Sunday, December 27, 2009

CARBON MONEY

If you have wondered, as I have, how carbon trading works, how money is made from global warming, the UN’s role in the process, and what they were talking about in Copenhagen, the following article is an excellent primer. It recently appeared on pajamasmedia.com.
CLIMATEGATE: HOW TO FOLLOW THE MONEY

December 23, 2009 - by Charlie Martin

There’s big money in climate.

That became strikingly obvious in Copenhagen. The conference itself cost in the neighborhood of $30 million, but that was only the visible tip of the melting iceberg. Add to that the celebrities, the demonstrators, the congressional delegations, and the corporate displays, and you can bet something closer to $60 million was really spent on the conference — along with, of course, a carbon footprint the size of Morocco’s. The one significant outcome of the Copenhagen conference was an agreement to continue the international market in carbon offset trading that would otherwise have expired in 2012 and to prevent a crash in the carbon credits market.

It appears that most of the participants saw the money spent as an investment.

To see why, we need to look at the way Kyoto has turned into cash for many of the biggest names in the climate change world, and to do that we need to understand how the whole carbon trading scheme works.

Simple Carbon Trading

Start with the simple proposition that you want, for whatever reason, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) being emitted by human activities worldwide. The reasons, of course, are all based on the idea that humans emitting GHGs are causing unexpected and unacceptable changes in the climate. Whether that’s true or not is a topic for other articles; for now, just take it as given.

There are actually a number of GHGs that could be an issue, but the largest share of human-produced GHGs is in carbon dioxide (CO2). So for simplicity, the Kyoto Protocol normalizes everything in terms of CO2 alone, using a number called the global warming potential (GWP). By definition, the global warming potential of CO2 is 1; the highest GWP is for sulfur hexaflouride, a gas used mainly in electrical equipment. Sulfur hexaflouride has a GWP of 23,900, so for Kyoto Protocol purposes, releasing 1 ton of sulfur hexaflouride is considered to be 23,900 tons of CO2.

Now, if there were a king of the world, that dread sovereign might just say: “Hey! Stop emitting GHGs!” And that would be that. In the real world, if you want to reduce GHGs, you have to come up with some kind of scheme to get people to do it (more or less) voluntarily. Governments do this, normally, with taxes. The simplest scheme is just to tax anyone who emits GHGs, charging them enough to pay for the bad effects. Reduce the amount you emit and your taxes go down.

Of course with a government program, and particularly with the UN, nothing is that simple.
Developing countries, particularly India and China, have rapidly growing economies and populations that really enjoy that their standards of living are rising toward first-world levels. These countries, as they improve their standards of living, are necessarily going to release more CO2. In the simple model, they would be expected to pay for those emissions.

Carbon Trading after Kyoto

India and China, with rapidly growing economies and populations that are really enjoying progress towards a first-world standard of living, didn’t like this scheme at all. To them, the simple carbon tax is just a massive tax, reducing their GDP and impeding their progress. Add to this the historical resentment of colonialism, and the simple carbon tax was a non-starter.

The Kyoto plan was intended to solve this — at the cost of more complexity — by using a carbon trading scheme. For example, imagine China is going to build a new power plant that would have emitted 1,000 tons of CO2 a year. If China instead builds that plant with new technology that reduces the emissions to 500 tons a year, they get 500 tons of carbon credits in the form of a certificate of emission reduction (CER). The theory is that they can then sell those CERs to other places as “credit” in place of CO2 emission reductions, something we’ll discuss below.

The devil is in the details, of course. If you can get a 500 ton CER for building the power plant better, shouldn’t you get 1,000 tons of credit for not building the power plant at all?

That could be a pretty sweet deal — you can not-build a lot of power plants in a year. If there’s a market for these CERs, that’s a license to print money. So there’s immediately a problem — you must somehow establish that you only provide CERs for projects that would otherwise have been built anyway.

The Kyoto Protocol establishes a mechanism to certify these emission reductions called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which establishes a bureaucratic process under the supervision of the UN to do this certification. The purpose of the CDM is to keep the process honest. Only certify emission reductions for projects that would have been built anyway and that would have had a greater carbon footprint if they had been built the way they would have been built.

Got that? You have a CER, with real cash value, as long as a UN organization will certify what you might have done, and the way you might have done it, if you had done it, and done it that way.

Now, let’s leave the third world and go to the developed world, the first world, or what the Kyoto Protocol calls the Annex I countries. In fact, let’s go to the the U.S., where there is a power plant that already emits 1,000 tons of CO2 a year. They can offset that emission by buying the CER from China — but why would they bother?

Of course, some people would buy CERs out of commitment or guilt — say Hollywood folks who want to continue to use their private jets — but the market in guilt is actually pretty limited.
For this scheme to work, there has to be some reason why the power plant would be forced to reduce their carbon emissions. That’s where the Kyoto Protocol come in. Part of the protocol is an agreement by each of the Annex I countries that they will reduce their carbon emissions by some amount, but that reduction can either be in actual reductions or by buying CERs.

Put together, these two parts — an enforced reduction or “cap” on carbon emission and a way to trade CERs — are the key components of a “cap and trade” scheme, which is the basis of the Kyoto Protocol.

Carbon Markets

There’s one more missing component here. There has to be a way for people with CERs to find people who want to buy CERs — in other words, there has to be a market. This market operates, just like the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, or the rug merchant in a bazaar in Istanbul, as a profit-making entity. Every time Wayne in Chicago buys a CER from Wang in Shanghai, the guy facilitating the market — call him “Al” — takes a little off the top in the transaction.

Now we’ve got a picture of the whole transaction:

1. Wayne in Chicago needs to reduce his CO2 emissions by 500 tons, so he contacts Al.

2. Wang in Shanghai has a 500 ton CER.

3. Wayne and Wang agree, through Al, that the 500 ton CER is worth $1000.

4. So Al takes the CER from Wang, paying him $980 (subtracting a $20 commission from the $1,000 trade price) and gives it to Wayne in exchange for $1,020 (because Al is charging Wayne a commission too.)

Now, on paper at least, Wayne is only producing (net) 500 tons of carbon emissions.

Perverse Incentives

“On paper” is the key here. In reality, Wayne alone used to be emitting 1,000 tons of carbon. Now, Wayne and Wang together are emitting 1,500 tons in total. Wayne is out $1,020 for the CER, Wang is $980 richer, and Al has made $40.

On paper, it’s a reduction of 500 tons of CO2 emissions, but it’s only a real reduction if Wang really would otherwise have built a power plant to emit 1,000 tons. But because Wang knows he can make money on the CERs, that is going to factor into his decision to build a power plant at all — all the incentives in Wang’s case are to build more power plants and emit more CO2, as long as he can convince someone (in this case a UN organization) that he “really would have built the power plants anyway.”

Of course, Wayne could have kept his $1,020 if it weren’t for the government forcing him to reduce his “carbon footprint.” So this is effectively a tax. The effect is that Wayne is paying $1,020 in taxes, of which $40 goes to Al and $980 goes to Wang in China, and there is a net reduction in carbon output only if the CERs really represent carbon that “would have been emitted anyway.”

And this all managed by the paragon of incorruptible altruism, the United Nations.

Follow the Money

The frightening thing, at least for Al and Wang, is that this was all set to go away. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and without an agreement to extend it, new Chinese power plants would have to be built without cash coming from the developed world and carbon trading markets would have nothing to trade.

The amount of money involved isn’t trivial. According to Richard North at the Daily Mail, the carbon trading market last year was worth about £129 million (or about $205 million U.S.) and was heading toward trillions of dollars by 2020. So it’s probably not a coincidence that, for all the discord in Copenhagen, the one thing to which all the parties did agree was to extend the Kyoto cap and trade system. The market in carbon offsets or CER would continue.

Who benefits from this?

An interesting question. Of course, it’s well known that Al Gore is heavily involved in the carbon offset market and in other environmental ventures. There is speculation that Gore could be the world’s first green billionaire.

Another beneficiary is the UN itself. All of these international processes happen under the supervision and control of the UN and UN-chartered nongovernmental organizations.

The most interesting connection that’s come out in recent days is Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri — the chairman of the IPCC. Pachauri, an engineer and economist by training, joined the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) in April of 1981 as managing director and continues to be employed there to this day. TERI was renamed in 2003. According to the Science and Public Policy Institute, at the time of the name change TERI communications director Annapurna Vancheswaran said:

"We have not severed our past relationship with the Tatas. It [the name-change from Tata Energy Research Institute to The Energy Research Institute] is only for convenience.
Pachauri, and TERI, maintains close ties with the Tata Group."

Pachauri, it turns out, has a number of interesting connections. Beside the connection to Tata — TERI insists it has terminated the official connection — Dr. Pachauri is a director or advisor to many other organizations involved in the “climate industry.” The Telegraph puts it like this:

"What has also almost entirely escaped attention, however, is how Dr. Pachauri has established an astonishing worldwide portfolio of business interests with bodies which have been investing billions of dollars in organizations dependent on the IPCC’s policy recommendations."

These outfits include banks, oil and energy companies, and investment funds heavily involved in “carbon trading” and “sustainable technologies,” which together make up the fastest-growing commodity market in the world, estimated soon to be worth trillions of dollars a year.

Today, in addition to his role as chairman of the IPCC, Dr. Pachauri occupies more than a score of such posts, acting as director or adviser to many of the bodies which play a leading role in what has become known as the international “climate industry.”

