ClimateGate: Hansen colleague: IPCC AR4 executive summary “has no scientific merit”

James Lacis, a colleague of Jim Hansen at NASA GISS and not an AGW skeptic, has very strong words for the the executive summary of the IPCC AR4 report:

There is no scientific merit to be found in the Executive Summary. The presentation sounds like something put together by Greenpeace activists and their legal department. The points being made are made arbitrarily with legal sounding caveats without having established any foundation or basis in fact. The Executive Summary seems to be a political statement that is only designed to annoy greenhouse skeptics. Wasn’t the IPCC Assessment Report intended to be a scientific document that would merit solid backing from the climate science community – instead of forcing many climate scientists into having to agree with greenhouse skeptic criticisms that this is indeed a report with a clear and obvious political agenda. Attribution can not happen until understanding has been clearly demonstrated. Once the facts of climate change have been established and understood, attribution will become self-evident to all. The Executive Summary as it stands is beyond redemption and should simply be deleted.

Some “consensus”.

The unbearable smugness of being liberal

A twofer on liberal condescension today:

Gerard Alexander has a must-read piece in the Washington Post: Why are liberals so condescending? Go read it all: I can’t do it justice by selective quoting. Just the opening graf as a teaser:

Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension.

And Richard Fernandez hits the nail on the head in this piece:

Jay Cost has a wonderful article at Real Clear Politics arguing that President Obama’s failure to make major policy changes arises not from the fact that “America is ungovernable” but because President Obama “has simply not been up to the job”. Cost believes Obama made two major mistakes, one strategic and the second tactical.

Strategically he has governed from the Left, enacting broad policies which by their sheer comprehensiveness were to prove arid grounds for compromise. “Bipartisanship implies legislators with different world views working together. The larger a bill’s scope, the more likely it favors one worldview over another, and the less likely it will attract bipartisan support.” The result, he says left no room for 30 to 40 Congressional Democrats who proved unwilling to go along simply because they could not sell their constituencies on a radically new vision.

Obama’s tactical mistake was to delegate the actual operations of policy change to Nancy Pelosi who acted as his left wing “prime minister”. Pelosi in turn created a cabinet, consisting of liberal committee chairs and their acolyte staffers. This accentuated the process of polarization. With the inept and ham[-]handed Pelosi in charge, the result was a:

policy [that] has consistently been built from the left – thanks in no small part to the very liberal chairs of key committees – with compromises made to win just enough centrist votes to get passage. On the jobs bill, the health care bill, and the cap-and-trade bill, the Democrats won only narrow victories due to mass defections on their own side. Almost all of these defections were from the center. Faced with a choice between losing a moderate or a liberal, the Speaker has consistently chosen to sacrifice the moderate. … America is not ungovernable. Barack Obama has so far failed to govern it.

“America is not ungovernable. Barack Obama has so far failed to govern it.” Cost is 99% right. But his argument misses the crucial 1 percent. The Left doesn’t want to govern, it wants to rule given the chance. It is as always willing to leave its own Big Tent behind at the decisive moment. The continual calls from the Democrat Left for Obama to ‘grow a spine’ are really coded calls to say that the moment is now; that the President must ‘’seize the day, seize the hour”. It’s not as Cost imagines, a call to compromise. It’s a call to say that the time for compromise is over. They can drop the mask; they can hoist the Jolly Roger.

Noah Pollak’s description of the split between Amnesty International’s leadership and the head of their gender unit is the same story in a different setting.  She was purged for her inability to support Amnesty International’s espousal of an Islamic radical.  This too is a case of the vanguard leaving behind its own coalition when the moment seemed ripe.

[…]

Saghal closed the letter describing her suspension with a recitation of her revolutionary credentials. It is an eerie passage which echoes structure for structure many of the protestations of innocence by the Old Bolsheviks when they found themselves in the cellars of the Cheka, stuffed there by a leadership that found they had outlived their usefulness.

