2011-12-21

The Mythbusters guys are fighting the "Stop Online Piracy Act"

Here's what he Adam Savage has to say about SOPA in Popular Mechanics:

SOPA Could Destroy the Internet as We Know It

Soon the U.S. Congress will reconvene to consider the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Mythbuster and PM contributing editor Adam Savage says that if these sweeping pieces of legislation pass, the U.S. will join the likes of China and Iran in censoring the Internet, and destroy the openness that made the Web perhaps the most important technological advance of his lifetime.

I'm glad to say that--according to a staffer who I spoke to today--my congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is planning to vote against it.

Thank you Dutch.

2011-09-11

Epic FAIL by BCPS school board task force

County Councilman David Marks is appalled:
An Inexcusable Vote by the School Board Task Force

For the past several months, a task force has been considering whether the Baltimore County school board selection process should be reformed. The central argument is whether some—or all—members should be elected by the voters of Baltimore County.

Community leaders and parents have testified in favor of school board elections. State legislators from both political parties support this change, and last month, a majority of the County Council endorsed a partially elected Board.

Yet despite bipartisan support from leaders across Baltimore County, the task force last week dismissed the idea, like someone swats an annoying housefly.

One of the members motioned to preclude any consideration of School Board elections from any future review. The vote was allowed to proceed—without no notification, and with several members absent.

The task force has only two Republican members, both of whom support school board elections. They were absent. One of the two Republicans, Senator J.B. Jennings, was on State Senate business at a committee visit at the University of Maryland.

The other absent member was the County Council’s representative, Chairman John Olszewski.

Again, the issue of school board elections is the key element of the debate. The vote should have been publicized in advance to all members of the task force.


2011-09-08

The determinants of economic growth

Jerry Pournelle's message to President Obama:
My general principle is that economic growth happens when energy is cheap and there is a maximum of economic freedom, and of those two, economic freedom is probably the more important.

2011-09-06

"Black English as linguistic progress"

Language nerd John McWhorter rocks. Superb interviewerer Josh Knobe asks good short questions and gets out of the way:



The next segment is good too, "The grammar of slang, yo":

2011-09-01

7 questions government agencies should ask themselves before creating any new regulation

Veronique de Rugy has a good list over at NRO's The Corner.
  1. Is there a large, systemic problem that is unlikely to resolve itself in the near future?
  2. Is [this] government [agency] in the best position to solve this problem?
  3. Does the regulation actually address the identified systemic problem?
  4. What other solutions are available?
  5. Would the proposed solution give rise to other significant problems?
  6. Would the preferred solution solve the problem at a reasonable cost?
  7. Will the agencies be able to recognize when the problem is actually solved and eliminate the regulation when it becomes obsolete?

2011-08-31

When a calm, polite, team-playing PTA president like Julie Sugar reaches her "boiling point" . . .

. . . you know that something is deeply wrong with the recent performance of the BCPS school board. From her recent editorial on the Sun website:
[The] summer study task force to examine the current school board selection process in Baltimore County . . . was formed after legislators received numerous complaints from parents and community groups regarding BCPS and their poor handling of issues such as botched school renovations, major overcrowding in schools, AIM, and banning PTA craft fairs and community groups from public schools.

I have been involved in these issues over the past four years, and my frustration has reached a boiling point. Each time a problem arises, the BCPS administrators at Greenwood deny the problem, and then the board ignores it. Our only recourse has been to complain to our elected leaders to intervene on our behalf. Why? Because our lawmakers represent us, and our school board does not.

Over the past four years, the appointed board has rubber stamped every decision and priority of the superintendent – when in reality the superintendent works for the board.
She supports a hybrid board, but seems afraid that the task force will ignore public testimony and go off in a different direction. I share her fear.

2011-08-30

Low-cost, flexible Megabus from the private sector vs. budget-busting, inflexible high-speed rail from the public sector

Michael Barone spots the winner.

It seems to me that two rarely-made comparisons work against high-speed rail:
  1. Any kind of railroad is comparable to older telecom technology (landlines, dedicated circuits and the like), while cars and buses are comparable to newer telecom technology (cell phones, packet switching and so on).
  2. The car-bus-and-road approach is more like modern distributed computing on the internet, while railroads are more like clunky mainframe technology.
"Big, centralized and inflexible" has worked OK at some times in the past. But "small, decentralized and flexible" usually wins out in the long run.

It also seems to me that high-speed rail proponents usually leave last mile considerations and other inconvenient numbers out of their analyses:
Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute notes that high-speed rail connects big-city downtowns, where only 7 percent of Americans work and 1 percent live. “The average intercity auto trip today uses less energy per passenger mile than the average Amtrak train.” And high speed will not displace enough cars to measurably reduce congestion. The Washington Post says China’s fast trains are priced beyond ordinary workers’ budgets, and that France, like Japan, has only one profitable line.
And, of course, railroads are less robust and more vulnerable than highway systems to terrorism, sabotage, and military attacks.


2011-08-26

Cause & effect: Why gerrymandering is a root cause of so many ills in the US Congress & state legislatures

[UPDATE: Most people yawn at the issue of gerrymandering, but I think it is a critical problem. I drew this chart partly to clarify the issue in my own mind and partly to illustrate for others how pernicious and damaging gerrymandering really is.]

Click on the image to see a larger version.


Brendan Loy compares Mayor Bloomberg to Mayor Nagin

He doesn't like Bloomberg's choice to delay a decision on evacuation of New Yorkers living in "Zone A" low-lying areas:
Two days short of six years later, with a big-time hurricane hurdling toward a Sunday strike on his city, is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg making the same mistake? He has announced that he will wait until Saturday morning to decide whether to order a mandatory evacuation of the “Zone A” low-lying areas that are home to roughly 250,000 people. So, like Nagin, he’ll be ordering an evacuation on the very day before the storm’s landfall or closest approach, and with perhaps 12 hours or less before conditions begin to deteriorate. That seems pretty foolish. Heck, I thought late Friday was pretty late to get started. Saturday morning? Really?!
Loy also thinks it's a terrible idea to play the Jets-Giants pre-season game, even with an early start:

One thing I know is the wrong call is the decision to play the Jets-Giants preseason NFL game on Saturday, albeit with an accelerated kickoff time of 2pm instead of 7pm. Playing this game at all on Saturday is absolutely absurd, full stop. Saturday should be a day for evacuations and last-minute preparations, and that’s it. Adding pre- and post-game traffic to the evacuation traffic is beyond irresponsible, and even worse is the message that this sends to the public: that it’s business as usual, the hurricane is no big deal, let’s go watch a football game!

