December 19, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change : Evidence points to a further rise of just 1°C by 2100. The net effect on the planet may actually be beneficial. (MATT RIDLEY, 12/19/12, WSJ)

[Nic Lewis. A semiretired successful financier from Bath, England, with a strong mathematics and physics background]  first collaborated with others to expose major statistical errors in a 2009 study of Antarctic temperatures. In 2011 he discovered that the IPCC had, by an unjustified statistical manipulation, altered the results of a key 2006 paper by Piers Forster of Reading University and Jonathan Gregory of the Met Office (the United Kingdom's national weather service), to vastly increase the small risk that the paper showed of climate sensitivity being high. Mr. Lewis also found that the IPCC had misreported the results of another study, leading to the IPCC issuing an Erratum in 2011.

Mr. Lewis tells me that the latest observational estimates of the effect of aerosols (such as sulfurous particles from coal smoke) find that they have much less cooling effect than thought when the last IPCC report was written. The rate at which the ocean is absorbing greenhouse-gas-induced warming is also now known to be fairly modest. In other words, the two excuses used to explain away the slow, mild warming we have actually experienced--culminating in a standstill in which global temperatures are no higher than they were 16 years ago--no longer work.

In short: We can now estimate, based on observations, how sensitive the temperature is to carbon dioxide. We do not need to rely heavily on unproven models. Comparing the trend in global temperature over the past 100-150 years with the change in "radiative forcing" (heating or cooling power) from carbon dioxide, aerosols and other sources, minus ocean heat uptake, can now give a good estimate of climate sensitivity.

The conclusion--taking the best observational estimates of the change in decadal-average global temperature between 1871-80 and 2002-11, and of the corresponding changes in forcing and ocean heat uptake--is this: A doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of 1.6°-1.7°C (2.9°-3.1°F).

This is much lower than the IPCC's current best estimate, 3°C (5.4°F).

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


What a new inflation measure would mean for your wallet (Annalyn Kurtz, 12/19/12, CNNMoney)

The government currently measures price increases using the Consumer Price Index, which tracks a broad basket of consumer goods. That measure is also used to determine increases in tax brackets and cost-of-living adjustments for retirees receiving Social Security benefits.

But some critics say the government is overstating inflation. In reality, when prices rise, consumers turn to alternatives instead of paying more. So for example, if prices rise significantly on beef, they may buy chicken instead.

Enter "chained CPI," a separate measure that accounts for such substitutions, and therefore paints what some call a more realistic picture of inflation's impact on consumers.

With Christmas Eve church services coming up, I bought a J Crew blazer, pair of LL Bean chinos and a Ralph Lauren button down at the Thrift Store for $9.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Republicans Turn to An Unlikely Name for Inspiration: George W. Bush (Beth Reinhard, December 19, 2012, National Journal)

As Republicans reassess their future in the presidential wilderness, seeking a message and messenger to resonate with a new generation of voters, one unlikely name has popped up as a role model: former President George W. Bush.

Prominent Republicans eager to rebuild the party in the wake of the 2012 election are pointing to Bush's successful campaigns for Hispanic votes, his efforts to pass immigration reform, and his mantra of "compassionate conservatism." Bush won 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and at least 40 percent in 2004, a high-water mark for a Republican presidential candidate.

In contrast, Romney received only 27 percent of the Latino vote, after taking a hard-line approach to illegal immigration during the Republican presidential primaries, touting "self-deportation" for undocumented workers. In exit polls, a majority of voters said that Romney was out of touch with the American people and that his policies would favor the rich. While Romney beat Obama on questions of leadership, values, and vision, the president trounced him by 63 points when voters were asked which candidate "cares about people like me."

These signs of wear and tear to the Republican brand are prompting some of Bush's critics to acknowledge his political foresight and ability to connect with a diverse swath of Americans, although the economic crash and unpopular wars on his watch make it unlikely he will ever be held up as a great president.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Former High Court Nominee Bork Dies (STEPHEN MILLER, 12/19/12, WSJ)

Nominated by President Reagan to fill the Supreme Court spot of the retiring centrist justice Lewis Powell, Mr. Bork became the object of opposition by liberals who feared, among other things, that he would tip the court's balance on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Mr. Bork had publicly condemned the decision as legally shoddy, and affirmed this view under Senate questioning.

