American Elephants

Republicans Don’t Believe in Science, and Reject the Theory of Relativity. by The Elephant's Child

A paper published on Friday in the  American Sociological Review states that just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution, in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974.  In 1974, conservatives were more likely than liberals or moderates to express confidence in science.

Well, ho-hum.  Climate Gate I, ClimateGate II, (conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating data, falsification of data), FakeGate (Peter Gleick uses false identity, fakes documents), retreat of Himalayan Glaciers, IPCC (at least 16 claims of impending doom in 2007 report were based on work done by GreenPeace activists, not peer-reviewed science), Indian Ocean and  Pacific Ocean sea level data (came from computer models by people who had never visited the sites in question), Kevin Trenberth,(plagiarism, politicization). And more and more.

Over at Ace of Spades, Arthur K points out a recent story

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications – papers in top journals, from reputable labs– for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated.

And in the same article:

Scientists at Bayer did not have much more success. In a 2011 paper titled, “Believe it or not,” they analyzed in-house projects that built on “exciting published data” from basic science studies. “Often, key data could not be reproduced,” wrote Khusru Asadullah, vice president and head of target discovery at Bayer HealthCare in Berlin, and colleagues.

Of 47 cancer projects at Bayer during 2011, less than one-quarter could reproduce previously reported findings, despite the efforts of three or four scientists working full-time for up to a year. Bayer dropped the projects.

Bayer and Amgen found that the prestige of a journal was no guarantee a paper would be solid. “The scientific community assumes that the claims in a preclinical study can be taken at face value,” Begley and Lee Ellis of MD Anderson Cancer Center wrote in Nature. It assumes, too, that “the main message of the paper can be relied on … Unfortunately, this is not always the case.”

Conservatives, you see, have a long history of being anti-science. They opposed embryonic stem-cell research when it might have helped Christopher Reeve to walk again, just because of their stupid hang up about embryos — just a clump of cells. And they don’t believe in manmade global warming, when Al Gore’s movie told us all what a danger it is. There’s someone named Chris Mooney, who seems to be an English major who is a true believer in global warming,and  writes regularly on how dumb Republicans are, and, unsurprisingly, has a new book out called The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don’t Believe in Science. It may be entertaining.

It seems that Republicans get all their scientific information from something called “Conservapedia,” the right-wing counterpart to Wikipedia, which is anti-science and doubts Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I never heard of it, but lefties seem to be the major contributors.

Liberals remain astonished that anyone could find anything unconstitutional in ObamaCare, and are looking for confirmation that we are indeed unusually stupid. This finding turns up regularly in one academic study after another. A favorite pastime in academe.

Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion addresses the differences between liberals and conservatives and their moral stereotypes. The authors surveyed two thousand people asking one-third to answer in their own voice, one-third to answer as “a typical liberal” and one-third to answer as “a typical conservative.”

The results were quite striking. Conservatives and moderates were adept at guessing how liberals would answer; but liberals, especially those who considered themselves as “very liberal” were very bad at guessing what conservatives would say about issues of care or fairness. For example, most thought that conservatives would disagree with statements like ‘One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal’ or ‘justice is the most important requirement for a society.’

Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, found that liberals and conservatives alike form their political beliefs according to three values: caring for the weak, fairness, and liberty.  Yet conservatives also hold to three other values: loyalty, respect for authority, and sanctity.  This accounts in part for the liberal failure to understand conservative viewpoints. Conservatives can understand the morality of liberals, but much of conservative morality is alien to their opponents.  Haidt had been a liberal — but became a centrist after this study.

In an article entitled “Is the Tea Party Racist?“Dr. Timothy Dalrymple explains:

But the problem is not merely ignorance. Liberals are also alienated from core conservative values. Liberals are trained to believe that many of the traditional American ideals and values that conservatives inherit in their families and churches are cruel and intolerant, imperialistic, and implicitly racist, sexist, and classist. They are trained, for instance, not to be motivated by patriotism and American exceptionalism, but by an ideal of world citizenship and parity.

Liberals consistently misinterpret what motivates conservatives because they really cannot see the world from the conservative perspective. Liberals cannot imagine that Tea Partiers are really motivated by concern for their country, and by frustration with a White House hemorrhaging red ink and a government less concerned to represent the interests of the citizenry than to pay off the special interests that fund their campaigns.

“Liberals, Dr. Dalrymple says,” are unable to see a rational and noble motive at the center of the Tea Party movement, so they supply a darker and more convenient motive instead.” The problem is not that liberals dislike the principles promoted at Tea Party rallies: the problem is that liberals dislike the kind of people who go to Tea Party rallies.

So if you have been puzzled by the strange things liberals say, there you go.

