30 May 2010

Mr. Credit Card.

American flag$25.00
Cigarette lighter:$ 1.95
1/2 litre petrol.$ 2.50
Setting yourself on fire when burning the American flag.Priceless!
Some things, money
just can't buy.
For everything else, there's

Mr. Credit Card!
John Brennan is is an Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, On May 26, he addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Conservative commentators, the folks at IBD Editorials, for example, seized on his remarks as evidence of political correctness run amuck. For the complete text of Mr. Bennan's speech, go here. The remarks that caused the fuss are as follows:
"Our enemy is not terrorism because terrorism is but a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind and, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself of [or] one’s community.

And there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children."
What does one make of this? The phrase, "religion of peace" is widely viewed as laughable. Yet here is Brennan, nine years after 9/11, and with all that has happened since, making the same claim.

The IBD editorialist believes that Brennan was duped Citing one of the more explicit, "smite the infidels" exhortations in the Koran, he writes,

"It's plain that Brennan has been told by Muslim leaders what jihad does or doesn't mean without finding out for himself."
That "Muslim leaders" could pull the wool over Brennan's eyes is difficult to swallow. Brennan's been around. He's a career CIA officer; has a masters degree in government, with concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. Surely he remembers Palestinians dancing in the streets after 9/11; surely he recalls the American flag being burned in the streets. Surely he's seen pictures memorializing suicide bombers in West Bank homes. Surely he knows the history of Islam, the meaning of the word "dhimmi", the "rights of the Rayah", etc. Surely he knows that there is enormous sympathy for jihad in the Muslim world — not the inner struggle kind of jihad, but the "smite their necks" variety.

So what's going on? The answer is in the words that follow those quoted above. "[C]haracterizing our adversaries this way [as jihadists]," Brennan writes,
"would actually be counterproductive. It would play into the false perception that they [the terrorists] are religious leaders defending a holy cause when in fact, they are nothing more than murderers, including the murder of thousands upon thousands of Muslims. ...

"Moreover, describing our enemy in religious terms would lend credence to the lie propagated by al-Qaida and its affiliates to justify terrorism, that the United States is somehow at war against Islam. The reality, of course, is that we have never been and will never be at war with Islam. After all, Islam, like so many faiths, is part of America." [Emphasis added]
Brennan believes that characterizing Muslim terrorists as jihadists legitimizes their acts in the minds of Muslims disinclined to violence. At best, this is a pious hope. What workaday Muslims think about the people we call "terrorists" depends on many things. But the words non-Muslims use to describe such individuals isn't one of them. In recent years, European governments, France's proscription of the veil notwithstanding, have been nothing if not sensitive to Muslim sensibilities. And the result has been what? "Immigrant" violence on a massive scale; "Asian" youth on the prowl for women to assault; "suburbs" so dangerous that municipal authorities dare not enter; neighborhoods where "weekend entertainment" means "carbeque." This is in addition to the organized violence that periodically erupts in spectacular bombings.

Brennan argues that criminality is distinguishable from the "real" Islam." In effect, he sets himself up as an authority on the Muslim religion. This is presumptuous. Only Muslims can, will and should be the ones to decide what their religion is about. Brennan's conceit is also laughable. Imagine, if you will, an eleventh or twelfth century imam distinguishing Crusaders from the "real Christians" who practice a "religion of love." Imagine him telling the faithful that they should distinguish those who "hijack a religion" from the religion itself. I doubt such a preacher would have had much of following. To be sure, only a fraction of Europe's population set out for the Holy Land. But, at least initially, the Crusades were enormously popular. To have claimed that the Crusaders were anything but agents of Christendom would have been viewed as preposterous — because that's what it would have been.

The comparison is worth pursuing. At the time of the Crusades, Muslims of the Levant, were in no position to take the fight to the infidels' homeland. But they could resist the invaders. Eventually, they drove them out, and, when circumstances changed, Muslim armies swept into Europe itself. The Eastern Roman Empire fell; Constantinople became Istanbul; Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. Anyone who sees the "War on Terror," a term of admittedly dubious distinction, as anything other than one more battle in the centuries old struggle between Islam and the non-Islamic world is kidding himself.

By and large, the governing class, the academics, the media don't get it. For the most part, they are secular. "For God, for country and for Yale" is still the final verse of the Yale alma mater, but to most graduates of that school and other elite universities, the words mean little. The idea of killing, to say nothing of risking death, for religion is alien to their view of the world. The best they can come up with is that poverty breeds despair; despair, rage and rage, violence.

The American public, as distinct from their leaders, is more inclined to take religion seriously. The public understands commitment to God. They recognize that from such commitment both good things and bad can follow. Whether or not bin Laden's "Letter to Muslims" represents the "true" nature of Islam is beside the point. What's important is what the followers of Islam believe that nature to be. And the available evidence suggests that many subscribe to an "us-them" view of the world. How many? Enough. Enough to prevent a level of revulsion within the Muslim community that would shut the terrorists down. For ultimately, they depend on that community for cover and support. It is a worrisome state of affairs. It is not something that can be fixed from without. It is not something that can be massaged away by aid, collaboration and sensitivity. Nor will acquiescing to small assaults on American values and traditions forestall larger assaults in the future. To the contrary, it will encourage them.

Surely, Brennan must know these things. This site therefore agrees with the IBD editorialist when he wrote that Brennan was told what to say. But we doubt that the instructions came from "Muslim leaders."

Elsewhere in his speech, Brennan speaks of the importance of maintaining a strong economy. "Prosperity," he writes,
"a strong, innovative and growing U.S. economy in an open international economic system that promotes opportunity and prosperity is essential to our future and the future of generations yet to come."
The American economy, of course, is in the toilet, and the man Brennan works for is doing everything he can to see that it stays there. As we run up the bill on Mr. Credit Card, we compromise our ability to meet the dangers against which Brennan is tasked with protecting us. Some things, indeed, are priceless — the survival of America as we know it, among them.
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26 May 2010

How Overhead Corrupts Science and Promotes the Radical Agenda.