Roger Pielke Jr. looked at the conflict of interest policies at the UN and concluded that Dr. Pachauri’s business connections appear to conflict with the normal UN policies, but that it’s not clear that the IPCC is covered:

Based on the WMO and UN discussions of conflicts of interest, it seems clear that Dr. Pachauri has, at the very least, several associations that raise the appearance of a conflict of interest in such a way that does not preserve and enhance “public confidence in their own integrity and that of their organization.” Since we do not have details on Dr. Pachauri’s activities or compensation from these various organizations and businesses, it is impossible to tell what, if any, conflicts actually may exist.

It is perfectly reasonable to expect high-ranking IPCC officials to follow the WMO and UN guidelines for conflict of interest and disclosure. Apparently, they presently do not follow these or any other such practices. If the IPCC does not have any policies governing these issues, it certainly needs to develop them, lest they give the impression that climate scientists play by different rules than everyone else.

Lord Monckton, in an open letter to Dr. Pachauri and the IPCC, made another point. In one specific instance, Tata industries owns Corvus Steel, which owns a steel mill in the UK. Monckton wrote:

"The Tata group is now owner of Corus Steel, which, not long ago, closed down the steelworks in Redcar, UK, putting 1,700 workers out of their jobs. Corus stands to make billions by cashing in on now-surplus EU “carbon credits” given to the steelworks. It stands to make a great deal more, via the Clean Development Mechanism that is one spin-off from the IPCC process, by transferring steel production from the Redcar works to India."

Tata stands to gain from the Clean Development Mechanism by receiving credits for notional carbon “savings” obtained by investing in a new steel plant in the Indian province of Orissa, which will initially produce 3 million tons of hot rolled steel — exactly the capacity of the now-closed Redcar plant.

From the discussion above, it’s clear what happens here. When they close the still mill in Redcar, that is a lot of carbon emissions they no longer make; that’s a large CER. At the same time, they open a new steel mill in Orissa that produces exactly as much steel. If they can convince some UN functionary that this new mill “would have” been built anyway, and “would have” produced much more carbon emissions had they hypothetically built it in that alternate world, they can realize more CERs that can be exchanged for real cash in the carbon markets. At least, they can if they can convince the UN. Remember that you need a UN certification of what you might have otherwise done, and how you would have done it, if you had done it and done it that way.

And Dr. Pachauri, with his extensive ties to Tata and his leadership position in the IPCC, seems likely to have substantial influence in the UN.

Who Benefits?

At the conclusion of the Copenhagen talks, what was the actual result? The Obama administration hoped for an agreement with developing countries, particularly India and China, that would include binding targets for GHG reductions and verification procedures to ensure that carbon credits represented “real” reductions.

What they got was a non-binding agreement that basically has no effect except that the existing Kyoto agreement for cap and trade continues. This seems unlikely to limit carbon emissions much — after all, the theoretically binding agreements of Kyoto weren’t particularly successful. (In fact, the U.S. has been closer to meeting its announced goals than the EU, even though the U.S. didn’t ratify the treaty.)

What’s interesting is that carbon offset prices collapsed along with the collapse of the Copenhagen talks. It’s pretty straightforward to understand what this market is saying. Up to the last gasp in Copenhagen, the betting had been that there would be even more restrictive limits on carbon in the developed countries and so greater demand for offsets. The markets didn’t get those and so “decided” offsets were worth less. On the other hand, with no agreement at all, the value of a carbon offset would be near zero, and China, India, and people who invested in the carbon markets would be seriously hurt.

This eleventh-hour non-binding agreement, made by just a few participants, seems to have primarily had the effect of preserving the carbon market’s existence.

Which means that the existing carbon trading scheme continues. China, India, Tata Group, Rajendra Pachauri, and “Al” are still in business.

Charlie Martin is a Colorado computer scientist and freelance writer. He holds an MS in Computer Science from Duke University, where he spent six years with the National Biomedical Simulation Resource, Duke University Medical Center. Find him at http://chasrmartin.com, and on his blog at http://explorations.chasrmartin.com/.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

DING DONG! THE WITCH IS DEAD! (ON BEING AN EX-ENVIRONMENTALIST)

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
----“Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost


As I write this, the environmental conference in Copenhagen is beginning, and the cover-up of “Climategate” is continuing. The major networks are not covering it at all---not a word has been broadcast on the news shows at ABC, NBC and CBS. Elsewhere, on cable channels and in a few major newspapers (and at the White House), it is being given the “move-along-nothing-to-see-here” treatment.

I remain gleeful. I’m confident no amount of spin can succeed. This particular genie will never go back in the bottle, and most ordinary folks (the kind who don’t sell carbon credits for a living) were pretty skeptical about global warming even before this.

The emails are bad enough. They reveal the fanatic advocacy of supposedly objective scientists, efforts to silence their critics, discussions of how to massage data so the answer comes out the way they want it, and even criminal conspiracies to destroy documents. Ugly stuff. But the real problem is the computer code itself, which is now revealed to be so muddled from repeated manipulation that the results it generated, the “proof” of global warming, cannot be replicated through any rational process. At this moment, finally, there is nothing to back up their claims. Not that there ever was, of course, but now the world can at last see the truth.

I quit smoking about three years ago. It’s not really “difficult” or painful, but it does require you to invest some emotional energy in the process. It distracts you from your normal routine and you find you think about smoking (or not smoking) rather more than you want to. You even dream about smoking. I still have those dreams occasionally.

I quit because smoking is bad for you. It’s not nearly as bad as the zealots will tell you, of course, but there’s no question it’s an unhealthy practice. (I think the anti-smoking propaganda probably kept me smoking five years longer than I otherwise would have, just because it was so false and politically correct and infuriating, and I felt I would be goddamned if I was going to knuckle under to the smoking fascists. The “second-hand smoke” mania was especially grating since there has never been any real evidence that second-hand smoke does anything more deadly than annoy people who don’t like cigarette smoke.)

The result is that now, though I am an ex-smoker, I don’t disapprove of smoking. In fact, I like smoking. I like to be around it. Smoking is fun. Smoking is cool. On the rare occasions when I find a bar where smoking is permitted, I settle in for a long stay. Smoking, to me, says “party.” Bars where smoking is permitted are a lot more fun than bars where smoking is banned.

When smokers come to my house, I set out ashtrays for them. “No, I’ll go outside,” they say. “Seriously,” I say, “I don’t mind. I like it.” They go outside anyway.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’m not one of those ex-smokers who HATES smoking and smokers, and also has to lecture you on the evils of the filthy practice and tell you stories about somebody I know who died young from smoking and show you pictures of diseased lungs. I’m not that kind of ex-smoker.

As an ex-environmentalist, however---well, that’s another matter.

I imagine a lot of people who know me would be surprised to learn I was once a liberal. Actually, that may be overstating it. I always understood the link between private property and liberty, for example, and how capitalism creates wealth, and the need to respect the Constitution and protect our freedom to speak and assemble and worship as we please, and---O.K., I was never a liberal. But I WAS an environmentalist.

I went to seminars and teach-ins and meetings about clean air and clean water and the rain forests, and I worried about all these things. I gave money to PIRGIM at a time when I really didn’t have any money.

I remember lying awake at night contemplating the coming ice age. In the 1970’s, all the books and articles and TV specials about Global Cooling scared the bejesus out of me. I believed every word of it. I thought it was “science.” I was convinced we were doomed.

Then came April 1972. I guess I have EPA Chief William Ruckleshaus to thank for opening my eyes to what “environmentalism” had become.

As a result of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and a decade’s worth of activism by those who believed her, the EPA held an administrative trial to determine what deleterious effects could be attributed to DDT use. Did it harm wildlife? Did it interfere with reproduction in birds by causing a thinning in eggshells? Was it a carcinogen for humans? For seven months, biologists testified about their studies; and all the available science on the effects of DDT was reviewed. Then, in April 1972, the administrative law judge delivered his verdict:


“DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man. ... The uses of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife. ... The evidence in this proceeding supports the conclusion that there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT.”

Two months later, Ruckleshaus overturned the judge’s decision, declared DDT a “potential human carcinogen,” and banned it for virtually all uses. He had never attended the administrative trial, and he admitted he had not read the transcript either. The effect of this unilateral declaration was that DDT disappeared not only in the US, but around the world.

Malaria has been a scourge of mankind throughout recorded history. In 1939, DDT was synthesized as a mosquito-killer by Swiss scientist Paul Muller, and was first put to widespread use in 1943. It was instantly successful, and Muller received a Nobel Prize for his work in 1948. In the US, malaria was endemic in southeastern states and the Mississippi Valley until the CDC launched a DDT spraying program (in 1947) that eradicated malaria by 1951. By 1967, malaria had been effectively beaten in every developed nation, all of South America and large swatches of Southeast Asia. It remained a problem in Africa, though significant progress had been made. In 1972, that progress abruptly ceased.

Since 1972, there have been more than 100 million (mostly avoidable) deaths from malaria, almost all of them in impoverished developing countries that are least able to defend themselves. According to the World Health Organization, 90% of the deaths are of pregnant women or children under five years old.

The DDT fiasco was the end of my career as an environmentalist. There was probably a time when “environmental science” was primarily a matter of learning about nature and using that knowledge to find ways in which human society could live in harmony with it, but at sometime in the 1960’s or 1970’s, that changed. I doubt that the banning of DDT by the EPA was the moment it changed---it had happened before that---but the DDT ban made it clear that science was not very important to those who ran the EPA or who identified themselves as environmentalists.

