Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A Nation of Cowards

July 20, 2013

The Wall Street Journal article, “Obama: Trayvon Martin ‘Could Have Been Me’ ” discussing the President’s off the cuff remarks about the Martin/Zimmerman case was most discouraging. His attitude, reflecting that of a majority of blacks is that only the black experience matters.

“But he tried to explain the lens through which black Americans may see the case, saying that their own experiences and the country’s history with race inform how many view what happened to Mr. Martin.”

As a non-black my experience is also the lens though which I view life in general and this case as well. I have been called racist and sexist by a black woman (a third grade teacher no less) who did not like the job I was doing. Most blacks, male and female, appreciated the work I did. And even though a few had occasional complaints most did not raise the race or gender issue. I was never called racist or sexist by any non-black customers, employees or vendors.

In my small business I hired a number of temporary laborers, predominately black but not universally. Most were decent individuals who through luck, bad circumstance or poor life choice found themselves in difficult straits. I became friendly with some of these individuals and sought them out with work. However, there was one young black man who I did not like. He was only 21, had already fathered two children by two woman (both out of wedlock), did not support either child or woman, bragged about spending his money at strip clubs and railed about being disrespected by the agency manager. After all, this young man angrily stated, he was a man because he fathered two kids and therefore deserved respect. By “respect” of course, he meant his arrogant attitude should have been accepted, even embraced but never chastised.

At another time in my life I had long hair, a long beard, wore ragged clothes and was not regularly employed. Car doors would lock as I walked by as well. Being white didn’t matter. I looked suspicious. Years later when I owned a seat on the CME futures exchange I was advised not to apply for a job with a particular firm because I was not of the proper religious persuasion. Being white didn’t matter. Even today if a white as snow biker flying his colors walked by I too would lock my doors. The oft heard complaint about “locks click on the doors of cars” applies not just to blacks but to any suspicious looking individual. But only suspicious looking individuals. And yeah, aimlessly walking around in the rain wearing clothing that hides appearance in a neighborhood suffering a series of burglaries is darned suspicious. I too would be suspicious regardless of age, gender, or race. In point of fact as a post-military college student I did just that.

I noted a white male slowly walking down my street, stopping every few feet and looking around to see if anyone was observing. Being slightly hidden in my driveway my presence wasn’t evident. I observed this young, white male wearing jeans and shirt for several minutes because he was suspicious. The next day police knocked on my door and asked if I had seen anything suspicious because a burglary had been committed. I acknowledged what I had seen and gave them a description enhanced by my studied observation. It was never the persons age, gender, race or clothing but all of that in the context of his actions that raised my suspicion.

My experience is that too often some blacks (and women) assume that any slight, real or perceived, is due strictly to race (or gender). If I see a group of young black men walking towards me I might smile and say hello. They might be in military uniform or have the posture, poise and appearance of military men. If a different group of young black men came walking toward me I might be concerned and walk away to avoid them. This group would be wearing red or blue bandannas on their head, baggy pants dragging below their butt, over large shirts and they would be doing the “urban strut” down the street. It isn’t race that’s the problem. Either group could be white, black, brown, red or yellow or a mixture. It is clothing, gender, age, and race all within the context of actions.

For the President to chime in on race by offering support for only the black experience is for him to define his presidency that way as well. The President only intervenes in the public discourse when a non-black man kills a black man even though it was adjudicated as self defense. Meanwhile the President consistently ignores the massive amount of black on black violence and death. This is nothing short of disheartening. Maybe Attorney General Eric Holder was right when he said that in race discussions Americans are “nation of cowards”. Starting at the top evidently.

Realtor to run Public Utility

July 21, 2011

No conflict of interest here … move along, move along, nothing to see here

Note: Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) provides the water and sewer service for both the city of Wilmington and all of New Hanover County, North Carolina

More on James Quinn from the Cape Fear PUA release:
“Quinn is a commercial and investment real estate broker affiliated with Creative Properties, Inc. A graduate of East Carolina University, he has served in many civic and service organizations. For Wilmington Downtown, Inc. he has served as President of the Board of Directors and as Chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He is a member of the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors where he served as Chairman of the Political Affairs Committee and is a member and past president of Commercial Investment Industrial Division of the Multiple Listing Service. He has served on the Wilmington City Council. “