[…]

Why does she think any of this matters?  The Left is not about principles. It is about itself. It is about power. Now that President Obama has been politically weakened look for the mask to come back on. The words of sweet reason, the entreaties to ‘make a deal’ and feigned affection will now make a surprise reappearance. When the Left cannot rule, it will try to govern. Until the next time.

UPDATE: David Freddoso offers a good summary of Alexander, and Daniel Blatt has some interesting observations of his own.

What happened to “Marie-Claire”?

The other day, somebody forwarded a link to the US edition of “Marie-Claire”, a veteran French women’s mag focusing on fashion, the working woman, etc. The French magazine I knew growing up was about as racy as, say, the Ladies Home Journal.

Looking at the sidebar, I was astonished to find this article by a woman named Pamela Druckerman (American, married to a Briton, living in Paris). She asked her husband what he would want for his special 40th birthday present: His answer was “a threesome” (them with another woman). She then describes in detail how she agreed on condition that she could pick the woman; how she went about selecting her; and how the encounter itself proceeded. (The description is fairly SFW and somewhat humorous: the best part was where after 40 minutes she wondered if she should check her Email.) Husband was apparently extremely pleased, but she decided once was enough. (The “other woman” was interested in a repeat performance, but appears to have been recruited on a website for enthusiasts for this sort of thing.)

My two cents worth:

  • The relentless media push to “mainstream” unorthodox sexual combinations continues apace.
  • I would not want to feed all straight males who’ve fantasized about being with two women. However, neither would I want to feed all the straight males who simply don’t get that some fantasies are best kept fantasies. (And I rather doubt that the idea — also relentlessly pushed by the celebri-fashion media culture — of many women having bisexual tendencies has any basis outside male fantasy.)
  • I seriously wonder if, having let that “djinn” out of the bottle, they can put it back in. Intellectually philosophizing about “sharing” your partner is one thing: being able to handle it emotionally is another.
  • While the French did invent the very term “ménage à trois”, it actually refers to a 3-way long-term relationship — which even less people would be able to handle emotionally.

Walter Russell Mead: “The great IPCC meltdown continues”

My oh my, “The neverending story” has nothing on this…

Walter Russell Mead again goes on the attack: “The great IPCC meltdown continues“.

It’s not just the threat of Himalayan glaciers disappearing by 2035.

Now another headline grabbing IPCC scare story is melting away.  A report in Sunday’s London Times highlights new humiliations for the IPCC.

The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

There is however one teensy-weensy little problem.  As Professor Chris Field, the lead author of the IPCC’s climate impact team has now told reporters that he can find “no evidence” to support the claim in the IPCC’s 2007 report.

But there’s more. Much, much more.  Readers of the Times and the Telegraph are watching the IPCC’s credibility disappear before their eyes.  The former head of IPCC has publicly said the IPCC risks losing all credibility if it can’t clean up its act.  The head of the largest British funder of environmental research has joined the head of Greenpeace UK in criticizing the IPCC.  (At Greenpeace, they want Pachauri to resign.)  The Dutch government has demanded that the IPCC correct its erroneous assertion that half of the Netherlands is below sea level.  Actually, it’s only about a quarter.  A prediction about the impact of sea level increases on people living in the Nile Delta was taken from an unpublished student dissertation.  The report contained inaccurate data about generating energy from waves and about the cost of nuclear power (this information was apparently taken without being checked directly from a website supported by the nuclear power industry). The deeply environmentalist Guardian carries a story documenting the decline in both public and Conservative Party confidence in need to address global warming.

More significantly, there’s an editorial in today’s Guardian that criticizes shortcomings at the IPCC and calls for a wholesale change in the way climate scientists do their work and communicate with the public.[…]

The Guardian hopes that the parrot isn’t dead yet, but it seems to agree with my basic diagnosis: “It is bad science and bad politics to counter scepticism with righteous indignation. In the long run, public confidence will be inspired more by frankness about what science cannot explain,” write the editors.

The editors pick up another theme that is familiar to readers of this blog:

In trying to avert dangerous climate change, governments are aiming for something extraordinary. They want to transform the global economy because of a hypothesis for which the evidence is mostly inaccessible to the layman.

