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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Genuine, Not Modest, Legislative Proposal re the TSA

I have a suggestion. It is a serious one, not a "modest proposal," although some might view it as a trifle wholesale. Here goes. This bill, or something equivalent, needs to be introduced in the next Congressional session. Todd Young (my soon-to-be-Congressman): how about it?

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(a) All legislation establishing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), defining its duties, funding it, or empowering it in any way is repealed as regards the TSA, effective immediately, except as set forth below.

(b) No other agency, whether currently in existence or subsequently established, may take on any function previously exercised by the TSA.

(c) All regulations and rules of any kind promulgated by the TSA or pursuant to its authority directly or indirectly are nullified and of no future effect. This subsection is effective 30 days from the date this statute is enacted.

(d) Nothing in this or any other federal statute or regulation shall be construed to prohibit individual airports or airlines from adopting rules for the protection of airline passengers and crew. If applied to passengers or crew on interstate or international flights or to airlines conducting such flights, such rules must be posted prominently in any airport where the rule is to be applied, as well as on a website easily reached by inputting either the official name or any commonly used name of the airport or airline in a readily available Internet search engine.

(e) The TSA continues to exist in order to perform the following functions, and only those functions:

(1) Studying possible methods by which airports and/or airlines may protect passengers and crew from terrorist or other intentional destructive acts or from negligent or reckless behavior.

(2) Publicizing the results of the studies described in subsection (e)(1) of this statute.

(3) Receiving complaints from passengers, crew or others as to the security operations of any airport or airline and offering assistance in the resolution of the concerns prompting those complaints. No complainant, airport or airline will be compelled to utilize such assistance, and the use of such assistance shall not be a prerequisite to any other civil or administrative action.

(4) Testing the security at airports within the United States, in any reasonable manner that does not involve direct interaction with passengers or crew. Testing procedures that may result in indirect impacts on passengers or crew, by causing delays if security screening identifies the testing personnel as a threat to airport or airline security, are permitted.

(5) Publicizing the results of the testing described in subsection (e)(5) of this statute. A summary of any such result must be published on the TSA website within seven (7) calendar days of its completion, unless the TSA obtains a court order stating that publication of such a summary would compromise national security or airport or airline security. Any such order must limit the withheld material to the smallest amount consistent with the basis of the order.

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How's that sound?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Global Warming, Skepticism, and the Liberal Mindset

I was recently part of a sadly predictable exchange in the comments of a friend's Facebook. She had posted a link to a New York Times article titled, "Climate Change Doubt is Tea Party Article of Faith." I found this phrasing ironic, since it is my experience that many liberals treat anthropogenic and dangerous global warming (AGW) as an important tenet in an environmentalist religion. (What distinguishes political faith is that the believers don't acknowledge that they rely on faith rather than proof. There are, of course, religious people who do feel the need for supporting argument, or at least are adept at producing it -- e.g. C.S. Lewis, a great Christian apologist -- but a great many believe in faith without proof as a virtue or a religious necessity.)

The New York Times article gave short shrift to the disagreement in the scientific community about the extent, causes and dangers of global warming. I ventured to say as much. It wasn't long before another commenter asked me if I had been "following the 'scientific debates' over evolution and whether or not the earth revolves around the sun, too?" (I would link to this and the following exchanges, so that readers could check context, but I don't believe it's feasible or permissible to link to Facebook posts.)

I got a bit testy, and suggested he "look in the mirror and see the elitist snobbery that keeps you from recognizing the intelligence and humanity of those who disagree with you." He replied, "I guess if I'm adamant in my deeply-held beliefs that the sky is blue, the grass is green and 2+2=4 then that's arrogant, elitist snobbery." Apparently the extremely complex and multidisciplinary subject of global climate change may be equated with the simplest of arithmetic. It speaks volumes about this mindset that its adherents can imply such an equation and feel smugly intellectual while doing so.

Below are a number of links demonstrating the ongoing scientific debate about global climate change, as well as the developing cracks in the AGW edifice. I'll preface them with a summary by my husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, a computer scientist with deep and broad knowledge in many scientific and technical areas. (He doesn't typically use all-cap words, but he's kind of exasperated where AGW is concerned.)