Letter sent to New Hanover County Commissioners

Commissioners:
James Quinn was recently appointed as chairman of Cape Fear PUA. He was noted as a long time commercial and investment real estate broker and developer who has served on the Wilmington city council among other organizations. Those are his sole qualifications to run a public utility company.
The appointment of Mr. James Quinn as Chairman of Cape Fear PUA is an appalling failure of our County Commissioners to fulfill their duty to the taxpaying, rate paying citizens of New Hanover. This appointment needs to be rescinded and a new chairman found that will keep the interests of the county, not developers upper most in their work. It isn’t important how many boards, civic or service organizations Mr. Quinn has served on, he has been an integral part of the New Hanover problems not its solutions. If his service on the Wilmington city council is any example of his impact it is eminently clear that he will not be a positive force for the county. And, exactly how hard is it to find a chairman who might actually know something about how to run a utility?
As a realtor and developer he will use his appointment to further the interests of those business constituents to the utter detriment of the rest of the county. The history of Cape Fear PUA is one of gross failure to maintain existing systems while constantly building out new areas to enable … wait for it … new commercial and residential developments. Recently the utility publicly declared its commitment to provide utility service to every piece of dirt in the county whether needed, wanted or not. Now with his appointment Chairman Quinn won’t have to ask nicely or make coy political contributions for this process to accelerate he can simply direct the utility anywhere he chooses.
The glaringly obvious conflict of interest makes it tempting to ask what process was followed, who’s campaign kitty was embellished, what private promises were made to grease the skids for this appointment. It stinks gentlemen. As commissioners each of you should be ashamed. Each of you now has a duty to publicly explain your rationale for such a manifestly detrimental appointment. Is this the type of appointment that fits with Mr. Catlin’s campaign? Is this what Mr. Berger supported? Mr. Davis? I am disappointed but not surprised at Mr. Thompson and Mr. Barfield. This appointment begs to be canceled before it causes even further irreparable harm to New Hanover county.

Your Air Conditioner Ate Al Gore and Saved The Planet

July 20, 2011

Thanks Paciloquy!  (Highly recommend this blog)

I finally made it through the paper by Dr. Qing Bin Lu. As you may guess I could not follow the math. But there was enough verbiage to explain his process and conclusions to make me think I grasped the point. How’s that for certitude?

In my somewhat simple terms the earth radiates energy in the form of heat and light (reflections?) in a range of the electromagnetic spectrum. At the lower ranges of the spectrum CO2 and H2O constitute the primary barriers to that radiated energy. At the higher ranges it is mostly CO2. But the middle range, where most if not much of the radiation occurs is the area where CFC’s are the primary radiant barrier.  Dr. Lu’s paper shows that the level of CFC’s has a strong inverse correlation to the amount of radiated energy and therefore a
strong positive correlation to global temperature increases. Thus, in his opinion, buttressed by his research, it is CFC’s that account for known rises in global temperature not CO2. And, which account for the decline in global
temperatures in the current decade.

Further, he questions how CO2 could be the culprit, the radiant barrier, when historic increases in atmospheric CO2 do not correspond to any increase in global temperature. Going one step further Lu shows that the recent
decades decline in global temperatures correlates to a decline in the atmospheric levels of CFC’s (albeit with a nine year lag). And he notes that the ban on CFC’s should in fact accelerate the cooling effects for a
multi-decade period in the future.

However, I am puzzled by your comments regarding some higher levels of CO2 that cause (I think this is right) climate forcing of higher temperatures.

Climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is still unsettled.  It is the slavish acceptance of some data and the rejection of other data that drives the CAGW hypothesis.  Lu makes a powerful argument for more study and perhaps a re-calibration of climate sensitivity to CO2 but he is also making the argument that the climate sensitivity is larger i.e., a larger greenhouse effect, from a higher sensitivity to water vapor.  If Lu is incorrect on CFCs and the larger water vapor sensitivity then his theory collapses.  I find Lu’s hypothesis intriguing but then that makes methane, CH4, more troublesome because the same water vapor sensitivity would apply to increases in methane.  But this is how science advances.  As to my comments on the log behavior of CO2 concentrations and sensitivity I am favoring a lower sensitivity but I believe the pure radiative potential is still 4 W/m^2 as per Modtran.  Lu is not denying the radiative potential just that it does not show up in observations so he concludes that the net forcing is much less than 4 W/m^2.