There is a tendency to dismiss the sillier aspects of environmental activism as harmless excesses of those who only want to do good, to help out. All of us have walked through a forest and felt renewed thereby. The chatter of birds, the sound of icy clear water rushing over rocks, the unexpected sight of a deer in a clearing, the feel of fresh air in the lungs---all these things return us to some primal memory. At the right place, in the right moment, all of us are tree-huggers. It’s easy to understand the impulse, and a love of nature and its glory is not a bad thing, but a fundamental human response to the world.

But as the banning of DDT teaches us, “environmentalism” is something else. It’s a hundred million dead mothers and children without a peep out of those who were responsible for it. The pursuit of these feel-good ideals while ignoring the truth---well, it’s lethal. If you’re “saving the planet,” or if you can persuade yourself that is your goal, the consequences don’t seem to matter very much. But they should. If they don’t, you’re a moral idiot.

Of course, not every campaign of environmentalists is deadly. Some are just extremely expensive and wasteful. The modern recycling binge began with a single article by a man named J. Winston Porter in 1988. Mr. Porter, of the EPA, captured the public imagination with his claim, which is demonstrably false, that the United States was in danger of running out of landfill space. Now, twenty years later, most of us are subject to draconian recycling regulations and the nation spends hundreds of billions a year more than it needs to on waste disposal, for no discernable benefit other than the “feeling” some folks have that it’s the right thing to do. It certainly cannot be defended on economic grounds, though its acolytes try to, since any economically viable recycling would (and does) occur on its own in response to market forces. It’s only the useless and wasteful kind of recycling that gets mandated by governments since otherwise, no one with any sense would do it. Still, I don’t suppose it has killed anyone.

Remember alar on apples? Acid rain? Electro-magnetic fields from power lines? Cancer clusters? Brain cancer from cell phones? Radon? All of them have spawned minor industries and made a few people rich. Some of them are still around. As far as I know, these mini-manias haven’t killed anyone either. They just waste our time and the resources of our society which are, after all, not infinite. In addition, they degrade our culture by fostering an insidious deconstructionist ethic---that reality doesn’t matter; what matters is how we feel.

But there are plenty of environmental ideas that DO kill, though not always so directly and coldly as the ban on DDT. Generally, these are the movements that reduce the supply of commodities essential for human survival, like food and energy.

At any given moment on earth, there are a billion people who, while they may not be starving, are not entirely certain where their next meal is coming from. Until the rise of the democracy movement and capitalist institutions in the 18th Century, this was the lot of almost everyone on the planet---long hours of physical labor every day to secure the means by which one might survive to do it all over again the next day. While the developed and semi-developed world is now spared this life of unrelenting toil, it still exists in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The weakest and poorest of these human beings are the ones who die when the price of survival rises.

They are easy to ignore. We don’t know their names and we never will. They are simply anonymous wogs and colored peoples, the sort that get slaughtered en masse from time to time in local genocides that we don’t pay any attention to either. Still, they die, and it’s the fault of our fashionable environmental ideas. It’s cause and effect.

When Western elites in Europe and the United States decide (without any scientific justification whatsoever) that GMO foods are suspect or somehow spooky, those GMO plants are no longer grown, and an acre that could have produced forty tons of food now produces only twenty. Who do you think this hurts? Not me, or anyone I know. If a bag of flour or corn meal costs half a buck more, I don’t even notice it. But other people do. Halfway around the world, there are people for whom that half dollar is the difference between living and dying.

For sixty years, organic food enthusiasts have been trying to persuade us that organic food is better for you, healthier, more nutritious. There is not a scintilla of evidence this is true despite billions spent on research, but their belief is unshaken. What we DO know is that most of the food-contamination scares (the e. coli and salmonella outbreaks) are attributable to organic farming practices, but somehow this never makes the front page. And of course, organic farming also makes less efficient use of agricultural land, driving up the price of food in ways that elites don’t care much about but starving people do.

Then there is the mandated production of ethanol, which illustrates what happens when you take one-fourth of a basic subsistence food and turn it into bio-fuel. Two years ago, food riots broke out (in Mexico, Haiti, Cameroon, Egypt, Pakistan, China, and other nations) as the soaring price of corn forced all basic food prices higher. All of this was driven not by market forces but by tax subsidies in the EU and the United States ($8 billion in 2007).

There are plenty of complaints about ethanol, among them that it uses more energy to create than it yields in the gas tank. In addition, it is far from certain that burning ethanol produces cleaner air pollution than gasoline does. Add in the food riots, and one might well ask, “What the hell was Congress thinking?”

And the answer is: what they always think. There is nothing particularly unusual about environmental initiatives having disastrous unintended consequences. After all, it’s not like our legislators actually KNOW anything about food or energy or the environment. (Two years ago, Nancy Pelosi casually remarked that natural gas is not a fossil fuel, but a renewable energy source, like wind.) All Congress is equipped to do is respond to groups like the Sierra Club, which hates gasoline, and Archer-Daniels-Midland, which grows and processes corn. Groups like this have a loud voice in Washington and are able to direct large contributions to politicians, so there is nothing at all surprising or unusual about our ethanol policy. In fact, if you are one of those people who thinks the US government should have an “energy policy,” ethanol subsidies are exactly the sort of thing you’re going to get. It’s the lesson of DDT repeated in a different guise. Neither scientific considerations nor concern for the environment have anything to do with the process. The words “science” and “the environment” are just key elements in the public relations template used to sell the idea. The real agenda is always something else.

And what is the agenda? Well, it varies, of course. It varies from issue to issue and from person to person. Sometimes, the motivation is simply greed. Al Gore is reputedly the world’s first green billionaire, for example. There may also be a larger political agenda such as the desire (evident on the streets of Copenhagen), to resurrect international communism as a world government.

Then there are the genuine tree-huggers, who are also in Copenhagen. These are simple-minded folks who feel strongly that every fence, every plowed field, every building and every oil well is an assault upon the good green earth. Similar are the Luddites, who arrive at the same conclusions though they do not so much love nature as hate the modern world. Luddites want to destroy all the machines and return to a simpler age. No one is stopping them from putting their beliefs into action by building themselves a hut in the woods, of course, but somehow they never quite do.

Even more disquieting is the small but noticeable segment of the political left for whom the deaths of poor and vulnerable third-worlders is not a bug, but a feature. They’re convinced the world just has too many of these sorts of people, and if some should drop into the void because of environmental programs, it’s something of a bonus. Back in the 1920’s, when Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, she did so to further the cause of eugenics by discouraging undesirable people (like Negroes) from reproducing. Nowadays, reducing the population of black and brown peoples is put in terms of the “population explosion” (another myth) rather than more overtly racist reasons. Back in the 1960’s, one argument made for banning DDT was to ensure that children in poor nations would die of malaria. As an official of the US Agency for International Development stated, “Rather dead than alive and riotously reproducing.” And today, you never hear feminists object to coercive contraceptive programs involving sterilization, or China’s forced abortions and one-child policy. The ghost of eugenics survives on the left, hidden under environmental and other fashionable facades.

Even though there are many agendas in the global warming movement, I suspect the primary motivation is as primal and human and ancient as it gets---the seductive allure of doom. Purveyors of the end-times have always found a ready audience because there is something in all of us that longs for oblivion, that makes us stare, fascinated, into the abyss.

As we face swelling prostates, aching knees, failing eyesight and dimming intellects, it’s the uncertainties around our deterioration that drive us mad. It’s one reason we worry, because worry is comforting. It allows us to narrow the focus of our existential despair. Am I eating too much cholesterol? Am I getting enough exercise? What if my heart stops? Silly, of course. Pointless. (It’s always something else that gets you.) But we all do it. Recently, on a radio show, I heard a woman tell the story of a horrible accident she had had several years before. She was hit by a truck, and as she was laying broken on the ground, in tremendous pain, her last thought before she passed out was this: “If I don’t survive this, I sure wasted a lot of time worrying about breast cancer.”

If global warming were real, and the oceans were to rise, and we all fried---well, there would be no escape, would there? We would all be toast, literally. And compared to the myriad of unknown minor and major woes we all must endure, the certainty of a specific and universal doom can be almost irresistible. The doom-sayers are never correct, but they don’t seem to have any trouble attracting a flock. And it doesn’t matter whether a particular pastor actually believes his revelation or is merely in the game to fleece the suckers. Not all of us will fall for it, of course, but enough will.

Al Gore is every preacher who ever picked a date for the end of the world and gathered his acolytes on a mountaintop to await the apocalypse. Is he sincere? Does he, in his heart, think he is speaking the truth? Well, considering his conduct, I find that difficult to believe, but ultimately it makes no difference. What matters is that others believed him, and that we were on the brink of shutting down much of the machinery that keeps me warm and well-fed and keeps untold millions of others, less fortunate, alive.

I thank God he has failed, and that the Copenhagen conference will be a fiasco. The exposure of global warming as a fraud has been an unexpected and wonderful development. It came out of nowhere, like the news that the Soviet Union had fallen. And for those of us who have had little to celebrate the past year, the news was every bit as welcome.


Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Thursday, December 10, 2009

LET'S JUST LEAVE

There are ten or twenty points I could expound upon in Obama’s mishmash of a speech on his war strategy in Afghanistan. The absence of the words “victory” or “triumph” or some similar term was striking, especially considering this was the Commander-in-Chief talking to the students at West Point. In addition, there was the complaint about the cost the war from a man who, in the first six months of his term, has spent far more money (on what, exactly?) than was spent in BOTH Iraq and Afghanistan over the past eight years. Then there was the nonsensical statement that, as part of his Afghan strategy, “I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” Huh?

