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Three Keys to a Peaceful Revolution

August 31, 2011

What's that vast cloud centered over the nation's capital? Don't worry, it's only Hurricane Irene.

The gods must be seriously peeved. This past week alone, they unleashed an unnatural wave of natural disasters up and down the East Coast: a rare earthquake, a hurricane that pummeled its way to Vermont and beyond, lethal floods, falling trees and even a flurry of mini-tornadoes. The underground tremors cracked the tip of the Washington Monument and toppled stone pinnacles from the central tower of the National Cathedral.

If you happen to be a professional soothsayer, you’ve probably concluded by now that we’re as doomed as Julius Caesar: ill omens like these can only portend our imminent destruction. In fact, a lot of us have been thinking about destruction lately: the destruction of our economy, our retirement portfolios and the prosperous middle-class way of life we had grown accustomed to.

We’ve also been lamenting the deterioration of American politics into an ongoing shouting match between terminally irreconcilable extremists on the right and left. The majority of Americans believe their government is broken — not a good thing in a democracy — and the approval ratings for Congress have threatened to dip into the single digits.

In my darker moments I’ve flirted with the desperate remedy of revolution — preferably a peaceful moderate revolution — as the only way to drive the crooks, loonies, big-money interests and hard-shelled partisans out of Congress, K Street and the Supreme Court.  We need to send a batallion of fresh-faced Mr. and Ms. Smiths to Washington, pronto, so they can snatch power away from the old guard and return it to electorate. But of course that won’t happen as long as the old guard has anything to say about it, and of course they always do.

The upside of this mess is that honest liberals and conservatives can finally agree on something: our government IS a mess, and it needs to be radically renovated. But how? By tossing brickbats and grenades at the lobbyists who have bought our elected representatives? By marching right up the steps of the Capitol, breaking down the door and occupying the House of Representatives?

If it’s high drama (and a prison sentence) you want, feel free to take me up on my proposals. But I know somebody with an even better idea.

He’s Stephen Erickson, founder and leader of Americans United to Rebuild Democracy.  A lanky Yankee from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Erickson is a centrist who’s unafraid to propose radical reforms. (He was also the guiding spirit behind, a moderate group that had the good judgment to appoint me as a board member.)

Stephen Erickson is a pragmatic idealist. No brickbats, barricades and rabble-rousing demonstrations for this cool-headed revolutionary; instead, he outlines a three-point plan that would peacefully and legally shift power away from deeply entrenched partisan politicians and their big-money sugar-daddies. On his organization’s newly launched website,, Erickson persuasively describes the problem:

We believe there are several root causes of our political system’s dysfunction. 

First, Members of Congress are more concerned with their next re-election rather than the next generation.  They are too focused on themselves and their political careers rather than the good of the country.

Second, Members of Congress take campaign donations from the same interests they regulate, in a corrupt system closely resembling bribery and extortion.  Practically every piece of legislation passed – and not passed – in the US Congress is hopelessly tainted by special interests.

Third, the political establishment has created a an election system that overwhelmingly favors incumbents.  Congressional elections are fundamentally unfair.  Democrats and Republicans in Washington protect their own interests at the expense of our democracy. 

It’s not always Right v. Left.  Not on every issue.

Sometimes its Insiders v. Outsiders.  Sometimes it’s simply right versus wrong.

There’s no need to kid ourselves.  Grassroots activists on the Right and Left will always disagree intensely on most things.  But that disagreement should not keep us from acting in our common interests or upon our common beliefs. 

Those of us on the outside must work together to fix our broken democracy because Republican and Democrat establishment insiders stand together to protect their own privileges at the expense of the public good. 

After his rousing call for a long-overdue housecleaning, Erickson reveals his three-point plan for rebuilding American democracy: 1) Term Limits for Members of the House and Senate, 2) a Clean Elections System, and 3) a Ban on Gerrymandering. 

I have to confess that when I first saw the three-point plan, I shrugged and wondered “Is that all there is?” I expected more of a righteous, confrontational cleansing of the temple of government.  I wanted to overturn the tables of the corporate money-changers and send them whimpering back to their offices on K Street. I wanted to ship the corrupt representatives back to their home states and let them gnash their teeth in exile from Washington, preferably on the unemployment line.

Instead, we seemed to be looking at solutions that only a dedicated policy wonk could love.  Who cares about gerrymandering, right? The convoluted remapping of Congressional districts has been a fact of life since Davy Crockett’s day.

Then I delved into each issue, looked at Erickson’s reasoning and began to see the wisdom. Here, in three clear-cut, eminently reasonable, perfectly legal steps, was a plan for the quiet revolution that I (and plenty of other concerned Americans) had been dreaming about.  It was pure genius.

According to Erickson, political careerism is the root of all evil in government. Eliminate the ignoble, self-serving preoccupations and rewards that go hand in hand with endless incumbency, and you’ve effectively cleaned up our democracy.

Let’s start with step one: term limits.  Serving in Congress is addictive. Sure, most members could earn more as high-profile lawyers or corporate honchos, but the lifetime fame, power, perks and generous pensions are hard for any ego-driven individual to resist. Most of our elected representatives would take dictation from the devil to keep their comfy perches for life. And many of them end up doing just that.

What would term limits accomplish? Aside from banning the option of lifelong incumbency and the wheeler-dealership that accompanies it, this reform would force some much-needed fresh air into our government. Here’s how Erickson explains it: 

Knowing that they won’t have a long careers in Congress, no matter what they do, our elected representatives will focus less on re-election and more on the needs of the nation.  They will be less inclined to mortgage our tomorrows for political gain today.  Term limits will circulate new and public-spirited citizens from a wide range of backgrounds through Congress.  By constantly drawing new members from the public, Congress will more accurately represent the views and interests of the American people as a whole.

Imagine it, if you can: public servants who actually serve the public. That’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created the first modern representative republic on these shores. They hadn’t planned on those representatives catering to special-interest lobbies in exchange for generous campaign contributions.

The unsavory influence of lobbyists leads us to the second of the three steps: clean elections. What makes an election “dirty” in the first place? As Erickson puts it:

Lawmakers should not be allowed to directly and knowingly take campaign donations from the same interests they regulate.

At worst, campaign donations from special interests are legal bribes in which members of Congress create legislation to benefit their contributors.  And it’s a two-way street.  Members of Congress can apply pressure – subtle or otherwise – to a given business for protection money against unfriendly legislation. In other words, those elected representatives are essentially practicing legalized extortion.

Erickson’s proposed clean election system would finally break the link between lawmaking and campaign funding. Lobbyists with deep pockets would no longer enjoy the kinds of borderline-illicit rewards they now take for granted. Neither would the politicians. One hand would no longer be washing the other, yet everyone involved would be cleaner than ever. I like it.

What would a clean elections system look like?  Erickson mentions two possible approaches: the Fair Elections Now Act, already proposed by the last Democrat-controlled Congress, would limit private campaign contributions to $100, then multiply each contribution fourfold with public money. (My own opinion: probably not the smartest solution during a federal debt crisis.)

The second approach, known as the Patriot System, would establish a blind trust for all campaign contributions. In other words, candidates would have absolutely no idea who’s funding their campaigns. They’d have no incentive for rewarding (or punishing) any group based on its generosity (or lack thereof). In return, no group would expect special favors from a candidate.  

I think the Patriot System is brilliantly simple — and simply brilliant. (It was the brainchild of two Yale professors, Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres.) No veiled bribes, no extortion, no sweetheart deals. Just pure representative government. I feel cleaner already, don’t you?

Gerrymandering at work: believe it or not, this is a single Congressional district in the Chicago area.

All right, let’s move on to step three: an end to gerrymandering. I know, I know… it’s probably not the most exciting way to spark a quiet revolution. But think about it: we’d be eliminating one of America’s oldest and most deeply rooted forms of political corruption. You can trace its pedigree all the way back to 1812, when Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry redrew the boundaries of legislative districts in his state to create safe havens for members of his party. (The convoluted shapes of the redrawn districts reminded people of salamanders — Gerry’s salamanders… gerrymandering, get it?) Party operatives have been following Gerry’s lead ever since.

Today the problem is even more pervasive, aided by modern advances in mapping political demographics. Erickson writes:

With the coming of information technology, gerrymandering has moved from art to science.  Today neighborhoods are cut into intricate puzzle pieces to effect maximum political advantage for the politically privileged.  In gerrymandered districts, voters with minority viewpoints are practically disenfranchised and incumbent legislators are entrenched in office for life. 

How do you redraw Congressional districts without re-gerrymandering them? The key, according to Erickson, is to  move the process as far away from politicians and political partisans as we possibly can.  We could even use (are you ready for this?) the historic boundaries of cities, townships and/or counties to define the districts. But that’s too simple, isn’t it? I’d say it’s admirably simple: instead of jiggling the map to manufacture one-party districts that automatically favor incumbents, we’d be creating districts of citizens who simply live near each other.  What a concept!

The three proposed election reforms are great ideas, I can hear you say… but how do we turn them into law? Good question. We’d need a Constitutional amendment. But what if our representatives refuse to pass an amendment that would effectively curtail their longevity and power? Then we blaze a second path, one that has never been tried throughout the two-plus centuries of our republic. But it’s perfectly legal. In fact, it’s spelled out in the Constitution.

Article Five tells us that Congress must call a new Constitutional Convention when two-thirds of the state legislatures request it.  If the proposed amendments are then approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures, they become law. So the power to change our nation’s political system for the better actually resides at the state level. The states could effectively tell Congress that the people demand term limits, clean elections and an end to gerrymandering. And Congress would have to listen.

To make these reforms happen, of course, we have to push for them. I think Americans United to Rebuild Democracy is the ideal place to start pushing. You have to agree that it’s a smarter solution to our political woes than tossing brickbats and grenades at scurrying lobbyists and Congressmen. Not as much fun, maybe, but a whole lot more practical and productive in the long run.

Even better, it could help put an end to the ongoing war between the left and right. We might still bicker about taxes and entitlements, but we can all agree that our broken political system needs fixing. And when we fix it together, we’re bound to find some common ground to unite us. I hope you’ll join us and help with the repair work.

131 Comments leave one →
  1. alissonlomas permalink
    August 31, 2011 4:40 pm

    Crise, efeito China, tendência de Fusão?

  2. Priscilla permalink
    August 31, 2011 9:07 pm

    Bravo, Rick! This is the stuff of true moderate debate. It addresses the problem that I believe is the distressing development in our democracy – the replacement of statesmanship and public service with politics. And more recently, the replacement of politics-as-usual with domestic power politics, i.e. the use of government, not to serve the public, but to consolidate one party’s power and to punish – and hopefully destroy – the opposition. Both parties do it, both parties have always done it to a degree, but the stakes are higher now, as the ante has been raised considerably during the hyper-partisan Bush and Obama years.

    I also like the fact that Erickson’s plan pays respect to the Constitution, and, in particular, to the federalist system that brings the government closer to the governed.

    I’ve commented before that I am not a fan of term limits. It could, as you say, create a government of public servants….but, in the absence of the clean elections portion of the plan (and those would certainly be the most problematic reforms to achieve), it could end up creating a government of politicians who “take the money and run.” I think that the clean election reforms have to happen first, so I guess I would prefer that that be Step 1.

    But overall, this is a great start to an important debate.

    • September 1, 2011 3:53 pm

      Thanks, Priscilla. I go back and forth on term limits myself. I think there’s something to be said for longtime representatives who are honest and dedicated public servants — and for the seasoned wisdom they can bring to any discussion. (People like Pat Moynihan and Everett Dirksen come to mind.) The veteran politicians can lend a note of continuity to what might otherwise be a body of clueless rookies attempting to grab the headlines during their brief tenures. And yes, what if the term limits simply enable the politicians to “take the money and run”?

      I’d rather see Congressional terms extended from two years to six, so the representatives aren’t in constant campaign mode. Then maybe we could talk about a limit of two terms. The traditional two-year terms are impractical and even ridiculous now, given all the time, energy and money that must be spent campaigning.

      As for senators, maybe a limit of three terms (18 years) would be about right. Even the best political minds could go stale after that much time spent on the inside looking out. And there’s always the option of a “Grover Cleveland” incumbency: we might force politicians to step down after two or three terms, then allow them to be re-elected after sitting out a term in the real world. I think Stephen Erickson mentions this possibility.

      But why does Erickson insist on term limits in the first place? He believes that endless incumbency is a gateway to complacency and corruption. It can be, of couse, but I agree with you that clean elections would help weed out the bad eggs (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) so that we could let the good eggs serve longer.

      And yes, here we finally have a topic that could serve as a springboard for productive discussion… that, in fact, most of us could fundamentally agree on… and our key combatants have turned up missing. Dave (dhlii) may have made good on his word and is “out of here,” while Ian might just be exhausted after all his jousting over the past few weeks. And whatever happened to Kent — and Valdo, for that matter?

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 1, 2011 11:07 pm

        I know! Valdo has been missing for a while…and he’s my favorite jousting buddy 😉 Not to mention that he has had a very different life experience than most of us and adds that knowledge to the debate. I hope Dave is not gone – I have really learned a lot from him. Kent, I think, has commented on a couple of the recent mega-threads (100+ comments) so I think he is still here.

        Come back, gentlemen, and weigh in on this latest proposal!

      • Kent permalink
        September 15, 2011 1:24 am

        Term Limits enable all citizens to get the chance to represent their location. It isn’t only one person that can do a good job. This in itself should be enough to say term limits work.

        If you say keep a good politician in….what are you saying? Everyone thinks their politician is good. That’s the problem!!

        The life outside Washington D.C. changes. The career politician…No! They learn to exploit everything in power over others. They “collect” more friends (interest groups). Yea, it helps the location the politician comes from, but while he helps himself and his location….he’s probably taking away from someone else’s location to pay for the work.

        The system wasn’t built to exploit. It was build to come in and say what your location wanted/needed and get out.

        Are we to assume that the “good” politician is the only one good enough in the place that he represents? A representative represents hundreds of thousands of people. Come on, there are plenty of good people in each location that would love to step in and represent their home base.

  3. Pat Riot permalink
    August 31, 2011 11:02 pm

    What I like about the 3-point plan is that it’s digestible. A lengthier doctrine in this day and age, even one that’s carefully conceived, will open up too many debates, will cause decent hard-working Americans to conclude they don’t have time to delve into it all, and will invite all sorts of well-intentioned folks to try to add their line items to the list. We need something concise that is practical and do-able—something that a large number of Americans can grasp and rally around. America’s got a leaky roof, a leaking foundation, and the mortgage is overdue. We can’t be bickering right now about cabinetry styles, paint colors, and every detail. We gotta fix the leaks, pay the bills, then decorate later. I’ll have to turn this 3-point plan around to look at it from different angles, but so far it looks like it might be a good start.

    • September 1, 2011 4:02 pm

      Pat: I like the way you put it! Erickson’s 3-point plan is clean, streamlined and focused on fundamentals rather than fussy interior decoration. We can decorate later. 😉

  4. Jesse C permalink
    September 1, 2011 9:09 am

    Great post Rick! My immediate reaction was: Where can I sign up to show my support for this???

    I agree with Priscilla that the order should be reversed to clean up the election system first before term limits. In fact, I suspect that this process might elect out many incumbents in and of itself.

    However, while I fully agree with the concept of term limits, my main concern is that if they were implemented, would there be any incentive to run for Congress anymore? That nagging, cynical voice in the back of my head says that “serving your country” just isn’t a good enough reason these days for most people. If someone were to spend 7-10 years in higher education and several hundred thousand dollars on it, they are probably setting their sights on being a lawyer, doctor, or financial wizard, rather than a fixed 2 or 6 year stint in Congress. Most ambitious people are driven by power and money. Philanthropy and public service often happens later (i.e. Bill Gates didn’t start Microsoft to cure malaria.) I know this sounds awful, and decidedly unpatriotic, but the pragmatist in me says that in order to attract quality people to a limited term in office, there needs to be some sort of additional incentive, beyond the desire to serve your country, to do so.

    Actually, as I’m writing this, I had another idea. Perhaps there could be a progressive system of re-election criteria. Incumbents must win by x% more each election cycle to gain a successive term. New candidates must gain a simple majority to win, however incumbents must earn 60% to win a 2nd term, 65% to win a 3rd, 75% for a 4th, etc. In the event that an incumbent wins a majority but does not reach the threshold (i.e. 57% for 2nd term election), a run-off would be triggered between the REMAINING candidates, and not the incumbent.

    Aside from all of that, I do like Erickson’s simplistic, 3 point approach. As Pat inferred above, people either cannot or will not delve deeply into something that isn’t readily understandable. Unfortunately, not all of us take the time to read The New Moderate each day. 🙂

    • September 1, 2011 4:39 pm

      Jesse: Welcome to The New Moderate. I try to go easy on my readers (and myself) by not posting more than once a week. The discussions here are enough to keep my readers just as busy as they’d like to be between posts.

      If you like Stephen Erickson’s plan, go to and see what you can do to help out. I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

      I agree with you and Priscilla that clean elections are more important than term limits… and that they might be enough to keep the crooks from entrenching themselves in office. I’ve never seen anything like your incremental vote plan before, but it’s intriguing and original. It might be a good alternative to a rigid insistence on term limits; only the best politicians would be able to keep leaping over the progressively higher hurdles.

      • Jesse C permalink
        September 1, 2011 4:58 pm

        Thanks! I’ve been a consistent reader for a little over a year now The debate here has been a fascinating and welcome change to the name-calling and political ‘shock-jocking’ (to borrow an old radio term) that passes for news commentary these days.

        However, I most enjoy discussion of realistic and implementable solutions, such as those described in this post. I’m looking forward to more commentary and constructive ideas. Keep these coming! 🙂


  5. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 1, 2011 7:39 pm

    I just got my phone and internet back, (I was strongly Irened). It was a much needed 4 day break from my internet addiction, which I think started on 9/11; ever since that day I want to be in constant touch with what is going on. My little part of paradise was not damaged some of my fish in my ponds may have flowed downstream thats about it. I got a lot of free firewood. Not all of my fellow Vermonters were so fortunate, been trying to help.

    You (Rick) yourself proposed much of this a while back, at that time I said, sounds great, but term limits and pretty much any restraint on political activities are unconstitutional according to the Supreme court, which ruled in 1995 on term limits. I did not know until I looking it up just now that 23 state imposed term limits on their congressional delegations in the 1990s. Those laws passed in “initiative states” by 2 to 1 on average. Then the Supremes sang.

    To get term limits we would need a constitutional amendment and our congresspersons would be unlikely to help us with that. Changing the seniority system in congressional committees would take away one reason for voters to return their porksters to congress for life. That is not an impossible change, legally speaking.

    Gerrymandering is a huge deal, safe districts are an undemocratic disgrace that both parties would not give up for love nor money. Its been back in forth in court, sometime the forces of good triumph, sometimes not.

    I want one of those t-shirts!

  6. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 1, 2011 7:45 pm

    And yeah, I WAS exhausted. There is a nice Russian word for it, болтун, it means I talk too much.

  7. AMAC permalink
    September 2, 2011 1:12 am

    I agree with two points, but can’t make up my mind on the congressional term limits. I think that the reason the incumbents win so frequently is the huge financial advantage they have. If we could gain the “clean” elections, this might take care of the incumbency advantage. Primarily, I don’t think that term limits will eliminate, or significantly reduce, the career politicians. There is still a “to the victor goes the spoils” system in politics that does not get much discussion. Politicians can get jobs in politics that give them much influence without being elected. There are aid positions, ambassadorships, cabinet posts, lobbyists, etc. On this one point, I would rather discuss and investigate the root cause of the high percentage of re-elected incumbents. I know this would not result a simple fix, but some times the answer is not so simple. I worry that this one solution might just create more problems. I am more concerned with the lack of diversity in congress. I am not speaking of race, primarily. So many of the congress men and women come from such similar backgrounds. Sometimes it looks like these people come from some congressional delegate factory’s assembly line (no batteries needed, comes complete with talking points)!

    • Pat Riot permalink
      September 2, 2011 9:48 am

      So true – AMAC’s last point about the sameness of the congressional look and background! Furthermore, so much of the American public complains about our government & about our leaders, yet so much of the public gets excited about a good suit and good hair. Yes the media hypes some candidates and shuns others, but I see Average Citizen getting drawn to the congressional look even at the local level in firehouse meetings, etc. What’s up with that? We keep electing the same kind of people. I know it’s partly due to a lack of choices because of the entrenched two party system, but it’s also got to be some recent brainwashing, and we have to break free of it. Where are the Steve Jobs types in t-shirts and no socks? Where are our elected farmer types with mussed up hair but common sense ideas? It’s not the “congressional look” itself that’s the problem–it’s what it says about conformity, herding instincts and “group think”–not going against the grain even when it’s urgent to do so. I guess a guy like Ben Franklin wouldn’t get elected to Congress today because he was bent over with a cane!