It is the biggest pre-emption in history, and it relies on collective trust in science.

When the IPCC has its former chief, the Guardian newspaper and the Dutch government demanding change, something has got to give.

Indeed.

In related news, Roger Simon asks readers to help him and PajamasMedia “follow the money”.

UPDATE: RFK, Jr., 15 months ago: “Glowbull worming means no more snow in DC”. How about a nice helping of crow?

Unsu-Steyn-able

Mark Steyn, in “Unsustainable“:

Testifying to the House Budget Committee, Director Elmendorf attempted to pull back from the wilder shores of “unsustainable”: “I think most observers expect that the government will act, that the unsustainability will be resolved through action, not through witnessing some collapse down the road,” he said. “If literally nothing is done, then eventually something very, very bad happens. But I think the widespread view is that you and your colleagues will take action.”

Dream on, you kinky fantasist. The one thing that can be guaranteed is that a political class led by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, a handful of reach-across-the-aisle Republican accomodationists and an economically illiterate narcissist in the Oval Office is never going to rein in unsustainable spending in any meaningful sense. That leaves Director Elmendorf’s alternative scenario. What was it again? Oh, yeah: “Some collapse down the road.”

[…]

Did you get your pay raise this year? What’s that, you don’t work for the government? Yes, you do, one way or another. Good luck relying on Obama, Pelosi, Frank, and the other Emirs of Kleptocristan “taking action” to “resolve” that. In the last month, the cost of insuring Greece’s sovereign debt against default has doubled. Spain and Portugal are headed the same way. When you binge-spend at the Greek level in a democratic state, there aren’t many easy roads back. The government has introduced an austerity package to rein in spending. In response, Greek tax collectors have walked off the job.

Read that again slowly: To protest government cuts, striking tax collectors are refusing to collect taxes. In a sane world, this would be a hilarious TV comedy sketch. But most of the Western world is no longer sane. It’s tough enough to persuade the town drunk to sober up, but when everyone’s face down in the moonshine, maybe it’s best just to head for the hills. But where to flee? America is choosing to embrace Greece’s future when even the Greeks have figured out you can’t make it add up.

Read the rest.

Elsewhere at NRO, Steyn comments on Euro antisemitism: “Seems like old times“. A.k.a.: “We’re gonna party like it’s 1939” 😉

Economics of being a fiction writer

Sometimes life doesn’t seem to be fair. Usually we feel like that when we’re the ones who see others flourish that we think are less deserving than ourselves. Less often (such is human nature), it occurs when we see others struggle that we believe are more deserving than ourselves.

I am not talking about “liberal guilt”, but about something else. Being a lifelong bibliovore, I’ve always had a lot of respect for skilled professional writers, including those who write fiction for mass audiences. It is often sobering to find out that people whose books have transported my mind to other worlds and held me in thrall have some trouble making ends meet, while I am lucky to make a very good living at what I do. (I won’t reveal here what.)

Via the blog of fellow Lizard refugee Yma o Hyd, I found this essay on the economics of being a writer at The Shadow of the Olive Tree. He links to a piece by award-winning SciFi author Elizabeth Bear describing how she has to write, basically, three full-length novels and about a dozen short stories a year just to make a (very modest) living wage.

Somebody like Michael Crichton (RIP) got really rich off his pen, and I would imagine Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, and perhaps David Weber live really well, but your typical mid-list author apparently needs either a day job or a well-earning and understanding spouse. Imagine being paid $10K in advances on a full-length novel, earning $1.50 in royalties on a single hardcover and much less than that on a paperback.

I had a lengthy discussion with somebody in Israel (a comparatively small market) and there the situation is even worse. Out of a book that sells for NIS 65 (roughly $18) at a Steimatzky or Tzomet Sfarim bookstore, the author may take home a lousy NIS 1 or 2 — the rest goes to copy editor, printer, distributor, book store, and various “unproductive middlemen”. Even Israel’s literary legend Amos Oz would not be able to live off the proceeds of his booksales in Israel — although in the aggregate he makes a very good living from two other sources: foreign publication rights of his work and (hefty) lecturing fees in Israel. (The latter brings to mind certain musicians who basically don’t care how much or little they make off record sales because their main income is from live concerts — and they see the records basically as advertising for the  concerts.)