Look, I love football. But let me be clear. Going forward with the Jets-Giants game on Saturday is an unbelievably terrible, inexcusably irresponsible, utterly indefensible decision, and it must be overturned. I strongly urge Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Michael Bloomberg to use the power of their offices to convince the NFL to call off this game, and if the NFL refuses to cooperate, I urge them to publicly shame the league into doing so. Anything less would be a failure of leadership. It’s an utter absurdity that going forward with the game is even being contemplated under the circumstances.

2011-08-24

It's time for Maryland to start fixing the hugely damaging gerrymandering problem

The WaPo makes some good points on gerrymandering in their recent editorial.

1. It leads to extremism in both parties:
By planting more and more districts firmly in the camp of one party or the other, the [gerrymandering] process, abetted by computer wizardry and the hard-line leanings of both parties’ primary voters, leads directly to uncompromising, line-in-the-sand politicians.
2. It's already really bad in Maryland:
As even a cursory glance at Maryland’s current congressional map illustrates, the state’s district lines are so tortuously drawn as to be almost comical.

Fashioned by Democrats in 2001 after the last census, the map pays little heed to counties and communities and dilutes Republican votes where possible by dispersing them among districts. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as the city of Baltimore are each split among three districts . . . . The 2nd Congressional District — curlicue territories strung together by impossibly delicate tendrils of land — is a crazy-quilt confection drawn for the express purpose of ousting the incumbent at the time
3. Gov. O'Malley's redistricting committee is all about window dressing:
A redistricting committee appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, is crisscrossing the state gathering the views of citizens. The panel’s five members include just one Republican, but in any event it is little more than a dog and pony show.
4. Few people are optimistic that we'll get a better result this time around:
And no one should be surprised when the district lines end up even more crooked and cockeyed than they are now, nor when elections become even less competitive than they already are.
5. Other states are starting to fix things:
There is a better way of doing things. About a dozen states have established nonpartisan or bipartisan commissions to draw electoral maps, and studies suggest that elections have become more competitive in those states.
6. Fixing gerrymandering is beneficial in ways that regular citizens of both parties support:
Competitive districts tend to favor more moderate candidates, at the expense of ideologues of all stripes. That alone would be an important step in the direction of compromise and a workable political system.
Bottom line: things are a mess here in Maryland, but there's no reason why we can't start start fixing the redistricting process. If other states can do it, we can too.

2011-08-23

The connection between culture, stories and politics

Lawrence Meyers at Big Hollywood lays it out and suggests that the connection is so important that we should all be paying closer attention.

The tag line in the title: "politics is downstream from culture."

The job-killing NLRB

Joe Nocera of the NY Times gives an update on the Boeing fiasco:
In April, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing, accusing it of opening the South Carolina plant to retaliate against the union, which has a history of striking at contract time. The N.L.R.B.’s proposed solution, believe it or not, is to move all the Dreamliner production back to Puget Sound, leaving those 5,000 workers in South Carolina twiddling their thumbs.

Seriously, when has a government agency ever tried to dictate where a company makes its products? I can’t ever remember it happening. Neither can Boeing, which is fighting the complaint. J. Michael Luttig, Boeing’s general counsel, has described the action as “unprecedented.” He has also said that it was a disservice to a country that is “in desperate need of economic growth and the concomitant job creation.” He’s right.

2011-08-21

"Baltimore a national leader in unfounded rape cases"

Reports the Baltimore Sun.
The Baltimore Police Department has for the past four years recorded the highest percentage of rape cases that officers conclude are false or baseless of any city in the country, according to The Baltimore Sun's review of FBI data. More than 30 percent of the cases investigated by detectives each year are deemed unfounded, five times the national average. Only Louisville and Pittsburgh have reported similar numbers in the recent past, and the number of unfounded rape cases in those cities dropped after police implemented new classification procedures. The increase in unfounded cases comes as the number of rapes reported by Baltimore police has plunged — from 684 in 1995 to 158 in 2009, a decline of nearly 80 percent.
This could mean that women in Baltimore make more false accusations. It could also mean that police here are more likely to ignore legitimate cases of rape. Most likely, it's some of both.



UPDATE: Somewhat related, from Dr. Helen:
Pressured by the Obama administration, universities abandon any pretense of due process in sexual assault cases.


2011-08-13

Gov. O'Malley and his redistricting commission: arrogance with no accountability

At the start of the redistricting hearing last night, State Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch and their three colleagues could not have looked more bored.

But Annie Linsky of the Sun describes some testimony that seemed to wake them up:

Though the hearing was sparsely attended compared to others elsewhere in
the state, commenters made some of the most pointed criticism to date. David
Greene, a city resident, took lawmakers to task for the “arrogance” of
Maryland’s current congressional map.

Particularly in Central Maryland, that map cuts through counties and neighborhoods in a tangle of lines designed to link Democratic voters together and limit Republican power in Congress. He said one district resembles a cow-brand that lawmakers stamped on the state.

He compared the public lack of concern about gerrymandering to what he
says was once a similar attitude toward date rape.

“Everyone says 'politicians will be politicians,' “ Greene said. “It is time for us to shift our attitudes just as we did with date rape. Not acceptable.”

He drew applause when he asked: “Are you going to fix this problem or are you going to rape us again?”


If Miller and Busch want to stop the gerrymandering, it is easily within their power. Will they wake up and smell the coffee? Too early to say, but I think they might be surprised at how closely people will be watching them.

2011-08-07

"Doorbell"

Watch it to the end. Of all the Powerline contest videos, this is the one that went viral even though it didn't finish in the top tier.


The idea of the $100,000 contest was to "effectively and creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis"

2011-08-04

Testimony from tonights redistricting hearing

I have four things to say about redistricting.

1. If you think about what's wrong with Congress -- arrogance, corruption, incivility, and so on -- one root cause is safe districts. And of course a root cause of safe districts is gerrymandering.

2. At every level, I'd like to see compact districts that keep communities together. These districts should be drawn up by neutral bodies containing zero elected officials.