      • AMAC permalink
        September 2, 2011 7:04 pm

        I agree that the problem is that we keep electing them. So many people are scared of change. When we get a candidate that doesn’t look like what we are used to, we make broad assumptions (unfairly). I really hate terms we hear thrown around like “electable”. There is so much spin and PR in politics, and sadly it is based on credible research into the general public. I love hearing the “hot” words and topics spoken by many candidates all about the same time. I think that people not versed in PR sometimes don’t pick up on the fact that these politicians were obviously coached on what to say and how to say it. You can almost hear somebody whispering “say death tax” in the background! I would like to see more speeches without the teleprompter so that I might at least think the words were genuine. The problem is that if a politician mispeaks we call them stupid. I believe that we should judge people by their own words, but sometimes it gets a little ridiculous. When Biden (and not limited to him) speaks from the heart, he is called a loudmouth or an idiot. I understand how working in the legal field would help when working in the legislative branch, but would really like to see more congressmen and women that I can relate to. You don’t have to be from a middle class background to understand what is important to the middle class, but it couldn’t hurt!

  8. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 2, 2011 8:19 am

    Geez, I did a bad job of reading that one, missed the point entirely. I was so excited to be able to respond again that my poor little ADD-adled brain skipped the punch line.

    Yes, I think its a great idea, I’m all for it. A constitutional convention that is, it would give moderates and other non-partisans something to focus on, something we badly need.

    Kudus to all involved.

  9. Priscilla permalink
    September 2, 2011 12:13 pm

    Read this excellent piece by Brooks (self-described “moderate conservative” ;)) in the NYT today. I agree with so much of what Brooks says…. It made me think about how important the type of electoral reform that we’re discussing really is.

    If we are to move away from the nanny state, emphasize the “vigorous virtues” and move toward what he calls an “instigator state,” we are going to need some extremely independent, astute and- maybe most of all – restrained statesmen, who will need to selectively tear down some current aspects of government as they build new paradigms.

    As completely pessimistic and skeptical as I am that any of this can even happen, if it is possible at all we need to work towards an electoral system that will encourage debate and consensus that is focused on what is best for the country, not what is best for the career prospects of those in the government. I think something like this is a start.

  10. Paul Gallanda permalink
    September 2, 2011 12:37 pm

    Another wonderful post, Rick. I’m ready to sign on the dotted line. Still…

    I’ll admit to a low-boiling sense of despair over the prospects for success. Thing is, I have next to no confidence that our current crop of federal and state legislators are even remotely capable of doing the right thing. Most are bought and paid for — willing shills for the highest bidders — and I’m struggling with the notion that we can induce them to act responsibly (i.e., against their own selfish, personal interests), even under Article 5.

    It’s pretty apparent that we’re living through a time when ideology and agenda trump conscientious policy-making, compromise and common sense. It’s sad but true, I think, that most of these vultures will do pretty much anything to feather their own nests, even if it means crippling the country (ref.: the extortion-politics of the debt-ceiling debate and the tit-for-tat blackmail implicit in the current conversation about funding FEMA). For them, the end — no matter how extreme — will always justify the means, if there’s a political advantage (or PAC contribution) to be gained. (I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that there are efforts underway in 34 states to make it more difficult for people to vote. “Hello, Jim Crow… Not so nice to see you again… Can you say ‘Voter suppression?'”)

    But you what? It’s worth the fight, and I’m in. Post again, soon.

  11. September 2, 2011 7:49 pm

    I have been sick for almost a week and spent a few days on ThinkProgress. And have decided that as upset as I was at Ian’s Foxworthy immitation and constantly calling me “ultra-conservative”, that there are far worse things one can be called – any maybe Ian is more moderate (or atleast less juvenile) than I thought.

    My belief in individual freedom has to include Ian’s and other’s right to say what they please even if wrong, and even if offensive.

    I applaud any effort to improve our government. But before we all rush off and have another constitutional convention it would be worth thinking.

    What is the problem you are trying to address ?
    I too think our congress is corrupt. But I am not naive enough to beleive that is anything new. Supposedly we are more fractured than ever. Yet The vice president of the united state Aaron Burr killed the former Treasury secretary Hamilton essentially over political disagreements. This being just the most egregious of the spats our sainted founding fathers had.
    These are the men that created this nation, that wrote the declaration of independence, that fought long and hard for freedom, that wrote our constitution – yet our modern political spats look tame in-comparison to theirs.

    But I beleive they understood one thing better than we do. They created a government designed on the assumption of these kind of conflicts. They grasped that power corrupts, but they felt they needed a stronger government than the articles of confederation – so they created a powerful federal government deliberately ensnared in chains requiring near unanimity between special interest to accomplish anything.

    One of the places I part company with most of you on this blog is over the ease of use of government power. Even if you beleive that government is somehow a force for good – I would hope you grasp the dangerous nature of democracy. Hitler was peacefully elected to power.
    Skipping past Goodwin’s law – is a good purpose – again as judged by a simple majority sufficient to compel a minority to surrender its rights ?

    While you are trying to figure out how to empower government to accomplish the noble goals you think are unfulfilled, I would hope you will consider how to stop what needs to be stopped.

    Many of you beleive that Liberal/Democrats are good if somewhat overzealous, and republicans/conservatives are obstinate toadies primarily for business.

    Have you considered the possibility that regardless of which party you feel is right or wrong, that most politicians are honestly attempting to follow their own beliefs ?
    Mr. Erickson identifies political contributions as a flaw. First I would argue that the primary corruption influence on most politicians is power – not more. More to the point the money in politics is just an effort to buy a piece of political power. If Exxon contributes a million dollars they are hoping that will atleast get them heard with respect to the political issues that matter to them. If I contribute $10 to a candidate it is because I want them to win and on winning to keep whatever promise they made that caused me to contribute $10. I am not morally or ethically different from Exxon. I am seeking to convert money to political power. Though I have one thing that Exxon does not – the right to vote. Regardless we are both special interest – and even if somehow a given politician perfectly represents the will of the majority – it is still that of the majority, not everyone. Money is far less dangerous in politics than most of us are lead to beleive. We still spend less to elect the president than we do on potato chips. Except for those few businesses that feel compelled to contribute heavily to both parties, most money in politics goes to candidates that share the same values as their contributors.
    Do you beleive that Obama defeated Clinton and Edwards because of money ? Or that he defeated McCain because he spent more money ?

    Mr. Erickson wants politicians to be legally prohibited from accepting money from the interests they regulate – we are electing politicians, unless we are going to pretend the limits in the constitution means something any more, they regulate everything. I am opposed to Cap and Trade – does that mean I can not contribute ? There are no bright lines here. The concept sounds appealing but it does not hold up. Mr. Erickson appears to beleive that he needs a constitutional amendment to accomplish this – actually he needs more. He would need to repeal the first amendment.

    I will also challenge Mr. Erickson or anyone here to concoct a constitutional amendment that
    prevents gerrymandering. It is definitely an evil political practice. The courts have spent several decades trying to address it and I beleive they have mostly decided to step back. They can warp and twist it, they can even participate in it themselves but they can not prevent it.

    My ending point, is that politics is corrupt – it has always been corrupt. It corrupts good and even great men such as our founders – and on rare occasions the violent clashes in congress – as those right now, reflect the same violent clashes in our society. When we do not agree we do not do as the majority wishes, we do as nearly all of us wish – or we do nothing.

    I have not addressed term limits – I think they are a near meaningless change. If you want to reduce the power of the incumbency you need to reduce the power of government.
    If you do not want career politicians increase the ages at which you can be elected to office,
    there is reasonably good reason to beleive we will give things more thought and have more experience to base our decisions on as we get older. Eliminate pensions and lifetime benefits for politicians, transform it back to public service rather than a career. increase the ability of states and voters to recall their elected officials. In general you will find my in favor of anything that makes it harder to do something in government.

    Finally I ask you to consider than the ability of everyone who disagrees with you to take control of government and quickly dismantle whatever wonderful things you have put into place, and re-assemble government headed in a new direction is constrained by the limits we place on the power of the majority. Whether the people I or the people on this blog like it or not, Republicans are highly likely to have far greater control of state, and federal government in a little over a year. It should be hard to enact new policies because it should be hard to change them once enacted. Whether you are seeking to change the constitution, the rules of the senate, or the process of election, the goal is to make change hard and well thought out, because it is always hard to dismember. And even if America is unlikely to ever elect a Hitler, we all have our favorite benign despots in congress we never want to see with greater power.

  12. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 2, 2011 9:47 pm

    Its a good post dhlii, and was surprising easy to get through.

    In answer to your question, what problem are we trying to solve?

    Part A: Moderates make up 40+ of the voting population, and we are drastically under-represented in congress, that is the the problem we seek to address. The system has evolved in such a way that only hyperpartisans get elected. We want to change that. Until we do, the concern you state of needing to stop despots is in great danger of becoming true.

    Part B, Left and Right hyperpartisans are zeolots and they follow their own religions and do not think out side their ^%$#@ boxes to solve the problems we face. We want to change that too.

    As things stand its hard to find any hope of these things happening, but I can only hope that moderates will punish the party with the most extreme candidates at election time.

    I’ve been reading Twain’s autobiography, I am well aware that American politics always been a bloody mess, as he most passionately stated.

    • September 3, 2011 12:01 pm

      I would not mind if the makeup of congress more accurately reflected the makeup of the country. Libertarians as measured by ideology are the second largest political group in this country – larger than liberals and smaller than conservatives.

      I also beleive the power of the political parties in the US is bad – because it makes it easier for congress to accomplish things. Congress is not actually made of extremists from both parties. There are plenty of fiscally conservative democrats as well as myriads of different stripes of republican. Both Republicans and democrats are elected in almost every state in this country, and each state has its own unique political texture. The power of political parties allows the leadership of each party to coerce the members of its party into supporting the agenda of the party leadership. This is equally true of both parties. It is a necessity to pass legislation. Diminishing the power of the parties means we will get less legislation – we will do less, we will spend less money – because even where there is a loose majority on some concept – such as improving healthcare – there is no single approach that even comes close to reaching a plurality of support. And I think I have made clear I do not beleive 51% of the population should be able to diminish the rights of 49% – regardless of the issue.

      I have not read Twain’s autobiography. I have read alot of Twain. You might like “The War Prayer” it is short and I think one of the most beautiful and sad things he has ever written.

      Anyway – you have my agreement that a more representative congress would be a good thing. Nor am I criticising Mr. Erickson’s sincerity. But we should be very careful about doing something just to get something done. We should be very careful about experiments in government. I am NOT in general a federalist. The part of the Tenth amendment I emphasise
      is that the powers and privileges not assigned to the federal government belong to the people. However, if you are going to conduct experiments in government I would strongly suggest you start at the state level.

      I am not familiar with the data, but I beleive some states have tried term limits. I do not beleive the world came to an end. At the same time I am not sure they altered the political landscape much. But again my familiarity with states that have actually done this is minimal.

      There are other things many – even most states have done that are small but I think effective – balanced budget requirements – yes there have to be exceptions, but even Keynes demanded building a surplus in good times as the means to stimulate in bad. I think Keynes and demand side economics is a proven failure. But the Keynesian economics practices by politicians is no closer to Keynes actual views, than the market of the past 100 years is actually Laissez-faire.

      I think many states have line item vetoes. Open primaries. Anything that makes getting anything or anyone onto the ballot easier diminishes the power of political parties. This is not exactly federal, but real “parental trigger” legislation, that allows parents to restructure school districts that fail to meet their expectations.

      Another possibility may be to eliminate congressional districts entirely. Have statewide election of congressional representatives, everyone gets to vote once for only one candidate but the top N where N is a states congressional seats are elected.

      Regardless, my point is the states are “the laboratory” for government change. It is easier to change state government, and easier to repair it if that change fails. And often the change does not fail, but also does not really produce the effects we want.

      Before you take the serious risk and start expending the enormous political effort necessary to rewrite the constitution, you should have a good idea whether the change you propose will be effective.

  13. Anonymous permalink
    September 3, 2011 12:04 am

    Dhlii, with respect for your opinion, there’s a big difference between conflicts of Congresses past when America was on an up-swing—the biggest and quickest up-swing of all time (i.e. Little House on the Prairie to NASA ) when our money was being spent on us, here, in the U.S., for land purchases (Louisiana Purchase, Alaska), for railroads and bridges, then power lines on towers across the continent, Eisenhower’s roads, and America’s staggering output after WWII (we even made the electronics—Philco, GE, Westinghouse)…in contrast to the conflicts of Congress today while America is bankrupt and Americans are being marginalized and sold out and money is not being spent here on needed infrastructure and develoopment. Today there’s something new in the ties between big money and our government–multi-national corporations with lessening allegiance to any flag. (A populace that has the right to say “NO, we don’t want that!” is an impediment to some corporate schemes and dreams.)

    Yes, you are correct that checks and balances and difficulty to push changes were designed into our system by the Founding Fathers, but the American people today should see our current governmental conflict and gridlock as something different and dangerous, gravely dangerous—not just something that’s always been, because today’s partisan bickering is like arguing about how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic after it has already struck the iceberg. We’ve got main arteries severed here and we need triage, not old-fashioned politics. A big reason for the conflict and gridlock, and lack of action, is the pig-headed extremes of left and right, like an estranged married couple in need of counseling and compromise, which is why the Moderate Movement is so important…

    And just because corruption has been inherent in politics doesn’t mean that any degree of corruption is OK or tolerable. The U.S. Government has often been effective and noble (’64 Civil Rights Act, ’90 American Disabilities Act—we made it law to INCLUDE people with handicaps into society).

    We have problems to fix. No time for defeatism or complacency or thinking it’s just the latest version of the same ‘ole. No, It’s never been quite like this. It’s a new day today and we’ve all got important work to do, especially us Moderates!

    • September 3, 2011 1:19 pm

      As a Libertarian I am constantly told that that American HeyDey you are eluding too – was an illusion. It is necessary for progressives to diminish the accomplishments of the past – the contention that improvement is been the nom rather than the exception and a near linear trend throughout our history is absolutely totally devastating to the entire progressive meme. You are even claiming (inaccurately by the way) that we are in a decline now – that is even worse for progressivism. Essentially you are arguing that nearly a century of progressive fixes have made things worse not better. I think reality is more complex – but I will be happy to claim victory if you are handing it out.
      Noble and effective are not the same as progressives pretend, most of us by and libertarians get into deep trouble for contesting. So I guess I am stepping in it.
      Both the ADA and the Civil Rights acts were inarguably noble.
      I will absolutely, unequivocally support every aspect of both laws that prohibits government – federal, state, local, from discriminating. Neither the ADA nor the Civil Rights Act should not have even been necessary to end legislatively fostered discrimination – such as Jim Crow laws, equal protection should alone have been sufficient.
      Why were Jim Crow laws enacted ? If the private prejudices of southern businessmen were alone sufficient why were laws necessary. Discrimination in business is very very tricky. It is a deliberate choice to limit your labor pool and/or your market. To succeed it requires either legal compulsion (Jim Crow Laws) or near universal popular support. If the latter truly existed, Jim crow would not have been necescary.
      I am actually extremely familiar with the ADA. In another life I was an Architect, and my specific responsibility was code approvals. Prior to the ADA passing the vast majority – possibly all building codes had already adopted the ANSI standards for Handicapped accessibility. These had taken years to work out, they were imperfect but they reflect real needs, and the best thought of actual experts. I can rant on for pages about the mess that the ADA has made inside the construction industry – and it is an ungoing mess, for a problem that had essentially been solved. The ADA was probably my first major prod towards libertarianism. It was a gigantic example of government failure. The only good news on the construction side, is that the courts and DOJ have been extremely whimpy about trying to enforce the building accessibility portions of ADA – because they are a mess.
      After decades of experience I have personally decided all building codes and zoning laws are not only a failure but have worked at cross purposes to both their espoused goals and our interests – and I am a code expert.

      The second aspect of the ADA was discrimination in employment. Then number of employed handicapped people has declined precipitously. It is always possible to find a reason that you can not hire someone. It is much harder to terminate someone with a disability once you have hired them.

      The ADA as noble as it might have been has caused more harm to those it was intended to help than good.

      Our fundimental problems are large, but inside our power to fix.
      The ONLY issue government must address is getting its own house in order. Actually committing to living within its means and addressing its voracious appetite for all the wealth the rest of us create.

      Everything else is up to us to solve Ask yourself:
      Would you buy a house now if you could ?
      Would you start a business ?
      Would you hire – with your own money, if you were a business ?
      Are you trying to pay down debt or taking risks on the future ?

      About 6 months BEFORE your view of the future starts to brighten, those the left constantly maligns will have started doing all those things and more.

      Right now we are experiencing something right out of “Atlas Shrugged” – a capitol strike. The left has succeed in “stopping the engine of the world”.

      You noted the glories of our past.
      The US is still the largest industrial producer in the world.
      It is still the largest economy in the world.
      China’s economy is comparable to that of Texas and California – both of which would be in the top ten if they were nations.
      Our Standard of living is still nearly the highest.
      Our poor have more wealth than the average european.
      No nation is as diverse – no nation is even close.
      It goes on an on.
      We have some very serious problems right now – but the problems of much of the rest of the world are worse – save one.
      For the most part the progressive social democracies of the world slowly started to grasp the folly of their ways before the current mess. They have much larger and more intractable problems than we do. Dismantling their deep and broad social safety nets is difficult – possibly even impossible. Their demographic problems are worse than ours.
      What distinguishes us from the failed and failing social democracies, is that we are still headed in the wrong direction.
      Our problems will continue to get worse so long as we expect government to solve them – it can not.
      In a few days Pres. Obama is going to try to tell us how the federal government is going to do the impossible and create jobs. Republicans do not create jobs, democrats do not create jobs. We create jobs. I use “we” deliberately. The free market is us. We are the producers, we are the consumers. Some of us are better at it than others.

      I am personally extremely optimistic about the future. Even the Great Depression ended – in most of the world it ended between 1932 and 1936. In the US it continued until 1947.

  14. Pat Riot permalink
    September 3, 2011 12:23 am

    That was me above. I didn’t know I was Anonymous at the time.

  15. AMAC permalink
    September 3, 2011 1:14 am

    I have seen you post the comment, “If you believe that the government can somehow be a force for good” before. I don’t understand how you can argue that our government has, many times throughout history, been a force for good. Secondly, Hitler was elected as chancellor and made himself into dictator. I believe that the way in which our country was set up and functions, that this would not be possible in our government. I think that even if the people misplaced their trust in favor of a monarch or dictator type, that our system of checks and balances would keep this from happenning. Our country was set up to keep a supreme ruler from single handedly running our country. For my own curiousity, what type of government do prupose would be best? In other words, what is your alternative government that would provide you with the personal liberties you speak about? Sorry if I am distracting from the conversation a bit, but I am curious from your posts.

    • September 3, 2011 2:31 pm

      The emergence of Nazi’s and Hitler in germany are uniquely german – meaning the details are uniquely German. The militaristic nature of socialism there is a reflection of German culture.
      Hitler did not make himself into a dictator. As our declaration of independence states – and anyone who saw East Germany collapse should grasp – government power comes from the consent of the governed. The process by which Hitler secured power, included many tactics, but it was not sustainable without the support of the people. Voting him into office being one clear manifestation of that support. Many of his machinations were efforts to solidify popular support.

      The transformation to totalitarianism in other nations – Italy, Russia, China, Cuba, …. was different in each case because of differences in the cultures of those countries.

      Anything created by man can be destroyed by man. Our founding fathers, could not and did not bind us permanently to the constitution. Each successive generation must continue to do so. It is just words on paper. Its power is that we chose to give it – no more, and therefore transitory.

      I do not think the same thing is possible in the US – atleast not without even greater cultural transformation than has occurred.

      Mr. Erickson’s proposals – which are the theme of this chain, might even strengthen some of our checks and balances, but in general US political history has been the history of their erosion, at some point they may not be sufficient. I think you can find many progressives – as far back as Woodrow Wilson atleast, openly expressing disdain for that system of checks and balances and limits on government powers in our constitution.

      Regardless, the executive today is far more powerful than at the time of Washington, or even at the time of Nixon. It has been strengthened by republicans and democrats alike, and the stronger it gets, the greater the danger the wrong person holding office becomes. Nor does the wrong person have to be a Hitler. Might as well get a LOTR reference in – Galadriel rejected the Ring, absolute power both appeals to and corrupts even good, the results are different but they are not good.

      I would prefer not to discuss theoretical possibilities. Libertarians fragment and dissipate energy over the question of exactly how little government is truly necessary. Even if Ron Paul (just a slightly more than theoretical libertarian) were elected president, the actual magnitude of any change to the federal government absent a libertarian majority in the house and 60 libertarians in the senate is negligible.

    • September 3, 2011 2:39 pm

      AMAC has essentailly asked for my utopian government.
      The question is fair, though it is important to grasp that none of us are ever coming close to getting our utopian views satisfied.
      I fully expect to be again accused of seeking to decapitate the federal government – and yes my “perfect” federal government is far far less powerful than today’s.
      It is also close to the federal government that was able to absorb 30M immigrants – nearly 50% of the population over a few decades while sustaining and even increasing the standard of living.

      In some mythical libertopia,
      I would reverse Wickard vs. Filburn, and return to Lockner.
      Essentially I would get the states out of contracts – as the constitution dictates. Article I, section 10, clause 1 of the Constitution provides that “No State shall … pass any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.”.
      I would probably repeal the 16th amendment.
      In general I beleive in the rule of law. I beleive that the courts are the appropriate place to redress harms rather than regulation. I would eliminate every barrier government has placed between citizens and the courts.
      I do not beleive congress should have the authority to transfer its legislative authority to the executive – even when regulation might be legitimate congress must do it directly.
      I would invalidate every government regulation not enacted directly by congress.
      I would probably eliminate half the cabinet and their entire departments.
      I would permit open immigration, baring people only on criminal or public health grounds.