But let’s cut to the chase, as they say. For me, the speech was neatly encapsulated by a passage buried in the middle of the address:

“This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

A little bit for the left, a little bit for the right. A little bit for these guys, a little bit for those. The entire speech was like that, which perhaps explains Obama’s lengthy lucubrations (the “dithering period”)before delivering the goods. It took forever, apparently to craft a war speech that was equal parts pro-victory and anti-victory. And in the struggle he faced between finding a way to win the war and balance all his private political concerns, the politics seem to have won.

It can’t work, of course. If you set a date for your exit, it doesn’t matter how many soldiers you send. The enemy will simply wait for you to leave. After all, they’re not going anywhere. In addition, a departure date makes it impossible for your potential friends in Afghanistan to support you since, if they do so, they will be the first to face the firing squad eighteen months hence.

If we’re going to lose the war in Afghanistan, as Obama seems intent on doing, let’s lose it now. What is the point of having hundreds or thousands of American men and women lose their lives over the next year and a half if our defeat is already preordained? How, in good conscience, can we send them to die not for the security of their country but merely to slow the decline in Obama’s poll numbers, and push the issue of the Afghan war off beyond the 2010 elections?

There is one way to win a war. You kill the enemy and destroy all their assets. It’s not a pretty sight, and it’s not a task to be undertaken half-heartedly or cavalierly, but if it has to be done, that’s how you do it. It has always been that way. It’s what we did with Germany and Japan in WW II, back when we understood that the only effective way to deal with a totalitarian or genocidal regime is to crush it completely. America has forgotten that lesson.

My conclusion that we should leave Afghanistan now is made only because it is the better of two terrible choices---lose now or lose in eighteen months. If I had my druthers, I would want us to win the war, but with this president, and the current political climate, I don’t see how that can happen. And it is immoral to ask soldiers, all of whom volunteered in good faith to defend their country, to lay down their lives for nothing.

You can’t lose a war without paying a terrible price. We are still paying the price of our defeat in Vietnam, and this will be far worse. The North Vietnamese were never going to confront us on Market Street during the Mummers Parade, but the jihadis are already here, and there will be a lot more of them once their pals have defeated us halfway around the world. Our defeat will be a recruiting tool for them, with horrific consequences for us. And yes, we will have to fight them again, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and it will be even more difficult in the future. By then, however, we will have a different Commander-in-Chief.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Monday, December 7, 2009

UPDATE: SCOTT HARSHBARGER

I recently wrote about Scott Harshbarger and recounted the story of his disgraceful treatment of the Amirault family in Massachusetts (see here). The occasion for that story was the appointment of Harshbarger to conduct an internal investigation of ACORN in the wake of various unsavory revelations about it (e.g., facilitating the prostitution of minors, money-laundering, etc.).

The report is now complete, and guess what? It turns out ACORN really did nothing very wrong at all. At worst, there were some growing pains caused by ACORN’s rapid growth, and perhaps an accounting error or two.

BIGGOVERNMENT.COM reports that in Harshbarger’s review, he spoke to no one outside of ACORN---no former employees, no ousted board members, no independent auditors, no disgruntled clients. Thus, everyone interviewed was either employed by ACORN or currently affiliated with the organization.

Copyright2009Michael Kubacki

Thursday, December 3, 2009

HIDE THE DECLINE

Now come the excuses, and the curious silences. This is the real proof of the fraud behind the global warming industry.

Now that the databases and emails of Phil Jones, Michael Mann, and other “top climate scientists” have been laid before us, we can see how the scam operated. First, hide the raw data, and if it is demanded by those with a right to see it, destroy it. Second, fix the peer-review process in scientific journals by shutting out any global-warming skeptics and exerting pressure to fire editors who won’t toe the party line. Finally, agree (secretly) on how to deal with troubling issues like the absence of global warming for the past thirteen years, and actual cooling for the last nine.

If this had ever been a scientific issue (rather than a left-wing political movement), wouldn’t those who had been sucked in by the fraud be upset they had been duped? What about Al Gore, for example? He’s a believer, right? He won a Nobel Prize for his activism and he featured Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” in his movie. He is reportedly close to becoming a billionaire through his environmental efforts. Yet Al doesn’t seem to be very concerned about the recent revelations. According to his blog, he’s still looking forward to Copenhagen and the imposition of a worldwide tax on energy use.

If Al actually cared whether the earth’s climate was warming, don’t you think he would be a little---I don’t know. What’s the word? IRKED??? I mean, if your entire reputation, and various extremely prestigious awards, were based in your devotion to a particular point of view, and it turned out that point of view was founded on a deception, wouldn’t you howl a bit? Wouldn’t you condemn the guys who had tricked you and made your life a lie? How about a press release, Al? Or maybe an op-ed in the New York Times?

Guess not.

Then there’s Prince Charles, who told us a couple months ago that we only had 96 months to fix the planet, which leaves us with only 93 or 94 left. What’s Charlie thinking these days? Odd. He’s strangely silent all the sudden.

Global warming believers in the world of journalism and punditry (and politics) ignored the story for about two weeks, but eventually realized they had to say SOMETHING. It’s their business, after all, and the story just wouldn’t stay buried. And were there then demands for prosecution of criminal acts or calls for resignations of various dishonest academics? Of course not.

Andrew Revkin may be the most prominent American journalist in the “it’s-all-settled” school of global warming advocacy. He has published dozens of articles in the New York Times and his blog supporting cap-and-trade, carbon emission laws, worldwide energy taxation schemes, and the like. Yet noticing the scandal appeared to be beneath his dignity: “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all matter of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.”

This from the newspaper that published the Pentagon Papers! Later, he called the release of the documents an act of “cyber terrorism.” (Barbara Boxer, heading down a similar path, has called for criminal prosecution of the whistleblower who revealed the scam to the world.)

Other excuses from those in the game have been equally lame.

From the blog “Real Climate”: “More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords.”

CRU Director Phil Jones, about his now-famous phrase: “The use of the term ‘hiding the decline’ was in an email written in haste.”

The BBC’s Roger Harrabin, after first dismissing the story as a routine hacking story: “But this affair will surely change things: From now, scientific teams and peer-review groups will be much more cautious about how they word e-mails.”

As Rand Simberg has pointed out, science is accomplished through a well-established process of refining theories to conform to the data, including new data as it is acquired (Ptolemy to Copernicus to Kepler to Newton to Einstein), and not the other way around. Climategate exposes a betrayal, by some of the world’s most famous scientists, of this most basic precept. And based on this fundamentally fraudulent scheme, politicians hoped to create the beginnings of a world government in Copenhagen this month, with enormous new power to impose taxes worldwide, control energy markets and manage the environment.

Any objective person who had been taken in by this fraud should be angry at its perpetrators and relieved it has finally been exposed. In addition, they should be thrilled that the apocalyptic sword hanging over all of us has been sheathed. SHOULDN’T THEY?

But they’re not. Instead, there is silence, and excuses, and even anger that the truth has come out. There is only one explanation for this reaction. They’re sad that the illusion of doom has been punctured. They’re disappointed that the path to a world government has been lost. For Al Gore, Andrew Revkin, Phil Jones, Barbara Boxer and thousands of other journalists, writers, politicians and environmentalists, global warming was never about the earth. It was never about science. All of them, for money or prestige or a thousand other reasons, were a part of the scam.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

WORRY

A couple days ago, I was listening to a radio show (The Dennis Prager Show), on the topic of worrying. It’s something we all do (some of us more than others), even though we know it’s a waste of time. That, in fact, was the theme of the broadcast---how useless it is to spend our lives worrying.

One caller was a woman who described a terrible accident she had had several years before when she had been hit by a truck. Thrown from her car, she was crumpled on the ground bleeding, in pain, unable to move, with various bones broken.

“As I was lying there,” she said, “wondering if I was going to live, a thought popped into my head. I thought: if I don’t survive this, I sure wasted a lot of time worrying about breast cancer.”

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Friday, November 20, 2009

REPUBLICANS 101: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

[Note: “Republicans 101” is a continuing series designed to help my liberal friends understand what conservatives think.]

No one put it better than Chief Justice John Roberts in PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS v. SCHOOL DISTRICT, a 2007 Supreme Court case: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Few conservatives would disagree with this sentiment. We’re just sick of it. All of us believed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the end of government-approved race discrimination in America, but now, with quotas in education and hiring, and “racial balancing” plans and “diversity,” it seems there’s just no end to it.

Clarence Thomas made the same point in a different way in his brilliant dissent in GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER (2003), the case concerning race-based admissions at the University of Michigan. The University had admitted using race discrimination in admitting minority students (without this finding, there would have been no case), but Justice O’Connor ruled it was permissible for an agency of government (the U of M) to discriminate on racial grounds even though race discrimination is outlawed. The pursuit of diversity on campus, she ruled, was MORE important than the ban on discrimination. Thomas began his dissent by quoting Frederick Douglass, from a speech in 1865:

“[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us…. I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! … And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! … [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury.”

Douglass’ message, wrote Thomas, had been lost on the majority of justices in the Grutter case.

But while all of us low-brows would agree we’re sick of race discrimination, and disgusted by the way it has been rehabilitated (as a positive good!) by leftists, the effects of affirmative action are viewed somewhat differently by white conservatives and black conservatives.