Turtle and elephants supporting the world. Go here for commentary.
Dr. Jones. Consider the case of Dr. Jeremiah Jones, "Jerry" to his friends, an up and coming herpetologist (snakes, lizards, etc.) at the University of the Antipodes (UTA). Dr. Jones wants to study the Great Turtle (right) on whose back, he believes, the world really does rest. Brushing aside objections that there is no such beast, that the earth is a sphere, not a plate nor even a hemisphere, orbiting the sun sans Turtle, he submits a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) [1]. The proposal is well crafted, and to his colleagues' amazement, mirabile dictu, the Foundation awards Jones $250 K for a year's preliminary investigation. If the results are promising, he is encouraged to submit a follow-up proposal requesting the standard 3-5 years' funding.

Figure 1. The overhead scam. When Professor Jones was awarded an NSF grant, the University of the Antipodes took 35% off the top. Graduate student salaries and fringe benefits (2 × $25K) included in "Research;" Dr. Jones' summer salary, $18K, and fringe benefits, in "Dr. Jones."

Figure 2. The overhead scam as shown in Figure 1, but with UTA incentives and NSF award criteria added. Incentives encourage Dr. Jones to jump through whatever hoops the foundation decides upon. These include promoting social engineering under the rubric of "Broader Impacts."
Indirect Costs. UTA's administrators are, of course, delighted by Dr. Jones' success. They should be. For every dollar (excluding major equipment) Dr. Jones requested, they added an additional 55¢ as "indirect costs" (Figure 1) [2]. In the present case, UTA's take was about $88 K, more than enough to pay Dr. Jones' salary for the year in question. Since he will continue to teach, UTA in effect will secure his services as an instructor gratis.

"Overhead," as indirect costs are often referred to, was originally envisaged as a way of encouraging universities to promote faculty research, essentially by defraying the cost of maintaining their laboratories. That was the theory. In practice, indirect costs effectively go into the general operating fund. By "effectively," I mean that, while there are activities upon which overhead cannot be expended, bricks and mortar, for example, the uses to which it can be put are gratifyingly numerous. UTA consequently encourages its employees to seek extra-mural support. The incentives (Figure 2) are both positive and negative: pay raises, promotions and reduced teaching loads for those who bring back the bacon; stagnant salaries, increased teaching and, in some cases, outright dismissal for those who don't.

In recent years, and like most other public universities, UTA has had to deal with shrinking state appropriations. As a consequence, overhead returns have become increasingly important. As on many other campuses, a fraction of the total is returned to individual departments. These returns can be critical, serving to supplement university allocations that for many departments cover little beyond salary line items. In short, what began as a device to facilitate research has become a sine qua non. Or, to put it another way, overhead is the crack cocaine of the academy. It is highly addictive, and it distorts everything.

Dr. Jones' Budget. It comes as no surprise that Dr. Jones' award (Figure 1) includes money for research: transportation to the Edge of the Earth (and access to the Turtle), salary for two graduate student assistants, equipment, publication page charges, reimbursement for monies expended (travel, registration, food, lodging) while attending the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR), and so forth.

Because Dr. Jones' appointment at UTA is for the academic year, the grant also includes summer salary, which he otherwise would not receive. Summer salary is calculated as 2/9 of what he draws for the ten months he is officially on campus. To this, and to the salaries of his graduate students, UTA tacks on an additional 30% to cover fringe benefits, a figure previously negotiated with the Foundation.

Outreach. Dr Jones' award also includes funds for "Outreach." From the ranks of UTA's "underrepresented" (women, blacks, Hispanics) undergraduates, Dr. Jones will select individuals to work in his lab as interns. Along with his graduate students, they will also participate in presentations at inner city schools and at the local community college that minority high school graduates often attend before transferring to UTA. The message will be that science is for the "underrepresented;" the objective, to increase their presence in UTA's biology program. Pursuant to this objective, Dr. Jones and his high school / junior college faculty counterparts will establish a formal program with a suitably catchy acronym. For the moment, his colleagues' participation is stricty pro bono. But down the road ..., visions of government funding dance in their heads. Likewise, at the SSAR meeting, Dr. Jones and his students will man a table touting minority / female opportunities in biology at UTA. Convenient to these efforts is the fact that one of Dr. Jones' graduate students is Hispanic; the other, female.

Broader Impacts. Given a choice, Dr. Jones would not have included Outreach in his proposal. If pressed, he will tell you he thinks affirmative action is a good idea. Like most of his colleagues, Dr. Jones is a good liberal and, being white and male, feels a not inconsiderable obligation to help to right the wrongs of generations past. However, he will also tell you that studying theTurtle will be difficult (and dangerous) enough without the added burden of Outreach. But Dr. Jones had no choice. His proposal, like most others, was evaluated according to two very different criteria: "intellectual merit" and "broader impacts." The latter, he understands from Chapter III of the NSF's 2009 Proposal Guide, divides broadly into two categories:
  1. "Integration of Research and Education."

  2. "Integrating Diversity into NSF programs, projects and activities."
Regarding the extent to which proposals address these categories, the Guide poses the following questions:
  1. "How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning?

  2. "How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)?

  3. "To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships?

  4. "Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?" [Emphasis added]
Elsewhere on the Foundation's website, Dr. Jones finds a document listing specific activities [3] that "broaden the participation of underrepresented groups."

Dr. Jones knows that the trick is to address as many of these objectives as possible in a way that relates naturally to his research. Initially, Dr. Jones will focus on items #1-3 above, and, in the case of #3, on educational partnerships. In the future, he intends to add scientific partnerships to his quiver.

As everyone knows, the Edge of the Earth is ringed by the Great Arabian Desert. To the north, half way round the world from UTA, lies the city of Al Arabica. With the local university, Dr. Jones hopes to initiate a collaborative relationship that will involve faculty and student exchanges. Not just the Great Turtle, but reptiles generally, and desert ecology, more generally still, will be the partnership's focus. Dr. Jones imagines that he can tie this part of next year's proposal to global warming. Sex determination in reptiles is known to be temperature-dependent (Janzen, 1994). As the world warms, male/female ratios will decline. But what about species in environments that are always hot? Perhaps desert reptiles can offer clues as to how this adverse consequence of climate change can be countered? An added bonus, Jones hopes, will be the international nature of the collaboration, and with a nation upon whose friendship (and petroleum) the United States depends. This year, he will lay the necessary groundwork by having a University of Al Arabica biologist join him en route to their historic encounter with the Turtle.

