FM newswire for 28 January, articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis.  If you find this useful, pass it to a friend or colleague.

  1. Forgetting our history means forgetting who we are:  “Ulysses Grant: Our Greatest President?“, Nathan Newman (bio), at his blog, 4 July 2006
  2. Important material from our man in Kabul, speaking honesty to our leaders in Washington:  Ambassador Eikenberry’s Cables on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan from November 2009, posted by the New York Times.
  3. This should not surprise us, as California always leads the nation:  “America The Ungovernable“, Newsweek, 25 January 2010 — “Three forces have conspired to prevent President Obama from running the country effectively: congressional Republicans, congressional Democrats, and the American people.”  But it need not be like this, as we need only the wit and will to govern ourselves.
  4. An accurate but impolitic way to say this:  “Too Dumb to Thrive“, Joe Klein, blog of Time magazine, 25 January 2010 — “Absolutely amazing poll results from CNN today about the $787 stimulus package: nearly three out of four Americans think the money has been wasted.”  But it is a success for Republican propagandists!
  5. Wild guesses about threats keeps the proles nervous and obedient:  “What’s the next U.S. terror threat?“, USA Today, 26 January 2010 — Fame and high office goes to those with the most vivid imagination and story-telling skills.
  6. We see their true nature from the cover-up even more than the inital scandal:  An annotated version of  the IPCC Statement on Trends in Disaster Losses“, Roger Pielke Jr, at his website, 26 January 2010

Today’s special features

  • I’ll bet Lord Hutton has a good reason for classifying this as top secret
  • Another example of the IPPC show the corruption of science

(A)  I’ll bet Lord Hutton has a good reason for classifying this as top secret

Excerpt from “David Kelly post mortem to be kept secret for 70 years as doctors accuse Lord Hutton of concealing vital information“, Daily News, 25 January 2010:

Vital evidence which could solve the mystery of the death of Government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years. In a draconian – and highly unusual – order, Lord Hutton, the peer who chaired the controversial inquiry into the Dr Kelly scandal, has secretly barred the release of all medical records, including the results of the post mortem, and unpublished evidence.

The move, which will stoke fresh speculation about the true circumstances of Dr Kelly’s death, comes just days before Tony Blair appears before the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. It is also bound to revive claims of an establishment cover-up and fresh questions about the verdict that Dr Kelly killed himself.

Wikipedia entry for David Kelly:

David Christopher Kelly, CMG (1944– 2003) was an employee of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD), an expert in biological warfare and a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. Kelly’s discussion with BBC Radio 4 Today programme journalist Andrew Gilligan about the British government’s dossier on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq inadvertently caused a major political scandal. He was found dead days after appearing before the Parliamentary committee charged with investigating the scandal.

The Hutton Inquiry, a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death, ruled that he had committed suicide, and that Kelly had not in fact said some of the things attributed to him by Gilligan. The following day, 28 January 2004, the Independent ran a special issue, the front cover being largely blank and containing in the centre, “WHITEWASH? THE HUTTON REPORT. A SPECIAL ISSUE.”

(B)  Another example of the IPPC show the corruption of science

Excerpt from “The corruption of science“, Richard North, EUReferendum, 26 January 2010:

Thus, from an assertion (IPCC) that “up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation”, we see this relying on a statement (Rowell & Moore) that “up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.” But that seems to rely solely on the assertion that: “Logging companies in Amazonia kill or damage 10-40% of the living biomass of forests through the harvest process.”

Turning this round and starting at the Nature end, we have “Logging companies in Amazonia kill or damage 10-40% of the living biomass of forests through the harvest process,” turn into, “up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall,” which then becomes “up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation”.

And that is what Jean-Pascal van Ypersele calls, “assessing the quality information about climate change issues in all its dimensions.”

Answering our own question as to why the IPCC authors did not use the peer-reviewed Nature reference rather than the secondary source, the reason now becomes clear. The paper simply did not support the assertion they wished to make.

… By any measure, and by any possible construction, the Nature paper cannot be taken to support the assertions made either by Rowell & Moore or the IPCC. As with the assertion on the Himalayan glaciers, the IPCC passage should be withdrawn.

