Sunday, August 16, 2009

We're Right Because You're an Idiot

It's getting tiresome hearing political hit-men like Paul Begala and others mocking Sarah Palin for suggesting on her website that the Democrats' health reform proposals would include "death panels" that would decide whether people suffering from severe disabilities, terminal illness, or advanced age would be eligible for major medical care.

Yesterday morning our Sunday paper carried a piece by a staff columnist calling people who believed such things "bat-guano insane," "charlatans," "nuts," and "lunatics." According to this writer the idea of death panels is "idiocy," and Sarah Palin is suffering from a "paranoid delusion rattling around in her empty skull." Of course, the only counter he offered to Palin's claim, when he wasn't shooting off personal insults like a fireworks finale, was to cite a minor error of fact by a misinformed writer at Investor's Business Daily and one or two fuzzy questions and accusations that emerged among the many town hall meetings held over the last couple of weeks. In other words, our columnist denied vehemently and viciously that the proposed legislation really provided for Palin's "death panels," but he never gave his readers any reason to believe that it didn't.

Maybe this was because the fear that the legislation would allow for such panels is grounded not in paranoia but in the President's own words. In an interview last April with the New York Times the President was talking about the story of his terminally ill grandmother who had hip replacement surgery so that she would not be bed-ridden for the last year of her life. Here's what he said:

PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

NYT: So how do you - how do we deal with it?

PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.

As of last April the President certainly seemed to be talking about some sort of group (Okay. He didn't use the words "death panel") which would make the kind of decisions that Ms Palin was concerned about. Why is it "bat-guano insane" to think that the President meant what he said?

Other commentators, no friends of Sarah Palin in particular or conservatives in general, have come to the same conclusion:

Lee Siegel at The Daily Beast, Charles Lane, editor of The Washington Post, and columnist Eugene Robinson at the WaPo have all held their noses and acknowledged that Palin was right. Are they also insane?

Indeed, the writers of the bill were so concerned that the language of the legislation was compatible with Palin's interpretation that they decided to strike it from the original bill. Were they crazy?

It would be helpful in this very important matter if the defenders of the current health reform legislation would just answer the many incisive questions that are being asked about it and address the problems being raised by it. It's harder than just calling them names, it requires more effort, but it'd also be a lot more instructive and persuasive.


The Heavens Declare

Bradlaugh at Secular Right posts this marvelous video based on the Hubble Deep Field photo, but he draws from it an odd conclusion:

He writes:

I have heard Heather (MacDonald) say that she has never been afflicted with any musings about the significance of human consciousness, or the place of humanity in the universe. (I hope I am not misquoting her.) I can't say the same. Images like this fill me with wonder, with something quite close to terror, and with something considerably closer to despair.

They also of course make the notion of a loving god with a particular interest in humanity, seem pretty darn ridiculous.

Just how does the fact that the universe is huge make the idea of a personal God who cares about us ridiculous? Is God's concern for humanity somehow contingent upon the size of the universe? Does your love for your children depend on the size of your house?

Cosmologists have demonstrated that in order for life to appear anywhere in the universe - given that the universe began in a big bang - the universe has to be about as old as it is and thus as big as it is (since it's been expanding since its origin).

It also has to have about the precise amount of mass/energy that it does, in fact, contain. More or less matter and the universe would have either collapsed or blown itself apart long ago.

In other words, if God created the universe as a home for humans, and did so along the lines that modern cosmology has elucidated, then in order for us to exist on this tiny speck, everything else must be almost exactly as it is to a breathtakingly precise order of magnitude. In order to create us God had to create the whole universe, all 100 billion galaxies. They are there so that we can be here.

Like Bradlaugh, I'm overwhelmed by the sheer size of the world, but unlike him I feel the opposite of terror and despair. The thought that God cares so much for us that, like a man who lavishes everything He can upon His beloved, He fills the whole of space with marvels beyond our imagining fills me with a sense of confidence and awe.

HT: Hot Air


Wind Turbine Mortality

As the Obama administration pushes for clean energy one possible source would be wind farms with dozens or even hundreds of wind turbines. These might be thought to be environmentally friendly, although they're aesthetic eyesores, since they don't have any perceptible impact on the land and don't generate any pollution. They do have an important downside, though, as this article from the American Bird Conservancy explains:

Recent U.S. studies indicate that bird mortality at wind turbine projects varies from less than one bird/turbine/year to as high as 7.5 birds/per turbine/year. This means that between 10,000 and 40,000 birds may be killed each year at wind farms across the country - about 80% of which are songbirds, and 10% may be birds of prey. While not a large figure, local or regional impacts may be significant, and the rate of increase in turbine construction has conservationists concerned that new generators be built to standards that minimize the potential for bird kills. Bats are also subject to high mortality at wind farms frequently at considerably higher rates than birds.

The increasing number of proposals for new projects has stimulated discussion on the need for proper siting, operation, and monitoring guidelines or regulations to prevent, or at least keep to a minimum, avian and bat mortality.

Before construction of new wind farms, detailed studies should be conducted to assess the potential impact on birds, bats, and other wildlife. Sites known to be used by birds and bats listed under the Endangered Species Act should be avoided if the construction and operation of wind plants might adversely affect these species, as should locating turbines in known local bird migration pathways, in areas where birds are highly concentrated, or in areas or landscape features known to attract large numbers of raptors.

So I wonder if the following isn't a plausible scenario. President Obama gets cap and trade and wipes out the coal industry as he admitted his policy would do (see here). Entrepreneuers then try to get into the wind farm business, but they find that because of the effect of turbines on wildlife few of their siting proposals can pass EPA muster. So now we have no coal generated electricity and no wind generated electricity. Then what? Relax EPA standards? Build nuclear plants? Fat chance of that as long as the Democrats control the approval process.

What's most likely, it seems to me, is that electricity will get rationed just like medical care. You'll only be able to use it during certain hours of the day and in certain amounts. Kiss that air-conditioner good-bye, hope and change are cool enough all by themselves.