Summary. Overhead anables government acting through the funding agencies to coerce research grant recipients into engaging in social engineering. These activities have nothing to do with the proper purpose of research grants, which should be to promote scholarly activity — period. The universities, to which the contracts are awarded, have a tangible financial interest in seeing to it that their faculty apply for such funding and further that the latter jump through whatever hoops the funding agencies require. Let me put this more precisely with reference to Figure 2. Increasing university incentives to secure funding (because of overhead) feeds back to increase the diversion of time, effort and dollars from research to Broader Impacts.

Three related points in closing:
  1. NSF's mandate is defined by Congress. "Increased participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics]" is the third of eight items [4] describing the Broader Impact Criterion in this year's NSF authorization (H.R. 4097). Responsibility for using research grants for unrelated societal purposes thus lies with the politicians.

  2. One consequence of promoting "underrepresented groups," as opposed to worthy individuals who happen to belong to such groups, is that it politicizes scientific inquiry in ways that historically have led to bad science and outright abuse. Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the "barefoot professor," having been promoted by the Soviet establishment because of his peasant origins, was, in effect, a product of affirmative action — in a different place, at a different time and under a different name — but affirmative action nonetheless (Roll-Hansen, 2005). And it is worth remembering that the traditional academics who sponsored him eventually reaped the whirlwind. In addition, Soviet genetics was destroyed utterly. In the U.S. today, promoting "underrepresented groups" feeds the radicalism already rampant on the nation's campuses.

  3. Governmental manipulation of science is not confined to social engineering. It can also involve the promotion of specific hypotheses that are politically / ideologically congenial to the politicians. Regarding the leaked East Anglia emails, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, the doughty editor of Energy and Environment, had this to say in a memorandum submitted to the British Parliament:
    "The CRU [Climate Research Unit] case is not unique. Recent exposures have taken the lid off similar issues in the USA, the Netherlands, Australia, and possibly in Germany and Canada. There may be a systemic problem here, and it would be neither fair nor helpful to make CRU and the UK Meteorological Office the sole fall-guys. It is at least arguable that the real culprit is the theme- and project-based research funding system put in place in the 1980s and subsequently strengthened and tightened in the name of 'policy relevance'. This system, in making research funding conditional on demonstrating such relevance, has encouraged close ties with central Government bureaucracy. Some university research units have almost become wholly-owned subsidiaries of Government Departments. Their survival, and the livelihoods of their employees, depends on delivering what policy makers think they want. It becomes hazardous to speak truth to power." [Emphasis added]"
Boehmer-Christiansen could just as easily have been speaking of Lysenkoism, which stood in opposition to the "bourgeois science" of Morgan and Mendel.

Dr. Jones and his Great Turtle project are, of course, "fig newtons" of this author's imagination. But the NSF policies referred to are real, as the reader can readily confirm by following the links. Americans are just now awakening to the fact that government has for decades been betraying their interests in every possible way, squandering their money, in particular. The excesses of the apparatchiks who dole out research dollars are no exception. Just another entry in a list that is both long and depressing.


1. At the Foundation's website, one learns that
"The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 'to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…' With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing."
As of this writing, NSF's budget is projected to rise to $10.7 billion by FY 2015.

2.Indirect cost rates (modified total direct costs — excludes capital equipment) are negotiated individually between individual universities and the Foundation, and therefore vary from one institution to the next. Noll and Rogerson (1997) provide rates for a representative sample. For the 70+ (I didn't count) schools listed, the rates ranged from 31.5% to 77%. The data are for the year 1992. Since then, rates have come down a bit, but not by much. For example, in 1992, the University of Michigan rate was 59%; in 2009-2011, 54.5%. In 2012, it will increase to 55.5%

3. Among activities addressing the Broader Impacts requirement, the Foundation lists the following:
  • "Establish research and education collaborations with students and/or faculty who are members of underrepresented groups.

  • "Include students from underrepresented groups as participants in the proposed research and education activities.
  • .
  • "Establish research and education collaborations with students and faculty from non-Ph.D.-granting institutions and those serving underrepresented groups.

  • "Make campus visits and presentations at institutions that serve underrepresented groups.

  • "Establish research and education collaborations with faculty and students at community colleges, colleges for women, undergraduate institutions, and EPSCoR [Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research] institutions.

  • "Mentor early-career scientists and engineers from underrepresented groups who are submitting NSF proposals.

  • "Participate in developing new approaches (e.g., use of information technology and connectivity) to engage underserved individuals, groups, and communities in science and engineering.

  • "Participate in conferences, workshops and field activities where diversity is a priority."
4. The complete description of the Broader Impact Criterion in H.R. 4897 is as follows:
  1. Increased economic competitiveness of the United States.

  2. Development of a globally competitive STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] workforce.

  3. Increased participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM.

  4. Increased partnerships between academia and industry.

  5. Improved K-12 STEM education and teacher development.

  6. Improved undergraduate STEM education.

  7. Increased public scientific literacy.

  8. Increased national security.
Note that #8, national security, replaces “How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training and learning?”


Janzen, F. J. 1994. Climate change and temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 91: 7487-7490.

Roger G. Noll, R. G. and W. P. Rogerson. 1997. The Economics of University Indirect Cost Reimbursement in Federal Research Grants. Northwestern University - Department of Economics. Stanford University Department of Economics WP 97-039.

Roll-Hansen, N. 2005. The Lysenko Effect: The Politics of Science. Humanity Books. NY.

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24 May 2010

And if the Climate Cools?

Skeptic Conference. The Heartland Institute is a conservative think tank, often portrayed as being in the pocket of big oil and tobacco. Last week, Heartland put on its "4th International Conference on Climate Change" in Chicago. Leading skeptic climatologists participated, along with like-minded members of the political class.

