June 25th, 2008 by Rightsideup

I was pleasantly surprised by this article in the Guardian reporting on the horror of the global warming community to find that even the Brits are not convinced by the alarmism they’ve been spreading. The UK has always seemed to me (based on my frequent trips back and conversations with people there) to be much further along in its adherence to the global warming “consensus” and so this surprised me along with the warming lobby. From the article:

The majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans – and many others believe scientists are exaggerating the problem, according to an exclusive poll for The Observer.

The results have shocked campaigners who hoped that doubts would have been silenced by a report last year by more than 2,500 scientists for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found a 90 per cent chance that humans were the main cause of climate change and warned that drastic action was needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

I’m tempted to say that the British public is smarter than I thought: they don’t just buy this stuff hook, line and sinker as the media has attempted to suggest. Even 2500 scientists can’t persuade them! In reality of course, many ordinary people simply go by the headlines rather than the detailed analysis – what percentage of those surveyed could have told you how many scientists – to the nearest thousand – had authored/agreed that report? (They’d probably have a better answer for how many climate change scientists it takes to change a lightbulb.)

But in most cases most ordinary people who don’t spend their lives with noses buried in newspapers have to go on personal experience plus the occasional headline, tempered by an inherent distrust of the media. In this case, that’s won out over all the blathering by politicians on this subject and the massive buy-in from the media. Pretty impressive that that’s still possible in an age when most of the electorate seems disengaged from the political process in the UK. Now if only that would start translating to political policies…

June 23rd, 2008 by Rightsideup

The problem with attempting to grab the moral high ground, as Barack Obama has sought to do in the presidential election, is that – unless you’re really serious about it and can live up to it – you essentially raise the bar for your own behavior to the point where it’s very hard to live up to the expectations you’ve created. On the other hand, if you do live up to your own billing for a period of time, you can create an aura of respectability that will cover you even when your actions are very much in contrast to your supposed ideals.

Such has been the case for Obama so far, as he is immunized against much of the fallout from his various misdeeds and missteps by the adulation of his supporters and segments of the media. However, at some point his luck will run out, and he’ll find out whether the American public prefers a man who talks a good talk but can’t live up to it, or a man who makes little claim to be anything other than a straight shooter but generally lives up to that characterization.

There are early signs that at least some Obama supporters are willing to hold him to his word. This YouTube video features an Obama supporter who is disappointed in his candidate’s abandonment both of public financing itself and of a previously stated promise to use it. It’s well worth watching, as I think this could be a sign of things to come from supporters who’ve been swept up in the oratory and grand promises and who will eventually come to realize that the actions of the candidate don’t live up to the vision he sets out. The question is whether these people will then switch to the McCain camp or simply withdraw from the political process in a negation of one of Obama’s supposed greatest achievements – the ability to get ordinary people, and especially young people, engaged in that process.

June 21st, 2008 by Rightsideup

It appears the Obama campaign has adopted a version of the Presidential Seal as a sort of logo to sit on the podium when he speaks at events, and it looks something like this:

There are several objections to this, not the least of which is that it appears to be illegal. But even more than that technical objection, there’s the issue of what it means that he has this seal. It implies a desire to appear to be the president before he’s been through the appropriate process. It suggests an unseriousness, since the Latin motto means, roughly translated, “yes we can”. But above all it’s a betrayal of one of the fundamental principles of American constitutional government – that the nation and its people are sovereign, and not the President. In other countries, including my own home country of the United Kingdom, people swear allegiance to the head of state – a King, Queen or President. But in the United States people swear allegiance to the Flag and the “republic for which it stands”.

Yes, there is a great seal that belongs to the President, but it belongs to the office, and is unchanging regardless of who holds that office. It’s a symbol of permanence and a reminder that the office and not the individual is the one to be reverenced. Obama’s very personal knock-off seems to betray several of those principles, putting his “O” at the center, his own personal (and meaningless) motto where E Pluribus Unum (again, those sovereign people) should normally sit. Even the preservation of the arrows in one of the eagle’s claws is oddly incongruous with Obama’s pacifist positions on foreign policy.

The whole thing is oddly symbolic of the Obama campaign – lack of respect for the United States, the cult of personality, meaningless slogans and conflicting messages. 

June 20th, 2008 by Rightsideup

The media’s going easy on Obama again (contrary to his bizarre suggestion here that the media has been going easy on McCain). This time it’s in relation to his incredible about-face on taking public financing. He and John McCain had made a deal (publicly announced at the time) that they would both take public financing, which is supposed to make the whole process fairer, more transparent and so on (if you’re into that kind of thing). Now he’s dumped the deal, without even talking to the McCain campaign about it first, something else they had promised to do.