3. The fight against gerrymandering is a "strange bedfellow" kind of issue. In writing an article called Gerrymandering is Bad for the Bay I interviewed someone I often disagree with, the Executive Director of Maryland LCV, and found that I agreed with almost everything she said about redistricting. She said that it makes people less likely to vote, reduces the responsiveness of politicians, and makes it more difficult for *any* kind of community group to get help from elected officials. Republicans should build bridges with Dem-leaning groups like Maryland LCV and fight gerrymandering together.

4. In the fight against gerrymandering many of the "enemy" are on our side of the aisle. Gerrymandering is like chocolate. If you put a chocolate bar in front of a chocaholic he will probably eat it. And if you let a politician of any party choose the districts, he will probably gerrymander. Furthermore, most politicians at every level -- including Republicans -- tend to shrug at the problem of gerrymandering, deny that it is a problem and worst of all claim that there is nothing they can do about it. Here's how the blameshifting works:
  • County Council people say disingenuously "go talk to the Redistricting Commission" .
  • State Legislators say they are hamstrung by federal election laws, and
  • Congressmen say "Don't look at me, the state legislature and governor decide on what my district looks like."
In conclusion, we can't let politicians get away with this kind of misdirection. All elected officials in every party at every level should do two things at minimum. First, talk about gerrymandering in public and acknowledge that it is a huge problem. Second, remove themselves from the redistricting process.

2011-07-31

A catchy anthem for small government

You're Gonna Pay by Wilson Getchell. I like the part where Harry Reid points a pistol at six sperm and says "Give me all your money."

2011-07-29

When, where and how to testify at Maryland redistricting hearings

These hearings cover both congressional districts and Maryland state legislative districts. Dates and locations for the twelve hearings:
  1. Sat Jul 23, 11 a.m. Hancock High School (auditorium), 289 W. Main St., Hancock, Washington County
  2. Sat, Jul 23, 2 pm, Hood College (Rosenstock Hall-Hodson Auditorium), 401 Rosemont Ave., Frederick
  3. Mon Jul 25, 7 pm, Prince George’s CC (Largo Student Center-Rennie Forum), 301 Largo Road, Largo, Prince George’s Co.
  4. Wed Augt 10, 7 pm, Universities at Shady Grove (Building #1 Auditorium), 9630 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville, Montgomery Co.
  5. Fri Aug 12, 7 pm, Morgan State U, Student Ctr (Calvin & Tina Tyler Ballroom #4), 1700 East Cold Spring Lane, Balt City
  6. Wed Aug 24, 7 pm, College of Southern Maryland (Ctr for Bus and Industry, Room BI-113), 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata, Charles Co.
  7. Sat Aug 27 11 am, Harford CC (Amoss Ctr), 200 Thomas Run Rd, Bel Air, Harford Co.
  8. Sat Aug 27, 2 pm, Towson University (Stephens Hall Theater), 8000 York Road, Towson, Baltimore County
  9. Tue, Aug 30, 4 pm, Anne Arundel County (Location to be announced)
  10. Tue Aug 30, 7 pm, Howard County (Location to be announced)
  11. Sat Sep 10, 12:30 pm, Salisbury University, 1101 Camden Avenue, Salisbury, Wicomico County
  12. Sat Sep 10, 4 pm, Chesapeake College (Todd Performing Arts Center), Routes 50 and 213, Wye Mills, Talbot County
Rules on how to testify:
Public hearings will start at the designated time and end following the last testimony of registered persons. More specific details about the hearings will be updated as soon as information becomes available at http://planning.maryland.gov/Redistricting. Guidelines for the public hearings and third-party plan submissions are also posted at the web site.

Advance sign-in for the public hearings is required (by e-mail only) and must be received by 12:00 noon the day prior to the public hearing. People interested in speaking can sign up electronically in advance at planning.maryland.gov/Redistricting. Click on the “bell icon” for the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee & Public Hearings and then click for the link for the hearing at which you want to speak. Any e-mails requesting advanced sign-in received after 12:00 noon the day prior to the hearing will not be included on the speaking roster. After that time, sign-in sheets will be available at the public hearing location.

Testifiers are also requested to provide electronic written comments to the committee by 12:00 noon the day before the hearing. Comments should be sent by e-mail as a PDF attachment to Redistricting2011@mdp.state.md.us. A hard copy will also be accepted at the hearing from people who testify who did not submit an electronic copy.

2011-07-28

5 ways to deflect public anger and demonstrate accountability

For any BCPS board member, admininstrator or task force member who is feeling under siege lately, here are some tips from a very perceptive guy*:
How to deflect anger and demonstrate accountability
  1. [Create] a video record
  2. Let the voters speak first.
  3. Vote NO on additional compensation.
  4. Zero tolerance for ethical lapses.
  5. "Say what you mean and mean what you say."
The list is excellent. And it's remarkable that BCPS leaders and the politicians who oversee them have failed to do any of these things adequately in recent years.

*Frank Luntz. The list comes from page 125 of his recent book What Americans Really Want . . . Really: The Truth About Our Hopes Dreams and Fears.

2011-07-19

Congressional redistricting is shaking things up in California

The tremors are happening in Mickey Kaus's back yard and he likes the feeling:

I thought one of the points of passing an anti-gerrymandering law was to shake things up. Well, it looks like things are being shaken. Politicians will have to explain themselves afresh–and actually worry about losing.

California has a long way to go to fix the dysfunction caused by gerrymandering, but they seem to be making pretty good progress.

I hope this kind of thing happens in Maryland this year too.

UPDATE: background music from Carole King:

2011-07-10

2011-07-05

Steven Hayward: It's time to "serve the check"

Hayward gives the conservative case for raising income taxes. Here's a longer quote:
if you want to limit government spending, instead of starving the beast, serve the check.
Makes sense to me. And if you're concerned about putting too much burden on low income folks, then reduce some regressive taxes at the same time, such as the payroll/FICA taxes.

Gov. O'Malley finally announces congressional redistricting panel . . . on the 4th of July

O'Malley's choice of a verrrrrry slow news day for the announcement speaks volumes. Voters should expect some serious gerrymandering to come out of this group. The official name of the panel: the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee (GRAC).

It consists of:
  1. Jeanne Hitchcock (Chair) - O'Malley's Secretary of Appointments
  2. Mike Busch - Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates (D-30, Anne Arundel County)
  3. James J. King, former state delegate (R-33A, Anne Arundel County)
  4. Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Jr; Maryland Senate President (D-27, Calvert & Prince Georges Counties)
  5. Richard Stewart, owner of of Montgomery Mechanical Services, Inc. (Hmm: Google can't seem to find a website for Stewart's company. Perhaps he is a well-connected insider who doesn't need to advertise?)
Here at BaltoNorth, we look forward to following the activities of this panel closely.