Superficially, the conference resembled a meeting of one of the smaller scientific societies. But, for those readers who have never attended one, it's important to point out that this was not a scientific meeting in the usual sense. To be sure, there were plenary sessions with keynote speakers, concurrent sessions, sessions on science, economics and public policy and so forth. And many of the participants were Ph. D.s with expertise in relevant disciplines. But there were no contributed sessions at which the general membership of scientific societies get their 15 minutes in the spotlight. So far as I can tell, you didn't get to speak at the Heartland conference unless invited, and you didn't get invited unless you stood in opposition to conventional wisdom. "Luke warmists," such as the Pielkes (father and son), were not in attendance, though, for all I know, they may well have simply declined invitations. In short, the conference was more like a workshop at which invited participants linked by commonalities of interest, methodology, etc., exchange findings and ideas. Nothing wrong with that — workshops can be extraordinarily useful — often far more so than the sprawling affairs put on by outfits such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But workshops, unless specifically conceived to address controversy, do not as a rule represent wide ranges of opinion. Nor did the conference in Chicago.

Figure 1. Alternating periods of warm and cool temperatures during the past 5000 years. From Easterbrook (2010).

Figure 2. Projected global cooling during the next 20-30 years. Note, in addition to the three scenarios (blue), IPCC predictions (red) that forecast continued warming. From Easterbrook (2010).
The Looming Threat of Global Cooling. One presentation, the subject of today's post, has attracted considerable attention. It was delivered by Don Easterbrook, Emeritus Professor of Geology at the University of Washington, who offered the following three-fold take:
  1. Global temperatures are always in flux, with alternating periods of warmer and cooler temperatures coming every 20-30 years (Figure 1).

  2. The alternations correlate with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and with solar activity (sunspot cycle) — see Livingston and Penn (2009) for discussion of recent changes in solar activity, including the possibility that sunspots may disappear by 2015, and here for review of renewed interest in the sun as the ultimate driver of terrestrial climate.

  3. The next thirty years is likely to witness significant cooling. Just how much cooling, Easterbrook didn't predict, but instead gave three possible scenarios (Figure 2). Not shown is really severe cooling comparable to what the world experienced during the so-called "Maunder Minimum" (1600-1650), at which time sunspots virtually disappeared. The Maunder corresponds to one of several colder episodes within the Little Ice Age (LIA), itself a period of reduced temperatures that may have begun as early as 1300 and is generally agreed to concluded by the end of the 19th century.
Predictions of temporary cooling are not new. Two years ago, Keenlyside et al. (2008) forecast several decades of regional cooling in the North Atlantic due to reductions in meridional overturning circulation (MOC). (The term MOC refers to ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream, that deliver the warmth of tropical waters to higher latitudes.) What makes Easterbrook's presentation noteworthy is the assertion that the coming chill is part and parcel of the repetitive ups and downs of a climate system that is never at equilibrium. His views are thus of a piece with those of Syun-Ichi Akasofu, founding director of the International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who has long championed the idea that contemporary climate change is best viewed as the superposition of multi-decadal oscillations ("natural" variability) on long-term warming, the latter being reflective of the earth's recent emergence from the LIA.

A Relevant Anecdote. I am reminded of a story related to me by an acquaintance who works at a university that is up to its eyeballs in environmental nonsense generally, Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) in particular:
"We were interviewing prospective graduate students. So in walks this girl who, after the usual pleasantries, announced that she wanted to study the consequences of global warming to, I think it was tree physiology. 'And what will you do,' I asked, 'if the climate cools?' She looked at me disbelieving. So I pulled a copy of Richard Alley's book (Allee, 2001) off the shelf and showed her a couple of figures indicating enormous fluctuations (Figure 3) in temperatures past that, whatever their cause, had nothing to do with human activity. She looked at them, muttered something about not knowing much about paleoclimatology and terminated the interview. That was back around 2000, and before the recent stabilization of global temperatures. I sometimes wonder what she thinks of it."
Figure 3. Snowfall accumulation and temperature estimated from analysis of Greenland ice cores over the past 17,000 years. Note the extent to which temperature variations associated with the LIA and MWP (left) are dwarfed by earlier fluctuations. From Alley, R. (2001).

Figure 4. Carbon isotope ratios in the bones of Greenland Vikings and estimated fractions of their diets obtained from the sea. As the climate cooled, the Vikings became increasingly dependent on marine sources of sustenance. From Arneborg et al. (1999).
What-Iffers. The prospective graduate student aspired to join the ranks of those I have elsewhere called "what-iffers," scientists who have built their careers by piggy-backing on the global warming hysteria. These people do "what if" studies: what are the consequences to X if the climate warms, where X is a species, a renewable resource, an ecological process, etc.

Like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, scientists move in herds: Jump on the bandwagon; don't make waves; follow the gold. Of course, there are risks. Hitching your wagon to a star doesn't work if the star turns out to be a meteor. That's a risk to yourself. The risk to science is that the more folks on the wagon, the less ithe likelihood of someone's noticing that the wheels are coming off. There's also a risk to society. With both the scientists and the funding agencies riding the AGW wagon, the social and economic costs of carbon abatement tend to be neglected. Flogging the horses — this is a Green wagon — racing full tilt to the precipice just round the bend are the ideologues, the politicians and the NGO apparatchiks.

Intriguingly, Michael Mann, he of the hockey stick (Mann et al., 1998) is now a "what-iffer," having recently been awarded (along with four others) $1.8 million to study the effects of global warming on malaria (search on "vector-borne diseases). Of the total, his employer, Penn State University, will skim roughly $600K off the top in overhead — not chump change in an age of decreased funding for public universities. And one wonders why Penn States's investigation of Mann's role in Climategate amounted to a white wash.

What Vikings Ate. Paleoclimatologists study ice cores, tree-rings and other proxy variables believed to correlate with temperatures past. In Greenland, there ids additional evidence (Arneborg, J., et al., 1999) for cooling as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) transitioned to the LIA. This evidence comes from changing carbon isotope ratios in Viking bones exhumed from a graveyard (Figure 4). From these data one concludes that, with the passage of time, the Greenland Norse obtained more and more of their food from the sea and less and less from terrestrial sources, i.e., milk and meat from their livestock. This, of course, is what one would expect if the climate cooled.1

When asked about the Greenland Vikings, AGW proponents will tell you that the LIA was confined to the North Atlantic basin, possibly caused by a shut down of the Gulf Stream, i.e., reduced MOC. Likewise, they will tell you that the MWP, if it existed at all, was also a local phenomenon. For a good review of evidence to the contrary, that the MWP was a global phenomenon, albeit with regional variations, go here.

