Climate Change, Then and Now

In February, 2014, in asking "The End of Snow?", the NY Times noted that Europe would lose ski resorts if the warming continue. It then warned…

The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters.

That was then. This is USA Today.

Last month, Siberia experienced record snowfall and the worst blizzard in a decade.

Above-average snow cover in Siberia is believed to affect the now-famous polar vortex and send bitterly cold temperatures to the Northeast. This happens when the Arctic Oscillation, a climate pattern, shifts.

The headline on the article reads, "Record Siberian snow could bode ill for Northeast". So it’s bad news for New England if it doesn’t snow, and it’s bad news if it does. That’s why it’s impossible to argue with the Climate Change crows; no matter the news, it’s bad.

Yes, yes, climate vs. weather they tell us. But they don’t listen to suggestions that last years temps were just weather, and that the Arctic wind pattern that may bring all that cold to the northeast US may be the planet’s way of adjusting.

Oh, and predictions of global cooling are not off the table, either.

Settled indeed.

    Embryonic Stem Cell Research Effectively Dead

    It was supposed to be the Holy Grail of medicine. Human embryonic stem cells (hES) were going to save humanity. But when George W. Bush struck a compromise between wide-open research and a total ban, he was castigated by liberals who called him anti-science. Bush had concerns about the ethics of it all, but the Left wouldn’t hear of it.

    However, since embryonic lines were restricted, some scientists pursued another area of research; adult stem cells. Adult cells were already curing diseases by themselves, but they couldn’t differentiate into as many cells as the embryonic type. This new research attempted to coax adult stem cells into their embryonic state. These were called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).

    It worked. And the ethical issue that George W. Bush brought up were no longer an issue. Ethics matter, Bush recognized it, and science (given a push to resolve it) came up with an alternative. Should science have ethical boundaries? That’s a perennial question, but Bush set this particular boundary, and he was right to do so.

    And now?

    Foes of human embryo research were called troglodytes and religious fundamentalists; they were frauds waging war on genuine science. Their scientific credentials were questioned. They were accused of being callous and indifferent to the suffering of patients with chronic illness.

    And yet they were right. Not one person has been cured with embryonic stem cells. Not one.

    The controversy ran out of steam almost immediately after Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka developed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) in 2007, a feat for which he was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. His cells apparently have all the potential of embryonic cells without the ethical baggage. Leading scientists quietly stopped working with hES cells and moved to the new cells.

    Nonetheless, some scientists still insisted that hES cells were the gold standard; destructive embryo research would always be essential for the advancement of science.

    Now, in the concluding act of the stem cell wars, a paper in Nature Biotechnology has suggested that iPS cells and hES cells are functionally equivalent — effectively meaning that there is no need to destroy embryos either for research or for therapies. If it is true — and it needs to be confirmed by other researchers — it is the stem cell equivalent of receiving the surrender of the last Japanese soldier on some remote island in the Philippines. Whether or not the findings of Konrad Hochedlinger and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston are correct, the war is over.

    Ethics in science still matters, or ought to. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology.

      Thoughts on the 2015 Election Results

      Not a huge number of results, but some results were huge in this off-year election day.

      The “hugest” could be considered the election of a Republican Tea Partier as governor of Kentucky.

      Matt Bevin, a Republican political novice, wealthy Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite, was elected Kentucky’s next governor on Tuesday and swept fellow Republicans into statewide office with him. The stunning victory heralds a new era in a state where Democrats have held the governor’s mansion for all but four of the last 44 years.

      In beating his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, by almost nine percentage points, Mr. Bevin, 48, shocked people in his own party, who believed that the climate in Kentucky was ripe for a Republican but feared that Mr. Bevin, a charismatic conservative with a go-it-alone style, was too far out of the mainstream and too inexperienced to win.

      A few things about this. First, I have noted before that when Democrats get to run places like the big cities of Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore for decades, with few to no Republicans in that time, and when we see these cities crumbling when they have this free hand, it’s hard to understand why the voters in those cities keep electing folks from the same party over and over. It’s like they think that the same guys who got them into this hole can now dig them out of it using the same shovels. I’m hoping that this signals a change in the voters of Kentucky; that they’ve finally said, “Enough is enough.”

      Bevin, as noted above in the NY Times article, was a Tea-Party-type. The Republican establishment was concerned that he was too conservative, or “too far out of the mainstream” to win. It appears that perhaps the “mainstream” isn’t necessarily where those pundits think it is. It may be running more to the political Right.