UPDATE: A new Sun article has more details and bio information.

The Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee meets tomorrow [Wed July 6] in Annapolis to set a series of public hearings. [The committee] is charged with recommending a redistricting plan to the governor, who then must seek approval from the state legislature.

The General Assembly is expected to call a special session in mid-October to approve the governor's Congressional map, in time for the 2012 presidential election; state legislative districts will take shape early next year.

More on James King:

Small business owner who employs more than 100 Maryland residents. Recently named Business Owner of the Year by the West County Chamber of Commerce and in 2008, named Taxpayers Advocate of the Year by the Maryland Taxpayers Association.

More on Richard Stewart:

A member of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, Mr. Stewart also has held positions as a board member, director and past president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Metropolitan Washington. Member of the Maryland Stadium Authority since July 2007.

UPDATE 2: Pamela Wood at HometownAnnapolis.com says the special session of the Maryland General Assembly will start on October 17, 2011.

UPDATE 3: The WaPo yawns.

UPDATE 4: Here are two graphic reminders of how bad the gerrymandering problem is in Maryland:







2011-07-03

Economist Michael Spence looks beyond his field of expertise and gets an insight on growth in the developing world

Spence:
When I started studying growth in the developing world, I thought the subject was mainly about economics. I no longer believe that.
Spence is a very accomplished fellow. The quote is from Spence's new book The Next Convergence: The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World. In his interview of Spence, Peter Robinson asks about the quote (at 5:25) and draws this response (at 5:40):
Complicated high speed dynamics in the economics sphere turns out to be only a piece of the puzzle and what I really believe now is that the critical things are the governance. The interaction of economics and politics. The policy-making process. The wisdom with which it is conducted. The intent to help all the citizens in the country as opposed to grab as much as you can for yourself. When I go across the developing world and ask myself what's the largest single explanation for the huge diversity of economic performance [from country to country], it falls in this territory.
This strikes me as one of those "obvious" things that no one ever pointed out before.

2011-07-02

The great secular faith of our age: "education is the key to economic growth"

Most politicians keep repeating it, so the idea must still resonate with lots of voters. But it's not true.

via Tim Black, from his interview with professor Alison Wolf, author of Does Education Matter?

2011-07-01

Science is just a distraction from Al Gore's biggest climate failure, policy

Walter Russell Mead on Al Gore's failure, part 2:
[The] entire green policy vision was so poorly conceived, so carelessly constructed, so unbalanced and so rife with contradictions that it could only thrive among activists and enthusiasts. Once the political power of the climate movement, aided by an indulgent and largely unquestioning press, had pushed the climate agenda into the realm of serious politics, failure was inevitable. …

… the global climate movement has become the kind of embarrassment intellectuals like to ignore.

[The aim of Gore and his movement was] to stampede the populace into embracing one of the most dubious and unworkable policy prescriptions ever presented to the public eye. . . .

To argue with these people about science is to miss the core point. Even if the science is exactly as Mr. Gore claims, his policies are still useless…

… The policy makers and the heads of state who only two years ago were ready to follow Gore up the mountain have softly and quietly tuned him out.

[UPDATE: Gary Jones has a related item on Mead here. The post also points to Quandrant Online, which claims that "renewables are not green." Well, duh! Gary has another good post that points to an AGW climate science skeptic with separate messages for friends on both the Left and the Right.]

2011-06-30

The failure of Al Gore and "why the global green movement has tanked"

Part I from Walter Russell Mead
objects of great value (Nobel prizes, Oscars) turn dull and leaden at [Al Gore's] touch. . . .

[his recent essay in Rolling Stone] illuminates his shortcomings more than his strengths and makes crystal clear that if global climate policy is going to change, then Al Gore must get out of the way. . . .

[Gore] speaks, he writes, he speaks again, and the [climate change] movement lies on the ground, crippled and inert.

A fawning establishment press spares the former vice president the vitriol and schadenfreude it pours over the preachers and priests whose personal conduct compromised the core tenets of their mission; Gore is not mocked as others have been. This gentle treatment hurts both Gore and the greens; he does not know just how disabling, how crippling the gap between conduct and message truly is. The greens do not know that his presence as the visible head of the movement helps ensure its political failure. . . .

I am not one of those who thinks him a hypocrite; I think rather that he shares an illusion common amongst the narcissistic glitterati of our time: that politically fashionable virtue cancels private vice. . . .

If Al Gore really wants to understand why the global green movement has tanked, he should start by taking a long hard look in the mirror.

2011-06-29

Dr. Helen on the Thomas Ball case: "The war against men and boys continues"

Helen Smith, writing at Pajamas Media:
when a woman burns her husband to death in his sleep, it’s seen as a major wake-up call regarding violence against women, and is immortalized in . . . The Burning Bed.

But somehow, when a man like Thomas Ball burns himself up, it is not seen as a wake-up call for how men are treated unjustly by the court system. Instead, some “compassionate souls” see his death as yet another wake-up call regarding the needs of women. . . .

Ball’s death — and the reaction to it — should serve as a wake-up call to how men and boys are being treated in a society that devalues their very existence. Males commit suicide at much higher rates than women and no one cares; they are treated unfairly by courts and no one bats an eye. . . . So they . . . start setting themselves on fire to get some attention to their cause and, once again, the media and society react with: “So what?”
Well done, Dr. Helen.

2011-06-27

The "Weiner Test"

William Jacobson invents and applies it.

"David Carr" and "low-sloping foreheads": forever linked?

[UPDATE: If you ever lived in Missouri or Kansas, please join the Sloping Foreheads Facebook group and get started mocking David Carr.]

Before this weekend, I had never hear of David Carr. Then I saw the video of him on Bill Maher's show, uttering the most condescending arrogant slur on Middle-America that I've ever heard.

Is this David Carr's 15 minutes? Will he have a one-line obtuary that ends with "low sloping foreheads?"

Bloggers, let's make it so.

Every time you write his name, add these words: "the guy who said 'low-sloping foreheads.' "

Maybe soon we can write it this way: "the former NY Times reporter who said 'low-sloping foreheads.' " David Carr should be fired. Pinch Sulzberger, are you listening?

