Patterico's Pontifications

3/31/2014

Jeopardy Champion Ken Jennings Mocks Andrew Breitbart’s Death on Twitter

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:48 pm

Ken Jennings, the record-holder for consecutive Jeopardy wins, on Twitter:

Oddly enough, at dinner my children asked me the difference between intelligence and wisdom.

My answer began like this: “Funny you should ask . . .”

Obamacare Deadline: A Few Highlights

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:38 pm

[Guest post by Dana]

Today was the deadline for Americans to sign up for health care coverage and avoid facing a tax penalty. Not surprisingly, Healthcare.gov, the federal website for consumers, stalled due to heavy volume and a software bug. (Last week HHS offered an extension to consumers prevented from finishing their transaction due to exceptional circumstances, such as natural disasters, website technical issues, or other administrative problems).

Also, Big Journalism challenged the incredible enrollment data claimed by the Los Angeles Times,

The Los Angeles Times greeted the Obamacare enrollment data on Monday with a striking headline, claiming that “at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage,” which is 3 million people more than the Obama administration itself claimed last week (a number that was itself highly questionable, since it did not exclude those who had not paid for their new insurance). The Times’ analysis, however, is laughable.

The New York Times took the opportunity to recite the numbers,

In the last week, the administration counted more than 8.7 million visits to HealthCare.gov, including more than 2 million over the weekend. The telephone call center took more than 2.5 million phone calls in the last week, compared with 2.4 million for all of February.

As expected, the Administration was feeling victorious, if still not answering the important question(s),

At the White House, officials embarked on a kind of victory lap. Jay Carney, the press secretary, said that the number of people signing up for health care would be “significantly above six million,” and he reminded journalists of the predictions of doom when HealthCare.gov crashed last fall.

Mr. Carney said he did not have “any concrete numbers” to show how many people had paid premiums, as required to activate coverage.

And, troubling, a Southern California couple who are registered Republicans, were surprised to discover a voter registration card pre-marked with an “X” in the box next to Democratic Party, inside an envelope from Covered California, the state’s Obamacare website.

Covered California spokeswoman clarified and instructed,

“We are mailing voter registration material. However, the application forms come directly from the Secretary of State’s office, with no fields pre-marked. The individual should contact the Secretary of State, which takes these violations of election law extremely seriously, and they will investigate, using the unique serial number.”

(Apparently, the couple was unable to reach anyone at the Secretary of State office. The San Diego County Registrar of Voters office directed them to contact Covered California…).

–Dana

“Is Something Less True If a White Person Says It About Black People?”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:23 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Bill Maher asked the question of his guests. Apparently, the answer is, yes. (video at link)

Paul Ryan: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work.”

Michelle Obama: ‘When it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. They’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader — they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.’

–Dana

L.A. Times Refuses to Correct Misleading Statement on Global Warming

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:59 am

Scott Martelle of the L.A. Times recently began a piece on global warming with this statement:

Here’s a statistic for you. Out of 10,855 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals last year that dealt with some aspect of global warming, all but two accepted human behavior as the primary cause.

I published a post demonstrating that this was inaccurate. Martelle’s source, James Powell, reviewed abstracts of over 10,000 peer-reviewed articles that mentioned climate change or global warming — but he never claimed that all but two accepted human behavior as the primary cause” of global warming. Instead, he said that only two “rejected” it.

The distinction was critical, Powell never claimed that these articles all discussed the cause of global warming — and it is clear that many of the articles did not even address the premise that humans are the primary cause of global warming. Many of the articles, bearing names like “Life Cycle Assessment in Switchgears for Primary Electrical Distribution” or “Larval development of the feline lungworm Aelurostrongylus abstrusus in Helix aspersa,” mentioned global warming only in passing, and didn’t even pretend to address whether it was primarily caused by humans. So while these articles may not have “rejected” the notion that global warming is caused by humans, they certainly did not “accept” it — because they never addressed the issue.

I wrote Martelle and asked for a correction. He wrote me back this morning and has refused. Here is his email:

Hi, Patrick:

Thanks for the email, and the interest. I went back and looked at the original source and my wording, and while I recognize there may be a hair to split here, it doesn’t strike me as an error. I could have worded it better to make the context clearer, but to not reject is tacit acceptance. Others have raised your argument in the comments below the blog post, so that alternate view is represented.

Thanks,
Scott

(My emphasis.) Here is the email I have sent in response:

Mr. Martelle,

“To not reject” is not “tacit acceptance” if it is based on silence — in other words, if one has not addressed the issue at all. This morning’s L.A. Times editorials did not reject the idea that Joseph Stalin’s purges were morally justified. May I conclude that the editorial board “tacitly accepts” the morality of Stalin’s mass murder?

