I’ve said before that I became an American by reading Heinlein books.  This is true at least to an extent, though I’d be at a loss to explain the process to you.  I mean, if you knew how to do that, book by book, chipping away, so someone starts out wondering what’s wrong with all those Americans who don’t like taxes (don’t they know taxes are civilization?  And have always existed) and ends up thinking getting a Don’t Tread On Me tattoo is a brilliant idea, even while immersed in a socialist, communitary system, we’d have no problems.  We’d just use “the process.”

Mind, you, it is likely that the er… Heinleinizing (totally a word.  Don’t worry your pretty head) of my opinions came from watching socialism up close and personal.  Heinlein had help.  But all the same, and even so, by the time I came to the States as an exchange student I had been, so to put it, primed to react to the US as “home.”

Even so, things about the US surprised me – things that Americans thought were completely logical.  For instance, the fact that classes are – objectively – a zoo.  No, we’re not talking about a war-zone type school.  Stow High School had good teachers, by and large, enthusiastic about teaching and their subjects.

I’m just talking about classroom behavior.  People just TALKED.  In Portugal, once the teacher entered, absolute silence reigned, unless he asked a question.  More conducive to learning?  Sure.  Maybe.  But in the US it just didn’t happen.  There wasn’t that built in respect for the “master” who got up front and spoke, and therefore all must fall silent.

There were other things – a distinct lack of respect based solely on someone’s age and position (respect for real accomplishments was granted, of course.) – a wicked sense of humor that showed up in signs on hallways and doors of classes, the fact that people could talk back or joke with teachers.

But possibly the most surprising thing in the US was … how people interacted.  You could have ornaments and decorated trees in your front yard and no one stole them.  This made my jaw drop, particularly since my host family’s house didn’t even have a nominal fence.  (This  might be gone in certain areas.  At least someone stole both a cement giraffe and – months later – a cheap composite fountain from our front yard.)

And when something went wrong, say a massive snowfall, people grabbed shovels and went to the street, to shovel not just their driveway, but as much of the sidewalk as they could, and to make their area as functional as possible, before official rescue/help arrived.

This would be unheard of most other places in the world.

This image/these ideas gelled for me as I read P.J. O’Rourke’s comment about a restaurant somewhere – the Soviet Union – and said “An American would grab a bottle of windex and solve most of the problem.”  Or something like that.

Every time I go back to Portugal, now, I find myself thinking about that type of thing or wanting to do that type of thing about ten times a day.  Most of the time I don’t, because there’s a crab bucket thing over there, you know, the crabs pull the others down, i.e. if I – say – grabbed a bottle of cleaner to save a sanitation problem, I’d get asked “Who do you think you are?”   And my parents live there.  (If they didn’t, and didn’t have to live with the consequences of my actions, I’d probably do it anyway.)

Yeah, Americans talk back, and make classrooms noisy, and can sometimes be counterproductive.  On the other hand, Americans, faced with a gadawful mess don’t look around and wait for “the proper person” to fix it.  They roll up their sleeves and each of them goes “Well, I’ll do this.”

It’s hard to explain how different that makes us.  To most Americans it seems logical behavior (it is) and I only get the difference because I remember being brand new here and how ALIEN it was.  And I remember living in Portugal without the constant “oh, for heavens’ sake, just do it” moments I have when I go back now.  (I should possibly point out that most Europeans find most middle aged American women bossy, interfering and a bit terrifying.)

Yes, I know some of you are going to tell me that spirit is now lost.

It’s not.  It is, of course, in certain areas – but certain areas always had issues – and for certain people.  And it is more muted than it used to be.

Part of the thing with Europe is the worship of the “experts.”  “We’ll take it to the expert” or “We’ll have the expert do it.”  There is now some do it yourself (and my mom was always one of nature’s do-it-yourselvers.  I think given time to acculture, and if she’d come here early enough mom would have made a great American) but it’s nothing like in the US and it would never have started without the US.

They’ve – by which I mean the cultural establishment – tried to bring the same here.  I’ve railed here before about how cozies were – in effect – blacklisted by the publishing establishment because “amateurs can’t be better than the professionals.”  And how my books couldn’t have funny policemen because “Policemen are professionals and must be respected.”  And I’ve talked about how shocked I was when a bunch of high school kids came to beat me on my blog because I’d criticized their teacher (I actually hadn’t.  I’d criticized the curriculum which is is not teacher set, but they lacked the semantic ability to distinguish these) and how dare I?  She’s a TEACHER.  I’m supposed to respect her.  (She also was considerably less educated than I, much younger and I have reason to believe she sent the kids over to harass me – the harassment stopped when I threatened to scan in some of her (outrageous) grading handiwork and post it. – which leaves me in doubt of her moral character.)

While these things annoy me and shock me, as does anyone preventing my questioning him by saying “I’m the expert” – it is still new here.

The people on top are trying to do it, but I wonder how much of it will stick.

No, listen.  We’re still… Us.  Still likely to roll up our sleeves and do it.

Look at blogs.  Sure, there are blogs abroad.  I hear Portugal is one of the most connected countries in the world.  But are there newsblogs?  Big enough to rival, say instapundit?  Drudge? (There might be something like DU or the others – because, well, they’re funded and organized by organizations.  But, you know, I have problems enough without tampering with my blood pressure.)

Oh, please.  News have to be reported by experts.  It’s not the individual’s job.  And besides, why undertake that mass of work if no one will pay you?

There are tons of interesting recipe blogs, etc, but I have yet to find something with the scope that Americans cheerfully undertake.

The same could be said for ebooks and indie publishing.  They have access to the same facilities we do (though more regulations in the way) but do you see a flood of books in foreign languages appearing?  Some, sure (there are displaced and unaware Americans everywhere, in the sense that being American is to an extent a place in the heart) there are some.  But nothing like you’d expect.

This is to an extent why  – to quote Bill Whittle – the future comes from America.  We are willing to go ahead and try it, and see how it plays.

The spirit is still there.  Diminished, perhaps, but still much stronger than in the rest of the world.

And this is why I say we also don’t know what the result of what the people on the top – publishing, politics, news, etc – are doing to us.  We know how it works in other countries, but I don’t think they realize how different we are.

When people’s lives are made impossible, they find ways to live.  This was true, even in Portugal in the seventies, with a  flourishing black market and most regulations ignored.  How much more true will it be here, at the first signs of true pinching?

And then there’s the fact that in the rest of the world, if things get unbearable, you can always go to America.  But we don’t have an America to go to.  Which will only make us more determined to “ignore the order, buck the directive, roll up our sleeves and do for ourselves.”

This is why statists of any stripe so often throw their hands up and call us ungovernable.  Not that this gives them the idea they shouldn’t try.  No.  Instead, they try to devise more cunning ways of governing us.  You have them to give credit for dreaming the impossible dream.  It’s the one proof we have that the sons of beetles are Americans.

So…  after sixty years of creeping statism, they’ve now “captured the flag” – they have actually got all of the important systems sewn up: news, entertainment, education, government.

They think – can you blame them? – that they won.

I won’t say they can’t hurt us.  They can.  The mechanisms they’ve seized hold of are important and they are – natch – misusing them.

I’m not saying that this will be easy.  It won’t.  Our economy is likely to be an incredible shambles, and I’ve said before I think we’ll lose at least one city.

But, listen, the problem with these sons of… Babel is that they might be American, but they’re not American ENOUGH.  If they were, they’d understand “ungovernable” and this willingness for each of us to go it alone (often for common benefit, but on own recognizance, nonetheless) is not a bug.  It’s a feature.  And that it’s baked in the cake of a people who came here to escape the top-down spirit of other places.  Some of the black sheep (or as one friend of mine calls it, the plaid sheep) attitude is genetic, hereditary, inborn.  And enough of us have it.

Push harder and we escape harder, through crevices they don’t even know are there.  Forbid us from making a living, and we’ll find a way to go around you.  Make it impossible to defend ourselves, and I shudder to think what some of my friends and neighbors will come up with.  Make the economy impossible, and we’ll create another one you can’t reach.  Make regulations too binding and we’ll either ignore them or – more likely – creatively subvert them.

They captured the flag, and they think they captured the nation.  It’s the type of mistake that the bureaucratic mind makes.

Poor rats.  Try not to laugh at them too hard, as you go about the business of undermining them.

We have them surrounded.

366 thoughts on “Ungovernable

  1. I always have a minor scheme going. Most of them never amount to anything, some of them stew a while, some of them I revisit, others fail spectacularly enough that I can tell they’re a waste of time…. If I try to stop, I don’t suddenly become productive in some other area– indeed, I just start wasting time arguing about politics and religion. And if I try to cut back… I get overtaken by a half dozen new ideas anyway. I never thought of this as being sort of an applied freedom, nor did I think of this special much less uniquely American. Isn’t everyone like this?

      1. No kidding, Sarah. Case in point. 15 years ago, I worked at the Pentagon, and we were developing a virtual document and videoconferencing system to replace officers stationed in DC, for a 5-nation org (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).

        I was the implementing engineer, and the guy who did the installs and training at the overseas sites. Our primary overseas site was at the US Mission to NATO in Brussels. In the process of getting it set up, we found that we had ordered the wrong printer. The spec said it was 110V/220V. . . turns out the 220V was a different model number.

        So I go to the local HP dealer, They “took an application to be a customer”. Then told us, it would take a month to evaluate our application. If approved, we could then book an appointment to speak with a salesperson, and we could probably get the printer we wanted in a about a month after that.

        I had a week left before flying back. This was Monday. I walked out, grabbed the local phonebook, and called 6 office supply firms. 5 had the printer in stock. I got fax numbers for all 5, Wrote up a Request for Quote, told them the deadline for reply was 5 PM the next day (Tuesday), and we would place our order by Wednesday at 10AM with the low bidder. We wanted delivery by noon Thursday, so I could get it set up and tested, before I flew back to the States on Saturday..

        We got back one Quote by the deadline, so I called the guy, told him he won the competition, gave him my Corporate Credit Card over the phone, and asked if he could deliver the next day (Wednesday). He could, and we took delivery after lunch the next day.

        Starting late Wednesday afternoon, other bids started filtering in. I told each that they had missed the deadline, we’d purchased already, and to have a nice day. ALL were indignant, all threatened to complain to NATO and to the US Ambassador. I gave them the number to the Embassy, and wished them luck.

        The real moral of this story: almost everywhere else, the process is far more important than the results. But not for Americans: we want the RESULTS, and we don’t care diddly-squat about the process, as long as the law isn’t broken and nobody gets hurt. . . .

        1. This. Another case in point: a few years ago, I supported the flight test operations of a large American aerospace firm … on a couple of occasions, they discovered that a calibrated flight entertainment test videotape was worn beyond use and put in an emergency request for replacement. As it happened, the tape’s vendor’s warehouse was on my way to work. I made a couple of phone calls, picked up the tape the next morning, then got the purchase order issued to cover them, then got the requisition paperwork started through the approval chain to cover the buyer who’d issued the PO … i.e. the whole process worked in reverse, creating one-day service to my customer. Although an extreme case, not totally unusual. How can such a thing work? Because of what John Ringo, in “The Last Centurion”, described as a “high-trust society” characterized by “voluntary associations” to get things done.

      2. Your observation that even our statists are American is dead on. Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” reflects a very American sensibility of taking action ones self and developing ad hoc groups to work as an unofficial team. One reason that the U.S. is the nation it is, is that the ancestors of the people here came here because they were UP TO HERE with neighbors and petty officials telling them “You can’t do that.” They passed on their attitudes to their children here, and to whatever extent those traits are genetic they mingled with similar traits from other far flung places…here.

        In the meantime the people who were willing to put up with being told what they were allowed to do stayed there…wherever that was. Those outliers who weren’t willing to be bossed around and weren’t willing to take their chances here went into government. Sin nature being what it is, power corrupted and you get the Europe and Asia you have today.

        But sin nature being what it is, too many folks who don’t understand that nature are willing to live on someone else’s labor if they can. And the predators who are willing to take some initiative come after, and so you get both Charles Ponzi and Saul Alinsky.

        So those of us with a Gadsden flag tattooed on our souls will do as you suggest, “Go Galt” and so what needs doing ourselves. Because as has become obvious, Government simply can’t do what it’s promising to do in terms of benefits. It can only come through in terms of theft of resources.

      3. My wife pretty much can’t go back to Hungary any more. Like you, she Americanized. And what she sees over there makes her want to scream and beat people with a meggyes retes. (Though you should have been a fly on the wall when she announced to her father “I have a concealed carry license!”)

  2. Recently, as in some time this past summer, a woman on our block at home began using street drugs, and over the course of a month, more and more odd traffic came and stopped at her house, and soon, junkies were hanging out there all the time.

    This was perceived as a risk by my neighbors to ourselves, the kids living here, etc, and it was clear that the police could not simply park a car on our street and protect us. We never had a “neighborhood watch” program, we never “organized” anything nor did we bring in some expert to tell us what to do, but over the course of about 90 days the house and the street is now constantly monitored by two different motion activated security DVR’s with 8 cameras, all licence tags coming on to the street are recorded, as are images of each new person going in and out, and when anything suspicious or dangerous happens, someone calls the cops. As a result, there have been many arrests, and traffic and the number of junkies is way down.

    When some of the drug types have confronted individuals on our street, the response has pretty much been “You do realize that the four people standing across the street are all armed don’t you? and that my wife/husband is inside with the shotgun? Now, what was it you were saying?

    The basis of the social contract is that it must be enforced. The reason people can steal stuff off the street etc, is because they dont think they risk being caught. In our neighborhood, we realize that the first line of defense of the social contract is ourselves, that the police are merely the record keepers.

      1. Where I live is freely available to anyone who tries to find it on the net, but I choose not to put it in close proximity to that story. 🙂

        And yeah, it would be huzzah if it wasn’t a pretty normal kind of response. The cops tell us there’s nothing unique about it as a response other than that we have a good geek.

      1. A surprising number are. As I said above, the cops tell us that our response is in no way unique. The trick isn’t that a community has power, but rather that you must HAVE a community. In places where people don’t know their neighbors, don’t trade Christmas cookies, don’t know the neighbor kids schedules and birthdays, can’t name and call every dog and cat in the neighborhood, then yeah, it would be hard to do something like that.

        On the block where I live….. not so much.

    1. A similar situation occurred in the Sausalito waterfront community in the early eighties. A dealer rented a houseboat and set up business, getting a few of the local kids strung out. Late one night the local posse cut the houseboat’s mooring lines, towed it out of the neighborhood and tied it up alongside the Army Corp of Engineer’s dock – with spray painted graffiti identifying the occupant’s stock in trade. It was a cool and effective bit of grass-roots justice.

    2. Rick, that’s the perfect way to do things. Well done.

      In the United States, there is no such thing as “taking the law into your own hands,” for the simple reason that the law never left our hands. We deputize its enforcement to government, but if they are incapable or unwilling to perform that function, then it is our absolute right as Americans to do it for ourselves.

      And a pox on anyone who says otherwise.

      1. Americans have a vastly different understanding of government than prevails in the rest of the world (and in certain halls of academia in this country.) Elsewhere, sovereignty, the right to the legitimate exercise of power over the nation and its peoples, resides in The Crown (in whatever permutation it occurs, whether labeled Prime Minister or Party Secretary or even President.)

        In America the People are sovereign. They delegate a portion of that sovereignty to the government to act as the People’s agent, exercising that delegated authority in the name of the People on the People’s behalf.

        Unfortunately, like many a bankrupt Rock star, we are discovering that our agent has usurped that delegated authority to enrich itself at our expense, leaving us broke, nursing a terrific hangover and needing treatment for a variety of STDs. Sadly, if we do not reclaim our sovereignty we will soon be left muttering Brando’s best known lines from On The Waterfront:

        Terry: …and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.

        Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

        Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.

      2. Of course, doing that has vastly increased our contact and knowledge of the local police. The lead officer on the matter is in several of the homes on the street regularly, most of the homeowners have her cell phone number and can text photos and info to her, etc etc. ‘

        Ultimately the problem we face is that junkies are stupid, and they literally don’t get that the longer they’re here, the more of them get arrested.

        1. Glad someone in the police will work with you. When I call (or my hubby) we are scolded as nosy neighbors. Yep!!! Makes me pretty steamed.

        2. Rick, what Cyn said. One reason people want to know what city / state you live in is that it matters tremendously on whether they will have your experience or Cyn’s when dealing with the local po-po / DA. Even here in TX, we’ve got cities where, for example, it may be legal to carry a weapon in your car, but the cops will try and arrest and the DA will try to prosecute anyone they pull over for doing it anyway.

        3. Find out who owns the house from county records, then talk to the owner about maintaining a public nuisance.

    3. Some years ago, my mother was involved in an online discussion group about petty annoyances – broken beer bottles in the gutters, etc. Someone made a remark to the effect that if she lived in the suburbs, the police wouldn’t waste their time harassing people over piddly shit like that.

      Her response was that she did live in the suburbs, and she made damned certain that police did waste their time harassing people over piddly shit like that.

  3. I should possibly point out that most Europeans find most middle aged American women bossy, interfering and a bit terrifying.

    Well, we are. 🙂 I love being middle-aged, it’s so liberating – though it’s weird how I scare people sometimes.

    And yes, “expertise” is largely a sham. Most qualifying credentials we use today are meaningless – especially academic ones. The only things I consider are experience, and enough brains to interpret the experience, and even then, one person can’t know it all. And yet how much time do people have to waste gaining useless credentials like academic degrees that mean nothing?

    1. Back during the runup to Guff Waw Too, some Euroweenie — Might have even been de Villepin — said “The reason Americans let their women get away with so much is they’re afraid of them.”

      After I got a Heimlich done to bring my hot dog back up, I was moved to assert, “First off, nobody LET’s American women do ANYthing. They’ll do it just fine themselves and to hell with you. Second, we’re not afraid of our ladies — far from it; we’re PROUD of them.”

      I somehow doubt he got the letter, though.


      1. … and even then, one person can’t know it all.

        Bingo. That’s the heart of the difference between an American view of experts and a European view. (Not that all people in Europe hold the “European” view, any more than all people in America hold the “American” view — it’s a generalization, with all the caveats that normally go with such things.) The European view, which Sarah called “worship of the ‘experts'”, appears to think that expertise is general. Sure, if you asked a European, he’d say that he doesn’t believe that a Ph.D. in geology makes you an expert on politics… but watch how he acts and he’ll show you that in practice, he does believe it. When there’s a problem to be solved, the typical European response is to convene a panel of experts to solve the problem — but if you look at the specific experts they’ve convened, how many of them have expertise in the specific field of the problem? Certainly not all of them; it’s usually fewer than half. The others are, for example, geologists who are being consulted on an economic question.

        The American view is that expertise is specialised. If I got in an argument with one of you over how computers work, I’d probably play the expert card — “Listen, I’ve been doing this for twenty-seven years now, and I think I know a thing or two about this subject” — and I’d think you were foolish if you didn’t listen to the expert. (And note how it’s experience rather than credentials that I would be advancing as proof of expertise.) Of course, if you’re also a computer expert, the rules of the argument would be different; I’m talking about an argument between an expert and non-expert in the field of that expert’s specialised knowledge. But if we were arguing geology and I tried to claim that my expertise in computers meant that you should listen to my authority, you would rightly laugh in my face.