      Essentially I would return the federal government to something not far from what it was for most of the 19th century.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 3, 2011 3:37 pm

      By the way I should correct myself. Small point, Hitler was appointed Chancellor.

  16. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 3, 2011 9:56 am

    Here is a guy I could listen to all day, Former republican Senator Chuck Hegal

    * Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) tells the Financial Times he’s “disgusted” by the “ irresponsible actions” of Republicans during the debt-ceiling debate. “I think the Republican Party is captive to political movements that are very ideological, that are very narrow. I’ve never seen so much intolerance as I see today in American politics,” he said.

    He speaks critically of Obama as well in this interview but expresses the opinion that I and many have that todays republican party is extreme and that Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan would never have dreamed of doing what todays GOP is doing.

    He is not making any predictions about the election, but does say that if the GOP takes a beating that they are going to have to completely rebuild the party as they did after 1964.

    If he ran as a moderate third party candidate, I’d vote for him in a minute. I’m gonna write him a letter and beg him to do that. Its sad that most of the politicians who speak any kind of reason are Ex-politicians.

    Well, you won’t hear this kind of rational talk listening to Rush or Beck.

    • September 3, 2011 2:49 pm

      I think the GOP made several mistakes in the Debt ceiling debate – but not likely the same ones as you.

      They should not have protected defence from cuts.

      I think tax increases are an abysmally bad idea, but I think (or hope) there are enough democrats as well as members of the administration wise enough not to do this.
      The GOP should have allowed separate votes on tax increases.

      The GOP should have insisted on steeper and more immediate cuts – real cuts rather than reductions to the rate of increase. What we cut in 2012 is far far more important that what is cut in 2020.

      I think the GOP should have insisted on real concessions with respect to Medicare and social security. They are still a potent political third rail. it is essential that BOTH parties publicly accept the fact that they are unsustainable. Essentially democrats must accept and vote for some alteration to both. You do not get to borrow without grasping that it comes at a cost.

    • September 3, 2011 2:50 pm

      I missed one.

      I think they should have insisted on an up down vote in both chambers on a balanced budget amendment.

  17. Priscilla permalink
    September 3, 2011 11:13 am

    AMAC, As you say, our government was set up as a limited one, with divided power and checks and balances among the 3 branches, precisely to prevent one person or group from accruing “too much” power. I have not seen, in any of Dave’s comments, the suggestion that ours is not the best form of government. It seems more to me that he agrees with Thomas Paine ( a famous extremist of his time ;)) that government is “a necessary evil and in its worst state an intolerable one.” (my apologies to Dave for any false presumptions, here)

    I think that a lot of misunderstandings between the right and the left spring from this “necessary evil” concept of government.

    The way the right sees it, “necessary evil” is exactly the way the founders saw big government – and I don’t mean evil as in Hitler-evil, I mean evil as in “power currupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In other words, without limits, government tends to accrue more power, at the expense of the governed, and that can be dangerous. I would point to the now entrenched crony capitalism that characterizes both political parties and has created a federal government that is much more beholden to big money that it is to voters. ( I like this attempt of Erikson’s to address that issue specifically, because it seems like one on which there is broad agreement between right and left).

    The right, and right-leaning moderates, tend to mistrust government because of its tendency to accrue power, and they look for ways to strip politicians of the power to become more powerful than the founders intended. Which mostly means, at least to the right, not allowing the government/politicians the unlimited power to tax its citizens for whatever reason they may want. It’s one thing to use tax money for the common good- defense, infrastructure, education, etc. It’s another to take trillions of tax dollars and use it for the sole purpose of enabling major banks, corporate interests and unions to stay in business – especially when those very groups are major contributors to the politicians that then deem them “too big to fail.

    Liberals have a greater faith in the ability of government to “do the right thing.” And, for the most part, I would agree that our government over the last 250 years HAS done the right things. But, as a result of doing so many right things, we are running out of money. And we are facing the possible collapse of our economy.

    So, here is where I agree strongly with Pat Riot about the dangerous situation that we are in, and the importance of not just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Simple right/left solutions are not possible in today’s world, and partisans who try and demonize legitimate efforts to address serious problems are doing us no good at all. And, by that I mean not only the vicious and destructive class warfare of the left (“soak the rich!”), but the idiotic and equally destructive belief on the right that we can go back to the rugged individualism of the prairie days.

    I don’t know if “moderates” have the intestinal fortitude to propose the right solutions, and then to fight for them. But I’m still willing to believe that it could happen.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 3, 2011 2:11 pm

      Ok… but I guess what I am asking is what form of government is the alternative. I am asking if dhlii is an minarchist looking for decentralization, etc (basic rights protected, no regulation). I also will review my posts, but I don’t recall writing that our government was set up to be a limited one.

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 3, 2011 5:10 pm

        Sorry, AMAC, when you said that it would not be possible for an elected leader in our country to declare himself a dictator, I thought you were referring to our system of checks and balances. But it’s true, you did not say that. My bad.

    • September 3, 2011 10:18 pm

      I am about 2/3 of the way through Paine’s “The Rights of Man” right now. The presumption that I share most of his views is pretty reasonable.

  18. Priscilla permalink
    September 3, 2011 5:27 pm

    **referring to our system of checks and balances as a mechanism for limited government** ( forgot to finish the sentence)

  19. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 3, 2011 5:44 pm

    I was hoping for rain today, it makes it easier to stay in and get my work done, instead, a beautiful summer day, I worked outside and missed the New Moderate fun.

    Could you lead me to the poll that suggests that libertarians are more numerous than liberals but less numerous than conservatives? I spent nearly half a day finding and reading political and ideological polls several months back and on average they had things broken down as roughly 40% conservative, 40% moderate and 20% liberal. Not meaning to throw any ideological grenades but I just imagine that Libertarian broke out as either non-republican libertarian and as a very small group or republican/libertarians, i.e., a small portion of the republican party.

    I had a good friend back in my anti-act 60 activism days who was a speechwriter for Reagan, his wife was head of the Vt Republican party, they are both “Libertarian Republicans.” They are great people, he has a free market think tank, but I lost track of them after the act 60 battle died down and also we also were completely at odds over Global warming. Still, he is a great guy and very bright. So, I am not unfamiliar with libertarians.

    The libertarian presidential candidate got 0.4% of the vote last time. About 5% of respondents in two polls (4% and 6%) self identified as Libertarians. About 60% of the country call themselves fiscally conservative but socially liberal, some Libertarian activists have claimed these folks are all libertarians but that is absurd, as that is the barest vague hint of a description of Libertarians. Its like saying that if you oppose racism and want social justice you are in agreement with the ISO (International Socialist Organization, the ISO like to claim that whopper.)

    Whether it will come out as a force for good or not in the end is honestly too difficult to tell, but moderates need a specific cause to rally round and the constitutional convention to impose term limits would be a good potential starting point. Career politician are a blight on our society, although its more compilcated than that as some small number of them do rise to the level of statesman.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 3, 2011 7:56 pm

      I have studied libertarianism in college government classes, but that was in the 90’s. At the time I studied, the libertarian party was considered the third largest political party, but that was with all the splintered libertarian parties combined, and I’m not sure if that still holds today. When I studied, the libertarian parties were as spread along the ideaological line as republicans and democrats. There were even parties that were named leftist libertarians and right-libertarians, I think divided on issues of thinks like public lands, mineral rights, and property rights. I wish I could tell you this information is current, but my old text books are very outdated and it is hard to trust many internet sources these days (especially me as one!). I find it hard to believe that libertarians are in the majority and wonder if that is based of a poll asking questions like, Would you like to reduce the size of the government? I won’t say it’s false, as I don not know for sure, but would also like to see what that is based off of. When I made the comment spurring this, I meant more along the lines of social class and background being more accurately represented in congress, rather than a specific party.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 3, 2011 8:10 pm

      Hi AMAC, this link will give you a pretty good feel for the range, although it wildly misinterprets the data, in my opinion.

      The highest numbers of libertarians are based on the broadest possible questions about socially and fiscally conservative tendencies, as though those are the only two areas that determine one’s affiliation.

      As an example of how this simple logic breaks down, I would say that the majority of people who are socially liberal favor some form of single payer health care, but libertarians oppose it, its an onerous financial responsibility and means a “nanny state” to libertarians. Another example, Global warming falls where, socially liberal? But Libertarians have a strong tendency to side with the “global warming is a hoax” conservative crowd. So, its pretty obvious that asking two or three very vague questions cannot determine who is a libertarian. I think the less than 1% their presidential candidates have received each election going back for decades gives some idea of how many true blue libertarians there are.

      • AMAC permalink
        September 3, 2011 9:00 pm

        This is off topic, but I do question why man’s negative impact on the environment is at question. I am absolutely not an environmentalist, but I have researched (at length) the suject. I also recently came across a pew research topic about global warming. They determined that 95% (as I remember) of all scientific research (in the form of published works) supports global warming theories. It also states that less than 2% refute this. That sounds pretty conclusive to me. I applaud John Huntsman for speaking up, risking alienating his base, and calling on the republicans not to become the party against science. There are a lot of good republicans and I hate to see them fall through the cracks because of the “party’s” positions. Some already have…

      • AMAC permalink
        September 3, 2011 9:18 pm

        Ian, I read the article and followed the links. It looks a little sketchy. It seems pretty general to base the conclusion they came up with. Did you notice one of the articles on the site titled “7 Reasons Mitt Romney is a Socialist” (speaking of jumping to conclusions). The web site looks desperate to label people. I couldn’t help but read it. Very sound logic. If pro-choice then socialist committing genocide on African Americans. What a terrible web site. I feal like I need a shower!

      • September 3, 2011 10:52 pm

        The “Socially liberal/Fiscally conservative” definition is an AND not an OR, you would have to be both.

        Regardless, there are many differing definitions of libertarian – and conservative, and liberal and …. And each definition will produce different sized sets. The broadest definitions of conservative, liberal and libertarian produces the largest numbers in each group and usually lead to something like a 40/40/20 split conservative/libertarian/liberal. The most narrow definitions lead to numbers far smaller in each group – but libertarians are subject to by far the largest changes based on narrowing definitions.
        Further in terms of self-identification libertarians are by far the smallest group, but also by far the fastest growing group.

      • September 3, 2011 11:14 pm

        Libertarians tend to oppose AGW because consistent logic is more critical to libertarians than to any other ideology. The proof of AGW has always rested in computer models, and if you have actually been following the scientific debate in the last few years, AGW is falling apart on pretty much every front. The models can not be reconciled with current data – not just overall trends, but things like temperatures at different latitudes and altitudes, and cloud formation and ….
        Further ClimateGate has pretty much devastated the scientific consensus. The broader scientific community has learned that their individual doubts were broadly shared but effectively suppressed by the AGW elite.
        Despite Micheal Mann’s best efforts the Medieval Warm Period is more robuts than ever. Current temperatures are not extraordinary they have been repeated at-least two separate times in the past 2000 years. The 0.17C/decade warming trend that ended in 1998 had been going on for about 170 years – long before Human CO2 could have factored in. The trend over the past decade has declined to 0.11C/decade despite rising CO2. Even the science that CO2 is a greenhouse gas is atleast under more scrutin- y than a decade ago. As is the strength of that effect.
        The Sun has not cooperated at all, it has been unnaturally quiet and many astronomers are predicting a protracted solar minimum – there is strong evidence supporting a cycle based on the orbit of the planets and the sun. Nasa is predicting solar cycle 24 will be the weakest in 100 years.
        CERN experiments appear to be confirming the Cosmic Ray theory of cloud formation, which radically increases the importance of solar activity on the earth’s temperatures.

        But long before all of this the logic just does not work. If this planet were subject to any significant positive feedbacks it could not exist as it does. A positive feedback is a runaway train to self destruction, the overwhelming norm for the planet is negative feedbacks – whatever the issue is temperature, rain, volcanoes, earthquakes, the earth must oscillate arround a norm. If it did not life could not exist for long.

    • September 3, 2011 10:36 pm

      Cato has links to myriads of polls and trends regarding libertarians.
      I believe Gallup now considers “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” as libertarian – a description that fits the overwhelming majority of people who identify as neither conservative nor liberal.

      I beleive Pew has a relatively current poll that groups people into something like 7 categories.
      It lists Conservatives at something like 13%, Libertarians at something like 11% and liberals at something like 9%. Again not by the label they chose, but by answers to specific values questions.

      There are myriads of definitions of libertarian. There is no “Litmus test” Cass Sunstein – head of the whitehouse Office of Regulatory and Information Affairs identifies himself as libertarian.

      If there was a litmus test it would be the NAP – or Non-Aggression Principle.
      But I would note that there is not even an absolute definition of it. And you can read all the criticisms, and decide which appeals most to you.

      I would note that the Non-Aggression principle overlaps strongly with the non-violence principles of Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 3, 2011 11:39 pm

        There are so many complete falsehoods (Not accusing you of lying, just repeating others lies) in your AGW post that I hate to think of the mess we will get into if I try to examine them one by one.

        Instead, I will just ask you, what do you think the probability is that the majority of climate experts are correct, that human greenhouse gas emissions are altering the climate in ways that are cumulative and will be drastic in the mid term? Is it a 0% probability? 10%, 50%?

  20. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 3, 2011 9:19 pm

    Huntsman is a surprising fellow, I really am warming to him. I don’t think he will survive the primaries, but if he does not, well, there actually some indication the Hagel is considering a run, they would make a great pair. Just a little dream I have.

    Consider McCain, a fellow I do very much respect, he was willing to stick his neck out and buck the party orthodoxy on global warming. If Palin’s name had not been next to his I would have voted for him. Not that it would have mattered, my state was guaranteed to send its electoral votes elsewhere.

    To me human-induced Global warming (or more properly, climate change) is not a certain fact, its a (high) probability. To me, the probability that the vast majority of climate scientists are wrong and the small minority are correct is very low. When I hear so-called educated people who think that they are competent to review the data themselves and conclude that its a hoax, well, what probability would they ascribe to the idea that the majority, the climate change believers, is approximately correct, a 0 probability? That would be idiotic for an intelligent person to do. The skeptics frankly just have the wrong values, it is not important to them that we are most likely in the process of creating an ecological catastrophe and a human one, they think it won’t affect us in their lifetime and after that…. So, its a waste of breath arguing with them.

    If I were religious, I would pray they are right but its not likely, since they are at odds with the majority of the experts, worldwide.

    OK, nice distraction for me, and now back on my chain, ah, self-employment, not easy for the easily distracted.

    • September 4, 2011 12:14 am


      It is not properly called “Climate Change” that is an attempt to obfuscate the fact that the Global Climate Models have failed and so far can not be corrected.

      Climate Change is something that has occured for the entirety of existance. Human caused Climate Change is something that has occured for the entirety of Human existance – as has say any caused climate change occured for the entirety of the existance of ants.

      Demonstrating that Humans have changed the planet is trivial and you would have to be a moron to beleive otherwise.

      The shift in argument from Anthropogenic Global Warming to “Climate Change” alone should trigger anyone to question why the change ?

      Though there are increasingly real areas of debate on fundimental issues of Science.
      The primary early attacks have not been on the science – but the mathematical and statistical methods used. There is no reason to beleive that climate scientists are better at math or statistics – or forecasting, than say astrologers. It is perfectly legitimate for an engineer, economist, Geologist or almost anyone in a technical profession to challenge a climate scientist on the statistical methods they use.

      There is a religious problem, but the religious problem is that increasing AGW theory is actually bereft of evidence and relies almost entirely on faith.
      The earth is warming – but far LESS than the trend for the last 170 years, when it should be warming far more.

    • Priscilla permalink
      September 5, 2011 8:48 pm

      Glad to hear you like Huntsman, Ian. He is a strong proponent of the Ryan plan and has proposed his own plan, bringing together many elements of Ryan and Simpson-Bowles. It includes a flat income tax proposal that will slash rates for all taxpayers to 8%, 14%and 23%. No alternative minimum income tax and no deductions or credits.

      You sure you don’t want to reconsider 😉 ?

  21. September 3, 2011 10:38 pm

    “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists”
    Martin Luther King.

  22. September 3, 2011 11:34 pm

    I would be surprised if 95% of published scientific research supports AGW.
    But I would not be surprised if somewhere between 7/10 and 9/10 did.
    You practically need to have a statement inferring that your findings imply support for AGW even if you are studying the matting habits of Yellow Finches to get published today.

    Further this is not a binary issue. There are only a miniscule number of people that actually deny the earth is warming. Of all of the overwhelming majority that acknowledge that the earth is warming, there is a plethora of differences of oppinion as to why, and to what extent humans are responsible. And even among those that accept Anthropogenic Global Warming there is a vast difference on the scale of the problem. Without the IPCC’s theory of 400% positive feedbacks, even accepting every single other claim with respect to AGW, there is no problem requiring any human effort to mitigate.

    It is irrelevant whether Anthropogenic Global Warming is happening. Only three things matter. The magnitude of the warming, the size and direction of any feedbacks, and whether there is anything we can or should do.

    In other words it is easily possible for 90% of the scientific community and the rest of us to beleive that AGW is occurring and that it does not matter.

  23. September 4, 2011 7:57 am


    In response – your question is unbelievably broad.

    Would those Major Climate Experts be Lindzen, Christy, Spencer, Plimmer, Tennekes, Patterson, Singer ?

    Next, I do not beleive there is a single significant scientific proponent of AGW including the IPCC that beleives that Global Warming caused by CO2 ALONE will be sufficient to “drasticially” effect climate over the next 100 years. The Catastrophic Warming thesis as myriads of weaknesses, but this is the largest. The Catastrophe thesis requires large positive multipliers – primarily from water vapor.
    The multipliers are bogus. Whatever warming we have in the next 100 years – and my best guess – but it is nothing more than an educated guess, is we will have between 1.1C and 1.7C of warming in the next 100 years – the same or less than the total for the 20th century with the same or less effects on the earth as a whole.
    I beleive that the IPCC’s least likely best case scenario, is actually the least likely worst case scenario – and that assumes “CO2 is a greenhouse gas it is the primary driver of global warming, and feedbacks are neutral”.
    Further even if the IPCC’s worst case scenario – in terms of temperature not its predictions as to the results of temperature increases, came about the real world consequences would be net positive – a warmer earth is far better able to sustain life, and far more productive.
    What I seriously fear is that the increasing body of astronomical evidence that the sun is going into an extended quiet period is correct, in which case we should be putting out as much CO2 as we possibly can in the vain hope that we can prevent a repeat of the little ice age.
    I was initially highly skeptical of the claim that the Sun was about to experience a deep solar minimum, but even NASA is now claiming solar cycle 24 will be/is the weakest in 100 years – something the solar minima proponents were saying as much as a decade ago. The sun is at an unusual part of its own orbital cycle. The suns orbit normally is about twice its diameter and the solar “year” is approximately 11 years long. But for the next cycle or two the sun’s orbit will be less than its diameter. This radically reduces the magnitude and eccentricity of the sun gravitational effects on itself and all other planets.
    Look up the Sporer Minimum, the Maunder Minimum, and the Dalton Minimum count the years between and guess when the next minimum should be if these represent a cycle.
    There are potential consequences that go beyond just reduced solar irradiation – solar minima appear to coincide with spikes in earthquake and volcanic activity.

    I am NOT trying to claim with great certainty that temperatures are about to drop, volcanoes, go active, and earthquakes become commonplace, only that some or all of this is possible and it dwarfs AGW.

    Ultimately I do not know what the planet is going to do in the next 100 years. But if I was required to bet on it, I would bet that it would follow the same patterns and cycles it has in the past rather than behave as Gore, Hanson, Mann, and Jones predict.

    I will leave this with a yale study.
    I think there data is more important than there analysis – scientific literacy and numeracy strongly corresponds to scepticism about Global Warming.


    Instead, I will just ask you, what do you think the probability is that the majority of climate experts are correct, that human greenhouse gas emissions are altering the climate in ways that are cumulative and will be drastic in the mid term? Is it a 0% probability? 10%, 50%

    ; I beleive that all or nearly all real change in global temperatures is natural rather than man made.

  24. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 4, 2011 1:01 pm

    One eye on Rafeal Nadal (he won the first set, go!) one eye one the New Moderate, one eye (oops, ran out of eyes) on my work.

    I will try to keep this short. On the one hand this is just a good hearted conversation between two people who give a damn, on the other, this conversation times millions of similar conversations determines our fate. If the majority of scientists are correct, and depending on which end of the range of their predictions the CO2 sensitivity really hits, we are looking at something between a bad and a terrible scenario.

    You arguments fall out in the three usual types that skeptics make:

    1.) Climate Scientists are really stupid and have not noticed the very simple objections you make.

    2.) (Related to 1) ordinary people can figure this out as well or better than the scientific community.

    3.) The vast majority of scientists in not just the US but in Russia, China, Europe, India, Japan, etc. are all part of an international conspiracy to profit from selling a phony climate crisis.

