Thursday, March 25, 2010

Requiem for a Health Care Reform Dream

On Sunday night, over bipartisan opposition, the Democrats in the House of Representatives passed HR 3962 - the same flawed Heath Care Reform Act that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve. This should have surprised no one. There are 257 Democrats in the House of Representatives. With Nancy Pelosi cracking the whip, and President Obama taking representatives for joy rides in Air Force One, it was inevitable that 216 Democrats would eventually be found to vote for it. Now, whether it should have passed is another matter. I can think of at least one trillion reasons why this bill should never have become law. So let me start with an easier task - specifically what does not bother me about the passage of this bill - the parliamentary procedures and rules used by Democrats to pass it.

I am not particularly bothered about the reconciliation process being used to bypass filibuster challenges and pass the bill modifications with a simple majority in the Senate. Nor am I surprised by the heavy handed parliamentary moves used by the Democratic majority leadership to limit Republican participation. Although it was ultimately not used, I would not have even been overly exercised if "deemed as passed" was used to pass the bill, although I think it would have been a damaging political mistake for the Democratic majority.

Don't get me wrong, I consider these parliamentary machinations to range from unseemly to downright sleazy, but they are not outside of the normal legislative process. A casual review of the process by which the Republican leadership rammed through the Prescription Drug Benefit in 2003 undermines their credibility when expressing shock and dismay at the Democratic leadership making similar moves now. The only thing comparable to Republican hypocrisy on these questions is the Democratic hypocrisy using and defending them, as they were vociferous decrying these same techniques when they in the minority. The only people who have a legitimate complaint, are those voters who supported Obama and the Democrats based on the promise of bringing change, transparency, bipartisanship, and the end of special interest / corporate lobbyist influence to Washington D.C. All of that proved to be a lie. While there was a difference in the "talk" coming from candidate Obama, there is zero difference in the "walk" comparing President Obama and One Party Rule Democrats vs. President Bush and One Party Rule Republicans. Based on the deafening silence from Obama supporters on these broken promises, apparently no one actually believed Obama anyway.

Last August, Justin Gardner of Donklephant and I cooperated in crafting a joint post in support of S 391 -the "Wyden-Bennett" Healthy Americans Act.
"If we were starting with a blank slate, we would support vastly different and incompatible health care systems. But we are not starting there. We have different objections to the existing system, but agree that the current system is in need of reform. We also agree that the reform most Americans want includes three critical criteria:
  1. Universal coverage for all Americans
  2. Insurance against financial ruin if struck with an illness.
  3. The reform program be fiscally responsible, manageable and have understandable costs."
That bill was long since buried in favor of the hairball passed by the Senate in December, passed by the House last Sunday and signed by the President on Tuesday. Democrat Ron Wyden voted for this version of HCR. Republican Bob Bennett voted against it. Justin supported this latest version of ObamaCare. I did not.

While Wyden-Bennett is dead and buried, it never had a proper funeral. In memory of this last best chance for a bi-partisan health-care reform bill that, unlike the bill that passed, actually reformed the health-care system, I though we should take one last look back. In particular a look back at the criteria by which we judged Wyden-Bennett, and apply that identical criteria to Obama's Health Care Reform Hairball (OHCRH) that is now the law of the land. This is what I said then:
“Wyden-Bennett has my support because it meets the critical criteria for reform, does it without increasing the deficit or requiring net new taxes. Wyden-Bennett has my support because it directly and honestly attacks the central problem of employer based health care insurance as the primary delivery vehicle for non-public health care in America. Wyden-Bennett has my support because it is not (yet) saddled with questionable deals for big pharma, big insurance, and payoffs for big union contributors... The trade-off for this mandated coverage is that we get a fiscally sound health care system that covers everyone, that puts no one at risk of financial ruin from getting sick, and does it without raising the deficit or requiring net new taxes. I am willing to take that trade-off. This is why I describe myself as libertarian-leaning as opposed to libertarian or Libertarian. Once in a while, I feel compelled to lean another way.”
To compare and contrast our quixotic dream of real reform with Wyden-Bennett vs the hairball that is now the law of the land, we'll grade OHCRH on a pass/fail basis against that same criteria:

On our first critical reform criteria - "universal coverage for all Americans" OHCRH falls short. Wyden-Bennett would have covered 99% of Americans upon implementation. In our joint post we found HR 3200 to be inferior, as it only covered 97% of Americans, and not until 2019. OHCRH is significantly worse, as it is not projected to cover more than 93% - 95% of Americans, and not until 2018. This law is worse than either Wyden-Bennett or the original House bill (HR 3200). So for the first critical criteria of real reform, OHCRH fails.

This criteria distills into essentially three elements 1) Guaranteed insurance availability for people with pre-existing conditions, 2) Protection against losing insurance because of illness or arbitrary Insurance Company revocation or rescission and 3) Mandated coverage.When implementation of these benefits begin in 2014, this law fully addresses all of these elements. The "Individual Mandate" question is a factor in both coverage and managing costs, and merits additional discussion.

As I stated in the analysis of Wyden-Bennett, there is no way to rationalize support for an individual mandate from a libertarian perspective. I simply decided that there is indeed a need for health care reform, that Americans want reform that offers universal coverage and financial protection against catastrophic illness, and there was no way to get there from here in a fiscally responsible way without invoking an individual mandate. So I abandoned my libertarian leaning principles on this issue and leaned another way, expressing grudging support for the mandate. Now, whether or not the individual mandate is constitutional is another matter altogether, and will be settled in the courts.

On these particular elements of reform, the OHCRH succeeds more than it fails, once the provisions kick in, if the administration and Democratic leadership even understands what they have crammed through the process. Which - one day after becoming law- it became apparent that they did not.

President Obama has repeatedly made the claim "Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions." Yeah... no. That is not in the law. The way the law is written is that children get that protection in 2014, along with everyone else. So "Plan B" from the administration is to say the Department of Health and Human Services is empowered by the law to create that protection with regulations. I don't know which is worse - the fact that the administration itself does not understand what is written in the bill - or - their representation that wholesale major coverage constraints can be created or destroyed by regulatory fiat from unelected bureaucrats in the Department of Health and Human Services.

An additional post-passage surprise is Senator Ron Wyden's claim that the states need not sue over the individual mandate, since they can completely opt out of the act altogether. If true, I am not sure that anyone, including the administration, understands the ramifications of that provision.

This criteria had three elements. 1) Reasonable and understandable costs, 2) Tax neutral and 3) Deficit neutral. All three criteria were met by Wyden-Bennett. At best OHCRH meets one of the three (Deficit neutrality) - and then only if you squint and don't look too closely.

The Congressional Budget Office determined that OHCRH will add about $1 trillion of new spending by the Federal government and will reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the next ten years and by $1.3 trillion dollars in the ten years after that. Taking the CBO analysis at face value would give OHCRH a passing grade with flying colors. The CBO is a non-partisan office and we have frequently cited their analysis on this blog, including their analysis of Wyden-Bennett. As such, it would be disingenuous to not accept their findings on the law as it was communicated by Congress. They are not always right, but they are unbiased, and represent the best estimate we are likely to get within the constraints that they generate their estimates. And there is the rub.