        That’s the reason why Americans don’t fall prey to the “expert worship” mind-virus. (Yes, some people residing in America do, but they’re Europeans at heart.) Because we know that expertise is specialised and no one person can know everything. And we also know, from our own experience, just how many of the people we know know surprising amounts of useful stuff — like the barber I used to go to back when I lived in Dallas, who would talk about foreign languages (he’d learned several) with me while he was cutting my hair. So when we organise to solve a problem, in one real way we do defer to the experts… but in a way most Europeans wouldn’t recognise, because we know that expertise is all around us in surprising places. This is why a random group of Americans who self-organise will just pitch in and start getting things done rather than waiting for an “anointed expert” to organise them — because they trusts that within the group are all the skills necessary to get the job done, and that the person with those skills will step forward at the right time to help.

        1. I agree with that and would like to add a couple of things.

          I distinguish between expertise in “harder” and “softer” subjects. Math is a “harder” subject in that there’s often a right answer and that answer is provable (or disprovable). Climate science is a “softer” subject in that it’s often very difficult or impossible to prove assertions because the climate is very complex. Economics is somewhere in between (but, in my opinion, closer to climate science than math). The softer the subject, the less likely I am to listen to an expert and I’m also unlikely to readily adopt the conventional wisdom in that subject.

          Also, experts have biases and agendas just like anyone else. So I tend to discount what they say if I find their preferences for how they think the world ought to be or would prefer it to be is substantially different than mine. Then I generally insist on proof, which in “soft” subjects is often impossible to provide.

          1. Good Points Bret.
            Math is hard and answers subject to rigorous proof. Meteorology is a hard science, as is oceanography. but while historic climatology may be a hard science, in that the geologic record is there to look at, “Climate Science” aka the “Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming” is not. Believers cannot be swayed by expert opinion. I’ve been telling my three brothers that AGW was a crock for years, and I have the facts and credentials to back up my position, but they are immune to reason having seen “An Inconvenient Truth”. That trumps my degree and years of experience.
            Economics probably has more variables than climatology, especially if you try to plan it.

            1. OK. I’ve changed my mind and agree that economics may not be much, if any, “harder” than climate science. Both are soft enough that I’m skeptical of pronouncements in those areas, especially when they imply that government action should be taken to stave off supposed catastrophes.

              1. The sad thing is that if economics and environmental science sticked to facts, they’d both have a lot better reputation. Environmental science ought to be a completely hard science. Economics can’t be, since so much is based on human behavior, but there’s a heckuva lot of historical data to look at.

                We’ve got the more fact-based Chicago/Austrian school in economics to look to. Is there an equivalent sensible school of environmental science?

                1. Austrian economics, or at least Von Mises economics, is actually a system of logic , it’s formal name is praxeology , and it is far closer to mathematics than it is “climate science”, or “Keynesin economics”

                2. Laurie, there’s not really a school of realistic climate science per se, just a loose collection of scientists and historians who have serious doubts about anthropogenic climate change or who question the science used to argue for global CO2 regulation. However, I’d recommend looking at Anthony Watts’s blog wattsupwiththat dot com. He has good articles and lots of links to other blogs, as well as serving as a clearing house for information, ideas, and rebuttals of the dumbest articles/papers/reports. He also lists, or links to lists, of books that are from the more reputable climate scientists.

                  You might look at the book “Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years” by Avery and Singer. Bjorn Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” is another good one, but it is technical in places (he’s a statistician). Full disclosure: I’m a historian of environment (and climate to an extent) but not an expert by any means.

                  1. The simplest refutation of their claims is provided by the AGW alarmists themselves: if they truly believed what they are selling, they would modify their own lifestyles accordingly. When Algore sells the seaside mansion and moves to a shack on the Arizona plateau I will consider him other than a hypocrite. When climatologists start attending their conferences virtually rather than flying around the globe, I will accept their sincerity as possible.

              2. I think of climatology as the softest of the hard sciences and economics as the hardest of the social sciences (I’m in finance, which is essentially a branch of economics). There are some things that we really do know, but most of the economic topics that are debated outside of academia are either debated inside of academia or should be. An expert likely has a better guess than a layman about what the results of some policy will be, but if he claims 100% certainty, that’s overconfidence rather than expertise. There’s also an ought/is distinction — even if an expert can say definitively that current levels of carbon dioxide will cause the earth to warm and sea levels to rise by a certain amount, and that lowering CO2 output by a certain amount will reduce the rise of the oceans by exactly a certain amount, that doesn’t prove that we should enact a particular policy.

                And, as Robin was saying, expertise isn’t general. Some people figure that if I’m a PhD student in finance, I should know all of the rules about 401(k)s, which I don’t — I often know more about personal finance than whoever is asking me, but the only promise I can make is that I won’t pretend to know something if I don’t.

            2. I don’t understand how Climate Science is Science. I thought Science required experiments that could be confirmed by others?

              1. Another way to do science, when you can’t really control the experiment, is to predict an outcome to events based on your hypothesis. If climate scientists had a good hypothesis we’d have vineyards at the 50th parallel by now. The fact that global temperatures have been stable for the last several years indicates strongly that the accepted hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming is flawed.
                More hockey puck than hockey stick.

              2. were that true, Astronomy would not be a science.

                for something to be science, it must be falsifiable. You must make a statement which can be dissproven.

                For example: “Because heavy elements are created in supernova explosions, you will find few if any heavy elements in the spectra of stars older than “X”

                Similarly, climate science has many falsifiable hypothesis, for example: “In years with a strong Pacific oscillation, temperatures across the north american great plains will be unusually low and rain will be high.”

                Another good one is that “the ratio of Oxygen 16 vs Oxygen 18 in the lower atmosphere can be used as an proxy for the global average temperature, and thus atmospheric samples from ancient ice cores can be used to construct a history of the average surface temperature of the globe.”

                The O16/018 ratio vs average surface temp has held up through comparison with actual surface temp readings now for as long as we’ve been able to measure the ratio. The hypothesis looks solid.

                What s bothering you is the hypothesis that “CO2 levels in the atmosphere are causal to changes in the global surface temperature.”

                That’s not an unreasonable thing to be bothered by, but honestly, the data looks pretty good. The continuing rapid melting of the arctic ice is suggestive if nothing else, although since the actual surface temps themselves are not rising as fast as predicted one must ask where the heat is going. The best hypothesis I know of on the subject is that it is going into deep ocean temps, and in fact over the last fiew years deep ocean temps have been on the rise in much of the world.

                1. Climate chage is supposed to do so. It is part of the whole climate thing. But I think no one has proven that things are worse because of humans. Check your science history, geologists and weather scientists are finding that this cycle of so called change has happened before and will happen again. Followed this whole thing closely for years until I realized it was simply another way for greedy politicos like algore to make money.

                  1. Not only has it happened before, but from what I have read, CO2 is a trailing indicator, not a leading one.

                    1. Yes and no. CO2 trails when e.g. Milankovic cycles are the forcing function, but since CO2 acts as an amplifier, adding CO2 will change temperature by itself and even feed its own increase.

                      Ice-core data shows that CO2 never passed 300 ppm in the last 3/4 million years; it is now up to about 398 ppm. We are in territory unseen since the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, and it’s territory we do not want to explore. We should be exploring molten-salt and fast-spectrum breeder reactors instead.

                2. Rick Boatright wrote: “What s bothering you is the hypothesis that “CO2 levels in the atmosphere are causal to changes in the global surface temperature.”

                  What bothers me is the so-called feedback that are allegedly associated with rising CO2 levels that have not been, in my opinion, empirically detected with sufficient robustness yet still form the basis for claiming imminent catastrophic warming. Without those positive feedbacks, the world would warm a very pleasant and non-catastrophic bit over 1C per doubling CO2.

                  1. As the oceans warm, the can hold less gas in suspension, and so CO2 is released. Cooler waters can hold more gas, so levels decline. Just like warm soda pop vs. cold soda pop. (Please don’t shake the ocean to test the hypothesis, though).

                    1. Speaking of that, I have never seen any reference on how long it takes to warm the oceans as overall atmospheric temps begin to rise. An awful lot of mass to heat up, there. That would certainly explain the lag in CO2 rise with temperature.

                      But yes, don’t shake the ocean to check – you might release the methane ice on the bottom, and that would be bad.

                3. What s bothering you is the hypothesis that “CO2 levels in the atmosphere are causal to changes in the global surface temperature.”

                  If that were the AGW crowd’s hypothesis it wouldn’t bother me. It isn’t. Their hypothesis is :”Human activity is able to meaningfully affect the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and (a) those levels have a greater impact on the world climate than any other factor, including that big hydrogen bomb overhead, (b) that effect is certainly negative, ignoring ALL historical evidence that the greatest adverse impact to humans in terms of famines, Volkerwanderung migrations and the resulting wars, etc. comes from global cooling, (c) that there exists an “ideal” global temperature to maintain, and (d) in return for the low probability of being able to adjust global temperature to that ideal (see a) it is worth disrupting the lives and well-being of everyone on the planet by placing their lives in every sphere under the control of government.”

                  Their hypothesis is unprovable, untestable, and oh BTW not backed up by a shred of creditable, unmanipulated, un-cherry-picked evidence. Before I grant them the power they seek over me and mine, they better have ironclad evidence. Otherwise they can f*ck right off and die.

                  1. they love to crow about “deniers” like Burt Rutan not being “Climate Scientists” but as Burt says, he was damned worried about AGW when he first looked at it. Then he noticed that no matter what, the numbers just don’t add up. He makes his living making absolutely certain the numbers add up, or people die, likely a freind. The thing very few have pointed out is most all of the big numbers crunching no matter if for climatology, planetology, astrophysics or quantum physics is done by “big math” specialists. A physicist will send his math out to one to be checked. Burt and Anthony Watts are math guys … not the really huge big math but then climatology isn’t quantum mechanics either .. and both were looking at AGW to see if they might help find a solution and found massive faults.

                  2. You can’t have a meaningful fight with a straw man, nor a scientific debate with a caricature of science suitable for talk radio.

                    Their hypothesis is :”Human activity is able to meaningfully affect the CO2 levels in the atmosphere

                    Beyond dispute from multiple lines of evidence.  This is also known to be true about other trace gases, including CH4 and SF6; there are no natural sources of SF6.

                    and (a) those levels have a greater impact on the world climate than any other factor, including that big hydrogen bomb overhead,

                    This is where you get into caricature.  That is not a claim made by any climate scientist.

                    If the earth were a uniformly illuminated blackbody radiator receiving 380 W/m² and reflecting 30-35% of it, from the blackbody equation P = 5.67e-8 W/m²/T^4 (T in Kelvins) it’s trivial to calculate that it would have a temperature between 257 and 262 K (-16 and -11 C).  Instead, Earth’s average temperature is about 15 C.  This 25-30°C in warming over a pure blackbody is known as Earth’s greenhouse effect.  That it exists, and is produced by multiple trace gases including CO2, methane and water, is also beyond dispute.

                    What’s under debate is the exact effect of the increase in CO2.  Adding 2°C of warming on top of an existing 30°C of greenhouse effect is not “a greater impact on world climate than any other factor”.  If you use such rhetoric, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

                    and (d) in return for the low probability of being able to adjust global temperature to that ideal (see a) it is worth disrupting the lives and well-being of everyone on the planet by placing their lives in every sphere under the control of government.”

                    Now we get to the meat:  where science meets policy.  snelson thinks the science is a plot to gain more power.

                    Climate science says we can have almost as much energy as we want, so long as it doesn’t put greenhouse gases in the air.  Why don’t you just suggest that we go on a nuclear power binge?  It disarms the lefties and makes them look very silly, especially when you make them admit that NOBODY has been killed by radiation even at the worst-ever nuclear disaster in the G7 industrial nations (Fukushima Dai’ichi).

                    1. Regarding the sun: I took snelson’s statement to be a reference to repeated denials that variations in solar output are not significant a factor in warming, even when it is pointed out to them that other planets are experiencing the same thing.

                      You might want to rethink saying that there are no natural sources for SF6, too. While this article clearly states that humans are primarily responsible for atmospheric SF6, it also states that there ARE natural sources.

                      And yeah, the so-called science IS a plot to gain power, as evidenced by the fact that the IPCC modified the original reports before publishing them, and any of the scientists who worked on the reports didn’t want to be associated with them any more, because they had completely different conclusions.

                    2. Somehow it always seems to require the policy prescriptions advocated before we heard about AGW, y’know? The Americans pushing this agenda wanted the government to run the economy, and the Third World nations wanted “reparations” — and that is their solution to AGW.

                      From London’s Telegraph:
                      Doha talks end with compensation deal
                      Britain faces paying billions of pounds in compensation to less developed countries as part of an international climate change deal.

                    3. Indeed. And while I could see “ice age, civilization destroying” “warm climate, civilization destroying” fails to convince. Also, shouldn’t all the beach front property be devaluing right about now? What about all those climate refugees?

                      Oh, right, I see.

                      Pfui. I

                    4. As evidenced by the fact that in the seventies the world was freezing over and “every scientist agrees” and ODDLY the prescription was, just as it is now “more government, fewer people, more control by the government over the people.”

                      PFUI. This grows tedious. If this were a scientific problem, there are scientific solutions, and many have been proposed, but “sack cloth, ashes and a return to the 18th century” is the only “solution” that will be accepted. Pfui.

                    5. Nothing like listening to the solutions put forth to save humanity by those who are on record as wishing there were far less people on the planet. Heck, they can’t even tell me what the ideal temp is for the planet or when the planet was at that ideal temp for more than 50 years.
                      Nukes are the way to go, as even one of the founders of GreenPeace now “disgraced” has pointed out. He even has gone so far as to say he would love some spent fuel to stick in a modified swimming pool and use it to heat his house. The other thing, like Sarah points out, is the warmer is worse nonsense. Cold kills, Granted some places would grow food where it used to not in cooler climes, if it is warmer even more places would grow and better places would have longer growing seasons.
                      Then you look at numbers and need to decide just what constitutes a greenhouse agent. All the AGW folks I’ve dealt with willfully ignore that water vapor is the single largest greenhouse agent. Taken as a whole man’s contribution is within the average variability of the earth’s output. we could actually stop producing and the earth could actually increase the amount of greenhouse agents on its own offsetting our removal, Even worse for the AGW argument, these events that could increase greenhouse agents would likely cause cooling first (large volcanic activity especially at a water level or shallow subsurface).

                    6. I notice that you very carefully and dishonestly skipped right past my point s b and c:

                      that effect is certainly negative, ignoring ALL historical evidence that the greatest adverse impact to humans in terms of famines, Volkerwanderung migrations and the resulting wars, etc. comes from global cooling, (c) that there exists an “ideal” global temperature to maintain,

                      All historical evidence suggests that falling global temps are responsible for a decrease in the food supply, and that they have the effects described. Warmer temps reverse these effects, and leave us in our current situation where all major famines are caused by government, either directly by using food as a weapon (Sudan) or by some genocidal greenie forcing us to burn it in automobiles (look at the global food inflation and shortage caused by diversion of food to making inefficient engine wrecking fuel.

                      Which leads us directly to point c: what is the “ideal” temperature for the Earth? and who determined it, based on what evidence? Michael Mann’s thoroughly debunked hockey stick? I defy you, “Engineer” to give that answer on any rational basis.

                      And yes, Wayne was right: I was referring to you so-called “scientists” very carefully leaving the variability of solar activity out. Of course there’s a reason: Not even Emperor Obama can claim to control the Sun, and properly including that activity.undermines your already shaky hypothesis.

                      Finally, we get to your conclusion::

                      Climate science says we can have almost as much energy as we want, so long as it doesn’t put greenhouse gases in the air. Why don’t you just suggest that we go on a nuclear power binge? It disarms the lefties and makes them look very silly, especially when you make them admit that NOBODY has been killed by radiation even at the worst-ever nuclear disaster in the G7 industrial nations (Fukushima Dai’ichi).

                      The problem is that we can’t have all the power we need, today. Look at the German experience, where they are finding that even when you spend gobs of money on “renewable” energy in wind and solar, you still need to keep a fossil-fuel generating capacity spun up and on-line because neither wind nor solar is a constant source of energy. An engineer would know that, of course.

                      Which brings me to my conclusion: you have proven yourself a dishonest hack by carefully cherry-picking your responses and leaving out those facts that are inconvenient to your case. Of course, that makes you eminently qualified to be a climatologist; Michael Mann and East Anglia provided many shining examples on how that operates.

                    7. Nuclear power is one hint that they are really after power. The other is that they have vapors at the notion of sequestering carbon. Either route would solve our problem if it were excess cee-oh- two. Neither one would if it were that they don’t have enough authority to push other people around.

                    8. @Engineer-Poet: It’s certainly true that some of this is exaggerated (and yes, it’s demonstrably true that humans can, do, and have dramatically increased the CO2 in our atmosphere). But it’s also very much a reaction to groups and articles which have argued that global warming would necessarily be devastating, that climate change is something worth taxing people the world over to avoid, and which then turn around and say “Oh, no, but we can’t go nuclear; that would be irresponsible and dangerous.”

                      In many cases, these articles quote studies, committees, and individual scientists in order to make it seem that the scientific community agrees with the article writer. Look at the IPCC, which maintains that all leading scientists and most others in the relevant field agree with its reports. And then the IPCC concluded that most of the warming we’ve seen in the last few decades was due to anthropogenic increases in the concentration of certain greenhouse gases. In other words, the sun’s variability might be a contributing factor, but it’s mostly humanity’s fault.

                      By the way, thank you for pointing out that radiation did not kill anyone at Fukushima! I’d at some point let other people convince me otherwise during a series of debates over the past few months, and your statement was a reminder for me to look over the facts again.

                    9. bah, meant to say “increased the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere”. Whoops.

                    10. We’ve reached the limit of reply-nesting depth for this system, and are down to a totally unreadable column width (Hoyt, can you change the “content-box” width to something less claustrophobic?).  My reply to Wayne Blackburn’s comment is re-parented at the bottom of the page here, and others will follow.

                    11. Engineer-Poet: please, don’t bother. The only people possibly interested are already committed to one side or the other and the rest are tired of the arguing drunks. The only thing remaining to be proved on this is who has the bull-headedness to keep pounding the topic until others get bored and walk away from the discussion.

                      It is a little-known fact of the internet that not every false argument requires refutation, just as many Americans seem unaware that repeating the same talking points, ONLY LOUDER, does not make them more persuasive.

                    12. I have a friend who works in the nuclear field who tells me that he’s seen estimates that the evacuation of residents around Fukishima has a predicted result, from stress etc., of over 300 deaths while the calculated radiation exposure was predicted to result in from none to a handful depending on assumptions.

        2. I still recall my first profound experience with this. I was a first-year student in mechanical engineering, attending a lecture on Coulomb friction. In the Coulomb theory, contact area is not a factor (or, more accurately, the change in contact area with normal force is built into the theory, so that it’s transparent). I asked the prof, if contact area isn’t a factor, why do wider tires have more grip than narrower tires. He was stumped, and concluded that they probably do not.