Jim Baen (RIP) — who had a reputation for being generous to his authors — explains in the Baen Books FAQ that, for a typical print run, setup costs are about $4500 plus another $0.50 per copy. This  means in practice that any print run under 10,000 copies is an economic loss.

Of course, the coming shift towards electronic books may change the economics fundamentally. Print-on-demand technology allowed many an independent author to publish their own books with minimal setup costs, but per-copy prices were still prohibitive. As an aside: in publishing fields where unit cost is a secondary consideration — such as STM (science, technology, and medicine) scholarly works — print-on-demand allows publishers to keep their back catalog alive and exploit the “long tail”. However, STM is a field where authors generally don’t expect to earn money — their “pay” is in reputation, which translates into climbing the academic career ladder, easier access to grant money, etc.

In contrast, a self-publishing author can sell an e-book online for a much more reasonable price and keep essentially all of it as profit — at which points (s)he needs a publisher (other than a big name that may generate sales) like a fish needs a bike. [UPDATE: E-reader owners are still a small segment of readers, but there is evidence that they buy many more books on average, although this may be due to self-selection.]

The major fly in the ointment is of course that e-Books are even easier to bootleg than digital music. While somebody wishing to rip or download a full-length DVD movie may easily decide he’d rather buy the darn thing than waste hours downloading and ripping the movie, an e-book file is 4-5 orders of magnitude smaller and easily downloaded, Emailed between friends,… Unless, of course, the file is encoded/protected via DRM (digital rights management), which is its own bag of hurt.

Other models do exist. Sponsorship is one of them: an independent classical recording label such as Hyperion would be unable to operate without it. Another approach would be variants on the “threshold pledge” or “fund and release” system, which I personally regard as a form of “distributed commissioning”. If, say, David Weber were to say tomorrow he’d only start writing another Honor Harrington novel if, say, 10,000 people each ponied up $25 (in return for which they’d get advance copies of the eventual novel, autographed release copies, or whatever), he’d be assured of a tidy amount of money before even putting fingers to the keyboard (or, in his case, turning on the mic of his speech-to-text software). The trouble with such approaches is, of course, that they only work for authors with name recognition: a beginning author would have to basically release a couple of books for free until (s)he could get enough people looking forward enough to their next book that they’d pay in advance.

Baen (pretty much the first publisher ever to make real money off e-books) has been trying various creative approaches. For example, unedited “advance reader copies” of an e-book are available 6-9 months before the scheduled release date, at three times the regular price — cashing in on the small number of people who absolutely have to read the next John Ringo novel ahead of the rest. Furthermore, monthly “WebScription bundles” sell you 5-6 books — usually a mix of new, hot titles, back catalog titles, and first-time or second-time authors. After a book has gone out of print in hardcopy, Baen may put it in the “Baen Free Library“: they may generate an interest in the author and lead people to buy his/her other books. Especially if the book is the promising first installment of a good series (Weber’s Honor Harrington, Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, John Ringo’s Legacy of the Aldenata series,…) — especially with some well-calculated “cliffhangers” — it may lead people to pony up for all the remaining installments.

Established authors may also be able to sell or auction off “special packages”, such as autographed hardcovers, using somebody’s name for a minor character in the book, and the like. Again, novice authors have no such means at their resort. The one thing they can do in the digital age — rather than write the book and offer it to publishers until somebody will buy it — is circulate it online, or publish it online in installments, and thus generate interest at minimal cost. What it generally does mean is that making actual money off their craft will need to be deferred to future works.

One thing is certain: the publishing market will be subject to a process of ‘creative destruction’ no less brutal than what is playing out in the music industry right now.

UPDATE: Linked by… the great Lois McMaster Bujold herself on her Email list — I am not worthy, but thanks so much — this really made my day.