The CBO is required to generate their estimates based on the law as written, and not make assumptions about likely, but unsubmitted congressional actions. So if Congress is willing to game the CBO by - for example - excluding costs from a bill that will be added later in a separate bill the results will be wrong. It becomes a variation of the programming catch phrase "Garbage In Garbage Out". If Congress feeds a lie into the the CBO process, we get a lie back out. There are multiple lies and deliberate cost obfuscations that are in the law specifically to game the CBO estimate as documented here and here. Consider two of the more egregious whoppers.
  • The first whopper is the "doc fix". This is an increase in medicare reimbursement rates for doctors that was promised to the AMA in order to secure their support. It was originally in the bill, now it is not, but is likely to be passed by Congress next year. It adds $200 B to the cost and immediately turns the deficit reduction into a deficit increase.
  • The second whopper is the unfunded mandate imposed on the states. It increases the number of people that qualify for Medicaid, but the law does not pay for those additional entitlements, leaving it to the states. Since the the law, as written, does not cover those costs out of federal funds, the CBO analysis does not include them in their deficit calculation. This is one of the catalysts for 14 states (so far) suing to stop the law.
Representative Paul Ryan requested an additional CBO analysis using more realistic assumptions about likely future Congressional actions, and got a very different result. Since we have dueling CBO deficit estimates that will not be resolved until we see how Congress behaves on outstanding issues, I have graded the deficit status of this bill as INCOMPLETE.

On taxes, this law is an unmitigated disaster. New and increased taxes, fees, penalties, and fines are levied across the board. President Obama broke his promise to not raise taxes on the middle class with this law. I won't belabor this point. It is incontrovertible. You can find a comprehensive list of the new taxes here. The ramifications are already being felt by companies large and small.

Predicting the political and economic consequences of this law is not quite as popular as filling out March Madness brackets, but getting close. DWSUWF will make one easy prediction: One consequence of these additional tax burdens on our fragile economy is a continuing high unemployment rate for the foreseeable future (7.5%+ for at least as long as Obama is President and this law - as written - is in effect). We'll save the political prognostications for a future post.

This is a bad piece of legislation that will have negative consequences for our economy and country and should never have become law. On that one point many liberals, conservatives and libertarians agree. Perhaps President Obama has finally created the post partisan political environment he promised during the campaign. Many Republicans, Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives are now united - in opposition to the Obama Health Care Reform Hairball - also known as BFD.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Carnival of Divided Government
Triginta Sedecim (XXXVI)
Special Ides of March Edition

Welcome to the 36th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The Special Ides of March Edition.
Beware the Ides
CAESAR: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR: What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: He is a dreamer; let us leave him.
On this particularly ominous Ide of March we look forward with fear and loathing to the imminent passage of the Great Healthcare Hairball of 2010. We only have Democratic One Party Rule to thank for this monstrosity getting passed, but ironically, divided government may be restored in the 2010 midterms as a consequence of this bill.

If we had divided government now, if the Republicans had a seat at table, if they were more than an impotent irritant in this government, then the Democrats would have been forced to compromise with the Republicans. The result would have been a better bill, a less expensive bill, a bill less burdened with special deals, unrelated liberal pet projects, gratuitous pork, and (unlike this abomination) one that might actually reform the health care system and coverage problems in a manner we can afford.

On a positive note - the concept of and prospects for divided government is getting a lot more attention on the intertubes.

Carnival of Divided Government

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this the Carnival of Divided Government Triginta Sedicim (XXXVI), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

First up - A short tribute to a DWSUWF friend and favorite blogger. While I was traveling last month, the blogosphere learned of the identity and untimely death of Al Weisel, more widely know by his blogging non-de-plume Jon Swift. You'll find many tributes to Al/Jon across the blogosphere. Like many bloggers, I exchanged e-mails and links with Jon over the last few years. His links to this blog helped us far more than our reciprocal links could ever hope to contribute to his. His was one of the very few talents in any medium whose writing could elicit a laugh out loud, can't catch my breath, side hurting, eyes watering reaction from this blogger. He'll be sorely missed.