Less dramatically and more to the point: I demonstrated, in my email to you and in my blog post, that there are many articles reviewed by James Powell that do not address at all the issue of whether humans are primarily responsible for global warming. Here is one such article: LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF LEAD ACID BATTERY. CASE STUDY FOR THAILAND.

It’s true that this article does not reject the notion that humans are the primary cause of global warming. But it also does not reject the notion that non-human activity is the primary cause of global warming. Therefore, by your logic, the article “tacitly accepts” that non-human activity is the primary cause of global warming!

Indeed, by your logic, the article “tacitly accepts” two completely inconsistent premises — that humans are, and are not, the primary cause of global warming — by examining and mentioning neither premise.

I would not be surprised if hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of these articles reviewed by Powell “tacitly accept” the notion that humans are not the primary cause of global warming, by that same logic.

You say this is hairsplitting. That is a convenient way to avoid correcting an error, but it does not withstand scrutiny. Imagine if an editorial writer employed your logic to bolster a premise you consider questionable, rather than one that you take for granted. Say, for example, that a draft editorial said: “A review of 100 speeches by Obama shows that he accepts the notion that states have the right to secede.” The writer offers as proof that Obama has never rejected that notion, so he “tacitly accepted” it.

Would you vote to attach the L.A. Times name to that opinion, based on that logic?

I believe readers were substantially misled by your statement. I am disappointed that you have been shown the flaw in your statement and still refuse to correct it. Any fair-minded person who runs across this exchange will trust you and the Los Angeles Times a little less. And they should — if you allow such misleading statements to stand.

Patrick Frey
patterico.com

I expect this is the end of it, but if I hear anything else, I will let you know.

3/30/2014

Which Side Am I On? I Am On The Side of Avoiding The Coming Fiscal Crash

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:21 am

Kevin D. Williamson asks: Which Side Are You On?

The three most important words in politics are: “Compared with what?” And I am more than a little sympathetic to conservatives’ complaints about the failures of elected Republicans in Washington, who consistently disappoint us even when they are in the majority. I am also sympathetic to the view that our situation may have deteriorated to the point that even a unified Republican government under the leadership of principled conservatives may not be enough to turn things around. And though I reject the notion that Mitt Romney wasn’t good enough for true-believing conservatives, let’s say, arguendo, that that was the case. Unless you are ready to give up entirely on the notion of advancing conservative principles through the ballot box, you might consider looking at things this way: Even if you do not think that it matters much whether Republicans win, it matters a great deal that Democrats lose.

Maybe you were not that excited that 2012 gave you a choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. I sympathize — I liked Rick Perry. But how is President Romney vs. President Obama a hard choice? How is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a hard choice? How is Speaker of the House John Boehner vs. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a hard choice?

It isn’t.

I’ll grant you that one would be better than the other. The recent Hobby Lobby arguments are a good reminder of why spending decades in the political wilderness is not a plan. Proponents of religious freedom are likely to win that case, but if Obama could stack the Court with his favorite nominees, religious freedom would not have a chance. And, as I am fond of pointing out, the best Justice on the Court was appointed by a mild-mannered Romneyesque president: G.H.W. Bush. Yes, he also gave us Souter (thanks, John Sununu!) but a Democrat gives us two Souters.

Yes, all that is true. But . . .

. . . but good Supreme Court Justices some of the time are no longer good enough. Mild and inoffensive decreases in the rate of government spending are not good enough.

We are racing towards fiscal ruin at top speed. Taking our foot off the brake, or steering five degrees to the right, will not prevent this crash. At this point, it doesn’t really matter that much if we have President Romney or Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader McConnell, because there is no reason to think they will do anything much to change the reality of what’s coming.

Heading towards the cliff at 70 mph instead of 120 mph is better, yes. It gives us more time to formulate a plan for avoiding the cliff. But it’s not good enough.

Williamson says backing conservatives is necessary “[u]nless you are ready to give up entirely on the notion of advancing conservative principles through the ballot box.” Well. I would never advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government. But I’m willing to discuss lesser measures, like secession, or just advocating really crazy, politically suicidal measures like repealing ObamaCare at all cost, or reforming Social Security and Medicare through moderate means like, for example, totally abolishing them.

I think it’s time to grab the steering wheel and give it a spin. The car’s gonna flip a few times, but our chances are better than if we plummet over the cliff to a 3000-foot dropoff.

Sorry, Mr. Williamson. I get where you’re coming from, I really do. But things are more desperate than you seem to want to admit.

3/29/2014

I Could Have Painted That!

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:24 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Disclaimer: I am not an artist. I am not an art major. I am not an art critic. I am not married to an artist, although I once dated an art major. And surprisingly, that was not all in vain. Aside from the college-age Herculean disaster of love that it was, I also became exposed to the world of art in a focused way.