    In general you have thrown out a whole range of bad and even ridiculous arguments, and one good one. That one good one is the one that keeps me from assigning an overwhelming probability to the correctness of the majority opinion. To make it interesting, for now I’m going to let you try to figure out which of the mass of statements you made contains that important grain of truth.

    I will answer my own question, which you skillfully avoided.

    The probability that the human induced component of global warming will lead to an ecological and human catastrophe in the mid term (next 100 years or sooner) is about 50%, according to Ian’s gut feeling after having read extensively.

    That is too high.

    I don’t enjoy believing that there is a significant probability of the catastrophe scenario, if it turns out to be wrong I’ll throw a big party, with dancing girls and I will drink a lot.

    You, on the other hand refuse to state the obvious, that while we can all evaluate it differently, (we all have that right if not that actual ability) there is a significant chance that the catastrophe scenario is true. The skeptics in the scientific community are still a tiny minority, despite your statements to the effect that the theory is on life support, that is not the majority opinion of scientists and you are betting the earth that the tiny minority are correct. If you are wrong, well, no more emperor penguins, no more polar bears, and many fewer of us humans.

    You risk that all because you you need to rationalize away any situation in which regulation is involved, which is the basis for why libertarians, lemming-like, are nearly all true believers in the tiny segment of climate scientists, notwithstanding the fact that even that tiny minority have a wide variety of different and even contradictory opinions.

    I did not keep it short, it seems I never can.

    • September 4, 2011 8:39 pm

      We have already fallen out of the bottom of the IPCC’s best case scenario projections – the IPCC has exactly the credibility with me they have earned.
      I have been a part of several professions in my life. I do not consider myself a particularly brilliant person, but I would not hire the vast majority of my peers inside any profession I have been in. I have found the same to be true elsewhere. My wife is a lawyer – she does not consider herself to be an exceptional lawyer – but only a handful of the hundreds of lawyers in my community meet her standards. In areas I am not an expert, I have generally found I can become an expert on a narrow enough subject within a few hours on the internet. I can know more about a specific disease than my Doctor – who is actually quite good. I can know more about a specific car problem than my mechanic, and on and on. Knowing is not the same as being able to do. I do not perform surgey on myself, and only repair my own car or appliances when it is easy. But each individual given they are willing to invest sufficient time can know any narrow subject matter as well as can be known.

      No I do not beleive in a high priesthood of knowledge.
      I also do not confine myself to exploring only the views of those I agree with.
      I have read Rousseau, Rawls, Marx, Keynes, ……

      1). Most scientists outside of hard sciences, and applied science – where if you foul up you will not get work, are abysmally bad at mathematics and statistics – as are most people, and most politicians. Real Science is done with public data, public algorithm’s and methods, and widely recognised statistical methods. Unfortunately there is not alot of Real Science being done. Climate Science has consistently hidden its data, methods, algorithms, statistical methods. In most instances critiques have had to essentially reverse engineer much of these. Yes the critiques are occasionally in error – that is what happens when the science you are attempting to critique is proprietary.
      I beleive that in ANY field, less than 1/2 of one percent of the scientists (or economists, or …) in that field are sufficiently skilled to be worth listening to – and even those require critical thought.
      I also beleive in common sense. In the real world it is extremely rare that the actual operation of the world functions counter-intuitively. Demand Side economics – is counter intuitive. All mathusian end of the world science is counter intuitive. Please name one end of the world catacylsmic scientific prediction ever that has come true ? We are still here. That is not an accident. That refutes pretty much everything.

      I do actually consider myself an expert in certain areas – profession, training, experience and the recognition of my peers. In those areas 99.5% of the profession is blind to lots of simple things. If they were not I would not have work.

      So yes I have little problem believing that Hanson, Mann, Jones, Biffra, …. are willfully blind to the flaws in their own arguments. It has taken Jones 3 decades to finally capitulate on the Urban Heat Island. Yet, despite the fact that the effect can be proven by a teenager with a car and a thermometer, and despite the fact that emporer Jones has conceded he has no UHI cloths, still UHI effects have not been factored out of the human temperature record, and much of the AGW community still believes UHI is a myth.
      No I am not going to give you any references, If you want to determine whether there is an Urban heat Island effect get a thermometer, a car, construct and experiment, and test it yourself.

      2). Most prominent skeptics are not ordinary people.
      No ordinary people can not figure out whether the statistical methods used in a scientific paper are excellent or poor choices, ….
      But ordinary people can decide whether something fits common sense – and that is actually a pretty good test. The instances where real science radically diverges from common sense are rare.

      3). Try to get published if you do not adhere to the AGW creed – even if you are in an area of science with little or know relation to climate. In the 60’s we were all told, and the overwhelming majority beleive the planet could not support 7B people – we are nearly there. In nearly every way even the worst of humanity is better off than they were in the 60’s. People still die of starvation – but the causes are always political, not lack of food. The calories/day for the 10 worst countries today are only a bit below the world average for 1960.
      If someone told you the world was going to hell in the past, and sufficient time has passed to answer the question the proposition has been falsified.
      So no AGW would not be the first nor the last time that we have all run off like lemmings chasing a false malthusian prophecy.

      The appropriate starting point for ANY thesis forecasting worldwide catastrophy should be skepticism.

      If you do not enjoy beleiving that there is a 50% chance we are approaching climategeddon, then you will be happy as time does nto bring the catastrophy.

      Honestly – even if we were to accept the IPCC’s worst case scenario – lets just say that somehow they are capable of modelling climate – and you should not forget this is all a computer model. why does the ability to model temperature also mean the ability to accurately guess all the consequences of an increase in temperature – in general a warmer climate is a more stable climate. Even the overwhelming majority of the models actually predict that. You hear about the rare ones that don’t because they need the hype that this is going to be a catastrophe to keep people interested. An increase of 4C would likely increase the arrable land on the planet by nearly a factor of two – maybe more.

      You complain about Polar Bears and Penguins – hey I love the birds too. But the only constant in the universe is change. I guarantee you the plant will be different 100 years from now. Species will die and new ones will be born. And that would all happen even if there were no humans.

      The greatest fallacy of AGW is that to take it seriously we have to beleive that but for humans there would be no change at all.

      If you want catastrophe – try cold. Try a radical increase in oxygen and a radical decrease in CO2.

      90% of the so called AGW papers are really papers about the matting habits of

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 5, 2011 8:16 pm

        So, its another long diatribe or two (yeah, I’m no better, I confess) in which the key words are that you will NOT provide (you have no) references for the wild AGW claims you made. I thought so.

        Its interesting that you have such a low opinion of scientists, it confirms my point number 2 about the denialist religion. Its funny though, weren’t you the guy who told me that you trust everyone to do the right thing, about a month back?

        Now you say that 99.5 of people are incompetent and not worth listening to! I guess in a weird Libertarian way that makes sense, 0.4% of US voters chose the Libertarian candidate last election and you, absolutist that you continually demonstrate yourself to be, are quite willing to throw out the opinions of the other 99.6%.

        So, to try to bring this back to something about moderates at least, I have found that the lefties are also dogmatic and unconstructive on this issue. Oh, they believe in climate change all right, but they are incredibly naive about solutions. I went on several stages of Vermont author and Middlebury Professor Bill McKibben’s 200 mile Global Warming walk about 5 years back, expressly for the purpose of seeing how many of the marchers had any sensible ideas about energy and the scale of the greenhouse gas problem. I had just finished reading Vaclav Smil’s tour de force book on energy “Energy at the Crossroads” and had also been going over all the detailed spreadsheets from the Dept of Energy on energy and US greenhouse emissions. So I had a pretty good idea of the enormous scope of the problem. At the time (and until the Japanese earthquake situation) I believed in nuclear power as one small component of the response to cutting GGEs. To try to keep this short, no one that I talked to among those well-meaning people on that walk, including Bill McKibben himself, had any realistic idea at all, they generally thought that wind generators, solar panels and organic gardening along with banning SUVs were the answers. And boy, didn’t mentioning nukes make them mad.

        So, I know something they don’t, to cut human greenhouse gas emissions by 50% just ain’t gonna happen, until things get a lot worse. The lowest hanging fruit is US personal auto use and household electric usage. If you made both of those areas twice as efficient by some miracle it would cut human GGEs by about 6%. And our population growth would just undo that progress in a decade, not to mention the increase in the Chinese contribution.

        All that is left for me is to pray that the skeptics are accidentally correct by some fantastic piece of luck, (because most of them sure as heck have no clue what they are talking about) or hope that we are at least making enough technological progress on energy that we will be able to respond by the point in time when almost everyone really understands the problem.

        Its another case where the two-party ideological system is completely inadequate to the situation.

  25. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 4, 2011 6:11 pm

    Dhlii: “AGW is falling apart on pretty much every front. The models can not be reconciled with current data – not just overall trends, but things like temperatures at different latitudes and altitudes, and cloud formation…”

    Me: References, please for this extraordinary claim? Are you quoting Roy Spencer’s nonsense?

    Dhlii: Further, ClimateGate has pretty much devastated the scientific consensus. The broader scientific community has learned that their individual doubts were broadly shared but effectively suppressed by the AGW elite.

    Me: Again, references please for another extraordinary claim?! The national academies of science of every major nation, who all support the scientific consensus, have not mentioned anything about their “devastation,” can you list a single scientific organization that has?

    Dhlii: Despite Micheal Mann’s best efforts the Medieval Warm Period is more robuts than ever.

    Me: a splendid Red herring, yes there was a Medieval warm period and a following mini ice age, who disputes it? From Wikipedia:

    “Despite substantial uncertainties, especially for the period prior to 1600 when data are scarce, the warmest period of the last 2,000 years prior to the 20th century very likely occurred between 950 and 1100, but temperatures were probably between 0.1°C and 0.2°C below the 1961 to 1990 mean and significantly below the level shown by instrumental data after 1980.”

    Dhlii: Current temperatures are not extraordinary they have been repeated at-least two separate times in the past 2000 years.

    Me: References please! I find that the National Academy of Sciences report (link above) has a very different opinion. See their chart composed of 7 different methods of temperature determination.

    Dhlii: The 0.17C/decade warming trend that ended in 1998 had been going on for about 170 years

    Me: Er that would be about 3 degrees C in 170 years. This is not supported by any data I know of. References please?

    I did find this, which is not in agreement with your numbers

    “The instrumentally measured warming of about
    0.6°C during the 20th century is also reflected in
    borehole temperature measurements, the retreat
    of glaciers, and other observational evidence,
    and can be simulated with climate models.”

    It was again from the National Academy of Science:

    Click to access Surface_Temps_final.pdf

    Dhlii: – long before Human CO2 could have factored in. The trend over the past decade has declined to 0.11C/decade despite rising CO2.

    Me: Again references? The chart in the above publication seems not to agree.

    Dhlii: “But long before all of this the logic just does not work. If this planet were subject to any significant positive feedbacks it could not exist as it does. A positive feedback is a runaway train to self destruction, the overwhelming norm for the planet is negative feedbacks – whatever the issue is temperature, rain, volcanoes, earthquakes, the earth must oscillate arround a norm. If it did not life could not exist for long.”

    Me: No! You have confused a chain reaction or runaway positive feedback with positive feedback. Positive feedback loops are all over the place in systems that do not self destruct!!! Nerve cell ion potentials are one example. Let me know when your nerves explode.

    I can do this with every bit of nonsense you have posted on Global warming.

    You left out other famous denialist claims:

    Global warming does not exist because Al Gore has a big house.

    Global warming is caused by the Sun (stupid).

    Its one thing to claim that Libertarians outnumber liberals, that mistake does not hurt anyone if you play fast and loose, but when you start making wildly false claims about climate, that is harmful. So I took the time…

    • September 4, 2011 9:56 pm

      I have lost this three times. So I guess I need to try to keep it brief.

      I really don’t care if you beleive me. The world wide political consensus necessary to do anything has died. You can beleive that is because of the fickle nature of politicians – though politicians worldwide rarely miss an opportunity to aquire power no matter how flimsy the rational, or you can beleive it is because the tide has shifted – whatever you wish to beleive the tide is.

      The planet is going to do what it is going to do. It does not obey your edicts, mine, Hanson’s or the IPCC’s.

      A bit of research did come up with why you are finding different numbers. Apparently, we still have not killed off Mann’s Hockey Stick. The medevil warming period and little ice age are back in muted form. I would remind you this construction comes from a cherry picked set of tree cores that started to radically diverge (tank) from actual temperatures in the mid sixties.
      Further it still pretends that the earth’s temperature was stable for almost two millenia prior to the MWP. Do you honestly beleive that ? So the vikings were being ironic when they named greenland ? And the fact that their settlements on Greenland are still burried in ice means that it was likely colder then than now ?
      I do not think that every scientist that believes in AGW is a charlatan and Hoax. I suspect that at one time, Mann, Biffra, Jones and company honestly believed in their results. But at some point they must have grasped that their work was not holding up under scrutiny.
      There is also a monstrous problem. There are thousands, possibly tens of thousands of scientific papers for which Biffra’s tree data is the foundation in one way or another.
      The compute models absolutely rely on THIS model of the past, if it is not right they are not right. This may give you some kind of idea of the reason for the practically blood feud over this. The interesting thing is there are other paleo-climate reconstructions – few support this.
      We have never had a stable climate for almost two thousand years – the concept is ludicrous.

      Further Gavin Schmidt and NASA are cherry picking their start point at 1880 – a peak followed by a plateau. Look at the graphs yourself – I mean the graphs of actual temperature, not Biffra’s nonsense. The long term pattern if you can find a long enough series is a stair case. The cycle corresponds to solar cycles. many “skeptics” fully expected the plateau from 1998 to the present, but also expected another upward trend to start shortly – as a natural response to a long term solar cycle. We failed to grasp that we were also hitting the inflection point of a 200 year solar cycle.

  26. Priscilla permalink
    September 5, 2011 10:20 am

    I almost never wade into discussions on AGW, and I will probably regret wading in on this one. I have not studied any of the science of this, and I probably would not understand most of it if I did. But the political and economic controversies surrounding the whole debate raise some questions in my mind.

    Al Gore has been claiming that we are facing a planetary emergency for the last 6-7 years, give or take? During that time, he has amassed a huge fortune, been awarded the Nobel, won an Oscar, and founded GIM, a venture capital company, based in London, that deals only with corporations, foundations and extremely wealthy individuals (i.e no small investors allowed). Not a bad gig. And certainly not one that would benefit from a balanced view of the evidence. So that raises my antennae…”follow the money,” is always a good place to start.

    I also question the concept of carbon credits. So, Al Gore and his mega- rich investors and friends can justify their excessive (some might say obscene) energy consumption, in the form of private jets, giant cars, huge mansions etc, by purchasing offsets? Why doesn’t this apply to other forms of dangerous and destructive behavior? Why can’t oil companies purchase offsets for polluting our streams and rivers? The money could go into cleanup efforts and could be invested in companies that don’t pollute, right? Pollution offset credits. But Gore and his friends are sadly uninterested.

    Whether or not we are facing a climate crisis is not the issue that I am addressing here….it seems to me that perhaps we are. But, unless green billionaires and politicians like Gore can insist that it is an entirely man-made crisis, then they can’t continue to do business as they currently do. So when I see an enormous financial incentive for one side (the side that continues to insist that the “debate is over”), it does make me wonder……..

    We are kind of far off track from the original post here, aren’t we?

    • September 5, 2011 12:22 pm

      Oddly I have little problem with Al Gore profiting from Global Warming – real or imagined.
      “Earth in the balance was published in 1993, so Al has been on this tear for far longer than 6 or 7 years.
      As to the various schemes for regulating carbon – once you accept the twin propositions, that there is a problem that needs addressed and that government is actually good at addressing these types of problems – both of which I beleive are false, then the details of various institutional carbon management schemes are unimportant.

      Real or imagined – someone will profit from AGW. I have zero problem with Al or anyone else profiting – and sort of back to the topic, I think it is perfectly natural, moral, and should remain legal for enterprising people to advocate for something they beleive in an profit from that advocacy.

      The only moral issue with Al’s advocacy is apparently it is acceptable to profit from advocacy on one side but it is not on the other-side. If you beleive and advocate for in AGW, The government will employ you directly, or you can benefit from billions of dollars of grants, or you can make billions engaging in carbon credit trading. But if you wish to advocate against it, you must labor in poverty, because if anyone pays you then you are a tool of “Big Oil”, Coal, The Koch Brother’s, …..

      My critical problem – in myriads of areas is that it is acceptable to make a living or even egregious profits – if you are fighting for a progressive cause. Yet all such behaviour is proof of the error in your argument, if you are arguing against progressive causes.

      We are only a little far from the original post.

  27. September 5, 2011 1:21 pm

    Maybe I can segue from Al Gore’s carbon profits back to the point.

    Is it acceptable to advocate for government action ?

    Is it then acceptable to receive some compensation for advocating for something you beleive in ?

    Does the morality change as the money changes from paying expenses, to paying salaries, to profiting from your advocacy ?

    If the cause is a good one and you are effective in your advocacy, and egregiously well paid for that advocacy does it matter if you personally beleive in what you are advocating for ?

    If you are seeking elected office, is it acceptable to accept money from other people who would like to see you elected because they beleive you would do a good job ?

    Does the size of a contribution change its morality ?

    Does it matter if the contributor only cares about your views on a single issue, so long as you really share the same view as the contributor ?

    Does it matter if the contributor is going to profit if you are elected – so long as anything you do after election is what you would have done regardless of the contribution ?

    One of my major arguments against Mr. Ericksons well meaning proposals is the problem is not money – and even if it is, there are no bright lines to sort good money from bad money.

    The problem is not with the money. The purpose of money is to buy things, there are no other uses for money. Money in politics buys power. So long as the power exists, legally or otherwise ways will be found to buy it. At the very best we can manipulate the price of political power – though most of what we are proposing makes it more expensive and therefor increases the demand for a return.

    The problem is the power itself.

  28. Pat Riot permalink
    September 5, 2011 6:39 pm

    Priscilla, I think your skepticism when you “follow the money” associated with causes and agendas is justified. It does matter when there are big profits involved. Similar doubt occurs in smaller, simpler settings too: If a friend with nothing to gain recommends a certain car to us, it’s easier to trust the information than when it is from a salesman at the dealership with something to gain. You can’t help questioning the motives when there’s financial gain involved.

    I think a lot of folks start out sincere when they spearhead causes, and then when it builds up into a big dot org or business with staff and donors and the whole network of associations…then you gotta wonder about the legitimacy of information because so many people and entities are involved. Time and time again I’ve witnessed that the bigger the organization, the farther it gets from the naked truth. I was in the military for 5 years, a consultant at a University for 4 years, a “frontline” worker for the U.S. Department of Labor for 5 years—all had such convoluted gauntlets and layers of people, departments, and regs to get anything approved, or worded just so to not offend, et cetera, that it often left people shaking their heads at the distortions, in contrast to small companies I’ve worked for in which we could simply tell our customers the plain, simple truth about things.

    So when an organization has spent 150K to fund research, and the research comes out contrary to the mission and vision of the funding organization, what do you do? Release info that embarasses or undermines the people paying for the program? It’s easy to let portions of info just sit in a drawer while other more favorable info gets promoted.

    • September 5, 2011 10:20 pm


      Everyone has values and an agenda, almost no one ever goes into anything valueless with no hoped for outcome.

      When someones objectives are right out in the open – when it is clear what outcome they will benefit from and how, I personally find it easier to weigh the extent to trust them.

      Al Gore the carbon credit investor is easier to grasp than Al Gore the politician.
      But there probably is not a significant difference in their bias.

      I do not expect Exxon to report that their methods of drilling for oil are reckless and dangerous.

      It is increasingly obvious that the FDA will bend over backward to avoid saying that some drug might be safe or effective.

      I do not expect AFSCME to report that government workers are overpaid, or the benefits are too high.

      I do not expect UNICEF to report they need no money this year.

      And I do not expect the IPCC to say we are not headed for catastrophe, and any warming is natural.

      Always and everywhere we must weigh the biases of those telling us things. Some are less biased than others. Some biases are more opaque. But there is no such thing as unbiased.

      There is a recent AGW spat that I believe Ian is refering to in his deprecating remarks regarding Dr. Spenser. I scientific journal called Remote Sensing recently published a paper by Dr,. Spenser. That paper is principly about the physics of Global Warming, and involves satellite measurements – hence the Journal Remote Sensing. The paper went through rigorous peer review – and the reviewers were not friendly to Dr. Spensors position, but they eventually approved the article for publication anyway. The relevant standard is the quality of the science not whether you agree with it.

      This paper became immediately controversial on publication, it is one of several recent papers that takes the leggs completely out from under one or another of the critical elements to the AGW thesis – and contrary to popular oppinion it is a very fragile thesis that will collapse under its own weight with very little pushing.

      Possibly more importantly, the paper’s conclusions completely undercut the basis for research funding for one of the major high priests of AGW. Who was understandably apolplectic.

      This spat is also significant as AGW proponents including Ian above have constantly claimed there is little or no peer reviewed published papers that challenge AGW.
      While this is NOT the only vector of science, it is true that publishing is important.
      It is also true as anyone who has even cursory knowledge of the ClimateGate emails, can attest that the AGW priesthood has virtual total control of what gets published in scientific journals on global warming. More imporant than the fact that they ADMIT they have totally locked out sceptics by threatening editors, they also admit to censoring pro-AGW papers if they do not narrowly toe a specific line. This is religion not science.