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Here is what SCIENCE really says about anthropogenic CO2:

(1) Satellites possess the only instrumentation sensitive and accurate enough to show a measurable CO2 effect on temperature today.
(2) Those temperatures are LESS than the predicted (from 1895 by Svante Arrhenius and still used up until the late 1980's) 1.1 C (2 F) [degrees] from doubling CO2 (we are only about halfway to the doubling).
(3) The IPCC and alarmists claim 4 and 5 degree C from a doubling based upon their models -- models such as the one developed by CRU [see links for info re the limitations of computer modeling, problems with CRU's software, etc.].
(4) The relationship of CO2 to temperature is NOT linear, it is logarithmic, which means that with around 1/2 of the CO2 increase having occurred, MOST of the effect should have already occurred. In other words, the satellites should be showing much, much higher temperatures [if the IPCC-etc. predictions are correct].
(5) There is evidence of a variety of NEGATIVE feedbacks that explain the satellite data. The IPCC, etc., posit only POSITIVE feedbacks and the data do not support that.
(6) I suppose I should throw in that ice core data that [in the early '80's] I said was "dispositive" of the CO2-temperature connection, upon further analysis showed that CO2 concentration LAGGED temperature changes by 800 to 1000 years. Causes do not follow events.

So, the fact is that, although there is no disagreement concerning [some] CO2 effect on temperature, the skeptical position is that the other side has not only exaggerated the effect way beyond what the data support, the other side has in some cases engaged in scientific fraud to make their case. (I should note that I never assumed actual fraud prior to "Climategate" - I attributed everything to bureacratic groupthink and cognitive dissonance. Scientific fraud on the scale I've seen [in "Climategate" and related events] has been a profoundly disillusioning experience for me.)

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Thanks, hon!

Here are the promised links:

100 Scientists' Letter to the United Nations on Global Warming, December 13, 2007

Letter of Harold Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, October 6, 2010, resigning from the American Physical Society

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Minority Staff Report, updated 2009 (supported by more than 700 identified scientists)

"Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society," Freeman Dyson, August 8, 2007

International Climate Science Coalition website (check, among other links, the "Who We Are" link, including the advisory boards, and "Climate Change 101")

"Empirical Evidence for a Celestial Origin of the Climate Oscillations and its Implications," Nicola Scafetta, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 2010

Czech President Vaclav Klaus' inaugural Global Warming Policy Foundation lecture, October 21, 2010 (hot off the presses!)

Links to research articles by Dr. Roy Spencer, climatologist, author and former NASA scientist

Middleburg Community Network primer on global warming titled "Editorial: The Great Global Warming Hoax?" -- long, very detailed exploration of AGW claims, with an informal, irreverent tone combined with an enormous amount of information

Re "Climategate":

--"Open science and Climategate: the IPCC/CRU needs to take a leaf out of CERN's Book," Gary Richmond at Free Software Magazine, December 16, 2009

--"Climategate Computer Codes are the Real Story," Charlie Martin, Pajamas Media, November 24, 2009

--"Climate Change Data Dumped," Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor, Sunday Times, November 29, 2009

--"Climategate Stunner: NASA Heads Knew NASA Data was Poor, Then Used Data from CRU," Charlie Martin, Pajamas Media, March 10, 2010

--"Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995," Jonathan Petre, Mail Online, February 14, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another shot in the foot

The Obama administration is pretty hard on feet these days -- either putting them in mouths or just shooting them. Latest example: AG Holder's declaration that the feds will "vigorously" enforce federal laws against marijuana possession and use, even if California legalizes same.

Let's see, now. What big state has hard-fought races for Senator and Governor, this election cycle?

And how important will GOTV be for the parties in those races?

And what issue might bring otherwise-apolitical, but Democrat-leaning, voters to the polls?

Just how much sense does it make to discourage those potential voters by claiming that even if they show up to vote for pot legalization, it won't make as much difference as they're hoping?

Sheesh.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Those Pesky Quotations

Mark Twain apparently said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble, it's what you know for sure that just ain't so." But if I were going to put that quotation on the White House rug, I'd verify it first....

Friday, September 03, 2010

Leaving the parents

My oldest daughter is heading for college in a few days. I'll be driving her there -- well, we'll be taking turns at the wheel, switching back and forth between her and my "road trip" playlists. A couple of days later, I'll be driving back alone.

I remember being on the other side. I remember coming home on college vacations, talking a mile a minute to my mother in the kitchen, still feeling pretty much at home. I remember later visits, and the gradual shift in my relationship with my parents. I remember realizing that what had been effortless and natural was, at times, more awkward and uncertain. I remember realizing that when I needed comforting, my mother wasn't always the one who could.

All of which makes the coming transition somewhat terrifying.

Before having children, I was not especially comfortable with children -- especially small children and babies. My first child's birth -- or more precisely, the period from her birth to a few weeks afterward -- transformed me in a fundamental way. In becoming a mother, I became a very different being. I have other interests, and in a modest way other goals, unrelated to my role as parent -- but they are secondary.