          That’s bollocks, of course. The reason is that tire adhesion isn’t Coulomb friction at all. But it taught me a valuable lesson: an expert’s opinion isn’t worth anything outside of his or her narrow field of specialty — and the issue only needs to be just barely outside it.

          1. I’ve mentioned this on the blog in the past, but I’ll use it again – there’s an small airplane that pilots refer to as “fork-tailed doctor killer” – a flashy little plane that’s not suitable for beginners. But doctors assume that, because they know about medicine, they know about everything, buy the thing, fly it, and die.

            1. Beech finally stopped making those things. Like the Mooney Porsche, it seems most were bought by people who had no business in an airplane to begin with.

              1. The other problem is that the ruddervators were made of sheet magnesium. Between corrosion, complexity, and the occasional explosive shop accident, it was not worth the cost to Beech. (Mill steel or aluminum, then magnesium. Never the other way around unless you really clean the equipment well in between.

          2. In my long, long, long (sigh) ago course on Evidence In Argument And Debate the list of priority for Expert Testimony included a measure for relevance of the expertise. A cardiologist is an undoubted expert, but probably not who you would call to testify about a rocket engine exploding. Many a court battle hinges on the applicability of an expert opinion, getting into the nitty-gritty of fine distinctions between specialties.

            It is a matter of deep, deep disappointment to me that I do not have my class notes conveniently at hand to provide the list. It is almost enough to make me want to rise from my comfy seat. Instead, I turn to [SEARCHENGINE] to find:

            Federal Rules of Evidence


            A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

            (a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;

            (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;

            (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and

            (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

            1. Rule 702 is essentially the codification of the principles from the Daubert case. The original Daubert elements were:

              1. Empirical testing: whether the theory or technique is falsifiable, refutable, and/or testable.
              2. Whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication.
              3. The known or potential error rate.
              4. The existence and maintenance of standards and controls concerning its operation.
              5. The degree to which the theory and technique is generally accepted by a relevant scientific community.

              Climate science would certainly fail element 1 in an objective reading, and have serious problems with 3. That’s the problem with it, really — it has 2, 4, and 5 — the trappings of science — but fails to be science at the most fundamental level.
              (I think it is also funny that in this thread I show up as a layperson with expert knowledge of the American legal rules of evidence.)

        3. The other thing is that most (not all) American experts know they don’t know absolutely everything even in their subject area, so are willing to listen to intelligent questions and suggestions.

  4. “I should possibly point out that most Europeans find most middle aged American women bossy, interfering and a bit terrifying.”

    This is great. It reminds me of my 89 year old Grandma. When a porcupine was chewing her cabin in the middle of the night, Grandma got up and had to be argued out of shooting the critter after we trapped it on the porch. I want to be just like her someday.

  5. Sarah. I often find that people like you who come to America from somewhere else appreciate it more than many of those who were born here.

    America was not built by compliant people. It was built by ornery SOBs. Folks who did not wait for permission, or who did not always do what they were told. Many of our ancestors and current imigrants came here knowing that life might be difficult. But, if they worked hard then they could make a better life for themselves and their children. But, they also realized that they would have to become Americans instead of America becoming what they left behind.

    As you pointed out, it will not be easy or quick. We all remember Rosa Parks from the time she refused to go to the back of the bus in 1955. Many are not aware that she was kicked off a bus 12 years before by the same driver. She worked during those twelve years with the local NAACP to help
    get people ready for that moment(which wasn’t planned, she was just tired that day). Even then, the bus boycott went for a year before the city gave it.

    If we are to have a future as a free country, then some of us are going to have to be ornery ourselves. We may need to sometimes ignore them, subvert them, and find ways to replace them with something better. The compliant folks will either wake up or get left behind.

  6. Yes Sarah. This is why so many in power fawn on all things European. They want to have all the order and structure. It is so comforting. Nobody needs to think too hard or decide anything if it is all arranged for them. But the trouble is if they go to Europe – they are not one of the exalted on top of the heap.
    They love buses and subways and railroads. So communal! Automobiles give you such freedom. Freedom to slip out from under their thumb.
    And as you said, ” I shudder to think what some of my friends and neighbors will come up with.” if that thumb becomes to wide and too heavy.
    They really think that they will just order their bully boys to drive the sheep where they want. Who will argue? They certainly wouldn’t so how dare anyone else? You could take away every gun in America and they would still be in very deep trouble. Firearms are simply a convenience. People fixate on Americans having them too much.
    As you said it is the attitude, but it is also a depth of knowledge. The little dictators are short on the physical sciences – that is after all something minions do. Real bosses deal in orders and personalities – not technical details. Your friends indeed know what actually makes modern society WORK. And they can disassemble it from the inside with an ease that scares me too.
    Just as an example, we had a bank company in this area experience a months long siege of vandalism. They must have pissed somebody off and he’s go by in the evening and shoot their windows out when nobody was there. I’m glad he was not pissed off enough to hurt people, since the average person working in a bank lobby likely had nothing to do with whatever irked him. He would cause probably $4k to $6k of damage each time. He apparently got it out of his system or felt he broke even with them, and stopped, because the news reports stopped and they never announced an arrest.
    What if instead he had put a round through that green box sitting out on the lawn of most of those banks? The power transformer that costs much more than a plate glass window and takes longer to replace? If he didn’t have a rifle a big 4×4 truck ramming that box does the same thing. How many of those transformers are in stock in any area before they run out?
    How many of the really big expensive transformers in sub-stations are held back as spares if they are taken out? You see how fragile the system is? Throwing a shorting cable or chain across the lines would destroy them too I’d imagine.
    If a pissed off marksman drives around out in the country and drops the high tension lines between cities how long does it take to put them back up? How long if he drops the whole tower? Can their entire repair crew even keep up with ONE guy dropping towers or lines? I doubt it. That is just TWO ways to attack the electric power grid. I can give you a dozen more and it’s not even an area in which I have worked. I can imagine what a real cracker could do by accessing their controls and giving instructions into their system controls…
    A lot of internet fiber lines terminate in isolated little sheds that have a very conventional steel exterior door to protect them and no guards. How stupid is that?
    Piss people off bad enough and we’ll go straight back to a 1910 level of tech very fast. It is all fragile and exposed. They don’t HAVE enough police of every flavor to guard it all 24 hrs a day.
    I write science fiction. It’s my job to imagine. These politicians have no imagination or they would be terrified at their exposed helpless condition.
    Civilization does not depend on control and intimidation of the people. It runs on active cooperation or it stops.

    1. Um… Sarah was talking about people coming up with ways to defend themselves, not to go be domestic terrorists.

      1. It’s pretty easy to predict that’s what will happen if you push people too far. Sorry if reality is uncomfortable. I’m just saying how easy it is. People who don’t understand why the lights come on when they flip the switch have no idea. But terror? Terror is not the lights going out. Terror is stacks of sculls you can’t count like in Cambodia. Having people stand and watch officials reach inside their little girl’s pants without a word terrorizes me more than the chance I’ll run into any bomber or shooter. I’d have never written that horror into any science fiction book.

        1. I just didn’t think it appropriate to attach that kind of comment to her quote without some sort of notice that you were taking it in another direction.

          I fully recognize how easy it is to disrupt things. I said in the comments yesterday that it wouldn’t be too hard to shut down the country, if the terrorists were smart. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to go giving out instructions, though.

      2. Distinguo: If you’re trying to wreck infrastructure rather than cause casualties or create a psychological effect, that’s sabotage rather than terrorism. This may seem a subtle point, but it is an important one. Sabotage may be justified under certain circumstances in a fight. Terrorism never is.

        1. Difficult distinction to make, in practice. E.g., it may have been your intent to “just” create the inconvenience of turning the lights out when you wreck electrical infrastructure, but how about the terror of the people whose at-home medical equipment (from CPAP to home-dialysis machines) lose power at the same time?

          1. Yes and No Alan. There’s the difference between taking actions where innocents *might* be harmed and taking actions where killing innocents is the point of the actions.

            1. Frankly, however, I don’t agree that actions which aren’t intended to directly harm innocents are not properly terrorist actions. If the actions are intended to induce fear in the populace, then they are terrorist in nature.

      3. This comment comes up in various forms all over the internet now, and Victor Hugo explained why best. There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come.

    2. Much of what you are saying is WHY decentralization is far better than centralization. The fragility you fear is because of centralization and government taking over where it shouldn’t.

  7. In one of my books, I had a lovely rant from a German immigrant who had returned to his ancestral village years later – and discovered that his kinfolk bitterly resented him for having bettered himself.

    “I did not return here to beg of your charity. I do not come back to beg of anything at all. I thought to show my grandsons the town where I lived when I was a child, the house I was born in, nothing more. Instead I find that my brothers are so set on gloating over me, so certain that I have been a failure—” Abruptly he stopped, as suddenly as if he had run into a wall in the dark. “That’s it,” he added softly, “that’s what it is. Not that we have failed, taking our lives into our own hands and venturing into the world, and come crawling back to beg charity from you. But that we have not. And you—that is what you cannot endure.” He stared down at his brothers, breathing as hard as if he had just run a footrace. Joachim tried to rise, but Hansi pushed him, a hand on his chest, so firmly that he sat down with a jolt. Jürgen made a movement to rise, but Hansi glared him down. “No, sit and listen, the both of you. This I will only say once. I own three cattle ranches—the largest is the size of Bavaria. I also own four general stores … I pay regular wages to about four hundred and twenty men the year around,” Hansi continued. “They drive my wagons or tend my cattle and horses. There are half again as many hired in the trail season, when we send herds north. Two months ago, I dined with the Governor of Texas and his family; an amiable chap, very obliging. If I complained to him that my ass itched, he would dispatch one of his flunkies to scratch it for me. I own a mansion of twenty rooms in San Antonio; it would have solid gold doorknobs on it if I wished. My wife’s boudoir is as big as my father’s whole damned house and when I pleasure her in bed, we do it on silk sheets. Yes, I’m as rich as one of those damned Firsts.”
    He looked contemptuously at his brothers. “At least you have enough pride not to abase yourselves by begging for any of it. Good day to you both—and go to hell.”

    I’ve often thought the fact that such immigrants came to the the US and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams is the reason that the Europeans who stayed behind resent the heck out of Americans.

    1. Thanks for the excerpt. I like historical fiction, including westerns. I’ll check out some of your books on Amazon.

      1. Enjoy, RivRider – they’re all there. And Hansi is one of my most endearing characters; very earthy and practical, but funny when he feels like it.

        1. That quote, Celia, just sent me over to Amazon to buy the trilogy. 😉

          I really need to start hanging out with authors I admire (just got Darkship Thieves, and have a couple others of Sarah’s now – YAY BAEN EBOOKS!); I learn so much, and now I’m also finding OTHER authors to feed my raging, book-eating brain beastie!

        2. My mom is getting the first two Adelsverein books for Christmas. Her mother knew some of the last first and second generation German settlers and had some memorable stories to tell.

          1. Lovely, TxtRed – I might even have written about the some of the ancestors of people she knew! It has happened, over and over again, when I do a book-talk in the Hill Country; I meet the descendents of people who were mentioned, or were characters in Adelsverein! In the main, they are very pleased with how I wrote their ancestor … although I did get a very nasty-email from a descendent of a major and real-life villian, who was not at all pleased. Did I care? Not much, for another descendent of that villian whispered to me at a book event that from the evidence of stories she had heard in her family, I hadn’t gone very far from the truth about him…

            1. Besides which, ancestor pride is dumb, there is no slandering the long-dead, the statute of limitations has expired and descendants are not culpable for the sins of their ancestors.

              On top of all that: did that person truly want to claim the villain’s name for their ancestor? Any sensible person would observe that “the character may bear a superficial resemblance to my ancestor, but of course my ancestor never would have done any such things. La, the things these novelists come up with! SUCH imaginations, ah never!

    2. My Indian Doctor friend having been encouraged to go out and work in the wider world, found to his shock the one thing Indians don’t accept… is a successful returnee (he thought he might go back, having done very well here) Firstly he found that he was no longer considered Indian, and secondly, that he wasn’t.

      1. Exactly what my characters discovered, thirty years later – they had always thought of themselves as German, and Germany their home … but it wasn’t. They had become Americans, and not realized it until then.

      2. The funny thing is that in Portugal they all expect me to “return” — I can shock them by saying “No, not even in retirement.”
        But I think it was five years before I went back and realized I was no longer Portuguese. Not only didn’t I know how to live there anymore — it didn’t FEEL like home.

        1. A few years ago a former manager and friend of mine moved (deimmigrated?) back to India, basically because his wife had never adapted to the US nor did she much want to. She insisted their kids needed to be raised and educated there, but I also think she really missed the servants and having her defined place in the whole class/status structure. He, on the other hand, had pretty much acclimated here and would have been happy staying, but decided he had to accommodate her needs.
          He’s a flexible and intelligent guy, and he loves his wife and kids, so I think he’s coping fine, but I do wonder at doing the culture shock thing twice.

  8. “Yes, I know some of you are going to tell me that spirit is now lost. It’s not. It is, of course, in certain areas — but certain areas always had issues — and for certain people.”

    I don’t even think it’s lost in those areas and for those people. Perhaps folks have developed a tolerance for ordinary disorder that in prior generations would not have been present, but when push comes to shove, so to speak, we still pitch in and help each other. Witness 9/11. Witness the 2004 incident in which everything east of Chicago blacked out for a day and a half. Hell, witness the literal “perfect storm” that happened when Hurricane Sandy slammed into a Nor’easter and slammed the coast…immediately followed by an early snowstorm. Some might dismiss 9/11 or 2004, saying “well, that was still rather a few years ago”, but Sandy was _last month_.

    New Yorkers were already notoriously rude and selfish types in the ’60s, the _first_ time they had an extended blackout. They didn’t fall apart then, either.

    What we do have, to an extent we probably didn’t used to, is a willingness to simultaneously take on moral authority over the conditions of people we don’t know, and yet nevertheless delegate our _response_ to those conditions to _other_ people we don’t know.

    Americans help ourselves, and we help those around us. Still. It’s when those we’re worrying about are our “neighbors” only in the most metaphorical of senses that we deign to rely on “experts”.

    The “experts” may try to keep us from working, and keep us from defending ourselves, and keep us from obtaining the means to evade their control. Anyone who thinks they’ll succeed should contemplate how a system that’s demonstrably unable to keep all heroin out of even its maximum-security prisons is going to keep all the guns and all the work out of a continent-spanning nation of hundreds of millions of the sort of people who, when Snowpocalypse comes and dumps an entire winter’s worth of precipitation on Chicago in the span of less than 18 hours (as it did in February of 2011), come out and shovel one another’s driveways for free.

    Yeah, good luck with that, dudes. 😉

    1. I’d argue that Katrina, Rita, and Sandy were examples of why American survive despite (and to spite) the neo-Europeans in our midst. The neo-Europeans can’t pull their weight when the fertilizer hits the impeller and it shows all over the ‘Net and by word-of-mouth. I’m looking at news from Staten Island and thinking how much it sounds like the complaints from people in Mississippi after Katrina. Private groups helped out but the Feds stood around with their hands in their pockets, when they were not getting in the way. I suspect a goodly number of people are looking at the events of the past 14 months and thinking, “note to self. Don’t count on the government for anything but paperwork.” Despite all the protests from the federal agencies and certain governors and mayors that they can solve everything from above.

      1. Well I know a lot of people with FEMA who went to Katrina to help and they did NOT stand around with their hands in their pockets. It depends on the individual. I did hear that there were bands of people shooting at the people we sent from Nevada to help. Plus many of these same people expected the government to metaphorically “wipe their butts.”

        However the best inspirational stories were from churches. Churches and pastors opened land, food, etc to the newly homeless. A lot of people who make gumbo and other dishes that could be expanded so that everyone could eat. FEMA tried to get ice down to Louisiana through trucks– but there were a lot of obstacles as in many of the roads were covered in debris. A friend of mine in FEMA was on one of the bases with trucks waiting for Katrina to finish so that he could get the trucks into Louisiana. It took them three days to get off the base because the roads were covered in trees. They sawed their way to New Orleans.

        If there was anyone to blame it would be the administrative — in local, State, and FEd level. As for NY and Staten Island– I am not hearing much about what happened there afterwards except through the news– and you know what the news is like. But– we did send people their with the Red Cross. Usually these folks do it on their own dime. We don’t have anyone with enough month nowadays to help with disasters. Our economy is one of the hardest hit already.

        A lot of things (like the electricity coming up in NY) were stopped by the Unions because they didn’t want scabs in their States even if it was a disaster– look to the local level for the problems first– in those kinds of things. I have been to many many emergency meetings in Nevada (any private person can go to those OPEN meetings) and I know that it is minimum of three days before the outside can get into to help– the longest can be as much as three weeks. So having a plan with your neighbors or belonging to the CERTS organization might probably save you and your family if a disaster hits (when usually).

        It kinda hit another of my hot buttons– FEMA is actually people saving people from dangerous situations. They are not a welfare organization. Before FEMA we were expected to help each other when a disaster hit– fire, flooding, earthquakes, etc. FEMA is actually a centralized organization that is trying to get your STATE and your LOCAL government organized so that they can save you. FEMA is really just logistics that it brings to your local or state government to distribute. So when you are complaining about FEMA, you are actually complaining about the State and Local government of your area–because they will be the ones distributing it– unless the Pres. starts to turn it into something entirely different.

        Thank you–

        1. Oh– and do you know what FEMA does in-between disasters? They train with each of the States. You can get training from FEMA through the ICS online training. Free by the way. Plus they train your firefighters. You can get disaster training from your State that is funded through FEMA. (Also get disaster training through the Salvation Army– I would be careful with Red Cross disaster training because they like to have your SSN and credit card number on file.)

          1. It just occurred to me that most people have no idea what the ICS (incident command system) is which is used by emergency management including FEMA, Here is a quick explanation:

            1. The incident commander (could be a policeman) goes to an incident
            2. At that point the IC is in charge of how the incident is handled– he handles operation (pulling the driver out of the car), logistics (calling the dispatch for license number), planning (what he should do next) and financial (usually don’t need money at this level).
            3. If the incident gets larger– the IC will ask someone else to handle one of these areas. So maybe his chief shows up and he needs something to get the person out of the car. The chief would handle the logistics.

            4. If the incident gets bigger, the IC may hand over his position to someone with more experience. So say the accident becomes a wildfire– a fire chief becomes the IC–

            5. It turns out that the country or city doesn’t have the logistics to handle the fire. The IC will call the State EOC (Emergency Operation Center) — in Nevada the EOC manager will be called by the dispatcher and he will stand up the EOC. (call in people if needed).

            6. The State doesn’t take over the emergency– they act as logistics. If they need more helicopters or other firefighters and can’t get them from the counties.

            7. The State will then call FEMA (after they have the governor stand up and say that this area is now an emergency area.)
            8. FEMA supplies what they can– and so forth–

            So what you are seeing is that in the ICS system that they are supposed to use, the STATE and FEMA are logistics for the local government. There can be a situation where the State can take over– but it is considered rare.

            This is how it works in States like NV, CA, and FL where they have disasters every year –wildfires, flooding and earthquakes. FL and CA are so good at the ICS system that FEMA only shows up afterwards. (same with NV) So yea, it works… but it starts with your locals… if they aren’t doing their job… the whole thing breaks down.