Apropos to the Carnival, please consider this example of classic Jon Swift. Before the Carnival of Divided Government, - Before the DWSUWF blog - On January 29, 2006, Jon Swift considers the merits of divided government and clearly explains "Why Bipartisanship is Bad":

"But then I thought: Is bipartisanship really such a great thing? Aren't bipartisans a little like bisexuals--people afraid to make a commitment? I suppose it's better than President Clinton's "triangulation," which I believe is a translation of the French word menage a trois. Maybe such things work in France, but I don't think they work here. During the Clinton and Reagan administrations we had divided government, which I think was very confusing for people. Lobbyists had no idea who to give campaign contributions to and they sometimes had to split their limited resources between two parties."
When he wrote this, Republican One Party Rule controlled the federal government, and this blog was still a few months from being born. At the time, we were on the same team - arguing for Democratic victory, a return to the checks and balances of shared power and divided government in 2006. Jon's e-mails helped me learn about "carnivals" and launch the carnival you are reading now. So in his honor, we'll endeavor to follow the Jon Swift Blog Amnesty Day dictum of "Look up... Link down" and link primarily to small and medium bloggers. Blogs like DWSUWF.

Rest In Peace Jon Swift. Thanks for the help, thanks for the links, and thanks for the joy.

Brad Castro's Great Options Trading Strategies blog is focused on investments not politics, but he offers one of the most eloquent rationales for divided government I've read, exploring the relationship between "Divided Government, The Stock Market, and Long Term Investing":
"National politics is an ugly pastime at best, but when either party controls both branches of government at the same time, the outcome is certain – rampant arrogance, corruption, and hypocrisy... Americans are at their best when they choose divided government, when the politicians are forced to genuinely engage one another and actually work together to get anything accomplished. And, more importantly, when no single party can ram through their entire one-sided agenda... Checks and balances produce stability, and stability fosters an environment where growth, innovation, and the creation of value can flourish. It’s a gift that the founding fathers gave to a fledgling nation more than 200 years ago, and it’s one I sincerely hope we begin to enjoy again. "

The affection investors have for divided government has been a DWSUWF theme (and tag) since the beginning of the blog. With such incisive political acumen, I will have to take a closer look at Brad's investment strategies.

Fishermage is a little confused about the definition of divided government, but is in a celebratory mood at Fishermagical Thought exclaiming "Hooray for Divided Government":
"I'm no Republican, but the best this ole libertarian can ever hope for is divided government, and the Democrats' loss of their senatorial super-majority gives us that. Divided government helped make the Clinton years a success, as well as the Reagan Years. Checks and balances for the win."
Well, not exactly. To restore divided government the Republicans will have to claim the majority in at least one legislative branch in 2010, or retake the White House in 2012. While the loss of a super-majority in the Senate will add a speed bump to Democratic legislative plans, it won't force compromise, as we'll see when the Health Care Hairball becomes law later this week. While I appreciate the sentiment, there is still some work to do.

Matt Lewis notes that Andrew Sullivan, who claims to be a conservative, has changed his tune about Divided Government in "Andrew Sullivan Used to Like Gridlock":
"Sullivan had it right back in 2006. It seems, however, that he only liked divided government when Republicans controlled things. Now that Democrats control all three branches of government, he has changed his tune."
Uh Huh. During the election DWSUWF offered a somewhat wordier treatise on Mr. Sullivan's propensity to hoist himself on his own words and abandon this very basic cornerstone of limited government. I do wonder why he bothers to cling to the label conservative, if there are no longer any conservative principles he is willing to place above his loyalty to Barack Obama.

Jason Pye, writing on the United Liberty blog, answers the question posed on a now infamous billboard - "No, I don't miss George W. Bush":
"...while I’m no fan of Barack Obama, I don’t long for the presidency of George W. Bush. From a fiscal perspective, the Bush Administration was a disaster. Before you repeat the Dick Cheney talking point that most of the spending was for defense and two wars. Let me go ahead and tell you, that’s not true. Bush was the biggest spender since Lyndon B. Johnson, dramatically increasing non-defense discretionary spending. Remember, he is a “compassionate conservative,” which is apparently a nice term for “statist... So no, I don’t miss George W. Bush. I miss individual liberty, free markets, divided government and the Constitution."
Me too. Maybe we can start getting some of it back in November.