White conservatives focus primarily on those whom affirmative action programs discriminate against---its direct victims. The two most often mentioned are Asians and Jews, who (on average), tend to do well in school but lose positions at university to African-American students with lower grades and lower test scores. The other victims are poor white children who may live in dangerous neighborhoods and go to bad schools, but nevertheless somehow manage to excel. They too will lose out to African-American children who had many more advantages but did not do as well in their studies.

Men like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly, however, tend to decry affirmative action programs for their effect on the minority students they supposedly benefit. In particular, the stigma that now attaches to all black college graduates and professionals is often referred to as a modern version of Jim Crow. Since there is no way of telling whether a particular person was an “affirmative action student,” the suspicion falls on ALL black students and follows them through life. The brilliant black student who would have succeeded under any circumstances becomes difficult to distinguish from the student who was underqualified to begin with and then was eased through school to satisfy a quota.

For black conservatives, the inescapable nature of this stigma is the true horror of affirmative action, for it undercuts the public perception of everyone with a dark skin and an education. And the fact that polite people do not mention such concerns makes the situation worse, because it can be almost impossible to allay the suspicion. If you ever require brain surgery and you are referred to a specialist who happens to be African-American, you will have at least a nagging doubt about that person’s competence. This will happen no matter what color you are yourself, and it is an inevitable result of affirmative action programs in education.

It is somewhat ironic that, before affirmative action, the opposite was true. In the 1950s and 1960s, when you met a black professional, college professor, or the like, you would assume from the outset that this was probably the smartest person you had ever seen. The question of how he got his degree was not a concern. On the contrary, you would think, “Wow. Considering all the crap you probably had to put up with, you must be pretty damn good.”

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Thursday, November 12, 2009

FORT HOOD: A GUN-FREE ZONE

The very first question that occurred to me when I heard about the shootings at Ft. Hood was this: how is this possible? How does a guy on a military base manage to shoot 45 people before someone puts him down? Where were their guns?

In “Virginia Tech and the Massacre,” I explained why gun-free zones are the most dangerous places in America. Trolley Square was a gun-free zone, as were Columbine and Virginia Tech, the Nickel Mines School, various post offices, and a dozen other sites of mass killings. For a determined killer, a gun-free zone is a target-rich environment full of helpless victims. If you want to kill as many people as possible, a gun-free zone is the best place to do it. By contrast, you never see anyone “go berserk” at an NRA convention or a gun show because there are always a hundred people walking around with loaded weapons at the ready.

We now know the answer. American military bases are gun-free zones (or more precisely, ammunition-free zones). Regulations issued in March 1993 forbid military personnel, including officers, from carrying loaded weapons. And the exceptions are few. A soldier will be issued ammo at the firing range, and then will have to return any unused rounds before leaving the range. MPs can carry, but most MPs get deployed to combat zones, so there are very few such people in a place like Ft. Hood. That is why the person who finally shot Major Hasan was a civilian police officer.

There will be many lessons from Ft. Hood, and we can only hope that those in charge of our military are not so blinded by their political biases that they are incapable of learning them. One lesson is the utter irrationality of the gun-banners’ belief that rendering people defenseless makes them safer. At Ft. Hood and on other US military installations, this idea has been carried to its ultimate absurdity when those with the duty of defending all of our lives are disarmed and made targets for a mass murderer. If the soldiers at Ft. Hood had been armed, it is unlikely Major Hasan would even have undertaken his deadly mission, but if he had, there is no way he could have claimed as many victims as he did.

The wife of one of the soldiers shot at Fort Hood said it more eloquently than I can. In an interview on CNN Monday night, Mandy Foster was asked how she felt about her husband's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. She responded: "At least he's safe there and he can fire back, right?"

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

UPDATE: FORT HOOD

My previous article was, in large part, inspired by my annoyance at being told not to “jump to conclusions” about Major Hasan and not to beat up Muslims or attack mosques. I’ve never attacked a mosque in my life and I’m not going to start now, so it’s an insult when I’m told not to do something evil that would never occur to me in the first place. I mean, I’M NOT A MEMBER OF A DEATH CULT, OK??? That’s the other guys, the ones who want to kill us, like Major Hasan.

But “annoyance” no longer describes my feelings about what I’m reading in the papers and seeing on TV. Now that we have another two days of news, we know he tried to call al-Qaeda. How do you do that? How do you even start to think about how you would do that? How do you go about discovering what the area code might be? (And by the way, if you happen to know what al-Qaeda’s area code is, don’t even THINK about coming over to my house for Christmas.) We also know he was in regular contact with his terrorist Virginia imam, who now lives in Yemen. And various army doctors and students have come forward with new tales of his rants and anti-American rage.

You would think this would be the end of the diversity blather and the “unsure-about-his-motives” idiocy. Ah, the chattering classes would say, now we see. He’s a jihadi, a terrorist, and he wanted to kill infidels. That’s what they do, all over the world, and this time it happened at Ft. Hood, in Texas. Maybe we need to look for these guys and try to stop them before they flip on the kill switch. You would think EVERYONE would now see what we are facing.

Apparently not. Instead, we get Chris Matthews on “Hardball,” saying, “It’s not a crime to call up al-Qaeda, is it?”

Much more revealing was an opinion column by Elmer Smith in the 11/10 Philadelphia Daily News:

“There is little evidence that Hassan (sic) and the two 9/11 terrorists had been seen together at the Falls Church mosque or that they had ever spoken with each other or had ever conspired to do anything except pray facing the East.
“That trail will go cold. The [investigators] will find only the most tenuous connections between Hassan (sic) and terrorist affiliations just as it has found no terrorist links on his computers.”

Get it? It only counts as terrorism if Osama told you to do it. I have found the commentary on the shootings bizarre, and offensive, and mystifying, but Elmer Smith gives away the game. The enemy, the ONLY enemy, is some guys who live in caves in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and you can only be a “terrorist” if you have gotten your marching orders from them or from somebody who has been in touch with them and who told you what to do. An ideology can’t be the enemy because a lot of people have ideologies and, you know, who are we to judge another man’s ideology? This is the view EVEN IF THAT IDEOLOGY GLORIFIES THE MASS MURDER OF INNOCENTS.

The frightening thing is that Elmer Smith’s view is shared by General George Casey and the others who run our military. And it is frightening because it renders them (and us) helpless against the next Major Hasan. If you’re going to tolerate (and promote!) people with this jihadist ideology, you are going to have more of them.

In fact, Hasan was far from the first.

* In 1998, Army Sergeant Ali Mohamed stole military secrets for al-Qaeda and helped plan the bombings at three US embassies.

* Army Specialist Ryan Anderson was convicted in 2004 of passing military intelligence to al-Qaeda terrorists.

* In 2008, Navy Signalman Hassan Abujihaad was convicted of giving sensitive information regarding troop movement to al-Qaeda.

* Army Reservist Jeffrey Battle in 2003 confessed to waging war against the US, and said he joined the military to receive training he could use against America.

* Army reservist Semi Osman was arrested in 2002 for providing support to al-Qaeda, and testified against other terror suspects.

* Sgt. Hasan Akbar, in Iraq in 2003, attacked 17 fellow soldiers, killing two. He did so because he was opposed to the Iraq War and the killing of Muslims. Sound familiar?

It’s not like the military can’t find guys who harbor dangerous ideas and get rid of them. There are programs in place to weed out supremacists and other hate-group members, gang members, etc. They have been in place for years, and have been very successful. But they won’t go looking for jihadists. It would be insensitive, you see. Somebody might be offended.

The enemy we face is not a nation. It is not a hierarchical military organization. It is not even the religion called Islam. It is an ideology that justifies and even celebrates the murder of any innocent person who is not a Muslim. And this enemy is here in America just as it is in every nation on earth. The guys in the caves are symbolic, and important, and to the extent the enemy is capable of building an actual military organization with dangerous weapons, that is where it may get done, so those guys must be stopped.

But the guys in the caves are not coming down Broad Street anytime soon. Major Hasan, and the many like him, are here now.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Monday, November 9, 2009

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY TALKS ABOUT FORT HOOD

So the bodies were not even cold before we were all being warned not to blame Islam and take out our rage on our Muslim brothers. The real horror, you see, was not the dead and the wounded, but the possibility of us good folk erupting in the anti-jihad jihad that always seems to be in danger of happening but, of course, never happens. As one blogger (Seraphic Spouse) put it, “[The media and Muslim] groups suspect us of wanting to attack mosques now, even though we didn’t the last ten times a Muslim killed innocent people in the name of Islam. What are they afraid of? Graffiti?”

Meanwhile, as military officials tell us the motive behind the shootings “remains unclear,” and Chris Matthews reports that “We may never know if religion was a factor at Ft. Hood,” the basics of Major Hasan’s thought patterns seem obvious enough.

His students in the master’s program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences complained about his “anti-American propaganda,” but no formal complaint was ever filed for fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim. Various colleagues also report hearing him rant against the war on terror and the US government. Internet postings under his name praise and justify suicide bombers. Even patients complained because he tried to convert them to Islam.

In 2001, he regularly attended the notorious Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia, along with two of the 9-11 terrorists. The preacher there was the American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who was recently barred from England for advocating attacks on British soldiers.

The day before the shootings, he cleaned out his apartment and gave various of his possessions, including a new Quran, to a neighbor, saying he was being “deployed” the next day. And on the morning of his rampage, he dressed himself in traditional Muslim robes and prayed. Shortly thereafter, shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”), he methodically emptied 100 rounds, from two handguns, into more than three dozen human beings.