2011-06-21

California may soon reap the benefits of redistricting reform

Ben Pershing, the In Session columnist at the Post, wrote an excellent article today. The effects of gerrymandering have been severe and pernicious in many places, but especially in California
In addition to having the nation’s largest economy and population, California boasts some of the most exquisitely gerrymandered maps in the land. At both the federal and the state levels, the same lawmakers have been reelected cycle after cycle in districts drawn with the goal of protecting incumbents, regardless of party.

In 2010, voters got fed up and passed a ballot initiative — Proposition 20 — to take control of congressional redistricting away from the state legislature and hand it to an unelected commission. That body has now presented its first draft of a congressional map that sent shock waves through the state, drawing several members out of their current districts and into potential fights with other lawmakers.

“That’s what the people wanted,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.). “They wanted a redistricting that ignored the protection of incumbents.”

The people of Maryland are no different. They want the same thing. We have two of the worst gerrymandered congressional districts in the country. If the politicians who control redistricting here don't listen and fix those districts this year, they risk getting punished at the ballot box.
Particularly at the state legislative level, many residents blame gerrymandering for much of the dysfunction in Sacramento. Republicans hail from primarily conservative districts, Democrats represent mostly liberal districts, and no one has much incentive to compromise.
I wish more reporters and more citizens would connect the dots this way.

Gerrymandering is one of the key root causes of the hubris and dysfunction that we see in Congress today. Do you think Anthony Weiner would have sex-tweeted so brazenly if he had been in a balanced district with strong Republican opposition breathing down his neck?

Me neither.

Thank you Ben! Please keep following this story.

2011-06-19

My dad failed a Rorschach test, but he turned out pretty well

I was thinking about my father when I woke up today. He wasn't a talker or a storyteller, so to understand him you had to watch what he did and listen carefully when he happened to say something.

When he talked, his tone didn't vary much. It was the words that mattered. He knew what they meant and used them precisely. (He spoke to a doctor once about getting some back pain while lying "prone." The doc, realizing that many people use the word incorrectly, said "So you were on your back?" Dad, mildly irritated, responded, "If I had meant that I would have said supine.")

After meeting someone he liked, Dad would often report back that the person was "cheerful."

He was a cheerful person himself -- I don't recall ever seeing him get really angry -- but since he wasn't expressive, many didn't understand how cheerful he was.

His yardstick in life was doing "useful" things.

By that measure he was wildly successful. In fact, he never really stopped. He was a perpetual motion useful-thing-doer. I didn't really consider this until one of my sister's boyfriends pointed it out. He wouldn't sit still for TV except one show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

In spite of all his output, many people didn't really "get" that he was doing so many useful things. He never bragged. My uncle used to say that when Dad described his role in a successful project, you had to multiply by four, or maybe ten.

In fact, many people who didn't know him well thought him incapable of doing useful things.

He participated in a psychological study for many decades. Every few years he would fill out a questionnaire and at longer intervals get interviewed by psychiatrists. When Dad was in his early twenties, they described him this way:
  • Rorschach responses are "rather inferior."
  • Has a "fundamental lack of ability to establish rapport with his fellow man."
  • Apparently does not have any creativity and would "work better under direction."
  • It's a good thing that he's going into research "in view of how little he could offer to teaching."
Funny thing, he went into teaching and did it for 40 or 50 years. By most accounts he was pretty good at it. His publication list is long and impressive, as is the roster of PhD chemists that he advised.

When dad was in his sixties or seventies, the folks running the study suddenly discovered this about him: "few men in the study met the criteria for successful aging with as close to a perfect score."

So, that was my dad.

In his honor on Father's Day today I have two goals. Be cheerful and do something useful.

2011-06-16

' Spreading the wealth' Obama-style: a progress report

During the campaign, candidate Obama said "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Ken Lawton points out that things aren't going according to plan: the flow is (unexpectedly!) going in the opposite direction from what Obama intended:
'Misery Index' Up 62 % Since Obama Took Office while Pelosi’s wealth grows by 62 %.
Eerily symmetrical. The people lose and Pelosi wins.

This is not spreading wealth from rich to poor; it's funneling wealth from the the poor to a tiny subset of the rich: the political elite. Someone tell Joe the Plumber! [Warning: strong language from Penn & Teller, NSFW.]

2011-06-15

Three-time losers: public employee unions just lost in the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Glenn Reynolds sums things up:
So to be clear: They lost in the legislature. They lost in a judicial special election, where union organization should have been decisive. And they lost in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And in the meantime, they made themselves look like thugs — and, worse, not very scary ones, really, just kind of nasty and pathetic ones — even going so far as to disrupt an award ceremony for Special Olympics kids. So: Losers. If they can’t win in Wisconsin, where can they win?

Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski vote to continue ethanol subsidies that hurt the environment, raise food prices and warp energy policy

Here are their votes yesterday on Tom Coburn's amendment #436 to Senate bill S782, The Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011.

Cardin and Mikulski talk the talk about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay -- without accomplishing much -- but don't seem to care about the enormous nitrogen/nutrient damage that subsidized corn crops in the Midwest do to the Gulf of Mexico.

Not to mention the economic damage -- read harm to the poor -- caused by ethanol subsidies, including rising food prices.
A World Bank policy research working paper concluded that food prices have risen by 35 to 40 percent between 2002–2008, of which 70 to 75 percent is atributable to to biofuels [like corn-based ethanol].

2011-06-12

Are we addicted to oil?

The Munchkin Wrangler thinks that's the wrong question:
You know what I can’t stand to hear about anymore? That we Americans are addicted to oil. It’s a smarmy term that tries to couch an economic and environmental argument in pathological terms.
. . .
It does nobody any good to try and debate economic and logistical necessities while using terminology to imply people who disagree with your view are mentally ill.

I think he's right.

Via Glenn.

2011-06-09

After a week or so of so many people dumping on Sarah Palin for her version of Paul Revere's ride...

I ran across this book in the store the other day: History's Greatest Lies, by William Weir. Here's a bit from page 126:

[Revere] warned [the British who had captured him] that the country was rising, and if they continued on they would be dead men. As they rode on, the officers heard the rattle of drums, the clanging of church bells, the booms of signal guns, and the glow of beacon fires. These alarming noises and sights came from their front and their rear. More guns, more bells, and more drums. The British grew nervous. Finally, they released Revere…

Palin recounted her version in a goofy, stilted manner. But the gist of what she said is almost exactly what's in this paragraph.