My take away, other than that air conditioners can cool the jets on Al Gore’s CO2 plane, is that we may dodge a huge economic bullet by not shutting down the global economy in a futile gesture to corral CO2 when in fact the CFC tumor is shrinking from radiation treatments. Did I mix enough metaphors there?

I also read the bit about switching from coal to natural gas as a mechanism to reduce the CO2 impact on the planet. No doubt it will do so and for economic reasons may be preferable. But is the CO2 impact in and by itself
sufficient to warrant a change? Or  would a future technological advance provide a better, cheaper, alternative mechanism. Say natural gas electric generators dedicated to creating hydrogen for fuel cells? By dedicating the electrical output the plant can run more efficiently than if it was used to buttress the variable demands of the electrical grid. Plus that way we burn hydrocarbons in a controlled process (read: cleaner) to generate future energy. As opposed to catalytic cleaners on millions of automobiles. Until we develop a vessel to handle the hot salts required for Thorium reactors of course.

War Monger, not Isolationist

June 27, 2011

POTOMAC WATCH     JUNE 24, 2011

http://online.wsj.com/article/potomac_watch.html?mod=WSJ_topnav_na_opinion

The GOP’s War Powers Opportunism

Republicans abandon principle in a rush to score political points on the president.

By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL

Ms. Strassel,

First, I admire, occasionally greatly so and often agree with your writings and your appearances on WSJ Reports. Unlike many of your professional brethren you seem to think as well as you write. Not so much this time. In taking shots at Republicans who now oppose the Afghan and Iraq actions you join the great punditocracy in demanding party loyalty over good sense. I am a life-long Republican who frequently re-evaluates my association with that party over the Democrats or being independent. No one who knows me would dare suggest however, that I am a moderate.

Quite the opposite. I am an ardent, non-religious, fiscal conservative, social libertarian, war mongering globalist to throw out a few bumper sticker labels. My point is that just being a “Republican” ought not to require that I stifle my good sense in favor of a party line that fits on a bumper sticker. Why do you favor knee jerk Republicanism aka party loyalty over good sense? In fact, were I to ever rise to elected office my good sense would be the only anchor in a sea of contradictory demands. You, and others, are entitled of course to dispute my claim of “good sense”.

What I want to relate to you (Charles Krauthammer and Steve Hayes as well) is the consequences of the demand for knee jerk Republicanism in opposition to what you claim is a new form of isolationism. “They’ve
highlighted their own divisions and given voters reason to question whether the party is throwing over principle in favor of political opportunism or, more worrisome, a new form of GOP isolationism.”
Is it high principle to favor an unjustly constricted military operation whose functional objective is merely the political delay of an enemy at the great cost of soldier’s lives and national treasure? Or is it high principle to oppose this failed political policy that masquerades as a military intervention? The United States holds claim as the world’s greatest military power. Yet in 10 years this great nation cannot defeat, militarily or politically, a two-bit near stone age group of rag tag fighters and corrupt leaders. Why not?

I was once a volunteer soldier, a combat medic in Vietnam (173rd Airborne Brigade Oct 68-69). I served with pride, as much courage as I could muster yet often in considerable fear. But I felt a great desire to serve my country. For six months I was a proud soldier though I knew the sound of bullets whistling past my ear and the sight of blood on a comrades chest. During this time my unit was patrolling the Central Highlands, “Two Corp” it was called. We were in a “free fire zone” meaning, basically shoot first ask questions later. My captain developed a successful tactic that enabled us, at some cost, to kill a number of our enemy with few casualties on our side. This was war. Boring, unpleasant, with surprising camaraderie and sense of pride amongst fear, death and despair.

Then we were shifted to a populated coastal region. This is the birthplace of my anger. This was the model for contemporary military (in)action. This is why I am part of that Republican wing now in opposition not only to Afghanistan but Iraq, Libya and anywhere else in the world that politicians crave to send our troops for mere political posturing. In that populated costal area we were essentially ordered not to hurt anyone unless they were literally about to kill us. We could not call in air strikes, no napalm, no helicopter gunships, no C-130 war ships, no artillery. The most powerful military nation on earth tied its soldiers hands and ordered them to die. We went from a “free fire zone” to a “free to die zone”.