She says Zombie’s analysis (see comment #1 below) is painfully accurate. Good discussion in the responses on her Email list.

UPDATE 2: Lois McMaster Bujold herself weighs in. Some quotes:

Just for a standard of comparison, subscribers to World of Warcraft are said to number 40 million.

I, too, would be interested in some more scientifically acquired data than “a number I got off the internet”, but the [5 million regular book buyers] figure sounds intuitively right to me. The very best-selling of the best selling books maybe get up to 2 million copies sold, and those are outliers. I believe a new TV series with only 2 million viewers would be considered a flop? […] The average successful genre paperback sells maybe 30,000 copies. (That figure was 60,000 when I started my career, 200,000 a writer-generation before.) Most books sell even less. You only need about 35k hardcovers sold, over a sufficiently short period of time, to crack the NYTimes bestseller list.[…]

Tom D[oherty], founder of Tor Books, came up […] through the sales side. He’s been saying for years that what built book sales in the US was the casual market — drugstore and grocery store racks, airport bookstores, other places […] where people made impulse purchases. These used to be filled by some several hundred independent distributors, all making different choices and supporting a broad midlist of writers. In the mid-1990s, this distribution system underwent an implosion/consolidation, turning into just half a dozen big distributors, where a few people make the choices for the whole country. It was a huge blow to the paperback industry, and did a lot to bifurcate it into the “a few best sellers — everyone else nowhere” that we now see. Apparently very analogous to what’s happened to the music industry, [BTW], and for the same economic reasons; people trying to market art by the same efficient means they use for cereal.[…]

It’s unclear yet what the Net is going to do to the world of fiction and fiction writing. […] My private suspicion is that the Literature of the 21st Century is going to be fan fiction, but we’ll have to see. I’m kind of glad I got my writing career in while it was still possible to have one, though.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE 3: Further observations by Lois here and here.

ClimateGate update: “weather is not climate” edition

The Eastern seaboard of the United States is currently being assailed by a snowstorm dropping two inches of GoreFlakes™ per hour. DC and Philly area residents on Correspondence Committee reported 2 foot of snow and mounting — as well as residents being told to huddle in their homes. While NASA continues to claim that January 2010 was the hottest on record (which will be news to all of us freezing in unseasonably cold weather), NOAA reported all-time record snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area even before the recent snow storm.

In related news:

“Climate change” is not a story of climate change, which has been a fact of life throughout our planet’s history. It is a far more contemporary story about the corruption of science and “peer review” by hucksters, opportunists and global-government control-freaks. I can see what’s in it for Dr. Pachauri and professor Hasnain [who obtained the ‘melting glaciers’ by rectal extraction, NCT], and even for the lowly Environmental Correspondent enjoying a cozy sinecure at a time of newspaper cutbacks in everything from foreign bureaus to arts coverage.

But it’s hard to see what’s in it for Dan Gajewski of Ottawa and the millions of kindred spirits who’ve signed on to this racket and are determined to stick with it. Don’t be the last off a collapsing bandwagon. The scientific “consensus” is melting way faster than the glaciers.”

Link to previous edition: “up is down”.

Sabbath beauty: Liszt, Consolations No. 3 and 4

(This should have been posted Friday night, but the last few days in realspace have been quite crazy. Apologies.)

Most of Franz Liszt’s piano music is highly demanding technically, not just the flashy concert pieces he wrote for himself while he was younger, but also the more introspective later work. (I will forgive all Liszt’s showoff trifles for just his B minor Sonata, one of the most compelling such works ever written.)

The six Consolations S.172, apparently written with an amateur pianist patron in mind, are one exception. Below follow videos of Consolations 3 and 4, both in Db major, and which fit together beautifully. Consolation #3 — the most famous of the set — was performed on a piano actually owned by Liszt.

For Consolation #4, I could only find audio versions: recording by Daniel Barenboim of the published score, recording of Liszt’s first draft by Leslie Howard.

Enjoy!