AD of Questions Presented quotes extensively from Ilya Solmin and Robert Kagan, then hupothesizes that libertarian support for divided government is misguided in "A Government Divided Against Itself Cannot Shrink":
"Perhaps the divided government theory overestimates the value of party affiliation as a determinant of individual behavior. Many political observers today note the similarities between the parties, especially when it comes to government size. Even granting the viability of the Blue Dog Democrats and the emerging fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party, in practice, politicians of all stripes seem to like power and act to enhance that power. If that’s the case, libertarians might find conventional political action in favor of candidates who support their views to be the best approach, however few of these candidates may exist."
AD offers an excellent read, but his musings fall far short on three counts-

is the erroneous supposition in the subject title. There is no presumption by libertarians that divided government will "shrink government". The immediate problem is to slow leviathan's explosive growth, and there is a great deal of empirical evidence that divided government does exactly that. Moreover, political scientists, historians, and economists have also shown that a divided government state reinforces other positive effects including:
* Restrained growth of spending.
* Better oversight.
* Less corruption.
* Less likelihood of war.
* More carefully considered major legislation.
* Greater fiscal responsibility.
* Reinforced Checks and Balances between the branches.
Whether you consider divided government to be better government depends on whether you agree the items in this list represent "better" government. DWSUWF does. Invoking an analogy I have used before, when bleeding to death one should apply a tourniquet before looking for a hospital. The divided government voting heuristic is a tourniquet, that has been shown empirically to slow the bleeding when nothing else does.

His second problem is an over reliance on Professor Kagan 's representation of the supposed law-making deficiencies of divided government. In fact, David Mayhew's exhaustive research on the quantity and quality of laws produced under divided vs. one party government is well documented in his book "Divided We Govern" which is considered the definitive work on exactly this question. Mayhew's empirical conclusion directly contradicts Kagan's less rigorous intuitive and anecdote based analysis.

, there is nothing in the divided government voting heuristic that precludes libertarians from voting for candidates "who support their views". Voting for divided government is a tactic that yields immediate beneficial shorter term limited goals. In addition, it at least opens the door to the possibility that the generally self-canceling impotent libertarian minority voting constituency can be organized around a principle that could yield sufficient political clout to actually impact policy.

Other than that, it's a great post.

Speaking of out of control government spending - Redst8r shows exactly why a tourniquet would be quite beneficial right now in "Government Spending (post #3 of 3)":
"Note the sharp rise in combined spending beginning in the early 1930’s. This level of spending never declined to the pre-1930’s level again but became a base upon which all future spending growth has been multiplied. Post WWII spending never again was as low as that in the mid 1930’s and early 1940’s. There are clear periods of level spending (e.g., spending rising in concert with GDP) such as the post Korean war period through the late 1960’s, the 1980’s and a gentle decline in the 1990’s as a peace time economy combined with a technological revolution and a divided government controlled its innate spending impulse. "
Sometimes, if you don't apply a tourniquet nothing else matters.

Akiva of Mystical Paths guest posted at Dovbear and airs her lament "Oy, I miss Clinton":
" I'm a conservative but I don't want my party to control the Whitehouse and Congress. And my dear friendly Liberals, be honest, neither do you! Divided government forces everyone to compromise and be reasonable. Let's face it, we all want the middle of the road. A little right, a little left - hey whatever. But far right or far left, G-d help us all."

Macaoidh at The Hayride quotes Larry Kudlow and Will Collier and concludes that they "Kudlow, Collier Socre with Defenses of Gridlock":
"It’s a narrative the Washington/New York legacy media can’t seem to understand, but America was designed to have a slow-moving, incrementalist government incapable of dynamic action to solve social problems. Dynamic action was meant for the private sector or, at most, local and state governments. This has been lost over the past 100 years, with those periods of divided government serving as interregna between the advances of the federal nanny-state. But as Kudlow and Collier suggest, better an interregnum than an Obama running roughshod over the economy and individual liberty in an effort to create a public-sector paradise."
Good stuff, but... Kudlow might run for the Senate against Chuck Schumer in New York? Really? Wow. I missed a lot while I was out of town.