I didn't vote for Palin, partly because she couldn't handle softball questions from Katie Couric. She has her strengths and weaknesses and may be ignorant in some areas, but she's not stupid. If you take it from a multiple intelligences perspective, I'd say she normal in some areas and way above average in others.

There's something seriously wrong with the people who ridicule her so viciously and seem to hate her.

FWIW, Weir's book gets 4 stars on Amazon and mixed reviews.

Ingrich-gay's campaign implodes

Well, good. First Ump-tray and Uckabee-hay. Now NG is toast. Most of the unserious candidates are pretty much done now.

Newt has good ideas from time to time, but I don't think he'd make a good president.

2011-05-30

Jerry Pournelle's assessment of American schools seems to fit BCPS very nicely

From Jerry's blog, Chaos Manor:
The American school system is a bad parody of an optimum allocation of resources, and nearly everyone knows it, but we always talk as if it were not so.
When I first read the last bit, I could see Dr. Hairston clearly in my mind, mouthing the word accolades.

2011-05-21

I'm sorry Congressman Ruppersberger, but your credit application has been turned down

Dear Dutch,
Thank you for [Congress's] interest in the American Public Trust's Gold Card credit program. Rest assured your application has been given thorough and careful consideration by the American people.

After reviewing the information provided in your application as well as your credit report, we regret to say that we are unable to extend you further credit at this time. The reasons for our decision are as follows:

(1) Inadequate income.Our records indicate that your annual income for the 2011 taxable year was $2,170,000,000,000. You have requested a credit limit of $17,000,000,000,000. These figures exceed the American Public's debt-to-income guidelines for credit issuance.

(2) Excessive spending. The receipts you provided indicate your annual expenditures for the 2011 fiscal year total $3,820,000,000,000, or $1,650,000,000,000 more than your total income for the year. The American Public prefers that its members of Congress maintain a positive or neutral rather than a negative cash flow.

[To continue reading this piece at Reason.com by A. Barton Hinkle click here.]

Means-testing for Medicare and the underground economy

One problem with Mickey Kaus's proposals for means-testing: the more you do means-testing, the more you see people shifting to the underground economy.

I think the underground economy is growing rapidly in the U.S.

2011-05-20

Everything you ever wanted to know about degree-days

My dad was into degree-days for some reason, so I've known about the concept since I was a kid. Here's an explanation from the folks at BizEE, and a tool that lets you calculate degree-day numbers for many locations and time periods using data from Weather Underground.

2011-05-16

Huckabee not running for president in 2012

Glad to hear it. I never liked Huckabee much.

He was running for PR and ratings, much the way Ump-Tray, Alin-Pay and Ingrich-Gay still are.

A big government guy, he has a smarmy affect and talks too much about his faith. I don't much care what religious beliefs politicians hold as long as they don't go on and on about them.



Also, guitar-playing politicians have a tendency toward narcissism.



2011-05-15

"Back off the beaches . . . It's time to learn to live with the shoreline, not on it."

Orrin Pilkey of Duke University says it well:
Sooner or later our society must back off the beaches as concerns increase about beach quality and as preservation of major coastal cities becomes a higher priority. The first step will be to discourage beachfront urban renewal. That would mean moving or demolishing threatened buildings, prohibiting the rebuilding (and certainly the super-sizing) of destroyed buildings, and ending further subsidy of beachfront development, including tax-supported beach nourishment and federal flood insurance. It's time to learn to live with the shoreline, not on it.
Other things Pilkey doesn't like, US Army Corps of Engeering policies and seawalls.
Twenty-five years ago, when I began speaking and writing about seawalls and how they destroy beaches, I was shocked at the tenor of the response to this idea both from professional engineers and from developers and politicians. The attacks on me were often quite personal, and letters damning me were written to my university president and to the papers. As a scientist, I was unaccustomed to such personal attacks.

Environmental models as "useless arithmetic"

Here's another book I'd like to read: Useless arithmetic: Why environmental scientists can't predict the future. Great title*.

The authors sound like a cool pair:
Noted coastal geologist Orrin Pilkey and environmental scientist Linda Pilkey-Jarvis show that the quantitative mathematical models policy makers and government administrators use to form environmental policies are seriously flawed. Based on unrealistic and sometimes false assumptions, these models often yield answers that support unwise policies. . . .

The authors demonstrate how many modelers have been reckless, employing fudge factors to assure "correct" answers and caring little if their models actually worked.
I stumbled on the book after reading of Pilkey in a John Stossel piece on federally-subsidized flood insurance. Stossel says Pilkey "has been one of the most persistent critics of the government's [flood insurance] policies."


*It sounds like one of Gary Jones's headlines at Muck & Mystery

2011-05-10

Run Mitch Daniels, run !!

Ann Althouse suggests that his marital history might be a feature rather than a bug.

Under Daniels's leadership, Indiana recently jumped ten spots to #6 in the state rankings of business friendliness. He came across very well in a recent interview with Peter Robinson.

2011-05-08

Maryland sinks in business-friendliness rankings to 14th worst

Maryland dropped from 33rd to 37th in business friendliness in 2011, according to the latest rankings published by Chief Executive magazine.

Judging from these numbers and the ones below, maybe Governor O'Malley should be asking Scott Walker and Mitch Daniels for advice.

Some highlights:
  • Texas #1 (for seventh straight year)
  • Biggest gainers: Wisconsin (+17) and Indiana (+10)
And lowlights:
  • #50 was California (for seventh straight year)
  • Biggest losers: Alaska (-10) and West Virginia (-8)
Maryland and adjacent states:
#7 Virginia (-3)
#16 Delaware (-4)
#37 Maryland (-4)
#39 Pennsylvania (-7)
#42 West Virginia (-8)

2011-05-04

Bob Zubrin's formula for elimination of gerrymandering

He suggests a mathematical formula for measuring the compactness of voting districts:
take the square of the perimeter of any [district], and divide it by the [districts’s] area, you arrive at a number, which can be called its irregularity.
Of course, you'd need a way of simplifying boundaries along meandering coastlines. But that's very doable.

2011-05-02

Paul Rahe on two other Pauls being considered for president in 2012

Rahe prefers people with gubernatorial or other executive experience. But Paul Ryan is one congressman he'd consider.

Rahe points out the biggest problem with Ron Paul :
[Ron Paul's] stance with regard to American foreign policy is utopian and dangerous. If left to its own devices, the larger world will tend towards anarchy. Throughout human history, in the absence of hegemony, piracy is the norm. Spontaneous disorder is the dominant propensity, not spontaneous order.
Well said.