Le Monde: “Bush was not the problem, 0bama is not the solution”

It appears that even the Euro New Class elite (as per its French mouthpiece, Le Monde) now realize that Bush wasn’t the problem, and 0bama not the answer:

Bush was not the problem. Obama is not the solution: one year after the arrival at the White House of a Democratic president, disenchantment is mutual on either side of the Atlantic. The Allies are discovering — if indeed they were unaware of it before — that misunderstandings go beyond individuals.

Having denounced Mr. Bush’s imperialism, Europeans are criticizing Mr. Obama for his impotence. They are complaining of his not being able to bend China at the Copenhagen summit on the fight against global warming. “We overestimated his room for maneuver,” said adviser to the French executive; “The Chinese were facing a weakling”, said a person close to Mr. Sarkozy.

File under: “I told you so, you f—ing fools

ClimateGate update: “up is down” edition

We are clearly living in an era where “up is down and down is up”. Or perhaps cats and dogs will live together peacefully and the lion will lie down with the lamb (without replacing the lamb every day).

In any case, while at… “some other blog” (SOB) ClimateGate was declared a “nontroversy”, none other than… George Monbiot (the original “moonbat”) is calling for heads to roll.

In The Daily W*nkerThe Guardian, at that. Which is now publishing investigative pieces by Fred Pearce that actually ask tough questions about ClimateGate, and extensively refer to ClimateAudit. Have I just walked into a parallel universe?

In related news, the head of Greenpeace UK is calling for the resignation of UN climate chief Rajendra PajeroPachauri.

Meanwhile, the initial report on the investigation of Michael “hockey stick” Mann appears to be neither a whitewash nor an indictment, but rather a “greywash“.

And in other “settled science” news, British medical journal The Lancet, which for some time has not been the sharpest scalpel on the tray, has formally retracted the paper that claimed a link between vaccines and autism. (Now let’s get rid of the Israel- and USA-bashing thinly veiled as junk science, while we’re at it? One can hope.)

UPDATE: Former science advisor to the UK gov’t David King FRS first attributes ClimateGate hack to foreign intelligence agencies, then backtracks. Puh-leeze…

Dept. of Justice looking for “retarded” lawyers (no joke)

Noooo!!! Really:

From a Justice Department job announcement for “up to 10 experienced attorneys for the position of Trial Attorney in the Voting Section in Washington, D.C.”:

The Civil Rights Division encourages qualified applicants with targeted disabilities to apply. Targeted disabilities are deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorder, mental retardation, mental illness, severe distortion of limbs and/or spine. Applicants who meet the qualification requirements and are able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation are encouraged to identify targeted disabilities in response to the questions in the Avue application system seeking that information.

Of course, this is obviously a classic case of somebody copying and pasting boilerplate “affirmative action” copy and not bothering to proofread the end product. Still…

And you gotta love this related Instapundit headline: “Rahm Emanuel compares Democrats to retarded people, then apologizes to retarded people, then apologizes to retarded people.” (UPDATE: Heh.)

Are you really cheating if you never promised to be faithful?

Instapundit:

IF THAT’S TRUE, WAS HE REALLY CHEATING? Jenny Sanford Exclusive: Husband Refused to Be Faithful in Wedding Vows. “South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford recalls how she made the ‘leap of faith’ to marry husband Gov. Mark Sanford even though the groom refused to promise to be faithful, insisting that the clause be removed from their wedding vows.”

UPDATE: Okay, I remember going to a wedding back in the ’70s where a couple read vows they’d written themselves, making clear that they weren’t sexually exclusive. And yet, not too many years later, she was royally unhappy with his philandering. Was that unfair?

My own $0.02: intellectually being receptive to the concept of an “open marriage” (or fantasizing about it) is one thing. Emotionally being able to handle it is another. My guess is that few men (and even fewer women) are able to handle actually sharing their partners with somebody else — especially if they themselves remained faithful.

The Wine Train: A poster child for “stimulus” pork-barreling

Zombie has a juicy story about an investigation by California Watch (reprinted in the SF Chronicle ) on how “stimulus” funds are being in Northern California.