I'm pining in advance for the particular things I'll be losing -- my daughter's daily presence, the knowledge that if she isn't around the house now, she will be in a few hours; our quick and cautious hugs. Thanks to Live Journal and Twitter, I'll still get to enjoy her quirky creativity and sense of humor on a maybe-daily basis, but diluted by the absence of tone of voice, gesture, body language. But the feeling of impending loss goes beyond that, in some way I haven't put my finger on.

I have a different perspective now on what it's like for my parents, making do with frequent phone calls and very infrequent cross-country visits. And it could be, and for many has been, so much more drastic a deprivation. This country of immigrants was founded on the grief of parents left behind. I can hardly conceive of how many parents had to say such a final and thorough goodbye. I cannot imagine what it was like to go on with life after such an amputation.

I will have, I hope, a better chance now of remembering to cherish my younger daughter's remaining time at home, despite all the sound and fury, the angst, the turmoil of the high school years. I wish she didn't have to bear her own loss, the loss of her sister's presence and everyday support, the vacuum Liana will leave behind.

And now, time to start packing. Time for roadside breakfasts, motels, hotels, confusion, orientation, disorientation. Time to get my daughter launched on her way. I'll be the one wearing waterproof mascara.

Monday, July 05, 2010

First, and One Hopes, the Last

I was musing about our current president the other night. I wondered how many other people had thought of him as an example of the "Peter Principle": ""In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence." Turns out many people have (google it), although the heap he's atop of isn't exactly the type of hierarchy Dr. Peter was talking about. My husband suggests that Obama exemplified the Peter Principle back when he was a law professor. Could be.

More seriously, it occurred to me that Obama is the first president we've managed to elect who is more or less hostile towards this country. I can't think of another who had anything like his mixture of anger, contempt and embarrassment about being an American and representing the United States before the world.

Obama's presidency has been a wake-up call and learning experience for a great many people, in various respects. I hope that includes making damned sure, in the future, that a president at least likes his country, and possibly even loves it and shows the world that s/he is proud of it, imperfections notwithstanding.

(One of Spider Robinson's characters, Russell Walker, with whom I don't entirely agree on matters political, said something I rather like: "[I]t must be admitted that so far, the United States of America has the most magnificent set of ideals any nation ever failed to live up to." That is the minimum we should expect of a president where admiration of this country is concerned.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What the Supreme Court is Waiting For

I've taken a first quick look at how the McDonald opinions deal with the Privileges and Immunities Clause. As has been widely reported, only Justice Thomas was ready to revive the PIC and use it to incorporate the 2nd Amendment, while Justice Alito's opinion (joined by three other Justices on this point) "decline[d] to disturb" the current minimalist interpretation. However, the Alito opinion did quote and paraphrase some pretty strong statements about the scholarly consensus opposing that interpretation.

Alito et al.'s refusal to reopen the debate on the PIC seems to be based on two factors:
--The many decades of "substantive due process" precedent offer a usable framework; and
--Neither the petitioners in McDonald nor the scholars who have pointed out the flaws in the minimalist interpretation have provided a coherent explanation of how far the PIC would reach.

Justice Thomas describes the substantive due process approach as "rest[ing] on such tenuous footing" that he cannot endorse it. I suspect he would have more company in this view if it were not for the undefined scope of the PIC. Should some future litigant (or amicus curiae) come forward with an intelligible and historically supported definition of what the PIC should cover, we might see some interest from Justice Alito and/or from one or more of the Justices who joined his opinion.

The problem is related to the problem of how to interpret -- and, some hope, resuscitate -- the 9th Amendment. If the PIC covers more than the first eight amendments to the Constitution, it arguably covers the same rights that are protected from federal infringement by the 9th Amendment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How to Stump a RNC Fundraising Caller

Just got a call from someone raising money for the Republican National Committee. I told him we were not giving money to the RNC at this time, but rather, were assessing and supporting individual candidates. He asked why; I said it was partly some of the candidates the RNC had supported, and partly an overall impression that the Republican national leadership had less spine than our preferred candidates. He replied, "Well, I'll accept that criticism -- but keep in mind that these conservative candidates absolutely depend on the RNC for various crucial support systems like polling, ..."

(Approximate dialogue:)
KAW: "As soon as the candidates ask us to send our money to the RNC instead of to them directly, we'll certainly heed that request."
RNC: "Whoa, good comeback! Did you write that down? Were you thinking about that ahead of time?"
KAW: "No. I'm a lawyer -- we're supposed to have good comebacks."
RNC: "Good one! I'll have to think about how to answer that one!"
KAW: "OK, why don't you do that on the way to calling the next name on your list."
RNC: "You're bad, Mrs. Wyle!"

(Very satisfying.)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Obvious and Less Obvious Remedies

Well, Dan Coats, former Senator, Republican establishment pick, won the Indiana Republican primary for Bayh's former seat. No surprise there, with four more conservative opponents in the race splitting the vote, three of them relatively fresh faces.