"Natural" climatic variability, by which I mean variation independent of human activity, doesn't invalidate the anthropogenic hypothesis. Depending on one's view, it could either have exacerbated or partially masked late twentieth century warming. At the same time, evidence for past climates as warm those we are presently experiencing undercuts the claim that human activity is responsible for unprecedented warmth. This explains the Climategate correspondents' furious reaction to publication of the paper by Soon and Baliunas (2003) and their characterization of the MWP as "putative."

If the Climate Cools. Easterbook maintains that the socio-economic consequences of global cooling are likely to be far worse than the those of the warming imagined by AGW activists. He gives four reasons:
  1. Extreme cold kills more efficiently than extreme heat.

  2. Colder temperatures will reduce food production.

  3. Colder temperatures will increase per capita demand for energy.

  4. The effects of reduced food production and increased energy demand will be exacerbated by the world's burgeoning population.
To this it should be added that warmist policy prescriptions for reducing atmospheric carbon, reduced energy production overall and increased dependence on biofuels especially, will limit mankind's ability to respond to problems consequent to global cooling. Nor will the resulting disasters occur at some distant time in the future. If Easterbrook is correct, the cooling is already on us, and this past year's winter, but a foretaste of what is to come.


1. Readers more interested in the Greenland Norse than in the climate may enjoy John Harris' The Lost Viking. Harris' believes that the Greenland settlers, having effectively been enslaved by the Church, decamped for the New World seeking freedom eventually wound up in British Columbia. This is unconventional. Nor is the present author competent to evaluate its plausibility.


Allee, R. 2001. The Two Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future . Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, N.J.

Arneborg, J., et al. 1999. Change of diet of the Greenland Vikings determined from stable carbon isotope analysis and 14C dating of their bones. Radiocarbon. 41: 157-168.

Keenlyside, N. S., Latif, M., J. Jungclaus, J., Kornblueh, L. and E. Roeckner. 2008. Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector. Nature. 453: 84-88.

Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. and M. K. Hughes. 1998. Global-Scale Temperature Patterns and Climate Forcing Over the Past Six Centuries. Nature. 392: 779-787.

Penn, M. and W. Livingston. 2009. Are sunspots different during this solar minimum? Eos. 90: 257-264. See also here.

Soon, W. and and S. Baliunas. 2003. Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years. Clim. Res. 23: 89–110.
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19 May 2010

And One Man in his Time Plays Many Parts.

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts," — As You Like It, II, 7.

Figure 1. Blogger Paul MacRae.
Paul MacRae (Figure 1) blogs at False Alarm. He is a former Canadian newspaper editor, a global warming skeptic and an admirer of T. H. Huxley. Last year, these interests came together in an essay titled "Consensus Climate Science: What Would Thomas Huxley Say?"

Thomas Henry Huxley — bulldog of Darwin; bearder of Wilberforce; baiter of Booth. What would he have said, indeed? Nothing positive, MacRae assures us. Consensus climatology violates Huxley's views as to what constitutes good science.

There is much to like about MacRae's analysis. Huxley's prescriptions are unimpeachable; their juxtaposition with contemporary climatological practice, a compelling study in contrast (Table I). Arguably, the analysis could be strengthened by distinguishing more carefully what working scientists have been saying from activist talking points. But that is a quibble. The former have long been in bed with the latter, which is one of the more important conclusions to emerge from the ClimateGate emails. Moreover, the world's scientists, both individually and through their professional organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences, are increasingly involved in promoting policy — go here, for a recent example. This is extraordinarily worrisome. Instead of individual investigators promoting their ideas, we have large segments of the scientific community tied to particular opinions. The pressure to defend these opinions, lest the community as a whole appear foolish, is increased thereby. This undercuts the self-correcting nature of science, which is what distinguishes scientific prescription from other forms of advocacy.

Table I. Huxley vs. Consensus Climate Science According to Paul McRae.
HuxleyConsensus Climate Science
Scientific certainty does not exist.The evidence is so overwhelming there’s no need to discuss it any further.
A strong theory must be “in entire accordance” with the data.Ignore data … that doesn’t fit the theory …
Data not in accord with previous experience should be regarded with suspicion.Ignore previous experience … if it doesn’t fit the theory.
Theories must be able to predict accurately.Nothing, so far, predicted accurately.
Extreme claims require extreme proof.If the proof doesn’t exist, fall back on the precautionary principle.
Science doesn’t operate by consensus.Yes, it does.

At different times in his career, Huxley assumed the mantle of both critic and defender of the conventional wisdom. That is the subject of today's post. In passing, I will touch on the science vs. religion aspect, still on-going (Witham, 2001) of course, of the evolution debates, the Huxley-Wilberforce exchange, in particular, and on the scientific criticisms initially leveled at "Darwin's dangerous idea" (Dennett, 1995). Returning to anthropogenic global (AGW) warming, I conclude that whether or not the world goes marching down the path of carbon mitigation will likely depend, not on the confirmation or rejection of AGW as a scientific hypothesis, but on chance correspondences.

Huxley. Darwin's bulldog didn't always practice what he preached. His assertion that
"an inductive hypothesis is said to be demonstrated when the facts are shown to be in entire accordance with it" [Emphasis added]
notwithstanding, he could nonetheless cling to an idea in the face of evidence that was strongly contradictory. Like today's proponents of AGW, Huxley stuck to the facts when they were in his favor and dissembled when they were not. When disputing Owen's claim that the hippocampus minor (Gross, 1893) distinguishes man from ape, he relied on anatomy (Huxley, 1853) — because he could. But when responding to Thomson's calculation that the earth had been habitable for no more than 100, and perhaps as few as 20, million years (Thomson, 1862, 1866), he fell back on "mother-wit" and his considerable rhetorical skills — because he had to.