      Read the rest of this entry

        A Win for Religious Freedom … Of a Sort

        Let’s see if this sounds familiar. An employee is hired for a job, but at some point that employee is asked to do something that is against their religious beliefs. They refuse to do it, and consequences ensue. What consequences? Well, if you’re a baker, a photographer or a pizza company that wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding, that generally means a hefty fine and sensitivity reeducation. If you’re a county clerk that won’t issue same-sex marriage license, that means jail time. If you’re truck drivers that refuse to deliver alcohol, that means … the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the EEOC – goes to bat for you and sues the trucking company for not creating a religious accommodation, and you walk away with $240,000.

        What a minute, what? Yup, you heard right. OK, well then, is that progress? In one way, it certainly is, though the federal EEOC is really late to this party. Hobby Lobby, Kim Davis, and various small businesses could have really used help over the past few years, but it’s nice that the federal government is finally waking up. Can we expect this same action in the future?

        Well, I guess it all depends. I would like to point out that all these victims were Christians, except the truck drivers that got federal help and the windfall. In a move that makes the feds look like their picking and choosing which religions get protection and which don’t, they were Muslims. Now, this is just one situation, but given all the other opportunities for the feds to help Christians which they passed on, it really does look like they’re playing favorites, which the Constitution forbids.

        In a statement, the EEOC said, “We are proud to support the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices. It’s fundamental to the American principles of religious freedom and tolerance.” Apparently, as long as you’re not Christian.

        Remember this during the next brouhaha about religious freedom. Watch how this administration acts. For those of you who value religious freedom, and that should be all of you, their actions should let you know what they think of the First Amendment.

        I’m actually happy for those Muslim truck drivers. They should have gotten a religious exemption. And this is good news for religious freedom in general, because now anyone can point to their case as a precedent. My fear, however, is that this will go down the memory hole the next time a Christian is on the chopping block.

          The Free Market Wins Again

          If you know the name Martin Shkreli, it’s likely because news stories about his popped up on your Facebook or Twitter feed. I saw articles about him from folks who don’t usually post about current events, but what he did had many people in an uproar.

          He was criticized last month after his Turing Pharmaceuticals company announced an increase in the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per capsule after buying the rights to sell the drug. Daraprim is the only approved treatment for a life-threatening parasitic infection. Many of my more liberal friends used this to “prove” that the free market has failed, and that government must step in to assure affordable medicine for all. The uproar caused Shkreli to reconsider the price hike.

          I came somewhat to his defense, noting that the reason he was able to acquire the rights to the drug was because the previous company wasn’t making a profit. So instead of those needing the drug being left high and dry, someone with enough money to do so kept it from going away entirely. Clearly the previous company didn’t price it well enough to keep it around, so an increase was inevitable. But I, too, thought the price hike was rather over the top.

          But in steps the free market. In a situation where one company is price gouging, the opportunity for another company to work it to their advantage is ripe. Which is exactly what happened.

          A San Diego biomedical company on Thursday announced it’s selling an alternate medication to Daraprim for $1 a capsule, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

          Mark L. Baum, CEO of Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, told the paper that one catch is that its formula isn’t FDA-approved and may be sold only through a doctor’s prescription to a specific person. He added that the process of getting FDA approval would take years and cost millions, while not filing keeps prices low and profits higher.

          Some folks seem to think that making a profit is evil in and of itself, never mind drug manufacturers doing it, but without profit, there is no money to research new medicines. And part of the cost of that research is the government. Ironically, it’s the government that some folks believe can save us from these price hikes. Sorry, when government gets involved, that’s not what happens.

          So somehow, without a new law being passed or a new rule being created by the FDA, the situation rectified itself, and those needing help now have a lower-price option than even before Shkreli bought the rights.

          Hillary and Bernie seem to think that government is our savior in all things, and that the free market has failed. Well, it’s not, and it hasn’t. Without government’s help, the price of medication has gone down, rightly punishing a bad decision on the part of one company. You can thank the free market for a lower price, and the choices you have. When the government screws up, you can’t just switch governments, but you can switch corporations far, far more easily.

            In discussing the gun issue on Facebook from my personal account with some friends, a couple of studies were referred to me that show, generally, more guns, more murder. Now, it kinda’ does make sense that the more guns you have in an area, chances are the more gun violence you’ll see. But my issue with these kinds of studies is that they just count guns, as if it’s the guns acting on their own.