        2. Cyn, I’d argue that the problem is perception. Unless you work with or know someone who works with FEMA, you watch stories on the news, see “emergency management,” and then wonder why we don’t have news stories about people with FEMA on their jackets rescuing people from floods. Other parts of the federal government, and those in favor of large government, talk up FEMA as “the” disaster relief/assistance/coordination group without noting that FEMA does not really fly in with helicopters to pluck people from their roofs, or provide free money for businesses to rebuild. The folks at FEMA who do the boots-on-the-ground work are too busy to clarify for the media what they are doing, and the administrative types are not doing their part to dispel the misconceptions.

          I’d wager that the media brush used to tar the FEMA administrator during Katrina slopped over onto the rest of the agency, deservedly or not. They’re large, too, which makes them an easy target.

          I apologize if I came off as trashing the people on the ground. I should have been clearer in emphasizing that I was talking about people’s perceptions of federal activity (FEMA, EPA, Labor Dept., et al.)

          1. Thank you TXRed– I know that the news trashes what these good people do– if everyone remembers that it all starts on the local level and that FEMA is really logistics (plus during a disaster they do their best to open the roads so that the workers who work on the electrical lines and other utilities can get to the affected area, provide logistics to the State governments, and then provide Small business loans to business so that they can open as quickly as possible, then you know what they do in emergencies.). So support and logistics. 😉

            Media– propaganda with people who have no idea what is going on in any case. I give you Arab Spring as an example.

          2. During hurricane Ivan, I worked as a FEMA temporary disaster employee (See the Safford Act). I got that job because I was active in local emergency management and FEMA sent out a request for warm bodies because of the level of the disaster after, what was it, four? Hurricanes had trashed the gulf coast. I am trained as a first responder. That was what I and most of the other folk who answered this call were expecting to do.
            What I wound up doing was glorified social work in a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Pascagoula Mississippi. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that I did needed work there or that I managed to help improve the lives of many people. However, I did all of that from a desk in a building. I was NOT a disaster responder. You can find news account of firemen who were upset during Katrina that had volunteered under the same program I did and were not pleased to discover that they would not be doing responder work, and let’s face it, firemen are much more first responders than I am, despite my training.
            So, what most people don’t understand is that FEMA is not really a response agency. Sure, they have a few professionals on staff, in the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams, but that is about it. They provide logistical support (money and materials), inspectors (who are mostly contractors) and Social Workers (helping with aid claims).
            Do not expect recue from them.

              1. somewhere I think in FEMA’s mission statement or whatnot it states they are not scheduled to be in the affected area until 3 days after it is over. They are MANAGERS (that being the “M” in the acronym) not Responders (there being no “R” in said acronym). Local ans state authorities are responsible for those first days, and once FEMA shows they are not released from that responsibility.
                Post Katrina never did surprise me, I knew how stupid N.O. & the Lousyana gov’t was and the stupidity started at the top and goes all the way down. Anyone smart enough to handle that was also smart enough to leave the area when a Cat5 storm was coming, or at first word of the levee collapse.

                  1. Of course, another “problem” is that Federal response depends on the State Government *requesting* Federal involvement. The Louisiana Governor apparently didn’t want to ask the “evil Bush” for help. After Katrina, the Governors of the other states involved *did* request Federal involvement.

                    1. yes indeed. To the loons complaining about GWB I have asked them to tell me exactly what he should have done that did not Violate the Constitution, require a form of Precognition, or a Time Machine. None ever answered correctly, and most never answered at all.I’d then point out that the coast of Mississippi got hammered, far harder and places like Waveland, MS were wiped from the face of the planet but N.O. seemed to be unable to cope. The ‘burbs of N.O. and even N.O. East didn’t seem to have near the same issues. Asked why did they think that was and none would say either.

                1. This article sounds like the M in this instance stands for Mismanagement:

                  FEMA teams told to ‘sightsee’ as Sandy victims suffered
                  Hurry up and wait.

                  That’s what first responders were left to do after being deployed by FEMA to assist in the storm-ravaged areas in the initial days after superstorm Sandy, FoxNews.com has learned. A FEMA worker who spoke to FoxNews.com described a chaotic scene at New Jersey’s Fort Dix, where emergency workers arrived as the storm bore down on the Atlantic Coast. The worker said officials at the staging area were unprepared and told the incoming responders there was nothing for them to do for nearly four days.

                  “They told us to hurry, hurry, hurry,” the worker, who works at the agency’s headquarters in Washington and volunteered to deploy for the storm recovery effort. “We rushed to Fort Dix, only to find out that our liaison didn’t even know we were coming.”

                  “The regional coordinator even said to us, ‘I don’t know why you were rushed here because we don’t need you,’” said the worker, who spoke out of frustration with the lack of planning and coordination following the devastating storm.

                  After arriving in New Jersey, the worker and others waited for three full days and parts of another, even as reports dominated the television of the devastation and suffering wrought by the storm, which struck land on Oct. 29. When they asked for assignments, they couldn’t believe the response, according to the worker.

                  “They told us to go to the Walmart nearby or to check out the area but told us to stay out of the areas affected by the storm,” the worker said. “If our boss back at headquarters had not been alerted and didn’t make a push to get us assignments, the people running the show on the ground level would have just kept us sitting in the barracks.”


                  “I’m not going to say we couldn’t have done better,” Michael Byrne, a FEMA federal coordinating officer, told FoxNews.com. “I can understand the emotional commitment. They want to jump right in and start with the effort. I feel the same way.

                  “The time was used to find the best place for them and for quick-training,” he said. “There were logistical challenges but we have been fully engaged in the areas since then.”

                  But that didn’t jibe with the account of the worker, who said the much-maligned agency seemed more organized during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

                  “When there’s disaster, every second counts,” the worker said. “That clock starts ticking once the storm makes landfall.

                  “I worked in Katrina and Katrina was run better than Sandy.”

                  Even after FEMA workers were finally sent out from Fort Dix, many did not have useful information to convey to victims, said the worker.

                  “They are put out in the field and they don’t know what to tell people,” the worker said. “Survivors will fall through the cracks.”

                  1. and yet it seems to only show up on Fox. Imagine the teeth gnashing if this had occurred during Kat?

    2. It occurs when we want to appear to be concerned about something or somebody without actually having to concern ourselves about them — so we hire people to express our concern for us, and usually do so without regard to whether that expressed concern does any actual good.

      The applicable definitiion for this kind of expressed concern is provided at Merriam-Webster:

      to apply external pressure on so as to force out the juice or contents of

  9. The British were kinda peeved in the American Revolution that they took Philadelphia, only to find that the Continental Congress had packed their bags, moved, and went on as serenely as if nothing had happened.

    Just like, earlier, they had disbanded the Massachusetts legislature, and its response was to move to Springfield.

  10. “I should possibly point out that most Europeans find most middle aged American women bossy, interfering and a bit terrifying.”

    And most American’s are different than Europeans how? I will point out that most Americans find most European middle aged women, annoying, useless, already wilted hothouse flowers.

    1. I spent a lot of time in Europe. Europeans do NOT understand Americans. It’s not that they’re so different as that WE’RE so different. Americans, if they come across a problem, they fix it. Europeans, if they come across a problem, call the GOVERNMENT to fix it. It’s their worldview. They have always had a powerful government that was supposed to fix all their problems. We haven’t, which is why our current government is viewed with so much mistrust. It’s trying to do things that we feel are OUR responsibility. Most of us want government to take care of the big things, and leave the little things to the states, counties, cities, and citizens, not necessarily in that order.

      1. This. I am extremely in favor of capitalism and individual rights. Yet growing up in a culture that is very hostile to that, even now years after *knowing* intellectually that free markets work, I still have to overcome this incredibly powerful instinct to distrust a private sector company over a government official. I can and do overcome that feeling, but it is SO deeply ingrained in people elsewhere, soaked into the very fabric of the culture, that it’s hard to imagine how lasting those effects really are. Most people who aren’t so introspective have essentially no defense against this kind of emotional indoctrination =/

        1. It’s a funny phenomenon. A business says it values your custom and wants to please you, your skepticism filter is in full force. But when the city councilman says that your tax dollars are being wisely spent so many people say “Great – let’s give them more.”

          At least if my neighborhood grocery overprices things, or cuts quality, I can shop elsewhere. When my city-supplied water comes out of the tap brown my alternatives are distinctly limited.

          I did notice that the internet connection provided by my (city granted monopoly) cable television service got a lot better when other providers entered the internet market.

      2. More importantly, they “always had a powerful government that was supposed to fix all their problems” the correct way. While it is decidedly not the same as fixing the problem, it avoids all sorts of much worse problems that occur when you fix something the “wrong” way. Especially if you actually do fix the problem!

        The Revolution, in 5’17”:

  11. Er. I don’t think what you’re talking about is particularly American. It’s strong in America, because it’s a colonist country. Yes, colonist is the new dirty word, but the truth is they also represent humanity at it’s finest, most aspirational, most adaptive. And every single human is descended from colonists. It’s genetic selection – those who have no get up and go, who liked the status quo at ‘home’, who were afraid, stayed, accepted and were good little serfs. Even your cities were pretty wild, until quite recently.

    The danger now, is that the new immigrants bring ‘status quo at home’ with them, but that’s another topic.

    I see the same streak in the colonists in most countries where they settled, and carved out new lives.

    But what I also see is that – here in Australia for example (but I think it true elsewhere) where the vast bulk of the population has become very urbanized, the unquestioning acceptance of authority becomes the norm. There is a sort of inverse square law here in Australia and South Africa – the further you get from the large urban centers, the more likely the people are to question and ignore stupid. Not that there is no strong moral code, but it isn’t respect merely conferred onto ‘authority’.

    The US is a NEW colonist country. Those attitudes and independent genes are neither diluted nor deep buried… yet. But look at you nanny state voting patterns – I’ll bet on a strong correlation to urbanization and age of settlement.

    1. “But look at you nanny state voting patterns – I’ll bet on a strong correlation to urbanization and age of settlement.”

      That’s the exact pattern we see in the US. There are exceptions, but the larger urban areas tend to be more nanny-state.

      It’s harder to line it up with “age of settlement”. For example, you have Cincinnati — which, outside the very core of the urban area is “conservative” in the American sense — then you have Chicago — which is nanny state until you get easily 50 miles outside the city limits. Cincinnati’s the older of the two…

      I’d place my money on it being a side effect of population density, like over-crowded rats turning on each other…

      1. The east is more nanny-state than the west, overall, but California and the rest of the west coast may be the worst of all, and they were populated much more recently (blame it on the entertainment industry – which is also a whole lot of what’s wrong with New York).

      2. Size (and density as a factor) of the Urban area + Age of settlement I probably should have said. Oddly I live in one of the oldest settled areas of Australia, but as we still have less than a person per square mile, it’s not very nanny orientated. Less so now we live here 🙂

        1. The denser the population, the more negotiation is required simply to go through daily life. Rules and Regulations are devised because you not only have neighbors to your right and your left, they live above and below you as well. All of that negotiation with others saps strength and energy and abrades the will to fight for what you want.

          1. You also have to depend on others for basic necessities, and by that I mean water, food, and shelter. Can’t dig your own well in Manhattan.

    2. Yes, there’s a big trend on urban vs. suburban or rural. Big urban centers deteriorate and those who can afford to move to the suburbs, which makes the urban centers go downhill even faster. Urban city officials buy votes from those remaining in the urban neighborhoods, who can’t afford to leave, by taxing the suburbs and spending on the urban neighborhoods, but, being government, do no effective good.

    3. Rather than attempt to summarise the concept, I suggest you explore some of the writings on the importance to America (and, I daresay, to Australia) of having a Frontier.

      The virtues cited are pioneer (means the same as colonist but carries less baggage) traits. They are necessary for survival on a frontier because the very definition of a “frontier” carries the implicit recognition that there are not experts on it.

      This is also a) why Americans have so very very much venerated the Western, which properly represents a very short period (about 30 years) of American history and b) why Eurpeans sneer at Americans as “cowboys.”

      1. I’ve written extensively – both in novels (SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS is among other things a commentary about the colonization of the US) and on blog posts about the frontier and effects thereof. But, more baggage or no, colonist is the right word not ‘pioneer’, partly because pioneer is only part of the subset that affects American (and Australian and other largely recent colonist derived countries) zeitgeist. Part of this is ‘pioneer’ fails to cover the important part of the baggage – which is why the colonists went to such places. Sometimes yes, it was for economic gain. But when you look at who, in the societies they were in, chose to go, it becomes obvious that they were often as not outliers anyway. I suggest this was a vast benefit to the receiving countries, and actually very bad for the countries they left from. It’s also clear they all felt they were leaving unpleasant/undesirable governance (even if only at the personal level of the local gentry) behind, and that while they expected opportunity, they also expected to work very hard for it… which is rather different to the migrant choosing Australia (or the UK) because it has the best benefits, and wanting to bring the theocratic hierarchy dictated by the rulers of their state of origin with them. That’s a very much smaller benefit to the receiving state. The other part of colonists as opposed to just pioneers, is that while becoming American (or Australian) they did bring a lot of valuable ‘stuff’ from their cultures of origin to melting pot. And that melting pot too, is what makes colonist countries strong and able to deal with a vast variety of situations. All colonists are pioneers, but the converse is not true 🙂

  12. We, the American people, are not ungovernable. We do quite well governing ourselves, and self-governing local areas. What we are is immune to being RULED. We get rather riled at being ruled. President Obama is trying his best to rule us, rather than govern, and having a hard time of it. A large number of NGOs want to RULE, also, as well as many corporations. None of it’s working out the way they hoped it would. Wait until we get pi$$ed off enough to rebel. THAT will not be pretty.

    Right now, the GOP is trying to purge conservatives. They may succeed, and find that what’s left is nothing, while another, truly conservative party, arises.

    1. Just listening to the news/and radio– apparently conservatives are being thrown off financial committees in the House… now that is unAmerican– smacks of censureship (since it is being done by the government).

    2. The key is that those who will not govern themselves create a need for others to rule them.

      Once upon a time American schools taught self-governance, in every sense of the word.

      1. If we rigorously enforced laws about unable to control themselves and posing a risk to themselves or others — we could clear up that problem.

        Most of which would consist in people suddenly discovering that they could, after all, govern themselves.

  13. There’s an American elite, and then there’s an American “elite.” The first group consists of businessmen, engineers, and scientists. The other “elites” are found in the media and government. The first group is distinguished by genuine talent and creativity. The second group is characterized by the relationships they established while attending Ivy League schools (as per Angelo Codevilla) which is what gives them access to power. The problem with the “elites” who presume to rule us is that their education consisted of indoctrination into socially acceptable ideas as promulgated by “elite” professors. Few of these “elites” have any real knowledge or expertise. And yet their “elite” education entitles them to rule a nation and a people they don’t understand or identify with, or so they believe.

  14. One factor in the American experience is that when we don’t understand the “expert” management hired as a consultant we do not assume it is because we are stupid – we assume the expert is just one more instance of somebody who is book-smart, world-dumb.

  15. Walter Russell Meade today points to a story that gets at the essence of America’s difference: we are disinclined to kick sand over corruption:

    New Orleans: Doomed by Corruption?

    A major corruption investigation is underway in New Orleans. One by one, businessmen and city officials are being brought to trial under corruption allegations, many of them dating back to former Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration. The Wall Street Journal‘s sources suggest that a broader corruption investigation aimed at Nagin himself may be underway:

    Rodney Williams, a New Orleans businessman, pleaded guilty Wednesday to bribery and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in a public-corruption investigation against a former city official named in documents as “Public Official ‘A.’” Two people briefed on the matter say that person is Mr. Nagin. . . .

    In 2010, Gregory Meffert, the city’s chief technology officer under Mr. Nagin, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and filing a false tax return. Prosecutors said Mr. Meffert accepted bribes in exchange for no-bid technology contracts from the city. Mr. Meffert’s sentencing has repeatedly been postponed.

    In June, Frank Fradella, whose companies received millions of dollars in city contracts while Mr. Nagin was in office, pleaded guilty in federal court to securities fraud and conspiring to commit bribery. … [SNIP]

    If these allegations are true—and that’s looking likely—then they upend the established narrative about Hurricane Katrina. The media wanted to tell the Katrina story as a morality play about the evil and incompetent Bush Administration (to be fair, there was plenty of incompetence to point at). But the real story in southern Louisiana in 2005 was about the costs of decades of corruption, machine politics, and general negligence by the politicians of the region, who were repeatedly re-elected by voters who had blinded themselves to the deterioration of their own institutions. The allegations against Mayor Nagin might just be what is needed to wake people up to just how murderous and dangerous the climate of corruption and negligence was in New Orleans.

    Those following the tragedy of Detroit know that the city was brought low by more than just changes in the global automobile market. Detroit was also raped and looted by its political class. … [SNIP]

    Political courage, reform movements, and aggressive and skilled prosecutors have always been required to break the power of criminal syndicates masking themselves as political organizations. It’s time to revive the vigor and idealism that led people like Theodore Roosevelt to take on Tammany Hall.

    1. Ironic. Nagin (one of if not the best Mayor N.O has had … no the other really were that bad) was elected to clean up the place, and his first day started an investigation that exposed massive fraud in the Taxi commission and Brake Tag division.
      Another thing often overlooked by even some who should have known better was part of the issue with Katrina local response was Nagin had endorsed Jindal over Blanco and she had a severe dislike for the man. The two did not work together at all.

      1. Neither the Bush Administration, nor the much maligned “hell of a job, brownie”, nor Bobby Jindal had anything to do with Nagin’s submarine force of school buses.

        Corruption? It’s Democrats all the way down.

        1. Corruption is the only way of doing things there. One of the most corrupt things is the Orleans Parish Levee Board..y’know, the folks responsible for the levees and what not…the things that collapsed. Although the deal with the Corps of Engineers they really run the show and are infamous for the kickbacks and slipping sub-standard goods by. The levees that collapsed? Lower 9th Ward residents had sued after a new lock system was announced. They claimed they needed levee improvements not locks as barge traffic was lower and getting more sparse.
          They lost.
          They were also right but it may not have done a damned bit of good.
          The second section of levee that collapsed was a just finished and brand spanking new improvement. Even before it was finished the area residents were complaining of water seepage and saturated back yards.
          The water had crested and dropped some 4 feet before the 9th Ward failure and dropped almost 6 feet when the second failed.
          So now the Corps and the Levee board have a new storm barrier. Good right?
          Katrina’s surge was 29 to 30 feet high.
          The new storm surge barrier is …

          … wait for it …

          27 feet high.

          math is hard

          Even a 32 foot wall would not protect the area if “The Big One” hits N.O. but that sums up N.O. right there … even knowing worse has happened they plan for less and hope.