      Anyway Dr. Trenberth went apoplectic in addition to an apoplectic and totally unprofessional, false, ad hominem attack on Spenser, he eventually forced the journal’s editor to resign. It is important to note that while the editor resigned and fell on his sword and even maligned the paper he chose to publish, he did not retract the paper. There is actually an official process for this, and it allows the papers writers a venue to defend themselves. Whatever the critiques, they are played out in public in front of the scientific community, not censored in private or on the editorial pages of the New York Times.

      This particular paper is also important as IPCC AR5 is being written right now. Unless this paper can be discredited – and the normal process would take too much time, it must be reflected in the IPCC report. By persuading the editor to fall on his sword and claim the paper never should have been published the IPCC can ignore it, which they could not do even if an effort was made to retract it.

      In conclusion let me return full circle to the beginning, and remind you that this paper is not about computer models – at least not directly, nor about paleolithic proxies, no about CO2. It is about Physics, and about validating the assumptions of the computer models, using satellite measurements.

      I know Ian has a hard time accepting that AGW is coming apart at the seams, but I will also note the controversy here is becoming bitter and brutal. Contrary to Ian’s assertions Spencer is not an anti-AGW extremist. Atleast until recently he fell into the camp of “AGW is real but not as catastrophic as predicted”. The level of vitriol of the attacks demonstrates the desparation of those involved.

      There is likely another major paper following from other sources outlining the results of cosmic ray research at CERN, that essentially backs up a scientific theory more than 15 years old that was presumed off the wall at the time, that Cosmic Rays represent a major indirect vector for solar heat transfer.

      Ian derides the possibility that the sun is the primary driver of our climate. But the earth’s history says otherwise. The cosmic ray paper adds a new element to our understanding of how.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 6, 2011 8:27 am

        The sad thing is that I read something in the news about Spencer’s findings that more heat was going out to space about a month ago and it gave me hope.

        Yesterday I looked Spencer up, and lost that hope.

        Here are some facts about Spencer and that paper.

        First of all, I will admit he is an actual scientist with some impressive credentials. From Wiki:

        “Roy W. Spencer is a climatologist and a Principal Research Scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville, as well as the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has served as senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

        He is known for his satellite-based temperature monitoring work, for which he was awarded the American Meteorological Society’s Special Award. Spencer suggests that global warming is mostly natural, and that the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol pollution and suggests that natural, chaotic variations in low cloud cover may account for most observed warming.[1][2]”

        Now it gets weird.

        “Spencer is a signatory of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation’s “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming”.[30]

        The declaration states:

        “We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.”

        Oh great, a scientist with religious beliefs that define his attitude towards his research.

        Not knowing that at the time, I read about his latest paper in Forbes, where I had found it on Google news. I was happy to read it. I Don’t Want Global Warming TO Be A Fact!

        Alas, it turns out to be highly suspect work.

        Now if you are denialist who believes that there is a mass scientific conspiracy to repress the “truth” you will have an out to the next bit, because his latest paper caused a huge controversy that led to the editor of the peer review online journal that published it resigning. Again from Wiki:

        “On 26 July 2011, Spencer and Braswell published a paper “On the Misdiagnosis of Climate Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance” in Remote Sensing, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. The paper questioned the ability of some computer climate models to reproduce the time lagged relationship between average sea surface temperature and net terrestrial radiative flux.[16] The conclusions of the paper were subsequently exaggerated by parts of the media and the authors themselves, with headlines such as “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism” in Forbes magazine.[17] [18] It was also harshly criticized by mainstream scientists.[19] For instance, in an article for the collaborative climate-change commentary site RealClimate, Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo claimed the paper had “no merit whatsoever” because Spencer’s model was too simple and his interpretations were flawed.[20]

        In September 2011, the editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing, Dr. Wolfgang Wagner, resigned his editorship due to the errors in the Spencer and Braswell paper. In his resignation letter, he took the unusual step of publicly criticizing Spencer and the paper’s reviewers. He criticized the science behind the paper, stating that it had “fundamental methodological errors” and “false claims,” though he did not announce that the paper would be retracted. Wagner further criticized Spencer and Braswell for misrepresenting the significance of their research:

        “ “I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements, e.g., in a press release of The University of Alabama in Huntsville from 27 July 2011, the main author’s personal homepage, the story “New NASA data blow gaping hole in global warming alarmism” published by Forbes, and the story “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” published by Fox News, to name just a few.”[18] ”
        Spencer “strenuously objects” to “the core reason for the Editor-in-Chief’s resignation, ” that (quoting Wagner) their paper “essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents.” [21] Spencer told BBC News, “I stand behind the science contained in the paper itself, as well as my comments published on my blog at [22].”

        I am someone who would love to have “A gaping hole blown” in AGW.

        Evangelical scientists who have a priori decided that God won’t let his creation be tarnished by global warming don’t cut it.

        Not surprisingly, this fellow also has been a guest on Rush Limbaugh’s show on several occasions and is on the boards of several conservative political think tanks:

        “He speaks publicly often on climate, including four appearances on Coast to Coast AM.[6] He is on the board of directors of the George C. Marshall Institute.[7] He is on the board of advisors of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.[8] ”

        “The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation is a conservative Christian public policy group that promotes a free-market approach to care for the environment that is critical of much of the current environmental movement. In particular, the Cornwall Alliance rejects claims of man-made harmful climate change[1]”

        So, here is a man with a Ph.D and obviously high intelligence, who unfortunately has religious beliefs that lead him to making his data fit his a priori conclusion that catastrophic human caused global warming is not in God’s plan. And he is one of the BETTER skeptics in the scientific community.

        Needless to say I was let down.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 6, 2011 8:56 am

        I sure wish I could put my replies as replies below comments I am replying to instead of the Word Press Hodgepodge. Sigh.

        Dhlii: “Ian derides the possibility that the sun is the primary driver of our climate. But the earth’s history says otherwise. The cosmic ray paper adds a new element to our understanding of how.”

        Me: If you can show me where I said that the Sun is not the primary driver of our climate I will eat my hat and post a picture of me doing it. What Rot!

        Duh, anyone who does not think that the sun is the primary driver of climate is nuts, or in your words elsewhere “only a moron would think that”

        Yes, people who are not involved in some science may have a hard time grasping the fact that small effects may over time have large consequences in many systems. In economics, does the average person really grasp that when the GDP goes up or down by a tiny fraction, a few percentage points, its the difference between prosperity and deep recession? Small changes can have huge consequences in many kinds of systems, including climate. Intelligent well educated people have no trouble understanding that fact.

        Dhlii, You are an expert at making confusing, irrelevant, and outright erroneous statements, its a far cry from the Libertarian conceit that you Libertarians are the most logical of political persuasions. Your BS above, refuting an absurd claim I never made, is a great example of how you need to warp logic and throw out a shotgun approach of nearly complete BS arguments, many of which are complete red herrings, to arrive at your whole series on untenable absolutist arguments on pretty much every subject you have touched. And yet you consider that you are more competent that 99.5% of scientists, unless I have misinterpreted your words. What arrogance!

        Anyhow, the online world is full of people who have been paired up into bitter and endless disputes with each other, I don’t want to be one of those people, I recognize your obvious talents but if you would take off your dark glasses and start thinking outside the Libertarian box I am sure you could make to great contribution. Until that day, its just well written nonsense that will only confuse people who are not really strongly involved in any topic you argue. We have enough confusion already. Repent!

        I thought this was going to be short, I really Want to write short posts, just can’t do it.

  29. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 6, 2011 8:00 am

    Oy, you got me.

    However, as is well known, Dems run to the left in primaries and Republican to the right and then come to the center in the general election. Romney is also running pretty far to the right of his history, well who is it he has to appeal to now? Republican primary voters, high on the Limbaugh/Palin cool aid.

    If one of them is elected, if its a moderate Republican I can hope they will govern as a moderate, especially if the Republicans do not control everything, then the radical Ryan plan is dead, as David Brooks observed.

    Or maybe Huntsman is absolutely sincere. How can you tell when a politician is sincere?

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 6, 2011 8:59 am

      Wish I could edit too.

      Oy, Priscilla, you got me!

    • Priscilla permalink
      September 6, 2011 9:01 am

      Ian, your question sounds like the flip side of the the old “How can you tell when a politician is lying? Answer: When his lips are moving.” I don’t have the answer. But it is interesting that so many liberals like Huntsman, who is quite conservative. Although I am sure you will disagree, I think it is because most people are desperate to see some sort of improvement in the economy, the Keynesian stuff isn’t working, and even left-of-center types are willing to take a chance on something else. Or maybe it’s just that they see Huntsman as more elite and civilized than their usual stereotype of Republicans (although he is a conservative billionaire, what could be worse for libs? Answer: a Texas cowboy?)

      Dave, As far as Gore and the carbon credits thing, I don’t know…. Businesses should have the right to make as much money as they can, but I think that Gore’s business ventures are essentially fraudulent and represent unethical profiteering. His book and movie stuff, fine. But the offset thing just strikes me as a scam.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 6, 2011 9:27 am

        Priscilla, Well, maybe its more proof that I am not a liberal. As a moderate, I am happy if I can find one of the partisans who is at least not just a robot and can at think for themself, as Huntsman clearly can. Its why I always enjoyed and respected McCain. Even Barry Goldwater, that icon to my parents generation of liberals as the worst extreme of conservatism in 1964, turned out in his crusty old age to have some quirky critical views on the religious right, not to mention that his wife was a board member of planned parenthood. Nixon has been declared to have been the last liberal president, which would surely astonish my friends in the woodstock generation who considered him to be the antichrist at the time.

        Its as easy to say what you do if you were president as it is to say where Roger Federer has being going wrong lately, but when a person actually becomes president, they have a completely different perspective than when they were a candidate, and I do believe that all of them try to do what they really think is best for the county, unlike most of the unprintables in congress. So lets hope that whoever gets in is highly intelligent and has an independent streak and that he/she has at last one branch of congress form the opposition.

        Its really a disaster when one party takes all the reins, total hubris, such as the democratic health care fiasco that destroyed the Obama presidency are the result. And yet I can confidently predict that if one party wins all the marbles they will do it again, with the same results. Meanwhile, Rome does burn.

      • September 8, 2011 7:43 pm

        Fraud is complex. I think Al Gore beleives – atleast mostly what he is selling. Unlike Ian, who now seems to think I am a liar, I beleive most of the political spectrum believes most of what they say they beleive. There are certainly inconsistencies and little hypocracies here an there. Further some of us are far more pragmatic than others, willing to compromise on one issue of principle in order to win on another. But will I beleive both liberals and conservatives are both wrong on many issues, and I even beleive that the results of either of them getting their way may well be evil. At the same time I think there is no difference in the extent that liberals and liberal politicians beleive in what they are doing than that of conservatives – or moderates or libertarians, of …. We are all here to make our lives, the lives of others, and our government better. We disagree on how, and since there is a multiplicity of irreconcilable views, then most of us are wrong.

        Al Gore is wrong. He is hypocritical – on myriads of levels. But I do not beleive he is a charlatan and fraud in the sense that he does not beleive in what he is doing. There is a concept in law called “Mens Rea” – guilty mind. With a small number of unfortunately increasing exceptions, you can not commit a crime – like fraud, without grasping that what you are doing is wrong.

        Proof of error, is not proof of fraud.

        Further, I would suspect that his investors are well informed with respect to AGW.

        If I claim to have discovered cold fusion. If I truly beleive that is the case, if I provide you with sufficient data to weigh my claims, and after investing we both discover I am wrong – there is no crime.

        Entrepreneurship is about risk. Most new businesses fail. One of the justifications for “greed” is that those investments with enormous returns rarely pay off.

        The economy you see right now, is what happens when people are averse to risk.

        Al Gore can make us much as he is able selling carbon credits – so long as I am free to argue that he is wrong, and free to chose whether to invest with him or not.

  30. September 6, 2011 9:40 am


    It is virtually impossible to accept that the Sun is solely or primarily responsible for past climate change and not reject AGW or alteast conclude as Spencer did – that human factors are insignificant. Until recently we have not had the mechanisms to explain how the Sun drives climate. The direct radiative effects in the visible and infrared regions are insufficient – exactly as the IPCC claims. But the earth’s past is filled with constant and volatile climate changes and few of these have any explanation besides the sun. Logic dictates, that if the sun drove climate in the past and what we know about the sun does not sufficiently explain that then there is atleast one significant way the sun effects us that we have not grasped yet. This is something that should have been grasped by the first scientist that calculated the direct heat gain and found it insufficient. Not something skeptics should have had to rant about for decades. Today there are atleast two significant new ways in which we are finding energy transfer from the Sun to the earth. These are not certain yet. The Alarmist community rejected one more than a decade ago but recent CERN experiments appear to confirm that it is correct.
    Regardless the point is if you accept that the Sun drove much of past climate, there is very little room left for a significant human effect today.

    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” Dr. Trenberth

    The following is a BBC interview with Dr. Jones. You can not get higher in the AGW priesthood.

    I would note:
    Jones accepts that the modern warming trend is essentially identical to historical trends in the past – 0.16C/decade.
    Jones also accepts that there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995. I will agree with him that the time period is barely long enough to be statistically significant – though I will point out that the period during which humans were supposedly cooking the earth – 1980-1998 is only twice as large, and alarmists have been ranting about catastrophic global warming long prior to their being statistically significant warming.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 6, 2011 10:22 am

      God only knows where Word Press will place this.

      Dhlii: It is virtually impossible to accept that the Sun is solely or primarily responsible for past climate change and not reject AGW or alteast conclude as Spencer did – that human factors are insignificant.

      Me: Solely or primarily are TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SITUATIONS and yet you try to pass them off as one logical entity. I do not have the credentials to know whether the sun is even primarily responsible for changes in climate, but it is certainly NOT solely responsible, and any one who thinks so is uninformed.

      My Doctorate is in cell and molecular biology. I have been an environmental engineer/hydrogeologist for the state of Vermont (a grandiose title that implied certain credentials I do not have, while having an appropriate education in parts of those fields), a national guard infantry soldier, have worked construction; long ago I was an auto mechanic, I am an amateur but sometimes well paid musician, and have an undergrad degree in mathematics and physical science. I work editing/translating a very wide variety of Russian scientific papers. Its not a bad resume, but there is nothing in it that would make me feel that my opinion could carry as 1/1000th as much weight as a working climate scientist. I also do not have my own personal unified field theory. There are reasons for these holes in my output.

      You can argue the details of this till you are blue in the face, its silly, you do not have the training, unless there is something I don’t know about you, to make a scientific judgement. But you don’t accept that, its an amazing conceit.

      Thus, in this argument, I have a far lighter burden, I accept that I am not competent to make a scientific judgement and I rely on the fact that our National Academy of Sciences, and Russia’s and China’s and everyone’s have accepted that human greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate. Further, I give them only a 50% chance of being correct due to the amazing complexity of climate and the difficulty in modeling it and I hold out hope that due to the complexity of the issue they may be wrong.

      You have it much rougher, you have to deny the 98%, support the 2% and somehow deny that there is any chance the 98% are correct.

      Simply, you care much more about defending some strange free market religion than you you about the very real possibility of mass extinctions. You wave a few completely specious arguments that any competent person can destroy immediately and make the whole thing disappear as completely as you made bank deregulation disappear. If I ever have anything I want to make disappear, I will give it to you, I promise, its quite a talent you have.

      If I do not hit several deadlines today I will not be able to indulge in Wednesday night doubles with my tennis buddies, so, I am letting this argument go.

      You may now declare total victory, in spite of having fallen flat on your face and twisted logic so badly that three chiropractors working double shifts probably cannot straighten your back now, well, its part of the denialist arsenal.

      • September 6, 2011 11:30 am

        If Einstein were in the room, rather than sit with my mouth hanging open in awe, I would engage him directly. i would debate, question, argue and learn.

        No one’s intellect or knowledge, or skill is so great they get to tell others how they must live. And I have little respect for anyone who tries.

        John Hanson rose to the pinnacle of the climate science profession catapulted by his laudable work trying to model the climate of Venus. And applying what he learned from Venus to earth was natural and brilliant.

        I have worked in many areas too. One of those is High Performance Computing – exactly the kind of machines that the NSA uses to crack codes, and Wall Street uses to model the market – and scientists use to model climate.

        Modelling is the process of simplifying a complex system so that you can project how it will behave under different conditions. Models are never correct by definition – they are simplifications. The extent to which we must simplify depends on the complexity of the system we are modeling and the resources we have available to model it.
        There are global climate models that have been done using a spreadsheet that are pretty good – but no one would bet the future of the world on them one way or another. The climate is a chaos system. Knowing all initial conditions and outside inputs, it is still not possible to accurately predict the way that cigar smoke will move through a room. Climate is far more complex.
        Even if we knew everything about the behavior of climate (which we do not), Climate Models are limited by the computation resources that exist today.

        Beyond that I am an extremely good software developer. There are people that are better, but not allot. I work constantly with scientists and engineers who all develop their own software – regardless of how good they are at their profession they are on the whole abysmal programmers.

        With few exceptions the attacks on AGW have not been on the core concepts. Despite some recent challenges, it is reasonable to assume that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that humans are responsible for atleast some part of the increasing levels of CO2 and that that will have some effect on climate.

        At the same time humans still desperately seem to want to believe that we have the power to destroy the world. That we can destroy what god has created.

        The primary attacks on AGW have been:
        on methods. Science is conducted in the open. Yet it has taken nearly 30 years to get the underlying data and algorithms for much of this. I have a visceral negative response to “trust me”. We still do not have the raw data for most AGW work. It is as if Bohr said here is how the atom is structured I did experiments and I know – trust me. In real science experiments are reproduced and analysed over and over. If they are not reproducible, they are rejected, But data and algorithm’s are not enough. Mathematical and statistical choices matter. Presuming that I accept that all the high priests of AGW are brilliant scientists, does that mean they are competent at forecasting, and statistics. In fact they have proven to be abysmal at those. It is statistics that prove whether a trend is meaningful or not.

        The statistical confidence level for the correspondence between climate and the sun is a full order of magnitude higher than that of any Global Climate Model. Yet we dismiss the Sun as the driver of climate because we have no explanation for how the suns effects are that great, and we accept the climate model – despite the fact that statistical methods tell us the level of confidence is low.

        We also have the problem of the past. A global climate model can not be trusted unless it accurately reflects past climate behavior.

        Only paleo-climatologists are almost universally skeptics. Of course they are all in the employ of the oil industry where there is alot of money to be made by ACCURATELY knowing the climate in the past – that means they are suspect.

        Regardless, the human record only goes back a short time, and is increasingly inaccurate the further back we go. And the existing reconstructions of Paleo-climatolists – mostly oil company geologists, were not helpful.

        The reconstruction of the past 2000 years done by Biffra, Mann, Jones and company, is the subject of intense debate, because there results are significantly different than anything that proceeded them, and as the GCM’s are validated against this view of the past, if that view is in error than the GCM’s are wrong too.

  31. AMAC permalink
    September 6, 2011 9:45 am

    Come on now, I’m a Texas Cowboy!!! I am definately not a Perry supporter and have never voted for him, though. I think Perry is the proto-typical candidate. He tailors his stance to appease his base. His business is getting elected. As a teacher, I have a large problem with education becoming political. The Texas Board of Education has recently changed the curriculum to reflect a more fundamental christian friendly curriculum and a less science and math friendly curriculum. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on experts in those fields to update the curriculum, only to deny the changes and implement politacally motivated changes. This has not recieved much press because it is seen as limited to Texas. Texas is the larges buyer of textbooks in the Nation and if publishers want to sell textbooks, many states will have to adopt Texas specific textbooks. This will have a wide effect on the quality of education in this country. Why can’t we educate and encourage independent thought? Answer – Because that’s not good for politics. More problems with career politicians. In Texas, as in many other parts of the country, the Republican Party has somehow become the party of faith. I am a christian and not a republican, which makes me unwelcome in many churches. Both parties try to monopolize certain demographics and it is very frustrating (especially when caught in the middle). But enough of that…

    I have been comtemplating the point of term limits. I think that we should possibly consider a more creative approach. As I stated previously, chroni-ism will still find a way to continue the “career” politician status. If certain candidates toe the line they will be rewarded with positions of influence after term limits are reached. I propose a time based limit for elected and appointed positions alike. I think that something like 15 years would be fair. This would be a combined limit on elected and appointed positions alike. This would keep the rewards system to a minimum, possibly reduce the corruption, and encourage a wider selection of political officials. The down side?

    The downside is that when we get a really well performing and independent thinking politician, he or she will have an expiration date. We will lose experience at many positions and that could have consequences. However, overall I do believe there would be a net positive impact. I just don’t think that term limits will keep career politicians out of politics or keep them from getting positions of influence in the government. Sorry to repeat this, just wanted to post this idea and see what the response would be.

    • September 6, 2011 10:33 am

      After they have been elected, and then appointed, they go on to private jobs in the industries they regulated.

      I do nto think term limits are a bad idea, but the net is small.

