleefully treats its children as cannon fodder, and that stridently rejects every peace-making offer on the table, even as it loudly repeats its genocidal desires regarding its neighbors, might not be deserving of sympathy or support.

UPDATEHere’s the invaluable Phyllis Chesler on the subject.

UPDATE IIRusty’s unimpressed too, and that despite considering himself a less than rigorous Christian.  I have to agree, speaking from the Jewish perspective, I have no words for how bad PCUSA is, and what a disgrace I believe it to be to American Christianity.  It no longer represents religion; it represents Leftism and antisemitism draped in a vaguely religious mantel.

Yet another New York Times columnist proves that he is an idiot

Joseph Stack, the man who flew a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, left a long, a very long, pre-suicide/pre-murder screed identifying those issues that drove him to commit his act.  The most obvious thing about the screed is that it is the work of someone with cognitive dysfunction, most likely some form of paranoid schizophrenia.  There were no logical thought processes at work here.  The other thing obvious about his polemic was that it borrowed anger from every political movement.  Here are some highlights, showing that this was a man who could hold a grudge against Mother Theresa, the Good Humor Man, George Washington, Stalin, and Walt Disney simultaneously, along with all his other grudges against one political movement or another:

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.  [There's no ideology here, just anger against taxes, something common to all people in varying degrees depending on the amount of money taken from them or the use to which the government puts the money.]

[snip]

I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.  [Stack is alienated from all politicians, regardless of political stripe.]

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?  [Stack hates both corporatism and the stimulus, showing his equal opportunity outlook.]

Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.  [Stack hates the status quo regarding American medicine, which would put him squarely on the Democratic side of the political system.]

[snip]

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.  [Stack hates our legal system, an ideology that is not associated with either the left or the right.]

[snip]

In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. [Stack hates the church, which seems to be a left thing, not a right thing, although he sounds more like a 16th Century theologian than a modern secular American leftist.]

[snip]

However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.  [Stack believes in class warfare, a notion emanating from the political left.]

[snip]

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.  [Stack believes both management and unions are corrupt, making him, again, an equal opportunity hater.]

And on and on it goes, with Stack railing endlessly about government and the lack of government, about religion, about class warfare, about socialism and capitalism.  Indeed, as to the last two, Stack wrapped up his missive with knocks at both economic institutions:

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

In simple terms, the guy was a loony-tunes, who was unfettered by any specific political ideology.  He was paranoid to the point of murderous and suicidal insanity.  There was nothing else there:  no strong political ideology or affiliation, no overriding belief system, just garden-variety paranoia.

If you believe my analysis, you will also believe that Robert Wright, of the New York Times, is a bona fide idiot.    Wright has looked at the same manifesto and concluded that Stack was a Tea Party terrorist.  With hundreds of wordy-words, and turgid explanations, Wright explains his reasoning.  After you read Wright’s little anti-conservative polemic, I’ll conclude with my simplified analysis of Wright’s thinking, and you’ll see where the idiot label I apply comes from.  First, Wright:

Stack, in contrast, saw himself as part of a cause, as one in a long line of fighters against tyranny. The manifesto he left behind reads, “I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. … I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be whitewashed and ignored” — at which point, God willing, “the American zombies wake up and revolt.” This man was, by prevailing semantic conventions, a terrorist.

Was he a Tea Partier — or at least a Tea Party sympathizer? Conservatives who say no point to leftish themes in his manifesto. And it’s true that — in a line much-quoted by these conservatives — he seems to wish that the government would do something about health care. Then again, who doesn’t?

There are clearer left-wing strands in Stack’s writing — he identified with blacks and the downtrodden, he said the rich oppress the poor — but I’m not sure how relevant that is, because I’m not sure how purely conservative the Tea Party movement is anyway.

Yes, it mobilized against a liberal health care bill and the stimulus package, but it also opposes corporate bailouts. Sure, Tea Partiers hate taxes, but that alone doesn’t distinguish them from many Americans. On social issues the Tea Partiers include some libertarians along with a larger number of family-values conservatives.

And when you move to foreign policy, things don’t get more coherent. Though some Tea Partiers are hawks, many follow Ron Paul’s lead, combining a left-wing critique of military engagement with a right-wing aversion to the United Nations and other multilateral entanglements.

In the end, the core unifying theme of the Tea Partiers is populist rage, and this is the core theme in Stack’s ramblings, whether the rage is directed at corporate titans (“plunderers”), the government (“totalitarian”) or individual politicians (“liars”).

I don’t doubt that Tea Partiers are on balance on the right, and if their movement ever crystallizes into a political party that will be its location. But until the requisite winnowing happens, a person with Stack’s fuzzy ideology wouldn’t feel terribly alone at a big Tea Party.