Finally, I debated whether to include this next submission. It is - strictly speaking - not on topic. Moreover, I could not disagree with the premise more. But - in memory of the generous spirit of Jon Swift, who frequently linked to those who he disagreed with (even if they did not always understand that they were being skewered in the link) I offer this submission without further comment.

Randy Pope presents "America's State Established Religion, Secular Humanism, Cannot Achieve Unity out of Diversity" posted at Christian Worldview of History and Culture, saying:
"This nation was not founded upon the philosophy of Secular Humanism. It was founded upon the principles of Biblical Christianity. As long as the American culture was grounded in true Christianity there was a unity among the diverse peoples of this nation. The farther the culture diverts from a Christian worldview the more polarized the people become. So the answer to the question, “What has changed? And can unity be regained in such a vast nation of different peoples?” is that America has rejected the only philosophy that makes sense out of a unity in diversity, and a return to ordering society by a Christian worldview will accomplish the unity that Americans desire."
OK. I lied. I will make a comment. Randy Pope needs to do a little more reading about American History and our founding fathers. In particular I suggest he learn more about the philosophy of the author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president - Thomas Jefferson. He could start with this post, and the following quote from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Jacob De La Motta on the occasion of the dedication of a new synagogue in Savannah, Georgia:
"It excites in him [Thomas Jefferson] the gratifying reflection that his country has been the first to prove to the world two truths, the most salutary to human society, that man can govern himself, and that religious freedom is the most effectual anodyne against religious dissension: the maxim of civil government being reversed in that of religion, where its true form is "divided we stand, united we fall." - Thomas Jefferson
Sorry Randy - you are wrong about our history, wrong about the founders, wrong about what America is about, and just flat wrong.


Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition we offer Madeleine Begun Kane who practically has claimed a permanent status on this spot with her entertaining and profligate political poetry production. However, I am violating my usual rules for this spot, as she offers a submission where - as she states: "I even use the word gridlock. :)"

So without further ado - Senator Bayh, Buh Bye! posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness:

Sen. Bayh will not run again. Why?
Cuz there’s “not enough progress.” How wry!
He says partisanship
Is the cause. Here’s a tip:
Our problem is DINOS like Bayh.

On the other hand... thanks Senator Bayh. You've helped move the prospects for "10 in 10", a Republican majority in the Senate, and divided government incrementally closer.

With that, we''ll wrap up this edition. It is 11:55 PM and I am going to barely get this under the wire on the Ides of March. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

It looks like we need to pick up the Carnival pace in this election year as divided government content is on the increase. Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government Triginta Septendecim (XXXVII)- Special Four Year Blogiversary Edition on or about 4-23-2010. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Flotsam - Back on the Blogging Beach Edition.

Wherein we take a stroll down the metaphorical beach of the DWSUWF blog and note the detritus that has washed ashore and cluttered our little island of rationality in the great big blogospheric ocean. The beach is particularly messy as we have neglected it over the last few weeks. Your loyal blogger was distracted, spending time touring foreign lands and blogging about the adventures to be found on the other side of the globe.

But it is an election year, the "stupid season" is upon us, and it is time to get back to work. Permit me to share a few of the shiny items we found washed up on the beach. Unsurprisingly, the first few objects we picked up look remarkably similar to items we have seen here before.

First, a shout out and a quick "thank you" to Tully, who wandered over and lit a couple of signal fires to to keep the DWSUWF island from appearing deserted over the last month. We hope he will continue to visit and help me clean up this mess.

ITEM - Anthropogenic Global Warming is still not settled science even if Daily Kos and the Zimbabwe Academy of Science think it is.