And why? So the media wouldn’t be able to display pictures of dead women and children. That is a good thing isn’t it? Does any soldier want to kill women and children? Except for the occasional psychopath no they most decidedly do not. I had to counsel one soldier who happened upon two women on a trail. They ran from him. He shouted at them to stop, they ran, he shot, they died. He was genuinely upset. I told him he did the right thing. Trust me Ms. Strassel, a woman can put a trigger, throw a hand grenade or set a booby trap just as easily as a man. She can also carry supplies, dress wounds and gather intelligence just as a man.

And, for the record, so can a child. While in this “free to die zone” I witnessed a child, a young boy maybe 12 or 13 walk across a rice paddy heading directly towards a small clump of Palm trees. I was on a hill across a road looking at the paddy. The boy entered that clump. Given the isolated location of those Palm trees in the paddy it was clear the boy intentionally entered the clump. I still remember thinking he must have wanted to go to the bathroom and was merely looking for a private place to do so. But that was curious since they normally just used the rice paddy as their toilet. Then the clump of trees exploded. The boy was killed as the booby trap exploded in his hands. In one instant I understood more clearly than any instruction could provide that women and children are as much the enemy as a soldier in uniform. I believe that booby trap was destined for my unit and would have been placed on one of our regular patrol routes.

Yet that is not the most extreme instance of political cowardice that I suffered. It was mid-April 1969 when we were ordered to go look for what military intelligence described as a “large force of NVA” (North Vietnamese Army). The captain, the same man with the successful tactics in the Central Highlands called the company together to give us our orders. With the strained look of suppressed anger he ordered us, that is the right word, a direct order, not to return fire unless we could see the individual firing at us. I actually could not believe this order was accurate and I asked a follow up question. “Captain, what if someone who is in a hutch pops up in a window, fires off a few rounds and ducks back down? Can we fire into the hutch then?”. His answer was singularly blunt: “NO”. We were ordered not to return fire unless we can literally see the person shooting at us.

And we went on that late afternoon patrol looking for a “large force of NVA”. If we found them we would engage them in battle. Sort of. If we could see the person shooting at us. We were not permitted to call in Air Strikes even if we spotted this large force. No artillery either. Might hurt someone. Maybe the AP would take a picture. No mortars either of course. So off we went. Shots rang out. Sniper. Everyone hits the dirt, waits for a further attack. Nothing happens. The captain leads us off in the direction of the sniper. More shots. More dirt. No one can return fire of course. Get up, move out. Chase the bastards they must be a small patrol from that NVA force. Still again more shots. It’s getting dark now. Can’t see anyone even if they are shooting at us. Could see the muzzle blast. Does that count? Get up, go after them.

BOOM! One of our 155mm artillery shells had been set as a booby trap. The snipers knew we were on patrol for a NVA force. They fired at us to get us to chase them. They lead us right into the booby trap. It was dark. The trip wire had been placed from the middle of the trail across to one side. They hoped (and were right) that the first few soldiers might miss the wire. Eventually someone would go on the deadly side and it worked. For them. Six South Vietnamese soldiers who were working with us died immediately. Another six or so US soldiers also died immediately. In the dark, with one booby trap already exploded and having been shot at all evening I had a job to do.

I grabbed my emergency kit and … turned on my flashlight. Nothing like being a bright target on a dark night to focus the mind. But there were another 6-8 soldiers wounded, including my captain. I gave morphine to the friend who was writhing in agony from two badly broken legs and moved towards the front of the line. I stepped on a log and shined my light on it so as to make sure it wasn’t another booby trap. Nope, it was the chest of a friend that I had chatted with just before the patrol started. His chest had a basketball sized hole. I moved forward again. I called out to see if anyone was alive. The man on point (in the lead) was still alive and had only a minor wound. He stayed put to be on guard. A brave man. The dozen behind him were dead and the half dozen behind them badly wounded.

I checked the bodies looking for anyone still alive. I found one! A young man-boy about 18. His right leg was blown off above the knee. Odd, it wasn’t bleeding much. Must be the blast cauterized the wound. His face was so pocked with sand from the blast it looked like a beach version of black face. As I put the tourniquet on what was left of his leg and tried to find a vein for an IV he sat up bold and brash. Instinctively I shined my light on his face, highlighting the whites of his eyes against the sand embedded on his face. Then only inches from my face he screamed, “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die”! And he laid back down and died.