The articles discussed here are:

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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26 thoughts on “FM newswire for 28 January, articles for your morning reading

  1. from # 1:

    “Former President Grant acidly remarked that this anti-labor wing of the Republicans were the same people who had resisted using federal troops “to protect the lives of negroes. Now, however, there is no hesitation about exhausting the whole power of the government to suppress a strike on the slightest intimation that danger threatens.” ”

    It seems to me this is still an important paradox of Republicans in other issues.

  2. As for part B,

    I work in the science field, and thus read Nature and Science pretty much every week, so I was kind of surprised that I missed so much of the alarming data that the IPCC and Al Gore and others have espoused. Of course they could be reading the editorials and not the articles…
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    FM reply: You’re looking in the wrong places. Look at the EPA’s justification for the massive expansion of its power by regulating CO2, or the advocates in Congress for enacting Cap and Trade legislation. It’s not science, but politics.

  3. As for #4, I fail to see how thinking that the stimulus money was wasted equates to people being too dumb to thrive. Even Krugman thought poorly of the bill at the time (“Why worry about a poor stimulus plan?”, 24 January 2009):

    “So the stimulus plan agreed to by House Democrats is a real piece of, um, bad legislation. It could have been even worse — it could have been the plan Bush wanted, which would have delivered virtually no stimulus at all. But it’s very, very weak. But why worry, aside from the big waste of funds? Because there’s a real chance that we’ll be very sorry that we didn’t get a serious stimulus plan.”

    Krugman’s concerns were with the very portion of the stimulus that Joe Klein seems to think indicate people are dumb — namely the various tax cuts that made up roughly half of the package. Tax cuts are thought to have a lower multiplier and thus be less effective. That whole paradox of thrift thing kicks in as well when people just place the refund into their savings account providing no stimulus.

    The projects section of the bill was not ideal as well. The projects were not shovel ready hence why the money has not been spent yet. We um, could have used those jobs like last year when the unemployment rate had yet to hit 10%/17%. Also instead of serious investment in forward thinking infrastructure we have token investments in rail (“A Pittance for Rail“, gregor, 21 January 2009). The needed scale of investment in rail and energy is staggering. A few billion here and there will not remove our dependency on oil or prepare the grid for renewables.

    I personally would have liked to seen the stimulus consist of backstopping the states so that we would not have them slashing their budgets as they are right now. (50 little Hoovers I believe was Krugman’s quote). A well funded job guarantee for the unemployed would have been another excellent addition.

    You can look here to see what various professional economists thought was ideal at the time (“The Ideal Stimulus Package“, Catherine Rampell, blog of the NYT, 16 December 2008. So I think Mr. Klein is off the mark. Perhaps the ‘mouth-breathing masses’ got it right. Read the comments on that article as they are reasoned better than his article!
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    FM reply: This grossly mis-represents the situation, confusing two very different objections.

    Krugman’s primary objection was that the stimulus was the largest that Congress would approve, but too small. His secondary complaint was that tax cuts were too large a component, vs. spending it on income maintenance (for the poor and unemployed) and infrastructure (but again, this mix was the best that Congress would pass). More broadly, economists have different views of the ideal stimulus package, but agree on the basics elements. Basic macroeconomics says that fiscal spending is stimulative (aka better than nothing). Hence economists gaudy metaphors. Keynes bury money and pay people to dig it up. Friedman’s drop money from helocopters. (for more about this see Dr. Bush, stabilize the economy – stat!, 7 October 2008).

    Such objections are totally different from the Tea Party-like objections that Klein describes — “3 out of 4 Americans think the money has been wasted.” Which is just ignorant. We experienced a global economic shock as large or larger than that which sparked the Great Depression. Only the policy response of world governments prevented a similar outcome.

  4. #1 was interesting; so much for the conventional wisdom of President Grant as a drunk who couldn’t keep his buddies’ hands out of the national cash register.

  5. Ulysses S. Grant certainly remains the best author among all our presidents. Jefferson and Adams and Madison wrote well, but Grant’s Autobiography is absolutely superb. It’s a fabulous read and highly recommended to everyone with an interest in American history, the civil war, or gripping prose & great narrative. Only Kennedy’s Profiles In Courage compares, and that was almost certainly ghostwritten by Ted Sorenson.