Noel at Newsbusters and McQ at Q&O complain that USA Today gave climatologist Michael Mann a free pass and an uncritical front page soapbox to make his case yesterday. Despite the kid-glove treatment, when a USA Today headline and front page article asks the question "Is the Global Warming movement cooling?", I'd say the AGW alarmists have a serious problem:
"Indeed, the controversy has contributed to a fundamental shift in efforts to stop global warming, forcing environmentalists to scale down long-held ambitions and try to win back an increasingly skeptical American public. Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank, says recent events may be causing "the death of the global warming movement as we know it."
Of course, Michael Mann, whose sloppy science contributed to growing public skepticism of global warming, has a different view:
"Mann says the core argument — that the Earth is warming, humans are at least partly responsible, and disaster may await unless action is taken — remains intact."I look at it like this: Let's say that you're in your car, you open up the owner's manual, and you discover a typo on page 225. Does that mean you stop driving the car? Of course not. Those are the kind of errors we're talking about here," Mann says. "Nothing has fundamentally changed."
With all due respect to Michael Mann, cherry-picked data sets selected to conform to a pre-determined hypothesis, data massaged with "correcting " factors, ignoring the statistical level of error introduced by the correcting factors, and failing to make source data available - amounts to more than a "typo". But Mann is right about one thing: "nothing has fundamentally changed". The Mann/IPCC/East Anglica University CRU hypothesis that the world is experiencing an unprecedented period of global warming wildly at variance with recent geological history was never proven, and remains unproven today. So - indeed - nothing has fundamentally changed.

None of this has prevented acolytes of AGW quasi-religious "settled science" dogma from climbing into the pulpit and instructing the flock to open the hymnbook for a sing-along. The favored hymns invariably use sloppy semantics, ad hominem labeling ("global warming deniers"), combined with appeals to questionable authority in order to dismiss AGW skeptics. A recent example at Daily Kos takes a kitchen sink approach - the point of the post apparently being that once the Zimbabwe Academy of Science and the American Academy of Pediatrics profess support for AGW - no one should question it. Sloppy semantics are found in the "poll" accompanying the post, where the flock are asked to opine on whether the climate is indeed changing and how to prioritize fixing the problem (Sample response option - "The climate is changing, but it's not a problem").

Here is the reality: The climate is indeed changing. That is a fact. We know it is a fact because the earth's climate is, has been, and always will be changing. It has been changing every second of every minute of the entire history of the planet. It always has and it always will - whether or not people were, are, or will be burning fossil fuels.

It is also reasonably clear from the data that we are in a period of global warming. What has not been shown to any level of scientific certainty or consensus is :
  1. Whether this period of warming is outside of the range of normal climate change fluctuations that the planet has experienced in recent geological history, or
  2. Whether our fossil fuel impact is a major factor in that change.
In 2001, Michael Mann, the CRU, and the IPCC asserted an extraordinary scientific claim that we are experiencing the greatest global warming in a millennium, predicted dire consequences, but failed to deliver the extraordinary evidence required to support that extraordinary claim. Instead, they offered sloppy science, a corruption of the scientific methodology, a failure to deliver reproducible evidence, a report rife with errors and filled with statistical contortions. Many of these were invoked specifically to overturn the previously accepted science showing a Medieval Warming Period that was warmer than we are experiencing today (and not needing human carbon contributions from burning fossil fuel to get there).

Net net... the AGW adherents believe that the globe is warmer than it has been in a millennium. The good thing about science, is that belief does not matter. It takes time, but eventually science will out.