There’s a tourist train line running through the Napa Valley (California’s wine growing country).

[The] Wine Train [is] a private rail line established by the late Vincent DeDomenico, the wealthy creator of Rice-A-Roni pasta. Sixteen times each week, according to the Wine Train’s Web site, the train transports tourists from Napa to St. Helena aboard restored dining cars. A champagne dinner on the Vista Dome car costs $129 per person. About 125,000 people ride the Wine Train each year.

$54 million in stimulus funds were allocated to relocating the tracks and redoing the bridge. The work was awarded in a no-bid contract to Suluutaaq, Inc. of Anchorage, Alaska. “Because the company was founded by Alaska Natives, it enjoys special access to federal contracts.”

The “company” (which appears to be basically a Caucasian CEO and a handful of staff, few of them “Alaska Native”) then subcontracted an actual (reputable) construction company (Peter Kiewit & Sons, also a contractor on the Bay Bridge) to do the actual work.

According to Federal records, Suulutaaq is paying Kiewit $28.1 million – 53 percent of the total stimulus contract. Other subcontractors, all from the lower 48 states, get another $4.7 million. Profit to Suluutaaq for doing essentially no work? About $20.4 million. Ka-ching!

And note not all the rogues in this rogues’ gallery are Democrats:

Suulutaaq is one of dozens of Alaska Native corporations that have emerged as players in federal contracting via measures crafted in the 1980s and 1990s by former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a powerful lawmaker whose career ended with a contracting scandal.

For decades, the U.S. Small Business Administration has run a preferential contracting program to aid disadvantaged businesses. Qualifying firms can get federal contracts worth up to $5.5 million by negotiation, rather than competitive bidding.

The Stevens measures gave corporations that were set up by Alaska Natives special access – with no cap on the size of contracts they can obtain.

Zombie sums up:

So, basically, a white wheeler-dealer got himself appointed CEO of a shell company that’s legally classified as an “Alaska Native corporation,” then, using this unique privileged status, finagled a no-bid contract to get $54 million in taxpayer funds for a construction job — and then used a small portion of that money to hire subcontractors to do the actual work, while pocketing the rest as pure profit.

Nice, eh? And guess what: You’re the sucker in this swindle.

One has the suspicion that the entire “Stimulus” is nothing but countless Wine Train-style deals bundled together and given an uplifting name to disguise that fact that it’s little more than a thousand unnecessary crooked backroom scams with essentially no oversight.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Fenway Nation has more.

UPDATE 2: from Zombie’s comments, #25: “Reminds me of a low income housing project going up here in Houston. According to one of their legal postings, the total budget divided by the number of units comes out to $550,000 per unit. And they will be build out of fiberboard…”

Daniel Pipes on “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran” in NRO

How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran

by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
February 2, 2010

http://www.danielpipes.org/7921/bomb-iran-save-obama-presidency

I do not customarily offer advice to a president whose election I opposed, whose goals I fear, and whose policies I work against. But here is an idea for Barack Obama to salvage his tottering administration by taking a step that protects the United States and its allies.

If Obama’s personality, identity, and celebrity captivated a majority of the American electorate in 2008, those qualities proved ruefully deficient in 2009 for governing. He failed to deliver on employment and health care, he failed in foreign policy forays small (e.g., landing the 2016 Olympics) and large (relations with China and Japan). His counterterrorism record barely passes the laugh test.

This poor performance has caused an unprecedented collapse in the polls and the loss of three major by-elections, culminating two weeks ago in an astonishing senatorial defeat in Massachusetts. Obama’s attempts to “reset” his presidency will likely fail if he focuses on economics, where he is just one of many players.

He needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a lightweight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations.

Barak Obama’s job approval problem.

Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy the Iranian nuclear weapon capacity.

Circumstances are propitious. First, U.S. intelligence agencies have reversed their preposterous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, the one that claimed with “high confidence” that Tehran had “halted its nuclear weapons program,” No one (other than the Iranian rulers and their agents) denies that the regime is rushing headlong to build a large nuclear arsenal.