  6. FM: “This grossly mis-represents the situation, confusing two very different objections.

    Well said. What we see happening now is almost California-like. Ungoverning is bordering on econ suicide. Do “they” want this Country in the depths for years? What a movie we are in now…………….
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    FM reply: It’s not complicated.
    (1) We’re experiencing severe deflation (like that of Japan since 1989).
    (2) Neither economic theory nor history provides clear reliable solutions.
    (3) Elements of the Republican Party have adopted Lenin’s strategy: “the worse, the better” (the insight of Nikolay Chernyshevsky). They have no interest in helping; great interest in stopping the policy wheels from turning.

  7. The fourth force which has conspired to keep Obama from governing effectivelky is, of course, Obama himself. But of course, we have to make excuses for the man.

    I don’t for a moment think the country is ungovernable. (California is, but the most of the rest of the country is still governable, at least for now.) I think that to govern it requires a President with more political and real world experience than the one we’re stuck with now.

    It’s going to be a long three years.

  8. From #4: “This is yet further evidence that Americans are flagrantly ill-informed…and, for those watching Fox News, misinformed.”

    With that included, it’s hard for me to take that post seriously. FM, do you have a link or links handy that prove the success of the stimulus?
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    FM reply: It’s obvious, but disturbing that conservative propaganda has obscured this. The world experienced an economic shock roughly as large as that which caused the Great Depression. Having learned from that, rapid and large intervention (aka first aid) stabilzed the economy (GDP, incomes, etc). For pictures and a large number of citations see:
    * Update: why has the worst recession since the 1930’s had so little impact on the economy?, 5 October 2009
    * Economists discuss the impact of the stimulus on our recession, 6 October 2009

  9. Fabius, My primary point is that the article is not well reasoned. The poll he refers to is rather vague and can be interpreted in various ways.

    While I do believe that a Keynesian stimulus was needed (if only to reduce the suffering of the unemployed) there are limits to what it can do. Since the stimulus package did little to rectify any of the underlying problems that caused the crash I would liken it to placing a bandage over an infected wound but not making use of antiseptic to treat the infection. You are rather unlikely to heal the wound. If folk are upset by a use of funds in this way I see no fault in that.

    If you interpret Klein’s article to mean they are opposed to any solution to try and improve the situation then I am in full agreement that they are “too dumb to thrive”.
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    FM reply: No need to rely on the poll Klein cites. It’s clear from multiple sources that the Tea Party movement is fundamentally opposed to almost any government spending to fight depression. The posts on the FM website about the role of basic stabilizers (unemployment insurance, medicaid, food stamps) attracted waves of folks from Glenn Reynold’s Instapundit website complaining about these things. In support of which they gave an astonishing range of misinformation — mostly from conservative websites. Read them at Update: why has the worst recession since the 1930’s had so little impact on the economy?

    “there are limits to what it can do. ”

    That’s nice, I thought the stimulus package was the Holy Grail. As I explain in the following comment, these are just first aid — and fix nothing. Unfortunately to get it through Congress Obama grossly oversold it (typical newbie mistake, raising expectations to an unrealistic level).

  10. FM: “Only the policy response of world governments prevented a similar outcome.

    The governments of the world have conducted a grand experiment in real time. I hope you are correct but given that we appear to be in a debt-driven deflation (Wikipedia) and we have done nothing to fix the overall debt problem it remains to be seen if we have avoided a similar outcome or not.
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    FM reply: A few notes in reply.

    (1) “governments of the world have conducted a grand experiment in real time.”

    True, but misleading. It’s an experiment because deflation is a rare “illness”. The choices were try experimental (but well-founded in theory) cures, or see if the global economy would burn to the ground.

    (2) “we have done nothing to fix the overall debt problem it”

    These measures are just first aid — stabilize the patient and mitigate the pain, which allows treatment. First aid cures nothing. This is explained in these posts:
    * The last opportunity for effective action before disaster strikes, 3 October 2008
    * Everything you need to know about government stimulus programs (read this – it’s about your money), 30 January 2009
    * Government economic stimulus is financial heroin, 28 December 2009

    (3) As for debt deflation, this is IMO a more useful description than the Wikipedia entry:
    * Debt – the core problem of this financial crisis, which also explains how we got in this mess, 22 October 2008

  11. #9 – “While I do believe that a Keynesian stimulus was needed (if only to reduce the suffering of the unemployed) there are limits to what it can do. Since the stimulus package did little to rectify any of the underlying problems that caused the crash”

    Please. Stim is NOT NOW nor ever designed to be “rectifying” in the way you prescribe….it is a substitute/counterpoint for private spending/saving (usually forced!) The major reasons why this last Round is almost invisible is the composition thereof.
    -30% Tax Cuts
    -50%+/- Earmark-like porkish silliness…pandering by Congress to greedy, lazy citizen/constituents.
    That is, Idiots playing with our lives and money!