ITEM - Barack Obama is not George W. Bush, but he might as well be.
Last Sunday, the ACLU ran a full page ad in the New York Times with a graphic showing the president morphing into his predecessor. The ACLU ad and open letter received a lot of attention across the blogosphere. It reminded me of something I read about a year ago... who was that? Oh wait... I remember - that was me, when I noted "Obama Endorses the Bush/Cheney Unitary Executive. Again and again and again":
"It was the most seductive argument to vote for Barack Obama - We need to elect a Democrat to "undo the damage" of the Bush administration...I expected to enjoy a couple of consolation prizes with the Obama victory. First, balance would be maintained in judicial appointments and on the Supreme Court,and second - Obama would indeed roll back some of the worst [Unitary Executive] offenses of the Bush administration. While I still have high hopes for the first consolation prize, early indications are not promising for the second. Not promising at all..."
In many ways, the Obama administration incarnation of the Bush/Cheney Unitary Executive is far worse than the Bush version. Then there was robust opposition from the left. Now, the handful of voices on the left raised in defense of civil liberties and in opposition to the continuing accretion of power to the executive branch, are lost in the noise level of the Obama apologists. They are the equivalent of "Loyal Bushies", and appear to crave nothing so much as a benevolent Obama monarchy. There were two possible paths that might have been pursued by Obama in relation to the previous administration. The Bush/Cheney executive power grab could have been seen as an outlier, an aberration inconsistent with our Constitution and reversed by Obama, restoring balance to the checks and balances between the branches. Instead the Bush/Cheney view of the unitary executive was embraced by Obama and institutionalized with the passive compliance of a lap-dog Democratic Congress. The result is that the Bush/Cheney unitary executive is now the norm, the new benchmark and will remain so for the indefinite future. At least until that new executive power is abused by this or a future executive, and Americans finally understand what they have given away.

That said, this blogger continues to be surprised by the depth, breadth and frequency with which Obama=Bush meme is being flogged across the left-o-sphere. Examples include to leadership style, national security, Afghanistan, civil rights, detention without trial, Health Care, even Digital Rights Management and salmon environmental policy on the west coast. I guess it is ok for him to act like Bush, just so long as he is not Bush.

ITEM - Harry Reid will change the rules of the Senate for the majority party. Good news for Harry and the Democrats, unless the Senate majority in 2011 is Republican.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid has climbed aboard the anti-filibuster bandwagon, promising rule changes in the 2011 Senate to weaken the use of the filibuster for the minority party.
"...the process seems to be proceeding from the premise that Senate Democrats are fed up with the filibuster. "In baseball," Reid said in a clipped tone, "they used to have the spitball. It originally was used with discretion. But then the ball got wetter and wetter and wetter. So soon, they outlawed the spitball." The same, he said, had happened to the four-corner offense in basketball. "And just the way the spitball was abused in baseball and the four-corner offense was abused in basketball," Reid said, "Republicans have abused the filibuster."
Harry Reid is presuming that:
  1. He will be re-elected to the Senate, and
  2. Democrats will still be in the majority for the next Senate.
Admittedly, the Democrats have such a large majority in the Senate that the odds remain strong they will maintain their majority. Still, there appears to be a level of hubris about the expected outcome of the midterm elections evident in the comments of Senators Reid and Schumer, that reminds this blogger of nothing so much as the Democratic Party complacency about the outcome of the special election in Massachusetts. So let's checkpoint on how the GOP Ten in Ten scenario is playing out.

With Evan Bayh dropping out in Indiana the odds, while still long, got appreciably better for the Republicans to swing the nine additional seats they need. Nate Silver is projecting that the top seven senate races most likely to change parties are all Republican pickups (ND, DE, AR, IN, NV, CO, PA) . Getting two more will be difficult for the GOP as they'll need two of these five - IL, CA, WI, WA, NY - and still hold serve on all GOP seats. Unlikely, improbable, but certainly possible. It is at least as possible as a Republican winning Ted Kennedy's MA seat.

Pat Caddell's analysis indicates that Democratic Party hubris on the health care bill may be just the catalyst Republicans need to change the game in November. It certainly opens the door to the possibility that if the majority changes the rules for the Senate in 2011, it may be the GOP that do the changing:
"Nothing has been more disconcerting than to watch Democratic politicians and their media supporters deceive themselves into believing that the public favors the Democrats' current health-care plan. Yes, most Americans believe, as we do, that real health-care reform is needed. And yes, certain proposals in the plan are supported by the public. However, a solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan. Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly. Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data... the notion that once enactment is forced, the public will suddenly embrace health-care reform could not be further from the truth -- and is likely to become a rallying cry for disaffected Republicans, independents and, yes, Democrats."
By passing the wildly unpopular ObamaCare bill, Pelosi and Reid may have "just enough rope" to get the job done - to the benefit of Republicans in November.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.