Please think all this through for a moment. If you were a soldier would you stick you head up when the enemy is shooting so that you could see them shooting and thus return fire? Not likely. Or, if you did you might only be able to do it once. What this episode did was crystallize my understanding of what it meant to be Cannon Fodder. It highlighted the political motivations behind wasteful military operations. In short, I knew then that my government did not care about my life. It wasn’t that I might die in war that would be understandable. It was here, in this populated coastal region that my country became far more concerned about its media image than about my life and the lives of my comrades. My country preferred that I die rather than some child of the enemy.

And that Ms. Strassel is why I now oppose Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other hypocritical political operations hiding behind soldiers. Our military is not permitted to fight the enemy. Do not ever assume our enemy is unaware of our political puppet masters motivations. They count on them. They manipulate the media and the punditocracy. You have, perhaps unwittingly perhaps not played into their hands. You accuse Republicans of isolationism when their motivations may be a refusal to sacrifice soldiers for domestic political posturing in front of an anti-military media. If you instead took up the journalistic cudgel to take off the handcuffs of our military you would be reviled by many of your peers but you would be right. I am confident that our soldiers can destroy the enemy. Yes and a fair number of women and children as well. Tough. War is hell. Get over it.

If we are not going to permit our soldiers to fight then don’t send them into battle. This is my anger. This is my rationale for opposing the continued political abuse of soldiers. If you call this isolationism you could not be more wrong. I favored invading Afghanistan and Iraq. I favor destroying Iran and its nuclear program. Let us go after and kill Khadafy – and 10,000 men, women and children if necessary. I am a war monger. I am not an isolationist. But in good conscience I cannot any longer support the waste of our soldiers lives and our national treasure for the benefit of a group of miscreants running bumper sticker bi-annual political campaigns.

Went the day well?

May 30, 2011

I read a review of an old British war movie titled, “Went the day well?”. The review was good so we watched the film from Netflix. The title was taken from a John Maxwell Edmonds piece. The film was worth watching as an old British war flick and as warning for our times today to be vigilant against treachery from within and threats from without.

Went the day well?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.
Went the day well?

From Wikipedia: The epitaph is by the classical scholar John Maxwell Edmonds, and originally appeared  in The Times dated February 6th 1918, page 7, under a short section headed Four Epitaphs. It is the second of four epitaphs composed for graves and memorials to those fallen in battle – each covering different situations of death.

For some reason the title, “Went the day well?” strikes a chord for me. [I was a combat medic in Vietnam 68-69; 173rd Airborne Brigade.] I can picture fallen comrades asking me that question. Out of the ethos the
query hangs over like a branch on a tree. It is in one sense an admonition to live one’s life well. After all, the fallen comrade cannot and gave their life in exchange for my freedom. It is now my duty to live my life well, on their behalf and mine.

Went the day well? I shall do my best.

Do Ask, Do Tell

March 24, 2011

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) on the premise of Gay Rights is a false step on a left footed march to utopia. Advocates for the repeal of DADT are only considering homosexual or Gay Rights. The rights of heterosexuals or Straights are simply ignored in a conspiracy of silence. Such silence needs to be challenged. The intent of the DADT repeal is not simply to end one policy, it is to create a wholly new policy of: “Do Ask, Do Tell” (DoADoT). Repeal of DADT now means homosexuals have a constitutional right to openly and freely participate in the military. It also means that they are now free to openly and actively seek and engage sex partners within the minimal limits conditioned by military policy. Even so, they can now “ask” and “tell” with constitutional protections.

The political expectation is that military training and discipline should be sufficient to cure all social ills. Yet most often those who demand that military discipline restrain the hormonal instincts of young people are anti-military forces in pursuit of a political agenda. Pregnancies of military women by military men while both are on duty testify to the limits of such discipline. Not to mention the volume of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) by military men and women. The greatest military discipline at issue under DoADoT it will be how to keep homosexuals from widespread sexual activity and the concomitant spread of HIV and other STD’s throughout a unit. Good luck with that. But the discipline issue is a mere distraction, not the key issue at hand. Individual rights – for straights and gays – are the key issue. Straight Rights deserve and must have equal constitutional protections as any presumed Gay Rights.

The issue, indeed even the very concept of Straight Rights has been willfully ignored out of political cowardice. As DoADoT becomes policy male and female homosexuals will be granted superior constitutional rights to male and female heterosexuals. For Straights to have the same constitutional value as Gay Rights, heterosexual men and women must not and cannot be segregated simply because of gender. This new DoADoT policy should require that males and females not only work together but live together in an unrestricted environment. After all, if such physical differences as skin color, height, weight, hair color, and sexual orientation are immaterial then why are mere physical differences in genitalia of any importance?