Second, if the apocalyptic-minded leaders in Tehran get the Bomb, they render the Middle East a yet more volatile and dangerous. They might deploy these weapons in the region, leading to massive death and destruction. Eventually, they could launch an electro-magnetic pulse attack on the United States, utterly devastating the country. By eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama protects the homeland and sends a message to American’s friends and enemies.

Third, polling shows longstanding American backing for an attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

  • Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, January 2006: 57 percent of Americans favor military intervention if Tehran pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.
  • Zogby International, October 2007: 52 percent of likely voters support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon; 29 percent oppose such a step.
  • McLaughlin & Associates, May 2009: asked whether they would support “Using the [U.S.] military to attack and destroy the facilities in Iran which are necessary to produce a nuclear weapon,” 58 percent of 600 likely voters supported the use of force and 30 percent opposed it.
  • Fox News, September 2009: asked “Do you support or oppose the United States taking military action to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?” 61 percent of 900 registered voters supported military action and 28 opposed it.
  • Pew Research Center, October 2009: asked which is more important, “To prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action” or “To avoid a military conflict with Iran, even if it means they may develop nuclear weapons,” 1,500 respondents favored the first reply 61 percent and 24 percent the second.
The nuclear facility at Qum on Sep. 26,2009 from 423 miles in space, provided by GeoEye.

Not only does a strong majority – 57, 52, 58, 61, and 61 percent – already favor using force but after a strike Americans will presumably rally around the flag, jumping that number much higher. Fourth, were the U.S. strike limited to taking out the Iranian nuclear facilities, and not aspire to regime change, it would require few “boots on the ground” and entail relatively few casualties, making an attack politically more palatable.

Just as 9/11 caused voters to forget George W. Bush’s meandering early months, a strike on Iranian facilities would dispatch Obama’s feckless first year down the memory hole and transform the domestic political scene. It would sideline health care, prompt Republicans to work with Democrats, make netroots squeal, independents reconsider, and conservatives swoon.

But the chance to do good and do well is fleeting. As the Iranians improve their defenses and approach weaponization, the window of opportunity is closing. The time to act is now or, on Obama’s watch, the world will soon become a much more dangerous place.

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

Why do Democrats favor campaign finance “reform”?

The BCRA (Bipartisan Campaign [finance] Reform Act, a.k.a. “McCain-Feingold”) was passed with heavy Democrat support. The whole idea behind BCRA was ostensibly to limit the impact of large corporate donors on electoral campaigns. However, as Howard Nemerov explains, in practice BCRA did not lead to a large reduction in corporate donations — they merely shifted from the corporation itself to its employees, and (interestingly) the donation profiles of an employer and its employees appear to be strongly correlated.

What happened in practice is that, thanks to BCRA, Republican campaign donations barely kept up with inflation, while Democrat donations grew hand over fist. And somewhat counterintuitively, in terms of donations, Democrats became the party of big business.

“The law of unintended consequences” in action. Or were they truly unintended?

Socialized medicine trifecta

The Daily Mail (h/t: Pi Guy) had the following three headlines together on the front page (screenshot here) that illustrate exactly how “great” socialized medicine is in the UK:

In related news, Canadian Prime Minister Newfoundland and Labrador Premier comes to US for medical care. Instapundit is having a field day with this:

From the comments: “Seems to me that when our Premier goes to the US for heart surgery, the analogy that comes to mind would be if the President of General Motors said ‘Our GM cars are fantastic, but myself — I own a Ford.’”

UPDATE: Reader Geoff Coghlin writes:

“I’m a Canadian in Australia, and a great fan of your blog.

The premier heading [S]outh is not new. The Canadian political elite has long headed to the US for medical services while – with straight faces – extolling the virtues of socialized medicine for everyone else. And US hospitals are always used to back up a system in Canada that can’t meet demand.

It prompts the question: If the US adopts Obamacare, how will the Canadian health care system survive?”

Good question.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More from the Globe and Mail.