I became immersed in art movements, Impressionism, Surrealism, Expressionism, and other “isms”, as well as learning gouache painting techniques, the tedious process of stippling, and much more. I developed a love-hate relationship with Kandinsky, a lifelong passion for the Ukiyo-e artists and Calder’s mobiles, and still remain entranced by the romanticism of Waterhouse. And unbeknownst to me in that time of my youth, not only was the visual being absorbed, but what drove it was as well. I even built a pseudo-philosophy around art: What one feels must be truth.

Art: It is seriously powerful stuff. And anything powerful enough to simultaneously reflect and deeply influence the individual, or society at large, has the potential to become a bit too big for its colorful britches and self-assured in its relevance. Hence, the birth of sacred cows.

In artist and comedy writer Miriam Elia’s recently released book, We Go to the Gallery, the not so subtle poke at the world of art rings true.

In the author’s words,

“I thought it would be humorous to see Mummy, Peter and Jane going to a really nihilistic modern art exhibition”, she says. Among the works confronted by the trio on their cultural outing are pastiches of Emin, Creed and Koons, through which they learn about sex, death, nothingness “and all of the debilitating, middle-class self-hatred contained in the artworks.”

7a_art_areyouartist

1a_art_nothingroom

1aa_art_deathofmeaning

6a_artcanvasblank
(pictures via American Digest)

–Dana

Anthony Weiner’s New Column at Business Insider: To Hell With the Free Market in Selling Cars!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:05 pm

Anthony Weiner now has a column at Business Insider. (!) His first effort is a broadside against Tesla for having the nerve to suggest that they should be allowed to sell cars on the free market, rather than be subject to absurd state laws that mandate cars be sold by licensed dealers with state-created monopolies within their prescribed territories.

The whole thing is ridiculous from start to finish, but I don’t have the time or energy to fisk it line by line. Basically, Weiner’s take is: this is how it’s been forever — and this is how it should be, assuming that we take it for granted that there should be overbearing regulations in this area.

I’ll pick one section to show how cloistered Weiner’s view is:

Now let me stipulate to the fact that, during my time in Congress, like many other politicians, I received donations from car dealers. I should also note you could fill a book with what I don’t know about New Jersey and I certainly don’t know who promised what to whom in this case. Of course, I’ve also got plenty of problems with Christie and his policies. Still, I think the simplistic shouts of “let the market decide!” that we’re hearing from Tesla and their supporters minimizes the legitimacy of the regulations that have been passed over the years.

Why would you want to have laws that require a car be purchased through a local dealer? Perhaps to protect a purchaser’s rights to easily enforce the warranty. To ensure the state’s ability to enforce the reams of unique state legal requirements that govern automobile sales, service and even disposal maybe. Or, it might just be a run-of-the-mill instinct for local rather than federal regulations to govern what, for many Americans, is the biggest purchase of their lives. You may not agree with these conclusions, but these are longstanding laws and there was a robust back-and-forth about them well before Tesla drove onto the scene.

The “robust back and forth” is not an exchange of ideas and arguments, of course, but rather an exchange of car dealer money in return for the passage of protectionist laws. Look at his arguments: without these protectionist laws, buyers can’t easily enforce a warranty? Why would that be the case for car warranties and not thousands of other types of warranties? Without these protectionist laws, states could not enforce reams of state legal requirements? Then repeal the reams of legal requirements! Without these protectionist laws, we would be left with federal instead of local regulations? Why not have no regulations at all?

Weiner’s argument just takes it for granted that we are going to have a crushing set of regulations and legal requirements for selling cars, and asks: what is the best way to implement the reams of laws and regulations that we all know must exist? The idea that they should be repealed is not even considered, even though economists will tell you that is the most efficient way to handle car sales.

The whole column is silly. Watching a guy who passed laws because he was handed money try to justify doing so, with zero intellectual firepower to back it up, is kind of amusing. Go watch him try. C’mon, it’s fun!

My Request for a Correction of That L.A. Times Piece That Misstates Research on Scientific Views of Global Warming

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:16 am

I have just sent the following email to Scott Martelle of the Los Angeles Times, with a cc to the Readers’ Representative:

Mr. Martelle,

You recently wrote a piece that states:

“Here’s a statistic for you. Out of 10,855 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals last year that dealt with some aspect of global warming, all but two accepted human behavior as the primary cause.”

This is not accurate. Your source never said all but two “accepted” human behavior as the “primary cause.” He said only two “rejected” it. That’s not the same thing.

For an article to “accept” the premise that humans are the primary cause of global warming, an article would have to actively address the topic, and affirmatively agree in some fashion with the premise. For an article to “not reject” the premise, all the article need do is fail to address the topic at all.