The announcement was made in a video (available here on Obama’s website) to supporters. Under the video, the beg for additional funds comes under the heading, “Declare your independence from a broken system”. He just gets more audacious all the time, doesn’t he? The video thing is interesting – you can look at it from the cynical or non-cynical point of view. The cynical POV is that he did a video because when he says stuff people are swept along, but when you see the same words written down they leave you cold (apparently, it was the same with FDR). So when you have a tough message to get out, like this, you have the wonder-candidate speak it to camera instead of issuing a press release. The less cynical version is that he now needs to raise funds all the more, so they turned this into a beg for money, which is often delivered in this form. Which do you think it was?

Of course, Obama’s people have suggested that there was a negotiation with the McCain campaign, and they couldn’t come to an agreement, as per this CNN article:

Obama counsel Bob Bauer said Thursday he had met with Trevor Potter, his counterpart on the McCain team, on June 6 to discuss a possible joint townhall appearance later in the month, and that the two discussed the public funding issue for 45 minutes.

“I asked him to address a [series] of issues of concern to the Obama campaign–the McCain campaign’s active raising and spending of private money since February for a general election campaign, including for media, while we were still in the middle of a primary contest,” said Bauer in a statement. “He gave me his perspectives–the best arguments he could offer for an agreement on both sides to accept public financing–and it was clear to me that these offered no basis for any further exchange.”

The same article was subsequently updated to incorporate comment from the McCain campaign, as follows:

Trevor Potter disputed the Obama campaign’s account, telling CNN Thursday that he had met with Bauer on a completely unrelated subject, and that campaign financing had only been discussed in an abstract way.

“We then spoke in general terms about the public financing system, with Bob outlining reasons it could be considered ‘broken’ or irrelevant in 2008, and I explaining why Sen. McCain remained committed to it and thought it was good for the country,” said Potter.

“Other than this informal discussion, there have been no contacts between the two campaigns on the subject, and this discussion contained no negotiations or even offer to hold negotiations. I cannot begin to explain how the Obama campaign could twist my reiteration of Sen. McCain’s support of the system, and hope the two candidates would participate in it, into what they said today,” he added

“…An attempt to imply otherwise by any representative of the Obama campaign (and an attempt to turn an informal conversation between Bob Bauer and me into a discussion of negotiations between the campaigns) is a complete misrepresentation of the facts”

Another example of the man who talks so much about integrity in the process going against his own word and pursuing exactly the route to financing so derided by so many in his own party, and then lying about the circumstances until someone contradicts his version of events. Who knows where this will go next? So much for Obama’s “purity”.

June 18th, 2008 by Rightsideup

I was watching CNN in the morning yesterday and was struck by a segment on how the flooding in the MidWest was going to affect food prices. The anchor Tony Harris was discussing this topic with Stephanie Elam, a Business Correspondent. Excerpts from the transcript (my emphasis):

HARRIS: Midwest floods not only uprooting lives but devastating the crops we eat. 

Stephanie Elam is “Minding Your Business.” 

You know, Stephanie, I can’t keep reaching much deeper into my pockets here and I know the prices are going to go up for a lot of the produce that we eat here. So give us the toll here. 

ELAM: … and more corn is actually shipped away. It’s exported from the United States than actually eaten here. This could also have an effect on the markets that way as well. 

HARRIS: You know what, I need to get in the grocery store a little more often here. You’re talking crops. I’m talking produce. 

ELAM: I know. 

HARRIS: Hello! Get into a grocery store, Mr. Harris. 

ELAM: … costs are so volatile right now. Well, if you strip those out, in May, it was up 0.2 percent versus 0.4 percent of an increase in April. So we all know what this is about. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone out there because anyone who has been to a grocery store, Mr. Harris, knows that things cost a lot more. 

I’m sure you’ve been to the gas station, though, so you know that. 

COLLINS: He has shoppers beforehand. 

HARRIS: Yes, I have shoppers.

Did you see that? He starts out by talking as if he’s personally feeling the pinch from rising food prices, but does it in such a way (the transcript doesn’t catch this of course) that it’s clear it’s a joke and he knows it – so he’s essentially making fun of people for whom rising food prices are an issue. Then towards the end we get the ultimate negation of that early statement – he doesn’t actually go to the grocery store – he has “shoppers”. How out of touch can this man be? And yet here he and his network are, reporting on the immense toll rising food prices are supposedly taking on the shrinking middle class and being smug about it at the same time. 