Why are we not allowed to say the word “Muslim?” Why are we not allowed to say the word “terrorist?” When a Pashtun warrior kills American soldiers in Afghanistan, we have no such taboo. But when Major Hasan, who says and believes the same things as that Pashtun warrior, kills American soldiers in Texas, we are not allowed to say these terrible words.

If the foolishness of politically correct speech and thought were confined to the Chris Matthews and Katie Courics of the world, I wouldn’t be writing this article. But of course, it is not so confined. It has infected the US Army as well, and with fatal consequences. Major Hasan, in a time of war, openly expressed his solidarity with the enemy. He did it often, with colleagues, with subordinates, and even with superior officers. He was vehement about it. He wouldn’t shut up about it apparently. And yet, none of it mattered. In May of this year, he was promoted from Captain to Major. Hey, we’re all Americans, right? Admiring suicide bombers? Well, that’s just free speech, I guess.

And the frightening thing is that even now, in the aftermath of Ft. Hood, nothing will change. Today, George Stephanopolous interviewed General George Casey. Asked about the motive for the shootings, General Casey said this:

“Speculation could heighten backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. What happened at Ft. Hood was a tragedy. It could be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.”

Get that? Read it again. Thirteen people are dead and probably twenty more will be living with terrible wounds for the rest of their lives, but losing the Army’s “diversity” would be a GREATER tragedy. General Casey is the Chief of Staff, the highest-ranking military officer in the US Army. He is the man responsible for allowing a culture to exist in the Army where the anti-American rantings of Nidal Malik Hasan are tolerated and even rewarded. Hasan was a Muslim, after all, and thus a testament to the rich tapestry of the Army’s multicultural wonderfulness. And whatever the blowback here, General Casey certainly would never want to jeopardize THAT.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Thursday, November 5, 2009

IRAN TODAY

Huge demonstrations continue across the country, as reported by Michael Ledeen and others, and the pro-democracy forces are being met by even greater violence from the regime. I urge you to visit this link (here), which contains a selection of blogs, twitter feeds and so on from the protesters reporting on the beatings, gassings and other outrages.

Meanwhile, AS THE BEATINGS WERE GOING ON, President Obama today issued a statement on (and to) the Iranian regime which did not mention the protests and the government’s response to them. Rather, he begs the regime for some kind, any kind, of deal. Here's a piece that gives you the flavor of it:

“I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.

“We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran. We have recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community. We have accepted a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet Iran’s request for assistance in meeting the medical needs of its people. We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

POST-ELECTION POLITICAL NOTES

I.

Sure, it would have been nice if super-nerd carpetbagger Doug Hoffman had won New York's 23rd congressional district, but it would hardly have changed Congress. Much more important were the results in the proxy war between the good old boys and the conservatives in the Republican Party.

The biggest winner was Sarah Palin, whose endorsement of Hoffman made him a real candidate, brought him hundreds of thousands in campaign dollars, and led ultimately to Scozzafava's withdrawal from the race. Potential candidates for 2010 are already lining up to get her blessing. Who would have thought that Palin's role would turn out to be "kingmaker?"

The biggest loser was Newt Gingrich, of course, who now has NO prospects in the 2012 presidential race. Others who have hurt themselves severely include Giuliani, Huckabee and Romney, all of whom tried to vote "present" on NY-23. For Romney, this is especially damaging since it reinforces his genteel, polite, milquetoast image (that everybody hates). If he couldn't "man up" for Scozzafava, he probably never can.

Another guy with serious problems now is Michael Steele. The head of the RNC can't really be blamed for supporting a nominated Republican, but it's not like he raised any questions about her either. He's simply a guy who is in the wrong position at the wrong time, and he probably won't have his job much longer. He's unacceptable to the conservative forces that now have all the momentum in the party.

II.

A puzzle.

There are about 40 Democrats in the House who can't support Obamacare because it contains public funding for abortion. Repeated attempts to get a straight-up vote on eliminating abortion funding have been rebuffed by Pelosi et al.

Public funding for abortion has always been a minority position in America---it has never had the support of more than 30% of the public. Yet the Democratic leadership seems unwilling to give it up, even if it means their beloved national healthcare bill will fail.

Why? In terms of the politics, wouldn't it make more sense to eliminate public funding for abortion from the bill, get it passed, and then sneak it in later?

III.

The last time conservatives took over the Republican Party, it was a reaction to another left-wing, anti-Israel Democratic president. The result was eight years of Ronald Reagan.

In my darkest hours of despair for America, this is the thought that sustains me.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Saturday, October 31, 2009

THE DEATH OF EUROPE---Two Books

“It’s the end of the world as we know it.”---R.E.M., 1987

Two recent books, “America Alone” by Mark Steyn and “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe” by Christopher Caldwell, detail the story of Europe’s demographic and cultural collapse, a topic of such exquisite political incorrectness that it has received virtually no attention in the American media.

Mark Steyn’s focus is primarily on the demographics, and his book provides something of a primer on that dismal science. The key number to remember is 1.3 births per woman, which demographers call “lowest-low” fertility. This is the level from which no civilization has ever recovered, and there are currently seventeen European nations reproducing at this rate. In theory, the population of such a country halves every 35 years, though in practice it happens faster than that, since young people tend to depart rather than live in an old folks’ home. In thirty or forty years, there will still be places on the map called Sweden and Germany and Spain, but it will be hard to find a Swede or a German or a Spaniard in them.

But of course, when you have a nice modern infrastructure, somebody is going to move into it. Those people are the Muslims who came in as guest workers beginning about fifty years ago and now do all the jobs Europeans won’t do, including the job of reproduction. In the UK last year, the ratio of Muslim babies to babies born of English/Scottish/Irish parents was 10 to 1. The most popular name for a boy baby in London is Muhammad, as it is in a number of other cities in the UK, and in Amsterdam, and in Malmo, Sweden, and in all of Belgium, and in many cities across the continent.

Steyn’s witty book was a best seller, and is now in paperback. It consists primarily of a description of Europe today---the infantilizing welfare state, the empty churches and full mosques, and the disappearance of nationalism and national cultures in the face of the growing power of the EU. The “message” is polemical: though Europe is irretrievable, America can survive the culture war with Islam if it learns the lessons of Europe’s demise.

Caldwell would have no disagreement with Steyn on the current situation in Europe, but his book is different. It is a cultural and political history of Europe since about 1960, when the first wave of third-world immigrants were brought in as “guest workers.” Different nations had vastly different approaches to the central problem of assimilating large numbers of immigrants, and the immigrants themselves differed over time. Gradually, as national sovereignty eroded through the growing power of the EU, what were once local issues became pan-European issues. In other words, the problems facing Germany in 1970 were very different from the problems in France. Today, though those differences still exist, they are not as important. It is not easy to make sense of the miasma of politics across numerous nations over a fifty year period, but Caldwell does an excellent and comprehensible job.

My recommendation: start with Mark Steyn. His writing is always entertaining, accessible, and obsessively documented. If, after reading “America Alone,” you want to delve deeper into how it all came about, give “Reflections” a try.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Friday, October 23, 2009

WAITING FOR THE SERIES

As we all sit around awaiting the start of the Fall Classic, here are a few bits of baseball trivia that might amuse you. They are taken from “The Baseball Book Of Why,” by Dan Schlossberg. It’s a work of real baseball history (as opposed to all the books with great baseball stories that aren’t actually true).

They’re not as tough as they look. A little baseball knowledge and some logic will get you most of them. Answers at the end.

1. Why do the Yankees wear pinstripes?

2. On July 4, 1976, Phillies catcher Tim McCarver hit an apparent grand-slam homer in the 2nd inning, only to have it become a three-run single (and an out) when he passed the runner who had been on first base. Who was this well-known Phillie?

3. What pitcher holds the record for most strikeouts in an inning?

4. What non-pitcher posted career marks of 33 runs scored and 31 stolen bases, played in 105 games, and never batted?

5. With two strikes, a fouled bunt is strike three, rather than simply a foul ball. Why?

6. Who holds the record for highest career on-base percentage?

7. When a thrown ball hits an umpire, it remains a live ball. Why?



ANSWERS

1.Yankee management, after a dismal 1914 season, decided to emulate the dressed-for-success look of Wall Street bankers, so they designed a uniform with dark pinstripes on the standard home whites.

2. Garry Maddox.

3. Joe Niekro, with five. It WOULD be a knuckleballer, of course. His brother Phil is one of many pitchers who struck out four.

4. Herb Washington, the track star hired by Charlie Finley as a pinch-runner.

5. A foul bunt with two strikes was once a foul ball, but some players with good bat control could foul off a dozen pitches or more and eventually work themselves a walk. Luke Appling was especially skilled at this, and he is probably the main reason the rule was changed.

6. Ted Williams. Babe Ruth is second.

7. A thrown ball hitting an umpire was once a “do-over,” so fielders who couldn’t throw out a runner would throw the ball at the umpire instead. Umpires got tired of it.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

4. TOP DOWN

All of us have become so accustomed to the franchise model of doing business (e.g., McDonald’s), that we can be surprised when we discover a large and successful retail business that doesn’t work that way. Franchise outlets are owned by individuals under elaborate and detailed agreements with the mother company, but the headaches and the responsibility, and the profits, belong to the capitalist who stuck his neck out and bought into the deal.