          N.O. had an in depth disaster plan. After Hurricane Georges and the first time they “Sheltered in place” in the ‘Dome, the city decided they needed a better plan.
          People showed at the ‘Dome with none of the items they were told to bring, and with thing they were told not to bring (one showed up with a big screen projection TV) and during the storm broke into offices and generally trashed the place. They also complained that they free food they were provided from the concessions’ supplies was *gasp* Hot Dogs, and Pepsi. Worth about $15 if at a Saints game, btw.
          So Nagin had an in depth plan drawn up and it was much vaunted in the local media … then they proceeded to ignore it completely.
          It was more incompetence than corruption.
          Gov. Edwin Edwards was corrupt as hell (jailed for it in fact During his run off with David Duke the popular bumper sticker was “Vote For The Crook! It’s Important”) but he was quite competent.
          Blanco doesn’t seem to be as corrupt as the average Louisiana dem, but she was not only incompetent, but hated the one person she needed to most work with(Nagin) and disliked the other main person she need to cooperate with(GWB).

          1. None of that mattered, of course: the MSM and the Dems (but I repeat myself) needed a weapon with which to attack George W Bush, and Katrina was handy for that.

  16. One important factor to consider when looking at the American Vs. European view of experts can be summarized by a joke that most Americans appreciate and believe to be true deep in side of them: Ex = has been. Spurt=drip under pressure

    1. I’ve always liked that one, or the other joke definition of expert: An ordinary guy from out of town, who carries a briefcase.

  17. My people have a long tradition of self-sufficiency and helping their neighbors, like villages building their schools and some other communally used buildings by voluntary work, after they had collected the money together. That seems to be, however, something of a vanishing tradition, in great part because it now involves so much dealing with all kinds of red tape that even those people who may try now tend to get discouraged.

    Now a large percentage of people really do seem to be quite happy with the increasing government involvement in everything.

    Part of the reason may be that our population has been packing into a few urban centers during the last half a century – before that most people lived in the countryside, lots of them in small family farms, but those have nearly disappeared, what are left are the few large farms.

    The other parts probably have something to do with our history. Finns do have a long love affair with socialism that may have been born of the hate felt towards the foreign elites which governed our ancestors for so long. In reality socialism may just replace one group of rulers with another, but the rhetoric of class warfare sure can sound nice to the have nots, and probably did far more so back when the haves didn’t even speak the same language. Most of us may dislike and distrust communism, but socialism here has managed to disguise itself into something that kind of sort of seems like something else…

    And then there’s our history with the bear. Soviet Union was big, scary and unpredictable, and after the two wars there seems to have been this sort of universal drive towards making sure that we would not do anything that might aggravate them to attack again. So, bow, scrape and make sure you seem completely harmless. Teach the next generations in a way which pacifies that big neighbor and assures them that the younger people here will grow up to ones who will look at them favorably, will definitely not ever even think about becoming allies with any potentially hostile nations, and can always be relied on to act in the bear’s best interests. No need to ever again to think about conquering us, we are completely harmless, yes sir. Embarrassing that there even is a word for this: Finlandization.

    So, our situation is in some ways quite different than yours because of our history, and that big scary neighbor, but still, we seem to have gone from a population of mostly self-sufficient ornery independents to one with a high percentage of individuals who seem to be pretty happy to leave as much as possible in their lives to the government in only a few generations. And the speed of that change is scary.

    1. I play Scandinavian fiddle, and there are a number of jokes along the lines of “a Norwegian, a Swede, and a Finn walked into a bar…” where the character of the Finn takes on the emblematic form of “an Irishman” in the more common British flavor of the joke.

      To illustrate, I was once told, by the mother of a Norwegian trucker who drove frozen fish to/from Russia, about a couple of Finnish truckers who were eating a meal at a stop. They saw, through the window, their truck staring to roll, and ran out to intercept the thief attempting to drive off with it. They stretched him on the pavement and parked one of the wheels on his hand, then went back to finish their meal.

      I understand the Finnish truckers were the ones who had little trouble at the Russian border crossings.

      Sorry to watch the process of domestication taking place. It’s already happened in Norway and Sweden, where the goats emigrated and the sheep stayed.

      1. BTW, in case you’re wondering, the Swede in those jokes is typically the urbane idiot, and the Norwegian is the rural slowpoke or the cunning farmer. The Finn is the belligerent one, the one that pulls a knife.

        1. my cousin used to complain the problem with his nephew and niece was they were half Finn, and it was the top half (we have lots of Poles, Finns and Swedes back home and who was what in those jokes depended on the tellers background)

            1. Q: Who is Alexander Graham Belonski?
              A: He’s the guy that invented the Telephone Pole.

              (OK, you didn’t say *good* ones!)

      2. When I worked in the upper Midwest, I got to hear Finnisota jokes, along with Ole and Lena jokes and references to the Lutefisk Line (the MN-IA border). And yet they thought Southerners had a monopoly on being strange . . .

        Example of a Finnisota joke. Why is December 7th remembered in Duluth? That’s when Perl Maki got bombed in Two Harbors.

        1. (from Esko, MN)…

          Q: How do you tell a Finnish extrovert?
          A: He stares at *your* shoes while he’s talking to you.

          1. It’s damn near impossible for me to look the person I’m talking to in the eyes, lower jaw I might manage but even that takes work. So my eyes have this tendency to wander around the nearby walls, or what’s on the table, or my coffee mug… 😀

              1. Yeah, I had this image of your eyes popping out of your head and wandering into your hot coffee. Sounded very painful!

                1. 😀

                  At least I have the excuse that in my native language saying that your eyes wander or are jumping around is perfectly acceptable, and I do tend to, at times, go for direct word for word translations instead of thinking in English. 😉

                  1. If you say that your eyes are wandering in my area of the US, it means that you are (or hands or other body parts) having an affair with someone other than your significant other. 😉

                    1. The Finnish expression can be used in that meaning too, although it can also just mean that the person is merely looking at everything around herself. And going in that direction, and talking about coffee, asking a member of the opposite sex (or same sex, for all I know, although I’m not that familiar with the innuendo rules of the sexual minorities here) for a coffee here, especially if you use an expression that would, directly translated, be ‘day coffee’, can mean that you are asking if they would be willing to have sex with you, like, right now.

                    2. Hmm… I wonder if that has any relation to the picture I saw the other day, a man and woman drawn like a Dick Tracy-style comic (Dick Tracy is an old detective comic, if you’re not familiar), with the caption, “… and by coffee, I mean sex”.

                    3. Oh– well I have been out of the dating scene for many years. I don’t think we have anything like “day coffee” unless the younger generation has come up with something. When I was younger, the guys could be blunt– of course the expression could have been “afternoon delight.” I was not one to get some of them. 😉

                    4. I suspect I am less than no help on topics of this sort. Back when anybody would have been likely to approach me for such purposes, they would have found “Hey, let’s f—!” too subtle for me to process.

                    5. That ‘day coffee’ (or sometimes ‘afternoon coffee’) comes from the way prostitutes offered their services on newspaper dating columns. While prostitution isn’t illegal here there are several restrictions to it and advertising it is illegal, so they have to use code words. And those of course spread to common use. Well, I’m not up to date to what may be used now with the younger generations (in spite of being a veteran people watcher), but people my age still seem to use that ‘coffee’ one.

              2. I was beginning to wonder if you extra special futuristic eyes like the prosthetic G’kar had in Babylon 5.

                1. Except I have seen that particular bit so many times reading eyes doing whatever now can stop me even when I’m just reading for pleasure. 😀

                  I don’t have more than a few of the books, and Swain’s is one of them, I was however for a while a tad addicted to reading everything I could find about the subject online, and there is a lot.

                  1. Ehgads. And 90% of it is cr*p. I used to forbid my fledgelings from reading those. I have two very large shelves of writing books. About five were useful. FIVE BOOKS, not five shelves.

                    1. I’ve seldom found a book that didn’t have something I could steal. Even the books you had to read with a salt shaker in hand so you could keep taking a grain of salt.

                      Except for ones that give you lists of character types, and lists of plot types. Indeed, I know of only one writer who found one of those useful: she would use a character type book, and if she could recognize her character’s type, characterization needed work.

            1. I don’t have a problem looking people in the eyes, but I do the same thing, simply because I have a problem looking at the other person for a significant period of time. I often have to explain to people that I’m not looking around at anything in particular, it’s just what I do.

              1. Oh. You have it good. Dan had to train me out of wandering off, physically, which I used to do at parties. I didn’t even know I was doing it. Someone became boring, I was gone… Drove people nuts.

                1. Oh, if I wandered off when someone was talking to me, my mother would have guilted me into a huddled heap.

                  1. In Portugal I never did that because… different mode. here, I picked up the habit. Came from living too much in my head, too. if I wonder off, the character follows, you know 😉

                2. Oh, by the way – did you get an email from me yesterday, or did I send it to the wrong address?

      3. We lost a few goats right after those wars. All activity which might have looked bad at the Soviets tended to get harshly punished. Some ran, and a few came to your country, like the man who went missing in action in 1960’s with the name of Larry Thorne.

        By the way, my own paternal grandparents had both emigrated, they met each other and married in United States, and had their first son there. Then, for whatever reason, they decided to come back here. I never saw that oldest one of my uncles because he didn’t like it in Finland and moved back to America while still in his teens. I think he died sometime during the 60’s, and was never married so I have no relatives there now, at least none I know of.

  18. “Make the economy impossible, and we’ll create another one you can’t reach. Make regulations too binding and we’ll either ignore them or – more likely – creatively subvert them.”

    When I read this I immediate thought of Russia after the USSR imploded.
    Folks like to complain that the Mob runs far too much there and well it does. The reason is under the Soviets, the mob was operating a capitalist system, so once the Communists were not running the show, those with the most experience were the people who were well versed in running a system of sorts in the capitalist way.

  19. I’d like to re-phrase your last words in the tradition of the 101st at Bastogne: “They’ve got us surrounded…the poor bastards.”

      1. Just a note– The people of Bastogne still honor the Americans who fought there. They even have a parade every year on the date of the battle.

    1. My dad was one of the 155MM Howitzer gunners attached to the 101st Airborne at Bastogne. He had some hair-raising stories to tell, like using 155MM howitzer shells as anti-tank weapons. They were fired at such close range they didn’t arm, but acted as a kinetic weapon. Would take the turret right off a Panzer Mark VI.

    2. My adopted grandfather (long story) was in the 501st Airborne. Swears Bastogne was the coldest he’s ever been and absolutely refuses to talk about it, drunk or sober. Only once did I ever hear him talk about it, and that was one evening as we were watching “The American Experience” about the Bulge. He seemed to forget that I was there. He spoke back to the TV, clarifying or correcting things. I stayed as still as possible so he’d keep talking. What I heard curled my hair.

      1. May I suggest this is why the left wing are so keen to have an absolute lock on publishing. Why they hate Amazons KDP so? Because they want you to buy their message. They don’t grasp that RAH succeeds because it wasn’t ‘message’.

        1. My venerated 1st Amendment professor told of a visit to a courtroom where some Marxists were on trial (they had “occupied” an economics classroom at his university and provided their own instruction on economic principles*.) Engaging one of their supporters in conversation during a lull, he was assured that under their enlightened governance, freedom of speech would be protected. “Even speech in support of capitalism?” he asked. “Oh, no – only responsible speech would be permitted.

          *Regarding Economics as science, as debated elsewhere on this thread: Economics is, indeed, science, but it has been badly tainted and abused by those who would employ it for their own agendas. Just because somebody, say, a Marxist, proclaims that they are employing “economic science” does not make their argument scientifically valid. Astrologers’ use of the science of astronomy in their work does nothing to validate their claims nor to invalidate astronomy.

            1. Under the rule of the Great And Powerful Drak, economists will be treated as Prophets under Old Testament rules. The first *wrong* prediction will be their *last* prediction. [Very Big Dragon Grin]

              1. Be fair, guys. There are some economists — Friedman, Sowell, Williams — whose work stands up well. while others (cough *Krugman* cough) whose best use would be to load them into catapults and launching them into the enemy’s camp.

                1. Apropos this topic

                  … Lionel Robbins in his Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (1932) reoriented economics as “the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.” Unfortunately, the viewpoint of Robbins has won the day.The fundamental shift from Smith and Marshall to Robbins is to rid economics of its substance — the working of the social institutions that bind together the economic system. Afterward, economics has turned into a discipline without a subject matter, advocating itself as a study of human choices. This shift has been assisted by what Hayek (1952) criticized as the growing trend of scientism in the study of society, which took mathematical formalism as the only secure route to truth in the pursuit of knowledge. As economists become more and more interested in formalism and related technical sophistication, it becomes secondary whether the substantive questions that they choose to perfect their methods or to illustrate their theoretical models bear any resemblance to the real world economy. By and large, most of our colleagues are not bothered by the fact that what they profess is mainly “blackboard economics.”

                2. It’s hard to imagine Dr. Sowell in a wizard’s hat. I guess you could have him wear a white Stetson.

        2. Amazon KPD as the 2000s version of samidzat? With even greater distribution ability and less equipment required?

      1. it’s now official.. ALL the cool people hang out here … Kim (Heya there. Miss your and the wife’s podcasts), Dave Freer (wow Two former S.A. folk ’round here) Insty linking in all the time, and of course the lovely and talented Sarah

  20. The primary reason we’ll prevail, Sarah, is because of immigrants such as yourself who come from foreign lands and, with their energy and smarts, bring a new birth of freedom that overcomes the sclerosis that sets in when the natives get too comfortable and full of themselves.

  21. My wife is originally from Canada, and I’ve been watching her version of the same process you describe here. Ten years ago, when I told her “You’re a better American than most people I know who were born here,” she reacted like I’d insulted her. Today, she takes it as the best compliment I could ever give.

  22. Sarah,
    I recognize much the same. I read more Ayn Rand than Heinlein before I first arrived in the US (I do read Heinlein now, just didn’t know of him before) and I think it sowed the seeds for me to feel immediately at home here, pretty much the moment I stepped off the plane in NYC for my first trip (which I did all alone at age 21, that was a fun adventure).
    It’s hard to explain to people how much of a difference the culture and atmosphere can make, as most of the worst parts of European mentality are so hard to pin down and almost never spoken out loud. But I never felt at home in the Netherlands, and as much as I love some parts of the country and its history (a few centuries ago it was a beacon of freedom and pluralism) the ridiculous amount of envy people feel, and hatred towards success, are enormously stifling. And it’s impossible to explain how refreshing it is to find people who are uplifted by seeing success.

    I do feel sometimes like a significant number of people who are born in the US don’t realize how much better it is living here than in one of the European states they want to emulate so badly. I’ve often had discussions about socialized medicine with Americans, for example, where they just can’t imagine how it would be a terrible system to live in, because surely it’s a panacea for all our troubles?!? And people are genuinely shocked, and disbelieving, when you tell them of all the many institutionalized problems these systems have.

    One other cultural difference that is just enormous in scope is how service personnel treats customers here versus in Europe. When I go back to the Netherlands now, I can’t go to stores without getting pissed off. Store clerks are outright rude and hostile when you ask for help, when you ask questions, and basically act like buying things at their store is some enormous privilege that you should silently, meekly suffer through. And those state-granted telecom monopolies that supply the supposedly superior European internet service? When I lived there we spent about half a year without internet because they kept forgetting to flip a freaking switch at their main office, and quoted us a five week delay before someone could get around to looking at it. Even dealing with the worst corporations here is a treat, in comparison.

    1. It just occurred to me, that another way of describing Euro-vs-American may be zero-sum vs. expanding-sum. Americans generally believe (and one reason for discontent at present is the pressure on this belief) that next year may be better for us and surely our kids will have it better. I’m not so sure that’s an ingrained belief in Europe.

    2. Back in the ’80s when we were all having children, our Dutch and Swiss colleagues where amazed to learn that we didn’t have an list of official given names that were acceptable on birth certificates. Is that still the case in some European countries?

      1. You can try unusual names in Finland, but there is a law, and names can be rejected by the officials, sometimes on what seems to be the whim of the official who happens to come across the case – even names which have been in use already once or twice can get rejected.

          1. Let’s see, some of the rules: you can’t give a boy a girl’s name or a girl a boy’s name (there are, however, a few old names which have been used for both sexes before the law existed, and they can still be used for both), you can’t give a surname as a first name unless it has been modified in some way (no idea how that works in practice), you can’t give a child a name one of her siblings already have as the first name (using same names as second or third names is however acceptable), the name can’t be something foreign to the naming traditions in Finland (unless you are a recent immigrant or your religion or traditions can be used as an excuse, but you better be able to validate those traditions and/or religion)(and names like ‘Tarzan’ and ‘Galadriel’ have been accepted at least a few times… probably they are second or third names, though, they are more flexible with those than with first names).

            Fairly sensible rules, I guess. But why on Earth could somebody think you’d need those codified as a law?

            1. no. More importantly — why should anyone but PARENTS have a say? Sensible or not, none of the government’s business.

              In Portugal there is also “will not give the child a ridiculous name” and ridiculous is defined by the person in charge… which means, yeah.

              There are parents who do ridiculous things. I knew someone who named his kids “Baby Boy” “Baby Girl” and “Fat Boy” because he thought they should choose their own names. Insane, but you know, it will provide a “reasonable cause and proof of being pushed over the edge” when the kids murder him in his sleep, so it’s important to have the insanity on display and all.

              In the long scheme of things — between him and the kiddlets.

                1. But really, much as I HATE things like “creative name spelling”, yeah, it should be up to the parents.

              1. Yeah… oh, I think we may have something like that ‘no ridiculous names’ somewhere in there too. But some of the older but however acceptable names could count as that now. Consider ‘Kaino’, one of the both sexes names, means something like shy, or bashful, and try that on a boy.

                So it’s not even really consistent. And yep, lots can depend on whoever happens to find the case on her desk. Nice or a very busy one can let a few ‘Tarzans’ or ‘Galadriels’ slip through, mean one could enjoy the power and get difficult even with something only mildly deviant. And how much does handling all this cost?

              2. Now, we all know the stories of the dumb parent who gives the child a ridiculous, even scatological or obscene name.

                It’s not what we would call insane. It’s just an overreaction.

                1. Talking about “strange names”, there’s Doctor Edward Bunnigus of the Schlock Mercenary web-comic. *Her* parents were literally idiots but managed to get a gene-engineered child (her). They saw “E.D.” as part of their baby’s serial code on the tag on her wrist and thought that was the baby’s name so *she* was named Edward. [Evil Grin]

                2. The only legitimate role I will concede to the state, in the matter of utterly insane names, is cleaning up the bodies, once the children attain sufficient age to “thank” their parents appropriately. 🙂

                  1. Seconded by a stomping of feet and waving of hands. (Well, I DO have two. For now.) (For now?) (I’m trying as hard as I can to grow three more pairs so I can type more stories at once.)

                    1. Hah, the first time I read this I thought you meant you were trying to grow three more pairs of kids… I wasn’t quite sure how that would help with writing productivity, though.

          2. Worse, one of my students back in Portugal was born in France. Her parents had named her Martine. When they repatriated, the government changed her name to Martinha which was old-fashioned and not yet cool. Like naming a kid now Ethel or… you know…

    3. It is the opinion expressed by many on the Left that the primary purpose of a business is provision of paychecks to employees; any other function — such as providing services to customers — is secondary.

      I swear, if it wasn’t for the MSM providing air cover most left-wing politicians would have long ago driven up the market price of tar.

  23. I suggest you re-read Heinlein. It isn’t about being American although Americans are the best exemplar group. It is about taking responsibility for yourself and your children. Any curmudgeon that thinks they can run your life better than you can take a hike. I became a libertarian by reading Heinlein. Those libertarian principles wouldn’t let me vote for a statists like Romney or Obama.