How about an assignment for Mr Harris? Send him grocery shopping for himself for a few weeks and see what he reports…

June 17th, 2008 by Rightsideup

John McCain has apparently now started saying that he wants states to be allowed to drill off their coastlines. According to Jim Geraghty’s Campaign Spot blog:

John McCain just completed a press conference here in Arlington, VA. Not the most chock-full of news appearance the senator has ever made, but one clear headline coming out of it — tomorrow he will call for the lifting of “the federal moratorium on states that choose to permit exploration” off their shores.

He said that in the coming weeks, he would be focusing on “America’s energy crisis” – the country’s dependence on foreign oil. Tomorrow he will call for the lifting of “the federal moratorium on states that choose to permit exploration.”

“We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil… exploration is a step toward the longer-term goal.” The candidate repeated his advocacy of a federal gas tax holiday.

Asked about the offshore drilling, McCain responded, “Right now there’s a moratorium, and they have to be lifted. I’m not dictating to the states that they drill for oil. I’m saying the moratorium should be lifted so states can choose that option if they want to.” He added that the situation might require “additional incentives… in terms of tangible financial rewards” to states that permit drilling. He said he didn’t have a particular position at this point on an appropriate distance from the coast for offshore drilling.

Campaign Carl Cameron: Is lifting moratoria a way of addressing conservative irritation with your position on ANWR?

McCain: “I believe ANWR is a pristine area… but I also believe lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas is a very high priority.”

I kind of feel like McCain’s boxed himself into a corner on the ANWR thing and the journalist who asked him that question kind of hit the nail on the head. Here’s an opportunity to open up some clear blue water between himself and Obama on an issue which is close to the hearts of many voters, and yet he’s allowing environmentalism (not an issue likely to swing votes) to trump it.

The moratorium idea’s a good one, but the logic should be followed through with a similar position on ANWR – let the Alaskans decide if they want to drill there – who else cares? Who is ever likely to visit the area? There aren’t even any roads leading to it. Pristine it may be (the ellipsis in the quote above is Geraghty’s and not mine so I don’t know if he elaborated on that) but that isn’t an argument in itself for preventing drilling there. The bottom of the ocean may be pristine too, but if no-one’s ever going to see it I assume no-one will object to drilling for oil there.

I just came across this site, which looks interesting. Haven’t had time to explore it yet but might make it the subject of a future post.

June 14th, 2008 by Rightsideup

From a speech Obama gave in Philadelphia (you know, in Pennsylvania, where bitter people cling to guns and so on):

“They’re going to try to scare people. They’re going to try to say that ‘that Obama is a scary guy,’” he said. A donor yelled out a deep accented “Don’t give in!”

“I won’t but that sounded pretty scary. You’re a tough guy,” Obama said.

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”

Look at that second last line, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”. Would anyone else – especially a Republican, get away with this? Would McCain? Wouldn’t people on the left be crying out that this was irresponsible rhetoric? Pointing out that there was a mass shooting less than 2 years ago in Pennsylvania? And so on? But Obama gets away with this scot-free. Another free ride for Mr Obama. And that’s going to be the story of the campaign, unfortunately. Which means McCain needs to be that much better because he has even more than the usual bias against him with this guy.

June 13th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Ireland has just proved that, at this point, countries whose economies are doing well see no reason to pursue further EU integration. Its voters appear to have rejected the new EU constitution in a referendum on Thursday:

Having spent the last two years honing a treaty which was supposed to benefit 495 million Europeans, the burghers of Brussels looked on helplessly yesterday as it was torn to shreds by fewer than a million Irish voters.

Its spectacular failure yesterday, the “No” vote romping home with 53.4 per cent of the vote, was undoubtedly an indictment of the lacklustre “Yes” campaign, but it was also a sign of growing unease among normal working people about the creeping powers of a faceless body which is unchallenged by the political elite.

Ireland is one of the few countries where opposition to the EU is strong that is actually holding a referendum – in the UK, where opposition is arguably even stronger, the government reneged on its manifesto promise to hold one, undoubtedly because it would have been defeated had a vote been held.

This is just further proof that the only countries in strong favor of the EU are those that still have something to benefit from membership, whether handouts from Brussels, access to a broader labor market and so on. Those countries that are net contributors to the EU, and whose economies are more flexible than the EU would allow them to be, are straining at the bit to get out, or at least to resist further integration. 