Argus is different. All Argus stores are owned and controlled by Argus. Every truly significant decision about what happens in an individual store is made by executives who may never have seen that particular store. The job of those who manage a store is to carry out the directives they are issued from the head office as well as hire and fire the hourly workers. Managers have virtually no input on pricing, marketing campaigns, the mix of merchandise available, safety, wages, machines used, computer issues, or the physical plant. There are more than 1700 Argus stores, according to the Argus website. Actually, there is only one store, but it has more than 1700 locations. As far as I know, all of the big-box stores, like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, operate this way.

The biggest advantage of a hierarchical structure like this is that it provides clear lines of responsibility, and little opportunity to shift blame for failure. If a marketing campaign doesn’t work, for example, it’s not the fault of the store manager. The guy who designed that campaign is in an office somewhere in Minnesota, and he will have to answer for his mistakes. If, however, shrinkage (shoplifting and employee theft) is higher in a particular store than it should be, the store manager is probably doing something wrong. There are measurements and parameters and rules for every job, from the lowest grunt to the CIO. Also, for each of thousands of tasks, there is a training program and a certification process, and if you do something you are not certified to do, you are in trouble no matter how well you do it, or how silly and pointless the certification process. Some things can’t be measured, of course, and a personable, high-energy employee is going to get recognized eventually, but the numbers are always more important. Every single employee is constantly being measured on how he is doing the very specific things he has been trained and certified and ordered to do.

The system, which has been developed over many years, works well for Argus as indicated by the only real measure of a company’s viability---profits. Argus makes money. It has made money for years. It is even making money today (though not as much), in a deep economic recession. A hierarchical, by-the-book system like this, however, does have unintended consequences. For example, it can be impossible to get a toilet fixed.

There are two staff bathrooms, both unisex, in the store. The one closest to the break room and offices has been broken, with a leaky pipe, for over two months. Yesterday, I asked our maintenance guy, Manny, if it would ever be fixed.

“I could fix that toilet in a half hour,” he said, “but they vendored it out. I’m not allowed to touch it.”

When Manny says it would take him a half hour, it means it would require fifteen minutes. Manny is one of those guys who can fix anything, and thus amazes those of us who can fix nothing. Manny can fix shelves, floors, electric lights, hard drives, carburetors, walls, doors, air conditioners, motorized wheelchairs, trash compactors, scissor trucks, Segways, alarms, cash registers, shopping carts and pipes. Manny could fix a heart-lung machine if you gave him the manual for it. If you gave Manny the right tools and stents and scalpels and a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, I have no doubt Manny could perform a bypass operation. If Manny were in charge of Kim Jong Il’s nuclear program, Hawaii would now be a smoldering hole in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

But Manny cannot fix the toilet in the middle of the store. He’s not allowed to. So everybody (including pregnant women) has to walk an eighth of a mile to get to the other one.

And this is one of the unintended consequences of the hierarchy. Showing any sort of initiative is irrelevant to job performance, and thus is discouraged, even where it would solve a small but real problem. There is simply no approved procedure for fixing a toilet when, for whatever reason, the outside contractor doesn’t fix it. It is literally nobody’s job to solve this problem, and if it’s nobody’s job, nobody can do it. Chuck, the store manager, has certain tasks just like the rest of us, and doing something not on his list would be a type of insubordination. No one is allowed to deal with the little things that “fall between the cracks” because, officially, there are no cracks. There’s a procedure and a training program and a certification ritual and a person responsible for everything that can possibly happen, except of course, there isn’t.

It’s tempting to view Chuck simply as a bad, or inattentive, store manager, but that’s unfair. It is true he is in one of those situations where it would be easier to obtain forgiveness than permission. If he disobeyed orders and told Manny to fix the bathroom, it is unlikely he would ever be chastised for it. But because of the culture imprinted upon him by the system, that course of action simply doesn’t occur to him, or to anyone. It never presents itself as an option.

In other words, no one who works there “owns” the store. Everyone, from the lowest grunt to the store manager, has responsibilities of various kinds and those responsibilities are generally taken quite seriously. Taking those responsibilities seriously is what gets you more money and gets you promoted. But no one feels any responsibility for the store itself, or the overall enterprise that is Argus.

I see the effects of this all the time.

Recently, the “market” section of the store was remodeled, and all the refrigerator and freezer cases were replaced. In the course of the remodeling, all sixty of the old cases sat empty for about three weeks, before they were removed. And nobody turned them off.

When I noticed the coolers were still on, I mentioned it to one of the executives. When nothing happened, I told another, and then another, and then another. It became a game for me; I was curious to see if anyone would ever take action. Over the course of two weeks, I quietly informed a dozen of my superiors, all of whom could have turned off the damn things. Nobody did. The cases remained on until the remodeling team (from Minnesota) removed them from the store. The orders to our in-store personnel were simply to empty the cases, and once that was done, our duties had been discharged.

On several occasions, when I brought up the subject to an executive or Team Leader, a surprised look would appear on his face. “Wow, you’re right,” he would respond. “We’re wasting a lot of money, aren’t we?” And that would be the end of it.

One day last summer, a patio-chair appeared in the back room with a paper sign on it: “DO NOT MOVE. BEING SAVED FOR GUEST INCIDENT. ---Leah.” When I asked Leah, an executive, about it, she told me that a customer (a large woman), had sat down in the chair to try it out, and had fallen over backwards. We were saving the chair in case of a lawsuit.

“You know,” I said, “a lawyer would tell you to give the chair to one person and have them store it in a locked room. If this turns out to be the main piece of evidence in a lawsuit, you want to have one person who can testify it wasn’t tampered with. It’s called a ‘chain of custody’ issue.”

She looked at me with that amazed look you sometimes see on the face of a manager or executive when one of the grunts says something worth thinking about that does not involve Beyonce. “You’re absolutely right,” she said. “That’s a good idea.”

Three months later, the chair was still sitting in the same place in the back room, with the same paper sign on it. Though my advice had been sound, and though Leah had recognized what should be done with the chair, she had never been ordered to segregate the chair, so she never thought about the issue again. There were bathmats to be shelved, and cans of beans, and packages of toilet paper (there always are), and it was her duty to get those things on the floor. Custody of the chair was interesting in a theoretical way, but had nothing to do with her job.

Yet another example is the way PDAs, the hand-held computing devices, are allocated to employees.

Not everyone uses them. Food service workers, cashiers, security personnel, the pharmacy staff and administrators have little or no need for them. But for everyone else, everyone who deals with product in the backroom or on the sale floor, they are essential. By scanning a UPC barcode, or a label on the shelf, you can learn the price of an item, its proper location on the shelves, its proper location in the backroom, whether the store has the item (and how many it has and where they are), whether it can be found in other Argus stores or on-line, and whether it has recently been reduced in price. When an item is moved from one place in the store to another, it must be registered via the PDA. When a damaged item goes in the trash, a PDA must be informed. In conjunction with a printer, a PDA makes labels and signs, and changes prices, and makes lists of products that must be moved from one place to another. With a PDA, you can order more product from a warehouse. You can check on whether a particular employee is in the store, or has next Thursday off. There are many things you can do with a PDA, and there are very few things you can do without one.

With all the hardware and software in these things, each one is worth hundreds of dollars, and considering how important they are, you would think Argus would make a serious effort to keep track of them. You would think an employee would have to sign one out at the beginning of a shift and turn it in at the end. It wouldn’t be difficult to set up a system to do that, and put somebody in charge of the things, and hold employees responsible for them in some way. But no, that doesn’t happen. If there is one in the equipment room when you start your shift, you get one. If there isn’t (and you don’t have a manager who has tucked one away for you), you don’t.

Since there are never quite enough to go around (they break, get lost, and need to be recharged), an allocation system would also ensure that those with jobs for which a PDA is essential would have one. Others, perhaps those working on a team project, could share.

The failure to allocate a scarce resource like PDAs, or even keep track of them, has predictable results. Some people always have them but don’t really need them much. Other PDA-dependant employees who can’t get one will need twice as much time to perform their required tasks. If you leave your PDA unguarded, it may get stolen. Also, at the end of a shift, you don’t necessarily return it to the equipment room. Instead, you shove it in a hidey-hole (behind some towels, maybe, in aisle D35) and hope it’s still there when you start your shift tomorrow. This means, of course, that there is one fewer PDA available for the people who work while you are home sleeping.

It is obvious to everyone that the failure to track PDAs reduces the overall productivity of the staff, but there is no way to measure the overall amount of the loss or translate it into lost profits. The effects are intermittent, and scattered across the workforce. On the other hand, instituting a solution would mean devoting some (small) quantity of time and effort to administer it. Solving the problem would cost measurable time and money, and there would be no way to justify that expense because no one knows what the problem itself costs. There is thus no incentive for anyone at my Argus to do anything. A solution could only be implemented if there were orders to do so from Minnesota, and there haven’t been.

* * * * * * * * * *

I see that this article can be read as critical about the way Argus runs its business, but that is not my intention. I am surprised by the way the place works simply because I have never been part of an organization like this. I’ve been ignorant, in other words, but now that I have looked behind the curtain, I’m more amazed by what it does right than by what it does wrong.

Argus employs tens of thousands of people, many of whom are 18 years old, barely literate, and have never held a job before. You need a system of some kind, and rules, and a sense of priorities, in order to make this kind of business work. And Argus does. Argus pleases its customers, consistently feeds the gaping maw of the American consumer, and makes money. Of course, there are things that don’t work quite right or don’t make much sense, but this is true in any organization. The difference is that the things Argus deems important, its priorities, are actually done well. The system is designed, obsessively and compulsively, to accomplish them. In order to keep ten thousand products on the shelf, there are certain things you have to ignore.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Saturday, October 10, 2009

SCOTT HARSHBARGER, or GOLFING WITH O.J.