    1. Then I suggest YOU reread Heinlein.

      First, your observation is true — about being about taking care of yourself — but you aren’t even aware HOW alien that is to anyone but Americans.

      Second In Stranger, when talking about the VERY statist ruler, he says clearly that no, one shouldn’t get rid of him, because the difference between bad and worse is INFINITELY greater than the difference between bad and perfect.

      Heinlein never held out for the perfect and that’s why he was never Libertarian. (Yes, I DO know. I talked to Ginny. And this was in my Libertarian fire eating phase, from which 9/11 woke me up.)

      People who hold out for the ideal get what they deserve. Unfortunately, so do the rest of us.

    2. So, because of your “libertarian principles”, you decided to help give us the worse of the two? Thanks a lot.

    3. You can’t score a touchdown, so instead of the field goal, you decide to simply hand the ball back to the other team? Whether you want to admit it or not, by walking away, that’s just what you did.

      At least the Left is honest about pushing us down the road to fiscal ruin. You, on the other hand, justify your apathy by saying you couldn’t get the ideal. Sorry, but you sound like a liberal – intentions matter, rather than results. Such things have brought us to where we are today, and when they topple over in the next few years, I really don’t want to listen to your crying about it.

      1. As Thomas Sowell developed in his landmark work The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, there is a significant segment of the population less concerned with actually moving the football than they are with how they look to the folks in the stands.

        Apparently this applies to Libertarians as well as Liberals.

            1. Three excellent economists are:
              1. Ludwig von Mises–leader of the Austrian (as opposed to the Frankfurt) school of economics.
              2. Milton Friedman
              3. Thomas Sowell

              Each and every one of them is/was a scientist in the true sense of the word.

  24. I’ve worked in a small web department for about 30 years now. One of the changes I’ve noticed is the lack of initiative outside of school/work. We interview English majors for their writing/comprehension skills, illustrators for their graphic design/creation skills, programmers for programming. More and more, I find people who theoretically liked English enough to major in it—but don’t read books; who theoretically liked art enough to study how to create it—but don’t do any themselves; who studied programming for four years, but never got the urge—or enough of it—to have any side projects.

    I don’t even make any conclusions from this, because I don’t understand it.

    1. The post-primary school population is mostly made up of two groups of students, those who want to learn something and those who want a certificate entitling them to an easy job with a good income.

      American high schools, colleges and universities increasingly fail at both of these goals.

      P.S. Has anyone else noticed that the more stigmatized are the drop-outs, the fewer side projects our high school and college students have?

      1. And yet the prices keep going up.

        We will not even touch on this administration’s practice of turning unpaid student loans over to debt collectors.

        1. Sorry, can’t blame Obama for that one. There were collectors calling my mother’s house before I even made it back, after college. In 1993.

          I once had an actual credit card. Occasionally, I was late with a payment. If so, the bank called me during the evening, once, and we had a polite discussion about how the matter would be rectified, after which I didn’t hear from them again.

          The collectors for student loans? They called over and over again, at all hours of the day and night, not merely harassing me and my mother, but disrupting my employer’s business as well. Sometimes they made implicit threats of violence, and sometimes they made explicit threats of prison. Before I learned better, I once paid them with a personal check for $500, which they extracted the routing and account numbers from, then tore up the original check and presented my bank with a draft for $12,000…which the bank honored despite my account having only $526 in it, and then dunned me for the rest and reported me to credit bureaus as a writer of fraudulent checks. Oh, and the collection agency never credited me for the $12,000 either.

          Federal law limits the percentage of a person’s paycheck that can be garnished in service of any particular debt. To get around this limit, they administratively subdivided my debt into many dozens of sub-accounts, and then garnished for each one individually. 15% of your income doesn’t sound like a crippling deduction, until you learn that they can take 15%, and then take 15% of what’s left, and then take 15% of what’s left after that, and then take 15% of what’s left after that, and so on, until what’s supposed to be a pretty remunerative job is netting you substantially less than minimum wage. I eventually had to start taking under-the-table contract work just to keep food on the table. They credited the money they took from me against my accounts when and if they felt like it, but not otherwise, and far from consistently.

          Every time I tried to obtain some sort of relief, I got the same answer…student loan debt is special. It is not subject to the same laws that govern the conduct of men in the civilized world.

          I would consider it safer and wiser to be in debt to the Mafia than to an American educational institution. At least law enforcement agencies will pretend to attempt to protect you against the Mafia.

          Eventually, of course, I managed to get it paid off. I even built up a pretty nice life for myself, once I could keep most of the money I earned. But I still sometimes get panic attacks when the phone rings. Or the doorbell. And the saltiest sailors in the history of seafaring could learn expansive new forms of profanity from listening in on my response to the occasional appeals for donations that my alma mater used to send me, until I finally worked up the nerve to contact them by certified mail with a notice to the general effect of “if I could interest a prosecutor in a RICO case against you and yours I would gleefully watch the entire staff of your office dragged off to prison for the rest of your lives, with your assets forfeit and your families thus thrust suddenly into the sort of poverty where you kept me for more than ten years, but I cannot, so I must settle for the consolation of suing you for harassment if I EVER hear from you again”. So far, I haven’t.

          And this was all years before even Chicagoans had heard of Barack Obama.

          1. None of which is to say that this administration has not ramped up the efforts. [SEARCHENGINEOFYOURCHOICE] for “obama administration student loan debt collectors” produces this NY Times article from September of this year, one of almost 3 million items:

            In an attempt to recover money on the defaulted loans, the Education Department paid more than $1.4 billion last fiscal year to collection agencies and other groups to hunt down defaulters.


            Unlike private lenders, the federal government has extraordinary tools for collection that it has extended to the collection firms. Ms. Cordeiro has already had two tax refunds seized, and other debtors have had their paychecks or Social Security payments garnisheed. Over all, the government recoups about 80 cents for every dollar that goes into default — an astounding rate, considering most lenders are lucky to recover 20 cents on the dollar on defaulted credit cards.

            While the recovery rate is impressive, critics say it has left the government with little incentive to try to prevent defaults in the first place.


            The New Oil Well?
            Business is booming at ConServe, a debt collection agency in suburban Rochester. The company recently expanded into a neighboring building. The payroll of 420 is expected to double in three years.

            “There is great opportunity,” said Mark E. Davitt, the company’s president and founder.


            … efforts to change the incentive structure for guarantee agencies have stalled. And the Obama administration’s efforts to impose new regulations on profit-making colleges were initially watered down and then significantly weakened by a federal court judge.

            1. I had a tax return seized in the ’90s, for education bills my wife racked up before we were married. Some time before that, we had tried to pay off her loans with money from her 401k when she left the job she had been working at, but the bank that held it had gone under and we couldn’t find the loan anywhere. Later, after we had used that money for other things, it popped up again, and the bill collectors were calling right and left.

    2. Mr Blair, as a fellow IT professional, my biggest problem is that way too many of them don’t have any initiative even at work. They will do what you tell them…. and stop.

      1. Yes, even when what was asked clearly implied a little more than what they did. Then upper management comes in and has a meeting to decide how the direct manager can be a better manager.

        When I was working at a Tech Support group, doing Development work maintaining a Web Portal we used for some of our client companies for various purposes, and doing some SQL work as well, one of my coworkers and I were assigned to work out a conversion for one of our other offices’ new phone system data to mesh with ours (wasn’t easy, the other system worked a very different way than the one we used).

        My coworker was the one who maintained all the reports, so after we got done mapping fields and working out how to convert some of the data to fit in our system, I expected him to start talking about how to build the reports, because that was clearly implied in our assignment. Nope, he just went back to what he had been doing. Then, when our manager asked him when the reports were going to be ready to start delivering, he went off on him, then complained to the office manager, who then called a meeting to ask for suggestions on how he could be a better manager, instead of telling the coworker to go do the work he had clearly been assigned.

  25. This was an absolute joy to read, comments and all. I now have to go re-read all of my Heinlein books and get them for my 12 year old daughter.

    1. Wow. This lurker from the often maligned state of Alabama is happy to see anything that doesn’t paint us in a worse light.
      Not that that usually stops me.
      Ms. Hoyt, I have spent may hours here today from a link at http://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com and have enjoyed it immensely.
      It was uplifting to me reading your posts and the comments, as I’m a closet optimist.

  26. Sarah, as I’m sure you’re already aware, John Ringo discussed American uniqueness and exceptionalism at some length in his novel “The Last Centurion.” Much of the story dealt with how differing groups react to the triple whammy of a global pandemic, climate cooling, and a radical progressive administration. His fictional account describes in some detail how different cultures come to grips with similar problems. Caution: the story is told from the perspective of a serving soldier so the language can get a bit salty at times.

  27. Hard to argue with Heinlein:

    I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.


  28. I just want to say Israelis are like this too, only cubed. Many reasons: so many being no-BS survivors of brutality, Judaism’s inherent support of capitalism (which leftist Jews don’t like to acknowledge), an early pioneer environment with little material support and menacing enemies, diverse population of immigrants escaping oppression to freedom, Judaism’s long history of oppression/isolation leading to self-reliance….. Israelis could give Americans lessons in being ungovernable. 🙂

  29. It’s awfully hard to argue with Heinlein. “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” has other story lines, but a how a society might explicitly reject the rule of experts and the implications thereof certainly underpins them all.


    I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

    And the truly subversive theme …

    Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: “Please pass this so that I won’t be able to do something I know I should stop.” Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them “for their own good” — not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.

    Of course, C.S. Lewis touched on this as well

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

  30. You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.
    -Winston Churchill

    America is not ungovernable, it is to be governed at the lowest, most accountable level possible. That starts with oneself.

    Heinlein was not alone in what he wrote about from the SF community, and it is possible to read Fred Pohl, Poul Anderson, H. Beam Piper and many others from early SF to get a sense of individualism as the main way to survive. Government isn’t made for hostile environments, it isn’t made for the fringe lands, it really isn’t adapted to being adaptable… people are as self-governing individuals, or they die. Government is but an organ of society and that society is created by individuals who have created families in which they agree to set aside certain activities to preserve the lives of those they love. That is where the Nation starts and it starts with self-government. Society is that creation of extending the common self-restraint and realizing that it isn’t universal and it is always possible that individuals will falter and revert to more negative traits and go against that agreement creating society. Thus government is given power in the negative area of liberties and rights, those we dare not exercise individually and must be kept watch over by all of society. What that means, in practice, is that you don’t trust government and ‘experts’ are only as good as any other human with the same human nature and mere knowledge is not enough to gain power. That is why there is this strange idea that trust is earned and expertise must be demonstrated and have a basis for being acknowledged as at least repeatable. Not everyone can be a Feynman in knowledge or capability, but we can and must partake of the idea that just because someone knows a lot about a subject that they are an ‘expert’.

    What this comes down to, over time, is where Patrick McGoohan left us in The Prisoner: are you more than just a unit of society? If you are a free man, then you cannot agree to have your life strictured and structured by society where it transgresses your positive liberties and rights. That means the hardest of all routes to not be stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. Each of those gives illusory control over you by a power structure and it is that illusion of control that you cannot, indeed must not, adopt and yet still be the most self-accountable person in society. If the Left fears tribalism, the answer is not Statism to quash the individual, but self-accountable liberty and freedom with as little State as possible while still opening one’s heart to their fellow man across mere tribal distinctions.

    In the future of McLuhan vs McGoohan, we must come to terms that the middle area of the State is held by both ‘sides’ and that it is those seeking the State as State and forever State to define all that must be rejected. And as things look more and more like 1984, the choice for individuals soon gets boiled down to McGoohan, as even tribes are made of individuals. That still leaves with the troubling ending, but it is meant to be troubling…not for what is said, because little needs to be spoken by then, but for the unsaid. And that is even before we get to the world of Max Headroom… perhaps, now, only 5 minutes into the future.

    1. One point that I must disagree with. The left does not fear tribalism, they are tribalists. Virtually every leftist that I have known will make a decision on who is right based on their connection to the people involved, not on the facts or principles or on what is right by what benifits them.

      1. Unless they are invoking the victim priority list. Thus, a woman of color’s rights trump those of a gay male of color, while his trump the rights of a gay white male. Gender trumps color trumps sexuality. (Bruce Bawer’s new book is a horribly good account of how victim-studies developed and the sick hierarchies that you can find on the left.)

        1. Unless, of course, the victim status is negated by another factor, such as being Republican.

          Thus questioning whether Susan Rice made false statements is evidence of the questioners’ racism and sexism, questioning whether Condoleeza Rice made false statements is patriotic and necessary to protect the integrity of the nation.

          Truly, it is like a real-life game of D&D or Magic with them.

        2. Hmmm? I once saw an amusing little tempest where a white woman wrote a book and adorned it with images of Lorna the Jungle Girl. Followed by abject grovelling and offers to take sensitivity training on her part and the publisher’s, because color trumped sex.

          To be sure, she deserved being dumped on for that book, but because it was about having fun while being feminist and could be summarized “Be an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk — it’s fun.”

  31. Statists are creative, too. Let’s not make the classic mistake of underestimating the opposition. That’s always been part of our problem.

    The earliest Progressives realized that Americans cannot be governed directly. Millions upon millions of self-sufficient adults? Working in millions of family-owned businesses? Keeping their affairs to themselves and cheerfully repelling the nosy and intrusive? Can’t be done! So they hit upon a clever scheme that would reduce the problem to manageable dimensions: They would herd us into a manageable number of coercible groups.

    The principal avenue of attack was on small businesses, via taxation, licensure, and regulation. Small business is frequently spoken of even today as the engine of American prosperity, but most Americans of today have little idea of how the picture has changed. A century ago, essentially everyone owned or worked for a tiny business, usually just the members of a single family. But the proliferation of Byzantine rules, licensure requirements, and tax law has reduced the number of small businesses by a factor of five or more. So Americans rising to their majorities and hoping to prosper were ever more steered toward employment in an ever shrinking number of ever larger joint-stock corporations.

    Large corporations are subject to the same web of taxes and laws as any other business, but are able to spread the pain out more widely, and so are less harmed per unit sale. Also, the extent of their resources allows them to buy the favor of governments, which a family business normally can’t afford to do. While the small business sector in American in the Year of Our Lord 2012 is still large compared to most other nations, it’s shrinking in overall proportion: approximately 50% of Americans now work for corporations with a market capitalization of $1 billion or more.

    And large corporations are large, unmaneuverable targets. Government can far more easily coerce them, and through them coerce their employees, than it can do so to four million family firms.

    For example: Do you really think the income tax could have risen this high, were it not that the IRS has succeeded in coercing large corporate employers into collecting it for the State — and without pay, at that? Would the current kowtowing to “diversity” be quite as pronounced were the State not capable of torquing large corporate employers with promises to grant or withhold government contracts or regulatory permissions? Would the enviro-Nazis have us in their grip were it not for their ability, through the State, to bend large corporations to their will?

    We have been herded. The process is ongoing: the next stage will be a concerted attempt to destroy the economic attainability and advantages of middle-class single-family housing, so that we can be corralled into apartment blocks in dense urban areas, where choices are constrained by the terrible proximity of thousands of other human bodies and their needs. Remember that you read it here first.

    1. This is exactly what I’ve seen in terms of healthcare, even prior to the passage of ACA. Fewer and fewer docs are businesspeople–they’ve been shifting (some coerced by the cost of malpractice insurance and the complexity of the legal environment, others by preference) instead to being employees. The mindset is hugely different–they and their staffs are now bureaucrats following someone else’s rules (if you’re not happy, oh well–they’re not in charge), not businesspeople with discretion and a strong reason to please the customer.

  32. “I’m just talking about classroom behavior. People just TALKED. In Portugal, once the teacher entered, absolute silence reigned, unless he asked a question. ”

    And that’s pretty much the model that held sway in the instrumental music program I took over in my last pubschool gig… for about five minutes. The previous years’ “teachers” had been neither musicians nor teachers, in my estimation (yes, I knew the crop that had malformed these students and failed to teach these second and third year instrumental students even how to tune their instruments). But that was the model that held sway throughout the district, with predictable results not only in the arts but in all academics as well.

    My students… excelled. Am I that good a musician or that good a teacher? No, but I _am_ that good a director. *heh* All the students really needed was direction in order to learn first the fundamentals that their previous years lack of instruction (“Here’s a tape of what you need to play,” was THE substitute for teaching them to tune their instruments and read the scores) and then to approach mastery. And it took less time for the beginning students (of course) to excel than for those who had to unlearn all the bad habits. (Sticking in my head is a trumpet player who just could NOT get the idea that a B and a Bb are different notes, and thus fingered differently. Not a stupid kid, just drilled, drilled, drilled “This is your B” over and over. *sigh* Actually ended up doing well in solo competition after two previous years bombing… trying to “ape a tape”.)

    But it is easier to get proper behavior out of music students–no! really!–than classes in general. After all, the all have the same sheet of music (or they had darned well better!) and the director has The Power of the Baton, which when wielded properly is no small thing.

  33. “I think we’ll lose one city.”
    Your optimism is inspiring. I think it’s more like a few states.

      1. I believe that Sarah was referring to losing a city to a terrorist attack with a weapon of mass distruction rather than just having a failed government.

        1. Well, it was ambiguous in the context of the post, but, actually a terrorist attack might not be as bad as a few states devolving into revolutionary violence.

  34. By tradition, Europeans are much more deferential to social hierarchy and class rank. Maybe its a throwback to feudalism. Anyway, they no longer have kings and queens and princes. Instead, the new nobility are the “experts”.. By contrast, America came into existence as a refuge and haven to escape the European nobility. Americans by nature resent any illusion of social rank or elitism by those around them.

  35. I can’t remember where I heard this quote or who it’s from, but it has stuck in my mind.

    Ruling people is like holding a ball of mud. The more you tighten your grip, the more it slips between your fingers.

      1. I saw this recently …
        “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”
        ―Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin

  36. Sarah’s experience going back to Portugal reminds me of my Italian expat friends. The arrive in America and complain about the coffee, the pasta, the guns etc. Okay, whatever.

    Then they return home to Rome or Milan and are furious that they can’t contact the cable TV company at 10 p.m. on a Saturday, or get a Starbucks-style mocha whipped caramel soy latte at the bar.

    The orderliness and convenience of America is awesome, and seductive in a good way.

  37. Excellent piece, reminded me of observations in the book by Alexis de Tocqueville. May I provide my own example?

    Twenty years ago, I lay in a hospital room after having suffered a heart attack. The team of doctors were telling my girl friend that I was not responding to treatment and was unlikely to survive. The cardiologist said the poor response could be due to pneumonia, but the pulmonary doctor said it wasn’t present. My sweetheart exploded with rage, demanding the quack posing as a lung doctor be replaced. The cardiologist agreed, inserted a Swann catheter and poured in the antibiotics. Thanks to that wonderful girl, I survived. We married shortly thereafter.