            But consider this. If you compare the number of guns in gangland Chicago vs the number in a quiet suburb of gun-loving Texas, you’d see pretty quickly that just counting numbers of guns is misleading. It depends on who has them. And what has been clear from what we see is that highly restrictive gun control law shift the balance from the good guys to the bad. The UCC shooter had more guns on him than those who were physically carrying one among the campus population. And in fact, the UCC shooting is something of a microcosm of my point.

            When the shooter arrived, the number of guns on campus increased dramatically, and he started killing with them. More guns, more murder. But then, twenty minutes later, the armed police arrived. When faced with good guys with guns, the bad guy with a gun killed himself. More guns…less murder.

            So who had the guns made all the difference. And when UCC needed help, who did unarmed security guy call? Guys with guns.

            So the mantra of the pro-gun crowd is that a good guy with guns will stop a bad guy with a gun. ThinkProgress, the liberal blog, noted an MSNBC report of a guy who did have a weapon on campus, and suggested there were others. So see? A good guy with a gun didn’t help the situation! Well, if you actually listen to the guy talk, he said he was quite a distance from the building where the shooter was, so that going that distance with an active shooter around would make them targets, and having to go that far they might be mistaken by the police for the bad guys. If the shooter had been close at hand, though, he was ready.

            So here’s a guy being a responsible citizen, keeping himself and others out of the line of fire, not acting like a vigilante and not trying to hunt down the shooter. If he’d tried and gotten hurt, he’d likely be castigated by ThinkProgress as proof that good guys with guns are no protection. Instead, he used as an example that good guys with guns are no protection. They get to grind their ax either way. Only if he’d acted irresponsibly and it happened to work could he be in any way shown as an example of a good guy with a gun. But then ThinkProgress, I imagine, would rightly suggest that this was a bad idea in general. No matter how it worked out, they get to use this story in pursuit of their agenda.

            Look, nobody ever said that a good guy with a gun is a guarantee of a particular outcome. But if you criminalize self-defense, if you outlaw the carrying of a weapon by otherwise law-abiding citizens, you can be guaranteed that there will be no one available to help out. As Glenn Reynolds often says, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

            People often try to get to what they call the “root cause” of crime. Some say that poverty creates crime. If that were so, we should have had an explosion of it during The Great Depression. If that were so, the wealthy Osama bin Laden shouldn’t have been a problem, or Bernie Madoff, or any of a number of white collar criminals. If poverty is a contributing factor, seems it would be hard to spot a trend.

            Let’s stick with mass shootings for a moment. There’s a link in the show notes to an article showing that mass shootings have been getting more frequent, even before Sandy Hook. It’s to an article in Mother Jones, which is a magazine and website with a decidedly liberal political bent, so folks who often dismiss information because it was reported by Fox or Breitbart can’t just handwave it away. President Obama was right that it seems he’s coming out to do press conferences quite a lot after these incidents.

            But what has changed? Our gun laws are pretty much the same as they were under George W. Bush. And if the guns in these shootings were obtained illegally, it should be no surprise that criminals don’t obey the law. We had a recession, but, if you listen to the administration, the economy has been looking better all the time. And if you look at the motivations of these shooters, few if any had an economic motivation. What about mental health? Many of these shooters had issues in that area, but then again, we’ve had guns and mental health issues in this society for over a century, but haven’t seen anything like this in the past. So is it more complicated than that? Perhaps. But perhaps not.

            I want to turn to some time-tested wisdom, in updated language, that explains this pretty well.

            Wise discipline imparts wisdom; spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents. When degenerates take charge, crime runs wild, but the righteous will eventually observe their collapse. Discipline your children; you’ll be glad you did—they’ll turn out delightful to live with. If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.

            These are the words of a government official, King Solomon, as written in Proverbs 29, and from The Message translation. It really brings out much of the meaning of the Bible if the King James Version seems a little opaque.

            There is much in here about discipline; internally to ourselves and externally to those in our charge. But it comes down to that last part. “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…” King Jimmy phrased it, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” What has been happening in our society? The influence of the Christian church has been waning. You don’t have to be a theologian or historian to notice that. There are a number of reasons for that, not the least of which is part of the church is watering down or outright rejecting of some of its own teachings. But our society has also decided that moral restraints are not needed, and everyone should do what they want.