A Matter of Time. William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) was the discoverer of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which holds that there are no perpetual motion machines and that the universe must one day run down. With uniformitarian geology and its assumption of essentially limitless time (Burchfield, 1990; 1998)
, Thomson had a bone to pick : The earth was once a molten sphere; the time required for it to cool to its present temperature could be estimated; the number that resulted placed an upper bound on geological time. While rock still flowed, there could be no oceans, no sedimentary deposition and certainly no life. Physical law trumped geological estimates that required unverifiable assumptions. During the course of his long career, Thomson returned repeatedly to the age of the earth and to that of its star, a preoccupation that antedated The Origin's publication and was thus arguably independent of his views (Thomson, 1871) on evolution and religion. With each refinement, and to the Darwinians' dismay, the estimates grew shorter. Writing in 1895, the celebrated English geologist, Archibald Geikie, would later observe (1895),
"Geologists have not been slow to admit that they were in error in assuming that they had an eternity of past time for the evolution of the earth’s history. They have frankly acknowledged the validity of the physical arguments which go to place more or less definite limits to the antiquity of the earth. They were on the whole, disposed to acquiesce in the allowance of 100 millions of years granted to them by Lord Kelvin, for the … whole … of geological history. But the physicists have been insatiable and inexorable. As remorseless as Lear’s daughters, they have cut down their grant of years by successive slices, until some of them have brought the number to something less than ten millions." [Emphasis added]
Thomson's arguments were mathematical, and to Darwin and his supporters, Huxley among them, impenetrable. And so Huxley wrote (1869b) as follows:
"Biology takes her time from geology. The only reason we have for believing in the slow rate of change in living forms is that they persist through a series of deposits which, geology informs us, have taken a long while to make. If the geological clock is wrong, all the naturalist will have to do is to modify his notions of the rapidity of change accordingly." [Emphasis added]
Correspondingly, in the 6th and final edition of The Origin (Darwin, 1872), we find the following:
"It is, however, probable, as Sir William Thompson [sic] insists, that the world at a very early period was subjected to more rapid and violent changes in its physical conditions than those now occurring; and such changes would have tended to induce changes at a corresponding rate in the organisms which then existed." [Emphasis added]

Figure 2. Anchiornis huxleyi, a four-winged dinosaur named after Thomas Huxley and close to the ancestry of birds. Feather colors inferred from the size and shape of melanosomes — see Li et al. (2010).
Figure 3. Skeletons of man and apes compared. From Huxley (1863).

Figure 4. Samuel J. Wilberforce strikes a characteristic pose. Originally published in Vanity Fair Magazine. From Zoonomian.

Huxley and Darwin were being disingenuous. The assumption of essentially unlimited time during which species could be transformed, bit by imperceptible bit, the one into the other, had been central to the transformist hypothesis since the days of Lamarck. Thomson robbed evolutionists of time, even as his colleague and business associate, Fleeming Jenkin (Stevenson, 1887), relieved them of variability (Jenkin, 1867). Together, these two gentlemen eviscerated the Darwinian argument (Eiseley, 1959).1 What was left were Darwin's "facts," patterns of taxonomic affinity, homologous structures, vestigial organs, the recapitulatory nature of embryological development and distributional patterns in time and space. For such observations, descent with modification offered an economical accounting, or, as Darwin put it (1863), connected them "by an intelligible thread of reasoning." Most important was accumulating paleontological evidence for the prior existence of intermediate forms now extinct — Archaeopteryx, Neanderthal Man, three-toed horses, etc. As a result, the case for evolution grew. With the passing of Louis Aggassiz, the last major Special Creationist, in 1873, its scientific acceptance became near universal.

Professionalization of Science. Darwin and the naturalists of his generation were amateurs. But by 1867, the professionalization of science had proceeded apace. When Jenkin published his review of The Origin in the North British Review, he felt obliged to insert the following disclaimer:
"The cardinal facts [pertinent to Darwin's argument] are the production of varieties by man, and the similarity of all existing animals. About the truth and extent of those facts none but men possessing a special knowledge of physiology and natural history have any right to an opinion; but the superstructure based on those facts enters the region of pure reason, and may be discussed apart from all doubt as to the fundamental facts." [Emphasis added]
Jenkin, an engineer and no biologist, would concede the particulars of physiology and biology to the specialists. It was only with the conclusions induced from those facts that he felt entitled to argue.

To the professionalization of science, Huxley was an important contributor. He helped found the journal, Nature, to which he contributed an editorial (Huxley, 1869) that appeared in its first issue. He was also a charter member of the highly influential X Club (Barton, 1998). Both organizations figured prominently in the struggle of the rising generation of professional scientists to wrest control of British science, the Royal Society, in particular, from the older generation of gentleman amateurs (Lucas, 1979; Di Gregorio, 1982; Jensen, 1988; Barton, 1998).

Huxley was, of course, one of the young Turks. As Jensen put it, referring to the legendary exchange (see below), between Huxley and Wilberforce,
"The battle was not only between the Darwinists and the divines, but between the Darwinists, generally the younger scientists, and the older, more conservative scientists, with [some] notable exceptions … At the British Association meeting in 1894 the Marquis of Salisbury looked back at the 1860 meeting and said that 'in many cases religious apprehension only masked the resentment of the older learning at the appearance and claims of its younger rival'."
Huxley's defense of Darwin was thus at least partly an exercise in self-promotion. Huxley may, indeed, have had sensible prescriptions for doing good science. But he also labored on behalf of a larger cause: replacement of the old, churchly priesthood by a new, secular authority — as insulated from common opinion by claims to proprietary knowledge as its predecessor, and equally determined to control it. The scientific establishment today, the East Anglia white washers, in particular, are heirs to this tradition.