    1. Have you seen the recent story of the British Member of Parliament (Labour) whose husband died of NHS neglect? You KNOW a system is crashing when it gets to mistreating the VIPs:
      Ann Clwyd: ‘My husband died because people didn’t care’
      Ann Clwyd, who shocked fellow MPs with a harrowing account of her husband’s treatment in hospital, talks about her crusade to restore compassion to the NHS

        1. Government can force compassion … if you sufficiently redefine compassion. Of course, government forced compassion tends to demonstrate the applicability of Gresham’s Law to things non=monetary.

  38. Sarah: The P.J. O’Rourke passage is from Give War a Chance. Very quotable, I remembered it immediately from your passing reference.

    “An American’s first reaction to the Soviet Union is to roll up his sleeves. There is so much to be done. Of course, that’s true in any poor country, but in the Soviet Union there is the what with which to do it. Give an American a couple of gallons of paint, some Murphy’s oil soap, a mop and a can of Lysol spray disinfectant and the private food markets would look like Balducci’s. The beefsteak restaurant could be fixed in an afternoon, just turn anyone’s grandmother loose in there with a Fanny Farmer cookbook, a copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette and a .38 revolver.”

  39. My wife and I rent an apartment next to our home. Last winter, our renter — graduate student from Turkey — got his car stuck deep in the snow while trying to exit his driveway. Within 15 minutes, a crew of 4 good old boys (we live in a rural area) stopped and were digging his tires free, hooking his car up to a pickup, and pulling him free in time for an appointment. As they drove off, he smiled oddly, and I asked him why. He said, “That was so American; a bunch of Turks would still be arguing about who to call.” Brought a tear to my eye.

  40. This is a response to Wayne Blackburn’s comment at 2012-12-09 12:22, posted here to get adequate column width for readability.  This will be one of a series of re-parented comments; I’ll post direct replies at the comments themselves, linking down here.

    I took snelson’s statement to be a reference to repeated denials that variations in solar output are not significant a factor in warming, even when it is pointed out to them that other planets are experiencing the same thing.

    Other planets change on their own cycles, some in the same direction as Earth.  Solar input is not a significant factor in recent changes, because it has not changed by more than 0.1% in the last 3 decades and there is no positive trend.  Recent historical (400 yrs) changes in the solar constant come to less than 0.4% peak to trough.  This is far too small to account for phenomena like the Little Ice Age by itself, demonstrating conclusively that such small drivers are amplified by other means.

    it also states that there ARE natural sources [of SF6].

    Okay, change that to read “human emissions of SF6 are between 2 and 2.5 orders of magnitude over the natural background”.  Sort of like powerplants vs. volcanoes!

    natural sources.

    And yeah, the so-called science IS a plot to gain power, as evidenced by the fact that the IPCC modified the original reports before publishing them

    You neglected to provide a link for this (your link tag wasn’t closed properly; this paragraph links to the SF6 article).  Given the level of spin over issues like this, I suspect that the actual words of the climate scientists are not what the “skeptics” say they are.

    1. Anthony Watts has a bunch of posts on solar variation; some of them get into details that I don’t have the background to understand, but I do understand his argument that a 0.4% variation in the solar constant can still contribute significantly to warming. The sum of it is, that’s the wrong number to be looking at — it’s looking at the second derivative when the first derivative is what should be considered (or maybe it’s the first derivative when the main function should be considered — it works out to the same thing.) Take a pot of water on the stove and put a flame under it, then turn the flame up by 0.4% — the water will get hotter. Did the 0.4% increase contribute significantly to the heat of the water? No, it was the MASSIVE amounts of heat from the flame that contributed to the warming. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the article where that argument got made — it might have been in the comments to one of the articles on solar variation — but if you’re patient enough, you’ll find it.

      As I said, I don’t have the scientific background to process the detailed amounts of data that Watts provides, but if you do have the background, his site is IMMENSELY useful even if you disagree with his thesis, because he’s doing the science right (i.e., providing his data so that others can try to disprove his thesis).

      Sorry for the dashed-off post, but I have friends waiting for me. I’ll hopefully have time to come back later and write something more detailed.

      1. Anthony Watts has a bunch of posts on solar variation; some of them get into details that I don’t have the background to understand, but I do understand his argument that a 0.4% variation in the solar constant can still contribute significantly to warming.

        Every time I’ve dug into one of Watts’ posts, I’ve either found that his extrapolations are baseless and misleading (like this paleoclimate post which fails to address the actual data of the last century or so) or have been quite ably debunked by real scientists.  Watts receives funding from the Heartland Institute, a propaganda organization.  His scientific credibility is zero.

        Take a pot of water on the stove and put a flame under it, then turn the flame up by 0.4% — the water will get hotter. Did the 0.4% increase contribute significantly to the heat of the water? No, it was the MASSIVE amounts of heat from the flame that contributed to the warming.

        Take a pot of water, put it on a low flame; it will get up to a certain temperature and stop.  Now place insulation on the sides and lid of the pot:  it will get much hotter and boil.  Was it the flame or the insulation which boiled the water?  No, it was the flame AND the insulation.  Misdirecting attention to the flame to avoid considering the insulation leads to an erroneous understanding of the system and its behavior.

        1. So… you call the people who have been caught time and again manipulating data, discussing how to HIDE evidence that Global Warming has halted, and REFUSING to allow access to their methodologies so that people can verify them, real scientists?

          Ok, I get it now.

          1. you call the people who have been caught time and again manipulating data

            You might want to review what the accusers label “manipulating”.  There have been several charges of academic fraud against climate researchers which others found worth investigating.  ALL have been found baseless.

            Besides, don’t you think it’s odd that the accusations of fraud are coming from think tanks and PR firms whose charter isn’t truth but shaping public opinion, where there is no standard except what works and where lies and half-truths are their stock in trade?

            discussing how to HIDE evidence that Global Warming has halted

            Do you mean things like the view of climate change held by “skeptics”?

            and REFUSING to allow access to their methodologies so that people can verify them, real scientists?

            You made me decide to look for an example.  The latest and most comprehensive study of actual climate (not modelling) is the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study.  The web site has both the data and the methodology.

            It appears that you have been led astray by whatever authority figures you’ve been listening to.  You ought to exercise some real skepticism and check their claims against reality, as I’ve done; if they turn out to be making up their claims out of whole cloth (as you can see the charges of “no access to methodologies” are), you need to place the burden of proof on them.

            1. if they turn out to be making up their claims out of whole cloth (as you can see the charges of “no access to methodologies” are) …


              Most damning quote: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

              The man who wrote that line is no longer a scientist; he is now a politician pretending to be a scientist, and should be treated as such by anyone who truly loves the scientific method.

              1. I’ve been avoiding this AGW debate with some care, but as an ex-research scientist: I wanted to say something to Engineer-poet about this “You might want to review what the accusers label “manipulating”. There have been several charges of academic fraud against climate researchers which others found worth investigating. ALL have been found baseless.” Trust me on this it matter not whether they were right or wrong about AGW: Mann and Phil Jones and his crew did something, which, had those e-mails come out within a few months, not years later, would have resulted in neither of them – or any of their cohorts, ever so much as washing a test tube in a research lab again (and yes, even the whitewash attempts did admit their conduct was unprofessional). Of course scientists crook their results a little, put them in ways that support their thesis. But being caught doing so is the science equivalent of being caught with kiddie-porn on your computer. That is why scientists use what Wikipedia terms ‘weasel words’ in papers. Their publications would have been quietly never cited again, even they had nothing to do with the subject. Their careers would have been dead, forever. So: as an engineer you may say ‘so: why didn’t this happen? They did huge credibility damage to scientists, who are supposed to be non-partisan, and report things honestly which don’t fit their thesis, without manipulating the way it was expressed.’ The answer is simple and self-evident: what I call the Jenga effect. You know: the game where you pile little wooden blocks and build towers taking out, very carefully, blocks and putting them on the top, to build higher. If it had come out immediately, it would have happened. Those involved would be selling insurance or changed their names and been gardening or anything that has nothing to do with science, or committed suicide. The shame is vast. But they got away with it for years and years. They became the foundation for this research area.

                You can take out a lot of Jenga blocks. But you cannot disturb the bottom block. And that, precisely, is why Mann and Jones et al got away with it. Because if you knocked out their block, all the papers above it, which cite them, or cite those which cite them or cite those cite them and so on… need to basically be tossed out. Never be cited again (ask a scientist what that means – career death). Only the few which say ‘all of this is BS and wrong’ can stand, and getting one of those published (even if you are right) is near impossible, because the journals all have vested interests too. They earn and survive by being cited. (the only criticism is published WAY out of field). It is actually a small pond, with the pursuit of fashionable funding, savage and in no way ‘pure’ (this applies to ALL fields of science. Sad but true) so is by now impossible to find a Scientist in the relevant field to conduct a review, who is not already opposed, who is not in some way suffering a conflict of interests. Basically, what accepting their guilt (which was pretty evident) would do was toss 10 years work down the toilet. There have been various attempts to verify work as direct result of this, for a new Jenga tower, because, really it doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong, they did something which is simply not acceptable. The science establishment has done pretty much what the Catholic church did with pedophiles, with the added ‘advantage’ that only ‘establishment scientists’ (imagine if only cardinals, who had hushed it up before, with their life’s position and achievement to lose had to look at priest molested choir-boy cases. It would be a very great man who didn’t minimize it. And would he be chosen for the job?) can examine the matter, and are hoping now that the perps will quietly age, retire and go away. They’re also hoping that it proves they were right, as this might forgive the unforgivable (at least to lay-people. I don’t think real scientists ever will.)

            2. And yes, the BEST study did science right. All credit to them. (And Anthony Watts and Willis Eisenbach have posted their own responses. The earliest of these responses are along the lines of “I agree with a lot of this, but here are a few methodological problems that they missed.” Later responses get more… testy, along the lines of “Um, why are you still ignoring the problems I pointed out? You could at least respond with a disagreement. Instead, you’re continuing to use this data that’s contaminated by the following set of poorly-placed monitoring stations, without ever mentioning the inaccuracy it introduces into your data. Isn’t this what peer review is supposed to solve?”) So there’s still disagreement over the BEST data and what it truly shows. But, as I said, to their credit, the BEST folks did do science right.

              The folks at the Climate Research Unit, on the other hand… didn’t. Which is why some anonymous person (who must have been on the inside, given what he/she had access to) leaked their internal emails to the Web, to expose their non-scientific behavior to the world. And I’m pretty sure it was the CRU that Wayne was thinking of when he talked about refusing to allow access to methodologies, since the so-called “ClimateGate” emails have become (in)famous in the climate science debate.

            3. “Besides, don’t you think it’s odd that the accusations of fraud are coming from think tanks and PR firms whose charter isn’t truth but shaping public opinion, where there is no standard except what works and where lies and half-truths are their stock in trade?

              The continuous “Squirrel!” style ad hominem of AGW proponents toward skeptics is among the reasons I have developed a contempt for AGW activists. Peter Gleick’s Heartland forgeries were only the cap of the fraudulent accusations made by AGW proponents – all to avoid confronting the actual issues skeptics raise.

    2. “You neglected to provide a link for this (your link tag wasn’t closed properly; this paragraph links to the SF6 article). Given the level of spin over issues like this, I suspect that the actual words of the climate scientists are not what the “skeptics” say they are.”

      Sorry, that is like complaining because someone claimed a football is made out of pigskin, without providing a link. Anyone who doesn’t know the IPCC modified the reports is being willfully ignorant, and providing a thousand links won’t help that.

  41. This is a response to RES’s comment at 2012-12-09 12:33 am.

    Somehow it always seems to require the policy prescriptions advocated before we heard about AGW, y’know? The Americans pushing this agenda wanted the government to run the economy, and the Third World nations wanted “reparations” — and that is their solution to AGW.

    Didn’t you notice that the same thing happens on the other side of the aisle?  For instance, the USA-Patriot act was essentially a wish-list written long before anyone heard of Mohammed Atta and Osama bin Laden.  After 9/11 there was a train leaving, and they got on it.

    What you’re seeing from the Doha reporting is what the (leftist) pols agree between themselves.&njbsp; You will get a very different story if you listen to the actual climate scientists.  For instance, Bill McKibben runs a site called 350.org.  Go to their “campaigns” page; you will see nothing about international compensation.  The same is true of climate scientist James Hansen; none of his proposed solutions so much as mentions compensation paid to LDCs… but he does advocate more nuclear power.

    Last, one of the easiest ways to reduce pressures to increase carbon emissions is to block the migration of people from lower-emitting countries to the highest-emitting countries.  No pol is willing to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, and the left specifically condemns this as “racism”.  That’s the difference between a political actor and a climate scientist.  Listen to the scientists, and only the scientists.

    1. Last, one of the easiest ways to reduce pressures to increase carbon emissions is to block the migration of people from lower-emitting countries to the highest-emitting countries. ”

      I don’t know, China seems to do this at will (and without bothering to look it up, I have to leave in a couple minutes, I believe they are the highest-emitting country) of course how many people really want to immigrate TO China?

  42. This is a response to accordingtohoyt’s comment at 2012-12-09 01:15 am.

    while I could see “ice age, civilization destroying” “warm climate, civilization destroying” fails to convince.

    The Anasazi settlements appear to have been abandoned because the area became too dry for agriculture.  Just a few thousand years ago, Lebanon was covered with cedar trees and the Sahara was lush with vegetation.  What happened?  Warming.

    shouldn’t all the beach front property be devaluing right about now? What about all those climate refugees?

    There are a lot of people who used to live in East Rockaway who might protest your implication that they are not climate refugees.  And I’ll just continue into the next comment without a separate header.

    As evidenced by the fact that in the seventies the world was freezing over and “every scientist agrees”

    Guess what?  That never happened; you are the victim of revisionist history.  The popular magazines (I remember them) made a big deal about mile-high glaciers bearing down on New York, but the actual paper which sparked this merely noted that in previous Milankovic cycles glaciation had usually started when Earth was in its current state… and noted that there was no sign it was occurring yet.

    Here is the abstract for the 1976 paper; it states “7) A model of future climate based on the observed orbital-climate relationships, but ignoring anthropogenic effects, predicts that the long-term trend over the next seven thousand years is toward extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.”  It looks a little different when you know that, doesn’t it?

    ODDLY the prescription was, just as it is now “more government, fewer people, more control by the government over the people.”

    The paper has no policy prescriptions.  Science deals with “is”, not “ought”.  Pols write the policies according to their own dogmas and interests.  Would you deny the reality of polio transmission because you thought the public-health legislation to prevent it was too statist for you?  That’s about the level of disconnect at work here.

    PFUI. This grows tedious. If this were a scientific problem, there are scientific solutions, and many have been proposed, but “sack cloth, ashes and a return to the 18th century” is the only “solution” that will be accepted.

    James Hansen and others are proposing efficiency, carbon sequestration, and nuclear power among other things.  These are scientific/engineering solutions.  You made your contrary claim in ignorance of what those on the other side actually think and say.  As I stated above, you can’t have a meaningful fight with a straw man.

    1. “There are a lot of people who used to live in East Rockaway who might protest your implication that they are not climate refugees.”

      Because they aren’t. The idea that hurricane Sandy is an artifact of global warming is without any scientific basis. The AGW activist claims of increased number or strength of hurricanes due to global warming are without any scientific support. Likewise, your reference to the Sahara becoming a desert due to warming is not really correct, desertification is not an artifact of temperature but of precipitation. Although post glacial warming did remove the ice sheets that, together with a different monsoon pattern, sent more moisture to the region during the glacial period.

    2. shouldn’t all the beach front property be devaluing right about now? What about all those climate refugees?

      There are a lot of people who used to live in East Rockaway who might protest your implication that they are not climate refugees. And I’ll just continue into the next comment without a separate header.

      If you’re either too dishonest or too dense to realize that that was a comment about the fact that all the big AGW alarmists are still living in their beachfront homes, where THEY said it would be flooding in just a few years, then you’re too far gone for help.

      As evidenced by the fact that in the seventies the world was freezing over and “every scientist agrees”

      Guess what? That never happened; you are the victim of revisionist history.

      Horsecrap. I was there, too. The claims were there, that all the scientists believed that a new ice age was coming, at worst, or serious average cooling, at least.

      ODDLY the prescription was, just as it is now “more government, fewer people, more control by the government over the people.”

      The paper has no policy prescriptions. Science deals with “is”, not “ought”.

      So that one paper has no policy prescriptions. Big deal. The policy prescriptions were being discussed, AND were part of the reason for some of the pollution controls that are on vehicles today. That’s not to say it was the only, or even the primary, reason, but the DID affect them.

      On top of that, if what you say is true, then you are admitting that AGW alarmists are NOT scientists, because they definitely ARE pushing for policy changes. James Hansen among them, as you admit in your next paragraph. They are also pushing for things like defunding skeptics, or removing credentials for meteorologists who disagree.

      1. The reason beachfront property isn’t devaluing is yet ANOTHER government intervention by continuing to offer government funded insurance and compensation which incentivizes rebuilding where otherwise simple financial prudence would forbid it.

      2. Horsecrap. I was there, too. The claims were there, that all the scientists believed that a new ice age was coming

        How did you know what “all the scientists believed”?  Were you attending the scientific conferences of geophysical researchers?  Of course not.  You were like me, seeing the lurid cover art on magazines and buying them for the articles.  (The headlines and paintings sure did sell a lot of magazines, didn’t they?  But I was a teenager, still inexperienced in the MSM’s practices of hype and agenda-driven coverage and blindness.)

        Since then, the Internet came along and made the original papers available for us to read.  Those of us who care to even browse the abstracts have learned that things were not as the purveyors of paper hyped them to be.  It was quite the opposite:  researchers had been calling for action on carbon emissions since no later than the 1950’s.  Naomi Oreskes has done a good job of pulling together a timeline of the scientific work, the workers and their statements.

        The policy prescriptions were being discussed, AND were part of the reason for some of the pollution controls that are on vehicles today.

        That’s a stretch; the pollution controls of the day increased fuel consumption.

        if what you say is true, then you are admitting that AGW alarmists are NOT scientists, because they definitely ARE pushing for policy changes.

        I believe you’re mis-using the word “alarmist”.  Someone warning about a chemical hazard and pushing to get the chemicals removed or stored safely is not an alarmist if the hazard actually exists.  Your position appears to be that anyone who calls for something to be done is ipso facto an “alarmist”; you are making the assumption that nothing needs to be done, which is the very issue under debate and losing badly in the scientific evaluations.  There are some 13,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers about anthropogenic climate change; less than 30 have concluded it doesn’t exist.

        This is not to excuse those people who want to hijack the issue to support their own agenda (e.g. massive international wealth transfers).  However, they would hitch their wagon to any source of support, and the denialists (ooh, I used that word!) enable these people by failing to provide any competing proposals and thereby point out how silly they are.

        They are also pushing for things like defunding skeptics, or removing credentials for meteorologists who disagree.

        I’m sure you support the de-funding of Ward Churchill and Michael Bellesisles.  Academic fraud is academic fraud.  However, if we’re going to police it we have to let science work without placing it under siege from political witch-hunts and culture wars.  Dogma has no place in science; truth is the only worthwhile value.

        1. First of all, I want to apologize for the tone of that comment: I should not comment when sleepy and irritated at the same time.

          However, I suppose that prevented you from reading the comment clearly, as that sentence you quoted clearly stated that this is what The claims were not what the actual opinions of all the scientists believed.