Coats won by slightly more than the combined vote totals of the two last-place finishers. In hindsight, it appears that the only way any of the challengers could have won was for all of them to get together and decide who should continue. I can see why neither Hostettler nor Stutzman wanted to make that move, but for weeks now, Behning and Bates must have known they had no chance whatsoever -- zero, nada, zilch -- of getting the nomination. Why didn't either of them withdraw and throw support to one of the stronger candidates? They couldn't know that would be insufficient -- and who knows, such a move by both of them might have changed the dynamics of the race enough that it would have sufficed.

Meanwhile, there's a relatively simple solution to this perennial problem. In multi-candidate races, the way to avoid splitting of the vote is a voting system that allows voters to choose more than one candidate. By far the simplest such system to understand and to implement is approval voting. In approval voting, each voter votes for as many candidates as s/he finds acceptable, and the one with the highest vote total wins. Voters who wanted a candidate with no Congressional experience could have voted for Bates, Behning and Stutzman; voters who wanted a strong candidate with small-government credibility could have voted for Stutzman and Hostettler. In two other Indiana races, State House District 60 and U.S. Congressional District 9, better-known politicos lost to relative newcomers (although in the latter, another split-vote situation almost gave former Congressman Mike Sodrel the victory). With approval voting, Coats might have gone down as well.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Sorta Like a Published Author

Well, one of my picture book manuscripts made the first cut at smories.com, a site that has children reading picture book MSS aloud. Follow this link to hear it:

http://www.smories.com/watch/where_do_fireflies_sleep/

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Still learning after 20 years

My husband and I have been married for over 20 years. For all that time, we’ve shared a king-sized bed.

I’m someone who typically gets up at least during the aptly-named wee hours of the night. Frequently, when I climb back into bed, I encounter a knee, elbow and/or shoulder. My husband has, in that brief interval, shifted over toward my side of the bed.

For over 20 years, I have grumbled (mildly) about this apparent bed-hogging behavior. It’s a king-sized bed! Why does he need to take over even more space?

A few weeks ago, as a result of a conversation I don’t remember in detail, it dawned on me: that wasn’t what was happening.

When I get out of bed, and he half-rouses from sleep, he senses something missing. He’s been checking to see if I’m still there.

For over 20 years, he’s been reaching out for me.

I’ve stopped grumbling.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One more on health care

Well, it appears we aren't done with Obamacare, so here's one more letter I sent (to the allegedly-Blue-Dog Democrats):

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Please vote Nay on, and actively oppose, the Senate-passed version of Obamacare and any procedural vote related to Obamacare.

Both the House and Senate bills would greatly expand government involvement in health care and impose an unconstitutional mandate on individuals to buy government-defined health insurance packages, while (if honestly examined) greatly expanding future federal deficits. Both are full of little-known booby traps, such as a marriage penalty for many low and middle income couples. The Senate bill, however, adds some particularly loathsome touches -- blatant vote-buying provisions including the Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback. It would also saddle the states with massive new unfunded mandates.

There is every reason to expect that if the House passes the Senate bill, the President will sign it. There is no reason to assume that the reconciliation process will be used, or lawfully can be used, to correct any significant portion of what is wrong with this bill.

Public opposition to this approach to health care reform is unyielding and increasing. It is outpaced only by public revulsion for the strong-arm tactics that have been used, and even more for those being contemplated. Any Democrat whose legislative agenda does not begin and end with Obamacare must realize that if this bill is passed, the Republicans are likely to take the House, and to greatly reduce (at least) the Democratic majority in the Senate. Is it worth it? Is it worth the likelihood of losing your own Congressional seat? Are you a Congressional Representative or a lemming?

Please bring this sorry episode to an end, and facilitate a new and better-considered approach to health care reform.

Sincerely,

Karen A. Wyle

Let's have a party, we'll all dance the hora

I should have done it long ago. I am a neglectful Jewish parent. But finally, yesterday, I taught my younger daughter to dance the hora.

Turned out my older daughter didn't know it either. We demonstrated it. More formal instruction will follow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Curt Schilling's defamation action

Well, the inimitable gaffe-mistress Martha Coakley has done it again. After ridiculing her opponent, Scott Brown, for "standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?", she has now called famed Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling a Yankee fan.

Schilling may have a cause of action here. It is slander per se (no need to prove damages) to make false allegations injurious to another in their trade, business, or profession. Schilling has retired, but if he makes money from speaking tours, promotional items, etc., that income would surely suffer if people believed he was a secret Yankees fan. The only question is whether anyone (besides Martha Coakley) would be foolish enough to believe it.