            And, indeed, some have done exactly that. Some Facebook friends have told me that they believe human nature is essentially good. But Solomon, thousands of years ago, saw human nature for what it was, and realized that only God can change it, in the individual and in society at large. Are we just harvesting what we planted? Solomon figured that out. I think we’ve forgotten it.

            I’d say, “pardon the sermonizing”, if I thought this wasn’t useful, but I think it most definitely is. It wasn’t some feel-good words over a graphic of a sunrise or a flower. It was, I believe, the truth, and a truth that has been the truth for a very, very long time.

              Closely Held Corporate Policies

              An Office Depot in Schaumburg, Illinois refused to print flyers with a prayer on them. The prayer would be distributed by pro-life women praying for the people in Planned Parenthood. The prayer asked God to work in the hearts of the workers to convert them and stop performing abortions. The women tried to get Office Depot’s Office of the Chairman to reverse the decision, but was told that wouldn’t happen.

              The company claimed the prayers advocated the persecution of people who support abortion, and so they wouldn’t print it. So now, praying for conversion, enlightenment and salvation is considered an act of persecution. You know, it doesn’t matter your religious beliefs, how can anyone consider that the slightest bit of persecution?

              If a Christian printer were given a flyer to print that advocated something he or she disagreed with on religious grounds, you know what the outcome would be? And yet Office Depot can come up with its own policy out of thin air, refuse to take some business, and few even take notice.

              The double-standard is persecution, especially when it includes excessive fines and re-education. Yeah, yeah, it’s nothing like how Christians are persecuted under ISIS or the Chinese government, but it’s indicative of a trend in this country that goes against the tolerance that the Left claims to revere.

              I’ll say it again; businesses are allowed to decide who they’ll do business with. They are all equal in this regard, but apparently some are more equal than others.

              Related to this is an article that asks, “Is the Left Losing Their Hold on Pop Culture?” It provides a few quotes from celebrities who, while clearly on the Left otherwise, standing up for Christian bakers, and Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Here’s one to consider:

              Once again, the gay community feels the need to be sore winners. Is it so difficult to allow this woman her religion? Or must we destroy her in order for her to betray her faith. No matter how we judge, it’s truth. The rights we have all fought for, mean nothing, if we deny her hers.

              If you don’t recognize the name Christopher Ciccone, that’s OK. I wouldn’t have either if he hadn’t been identified in the article as Madonna’s openly gay brother. Just a few people are quoted, but it at least gives me hope that the over-reaction from the Left on these issues are at least causing the more sober thinkers on the Left to reconsider the slippery slope that they’ve put us on. I guess the question is; how big an impact is this having? The article I reference in the show notes does indicate a 4-to-1 agreement with freedom over force, which is an encouraging sign. But businesses are still being put out of business over this, so it seems that we’ve got quite a vocal minority winning the day.

                Nobel Regrets

                Quick trivia question: Who won Nobel Peace Prize in 2009? The answer; newly-elected President Barack Obama. And the obvious follow-up question is, why? To his credit, he wasn’t sure why either. The thought was that this would encourage him to be a peace-maker. A new book is at least shedding some light on the regrets that the Nobel committee had in making that decision.

                In a new memoir titled "Secretary of Peace: 25 years with the Nobel Prize," Geir Lundestad, the non-voting Director of the Nobel Institute until 2014, writes that he has developed doubts about the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to grant Obama the Nobel Peace Prize over the past six years. While the prize was designed to encourage the new president, it may have not have worked out as intended.

                When I posted this on the “Consider This!” Facebook page (my podcast), listener Pil Orbison said that, while President Obama wasn’t a Helen Keller or Indira Ghandi, no two Nobel prizes are alike. She said that what Obama did for the economy and healthcare certainly gave others a better outlook on our nation, and no other President could have done that.

                Let’s set aside whether or not what Obama has done has improved either the economy or health care. The Nobel Peace prize is for what you actually have accomplished, not for what the committee hopes you will accomplish. That standard isn’t applied to any other Nobel Prize. They don’t give out the Chemistry award for what someone might discover, or to someone who shows promise in that field. The Peace Prize has, or should have, the same criteria.

                Sure, the Nobel committee can have whatever criteria they want, but this article shows what can happen when you pin your hopes on a guy just because of his politics or the promises he made on the campaign trail. Politicizing the prize cheapens it for those who truly deserve it; people like Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malala Yousafzai, or PLO terrorist Yassar Arafat. Oh yes, he got one too.