  32. September 6, 2011 9:58 am

    Einstein beleived in God, do we need to reject relativity.

    I do not share Spencer’s religious, beleifs. I also do not share those of Science Czar Holdren, Hanson, Obama, Bachman, Huntsman, …..

    Does the fact that someone holds religious belief’s I do not agree with mean I reject everything they say ?
    I happen to agree with Einstien that God does not play dice with the universe.
    I do not know Spencmarily responsible for past climate changes and NOTer’s religious belief’s. I have emailed him many times, as well as visited his blog frequently – they NEVER came up. In fact I did not have any clue about his religious beliefs until the left started attacking him for them.

    I get really really really angry when various groups start maligning you because of religion – apparently the left does not give a damn about your character, how you treat others, how seriously you take the promises you keep, but if you are a “christian” you are not just suspect, but condemned.
    I am just barely old enough to remember that Kennedy was asked whether his catholicism would interfere with his being president. Whether he would take orders from the Pope.
    I have in the past said that even if Obama was actually Muslim, that should be irrelevant to his qualifications as president.
    There are some extremely disturbing things in the Bible and the Koran.

    So let me see Forbes writes and editorial exagerating the significance of Spencer’s findings and he can not link to that or use there title as the title of a post on his blog ?
    Do you really want to get into an argument about which side has engaged in more hyperbole ?
    Spencer’s paper is NOT the end of the world for alarmists, but it is a significant step in that direction. And what is going on right now is a major effort to distract from the content of the paper, by maligning its author, and the process by which it got published.

    I would be happy to see significant changes to the process by which climate papers are peer reviewed and published. The process is abysmal. Contrary to Kenberth’s claim’s Spencer’s paper was critically reviewed by alarmists. I would be happy to require the same degree of scrutiny applied to alarmist papers – which rarely are even checked for statistical mistakes. Equally important I would like to see the journal’s and their editorial staff to be able to chose papers and reviewers without the approval of the Alarmist Hoi Poloi. This is not the first instance in which the editor of a science journal was forced to resign because he allowed a skeptic paper to get published. Read the damn climategate emails. Jones and company BRAG about their ability to prevent anything – even papers from fellow alarmists from being published without their consent. They are open about the fact that they control publication, and that will always allow them to claim credibility because nothing that threatens there view will ever get published. This is not my delusional conspiracy theories, this is things they admitted in emails among themselves.

    And you want to trust these people with the future of the planet ?

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 6, 2011 10:37 am

      I said I was done, you have lured me back, its another talent.

      I don’t give a damn if Spencer is a Presbytarian, a Catholic or a Muslim. But if he signs an evangelical document declaring that God has set the climate system up and won’t allow global warming to impact humanity, then HE IS NO DAMN GOOD AS A CLIMATE SCIENTIST. Any reasonable person would see the problem. Be angry to the tenth power if you want.

      Far left nuts have declared that Julian Assange has demolished the capitalist system. I hold the climategate hackers and Assange in identical regard, i’d like to see the criminals in jail. If I hack the emails of any important person I will be able to make him wish he was dead. Would you like to mention what the results of numerous investigations have been of climate gate? Of course you would would not like to do that. Yes, you are a conspiracy theorist, no, its not a rare condition, sadly.

      Now, I wrote a short post! and I triple swear on your grandfathers grave that I am done.

      • September 8, 2011 8:46 pm

        I do not like Assange personally, and I think that you bear some responsibility for the consequences when you capture and release information that governments choose to hide. At the same time, he and others like him have made a pretty compelling case that governments are hiding enormous amounts of information that has no good reason being secret.
        I also beleive in open government.

        It is generally accepted within the climate community – including among the warmists, that Hadley CRU/University of Easy Anglia was not “Hacked”, that the release of information was an inside job from a disgruntled staff member – either angry about the dicking arround they were doing with the temperature data, or upset about their stonewalling FOI requests.

        Regardless, Daniel Ellsberg did essentially the same thing as whoever released the ClimateGate information and is generally regarded as a hero.

        And yes I am very well aware of the numerous investigations of climategate.
        The left likes to claim – follow the money – well who paid for Muir-Russell.

        Regardless, no inquiry todate has actually addressed any of the real issues. There was not even testimony on the issue of the efforts to actively suppress publication of dissenting views. There was no investigation into the destruction of information subject to FOI requests. Despite the fact that McIntyre and McKitrick are the primary critics of the Jones/Biffra/Mann fraud, and despite the fact that the volunteered to testify, they were not permitted to.
        Muir-Russell was not scoped to investigate the science – beyond whether a fraud occurred, They actually investigated nothing. But felt compelled to endorse the science – despite the fact they made no investigation of the science – or the fraud, or pretty much anything else.

        Mann is still fighting tooth and nail against releasing any of his work at UVA – despite a federal court order.

        But all of this does not really matter, the effect among the scientific community has been profound. Dr. Mueller as well as many others – while still subscribing to AGW, has declared the work of Biffra, Jones, Mann, a scientific fraud.

      • AMAC permalink
        September 9, 2011 12:35 am

        I understand your point. I don’t at all want to speak for you, but I think you were exposing the conflict of interest that exists. I am a person of faith, but I am also logical. I do not acept that global warming is somehow against my judeo-christian values. I think that God gave us logic and reason for the purpose of using them. It is very upsetting to me when scientists and politicians try to speak for God as if they were some kind of prophet. I understand how faith can shape values, but this does not mean setting aside the senses that God gave us. I think it is a terrible thing to try to turn a man made problem (global warming) into a religous issue.

        Just thought I would step in when someone is trying to say you were biased against people for their religion. You made a very valid point.

  33. September 6, 2011 10:11 am

    GDP dropped 4%, it is now back to less than 2% below 2007 – small change, yet I think you will find that virtually every person on the planet is aware of that change. You do not have to be a brain surgeon to understand that.

    At the same time whatever caused this mess, had we done nothing – or atleast very little, it would have ended and growth would have returned on its own. It always does. Climate and economics are not the same. but they atleast share the fact that whatever oscillations occur, there are powerful forces driving them back to the normal trends. In climate and most physical processes the feedbacks are virtually always net negative – a return to the norm.

    To blend economics and climate, It is a reasonable assumption that if a recession last longer than 18 months, it is being sustained by bad policy. That is not a fact mind you just a reasonable assumption, but it is the appropriate starting point.

  34. September 6, 2011 10:30 am

    You seem to think I have a dark view of the world – nothing could be further from the truth. I have a dark view of government and those who would harness government to enslave the rest of us. It is always necessary to continue fighting for freedom, but for the most part the world is a pretty good place. Far better than it was when I was a kid.
    Progressives do not believe that – they certainly say otherwise.

    My views did not shift to more strongly libertarian by some mystical conversion process that closed my mind to the real world around me.

    But rather as I opened my mind:

    I saw more and more, that humans on their own are continually making this world a better place. I argue that the conditions of the poor in this country and across the world are far better than they were 30 years ago. I am not saying the poor are evil sponges sucking the life from the rest of us. I am arguing that the vast majority of them are doing really well on their own. They are making things better for themselves. They are creating wealth for themselves.

    I heard various groups and institutions throughout my life telling me the world was going to hell and only some form of massive government intervention could save us.

    Yet the world is a far better place than when I was younger – and far too much of what has actually gotten worse is clearly the consequences of government efforts to make things better.

    If libertarianism did not exist, I would have had to invent it. Liberalism, and conservatism do not explain the world.

    i am not looking for some bitter dispute with you.

    I am not bitter about anything at all.

    I am particularly not bitter with you.

    I trust you more than you appear to trust yourself.

    I have actually changed my mind over many things in life – and often as the result of debate with others. I may make my arguments forcefully, but I do listen to the arguments others make – but “I do not like what you are saying” is not an argument.

    You wish to take money from those with money.
    I wish to take power from those with power.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 6, 2011 8:23 pm

      It is so honorable of you to “fight for our freedom” as you have been. You are claim to be so logical and open minded, when (from my perspective) nothing could be further from the truth. You views do not seem to be shaped by logic, but by entrenched ideology. You deny scientific concensus simply because of your libertarian views. You make statements as if they were facts to try to persuade followers or influence others. I obviously do not speak for everyone, least of all the moderator. I am tired of you twisting words, facts, statements, just to prove libertarians are right. You fail to reach any other conclusions because you are not looking for the truth. You do very detailed research, obviously. But you are researching to see why you are right. You try to tell people what they think, but you need to focus more on your own beliefs. The libertarians do not rely on logic more than any other group. You make these little statements constantly, to piss people off or upset someone, or I don’t know why else. I am completely against attacking someone for their beliefs, wether I agree or not. But now I have failed, because I am attacking. I suppose I could paste links, references, research, etc. but you would simply dismiss and make no attempt to enlighten. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but not to attack every post as obvious garbage and treat your own OPINIONS as proven facts. You come off very arrogant and I find your posts offensive. Not for what you argue, but how you argue it. Why are you commenting on this web site. This is for open minded conversation, not close minded and blind faith to a party. I am sure you enjoy arguements and are delighted that I have lowered myself to go on the offense. You can find plenty of sites that will agree with everything you say.

      I appologize to all for this post. I will lay off for a few days.

      • September 8, 2011 9:41 pm

        Actually AGW “radicalized” my political views – not the other way around.
        The concept of AGW has always appeared little more than hubris to me. The total energy from every human activity across all time, is dwarfed by the energy the sun reigns on the earth each day. Yes, I know this is not about raw energy, but the assumption of AGW is still that the earth is so fragile it can be destroyed by the sneeze of a flea.
        After that we are BELOW the average temperature of the earth accross the past 3.5billion years. We are below the average for the past million years, and for the past 100K years. At the center of AGW theory is the false thesis that the earth actually has a fixed temperature – that change is not the only universal constant.
        All of the above comes BEFORE you get into the science. As myriads of people have pointed out real science is by definition sceptical.

        Beyond that i am not sure what you are so angry about.
        Absolutely, I have argued my case. I have tired to use facts and things that are testable, but certainly I hold specific views, and process information through the lense of those views – are you actually trying to claim you are different ?
        Yes, if you send me links to realclimate, I am not even going to bother. They are infamous for censoring anything outside the narrow orthodoxy.
        At the same time I already spend alot of time trying to digest information from sources that conflict with my views.
        Nor do I claim to know all the answers. Knowing that something is wrong is not the same as knowing what is right.

        I have no desire to piss you off. The observation that Libertarians primary value is logic, is not mine. I have been trying to find the links, but there was/is a huge study of values and identification being conducted online. The author of the study – who I have communicated with, was primarily interested in identifiying the characteristics that describe conservatives and liberals – beyond those tags they formally chose on their own. He was able to very effectively and accurately group people into conservative or liberal based on values in many areas. At the same time he uncovered a third major group. Essentially he discovered libertarians. He found they did not fit either liberal or conservative values. On some issues they trended conservative, on others liberal, but there were a variety of issues they were different from both. Regardless, the primary identifying characteristic was the primacy of logic.

        People are all different, their skills and intellect are different. There are plenty of libertarians that are not of the highest intellectual calibre. But logic is the core value of libertarians. If you really persuade a libertarian there is a logical error in some aspect of their views, they will reject that view. Essentially logic is our god. Our core value. Everyone is not equally good at it. Nor am I necessarily claiming that libertarians are automatically better than others at it.

        I would be happy if you countered with a challenging argument. It is not critical to me that other people think my arguments makes sense, it is critical that I do. I have “faith” in my values, because I constantly challenge them and they hold up. If they do not I revise them. Essentially this is what valuing logic means. I do not have an appeal to a higher authority. I can not discard an inconvenient fact by saying – but Biffra or Mann understands this better than I, I will stick with them.

  35. September 6, 2011 10:48 am


    I would sugest you read “Conscience of a Conservative” – there are things that are wrong with it, and I am not going to defend everything Goldwater wrote.
    At the same time you will find that the Goldwater of the 60’s and that near the end were not all that far apart. It is not Goldwater that changed, so much as your opinion of him.

    I will be happy to agree with the assessment that Nixon was fundamentally liberal – and at-least economically a disaster as president.

    I will agree with you that almost all of our presidents have tried to do what they think is right for the country. I do not know anyone that think’s Obama is deliberately trying to ruin the country. He believes in what he is doing. Most progressive and liberals do. But so do conservatives, and congressmen of both parties.

    I do not recall arguing that some person was associated with a specific group, or held views in another unrelated area therefore they can not be trusted.
    It is typically the left that says “he is a mormon, a catholic, an evenagelical, he can not be trusted.” Or he is funded by those evil Koch brothers. Or he goes to a church that has a committee that published a paper that said something really stupid, therefore he is not to be trusted.

  36. September 6, 2011 11:54 am

    For those interested in more information on the Spencer/Trenberth row, from a more credible source than either Ian or I

    Here is Pielke’s wikipedia entry

    Pielke is generally not considered a skeptic – but he has uniquely different views on global warming. He has been highly critical of the IPCC for suppressing both dissent and alternate views of climate.

    He is generally respected, and i believe in this instance the alarmist appealed to him to weigh in on the debate – which he did in the link above.

    Though he is generally supportive of the argument Spencer made in the remote sensing article – he does not specifically validate that – it is a matter of science and requires study.

    On every other matter, he has slammed the ethics, and professionalism and contradicted every public assertion of Trenberth and company.

  37. September 6, 2011 1:02 pm

    More comments on Spencer from climate scientists not normally considered skeptics.

    Curry’s wikipedia entry.

    Curry is distinguished among AGW proponents in having decided to rationally engage skeptics.

    She has here own blog and is a regular poster on numerous high profile high quality skeptics blogs.

    Her views appear to be slowly shifting away from the AGW orthodoxy.

    Curry is representative of the mainstream of the scientific community that was effected by climategate – both the suppression of skeptics and the active suppression of the views of fellow “warmists” who’s papers and data did not perfectly conform.

  38. September 7, 2011 5:42 pm

    This WSJ article addresses not only the Cosmic Ray issue, but the complicated politics involved.
    Mr. Svensmark and Mr. Kirby have discovered that rather than being particle physicists interested in pursuing the truth, when the truth is inconvenient and bears on climate science that are attacked and ridiculed. Both beleived in AGW prior to their experiments, and may still. CERN itself is sufficiently concerned about the possible political fallout that they have prohibited CERN staff from reporting anything but the results of the experiments. CERN staff have been prohibited from analysing the impact of those results outside the area of particle physics.

  39. September 7, 2011 11:30 pm

    Hmm… how did a discussion of election reform morph into a debate on climate change? I’m almost afraid to look.

    Of course, climate change is at least as important an issue as election reform, so I won’t throw a wrench into the works by attempting to steer the conversation back to term limits, clean elections and gerrymandering.

    • September 8, 2011 9:31 am

      These are metaphors for each other. If you beleive that markets are essentially self regulating, that when they make mistakes they will eventually correct their own mistakes, then it is likely you beleive the same about climate. If you accept the view that man has catastrophically harmed the planet and only radical government imposed changes in human behaviour will save us, then it is likely you can not trust the market.

      If human caused Global Warming is real and catastrophic, and can not be corrected without government intervention, then all advocates of limited government are delusional.
      Conversely if climate is essentially self regulating, or atleast outside of human and government control, or if whatever is going on will mitigate itself based on individuals altering their own behavior then advocates for activist government are delusional.

      While there is some middle ground, almost no one has taken it – and the few that have have generally been lumped in with sceptics.

      The failure or success of the Anthropogenic Global Warming movement has a profound impact beyond climate and science.

      This even loops back to Keynes and economics. If there really is this great scientific consensus that AGW proponents claim, and they are wrong, then the entire concept of government by the elite, the best and the brightest is flawed.
      Science can and will survive. Science has been far more wrong for far longer many times in the past.
      But the concept of government by experts can not. A failure of AGW radically undermines the faith of the electorate in the ability of their supposed betters to best government them.
      If we can not trust the supposed best and brightest scientists to get such a critically important issue correct, than how do we trust them on issues like the economy, health care, social security, clean air and water, …..

      The core principle of Keynesian economics is that experts in economics can and should manage the economy for us. Regardless, of specific policies, Keynesianism is the beleif that a committee of Paul Krugmans can manage the enitre economy – down to the price of bubblegum, better than the ordinary people who make up the economy can do for themselves.

      I want to go a bit farther, libertarianism is not about economics, or free markets – those are consequences. It is about individual freedom, the economic marketplace is just a mirror for the entirety of our relations with each other. Whether we are choosing our mate, our profession, or our coffee, should we be free to do as we wish, or should our choices be limited or even made for us. For a libertarian, freedom ends when it harms or limits the freedom of another. “The Market” is just the economic part of the myriads of ways we freely interact, mostly with limited government intervention. There is no fundamental difference between the economic market, and the rest of our lives. The chaos of the market, is the chaos of 7 billion humans freely making their own choices for their own reasons. Some possibly most of those choices have economic aspects, but none are purely economic. If government must regulate the price of heating fuel, then it must regulate our choices in friends and mates. There is no distinct purely economic free market.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 8, 2011 10:15 am

      Hi Rick, Ooops sorry about that. I did learn a lot from engaging dhlii for several months though. I learned that Free market absolutism, Libertarianism and Climate change denialism are all somehow related cults, and not harmless ones.

      As I predicted Dhlii, in spite of hardly having made a AGW point that was not basically an exposable lie, and been exposed for it, has declared victory, declared AGW to be a failure and thus claimed victory.

      Yes, when the denialists really on “climate scientists” who have signed evangelical declarations that AGW cannot exist and don’t see any problem with that, their biggest heros are those who stole someone’s private correspondence and their biggest victory is going through that correspondence, finding a small number of sentences out of tens of thousands, they can quote out of context, when they do not have the integrity to quote those sentences in the paragraphs they came in that show the meanings to be absolutely different, when Forbes, the Rush Limbaugh show and the WSJ are their venues rather than Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences, er, where did this sentence start, or more importantly, where is it going?

      Oh yeah, basically a pack of pathetic liars, who think identically while believing that that they are all unique rugged individualists (God, I’m a natural ranter) that is our denialist culture. But niave people will read their pile of dung and think there are two even sides, sigh.

      OK, I’m getting out of this one before I bruise my fingers and the spittle starts flying as I type.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 8, 2011 10:20 am

        Oh, just let me edit my crap.

        Revised rant–> As I predicted Dhlii, in spite of hardly having made a AGW point that was not basically an exposable lie, and been exposed for it, has declared victory, and declared AGW to be a failure.

        Yes, when the denialists rely on “climate scientists” who have signed evangelical declarations that AGW cannot exist….

  40. Pat Riot permalink
    September 8, 2011 7:11 am

    Yes, yes, let’s stay on topic per initial posts. Perhaps tangents should go to email. I do value the intelligence of the participants at this blog, but there’s the important business of identifying a Moderate “core” or concensus of principles/beliefs/tenets so that Moderates can move into action, yes? How are we doing with that? The clock REALLY is ticking! I’ve been a “heroic optimist” (not an alarmist) all my adult life, but the U.S. Post Office is about to shed thousands of workers and close locations. I’ve stocked my pantry and taken other precautions but I don’t want to move to Sweden or Australia! Toward common ground and a concensus, I offer this possible rallying point for future discussion: I wonder if everyone across the spectrum can agree that SOME government is necessary to do what the private sector cannot and will not do? (I apologize if that’s been explored elsewhere on this blog.)

    • September 8, 2011 9:46 am

      Why is the failure of the post office a crisis requiring immediate action ?
      The post office has been failing throughout my entire life. The most significant part of its more recent problems, have been competition from the Internet and from package shippers – these have definitely made its problems worse. But the problems predate that. Regardless, if government is unable to cost effectively provide a service in a competitive market where it is highly subsidised, then why should it ? Even the pro-government and regulation advocates among you should celebrate when government fails in competition with the free market.The only economic system that justifies government providing all goods and services is communism. If advocates of small government must provide a rationale for how small, then even more so advocates of big government must explain some limiting principle for how large. If you can not explain what healthcare must be deeply regulated if not entirely owned by government, while the production of ipods, or the construction of buildings should be unregulate or lightly regulated, then you can not distinguish your own political philosophy from communism.

    • September 8, 2011 10:06 am

      Failure is a natural. When humans interact, most interchanges are net positive for both. But faith in the chaotic interactions of people, is not a religious belief that ever free interaction is always a win-win. Further it explicitly rejects the notion that we will all always make the same best choices. It is essential that we do not make the same choices. As the housing crisis demonstrates even good choices can be bad when all or most of us move in the same direction in unison. It is essential that there are contrarian voices, it is the numbers and strength of these voices that signals whether we are headed in the right direction.

      Failure, destruction – are natural. They are part of all human interactions, they are essential to the market.

      There is only one institution in our society that should be protected from failure – that should be “too big to fail”, and that is government. This requirement that government not fail is one of many reasons government must be limited.
      Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not even explicitly part of government, yet their implicit relationship required government to spend a bit less than 5% of GDP to prop them up.
      Postal workers should be justifiably peeved that we as a nation will spend half a trillion dollars to save a couple of supposedly private mortgage companies, and will not sped a fraction of that on what is a government enterprise.