Within an hour of his nomination in 1987, Sen. Edward Kennedy, paladin of the left, rose in the Senate to condemn Mr. Bork's jurisprudence.

"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution," Mr. Kennedy said. "The doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens."

The words rankled and Mr. Bork dismissed them, telling author Michael Kelly that "There was not a line in that speech that was accurate." But the speech set the tone for the hearings, the first ever televised for the high court, which ended in Mr. Bork's being rejected, 58 votes to 42. [...]

Collaborating at times with Yale constitutional scholar Alexander Bickel, Mr. Bork developed a conservative judicial philosophy centered on what he took to be the original intent of the Constitution's framers.

In an influential 1971 Indiana Law Journal article, he assailed the high court's recognition of a right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut, contending that the court should recognize only rights clearly specified in the Constitution.

Among his other controversial holdings was that the first amendment applied only to political speech, and that Roe v. Wade was a usurpation of state's rights. It was that position, more than any other, that would galvanize opposition to his Supreme Court nomination. [...]

Mr. Bork, looking distinctly out of the ordinary with his rotund frame and scraggly red beard, barely tried to sugarcoat his contempt for judges who found new "rights" lurking in the Constitution. Meanwhile, critics vilified him and tried to dig up dirt by investigating such ephemera as his video rentals. (The leaked list contained mainly Hollywood classics; the leaking of the list help spur the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, thus fulfilling Mr. Bork's contention that Americans enjoyed a right of privacy only as enumerated by specific legislation.)
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Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Obama's Weakness on Treaties (JOHN B. BELLINGER III, 12/19/12, NY Times)

The Obama administration has been slow to submit new treaties to the Senate, and only nine have been approved so far. In contrast, the George W. Bush administration secured Senate approval of 163 treaties over eight years. These included not only bilateral treaties but also multilateral agreements on many important subjects, including human rights, atmospheric and marine environmental protection, the laws of war and arms control.

Most of those 163 treaties were approved by unanimous consent of the Senate, including conservative Republicans. On multilateral treaties like the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention and the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention, Bush administration officials worked hard to address concerns raised by individual senators.

Now President Obama must devote more energy to securing Senate approval for pending treaties, both by using the presidency's bully pulpit to explain the benefits and by directing administration officials to pay more attention to the concerns of individual senators.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


How news media can help prevent shooting massacres (Chris Allen, 20 December 2012, Online Opinion)
There is no mystery about school killings. The real causes are staring us in the face; criminological research demonstrates that these are copycat crimes.

Notice how they echo and change the storylines of past crimes: locations were in the 1980s post offices, then became gun-free schools and malls; perpetrators were first PLO terrorists, then aging males with relationship issues and in recent years mentally unstable young men.

Research in the USA showed that the mainstream news media provide training manuals for copycats, with their inset boxes listing weapons in 'arsenals'; they refer to the killers' 'meticulous planning' while laying out easy bullet-point lists of actions leading up to the crimes. The killers he researched kept articles from Time and Newsweek, and obsessively watched news and current affairs reports on how they could easily get guns to commit massacres. Now they turn to NBC, CNN and ABC and the online media. The news shows, not computer games or violent movies, are the most effective teachers of mass killing.

We understand now that people build maps or scripts of how to act from what they see others around them doing. The more alike someone seems, the more their situation can be applied to yours, the more likely it is you will act like them. This applies to choice of fashions and musical tastes, choosing education options - and to committing crimes. News people know this and enforce internal guidelines to help prevent suicide and crime copycats. But for a mass shooting, the urgent opportunity to boost audiences and present copy overwhelms their ethical hesitation, and they convince themselves their carefully-preened moral outrage is a force for good.

But they don't stop there. The responsible news media provide billions of dollars in name recognition, photo publicity and hours of discussion about the significance of the killings and their perpetrators. They partner with political activists, fomenting hatred of the journalists' political enemies and creating moral campaigns to punish them. Their actions invest the killers with a huge social significance, that these mentally unstable, morally deficient losers would never otherwise achieve.

Detailed news 'instruction' has taught even the mentally handicapped how; and enormous social significance is guaranteed if they act. Our news services created the string of mass murders, and made an engine to keep it going.