Clearly there are obvious differences in genitalia within gender as well as between genders. What ought to be equally obvious is that such differences pale in comparison with sexual attraction as a valid rationale for gender segregation. Males and females have not been segregated merely because of physical differences. They have historically been segregated due to presumed sexual attraction. Yet the DoADoT policy explicitly eliminates sexual attraction as a valid basis for gender segregation.

Under DoADoT homosexuals are entitled to openly and actively live with and among that gender to which they are sexually attracted. By what constitutional doctrine or legal logic are heterosexuals to be denied those same rights? Yet, what member of Congress or military policy maker will require male and female military personnel to live together in a wholly unrestricted environment? Will the military chiefs fulfill the constitutional requirement that men and women now must use the same showers together, toilet together, use the same sinks side by side and of course dress and sleep in the same room or barracks? Will Congress stipulate that there cannot be any segregation based on gender? Will the President, Congress or the military chiefs acknowledge that under DoADoT all gender segregation will in fact be constitutionally prohibited?

Presuming that gays are somehow immune to sexual attraction towards straights is utterly laughable. Are straight males immune to sexual attraction towards females, homosexual or not? And since a DoADoT policy enables gays to openly ask and tell if any sexual attraction is mutual it follows that sexual solicitation and activity will follow. And because gays will be living with and among that gender to which they are sexually attracted they will be able to ask gays and straights alike. Homosexual “Gaydar” is no more effective than anyone else’s. But straights will not be able to “ask” and “tell” until living arrangements within the military are modified to remove all gender segregation. Under DoADoT there will no longer be any constitutional doctrine or legal logic to preclude such modifications. Indeed, one can presume that removing gender segregation is not merely permitted, it is mandated as equal protection.

Ultimately DoADoT  means females (homosexual and heterosexual) will be subject to sexual solicitations from heterosexual males while both are showering, toileting or dressing. Males will be equally subject to such solicitations. Under the DoADoT policy there cannot be any gender segregation, everyone is free to “ask and tell” and everyone will be subject to sexual solicitation. Will females freely submit to such a policy? What about homosexual males? It can only be imagined what impact such a constitutional right may have on the military enlistment rates of females (heterosexual or homosexual). It is unlikely to raise them. Nor is any of this likely to improve military readiness or morale.

But the DoADoT  policy rises well beyond the military. If the military must follow a constitutionally mandated social policy of DoADoT, then by what constitutional doctrine or legal logic will civilians be excluded from such a policy? And under a DoADoT constitutionally mandated social policy all gender segregation will henceforth be prohibited. That means bathrooms, locker rooms, and dorm rooms, for elementary, middle and high schools as well as all colleges and universities will be gender neutral. No gender segregation period. This policy will apply to adults as well whether in business or government although one can assume Congress will (as usual) exempt itself. Repeal of DADT is not a trivial exercise to provide one thin segment of society with a presumed “right”. It will result in a massive cynical overthrow of the most intimate human social policy for mere political gain.

When Experts Disagree –

March 21, 2011

For some time now I have been pondering the conumdrum of what to do When Experts Disagree. Naturally the next line would have to be, ” And, When Don’t They?”

My interests (as with many people) lie in the political, economic, financial and investment worlds but like most folks I dip into other worlds such as medicine, environment, education and social policy as I meander down life’s paths. And as I peek into those side worlds and stare at my intrinsic worlds I am confident that this issue of When Experts Disagree flows into nearly (if not every) facet of our modern life. The great question is what, exactly, do we – the decided non-experts do when those experts upon whom we supposedly depend disagree?

As an example,Professor Don Boudreaux wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal, noting one such disagreement among economics experts:

Justin Lahart accurately reports that, as recently as last year, the late Paul Samuelson dismissed F.A. Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom as alarmist and wrong: “Sweden and its Scandinavian neighbors are among the most socialistic countries in the world, as Mr. Hayek defined them, Mr. Samuelson pointed out.  ‘Where are their horror camps?’ he [Samuelson] wrote” (“The Glenn Beck Effect: Hayek Has a Hit,” June 17).

Indeed, do physicists even agree on the speed of light? The short answer is, at best, maybe, maybe not. From another area, Curious About Astronomy, comes another type of disagreement among experts.