          That’s a stretch; the pollution controls of the day increased fuel consumption.

          DUH. That’s because it was claimed that we were increasing the particulates in the air not that we were raising the CO2 level.

          Your position appears to be that anyone who calls for something to be done is ipso facto an “alarmist” you are making the assumption that nothing needs to be done, which is the very issue under debate and losing badly in the scientific evaluations.

          Only because only evaluations that ever get published in the so-called “reputable” journals are performed by the people they are disagreeing with. There is no solid evidence that a warmer climate (if that is really where we are going) is a bad thing.

          There are some 13,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers about anthropogenic climate change; less than 30 have concluded it doesn’t exist.

          When the “peer reviews” are by others who are pushing for things like sanctions against anyone who disagrees, WHY do you think that would be the case?

          I’m sure you support the de-funding of Ward Churchill and Michael Bellesisles.

          Not familiar with Bellesiles, but from what I understand, Ward Churchill needs to be prosecuted, not merely de-funded.

          However, if we’re going to police it we have to let science work without placing it under siege from political witch-hunts and culture wars. Dogma has no place in science; truth is the only worthwhile value.

          Then why are you so studiously backing those who believe otherwise?

          1. Bellesiles was the fraud who wrote a book claiming to prove that gun ownership was rare in early American history. His falsehoods were as clumsy as they were blatant – he claimed in one instance to have accessed records that were destroyed by flood decades earlier. Even most of his vile prog allies abandoned him.

            1. Be fair, Oys; they didn’t abandon him readily nor quickly, only when the blatancy of the falsehoods were revealed. Before that they were printing hid praises on the covers of the Times Book Review and New Republic.

              It is almost as if they were indifferent to the facts underlying his argument until it became impossible to kick sand over it sufficient to cover the stench of his prevarications.

            2. Interestingly, Clayton Cramer – who was among those early on working to debunk Bellesiles fraudulent citations – is more recently discussing the issue of untreated / unconfined schizophrenia patients in an ebook “My Brother Ron” which is very topical in a later thread.

              1. Makes me wonder of Adam and others are actually unconfirmed schizophrenics instead of austistics. The reason I wonder is that I have met a dx’d schizophrenic on meds and not institutionalized. He was doing okay– but when he was on meds, he didn’t think he should be on meds. And when he got off meds, he was just scary and violent.

          2. I’m going to break my response into two pieces, because it’s long and I fear that the part with the hyperlinks may stick the whole thing in moderation from which it may never emerge.

            I want to apologize for the tone of that comment

            No offense taken.  I realize that this is an issue which is so tightly tied to dearly-held political beliefs that challenging the orthodoxy can get people upset, and worse.  I’m somewhat surprised at myself that I haven’t lapsed into that either.

            What I am hoping I can do is open a few eyes to the reality which exists behind and apart from the caricatures painted by the opinion-makers of the two political camps.  The irony is that the left has the science mostly correct, the right has the economics mostly correct, and so far as I can tell the current stalemate serves the interests of some very unsavory characters.  The solution I can see goes at right angles to the opposite prescriptions of the two camps… but there are certainly things I don’t see clearly, so there could be more.  You know both major camps are wrong, because either one of them could trump the other by saying “nuclear power!”… and they won’t.  That’s left to a few voices in the wilderness like James Hansen, James Lovelock and Patrick Moore, though their numbers and clout are slowly growing.

            I’d respond to some of the other comments that this thread has spawned, but I just don’t write fast enough to keep up.  So on to the nitty gritty!

            That’s because it was claimed that we were increasing the particulates in the air not that we were raising the CO2 level.

            They were trying to deal with smog and its precursors, nitrogen oxides and non-methane organics (methane is too stable to react to make smog).  Running inefficiently rich prevented NOx formation, and burning off the excess HC in the exhaust system wasted energy but got rid of the HC.  Then we got the 3-way catalyst which required unleaded fuel (and got rid of another nasty environmental pollutant), engines started running at an average of stoichiometric, and the rest is history.

            Only because only evaluations that ever get published in the so-called “reputable” journals are performed by the people they are disagreeing with.

            I don’t think you understand science and scientists.  If someone knocks down an inferior thesis with a better one, they get grants and awards.  Richard Dawkins relates a tale of a noted elder biologist who said to a younger colleague who disproved one of his long-held theses, “My dear fellow, I wish to thank you, I have been wrong these fifteen years.”  Truth really is everything in science.  Someone who gave demonstrably wrong objections in a review of a paper in the hard sciences would find repercussions, starting with not being asked to do reviews any longer.

            There is no solid evidence that a warmer climate (if that is really where we are going) is a bad thing.

            Your own position seems to have waffled from “it’s not happening” to “maybe it is, but that’s not bad”.  Meanwhile there were 750 heat-related deaths during the 1995 Chicago heat wave and 312 in 2011 (kept low by air conditioning and cooling centers), and in the August 2003 European heat wave an estimated 35,000 people died, nearly 15,000 in France alone.  You can bundle up against cold almost without limit, but you can’t dress any cooler than naked.

            Hot conditions usually come with drought, and drought transforms and kills landscapes.  This year’s corn price spike was due to a drought, now in its second year.

            When the “peer reviews” are by others who are pushing for things like sanctions against anyone who disagrees

            If the “disagreement” is due to erroneous work, why should money be wasted on people who can’t get their stuff straight?  The flip side of this is that there is money to be made from “science” written to conform to agendas of commercial interests, first practiced by the tobacco industry but branching out from there.  I’m sure you can see how a paper published in a reputable scientific journal is extremely valuable as ammunition in this info-war*, and those same journals have to keep those interests from contaminating their pages with claims that are not supported by fact lest their hard-won reputations be sullied.

            1. “Hot conditions usually come with drought, and drought transforms and kills landscapes. This year’s corn price spike was due to a drought, now in its second year.”

              Tell that to people living in the Amazon. Global warming, if true, would melt more of the polar icecaps, providing more water, not less, to the rest of the world in the form of rain. Think tropical heat, not desert heat.

              1. Tell it to people living in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.  The Ogalala aquifer was filled during the last ice age, when it was much colder.  It is currently being drained many times faster than it can recharge, and everything dependent on it will soon literally dry up and blow away.

                The Amazon rain forest itself is projected to change to savannah if AGW continues: http://globalwarming.markey.house.gov/impactzones/amazon

                Global warming, if true, would melt more of the polar icecaps, providing more water, not less, to the rest of the world in the form of rain. Think tropical heat, not desert heat.

                Melting icecaps just raise sea levels.  Even if you’re right about tropical heat, do you really want temperate-zone crops eliminated from all that territory as tropical pests and diseases move in?

            2. I don’t think you understand science and scientists.

              You seem to be under the mistaken impression that the ones pushing the AGW agenda are scientists. If they were, then they would allow for review of their data and methodologies by those who do not agree with them, which they have fought tooth and nail (as was pointed out elsewhere in this discussion) against being forced to share this information. Michael Mann’s computer program which purportedly analyzed the data and then predicted this catastrophic rise in temperature (the so-called hockey stick graph) is a classic example. He fought against releasing his code for months, and when they finally got it from him, found that it didn’t matter WHAT data was fed into it (they used Monte Carlo simulated data, which should have produced a level graph), it STILL produced the same hockey-stick graph. Likewise, the AGW folks refuse to address the issue of poor siting of weather stations (see surfacestations.org).

              Likewise, James Hansen was forced, a few years ago, to admit that the NASA temperature records had been altered (from www .real-science.com/poor-science-at-nasa (remove the space)):

              But in the year 2000, NASA and NOAA altered the historical US temperature record, which now shows that there was about one degree centigrade US warming during the century before 1989.

              Plus, there are tons of links here:

              Again, why do you think people who are so dedicated to an idea that they will alter the data are reputable scientists?

              1. A lot of this reply would have been dealt with earlier, but the comment got stuck in moderation and seems to have disappeared instead of being approved.

                You seem to be under the mistaken impression that the ones pushing the AGW agenda are scientists.

                You’ve got this little closed conspiracy thing going.  Even the working climate scientists aren’t scientists to you if they reach the “wrong” results.  (This is another parallel to young-earth creationists and their rejection of biology, geology, cosmology…)

                If they were, then they would allow for review of their data and methodologies by those who do not agree with them, which they have fought tooth and nail (as was pointed out elsewhere in this discussion) against being forced to share this information.

                Sounds like the repeated criticism of the CRU.  The CRU doesn’t own much of the national data it uses, and can’t share it under the licenses it has to use it.  This is a lot like people complaining that a music reviewer won’t give away copies of the songs they write about so everyone can come to their own opinion.  The songs don’t belong to the reviewer; you want to listen, you get your own copy or turn on the radio.

                In a post which didn’t get out of moderation, I pointed people to the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project.  This has the data and the paper with the methodology.  I’m not a researcher but I haven’t heard

                Michael Mann’s computer program which purportedly analyzed the data and then predicted this catastrophic rise in temperature (the so-called hockey stick graph) is a classic example. He fought against releasing his code for months, and when they finally got it from him, found that it didn’t matter WHAT data was fed into it (they used Monte Carlo simulated data, which should have produced a level graph), it STILL produced the same hockey-stick graph.

                You haven’t produced a link or anything specific that I can use to find the claims and look for rebuttals.  (EVERY TIME there is something like this with enough detail, I can find some sort of commentary by authoritative people showing why the climate research is right and the objectors, wrong.)

                there are tons of links

                Pardon me if I don’t devote my life to digging up the information to debunk all of them.  (This is starting to feel like a “debate” with a chemtrails believer or 9/11 “troofer”.)

                Again, why do you think people who are so dedicated to an idea that they will alter the data are reputable scientists?

                I couldn’t figure out exactly what you were referring to (which is why you should use hyperlinks), but I found this item at Real Climate which appears to be on the money or darn close:
                The “alteration” was an adjustment because (a) the sources of temperature data had changed over time, (b) the shift introduced an error, and (c) the error was discovered and needed to be corrected.  In other words, this kerfuffle is all spin.

                This is on the order of the nonsense about “hide the decline”, which was from an e-mail discussing tree ring widths (a proxy for temperature, not a temperature itself) which (a) resulted in a paper suggesting that tree-ring widths were not reliable proxies after 1960 due to higher levels of CO2 changing the relationship with temperature, and (b) was from 1998, years before the instrument temperature records allegedly being “hidden” were assembled.

          3. Yup, part 2 seems to have vanished into the ether.  Here it is with hyperlinks removed; Hoyt can nuke this if she rescues the complete version.

            Then why are you so studiously backing those who believe otherwise?

            You’re assuming they believe otherwise (see Dawkins’ example of the elder scientist, who made a mistake in good faith).  If I thought they did, I would not be taking their claims at face value.  Obviously we disagree on their credibility.

            One way to establish credibility is to see if past predictions are borne out or not.  James Hansen’s 1981 paper was re-discovered by KNMI scientists and was scarily on the money (it underestimated temperatures a bit, and predicted the opening of the Northwest Passage which is indeed open now).  There’s also a piece published in the New York Review of Books which details why the climate skeptics are wrong.  You may want to look at the graphs at the bottom before reading the text.

            * Young-earth creationists do the same thing with biological journals; this is not an isolated phenomenon any longer.

            1. One way to establish credibility is to see if past predictions are borne out or not. James Hansen’s 1981 paper was re-discovered by KNMI scientists and was scarily on the money (it underestimated temperatures a bit, and predicted the opening of the Northwest Passage which is indeed open now).

              Funny; again from this page, they come to a drastically different conclusion:

              Hansen’s own data (referring to a graph of his predictions vs. NASA data) invalidates his theory, yet he continues to ramp up his claims about the magnitude of global warming. This is the mark of a very poor scientist.

              1. Now, this article indicates that temperature records from England show a long-term warming trend, but one which is basically unaffected by Anthropogenic CO2 production.

    3. “Just a few thousand years ago, Lebanon was covered with cedar trees and the Sahara was lush with vegetation. What happened? Warming.”

      Piffle. Overgrazing and destructive agricultural practices.

      1. Overgrazing happened into NV too– the normal grasses were replaced with cheat grass– which most animals except goats can get nutrition from when the cheat grasses turn brown. The cheat grass also burns hot and quickly– we have had more wildfires because of those grasses– also caused problems for our wild animals.

          1. Plus cheat grass is very dangerous to dogs. It can burrow under their skin causing absesses, or into their body cavity, causing infections and for them to fill up with fluid. Also they can inhale the seeds, getting them in their lungs, which causes a very nasty infection and their lungs filling up with fluid. This last scenario is more often fatal than not, and when not it still requires a very long time on antibiotics, which has other long term affects.

  43. You put the finger on something I have been trying to explain to folks for years. Science Fiction cemented me in conservatism. The bulk of science fiction I read in my formative years was written by leftist (Frank Herbert, Phillip K. Dick and so forth). They all basically taught to not trust government and large institutions because they have to crush the individual in order to maintain control. This always made me distrustful of anyone who pushes big government or thinks that government’s job is to provide the needs of life to people. As I grew older I realized they actually only hated government in the hands of the right, but on the left it would be just ok. However, the lesson of “don’t trust government” stuck and drove me deeper into conservatism.

    1. I read Herbert and Heinlein, whose messages are that worthwhile advances are made by people, not bureaucracies.  Of course, it’s hard to write a gripping tale about a bureaucracy and probably much harder to sell it.

      Bureaucracies are good at setting rules, and human societies use rules (laws) to structure themselves.  One of the rules in common law is that you don’t create nuisances, such as emissions which annoy or impair your neighbors.  This isn’t some new-fangled judicial activist invention; it goes back centuries, and we have it because it makes sense and helps to reduce and control conflict between people.

      There’s a lesson there.

      1. Bureaucracies are good at setting rules, and human societies use rules (laws) to structure themselves. One of the rules in common law is that you don’t create nuisances, such as emissions which annoy or impair your neighbors.

        It matters whether that “structure” is a skeleton or an exoskeleton … and how flexible it is. When the bureaucracies start defining human exhalations as “polluting emissions” some of us think they’re exceeding their mandate. When they define human beings as invasive species they might just possibly be exceeding their mandate.

        When they preclude Border Patrol agents from patrolling certain “sensitive environmental areas” and by so doing channel aliens entering the country without proper documentation through those areas, some will perhaps suggest their efforts are become counter-productive of their mission.

        1. When the bureaucracies start defining human exhalations as “polluting emissions” some of us think they’re exceeding their mandate.

          I dunno, I think more regulation of people who fail to brush and floss is in order unless they stay out of close-quarters situations. </snark>

          In all seriousness, it’s the dose that makes the poison.  Human urine in sufficient concentration is a pollutant, because the nitrogen and phosphorus will cause eutrophying algal growths, anoxic waters and fish kills.  Nitrogen and phosphorus in smaller amounts are necessary for the aquatic food chain to exist; it’s the same stuff, but too much is bad.

          Plants love 1% carbon dioxide in the air; humans, not so much.  Even at lower concentrations, the kind of plant you encourage changes with CO2.  We are already seeing forests taken over by woody vines, which grow faster at our atmospheric levels of 390 ppm and up.  Woody vines are lousy for making lumber, paper, and most other things we need.  You want to talk economic impacts, do you want to have to clear woodlands of poison ivy and wild grape every year or two just to keep them from being overrun like the kudzu-infested South?

          The “skeptics” are dogmatically claiming that these things make no difference, when there’s plenty of evidence that they do.  This does not mean buying into the policy prescriptions of the crypto-Marxists, but it does mean that Business As Usual isn’t tenable either.

          1. Nor has “business as usual” prevailed, eh? The US is (AFIK) the only country to meet the Kyoto emissions standards, partly because our economy tanked, primarily because we’ve employed fracking to access bountiful quantities of cleaner burning fuels. Surprisingly little of the reduction can be attributed to such “green” technology as electric cars, mercury-vapor lightbulbs or ornithomatic windmills.

            1. The US is (AFIK) the only country to meet the Kyoto emissions standards

              I believe you’re thinking of Russia; the USA has not ratified the Kyoto protocol, objecting because it did not require any emissions reductions from economies like the BRICs.

              1. It’s possible he meant that we met the standards even never having agreed to them, just because of the recession and replacing coal with gas.

                  1. Worthwhile to whom? Nobody has ever clearly demonstrated that the Kyoto protocol will make a significant difference (in metrics people actually care about; natural disasters, droughts, floods, etc.) even if completely embraced by every country in the world. You can hardly say nothing worthwhile was accomplished if we can’t even answer the more fundamental question first.

                    1. If we stipulate that reducing the cited gasses would be worthwhile, Kyoto’s failure to restrict emissions in China and India would in fact mean that the primary effect of the protocols would be to accelerate transfer of manufacturing from developed, emissions-controlling nations to developing, emissions-indifferent nations. That fundamental flaw rendered the accords worse than useless for controlling global emissions and suggests that those proposing the accords had a different agenda in mind than global reduction of greenhouse gasses.

                      While the bell and collar may be of the very best material and in the most fashionable style, it does not follow that those proffering it to the cat are concerned about her appearance.

                  2. Besides, increased emissions are strongly correlated with GDP increases. I think the good that comes from Third World countries increasing their standard of living weighs much more heavily than the rather nebulous risks associated with higher levels of CO2. If we care about human quality of life, anyway.

                    1. History indicates that economic expansion in Third World nations does not happen in a straight line; there is an initial burst of growth in the economy, in the population, in pollution which shortly (in geologic terms) levels off and produces slower population growth and cleaning of the environment. Folks who fail to recognize this cycle are like those who attempt a straight-line projection of the growth rate of teenage boys to predict how tall they will be.

                      Walter Russell Mead observed, back in August:
                      US Carbon Emissions Hit 20-Year Low, No Thanks to Carbon-Trading Schemes
                      The Energy Department has just released a report that ought to leave the greens asking: How did we get this so wrong? As the AP reports, the study shows that US carbon emissions have just hit their lowest level in 20 years. How was this reduction achieved? Natural gas:

                      In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

                      Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

                      For years, American greens have pushed carbon-trading as the best way to reduce carbon emissions. Yet now carbon emissions are dropping, thanks not to an intrusive government tax on carbon, but to the brown industry and fracking technologies greens vociferously oppose.

                      Meanwhile, Europe’s massive carbon-trading scheme has had decidedly mixed results in reducing emissions, and may even be encouraging the production of dangerous pollutants. With this news, the case for America to follow Europe’s lead on carbon has become considerably tougher to make.

              2. What I wrote is correct: the US has met the targets set in the Kyoto protocols, thanks to abundant clean natural gas and an economic slump.

                I did not say the US had signed the accords.

                There were more reasons for our rejecting the treaty than just that which you cite*, but it does not mean we rejected the principle of more efficient energy production.

                *For example, the period establishing the baseline for the accords was set so that Germany got full credit for elimination of East German pollution, which it had largely already achieved, thus needing no further emissions reduction.

      2. As usual, you omit part of the facts (like every other AGW fan): One of the rules in common law is that you don’t create nuisances, such as emissions which can be proven by scientific evidence to annoy or impair your neighbors. You overlook the fact that the proof has to be provided by honest science.

          1. At which point it was required to be proven by the standard science of its day, crude though it was, and even though you don’t call it science.

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