Celebrate Cheap Abundant Electricity and Human Progress by The Elephant's Child

Let’s Hear it For Civilization, and Common Sense! by The Elephant's Child
March 31, 2012, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Environment, Junk Science | Tags: ,

Reprinted from Anthony Watts splendid blog, Watts Up with That?:

Earth Hour: A Dissent

by Ross McKitrick

Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics, Univer...In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water.

Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases.

Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity.

Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.

Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks.

I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

[Ross McKitrick is a Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, Canada. Photo Credit: Wikipedia]

ObamaCare Gummed Everything Up. by The Elephant's Child

ObamaCare is in the lap of the Supreme Court, and in spite of all the analysis and dissection of motives and personalities, we don’t know what the justices will do.  The battle has changed America, derailed the recovery, and changed health care in ways that we don’t really understand yet.

Traditionally, many doctors were pleased if their children chose to go into medicine. A family with many members in the medical profession was not unusual.  Now physicians aren’t as happy with their chosen life’s work, no longer advise family members or friends to go into medicine, and according to polls are thinking about getting out.

Hospitals are consolidating, many are putting doctors on salary. Our hospital is developing satellite centers for urgent care, classes, outreach, while the hospital itself grows and expands. They are developing a different model, in reaction to ObamaCare and ObamaCare’s potential development in the future. I can’t say that I fully understand the ways in which it is changing, but it is different.

Business has examined their operations and ways of doing business in an effort to protect themselves from what the future might hold, in the light of what it has done so far. The body of regulation that has descended on companies has made them cautious, careful. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. That, as Liz Peek suggests, should give the supporters of the legislation pause.

And for the rest of us, our health care has changed— no matter what the Supreme Court does.  Are we stuck with the socialized medicine model that a vast majority of Americans hate? If it is not struck down, do we then engage in a tremendous civil war to get it repealed?  If it remains, can we abide the endless tinkering it would require to make an unworkable law even begin to be functional? What were liberals thinking? Did they not understand that the American people…well, no they didn’t.

Liberals do not understand the American people, though they are Americans. They don’t understand human nature. They think they can fix it, so the people who disagree with them don’t disagree any more.  In extremis, they speak of putting the’ far-right wing nuts’ in camps where they can’t annoy the better people any more. They hate to be disagreed with because they don’t know how to answer — except to call names.

They don’t understand the free market, because there are no guarantees. There is risk. There’s a reason why liberals flock to government work and to foundations. They can feel safe. The free market rewards people who take risks and face up to challenges. Life is a risk, and there is no sure security except in hard work and striving. We have safety nets, but what government gives today, it can take away tomorrow.

Obama recently said that in America, we are greater together, when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share. That may be true, but in Obama’s America, the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers are turned over to union supporters, regulations are devised to shut down legitimate businesses, take away people’s rights to their own land, deprive people of their jobs. Ringing phrases come easy, but accomplish nothing.

Obama brags that he saved the auto industry, but the future was yanked away from hundreds of private businesses overnight—auto dealers with hundreds of employees were summarily put out of business. Bondholders, depending on a consistent flow of interest from their holdings in the car companies were guaranteed first call on the assets of a company in case of bankruptcy, were suddenly broke. Taxpayer money goes, not to governmental tasks, but to cronies— buddies who helped the president to get elected.

If ObamaCare is overturned, the world cannot be put back the way it was. Everything is changed, no matter how it all turns out — and not in a good way. Trust is gone or diminished. Security is damaged. And for what? Good governance is not a cheap political game — but you made it so.

Operation “Hot Mic” by The Elephant's Child

This Was More Than a Bad Week for Obama, It Was a Tipping Point. by The Elephant's Child

I think we reached a sort of tipping point this week.  Politically, this was an unbelievably bad week for the President and his administration. And the defining event was not even the constitutional lessons being exposed in Supreme Court consideration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Car Act. The defining event was a whispered exchange with the Soviet president Dmitry Medvedev captured by a microphone still on.

President Obama: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.”

President Medvedev: “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…”

President Obama: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

President Medvedev: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.”

The next day the president tried to explain away his comment, and made it worse. He insisted his comments to Medvedev were “not a matter of hiding the ball—I’m on record” about wanting to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. His private comments to Medvedev were not about nuclear stockpiles, but about missile defense, and he was promising more accommodation to Vladimir Putin’s Russia next year.

Most presidents have come to office hoping to do good and serious things for the country and for the American people. They often bring with them ideas about just what those good and serious things will be. In most cases, they have discussed them thoroughly with the American people during the campaign, and made promises to the people. Yet as they settle in to the White House and learn about the office, they will inevitably find that the problems on the presidential plate may order different priorities than exactly what they originally had in mind. The world and events inexorably move on.