However, other astronomers disagree that the experiment is able to measure the speed of gravity, arguing that the effect is much smaller than the scientists claim and that (in effect) they got their arithmatic wrong when they decided that the speed of gravity did come into the equations. They are not claiming that the speed of gravity is different to that of light, just that it could not be measured in the experiment.

Clearly this disagreement is at an intellectual level far beyond my capability. But, then, I’m not an expert in anything so almost every disagreement by experts is beyond my intellectual capability. The question though remains: what do I (we), as  non-experts do when experts disagree – as they almost always do?

Take another set of disagreements at the stratospheric intellectual level. This is the abstract for a translation of a disagreement between Albert Einstein and Walter Ritz.

During 1908 and 1909 Ritz and Einstein battled over what we now call the time arrows of electrodynamics and entropy. Ritz argued that electrodynamic irreversibility was one of the roots of the second law of thermodynamics, while Einstein defended Maxwell-Lorentz electromagnetic time symmetry. Microscopic reversibility remains a cornerstone of our current paradigm, yet we are finding more and more evidence that experimentally discerned time arrows are asymmetrical and that they all point from past to future. This paper furnishes some comments about events leading up to the Ritz-Einstein confrontation, some subsequent developments, and an English translation of their agreement to disagree. A side by side comparison of two recent summaries of their battle communiques is included to provide an overview of what they had to say about this current issue.

In matters of scientific fact we may – and most assuredly I emphasize MAY – allow scientists to conduct their experiments to discover the facts of a situation. But what happens when the science community cannot experiment but can only create models they think mirror reality? This is precisely the circumstance in the arguments regarding global warming. Or, more specifically, anthropogenic global warming (AGW), warming caused exclusively by the acts of man. The facts cannot be determined by experiment. The various scientific camps create computer models and argue about the models and the input data and it all has taken on the slimy sheen of a political argument, not a scientific one.

What would we do if our lives were dependent on deciding which of these experts, these intellectual giants was correct? Or even which was more correct? How would we decide? What would be the basis of our decision? Ultimately, might one even be so arrogant as to ask why even consult the experts? For if they ultimately disagree and we are not expert yet we must make a decision then why consult them at all? How would we, on what basis would we, differentiate between the various expert camps?

What do we do when our experts disagree?

When Ears Don’t Hear, Truth is Futile

March 21, 2011

Comment in response to this article by Leonard Pitts, writer for the Miami Herald           03/19/2011

Mr. Pitts,

You claim to be presenting “objective fact” and rue the idea that no one gets it. That your article will be futile, I agree. But it will be futile because you have not and will not present “objective fact”.

“For instance, in her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander reports that white kids are a third more likely to have sold drugs than black kids. But in some states, blacks account for up to 90 percent of all drug offenders in prison.” Thus your column infers drug arrests must be racially motivated.

Michelle Alexander claims, “white kids are a third more likely” to deal drugs. This is clever word usage designed more to hide information than provide it. Let’s assume any randomly selected drug dealer has a 33% probability of being black. But if that drug dealer is 1/3 more likely to be white then a randomly selected drug dealer has a 44% probability of being white. We can assume a 23% probability of the drug dealer being Hispanic or Asian or of mixed race.

Out of every 100 drug dealers then about 33 are black and 44 are white. Thus “white kids are a third more likely to have sold drugs”. But black’s only constitute about 13% of our population while whites are about 80%. If we look at any random sample of 100,000 Americans and of those we assume 100 are drug dealers then of those drug dealers 33 are likely to be black and 44 likely to be white. But in that same 100,000 population sample only 13,000 are black and 80,000 are white. The rest being of other races. (See U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts)

That suggests a 0.254% probability of a black being a drug dealer and a 0.055% probability of a white being a drug dealer [33/13,000=0.254% and 44/80,000=0.055%]. This means blacks are 4.6 times more likely to be a drug dealer than whites [0.0254/0.055=4.62]. Is that racist Mr. Pitts? If random members of the black race are nearly 5 times more likely to be drug dealers than random members of the white race then isn’t it “objective fact” that they are far more likely to end up in jail?

Other questions regard the nature of the drug offense. Is the drug dealer who only sells marijuana more likely to be white or black? Is the drug dealer who sells powder cocaine more likely to be white or black? Is the drug dealer who sells crack cocaine more likely to be white or black? Is the drug dealer who sells methamphetamine more likely to be white or black? Is the drug dealer who sells heroin more likely to be white or black? Mr. Pitts you claim “objective fact” but all I read is subjective bias. You and Michelle Alexander conflate various types of drug offenses together as if selling heroin on a street corner is no more offensive than selling a nickel bag of marijuana to a college buddy. You obscure “facts” with sophistry.