  12. FM: “It’s not complicated. …

    And again, well put—short succinct and concise! Muchas gracias. I like the ref to Mr. Lenin, as it certainly appears that way, re: PARTY of NO!

  13. Thanks for adding to the groundswell reviving the reputation of U. S. Grant, one of very few great men of history who was also a man of the people in every sense.

  14. I don’t like the anti-Tea Party rhetoric. Calling people dumb is dumb.

    I bet that the majority of the people who are mad or angry work their butts off everyday. To what fault are they to suppose the recession came about? They work hard, they do good. They don’t suppose it is their co-workers or their neighbors. They assume it must be some external factor. They hear on the news money of untold sums being haggled for by (unarguably) corrupt politicians, and being largely spent on “pork” and what do you expect?

    The majority of people aren’t economists or historians or writers that can figure this stuff out. They have to spend their time figuring out stuff that is important in the physical world.

    Don’t call them dumb. They are not. Would you tell your car mechanic that you think he is dumb when you have your car at the shop? Well that is the guy at the Tea party. All he knows is that there are a lot of a-holes in washington and new york screwing him over, and he knows it too, because he pays his taxes.

    If anything, this is a bad sell by GW Bush and Obama and bad politics to bail out GM.
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    FM reply: I agree, personal insults of one’s political opponents is silly. But it’s an old American tradition. Perhaps many people find it emotionally satisfying.

  15. I’m glad Kelly’s death is being discussed again . The episode seems surreal , especially the 70 year secrecy . At the Hutton enquiry , doctors evidence was curtailed , such as where was the blood . No questions were asked about Kelly’s 2 recent years in Iraq , any contacts or friends he had made . Or when/why he had joined the Baha’i faith , a principle of which is action towards , and inevitablity of ,world peace . The gov actually put out a conspiracy theory for the masses , in case anyone wasnt too happy with the suicide version ; this was that Iraqui Baathist spies had assassinated him .
    Also a perceptive journalist and his producer got the sack from the BBC . Which compromised the integrity of the BBC .
    Dont get excited about Chilcot questioning Bliar tomorrow . Chilcot wont want to upset his old buddy Teflon Tony .

  16. And another thing . Why were these CRU emails picked up in some one-horse town in Russia ? Is this where the Monstadatorium is ?
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    FM reply: The geographic location of any server in cyberspace means nothing, and everything is equally distant. Russian servers are good places to stash information beyond the reach of western governments. If the Internet existed during the Vietnam War, that’s where the Pentagon Papers would have sent.

  17. Also, FM, you say that this mess was all caused by debt deflation. Well what caused the debt deflation? The dumb Tea partiers?
    No, it was the executive and legislative branch along with the Fed.
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    FM reply: As anyone with children knows, “why” is the most difficult of questions. The causes are many, like for most social phenomena.
    * We are beyond the range of Keynesian theory, as aggregate debt levels are not a variable.
    * We allowed our financial industry regulatory agencies to be captured by the financial industries.
    * American households and businesses recklessly accumulated debt.

    “The dumb Tea partiers?”
    Yes. They are citizens, just like me. Elections were held every two years. With power goes responsibility. When we learn to accept responsibility for our Republic, then we’ll be on the road to true reform.

  18. “To what fault are they to suppose the recession came about?”
    If they voted for Bush or supported the Iraq War, then they are enjoying the consequences of their own actions.

    “They work hard, they do good.”
    Really? Cite evidence to support this?

    “They have to spend their time figuring out stuff that is important in the physical world.”
    And the other “stuff” is unimportant?

    “Would you tell your car mechanic that you think he is dumb when you have your car at the shop? Well that is the guy at the Tea party.”
    I take it you’re not one of these “down-to-earth” mechanic guys? So you really don’t know what is going on with them, now do you?