      What distinguishes most entrepreneurs from the rest of us is not the extent to which they succeed, but the number of times they fail without giving up. There are a few celebrity entrepreneurs, the Gates, the Buffetts, etc. who at least appear to have a Midas touch, who have never or rarely failed – but they are far from the norm.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 8, 2011 10:30 am

        Dhlii, you are a serial pathological liar, now please get offended that I finally just said the god’s honest truth, I finally got tired of making excuses for you, anybody who is as intelligent as you are who lies without taking a breath for hours on end needs to be held accountable.

        You haven’t a moderate or a sensible bone in your body. Its really long past time for you to amscray over to the New Extremist, as many have told your deaf ears. You have zero credibility.

  41. September 8, 2011 10:24 am

    Before we decide to rearrange the structure of government we might want to read what Madison wrote:

    I have no problem conceding that in atleast some ways we have failed. I beleive Madision would agree with that assessment.

    But as we endeavour to fix what we perceive as structural failures in our government, we might wish to consider why our government is as it is and how our changes will effect that.

    Madison and our founders wanted a powerful central government, they experienced the failures of impotent federal government of the articles of confederation first hand. At the same time they were deeply cognisant of the history of government – long before Lord Acton they grasped that power corrupts.

    Our Madisonian federal government is deliberately structured to impede the easy exercise of the power of government by creating and pitting special interests against each other. On those matters that an overwhelming majority of the nation agree, the ability of the federal government to exercise power is nearly limitless, but absent a super-majority, the federal government is impotent.

  42. Pat Riot permalink
    September 8, 2011 10:37 am

    I like your last two posts, dhlii. I appreciate your clarification of the global warming discussion as a metaphor or I’ll say a “proving ground” for the so-called expertise out there, and therefore how it tied together with discussion of curtailing government/changing our government, et cetera.

    If I had to choose a label for myself, and I don’t like labels because they lead to stereotyping and confusion, I’m a libertarian or constitutionalist who thinks that moderate policy can often be real stepping stones to get to real solutions. As we all know, problems in communication, in blogs, in kitchen discussions, in the media, and in Congress come into play because of LANGUAGE, including phrases such as “limited government” and “free markets” which conjure different concepts in different minds. I think every single American with a working brain, left, right, or middle, would after careful consideration admit that they were for “limited government,” but limited to what?

    I’m a small businessman frustrated by government overegulation and bureacracy, but folks who chant the mantra of “free market” and “the government needs to get out of the way” should realize they don’t want anarchy–they want “more of a free market” and for the government to “stick with what it should be doing,” which is what led me to The New Moderate blog.

    I mentioned the Post Office deconstruction (dumping thousands more Americans into an already tough economy) only as the latest concrete example of the continued unraveling of America that I’m trying to help prevent over here as best I can. I refrained from the doom-and-gloom laundry list, so the Post Office comment had no context in my previous post.

    Here’s a hopefully quick true-life illustration of the danger of unregulated “free markets.” It’s extreme for emphasis. A former colleague of mine fled with his wife and family to the U.S. from Columbia. They owned a lot of acres and their neighbors were part of a drug cartel. One day three men in dark suits walked uninvited into their kitchen and told them they had 3 days to decide to “give” the back half of their property to them so they could expand their operations. One of the men put a bullet on the table and said, “Or you could choose a bullet in the head.” My colleague contacted a friend of his in the Columbian police department, but the friend said nothing could be done because the drug cartels “owned” the police. Three days later the wife’s uncle was gunned down in their gravel driveway. They came to the U.S. where, Thank God, there are still some agencies and authorities to go to. So that’s an extreme example of “not enough government regulation.” And I’m a person who despises gov’t bureacracy and ineptitude and corruption, but loves the principles of gov’t as structured in our Constitution, so here I am on a Moderate blog hoping to see some path out of the left/right drain clog.

    Are you really for “no gov’t regulation” when you call for “free markets,” or are we really on the same side using different phrases?

    • Priscilla permalink
      September 8, 2011 1:03 pm

      Well said, Pat. I couldn’t agree more. I particularly agree that the discussion often becomes muddled when the topic of “limited government” comes up. I do agree that no regulation is a bad idea, but I think we are so far from that and that the libertarian ideal is so unrealistic in today’s world that it is merely theoretical to talk about it.

      But suggesting that we should limit government from dictating our personal and economic choices, from confiscating private property, from creating unfair and unfunded mandates, and from preventing free expression (whether it is religious or political) seems to me to be a no-brainer. I am not quite sure why certain people react to the suggestion that government has grown too big with the accusation that saying so means that you want no government at all. Or that you want to help the rich and hurt the poor, an even more far-fetched accusation.

      In the end, I attribute it to politics and political speech. “Limited government” is a term associated with conservatives and Republicans, so progressives/liberals, as well as many moderates, hear it as a code word. I hate being labeled as well, but I have often had to try and define, i.e. label, myself here, in order to avoid being identified as an extremist. Which seems ridiculous to me, but politics is often ridiculous. I remember in the 70’s (yes, I’m that old), going to an anti-war rally….a speaker got up and identified himself as a liberal, not a radical, and was booed off the stage. He never even got to speak, because the crowd wanted to hear from radicals only. I sometimes feel as if some moderates have become like that.

    • September 8, 2011 10:32 pm

      You have proposed a bunch of things as antithetical, when they are just different. I beleive Madison remarked in the link I provided elsewhere, something to the effect of that we sacrifice certain of out liberties, in return for protection of the rest. If I recall, Paine even goes into great detail explaining the differences between those rights we can sacrifice in return for the protection of government and those we can not – no liberal and only the most extreme anarcho-capitolists beleive one can sell oneself into slavery.

      If you are ever offered the choice between a bullet in the head and surrendering your property, then government has failed. If government is incapable of protecting your rights, then it has no reason for existing.

      Regulation is an entirely different beast.

      Laws – those things that authorise government to punish you AFTER you have violated the rights of someone else, are a legitimate exercise of government. Generally good (criminal) law is restricted to punishing others for initiating the use of force.

      The sole purpose of government is the legitimate exercise of force. Individuals as part of living in society surrender their right to use force against others – except for self defence to government. Aside from the right to initiate the use of force, government is indistinguishable from any other private entity. Anything that can be done without force can be done perfectly well without government. It is because government has the legitimate right to initiate force that it is important to limit government to only those tasks that require the sue of force.
      Punishing people for violating the rights of others. Providing for the defence of the nation.

      Civil law – torts and the like are a more appropriate means of redressing infringement on your rights that do not involve force. Libertarians do not beleive that people are free to infringe on the rights of others in the name of “free markets”. We just tend to beleive that “law” and prior restraint should be restricted to violations of rights involving the initiation of force.

      If you harm me without the use of force, through fraud, deception, or even by accident, then I am entitled to be made whole. As government is the only legitimate initiator of force – I do expect government – in the form of the courts to evaluate my claim that I have been harmed by you, and on credible evidence of harm to compel you to make me whole.

      This is a far more effective means of compelling good behavior in the market than “regulation”. In fact most businesses seek to be regulated. Regulations create barriers to entry for competitors. Regulations create defences against lawsuits – we just had a major supreme court case concerning whether the off label use of an FDA approved drug barred a lawsuit. Essentially the drug companies claimed that because they complied with FDA regulations, they were immune to suit. Except in the most unbeleiveably eggrious instances – say Maddoff, punishment for violating a government regulation is almost never going to be so severe as to destroy the business violating the regulation. It is not in governments interest. A jury does not weigh the importance of the business engaged in misconduct. They way the harm to the plantif.

      The above are my particular views. They are a messy exposition of those of some libertarians. But libertarian is a big tent. There are plenty of libertarians subscribing to both a larger and smaller role for government than I do. But I am not aware of anyone regardless of political orientation, that believes that free markets provide carte Blanche to business (or anyone else) to willy nilly infringe on the rights of others. On that issue what distinguishes different groups is the mechanism for protecting individual rights. The second major distinction between libertarians and both conservatives and liberals, is that very few libertarians beleive in government as a positive force for good. Both conservatives and liberals expect government to impose certain of their values upon all of us – purportedly for our own good. There is often a disagreement between conservatives and liberals as to what things are for our own good, but both groups share a willingness to impose their will on others.

      I am constantly surprised at the vitriol that libertarians encounter – particularly from the left. You would think I am compelling everyone else at gun point to follow my views.
      Yet libertarians are the only political group that will not use force to achieve their ends.
      No libertarian will insist that you or anyone else be deprived of any government benefit – whether liberal or conservative in composition, that you are able to provide without compelling others to accept or pay for.

  43. September 8, 2011 10:39 am

    As we restructure government we should also seriously consider what the purpose of government is. The entirety of the first two paragraphs of The declaration of independence are a succinct and eloquent expression of a new theory of government. Our founders were creating a new government on an entirely new basis. They were rejecting a universally accepted proposition with at least 3,000 years of history behind it. We fail to grasp how big a step they were taking. They were not only rejecting the rule of english kings, but asserting the right of men to rule themselves.

    The Declaration asserts the sole purpose of government as to secure our individual rights.

  44. September 8, 2011 11:07 am

    If some government is necessary to do what the private sector can not do, then what is it that government should do that the private sector can not ? Or even more broadly what is it that government can do better for us than we are for ourselves ?

    My personal views are very narrow – though I do accept that government is legitimately responsible for securing our individual rights.

    But even if you do not share my narrow view of government, one of the problems I see with Mr. Erickson’s interventions, is they are attempts to address symptom’s rather than the problem.

    We will each have our own view of the limits of government power. Regardless, we can not know what is broken, nor how to fix it, without forming our own opinion on the purpose and limits of government.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 8, 2011 9:19 pm

      This is the last response you will extract from me. What should the government do that the private sector can not? The government can promote a fair playing ground for business. The private sector will not, as judged by past events which resulted in the busting of monopolies. The government can ensure that the private sector pay minimum salaries, which many business’ would not otherwise. The government can ensure fair labor practices, which it was not before regulation (generally speaking). I will admit that the government has hamstrung some business’ with poor legislation. I will also propose that the government has helped business and the working class more so than it has hurt them. I will state this as a matter of my opinion, and not fact (in contrast to your style). I think that the three points are an excellent, condensed start at attacking the root problem (with the exception of term limits as they are currently defined). As I understand this site, we are here to discuss positive changes to the government in a MODERATE style. Why do you continually dismiss the moderate approach? What is your agenda on this blog? I think that you are ruining a chance for moderates to discuss MODERATE ISSUES by attempting to dominate the conversation with the same tricks of politicians that I detest. I can agree that there are parts of the government that need to be eliminated or reduced. I can do that because I am a logical and open-minded individual. But you reject any ideas that conflict with your libertarian religion. You rely more on ideology than logic. I hope that the conversations begin to reflect the moderate approach to government, because that is all I will discuss in the future. I don’t mind being disagreed with. I am a big boy! I do mind being told constantly that I am wrong and you are right. That is not debate. That may be politician debate, but totally counter-productive. I will continue to monitor the conversation and look forward to discussing (inteligently) MODERATE issues with the group.

      • September 8, 2011 11:27 pm


        I have scrupulously tried – though only with limited success to avoid saying “In my oppinion” or “I beleive” with every statement I make. Aside from those few verifiable facts, everything any of us says is our oppinion. I am sorry if that bothers you. I am pretty sure (oops) that “in my oppinion” is considered poor style.

        Many things I write are more than my opinions, they are shared by others – though I am used to being in the minority on most issues, and “I beleive” supported by facts. You are of course not obligated to agree.

        As to some of the rest of your remarks.

        Monopolies can not exist long in a truly free market. They require government support. The so called “Trust busting” era of government was primarily, failed and failing businesses demanding that government step in at the expense of consumers and level the playing field. Even presuming that a monopoly could exist in a free market, it could only do so by constantly providing a better value for consumers. The free market always drives prices down and generally improves quality. Name any product not in highly regulated arena’s like healthcare, that costs more in real dollars today than it did 30 years ago ? And we do not really have free markets today.

        “Fair” is an extremely dangerous word. It does not mean the same thing to everyone. I think it is virtually certain that what you think it fair is different from what I do.

        The government record on price controls is abysmal. Wages are just another price. Unemployment is (and always has been) highest among those subject to the minimum wage. Our current unemployment started with a minimum wage increase, the economy shed hundreds of thousands of student jobs, before moving to the rest of minimum wage labor. A black male without a high-school education today has almost a 50:50 chance of being unemployed. Further who would hire them ? If a potential employee can not produce MORE than the minimum wage in value, they will not get hired. No business hires people to produce less than what they are paid (except government). Jobs training programs have an abysmal record. If you want people at the bottom of society to get jobs, you have to allow employers to hire them for what they are worth, or they will never get the jobs that will build the skills that allow them to become worth more. There have been myriads of studies over many decades and only a tiny fraction found minimum wages were not harmful to the very people they pretend to help. We just accidentally conducted a horribly destructive experiment in minimum wage in Samoa and Guam.
        There are numerous economists that beleive the great depression was an ordinary recession made disastrous by Hoover and Roosevelt’s propping up of wages. And of course we are repeating that now. Every business out there will start hiring when there is an abundant supply of affordable labor that is more productive than its cost. Ultimately government can not repeal the laws of supply and demand. This is one of the things that infuriates me most about “big government” this presumption that the laws of nature, economics, human behavior will conform to the dictates of politicians whim. Congress can not legislate the spin of electrons or the rotation of the sun. Why would they presume that the economy will obey its edicts ?

        If you are unhappy with the practices of your employer – get another job, or organise. Employment is part of the market too. I am self employed. I have no right to clients, and they can drop me for any reason or none at all. They own me no benefits. They owe me nothing beyond what is in our contract, and even that is pretty fungible. I make my own choices about how I work and I live with the consequences of those choices.
        In truth my circumstances are little different from most of yours – except that I know I must create more value than I charge, and that even that may not be enough. I know that my clients though mostly rational often make decisions that impact me for entirely irrational reasons. There is no “fair”.

  45. September 8, 2011 10:44 pm

    Aside from the totalitarians among us everyone wants limited government. The only disagreement is over what and where the limits are.
    Further circumstances both here in throughout most of the western world are forcing all of us to consider how much government we can afford.
    Those of you that honestly beleive we can afford more – then make that argument.
    Argue why more government would be a good thing, not why those who disagree are evil and greedy.

    Despite the claim that I wish to decapitate government, the overwhelming majority of my arguments have been targeted at rational and effective means to reduce what we have now.
    I do not expect to see a government that comes close to conforming to my desires in my lifetime – if ever.
    Does the fact that my ideal limited government is far less than yours preclude discussing what should be done with what we have ?

    • Priscilla permalink
      September 9, 2011 12:40 am

      I don’t agree with everything that Dave says. I do think that he articulates a point tof view that is worth discussing.

      When did moderates become so purist?

  46. AMAC permalink
    September 9, 2011 12:40 am

    Government causes and/or perpetuates monopolies… Minimum Wage hikes caused the Great Depression…

    History books are being re-written as we speak…

    • September 9, 2011 11:22 am

      No Most specifically Hoovers successful efforts to keep wages from falling while everything else was declining made things worse. There were other mistakes too – the Federal reserve adopted an extremely tight money policy, and there was a shift to protectionism.

      As I recall, my education as well as that of my children, we were taught that stock speculation, trading on the margins was the cause. Hoover was a do nothing numb nuts.
      I do not think you will find a real historian or economist of any flavour that accepts any of that.

      The stock market is one measure of our economic state. It reacts to accomplishments, failures and policies elsewhere. It has many flaws, but it is not the root cause of anything.

  47. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 9, 2011 8:29 am

    Dave, I’ll say it again, you are a liar. When a person is so brilliant that they can dismiss the scientific community as clowns and words to the effect that 99.5% of them are not competent, well, I can forgive some incorrect statements from ordinary people as being simply mistakes but I cannot forgive a barrage of statements without references to climate that are clearly howlingly false from a person who is as brilliant as you are. Your mistakes are lies, just as surely as G.W. Bush lied about the cost of the Iraq war.

    Ecology and catastrophes are a serious matter to be treated with respect. Likewise science.
    You treat them without any respect, as a chance to enjoy yourself online. That is contemptible.

    By the way, you are fond of saying that people have been predicting catastrophes all your life, but none ever happen. Its another lie. Katrina happened, you just did not notice. A series of tornados recently wiped out the better part of a medium sized midwestern town this year, its just wasn’t YOUR catastrophe, so you are, in this case, unemotional and logical, or so you think. A hurricane hit my Vermont so hard that one week after it hit 11 towns were still cut off from the state and received food and medicine via helicopter. Several young lives were lost. Your reaction? Probably that government should not have interfered. By the way, the response of a Conservative GOP administration to Katrina must have warmed your heart, minimalist govt. at its finest, until the public got disgusted and there were political costs.

    Climate is serious, only a fool would not think it cannot be catastrophic. Our climate should be treated with respect, you and your fellow conservative fools are a failure at that and we cannot afford your ignorant arrogant attacks on science. Those workers in climatology you called clowns are no different than the clowns who have given us chemistry, astronomy, physics, biology, medicine. You will not take responsibility for your words, your kind never does, you will try to weasel out of them. Not Buying it, your meaning has been crystal clear.

    For some unintelligent person I would just ignore their dumb remarks. But you are a near genius, according to your description of yourself as someone who is more competent than nearly the entire scientific community. I am not even responding to you as a person, I respond to you as an idea. Ideas are powerful things. You represent the willful irresponsible ignorance of millions of people who have gone on that free market religion government is evil ride. You want to take us with you. F you. Go create some value for your clients, live in the 1850s if you want, but kindly leave political thought to people who give a shit about someone other than themselves and showing off online.

    You have done me a favor, and maybe others, though, you have woken me up.

    • September 9, 2011 11:11 am

      A Tsunami struck Japan, There are earthquakes all over the world, There are myriads of active volcanoes all over the world many of which are due or overdue for an eruption. There will be more hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes. All of these make my point. The energy in these natural events dwarfs human endeavours. None of these are caused by humans. All and more will happen again. In a long enough time frame there will be natural events that dwarf Katrina.

      We are insignificant in comparison to the power of nature. It is not nature that is fragile – it is us.

      Since Malthus first predicted the imminent starvation of the planet through overpopulation more than 200 years ago, what predicted human caused catastrophe has ever occurred ?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 9, 2011 12:57 pm

        Oh, no nature is not fragile, humans, after all have not caused the extinction of any species, right? Ah, those species Wanted to die. They were not fit. It was God’s plan.

        But that is your philosophy in a nutshell, “nature is not fragile.” Speaks for itself, an attitude straight from your favorite historical period: the 1800s.

        Listing human caused catastrophes that have been in general terms predicted would include events like Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, human caused famines and droughts, and of course AGH and its attendant strengthening of severe weather.

        But like any list of governments functions that have been helpful, any willfully blind libertarian can simply wave a hand and make them disappear and declare victory.

        Libertarians attract anger online and in spite of being more competent than 99.5% of our idiot scientists poor, poor Dave just can NOT figure out why. Dave, you are probably just going to be clueless and feign innocence till the day you die, well, OK, that is your choice but you won’t be happy unless you can infect other people and spread your own willful ignorance. Nor will any clear example of that ignorance ever shame you. That’s the part that gets me going.

        Nature is not fragile, it just says it all.

  48. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 9, 2011 8:47 am

    Hi AMAC,

    Yes, I appreciate your words. I’m not of the Bible tradition but also am no atheist, signs of the spiritual nature of the universe are all around us. People who use their selfish conception god’s care as an excuse to be destructive and irresponsible to the environment are nauseating. They are extremely “ME” oriented and think god is just some kind of servant.

    As to the presence of conservatives here on the New Moderate, its way over the top, but the flavor of this political season is tea party activists running on intellectual economic ideas they borrowed from Libertarians. I predict it will be a short ugly marriage. They have given the small number of us online moderates a chance to see their ideas and react,, fair enough. They have, however also taken over the joint, its a kind of trolling.

    Its a lot easier to react to them than it is to come up with our own thoughts. If they disappear it will likely be a quieter if more moderate board.

    • Priscilla permalink
      September 9, 2011 1:54 pm

      Ian, I generally believe in the advice of not responding to trolls, but, in your case I will make an exception. I have been a commenter on this blog since its inception, I have not “taken over the joint,” and I make no apology for my views, which are moderate, even if more to the right of yours. I am not going to “disappear” because you are not capable of staying on-topic, maintaining a civil discourse or restraining yourself from ad hominem attacks when you run out of actual arguments.

      Far too often, your comments are abusive and logically fallacious. Insulting someone’s personal character, by calling him/her a liar or stupid and dumb, particularly when you do not even know the person, is merely the last resort of someone who can no longer argue the factual merits of his position. No one has responded in kind, that is, by hurling personal insults at you, but that does not mean that you have won any points.

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 9, 2011 2:16 pm

        By the way, I will apologize to you for using the term “troll”. I spent many years as a moderator for a number of online forums and blogs, and the term is a common descriptive one, but I acknowledge that it can be seen as insulting. So I am sorry for that.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 9, 2011 8:48 pm

      I would also like to add the “Great Smog” incident from the 1950’s (I believe) that killed hundreds in a matter of weeks and numbers in thousands within months. This was an exactly man made, pollution based incident.