All my Children. It is no exaggeration to suggest that intellectuals of all stripes view their creations in much the way that "regular folk" regard their children. Of Fidelio, his first and only opera, Beethoven wrote
"Of all the children of my spirit, this one is dearest to me, because it was the most difficult to bring into the world."
It follows that scientific revolutions result not just from observations that undermine the "older learning.". As important to the passing of old ways of looking at things is the passing of those who do the looking. Darwin was not unaware of this when he wrote (Darwin, 1860) Huxley,
"I can pretty plainly see that if my view is ever to be generally adopted, it will be by young men growing up & replacing the old workers, …"
In short, habit and predisposition play important roles in the succession of constructs whereby science contemplates Creation. Stereotypically, habit is a product of age; the inclination to novelty, an attribute of youth. As a rising scientific luminary, Huxley could embrace natural selection with the enthusiasm of a convert (but see, DiGregorio, 1982). "My reflection, when I first made myself master of the central idea of the 'Origin,'" he would later reminisce (Huxley, 1887)
" was, 'How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!' … The facts of variability, of the struggle for existence, of adaptation to conditions, were notorious enough; but none of us had suspected that the road to the heart of the species problem lay through them, until Darwin and Wallace [1858] dispelled the darkness … ."
A decade later, when the new consensus to which Huxley had contributed was itself threatened by considerations of time and inheritance, he could only respond with sophistry. His position, if you will, was that of a population trapped on a sinking peak in an adaptive landscape (Wright, 1932) — doomed, and with nowhere better to go. Like the men and women of Jacques' soliloquy (above), Huxley, "in his time, played many parts."

Huxley and Wilberforce. Huxley's scientific achievements include the deduction that birds derive from small, carnivorous dinosaurs (Figure 2) and the demonstration of bone for bone anatomical correspondence between man and the the great apes (Figure 3). He is best known, however, as evolution's tireless defender, in particular for his besting of Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, in the famous "debate," actually an impromptu exchange, at the 30th annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. "Soapy Sam," so called because he was so smooth, alternatively, because he often rubbed his hands together as though washing them (Figure 4), viewed the argument of The Origin as "unphilosophical." By this he intended that it was speculation unjustifiably raised to the level of hypothesis. According to one recounting (Lucas, 1979, see also Jensen, 1988), Wilberforce asked Huxley whether he, Huxley, was maternally or paternally descended from a monkey. To that, claws and beak claws already sharpened up, Huxley replied that he
"was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth."
Huxley's rejoinder is often portrayed as a turning point in the struggle between science and religion — see, for example, Eldredge (2005). Other writers, Lucas (1979) in particular, regard this view as exaggerated if not downright inaccurate.

The Argument Against Darwin. At the time of the "debate," Wilberforce had recently written a review (Wilberforce, 1860),
then still unpublished, of The Origin. Undoubtedly, he believed that good science would inevitably harmonize with theology. But the bulk of his written review, and presumably that of the Oxford lecture, is devoted to scientific arguments. The review totals 40 pages, and it is not until page 31 that he finally gets round to Revelation. And even here, Wilberforce maintains that scientific questions need to be resolved by scientifically. "Our readers will not have failed to notice," he wrote,
"that we have objected to the views with which we have been dealing solely on scientific grounds. We have done so from our fixed conviction that it is thus that the truth or falsehood of such arguments should be tried. We have no sympathy with those who object to any facts or alleged facts in nature, or to any inference logically deduced from them, because they believe them to contradict what it appears to them is taught by Revelation. We think that all such objections savour of a timidity which is really inconsistent with a firm and well-instructed faith …" [Emphasis added]
Lucas (1979) summarizes Wilberforce's approach as follows:
“[He] may not have told his audience … that it was … possible that Darwin’s theory was true, in which case humanity would have to eat humble pie, but it is clear that he did not argue that Darwin’s theory must be false because its implications about the nature of man were unacceptable. As he saw it, and as most of his audience saw it, he was showing that it was, as a matter of scientific fact, false, and only having established this did he go on to say in effect ‘and a good thing too’.” [Emphasis added]
Of course, Wilberforce may have appealed to scientific arguments as a matter of practicality, having concluded that to have argued on theological grounds would have been unproductive. But the fact often overlooked when we view reaction to The Origin through the lens of modern understanding is that direct evidence for Darwin's thesis was at the time thin. Within-species variability did appear to be constrained; domestic breeds were not reproductively isolated; the fossil record did not provide examples of intermediate forms. To these objections, Thomson and Jenkin would add paucities of time and variation, which inconveniences evolutionists were forced to live with for the next forty years (Bowler, 1992)

Two Theories. At least within the scientific community, Victorian objections to descent with modification have since been answered to just about everyone's satisfaction. Yet even today, the observation (Grant and Grant, 2009), of a new species, appropriately enough, a Darwin's finch, in apparent statu nascendi, is deemed an important discovery. The reason for the interest is that the mechanisms by which transmutation is effected remain murky (Gould and Lewontin, 1979; Segerstråle, 2000; Witham, 2001). There is evolution, the fact, what has happened, for which the evidence is overwhelming, and there is evolution, the theory, how it happened, which remains in flux. And that brings us to the essential point. It was Darwin's "facts," not the plausibility of the Darwinian mechanism, that ensured the idea's survival. Darwinians had no real answers to Jenkin and Thomson, but their faith in evolution was sustained by accumulating evidence that it had somehow occurred.

And this brings us back to AGW. The climate system is enormously complicated. Understanding it well enough to accurately predict its behavior is unlikely. But predictions can succeed for two reasons: because one actually understands the system and for some other reason, which is to say, "by chance." It is because one can get the right answer for the wrong reason
— see Cohen (1966) for a non-trivial example — that, when a theoretical prediction is sustained experimentally, the next step is to generate a new prediction and perform a new experiment. Only when repeated attempts at falsification fail, can hypothesis be elevated to the level of theory. And only when more such attempts fail does theory become "law." Because AGW has become so politicized (see, for example, Dan Botkin's opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal), it is reasonable to anticipate that any continued warming, be it a consequence of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations or simply one of the repetitive ups and downs of a non-equilibrium system, will be seized upon by activist-scientists as "proof" of the theory, in just the way they attempted to so portray the post-1970's warming, now abated. The climate system being almost certainly chaotic, and therefore ever changing, it's a crapshoot. May the Gods of Chaos protect us.