Good for the voters of Ireland, and good for the others who are resisting this latest round of “ever closer union“. It would be nice if this vote really did stymie the process of further integration in the way some seem to think it will – it’s about time for the members of the EU to pause and take stock of the benefits of membership before we move any further forward.

June 12th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has an article comparing Brazil and the US in their approaches to drilling for oil off their coasts. He points out that the Brazilian oil company Petrobas has just discovered around 8 billion barrels of oil of its coast and it has become a national bonanza with no-one seriously suggesting that drilling shouldn’t begin immediately. Coincidentally, that is around the same amount which we believe to be available in the various places off the US coast where drilling is not currently allowed. As a result, Henninger suggests, contrary to Charles de Gaulle’s famous comment that “Brazil is not a serious country,” current US energy policy suggests that Brazil is perfectly serious, but the US may not be. There’s also a video interview with Henninger embedded in the article, which summarizes it nicely.

I also recently read / re-read the transcript of the fictional presidential debate which occurred on one of the later seasons of the West Wing (I’m not a fan generally but had read about it in a Peggy Noonan column a while back). In it, the Republican nominee Vinick (played by Alan Alda) has a wonderful little bit about ANWR which I thought worth re-posting here (Santos is the Democrat, Sawyer is the moderator):

That wilderness is much more valuable than the oil that’s underneath it. I think that the pathway to a better, more sustainable future does not go through the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

Excuse me, Senator.

A year’s worth of oil? That sounds like a lot to me and there could be more. There could be much more down there. We’ll never know until we start drilling. I’m sure it’s a beautiful place. Have you ever been there?


I haven’t either. Have you? Anyone? Clap if you’ve been to the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

There is silence.

Uh-huh. And that’s about as many people who will ever go to ANWR. None. I mean, maybe a few very rich people will go up there with private planes and snap some pictures in the summertime. I mean, this ain’t the Grand Canyon we’re talking about. How many of you have been to the Grand Canyon?

A great number of people in the audience applaud. Vinick again grabs his wireless microphone and comes around to the front of his podium.

If they discovered big oil reserves in the Grand Canyon, I’d never let them drill there because it’s our most magnificent natural monument and because real people get to go there. They get to see it, they get to taste it, to touch it, to experience it in all its glory. Now, you know, we’re talking about a country that has oil wells within site of the beautiful beaches of Santa Barbara; oil wells within site of every Texas beach; thousands of operating oil wells in the city of Los Angeles. I just saw an oil well in the parking lot of a McDonalds in Long Beach the other day. And now Democrats are saying we can’t put oil wells in a place so remote that only the animals will see them? I wish we could put all our oil wells up there, where no one could see them.

The audience applauds.

June 11th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Just followed a link from the Hot Air blog to americansolutions.com, a site set up by Newt Gingrich and others as the main web presence of American Solutions, which is described as follows on the site:

American Solutions for Winning the Future is a new, non-partisan organization built around three goals: to defend America and our allies abroad and defeat our enemies, to strengthen and revitalize America’s core values, and to move government into the 21st Century. The General Chairman is former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

One of the organization’s key short-term initiatives is a petition to gather signatures in support of allowing drilling for oil in the US in areas where it’s currently prohibited by law. The wording of the petition is as follows:

We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices)* by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.

I’ve just signed it. I have no idea what good it will do – when was the last time a petition really changed anything? But I think it’s a useful way to gauge support among the population at large for this cause, which is the greatest single opportunity for reducing the price of oil and gasoline in the medium to long term. They had over 500,000 signatures at the time I signed it, and I assume that number has been rising rapidly. Newt Gingrich has (or had) a knack for corralling public support for big picture programs (think the Contract with America). This organization seems to have grown out of his failed attempt to have himself anointed the Republican nominee for president without participating in the normal process, but he’ll be trying to parlay it into something else. As long as the focus remains promoting sound policy rather than getting Newt elected to higher office there’s a lot of potential for good there. I think he’s a far more useful figure as an organizer and campaigner than as an office holder at this point.

Note to those responsible for the site: provide a logo and other materials that can easily be embedded into blogs and other sites. The main logo on the site certainly doesn’t serve this purpose. You need to make it as easy as possible for your core constituency to get the word out. They do have some stuff but they’re banner ads rather than logos or widgets. The only thing remotely logo-like is a naff-looking little thing (see below).