And that sir, is why your column is so futile. You continuously harp on the racial makeup of statistical outcomes  and rarely harp on the choices being made by individuals. In so doing you drive a wedge between those of us who expect individuals to make responsible choices and to enjoy (or not) the obligations thereof and those who seek to have the state provide an outcome. It is not racist to ask why so many black children are born out of wedlock yet few black leaders complain publicly. It is not racist to ask why so many black children grow up without a father yet few black leaders complain publicly. It is not racist to ask why so many black males have criminal records while black leaders only complain about the racist police instead of stupid choices made by individuals. Instead of challenging the choices members of your racial community make you charge the white population with racism and then demand that the state force an alternative outcome regardless of choices individuals make. If expecting individuals to make responsible choices about their lives means that I am racist then so be it.

And for the record, it is objective fact that most murders are committed within racial categories. That is most blacks are killed by other blacks and most whites are killed by other whites. Indeed, in all cases most often by someone they know.

Wilmingwood

March 21, 2011

Wilmington, NC
StarNews      03/03/2011
Letter to Editor:

[Note: NC has a film industry incentive to give filmmakers a 25% rebate on their expenses. The editors of the local paper find this just peachy.]

The editors congratulate themselves on the erstwhile success of the film industry in, “Wilmington’s film business on a roll; let’s hope it continues”. Yes, the local film industry is on a roll all right, they’re rolling away with our tax dollars. Golly, who would have thought that bribing a favored industry with a tax credit equaling 25% of its expenses would actually bring that industry to town. Amazing, simply amazing. As Claude Rains famously remarked, “I’m shocked, shocked …”! And as the film industry responds to these tax credit bribes the surprised editors shout with “Glee” or is it just glee? But economically this is “The Night of the Living Dead”.

As a small business owner I’m tired of the endless pleadings for “more porridge tax credits please sir!” as if film is the only industry that needs to remain competitive. What pray tell (is prayer permitted in Willmingwood?) would the editors expect to happen if other industries received the same bribe? Would pharmaceutical companies (PPD) show up in force? What about nuclear (GE) facilities? Might some more build plants nearby? How about a 25% tax credit for specialty glass (Corning)? Would Corning manufacture their Gorilla Glass locally? Or, forsooth, would a 25% tax credit lure more cement plants (Titan)? The list is endless really. In fact, the State of North Carolina could bankrupt itself by bribing industry to locate here. We know that the film industry responds to “The Bribe” (1949). So will others.

The Right To Judge

March 21, 2011

Wilmington, NC

 StarNews                                                      08/13/2010

Letter to Editor:

In the article, “Who has the right to Judge”, by Leonard Pitts he makes the point that a judges personal circumstance does not invalidate their ability to pass judgment on issues – even when those issues may impact the judge personally. He challenges those who claim that a supposed homosexual judge (who overturned California’s Prop 8) is biased in favor of homosexual rights. Mr. Pitts writes, “… that reasoning would require women judges to recuse themselves from cases with women plaintiffs, Jewish judges to abandon cases with Jewish defendants, white judges to leave cases tried by white lawyers.” 

I am curious then how Mr. Pitts views the NC Racial Justice Act that requires investigations of bias in sentencing? From the “Sentencing Law and Policy” blog:

“Under the terms of the Racial Justice Act in 2009, convicts can use statistical evidence to argue bias in their sentencing. The law allows judges to consider evidence that one racial group is being punished more harshly than members of other racial groups.”

Which is it Mr. Pitts? Can a white jury judge a black defendant or a black jury judge a white defendant? Can a male jury judge a female defendant or heterosexual jury judge a homosexual defendant. Or, based on your past writings, is it only bias when a black defendant is on trial? Consider what Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in 2001. “Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. … I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”

I love that line: “Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.” Facts that judges choose to see. Never mind the whole truth, here’s what I want to see.

 So, Mr. Pitts, is it truly unreasonable to expect a homosexual judge will in fact be biased when ruling on a case involving presumed homosexual rights? And, if not, then justify the NC Racial Justice Act. Either we are all capable of bias or none of us are, right?