I emphasize that I’m talking about his ideology, not his penchant for flying planes into buildings. Still, some of the ingredients of that penchant — a conspiratorial bent, a deep and personal sense of oppression, an attendant resentful rage — can be found in the movement, if mainly on its fringes. There are some excitable Tea Partiers out there.

You could, on the one hand, follow this logic to the conclusion that Joseph Stack was the first Tea Party terrorist.

Stack tries to pull back from his biased conclusion by saying, “Hey, let’s avoid the word terrorist altogether (since, unspoken, we at the New York Times already do that when it comes to Muslim killers who come pre-equipped with a neatly packaged anti-American ideology),” but that doesn’t undo his conclusion.  Instead, it’s just a silly verbal game aimed at disavowing his clearly stated conclusion.

And now, after all of Wright’s verbal dancing and prancing, let me present my simple distillation of Wright’s endless verbiage:

Tea Partiers are angry.

Stack was angry.

Therefore Stack was a Tea Partier.

In other words, Wright engaged in a classic false syllogism:

People often make mistakes when reasoning syllogistically.

For instance, from the premises some A are B, some B are C, people tend to come to a definitive conclusion that therefore some A are C.  However, this does not follow according to the rules of classical logic. For instance, while some cats (A) are black (B), and some black things (B) are televisions (C), it does not follow from the parameters that some cats (A) are televisions (C). This is because first, the mood of the syllogism invoked is illicit (III), and second, the supposition of the middle term is variable between that of the middle term in the major premise, and that of the middle term in the minor premise (not all “some” cats are by necessity of logic the same “some black things”).

Determining the validity of a syllogism involves determining the distribution of each term in each statement, meaning whether all members of that term are accounted for.

In simple syllogistic patterns, the fallacies of invalid patterns are:

Undistributed middle – Neither of the premises accounts for all members of the middle term, which consequently fails to link the major and minor term.
Illicit treatment of the major term – The conclusion implicates all members of the major term (P — meaning the proposition is negative); however, the major premise does not account for them all (i e P is either an affirmative predicate or a particular subject there).
Illicit treatment of the minor term – Same as above, but for the minor term (S — meaning the proposition is universal) and minor premise (where S is either a particular subject or an affirmative predicate).
Exclusive premises – Both premises are negative, meaning no link is established between the major and minor terms.
Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise – If either premise is negative, the conclusion must also be.
Existential fallacy – This is a more controversial one. If both premises are universal, i.e. “All” or “No” statements, one school of thought says they do not imply the existence of any members of the terms. In this case, the conclusion cannot be existential; i.e. beginning with “Some”. Another school of thought says that affirmative statements (universal or particular) do imply the subject’s existence, but negatives do not. A third school of thought says that the any type of proposition may or may not involve the subject’s existence, and although this may condition the conclusion it does not affect the form of the syllogism.

Apparently the eight years of shrieking Bush Derangement Syndrome that preceded the Tea Party movement did nothing to create an “angry movement” in America.  In Wright’s imaginary land, Stack’s travails, which Stack himself saw as stretching back decades, were unaffected by any anger other than the righteous (and non-violent) indignation of the tea partiers.  I also don’t see any record of Wright opining about the Left wing rage that motivated Amy Bishop, a fanatic Obama follower (left wing) who, angered that she was denied her rightful tenure (a very Left wing notion), went postal and killed three black colleagues.  Apparently she was merely crazy, and not the logical result of of eight years of violently hostile Bush Derangement Syndrome.

I am reminded again why, even though I, as an informed person, should know what the other side is saying, I avoid the New York Times.  Being constantly confronted with stupidity just raises my blood pressure.  My husband keeps urging me to listen to NPR’s Fresh Air, in which Terry Gross has a good laugh with David Weigel about CPAC and how stupid conservatives are.  (They don’t respect saintly Woodrow Wilson!  How ignorant can they be?)  I just don’t have the stomach to listen to ignorance, nor the time to write the inevitable long post explaining just what a dreadful, totalitarian-leaning president Wilson was, nor to point out that, as always, NPR focuses on the fringe and not the center when it reports on the right.  Somehow NPR never gets around to reporting on its own fringe (Maxine Waters, anybody?), but that omission leaves both NPR and its listeners unperturbed.

Feh!

The importance of remembering that scientists are not mathematicians

I’ve been reading Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem, by Simon Singh.  Normally, I’d shy away from a book like this — after all, it’s about math! — but it was required reading for my book club, and it’s proven to be delightful.  To the extent there is math in it, Singh masterfully simplifies complex ideas so that even math illiterates like myself can understand them.  Indeed, I suspect that, if I’d had a teach like Singh when I was in school, one who teaches why something matters, or how it came to be, rather than just demanding that one memorize meaningless formulas, I might not be the math illiterate (and math phobe) that I am today.