  19. Glaciergate: Hitler’s Last Straw — A relatively tame Hitler parody video

    “As chief operating officer for the cabal of Billionaires who control the global warming scam, Hitler quickly realizes the long range implications of Glaciergate.”

  20. To Duncan,

    No, I am not one of those down-to-earth guys who is a mechanic. Only godless wretches like us would be on a website like this, discussing things like this. And I know these people because they are family and friends. And I know they are hard working. Yeah, anecdotal. But what is the point in calling people dumb?

    All I am saying is that verbally attacking people who I know to be otherwise not politically engaged is wrong.

    I think the swell of activism is due to top-down failure of leadership in this country.

  21. To Jon:

    I live in the heart of the rustbelt and know a few auto mechanic types myself. I had an interesting conversation the other day about Elizabethan England with one.

    First of all, most of them ain’t teabaggers.

    Second of all, they run the general gamut of humanity, with the usual quota of saints and sinners, workaholics and derelicts.

    Third of all, teabaggers are hardly exemplars of deportment themselves. If they don’t like being called names, then they should cease namecalling themselves.

  22. Here is a real life example of debt deflation. Collection agencies and collection law firms in some sort of joint venture buy large blocks of defaulted debt: usually defaulted personal credit cards and usually at pennies on the dollar. As strange as this might seem, in good times debt buying is very profitable.

    The law firm oftentimes owns the collection agency that purchases the debt. They then try to collect them. Even though the majority of the debt is uncollectable (even in good times), because they only paid, say, 5 cents on the dollar, they still make a very nice net profit from the ones they do collect.

    However, as the recession has lengthened, this type of debt has become nearly 100% uncollectable. So debt buyers who were regularly paying $100,000.00 to buy $2,000,000.00 of debt at 5 cents on the dollar before the start of the recession are now in deep trouble. Mann Bracken, the nation’s largest collection law firm, recently closed its doors, because its captive collection agency had to file bankruptcy for this reason.

    The fact that there was a thriving market for defaulted consumer debt prior to the recession is a perfect example of how disfunctional our economy had become.

  23. Isn’t all money a “debt” of some kind or other? Valuable only because of our belief that we will be able to trade it for something in the future?

  24. #22 Here is a real life example of debt deflation……………….
    …………….

    I laughed when I read this, not too loudly but still.
    Reminded me of a time not so very long ago, a Mortgage Banker acquaintance “offered” me a chance to purchase a subscription or two in a LP that was buying up such Ventures to Pick the Bones; grand “discount” he told me, just tear open the envelopes each month and distribute the cash, he offered.
    I just never called him back.

    Distasteful to some but manna to others!
    NOT for me…but for the Grace of God.

    Thx for Posting that.

  25. I doubt the Tea Partiers make up 3/4 of America yet. CNN is strongly hinting there are others who agree with them on the success of the “stimulus” package.

    The stereotypical Tea Partier (at least as I understand it) works in the private sector and is non union. Despite Santelli, I’d guess few work in finance, as well. And Mr. Tea Party does pay taxes. From what I gather, around 80 million tax filers paid above zero taxes last year. A quick, superficial, snooping around page 1 Google results seems to indicate there was 17 million jobs either in the Federal Government, as Federal Contractors, or in state and local governments due to federal mandates. Altogether there were about 4 million state workers, and 11 million local government workers, for a combined 15 million, of which 5 million is accounted for by the above mentioned Federal mandates. And then there is 7 million private sector union workers.

    Anyway, unless my stereotype of the typical Tea Partier is way off, these tax payers will be dinged to the tune of 10-20,000 a pop to fund this “stimulus”, while at the same time not belonging to any of the groups who are being directly “stimulated”. So, I wouldn’t necessarily chalk the anger up to being dumb. It’s probably more due to finally recognizing the raw deal they have been getting throughout all the years when “their” guy was in the White House. And then seeing how the Obama Administration goes out of its way to outdo even the Bushies in blatant wealth redistribution in the direction of favored constituencies, and away from the (previously) quiet men.
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    FM reply: None of this makes any sense. It’s just arrant guessing (WAG’s), with a few irrelevant numbers thrown in.

    “I doubt the Tea Partiers make up 3/4 of America yet”
    I doubt they are more than 3/4 of one percent of America’s population.

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