Any article that mentions global warming in passing, without discussing in any form or fashion the cause, gets listed by your source as an article that “did not reject” the theory that humans are primarily responsible for global warming. That does not mean the article “accepted” that thesis.

This is Logic 101.

The distinction is important, because many of the articles do not concern themselves at all with the primary cause of global warming. The collection of articles includes such global warming classics as “Life Cycle Assessment in Switchgears for Primary Electrical Distribution” (#1234) or “Larval development of the feline lungworm Aelurostrongylus abstrusus in Helix aspersa” (#1217) or “Life cycle assessment of a waste lubricant oil management system,” (#1239) or “An investigation into the usability of straight light-pipes in Istanbul” (#142) or “Assessment of weed establishment risk in a changing European climate” (#212).

The fact that an article on the larval development of an obscure lungworm might mention the concept of global warming in passing, but fails to address and refute the theory of human-created global warming, does not impress any rational person as “acceptance” of human-created global warming.

I have far more detail on all this in this blog post.

The first sentence of your article is false. It is absolutely not the case that all but two of these articles “accepted human behavior as the primary cause” of global warming. You owe your readers a correction.

Patrick Frey
patterico.com

I will let you know what, if anything, I hear in response.

3/28/2014

L.A. Times Once Again Misstates Evidence on Global Warming

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:49 pm

Scott Martelle, writing in the L.A. Times:

Here’s a statistic for you. Out of 10,855 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals last year that dealt with some aspect of global warming, all but two accepted human behavior as the primary cause.

Wow. Over 10,000 articles, all of which “accept” human behavior as the “primary cause” of global warming. Pretty impressive, huh?

Except . . .

Except that Martelle has written a check that his links can’t cash. The links offered by Martelle all relate to some dubious research by a fellow named James Powell, which does not even purport to establish what Martelle claims it does. Powell does not claim that over 10,000 articles “accept” human behavior as the “primary cause” of global warming. Rather, Powell claims — based on a rather odd (as we will see) analysis of 10,000+ articles — that the articles “do not reject” human behavior as the “primary cause” of global warming.

But what if the articles don’t even address the issue? In fact, as we will see, many (perhaps most) of these articles don’t analyze — or even address — whether humans are primarily responsible for global warming. So, although they may not “reject” this premise, they don’t necessarily “accept” it either. They just don’t say a thing about it, one way or the other.

Now, it could be that some of these papers “accept” that global warming exists. It could even be the case that some of them “accept” that humans contribute to it. Powell does not claim this, but it could be the case. Even then, that would not mean they “accept” that humans are a primary cause of global warming. And, again, Powell doesn’t claim they do — merely that they don’t “reject” that claim.

Indeed, this is my own personal position. I do not “accept” the thesis human behavior is the primary cause of global warming. But at the same time, I do not feel qualified to “reject” that thesis either. Like many, a) I accept that global warming exists, b) I accept that humans probably contribute to it, but (and this is important) c) I do not profess to opine as to what is the “primary cause” of global warming.

So the difference between “fail to reject” and “accept” is quite significant indeed. Just because I do not necessarily “reject” your questionable hypothesis does not mean I “accept” it. And if that is true for me, it may be true for thousands of authors of scientific studies.

This becomes painfully evident when you look at Powell’s list of studies, because it quickly becomes clear that many of them have nothing to do with analyzing the “primary cause” of global warming.

Let’s examine Martelle’s proof in more detail.

(more…)

3/27/2014

Just 3 Little Questions…

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:26 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The White House gleefully announced today that enrollment for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces is at 6 Million and Counting!

The surge is being attributed to the open enrollment period closing in just four days.

According to the White House, on Wednesday alone, HealthCare.gov received 1.5 million visits and 430,000 calls were made to its call centers.

In light of the surge and the administration’s goal being reached just four days before the deadline, certain questions have been raised. The Foundry neatly narrows them down.


1. Have they paid premiums?

Far more important than the number of people who have picked a plan is the number of people who have paid their premiums. Without paying the premium, they have not effectively gained insurance coverage. It is likely that there will be a significant portion who do not pay their premiums in time to gain coverage, meaning actual enrollment numbers will turn out to be lower.

2. How old are they?

The last detailed report released showed that the demographics weren’t adding up the way the Obama administration wanted. It had pegged the goal for the proportion of young adults (18-34) at 40 percent of total enrollees, and the latest report showed them accounting for only 27 percent.

3. What’s their health status?

This question is closely related to the age question. The reason young people are needed is because they are generally healthier than older people. They pay into the system with premiums but have relatively low medical claims, helping to balance out costs for insurers. Are the exchange enrollees the type of patients usually found in a high-risk pool, or are healthy people attracted to Obamacare, too?


–Dana

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