But my ruminations about books and math aren’t actually why I’m writing right now.  Instead, I wanted to comment on the different types of thinking in the sciences.  I’m ashamed to admit that I never really sat down and analyzed the different intellectual approaches people on the “science side” use.  To me, the world was binary:  science mind (including math) and not science mind (including me).  Sure I knew that engineers could be a bit obsessive compulsive, but it was a trait I admired, so I never thought more about it.

What never occurred to me, however, is that specific branches of science demand different approaches to finality — or, as it’s called in math, “absolute proof.”  Let me have Singh describe this concept.  I’ll quote at some length from his text at pages 20-22 (in the hard copy version 0f his book):

The story of Fermat’s Last Theorem revolves around the search for a missing proof. Mathematical proof is far more powerful and rigorous than the concept of proof we casually use in our everyday language, or even the concept of proof as understood by physicists or chemists. The difference between scientific and mathematical proof is both subtle and profound, and is crucial to understanding the work of every mathematician since Pythagoras. The idea of a classic mathematical proof is to begin with a series of axioms, statements that can be assumed to be true or that are self-evidently true. Then by arguing logically, step by step, it is possible to arrive at a conclusion. If the axioms are correct and the logic is flawless, then the conclusion will be undeniable. This conclusion is the theorem.

Mathematical theorems rely on this logical process and once proven are true until the end of time. Mathematical proofs are absolute. To appreciate the value of such proofs they should be compared with their poor relation, the scientific proof. In science a hypothesis is put forward to explain a physical phenomenon. If observations of the phenomenon compare well with the hypothesis, this becomes evidence in favor of it. Furthermore, the hypothesis should not merely describe a known phenomenon, but predict the results of other phenomena. Experiments may be performed to test the predictive power of the hypothesis, and if it continues to be successful then this is even more evidence to back the hypothesis. Eventually the amount of evidence may be overwhelming and the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory.

However, the scientific theory can never be proved to the same absolute level of a mathematical theorem: It is merely considered highly likely based on the evidence available. So-called scientific proof relies on observation and perception, both of which are fallible and provide only approximations to the truth. As Bertrand Russell pointed out: “Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation.” Even the most widely accepted scientific “proofs” always have a small element of doubt in them. Sometimes this doubt diminishes, although it never disappears completely, while on other occasions the proof is ultimately shown to be wrong. This weakness in scientific proof leads to scientific revolutions in which one theory that was assumed to be correct is replaced with another theory, which may be merely a refinement of the original theory, or which may be a complete contradiction.

I know that, having read that, you’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking:  Global Warming.  You’re thinking of falsified data, of non-vanishing glaciers, of robust polar bear populations, and of the other cascade of data showing wrong-headed theories supported by bad, careless, or out-and-out fraudulent “science.”  Credulous people, ideologically driven people, and people who confuse scientific theory with the absolute proof of a mathematical theorem were willing to accept that “the science is settled.”  But unlike math, which can see a theorem being finally and definitively proved, real science is never settled, and anyone who claims that must be a liar.

Certainly, we know that some scientific theories are more stable than others, and we’ve built large parts of our world on that.  But when people purport to take the dynamics of the sun, the moon, the earth and predict the climate outcome years or even decades in advance, and then it turns out that they’ve done so entirely without regard to the sun, the moon, and the earth, you know you’ve got mysticism and faith, and nothing remotely approaching science, let alone the sureties of math.

I’ll leave you with a joke, also from Singh’s book, although it originally comes from Ian Stewart, in his book Concepts of Modern Mathematics:

An astronomer, a physicist, and a mathematician (it is said) were holidaying in Scotland.  Glancing from a train window, they observed a black sheep in the middle of a field.  “How interesting,” observed the astronomer, “all Scottish sheep are black!”  To which the physicist responded, “No, no!  Some Scottish sheep are black!”  The mathematician gazed heavenward in supplication, and then intoned, “In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black.”

Since you’re all much cleverer than I at jokes and bon mots, I’ll leave you to imagine what the AGW “scientist” would have said upon seeing that sheep in that field.

Orwell in the UN

I can’t find a date on this speech, but I’m pretty sure it’s not recent.  It came to me from a relative in Israel.  It shows a member of the UN Watch castigating the UN’s Human Rights Council for its manifest disregard of all human rights but for those purportedly violated by Israel.  And it then shows the President of the UN shutting down any such speeches in perpetuity.  Remind me why we still fund that disgusting organization?