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”
---Baron de Montesquieu, 1742

Those of you who have read my articles over the years are aware that I reserve a special circle of hell for two particularly loathsome categories of public vermin.

The first, which we will call “Spoiled-Rotten Irish-Catholic Prosecutors” (see here) consists of those DA’s and US Attorneys who use their offices to advance themselves politically or to grind their own ideological axes. The list is long---Elliot Spitzer, Mike Nifong, Arlen Specter (way back when), Patrick Fitzgerald, the squad that sent Martha Stewart to prison, the West Palm prosecutors who claimed, on every TV station in America, that they had Rush Limbaugh pinned to the specimen board on eleven felonies and then got him on NOTHING, and many others. There are times I wonder whether the only prosecutor in America who is NOT spoiled-rotten and Irish-catholic is Arlene Fisk, but I suppose there must be others.

The second category of miscreants consists of those who, having disgraced themselves in public in some morally repugnant manner, won’t go away. There was a time in America when a public personage who did something wrong would never be heard from again. He would retire to the country, raise root vegetables, pray for his immortal soul, and disappear. The shame of his disgrace would forever change him. I miss those days. I miss shame.

On January 22, 1987, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a gentleman named Budd Dwyer, shot himself in the head during a televised press conference because he had been accused of financial improprieties. This, I felt, was carrying matters a bit further than necessary. For my money, it is sufficient if the gentleman simply retires to a lifetime of golf with O.J., or, since O.J. himself is currently incarcerated, the equivalent.

But they don’t, do they? Jim McGreevey writes a book and shows up on Oprah. Rod Blagojevich still holds press conferences for anyone who will listen. Spitzer is reportedly “exploring his options” on a return to public life. And Bill Clinton? It’s like he never even went away, isn’t it?

But enough about those guys. This is about Scott Harshbarger, who appeared in the papers recently as the guy hired by ACORN to conduct their internal investigation of themselves and tell them whether there is some institutional flaw that may have lead to ACORN’s numerous indictments, or whether it’s been merely a strange concatenation of circumstances. Mr. Harshberger is thus in the news, winning him my personal exacta of disdain. Not only is he one of the most despicable and ambitious Spoiled-Rotten Irish-Catholic Prosecutors of recent American history, but now, alas, he’s back.

In 1984, Scott Harshbarger was the District Attorney of Middlesex County, in Massachusetts, when Violet Amirault and her adult children, Gerald and Cheryl, were arrested for child molestation at their Fells Acres day care facility. This was one of many cases across the country in the mid-80’s where staff at day-care centers were accused of bizarre acts of child abuse. In California, there was the McMartin case. Little Rascals Day Care was the culprit in North Carolina. In New Jersey, a child-care worker in a Jersey church, Margaret Michaels, was hit with 2800 charges of child sexual abuse. Janet Reno pursued Grant Snowden, a decorated Miami police officer, through five trials before getting a conviction. In Wenatchee, Washington, a lone police detective brought case after case against more than twenty people, mostly members of a single church, accusing them of engaging in hideous sex rituals with numerous children.

In all these cases, which have been compared to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, children were “interviewed” by therapists (usually the same therapists, who traveled around the country), until they “disclosed” what had happened to them. Gerald Amirault, for example, took children to a “magic room,” blindfolded them, and performed sex acts on them, including anal rape with a long knife. One child claimed Cheryl Amirault killed a dog, drained its blood into a sandbox, and then had a robot threaten the child with death if he ever told. Other children reported ritual killings, being raped with sticks, and other outrages.

There was never any physical evidence produced, in any of the cases. Instead, children’s rehearsed testimony was presented to juries while the children were shielded from any cross-examination. Often, they testified on videotape and never appeared in court. Expert witnesses (the therapists) then told the jury to “believe the children” because children were incapable of lying about such things. Convictions, and long sentences, were automatic.

By the mid-90’s, once the mania had been exposed, all of the defendants in these cases had been released. (Some of the therapists went on to create the “recovered memories” scandal, where families were destroyed when adults in therapy, under hypnosis, would “remember” instances of abuse they had suffered as small children.) But the Amiraults remained in prison. Scott Harshbarger, who had used the Amirault case to advance his political career, was now Attorney General of Massachusetts and was about to run for governor. Thus, in 1995, when Violet and Cheryl were granted new trials, the state appealed the grant of new trials to the Supreme Judicial Court, and had them overturned. Violet and Cheryl’s convictions were finally overturned in 1999, after Violet had died.

But Gerald remained in jail, serving his sentence of 30-40 years. He continuously asserted his innocence, and refused all offers of sex-offender “treatment” in prison, maintaining that since he was not a sex offender, there would be no point in him attending treatment sessions. His stance on this matter was cited in parole hearings as evidence of his intransigence, and lack of remorse.

In 1998, Harshbarger tallied 47% of the vote, but lost the race for Governor to Paul Celucci.

Gerald was finally paroled and released, by a unanimous vote of the Massachusetts Parole Board, in 2004. He had served eighteen years in prison. Over the years, even after his political career had come to an end, Scott Harshbarger wrote numerous letters to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, which had campaigned for Gerald’s release. In them, he bitterly complained that the Journal was trying to cover up child abuse and even deny its existence. As late as 2004, more than a decade after the lunacy of the day-care cases had been exposed, he called the decision to release Gerald Amirault “unfortunate.” “I think,” he said, “we often forget there are a lot of victims out there, people whose lives have been dramatically changed.”

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

THE 2009 BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

Of the playoff teams in the National League, the Dodgers have hit the fewest homers, but have the best staff ERA. Colorado seems mediocre in a number of statistical categories but were the hottest team (.616) in the second half of the season. The Phillies hit significantly more homers than anybody else, but don’t seem to know who’s going to be on their pitching staff. St. Louis has great pitching and Albert Pujols, but scores the fewest runs of the bunch.

Anyone can win the National League this year.

The LA-St. Louis match may decide the issue, and I’ll take St. Louis. It promises to be a low-scoring affair characterized by pitching duels, with a dramatic homer or two, and it could go either way. St. Louis played .600 ball over the second half, however, while LA limped in with a 38-35 record, so that tips the balance.

I feel fairly confident the Phillies will handle the Rockies. They scored more runs, hit 34 more dingers, and they even have an edge in staff ERA. Also, Colorado does not have a lefthanded starter. Colorado’s chances are based on the legitimate questions about what sort of Phillies team will show up. Though Philadelphia had a strong second half (.587), both of their star starters (Lee and Hamels) have ERAs over 7.00 in their last three starts. Also, of course, nobody knows who Charlie Manuel will put on the mound should the Phillies find themselves with a one-run lead in the ninth. I have always argued that the best strategy for the Phils is to score ten runs in every game and let the chips fall where they may. That may be the only way they will advance very far in this year’s tournament.

The Yankees, of course, will beat the Twins or the Tigers. They hit better, they pitch better, and they won more games. And if that’s not enough for you, consider what the Yanks did to these teams in the regular season. New York was 5-1 against Detroit. Against Minnesota, they were 7-0.

Boston versus the Angels will probably be more interesting. Boston has a small advantage in HRs (207-172) and in ERA (4.34-4.47). On the other hand, my impression is that the Angels grabbed their division by the throat early on, while Boston rather meekly accepted its role as the second-best team in the AL East, and never seriously challenged the hated Yankees. Probably they ARE merely the second-best team in the AL East, but one has to wonder whether they enter the post-season fray with the correct attitude. Also, one cannot ignore the Angel’s 47-28 (.627) record in the second half, which is far superior to Boston’s 40-33 (.548). I wonder whether I am letting my emotions affect my choice here, but I’m still picking Boston.

(It’s not that I have any particular fondness for Boston, but if the Angels go out in the first round [like they did last year], they will become one of those loser teams that always win a lot of games, usually win their division, and never go anywhere. And that would be fine with me. I mean, let’s face it. The Angels are a sushi team. They’re not EXACTLY Los Angeles, but they’re still Southern California and the fans spend most of the game tweeting to their snotty friends about how good their seats are and then they leave the games early so they can get home and watch a Roman Polanski movie. They’re not really baseball fans.)

In the NL Championship series, the Phillies would have a decent chance against the Dodgers, but they will probably be playing the Cardinals. And the Cards would win. On paper, the match-up is reasonable. The St. Louis ERA is half a run better than the Phillies’, but the Cards have hit 63 fewer homers. The second series is best-of-seven, however, and it’s at this point that the Phillies’ pitching weaknesses will surface.

In the AL, it is fair to observe that Boston and the Yankees split their season series. Given that, as well as the history of the rivalry, we will all be told to “throw out the record book” and believe that anything can happen. Well, I don’t think “anything” can happen. I think these Yankees are one of the great teams in baseball history and only one thing can happen. I think the Yankees will beat Boston in less than six games and then do the same thing to whatever comes out of the National League.

The astonishing thing about New York in 2009 is not the home runs. The new Yankee Stadium has weird wind patterns or something and a lot of homers get hit there even though it’s a copy of the old Yankee Stadium, it’s right across the street from it, and it’s oriented directionally just like the old place was. So much for wind engineers. What is stunning about the Yankees is that, playing half their games in the most homer-friendly park in baseball, their team ERA is the lowest of any AL playoff contender. The Yankees won this year because they have the best pitching staff in baseball. En route to their crown, I would be surprised if they lose more than four games.

Copyright2009MichaelKubacki