                  The Guns of Oregon

                  On October 1st, 2015, Chris Harper-Mercer went onto the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, went into a classroom, and started shooting. As I write this, the death toll sits at 9, with 7 wounded. It shocked the nation, again. As it should. The President of the United States held a press conference to express condolences to the families of the victims, as he should. The problem was, he didn’t stop there. He followed up his comforting words immediately with fightin’ words.

                  Just 6 hours after the shooting, and when details about it were still very sketchy, President Obama came out with guns blazing, so to speak, pushing for more gun control. We didn’t know the name of the shooter, we didn’t know how he got the guns, and we weren’t even sure of the casualty count. But none of that mattered to him. I understand and share his anger and frustration at the various mass shootings in this country, but even before we knew any relevant details, he was out there calling again for “common-sense gun-safety laws”.

                  This is a classic mistake that politicians of both parties make; jumping the gun, so to speak, in order to make political points while the emotions are high. They propose new laws in order to be seen as doing something, even if that something would have done nothing to solve the problem at hand. They try to get their agenda passed because something must be done, and this is something, so it must be done.

                  Those who despise the Patriot Act should realize that part of the reason it passed was because it was “something”. I think the Patriot Act has actually kept us safer, but it did indeed go too far in certain areas and needed to be scaled back. Passing gun control while emotions are high, and before we even know where our current laws failed, would make the same exact mistake. Keep that in mind. The President said that he thought this issue should be politicized. Sorry, but that’s the worst idea ever. Read the rest of this entry

                    Dan Price’s $70,000 Gamble, 4 Months Later

                    Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to April, 2015. Back in that day, Dan Price set the liberal’s hearts all a-flutter when he announced that he would pay all his people, over the course of 3 years, a minimum of $70,000. At the same time, Dan, the CEO of Gravity Payments, would drop his own salary from $1 million to $70,000 as well.

                    Those pushing for an increase in the minimum wage loved the idea. With no more than an announcement in hand, they proclaimed his move as an example others should follow. Again, all they had was an announcement. They proclaimed victory even before the new pay scale was in place, because for these liberals, intentions are more important than results.

                    Now here in August, we have a few results, and they’re not looking good for Gravity Payments. First off, some clients – some put off by what appeared to be a political statement, some by a concern that the fees will rise – dropped the company. Gravity has assured clients that the fees will stay the same, but there’s a perception working against him, that you can’t raise the cost of doing business without offsetting at least some of that cost. Maybe that’s all perception; we’ll see. But if you have a vendor that could be increasing its costs, it only makes sense that you might want to look for a cheaper vendor.

                    On the other side of the coin, Gravity Payments got more clients who appreciated the political and social statement that Dan Price made, and signed on. It appears that they did offset the number of clients who left, but for now, the economic impact of the new clients isn’t enough. New clients take over a year to be profitable for Gravity, so it’s not just a 1-for-1 trade-off. And he’s had to hire new employees to deal with the new clients, at the new, higher pay rate, which, again, impacts the bottom line.

                    But here’s the effect that surprised me the least. Two of Mr. Price’s most valued employees quit. Two may not seem like a lot, but it’s a rather small company. This was in part by their view that it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises. For a large swath of Gravity employees, there is no such thing as “merit pay”. The lower tier of employees gets the same amount regardless of their productivity. Even one of the employees in that tier quit because he saw how it “shackles” the low performers to the high performers.

                    In speaking about his ideals, Price had this to say, quoted in the NY Times:

                    “Income inequality has been racing in the wrong direction,” he said. “I want to fight for the idea that if someone is intelligent, hard-working and does a good job, then they are entitled to live a middle-class lifestyle.”

                    No, see, that’s the issue, and it’s why some of his better employees are leaving. These raises were not based on how hard you worked, and that’s going to give observant workers some cause for concern.

                    And then there’s the big bombshell. While not directly related to the pay raise, a lawsuit brought by his co-owner and brother may be more than the company can handle. With profits going more into salaries, there is a decreasing amount available for a rainy day, or for a buyout demand. Y’know, regardless of the merits of the case, sometimes a business needs cash sitting around to be able to handle such situations. Otherwise, any hitch in the revenue flow could put them, and their well-paid employees, out of business. Sometimes those big profits are a cushion to keep any bumps in the road from causing folks to lose their jobs. Those who dismiss that don’t, I think, understand the gravity of the situation.

                    Dan Price might be learning by experience, but I fear the lesson is being lost on others.

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