      I agree that I have said some things that are out of line, and Ian has become overly furious at times. I see Priscilla as fiscally conservative but I would classify her as a moderate from what I have read. I do however think that Dhlii is on this site to sidetrack, confuse, and misinform. I cannot say he is doing this intentionally, but he is doing it regardless. Priscilla, you and I have disagreed but remained cordial and been able to find common ground. Ian and I have done the same. I feel that Dhlii is incapable of doing the same. He does not seek rational debate. Example- 75% of this blog is off topic. Dhlii- mission accomplished. I appreciate your input Priscilla, as I do see you as right of center, as I am most likely left of center. But, we are center nonetheless. As we seek to energize and enable the middle, Dhlii has taken over this conversation, and all conversations or recent posts. Have you, I, or Ian been able to discuss the issues of this post, argued our positions, and then find the common ground we can call moderate? I am not as intelligent as Priscilla, Ian, or Dhlii. I am above average intelligence, I am well educated, I do have valuable life and employment experience, and above all a moderate. I may not be able to add the value to the discussion so much as others, but would like to think that I can affect and driver the moderate position. I look forward to being able to do this in the future.

      Dhlii has made comments in his own words against moderate positions. Many think moderate means we are not black, white, but gray. I believe the moderate position is in a totally different spectrum of color, not a compromise between the two parties. I enjoy the articles and much of the conversation. I do not want to become politically dormant untill the current crisis resolves itself. I want to be part of the solution.

  49. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 9, 2011 3:00 pm

    I’m a big boy, I can take it. So can Dhlii.

    It makes Dhlii very, very angry when people bring up religion. I too have my limits, it makes me very angry when conservatives/libertarians claim that scientists are frauds and the scientific community as a whole is incompetent. It is extreme, it is not harmless. I’ve been, I think, remarkable patient, but I will not put up with that attack, I’ll call it what it is, idiotic. Dhlii’s claims to his own superiority over the vast majority of climate scientists make him liable to tough standards. Thus, he is not simply wrong, he is a liar. Some people lie, it happens. Some people have an entire philosophy that is based on lies. The people who make this full scale assault on science, frankly do not deserve the benefits of modern medicine. Not all moderates are mild and mushy, some of us have our limits and have teeth. Rick speaks often of moderates needing to get radical, i.e., stop being doormats. He is correct. This is a site for radical moderates, Live with it or move on.

    • September 9, 2011 4:09 pm


      My critique is not specifically focused on Scientists, nor have I claimed that most of them are frauds. Science has universally been wrong – but slowly improves. Thompson is not a fraud because his model of the atom has been superseded. Physics has been around for centuries, while there is much we know, we are far from knowing everything.
      My fundamental problem with climate science is that we have taken what are essentially the premature conclusions of an infant science, and are attempting to set public policy based on them. That and that it seems to beleive it is immune to critique.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 9, 2011 5:09 pm

        When you put it like that, it sounds a whole lot better. Lets just kiss and make up. And maybe let someone else have the stage for a bit? I’m exhausted.

  50. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 9, 2011 4:56 pm

    I’ll make one more attempt to explain why this lights me up. I am obviously obsessive and verbose, so I won’t complain the dhlii is obsessive and verbose, it would be too comical. ( But I’m Moderate and obsesive and verbose whereas Dave is obsessive adn verbose and is here to sell his rather extreme ideology, while the NM is here to FIGHT extreme ideologies, that is my excuse). I sit in front of the computer long hours and a diversion from my work is welcome at times, so I write my little manuscripts. I suspect its the same with Dave. So here you have it, two verbose obsessive’s locked in combat. I suspect it is not pleasant for many other posters, personally on some levels it embarrasses me a bit, I’ve said many times that I would like to drop it, but when the next post comes in I am irrepressible: to battle! I’d really be delighted to shut up and call a truce, I think this has been beaten to death. I’ve said many things both highly complimentary and highly uncomplimentary and I meant them. Dave and I are odd birds, but I’ve learned a lot.

    This is my last word about science and scientists, I promise and I will have to create a new screenname if I post anything more in this exchange. Here is a true story:

    There was a man, a scientist who worked in the physiology dept. where I did two post docs; he was in his late fifties and he came down with Lou Gherigs disease, a death sentence and not a nice one. He had been the chairman of the department, but in the time I knew him he was a guy who went around and did experiments for the joy of it and participated in lots of talk about how to design things. Sort of semi-retired in a way. When he got his diagnosis, he did not do what I think I would have done, take his money and go on a trip around the world, no, he came to work every day, first with a bit of stumbling, then with a wheelchair. He stayed at his work, and was cheerful and philosophical until he was finally hospitalized in the iron lung and died shortly later. These are your scientists. If they are successful, they usually care nothing about much of anything but their love of science. Insult them and you insult me, I put a lot of years in, Libertarian may by Dave’s religion, science is mine.

    If I walk into a VFW and start going on about what a lot of good for nothings 99.5% of soldiers are I will expect to be carried on a stretcher. I have worked in construction and been a soldier and I can tell you there are things you do not say depending on what environment you are in. I think it will be helpful to Dave’s development if he gets off his high horse and starts, if not actually respecting scientists, then at least not going around making a fool of himself on moderate websites saying how much smarter he is than them. If he did that in person, it might not go over. As well, not telling a person who’s community has been just run over by a hurricane that global warming is a hoax that cannot exist based on first principles might be a smart choice.

    Now, If my abrasiveness has been a problem you all can go and kiss my, no, I mean I am sorry about that.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 9, 2011 5:11 pm

      Just ignore the post at 4:56, our posts crossed in the mail, mine is still a bit unconciliatory.

      Whirled peas to all.

    • September 10, 2011 12:39 am

      Hey, New Moderate crew, remember that it’s the right and left that are supposed to be tearing each other (and the country) apart… not us sensible folks in the middle. Let me see if I can deconstruct our main combatants without demolishing them.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think we have any trolls on this board. Dave (dhlii) may be a contrarian, and a contentious one at that, but he puts way too much time and sincere effort into his posts to qualify as a troll. He honestly believes in his libertarian orthodoxies, he defends them with vigor (if at much greater length than I can manage to read regularly), and he’s personally entitled to be skeptical of current climate science. It’s our job (if we choose to accept it) to convince him otherwise. And of course we need to point out that libertarians generally don’t espouse moderate policies: as a group they skew far-right on economic and political issues, and liberal-left on social and moral issues. Ayn Rand probably wouldn’t feel at home here.

      Priscilla is the voice of reason, civility and lucid intelligence, a true “classical liberal” in the original sense of the term (when it still meant someone who believes in individual enterprise and a self-correcting marketplace). She knows more about economics than I ever will, but alas, she appears to be in thrall to the seductive siren call of Milton Friedman and the Supply-Siders (sounds almost like a rock group for middle-aged academics). In short, she needs to be rescued! I would have her observe the current economic breakdown, the ongoing destruction of the middle class and the insolence of the power elite — then allow herself to trust her intuitive and emotional responses as much as she does the conservative economists she admires. I put faith in reason, too, but we need to be aware that it can sometimes become an obstacle.

      Ian is moderate without being vanilla; he’s a lot like me in his capacity for outrage and his willingness to consider radical remedies to tip the scale from the right to the middle. (And yes, that scale will require some vigorous tipping at this point.) Ian has been fighting a lonely battle against conservative ideas here. What makes that battle even more difficult is the tendency of the opposition to position itself as moderate — which would, by implication, make Ian a flaming leftist. Is it any wonder that he’s exasperated? Yes, he’s gone over the top a few times with the name-calling, but I can understand his frustration all the same.

      AMAC isn’t really a combatant at all… just a true moderate who has called for an end to the infighting and urged a civil discussion of core issues.

      What to do? Naturally we can’t expect to agree on all issues, 24/7… that would make for pretty insipid commentary. What I’d like to see more of is lively but friendly debate on what constitutes moderate politics. Do we need to spell out an ideology so we can cluster around some acknowledged core values? Or do we value our ideological freedom more than any notion of group coherence? Just how limited should our government be to reflect a moderate’s respect for talent and effort along with a decent concern for society’s victims? Is our government broken? How do we fix it? Should moderates join together and form a third party? How do we fight extremism without being typecast as bland middle-of-the-roaders?

      I think there’s room for all of us here… I think it’s just a matter of lecturing less and listening more. End of lecture. 😉

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 10, 2011 7:22 am

        Boy, I’m up early, awakened by a phone call with some very beautiful news. And now Ricks very sensible post. I think Rick got it right on the money, as I usually think. Thanks Dad, you ought to drop by more often! (if I did emoticons I’d put a smiley). Yes, I’ve gone over the top, I admit it, I talk too much and I have the Irish blood for a good rage now and then. And to be honest, I’ve never been so angry in my life with conservatives as I am this year, at least not since I was 17 and operating on pure 60s rhetoric and almost no real knowledge of the world.

        Priscilla, you misunderstood one thing I said, it was actually sort of a backhanded compliment to the conservative viewpoints that I said that IF the conservative point of view were to stop it would be a lot quieter, that’s code for more boring. If there is one point I have tried to make over and over its that lacking this ideological sparring we would be left with coming up with something actually moderate and that is a LOT harder to do than covering the existing ideological ground. I challenge the NM crew to keep up the intensity if peace breaks out.

        If we gonna save the world its gonna take more than 5 of us. Maybe if I shut up some of the lurkers will feel like they have a space to say something.

        Here is a thought, according to a recent poll (where did I read it, David Brooks?) a full 53% (if my memory is correct) would replace EVERY member of congress. I take that as a statement of angry moderation boiling over in this country, because its not wanting to just replace the congress people from one side, but from BOTH sides, people are angry at both parties, that has to be mostly a statement from the middle. Of course we will wind up replacing 5% at best, but the intention is there. Its going to be a wild political season, can moderates change it from the same old extremes? I am full of ideas and they start at the local level.

  51. Priscilla permalink
    September 10, 2011 11:24 am

    Thanks for being a peacemaker, Rick, and an eloquent one at that. Political discussions are notorious for bringing out the worst (and occasionally the best) in people, and I guess none of us are immune to the kind of emotions that politics can stir – if we were, we wouldn’t be here.

    Internet blogs and message boards, at their best, provide a community for folks like us, who want to discuss politics in depth. It’s a good way to avoid alienating our friends and family “in the real world” with the kind of controversial discussions that can rapidly and disastrously disintegrate into heated arguments. But even here, where we presumably have at least some common ground, things can get pretty dicey when everyone digs into their trenches and starts firing.

    I agree, Rick, that you and Ian have the most similar outlook on most issues, although you are quite skilled at the art of forcefully presenting your point of view without personally alienating or attacking those who differ with you. And you acknowledge, at least tacitly, that there are reasonable positions that differ from yours but may still fall along the spectrum of moderate thought. So, that’s why you’re the boss…

    “Those who think they know it all are especially irritating to those of us who actually do.”

    Probably truer than most of us would like to admit. But, I have to run – I have tickets to see Milt and the Supply-Siders….still my favorite group. 🙂

  52. September 10, 2011 1:11 pm

    I am upset with myself because I have clearly polarised Ian. We do not share the same views on many issues, and I am happy to argue my own, I expect to be influenced by his, and hope that he might be influenced by mine, but that does not happen when debate gets heated.

    I am Irish through and through too. From Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Faire Ireland”
    It’s long memories and short tempers that have cursed poor Ireland.

    I live in a community where Perry and Bachman would be moderates, and I am falling of the left edge of the world. But this is my home – and has been for generations.
    I beleive I know parts of the extreme right far batter than most of you. They are wrong on many issues, but as bitterly as I would disagree with them on many issues, most are hardworking, honest, generous, decent people – more so, not less than the norm.

    I am trying to say that there is a big difference between being wrong, and being evil.

    This particular thread is about how to improve government – and I think we all beleive that is important whether we agree about how. The AGW debate is a complete tangent.

    I also need to clarify – I am fully in favor of any change that will improve our country or or government. I am only “contrarian” to the extent that I do not expect solutions that have failed in the past to work better today.

  53. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 10, 2011 1:30 pm


    Not to worry, I am not polarized I’m moderated.

    I thought a lot last night about libertarianism. You remember that I thought very highly of your post on immigrants. That is one of the original strains behind libertarianism and its a noble one. What leads libertarians astray in my opinion is the absolutism. The central theme that regulation is bad which its seems is an inviolable rule, cannot stand on its own. There are dozens of highly important principles that are have to be weighed against each other, when one principle is absolute and all other considerations must be distorted to maintain that one absolute principle, then you wind up with a philosophy that cannot be sustained unless you blind yourself to all the millions of exceptions to the central dogma. When Libertarians have a more or less official position that is reinforced in “Reason magazine” that leads to open hostility towards the scientific consensus on climate change, then something has gone terribly wrong. You started with freedom and wind up with “nature is not fragile” a truly destructive idea.

    Dave, my advice, reinvent libertarianism, found your own branch, keep the same basic values, love of freedom, horror of war, but let them bend and accommodate other equally important values, like environmental protection, or the need to protect the little guy from robber barons, two ideas that had no context when the Constitution was written.

    But please lets the two of us give other peoples minds a rest, well, mine too. I have a lot of work to do, the US open will be a distraction all day, I have a gig tonight, I got up early this morning to put a new alternator in my car, I have wood to split, its a long list, and I am obsessive, if you post I WILL reply. Got to let go of this a bit, OK?

    • September 10, 2011 9:46 pm

      Libertarianism does not inevitably lead to AGW scepticism – though it would lead to entirely different solutions.

      Libertarianism is already quite broad, and for the most part I am not that extreme for libertarians – read Walter Block if you are looking for radical.

      Nor did I arrive where I am by adopting broad principles and then forcing the world to fit them. Once upon a time I believed in government as a positive force for good. What I have seen directly and indirectly has lead me to the conclusion that good intentions on the part of government are not sufficient. I beleive I have challenged you to demonstrate some government program that has done more good than harm. That challenge is not out of some kind of idealistic bravado. It comes from having tried again and again myself to find something government succeeds at.
      The purpose and direction my beliefs evolve is to satisfy me, not anyone else.

      Regardless, I beleive I am leaving you with some mis-perceptions.

      I am personally anti-regulation. Most but not all libertarians are. Individual freedom ALWAYS ends when it harms others – I beleive that principle is shared by liberals and conservatives. Government has a legitimate role compelling the redress of harm. But that is after the fact, not before.

      There are several Economics nobels – including the recent one for Olstrom on the “information problem” – essentially government (and all large institutions) will not and can not have enough information to take pro-active – regulatory steps, rather than reactive steps to address harm. When a large scale organisation acts pro-actively those actions create unintended consequences, the larger the organisation and the larger the scale of the solution the greater the unintended consequences – phrased differently – “One Size fits all” always fails. Reactive solutions – never perfect, still tend to address the actual harms, rather than those guessed it.
      Further the above presumes good intent on the part of the institutions. This entire discussion is about trying to correct the failures and corruption in existing institutions – particularly government. The quality of pro-active institutional solutions degrades exponentially as those institutions are corrupted. And as I have argued before the more power an institution (government) wields the greater the external efforts to co-opt that power.
      I do have a great deal of trust for free markets. For the most part they are fairly self correcting. Requiring compensation for actual harm is part of the process of self correction.
      At the same time I am completely certain that the more power you give to government the greater the effort of market participants to gain control of that power. The power of government is monopoly power, we do not have competitive government.

      You speak of exceptions – it is exceptions that are the flaw in all central planning. Central planning and government regulation are essentially synonymous. Both mean dictating organisation pro-actively. People are all different, and they change in unforeseeable ways. A principle of individual freedom needs little constraint – beyond harm to others. All exceptions – including that on harm to others come at the expense of freedom. I can explain why limiting ones freedom to those acts that do not harm others is a reasonable restriction on liberty. But each exception beyond that gets increasingly harder to justify. Even for “The common good” fails as we learn that increasing freedom benefits the common good, while increasing government benefits comes at a cost to the common good.
      But working from the opposite end – central planning fails because whatever is being regulated is not simple, bright lines are hard to find, and myriads of exceptions are necessary. Further once it is accepted that there will be special circumstances and bright lines can not be drawn, the opportunities for corruption become rife. Exceptions, waivers, … can be dispensed as rewards for political support, traded for support on other issues, or bought outright.

      The power of government is a commodity that will end up traded on the market. Anything that can conceivably be bought or sold – including government power will be.

      It has taken many decades for me to arrive where I am. The trip has been pragmatic rather than ideological, even if in the end I have converged on principle. If I started over today, the trip would likely be far faster. Google will quickly direct you to the failure of any government program you wish to test.

      I do not want to restart the AGW debate – atleast not in this thread, but if you want George Carlin’s version of “Nature is not fragile”

      • AMAC permalink
        September 11, 2011 1:09 pm

        Of course you can find failure in any government program, if that is what you are looking for. If you research anything with the agenda to find failure, I can gaurantee you will find it. Almost any piece of legislation will have good, bad, and unintentional effects. If your agenda is to prove why it is failing, you will find evidance to support that. When you set out to prove something, you will overlook or even ignore evidance that supports a different conclusion. I was also in business and affected by ADA. I also have friends and family who are disabled. I think it is irresponsible to say that ADA is a failure (as you have stated). I am sure you will state loads of evidance that it has failed, but it has not. I am not asking you to change your mind, but only to take a more open minded look at the ecidence. For instance, did ADA have some negative effects, yes. Did the positive effects outway the negative, yes.

    • September 10, 2011 10:33 pm

      Rereading your remarks, I think you misunderstand libertarianism – or atleast me, in multiple ways.

      To a great extent we share the same goals. We disagree on the means.
      We both want to improve conditions of the least well off.
      We are both opposed to destruction of war or the destruction of the planet.

      Your remarks on weighing dozens of highly important principles against each other exemplifies the problems you face.

      Just as an example, I think there are myriads of polls that demonstrate that a supermajority of us would like to see healthcare reform. Yet 57% of us want PPACA repealed.
      It is not possible to reconcile all the principles and interests in a way that still has the support of a majority – even though the general concept of reform has supermajority support. PPACA had support of the healthcare and insurance industry, as well as pharmaceuticals. Yet the more people learn of it the less they like it. Further as we impliment it government is forced to grant waivers and exceptions all over the place – because it is not possible to reconcile all the conflicting principles and interests.

      You assail my views because you say a few core principles require myriads of exceptions, but in the real world it is the myriads of competing principles and interests that are irreconcilable without legions of exceptions. Even if I were to accept your argument against my views, the same argument is exponentially stronger against yours.
      I am not trying to be glib. But you have just tripped over one facet of “the information problem”. It is not libertarianism that requires only a few inviolable core principles. Individual freedom means that absent harming others, individuals can follow whatever principles they wish. Central planning requires ranking competing principles against each other hierarchically.
      Further as PPACA demonstrates to succeed it requires forcing everyone to accept the same hierarchy. It presumes there is a single correct ranking of competing principles.

      Even if you personally are certain that you can successfully, perform the balancing of interests, I will guarantee that among the four people who you beleive most closely share your values, atleast one (and possibly all) will disagree with your ranking

      You can argue whether the Nazi’s and fascist’s were socialists, but I think it is indisputable, that they highly valued strong government organisation of society. The fundamental distinction between the fascists and other socialists, is the order in which they arranged those competing principles. Different means of structuring your dozens of competing principles will result in weaker or stronger forms of totalitarianism, but if you accept that one person of institution must do the arranging you have a cascading mess that can not work.

  54. September 10, 2011 10:45 pm

    Libertarians are not some monolithic group. Mises, Hayek, Cato, The Koch Brother’s ….. do not speak for us, they speak for themselves. I have not met anyone that claimed to be libertarian with whom I agreed on every issue. I have not read some pillar of libertarian thought that I did not find some point I disagreed with.

    Nor are the political left and right monolithic.

    Like many of you, I weigh the associations of politicians and others expecting my support.
    But I do not assume that when Michelle Bachmann’s lips move, The WestBoro Baptist churches words come out. Just as I do not assume that “Community organiser” is code for socialist or Marxist.

    And when my lips move – my words come out – not Friedman’s or Reason’s.

  55. AMAC permalink
    September 11, 2011 5:25 pm


    In response to your post, I do think it would be a good idea for this site to decide on a few core moderate values. If we could establish a set of values, we could generate a discussion of value and possibly energize a huge base. Obviously we cannot speak for all moderates, but it has to start somewhere. I think that our immediate goals have to be set around stopping the depletion of the middle class and even growing it. In my opinion (as I have stated before) we should push for slight changes to the tax code (overhaul will bog down and is not a short term goal) to favor the middle class, immediately cut non essential and non-job producing spending, and invest a great deal of money on job growth and infrastructure. As I have stated in previous posts, infrastructure cannot be looked to as simply road building. We have to think in modern terms and create value added programs that will provide services needed. This can be done through the granting of contracts to private sector companies that will provide good paying jobs and much needed benefits. We should look for long term opportunity jobs that will provide years of employment, not months. Funding to department of energy could be funneled to private companies to build wind turbines. This is just one idea, but it is an idea. If we could come up with a tangible platform, maybe we can find citizens and pliticians to support it. Levies need built and rebuilt, flood zones need clearing, there are jobs all over the country that need to be done. Why don’t we concentrate money on getting these jobs done now when so many are out of work.

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