I like some of Ron Paul's ideas, but he's not the right guy.

Breitbart's version of Alinsky's rules

From Andrew Breitbart's "pragmatic primer" in Chapter 7 of Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World:
  1. Don't be afraid to go into enemy territory.
  2. [Use video to] expose the left for who they are -- in their own words.
  3. Be open about your secrets.
  4. Don't let the Complex use its PC lexicon to characterize you and shape the narrative.
  5. Control your own story -- don't let the Complex do it.
  6. Ubiquity is key.
  7. Engage in the social arena.
  8. Don't pretend to know more than you do.
  9. Don't let them pretend to know more than they do. (Ask for sources and evidence and ask why.)
  10. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.
  11. Don't let them get away with ignoring their own rules.
  12. Truth isn't mean. It's truth.
  13. Believe in the audacity of hope.
This list needs some editing. Given his ADHD tendencies, Breitbart doesn't tend to spend much time polishing his prose. Even so, it's a very good list.

2011-04-23

Women and men on campus: mixed messages galore

[Updated Wed 4/27/11]

Lately my head has been spinning as I try to understand whether women in colleges and high schools are helpless victims or the new dominant force.

Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds raised this topic again this morning with their take-downs of Caitlin Flanagan's shut-down-the-fraternities piece in the WSJ.

Contrast Flanagan's victim stance with Amanda Marcotte on Bloggingheads.TV.
I think anti-rape activism that has focused on shaming rapists instead of rape victims has actually been incredibly effective. The rape rate since the feminist movement took on rape as an issue has gone down eighty percent. It went down far faster than any other crime rate went down . . . Learning that "No means no" was a pretty big part of that.



It's great to see such a decline, but I was surprised at the 80% number because feminist anti-male/anti-rapist rhetoric remains so loud -- as if the rape rate were rising instead of falling.

This chart from the Bureau of Justice Statistics backs up Marcotte's 80% number:


In the Duke lacrosse case, there was a rush to judgment against the men. But now we find out that the female "victim" has been charged with murdering her boyfriend.

Rape is a terrible thing, but maybe it's time we recognized the progress that's been made in the past 35 years and stop being so quick to demonize men.

In a related vein, it wasn't so long ago that we worried that intellectually aggressive high school boys were shutting intimidated girls out of classroom discussions.

But last month a local local high school newspaper in Baltimore County ran a lead story on the front page titled: "The figures prove it: girls rule school." The article stated that girls "dominated" boys in leadership of school clubs & government, and "beat" boys handily in academics. The body of the article was filled with quotes from teachers and students explaining how and why girls are superior.

Few school adminstrators blink at this kind of thing or wonder whether the playing field is tilted against males in some ways. But in areas where high school boys often predominate or outperform girls -- science and math, for instance -- the schools tend to quickly declare a problem and start programs to recruit more girls and boost their performance.

But when will colleges -- and the high schools that feed applicants to them -- declare this trend to be serious a problem?

Proportion of 18-to-24-Year-Old Men and Women Enrolled in College, 1967-2005




Finally, these high school superwomen get to top schools and all of a sudden they are victims again. For example, lately we read about women bringing a Title IX lawsuit against Yale.

I'm encouraged that quite a few women are skeptical of this lawsuit, including Wendy Kaminer, and Cathy Young.

So, which is it? Are women victims or are we grooming them to be the new oppressors?

2011-04-18

Climate change: the UN's hidden agendas

Eugene Volokh sees two of them:
One is to increase the institutional UN’s governance responsibilities, authority, legitimacy, and power. The other is to increase the amount of money that runs through UN mechanisms from rich countries to poor countries, with an administrative cut to the UN itself.

Environmentalists and climate change scientists seem sometimes unaware of the UN’s own agendas and history in these two institutional incentives. They thus seem sometimes insufficiently sensitive to the possibility that their own issue is not the first matter of apparently apocalyptic but also
immediate import requiring vast changes in the global political economy that has ever seized the UN.

2011-04-15

Unintended consequences: How majority-minority districts hurt President Obama's agenda

A prescient John Fund, wrote this in June 2010 in the WSJ ("Racial Gerrymandering Backfires")
most of the 70 competitive House races polled by NPR (as well as most of the states with the closest Senate races) have below-average populations of black voters. Racial gerrymandering justified by dubious interpretations of the Voting Rights Act has concentrated blacks into mostly safe Democratic districts, meaning now that most competitive seats are more white than average. These districts are more likely to be hostile to President Obama's agenda, and thus more likely to be treacherous political terrain for Democrats. No wonder party strategists are so worried about this fall.
My suspicion is racial gerrymandering helps minorities in the short run, but hurts them in the long run.

Wikipedia on majority-minority districts:
The value of gerrymandering to create majority-minority districts is a matter of dispute both within and outside of minority communities. Some view majority-minority districts as a way to dilute the voting power of minorities and analogous to racial segregation
More from AEI on unintended consequences of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, here.

2011-04-14

Our aging US Congress

Here's a very cool interactive chart from the WSJ showing the age distribution of Congress over time, from 1949 to 2011.

Lower turnout and a few glitches at second Balto County redistricting hearing in Owings Mills

When the public hearing started at New Town High School at 7 PM last night, only five or six citizens had signed up to speak their minds to the new Redistricting Commission. That compared to twenty or so speakers the previous night in Towson.

The five-member commission is collecting public input before fulfilling their task of proposing new council districts for Baltimore County. (For details on the process, rules, deadlines and district maps, go here.)



After a brief introduction by the commission's chair, Ed Crizer, six citizens spoke for two minutes each. Roughly twenty minutes after they had started, the Commission packed up to leave. Quite a few late-arriving citizens were surprised and disappointed to find that the whole hearing was over. A handful spoke with exiting Commission members at the main entrance to the school. At their request, the Commission graciously agreed to reconvene the session. Three more speakers signed up. When they were done, the commission members left quickly.

It still seemed like a brief, cursory meeting.

The evening left me wondering how serious this Commission is about gathering public input. If I had been in their shoes and only six people had signed up, I would have considered doing something ad hoc to get something useful from the speakers and audience members who had turned out.

Maybe give each speaker an extra minute or two, have a more informal Q&A with the audience, or just stand around having conversations with citizens. The commission didn't think to do anything like this. I didn't see such much impulse to think outside the box or go the extra mile.