Barack Obama came to office and was shocked! shocked! as were his economic advisers at the awful mess left to him by George W. Bush — at least as described in his new campaign video “The Road We Traveled.” Why were they shocked? Were they not paying attention? Did they think that the ascension of “the One” to the highest office wiped the slate of events clean so that he could start reinventing America?

He was offered all sorts of help in the transition, because Bush did not want to leave the kind of mess, even for the opposing party, that was left to him by the Clinton administration. Yet Barack Obama was so reluctant to accept the burden of the presidency that he could not stop whining and complaining for three whole years. All those things he was forced to deal with —those were Bush’s fault — the good and popular things like clean green energy— those were Obama’s doing.

From the very first, Obama has been singularly uninterested in what the American people wanted. He wants to install his own personal agenda for his own selfish reasons. We’ve never had a president like this. All presidents make mistakes, do things they probably should not, at least in retrospect, have done. The president of the United States doesn’t occupy office to do as he pleases. He is president of all the people, including Republicans, and it is his job to do what is right for the country to the best of his ability. In the Washington Times, Charles Hurt said:

The past seven brutal days will go down as one of the worst weeks in history for a sitting president. … Somehow, Mr. Obama managed to embarrass himself abroad, humiliate himself here at home, see his credentials for being elected so severely undermined that it raises startling questions about whether he should have been elected in the first place — let alone be re-elected later this year.

Over at Contentions, Abe Greenwald adds:

It’s true this has been Obama’s worst week ever. But it’s also more than that. There are all sorts of ways to have a bad political week, and most don’t involve secretly colluding with the Kremlin and watching your signature policy initiative deliquesce at the Supreme Court.

For Obama detractors, this week was the mother of all “told-ya-so’s”: the disaster predictions of his presidency made manifest; all the contents of 2008’s dire prophecies conjured into the real world. The brazen courting of international bad actors, the constitutionally unfeasible leftism, and the political illiteracy have been summoned at last in the space of a few days.

Worst of all is the clear, bright line connecting the health-care showdown and the Putin pander: Barack Obama’s casual indifference to democratic principle. That the healthcare overhaul was a federally enforced protection racket is no more relevant to him than Vladimir Putin’s aggressive anti-freedom agenda. Expedience means the state compels the people to do what’s in their best interest. No one said change is easy.

In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan writes about a president who “increasingly comes across as devious and dishonest.”

In terms of the broad electorate, I’m not sure he really has a relationship. A president only gets a year or two to forge real bonds with the American people. In that time a crucial thing he must establish is that what is on his mind is what is on their mind. This is especially true during a crisis.

From the day Mr. Obama was sworn in, what was on the mind of the American people was financial calamity—unemployment, declining home values, foreclosures. These issues came within a context of some overarching questions: Can America survive its spending, its taxing, its regulating, is America over, can we turn it around?

That’s what the American people were thinking about.

But the new president wasn’t thinking about that. All the books written about the creation of economic policy within his administration make clear the president and his aides didn’t know it was so bad, didn’t understand the depth of the crisis, didn’t have a sense of how long it would last. They didn’t have their mind on what the American people had their mind on.

And again in the Wall Street Journal, Martin Peretz editor in chief of the New Republic from 1974 to 2011:

But really the message, the important one, concerns us, here in America. It is that the American people can’t be trusted if the president is honest with them about what he proposes. More bluntly, that the American people are not trusted by their own president. Otherwise the president would tell us the truth about his intentions. And here he is, admitting his distrust of his own people to a leader of a nasty foreign government that seeks to thwart our purposes in the Middle East and elsewhere. President Obama is in cahoots with the Russian regime against America’s very body politic.

Mr. Obama’s revealing comment, and the question of missile defense, and the question of Mr. Obama’s bizarre desire for coziness with Vladimir Putin, is a matter about which our European allies have great concerns.

It is all very disturbing.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). This Is a Really Important Interview and a Very Charming One. by The Elephant's Child

This week on Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell discusses why the glacial pace of deliberations and decisions in the Senate is a feature, not a bug.

“Once it was clear the president was going to try to turn us into a Western European country as rapidly as he could, about the only strategy you have left when your opposition has a forty-seat majority in the House. . . . We knew we couldn’t stop the agenda. But we thought we had a chance of creating a national debate about whether all of this excess was appropriate. And the key to having a debate, frankly and candidly, was to deny the president, if possible, the opportunity to have any of these things be considered bipartisan.”

This interview will do a lot towards explaining American politics and American government— at least the Senate version. Why the Founders created the Senate the way they did.

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