1. To varying degrees, subsequent writers (Vorzimmer, 1963; Gould, 1985; Morris, 1994; Bulmer, 2004) have attempted to qualify this assessment. Alternatively, it may be argued that the popularity of neo-Lamarkiansism, orthogenesis and other now discarded ideas during the latter part of "Darwin's century" can only be understood in terms of perceived inadequacies of the Darwinian mechanism. All that changed during the first decades of the 20th century. With the rediscovery of Mendel, came the realization that variation is not blended out; with the discovery of radioactive decay, that the earth was even more ancient than the evolutionists had imagined.


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16 May 2010

A Letter to Paul Nathan.

A reader illustrates the Faustian nature of Obama Care by offering his house gratis to admirers of The One.

Paul Nathan publishes a weekly financial newsletter (commentary and market update) to which one can subscribe by writing him at Paulnathan2000@aol.com. Recently, he included an amusing, but nonetheless insightful, email from one of his readers. I reproduce it here with permission:
"Written by an unknown author:
"I was in my neighborhood restaurant this morning and was seated behind a group of jubilant individuals celebrating the successful passing of the recent health care bill. I could not finish my breakfast. This is what ensued:

"They were a diverse group of several races and both sexes. I heard the young man exclaim, 'Isn't Obama like Jesus Christ? I mean, after all, he is healing the sick.' The young woman enthusiastically proclaimed, 'Yeah, and he does it for free. I cannot believe anyone would think that a free market would work for health care. They are all crooks and thieves and don't deserve all of that money.' Another said, 'The stupid Republicans want us all to starve to death so they can inherit all of the power. Obama should be made a Saint for what he did for those of us less fortunate.' At this, I had had enough.
"I arose from my seat, mustering all the restraint I could find, and approached their table. 'Please excuse me; may I impose upon you for one moment?' They smiled and welcomed me to the conversation. I stood at the end of their table, smiled as best I could and began an experiment.
"'I would like to give one of you my house. It will cost you no money and I will pay all of the expenses and taxes for as long as you live there. Anyone interested?' They looked at each other in astonishment. 'Why would you do something like that?' asked a young man, 'There isn't anything for free in this world.' They began to laugh at me, as they did not realize this man had just made my point. 'I am serious, I will give you my house for free, no money what so ever. Anyone interested?' In unison, a resounding 'Hell Yeah' fills the room.
"'Since there are too many of you, I will have to make a choice as to who receives this money free bargain.' I noticed an elderly couple was paying attention to the spectacle unfolding before their eyes, the old man shaking his head in apparent disgust. 'I tell you what; I will give it to the one of you most willing to obey my rules.' Again, they looked at one another, an expression of bewilderment on their faces. The perky young woman asked, 'What are the rules?' I smiled and said, 'I don't know. I have not yet defined them. However, it is a free home that I offer you.' They giggled amongst themselves, the youngest of which said, 'What an old coot. He must be crazy to give away his home. Go take your meds, old man.' I smiled and leaned into the table a bit further. 'I am serious, this is a legitimate offer.' They gaped at me for a moment.

"'Hell, I'll take it you old fool. Where are the keys?' boasted the youngest among them. 'Then I presume you accept ALL of my terms then?' I asked. The elderly couple seemed amused and entertained as they watched from the privacy of their table. 'Oh hell yeah! Where do I sign up?' I took a napkin and wrote, 'I give this man my home, without the burden of financial obligation, so long as he accepts and abides by the terms that I shall set forth upon consummation of this transaction.' I signed it and handed it to the young man who eagerly scratched out his signature. 'Where are the keys to my new house?' he asked in a mocking tone of voice. All eyes were upon us as I stepped back from the table, pulling the keys from pocket and dangling them before the excited new homeowner.

"'Now that we have entered into this binding contract, witnessed by all of your friends, I have decided upon the conditions you are obligated to adhere from this point forward. You may only live in the house for one hour a day. You will not use anything inside of the home. You will obey me without question or resistance. I expect complete loyalty and admiration for this gift I bestow upon you. You will accept my commands and wishes with enthusiasm, no matter the nature. Your morals and principles shall be as mine. You will vote as I do, think as I do and do it with blind faith. These are my terms. Here are your keys.' I reached the keys forward and the young man looked at me dumb founded.

"'Are you out of your freaking mind? Who would ever agree to those ridiculous terms?' the young man appeared irritated. 'You did when you signed this contract before reading it, understanding it and with the full knowledge that I would provide my conditions only after you committed to the agreement.' Was all I said. The elderly man chuckled as his wife tried to restrain him. I was looking at a now silenced and bewildered group of people. 'You can shove that stupid deal up you're a** old man, I want no part of it' exclaimed the now infuriated young man. 'You have committed to the contract, as witnessed by all of your friends; you cannot get out of the deal unless I agree to it. I do not intend to let you free now that I have you ensnared. I am the power you agreed to. I am the one you blindly and without thought chose to enslave yourself to. In short, I am your Master.' At this, the table of celebrating individuals became a unified group against the unfairness of the deal.

"After a few moments of unrepeatable comments and slurs, I revealed my true intent. 'What I did to you is what this administration and congress did to you with the health care legislation. I easily suckered you in and then revealed the real cost of the bargain. Your folly was in the belief that you can have something you did not earn; that you are entitled to that which you did not earn; that you willingly allowed someone else to think for you. Your failure to research, study and inform yourself permitted reason to escape you. You have entered into a trap from which you cannot flee. Your only chance of freedom is if your new Master gives it unto you. A freedom that is given can also be taken away; therefore, it is not freedom.' With that, I tore up the napkin and placed it before the astonished young man. 'This is the nature of your new health care legislation.'

"I turned away to leave these few in thought and contemplation and was surprised by applause. The elderly gentleman, who was clearly entertained, shook my hand enthusiastically and said, 'Thank you Sir, these kids don't understand Liberty these days.' He refused to allow me to pay my bill as he said, 'You earned this one, it is an honor to pickup the tab.' I shook his hand in thanks, leaving the restaurant somewhat humbled, and sensing a glimmer of hope for my beloved country."
A Faustian bargain indeed.

Paul also posts at Kitco, the precious metals site. His most recent column, "Deflation Lifts its Ugly Head," discusses signs that point to a coming economic downturn.

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