After they had left, eight or ten us remained for a half-hour or so, sharing our thoughts about redistricting and what we thought of the hearing.
  • A couple of people told me they wished that a commission member had given an introductory talk explaining the redistricting process and how events will unfold over the next year or so. No one on the Commission did this. In his brief intro remarks Mr. Crizer spoke mostly about how the night's hearing would run.
  • Another person suggested that turnout might have been better if the session had been held at the local community center.
  • A third, who had been at the first hearing two nights ago in Towson, wondered why district maps had been posted the first night, but not on the second. She saw several other discrepancies, and felt that the Commission should be consistent in how they handle each session. She also had heard that the commission would be having another hearing around July to discuss their preliminary report with the public. If this meeting is on the schedule, it has not been widely publicized yet.
The third and last of the initial public hearings will take place on Thursday, April 28th at Patapsco High School in Dundalk.

Someone else pointed out that the Commission first met only a few weeks ago and hasn't really gotten rolling yet. Commissioners also got credit for volunteering their time (if they are paid, I'm not aware of it.)

Having the commission is a good thing. Ten years ago during the last redistricting, we didn't have a commission.

But there's room for improvement in this public hearing process.

2011-04-13

Glenn Reynolds on what the State Department & Defense department can learn from the South

Something that most Northerners don't think about or value in Southern culture:

I mention this because of Antoine Clark’s remark that “I continue to despair at the difficulty that anglosphere writers have in comprehending the humiliation of occupation. Admittedly this is for the best of reasons: Washington DC was last under foreign armed occupation in 1812, London in 1066.” (Arguably, of course, London remains under foreign armed occupation, but we’ll let that pass by.)

In fact, of course, the American South knows what it’s like to lose a war, and to be occupied, which may possibly explain why the American South is also far more military-minded than other parts of the United States — or, for that matter, than London. And the American South certainly didn’t like being occupied. Reconstruction was very unpopular, and my grandmother can still tell stories that she heard from her grandmother about Union soldiers passing through and stripping the place bare of everything except what they were able to hide, and of the years (decades, really) of privation that followed the war.

But American southerners know something that apparently a lot of other people seem to have trouble with: how to lose a war and not hold a grudge. (Much of one, anyway).

2011-04-09

I wish BCPS administrators would read Glenn Reynolds on the K-12 "lower education bubble"

Some highlights from Glenn's piece in the Washington Examiner:
In recent months, I've written in these pages about a "higher education bubble" [but] we're also starting to see the deflation of what might be called a "lower education bubble" - that is, the constant flow of more and more money into K-12 education without any significant degree of buyer resistance, in spite of the often low quality of the education it purchases.

. . . at the K-12 level, we've got an educational system that in many fundamental ways hasn't changed in 100 years - except, of course, by becoming much less rigorous - but that nonetheless has become vastly more expensive without producing significantly better results.

In the past, when problems with education were raised, the solution was always to spend more money. But as economist Herbert Stein once noted, something that can't go on forever, won't. Steady increases in per-pupil spending without any commensurate increase in learning can't go on forever. So they won't. And as state after state faces near-bankruptcy (or, in some cases, actual bankruptcy), we've pretty much hit that point now.

. . .

Getting rid of . . . overgenerous, underfunded public pensions is something states will have to do to remain solvent. But that's just the short term. Over the longer term - which means, really, the next three to five years at most - straitened circumstances and the need for better education will require more significant change.

. . .

Like striking steelworkers in the 1970s, today's teachers' immediate unhappiness may come from reductions in benefits. But their bigger problem is an industry that hasn't kept up with the times, and isn't producing the value it once did. Until that changes, we're likely to see deflation of the lower education bubble as well as the higher.

2011-04-05

Oriole baseball hats among best-designed in the major leagues

I agree completely with Brett Lewis about the O's hats.

Here are Brett's top four hat rankings:
1. NY Yankees [Much as I dislike the Yanks, I have to agree that they have a nice logo.]
2. Philadelphia Phillies [Lewis overrates these. They're OK.]
3. Minnesota Twins [Top ten, yes, but at #3 they are overrated.]
4. Baltimore Orioles [Top four, absolutely. Great hats! ]
Others I like:


St. Louis Cardinals (not the first hat above, the last two. I guess I'm a sucker for realistically drawn birds -- no cartoons please -- and interlocking letters). Plus the LA Dodgers (more interlocking letters and Dodger blue is a pleasing shade), the Pittsburgh Pirates (nice font, excellent colors - that particular yellow goes great with black) and the Washington Nationals (I'm glad they retained the old "W" from the Senators).

Near the bottom of the list, in my opinion, are the Mets hats (Too seventies garish. I can't get past the HoJo-style color scheme. It's downright ugly. Don't like their droopy font either.)

Also near the bottom: Red Sox (I never liked the lumpy font they use for their "B".)

via InsideCharmCity

2011-04-03

Required reading for holier-than-thou environmentalists

In his excellent book, Whole Earth Discipine: An Eco-Pragmatist Manifesto, Stewart Brand puts into words what I've been thinking (less articulately) for a long time:
The long-evolved Green agenda is suddenly outdated -- too negative, too tradition-bound, too specialized, too politically one-sided for the scale of the climate problem.
He follows with a trenchant observation that had not occurred to me:
Far from taking a new dominant role, environmentalists risk being marginalized more than ever, with many of their deep goals and well-honed strategies irrelevant to the new tasks. Accustomed to saving natural systems from civilization, Greens now have the unfamiliar task of saving civilization from a natural system -- climate dynamics.
He also talks about
a plethora of environmental newsletters that purport to be scientific but actually [have] more in common with hardball politics
Yes. And more:
The real story of Prince William Sound is how resilient many natural systems are and how rapidly they bounce back when human pressure backs off even a little.
This part really resonated with me:
Scientists freely criticize each other ... but they are weirdly polite with environmentalists. It smells of condescension.
One last bit:
When environmentalists are wrong, it is frequently technology that they are wrong about, and they wind up supporting parochial Green goals at the cost of comprehensive ones.
Okay, this is really the last one:
The charismatic expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell is probably wrong about what is going to happen. The boring expert who afflicts you with a cloud of howevers is probably right.
These quotes all come from Chapter 7 titled "Romantics, Scientists, Engineers." Read the whole chapter. Better yet, the whole book.