October 17, 2015

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One of the reasons Pickerhead has been so scarce lately, is the postseason of the Chicago Cubs. Life is in suspended animation. The National League Championship Series against the Mets starts with two games this weekend in New York and picks up on Tuesday with three games in Chicago. This baseball issue will start though with some items on Yogi Berra who died a few weeks ago. This from Jason Gay in the WSJ.

He was a spectacular baseball player. That sometimes gets forgotten in all the folksy warmth surrounding Yogi Berra, who died Tuesday at age 90. The numbers are staggering, almost supernatural, something out of a comic book: 18 seasons as a catcher for the New York Yankees, 10 World Series rings, 14 Series appearances, 15 All-Star Games and three most valuable player awards. There’s never been a career like it, before or since. I once emailed the groundbreaking statistician (and “Moneyball” godfather) Bill James about Berra’s rank among baseball’s all-timers, and his response was instant and unequivocal:

“I certainly think that Yogi was the greatest catcher who ever lived,” James wrote. “I have no doubt of this, honestly.”

Statistics tell only a fraction of his story. Berra was the son of immigrants, a World War II veteran who had left a Yankees farm club to join the Navy and served at D-Day, a gunner’s mate on a landing craft support vessel. “I think his military service has been a little overlooked, because men like him really didn’t talk about it much,” Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife of 65 years, told the Star-Ledger a year before her death in 2014. “It wasn’t a big thing to him…it was just what they had to do.”

Such humility defined his life. Yogi Berra was not a pretentious man. His exceptional talent didn’t yield the type of payday that is now customary for ballplayers today—Berra never made more than $65,000 in a season, and never had more than a one-year contract. His easygoing style and proclivity for malapropisms—actually, it’s not fair to call them malapropisms; they’re Yogi-isms, sui generis, many of them brilliant (“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical,” not even Twain was that good)—made him a beloved figure even to those who hated the mighty Yankees. Berra returned the laughs with a twinkle of self-awareness: Yogi made people chuckle, but he always got to be in on the joke. …




NewsMax has 53 of Yogi’s best Yogi-isms.

“So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.” 

“Take it with a grin of salt.” 

“We were overwhelming underdogs.”

“The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.”

“You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” 

“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”




Turning to the Cubs, we learn first about their unorthodox manager, Joe Maddon. Brian Costa writes in the WSJ

Inside their clubhouse at Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs players can find each day’s schedule on a whiteboard near the door. On any other team, the rundown would typically include times for stretching, batting practice, meetings and other pre-game work. But for the Cubs, the itinerary often entails little more than showing up within a couple hours of the first pitch.

In his quest to lead the team to its first championship since 1908, manager Joe Maddon is encouraging players to do something that defies the ingrained culture of baseball. He’d like them to prepare less. And if it’s all right with them, he’d rather they not show up for work quite so early.

In an effort to preserve players’ energy for games, Maddon has all but eliminated batting practice, a tradition that is nearly as old as the sport itself. Though he has long considered the routine to be archaic, this season represents Maddon’s greatest challenge yet to the popular notion that more practice leads to better performance.

The Cubs recently went more than a month without taking batting practice at Wrigley Field and have done so before only three games overall since Aug. 29. Even when Maddon allows such practices, players are often free to skip them. 

Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, who worked alongside Maddon with the Tampa Bay Rays, said the manager has never reduced his team’s practice time on the field to this extent. A few Cubs veterans said they have never seen anything like it. …




The inexperienced Cubs took their series with the playoff veterans of the Cardinals 3 games to 1. Grantland writes on the rookies who carried the ball.

Going into the series against the battle-tested St. Louis Cardinals, a lack of playoff experience was supposed to be a problem for the Chicago Cubs. They were relying on four rookies — Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Jorge Soler — and another near rook in Javier Baez. Hell, only two of their starting position players (Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler) had ever even played in the postseason before.

After Tuesday night’s 6-4 win over the Cardinals, the Cubs are now moving on to the National League Championship Series — and the virtues of playoff maturity lie in tatters throughout the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Bryant smashed the Game 3 go-ahead homer that gave the Cubs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Russell whacked a pulse-stopping triple in Game 3 and knocked in the go-ahead run in Game 2 with a well-timed squeeze play. Schwarber showed off his cartoonish power, clubbing his second and third homers of the postseason. Soler and Baez didn’t even open the series in the starting lineup. But by the time Hector Rondon struck out Stephen Piscotty in the ninth inning Tuesday, Soler had emerged as the best player of the series and Baez had delivered one of the biggest blows of the postseason — an unlikely, electrifying, opposite-field three-run homer that started the Cubs on their way toward a clinching victory. They all make the guy who hit last night’s game-winning homer in the sixth — 26-year-old Anthony Rizzo — seem like a grizzled vet.

For as talented as all those kids are, the havoc-wreaking of Schwarber, Baez, and Soler in particular made it hard not to wonder: In an admittedly small sample size of games, what made these youngsters seem so immune to playoff pressure? …

… The Cardinals battled valiantly, but simply couldn’t muster the talent to match the Cubs’ cavalcade of free-swinging young’uns. Aside from a well-placed double in that sixth inning, Tony Cruz looked overmatched as an injury replacement for Molina. Jaime Garcia suffered from a stomach ailment in Game 2. Holliday’s lingering quad injury rendered him punchless in this series, just as he was upon his return from the DL in mid-September. A seemingly deep bullpen unraveled during both games at Wrigley. And adding insult to injury, the Cubs’ own pen proved instrumental in victory, providing six innings of relief in support of Hammel, including appearances by three different pitchers who’d been designated for assignment at some point this season.

This deep into the postseason, every team will have plenty of mashers and bat-missers at its disposal. But the remaining team with the best regular-season record has more position-player talent to throw at opponents than either of its potential NLCS foes. Throw in the historic Jake Arrieta and these guys just might be the Senior Circuit favorites.

When a young group makes the playoffs, we’ll often hear about how the players weren’t supposed to be there this quickly. Well, the Cubs still are. And with this group of precocious pulverizers taking the field, don’t count on them going away anytime soon.





Yahoo News covers the money side of the Cubs rebuild.

… Everything starts with the play on the field, where this year the Cubs have this year shed their lovable losers’ image and fans are instead dreaming of winning the World Series.

The losing before this year led Epstein to rebuild the team with an emphasis on lower-priced, young players and that in turn has given the team flexibility to spend on expensive free agents such as the signing of pitcher Jon Lester this past offseason.

“They took their lumps for a while, but now it’s bearing fruit,” said Sal Galatioto, president of sports banker Galatioto Sports Partners, which represented the Ricketts family in their purchase of the Cubs. “Great performance gives you leverage in doing anything.”

The financial trends all look good for the Cubs.

In 2009, the Cubs’ payroll was more than $141 million, or third highest among MLB’s 30 pro teams, according to Baseball Prospectus.

That fell last year to 20th at $93.2 million as the team brought in young stars like third baseman Kris Bryant and outfielder Kyle Schwarber, but missed the playoffs. The Cubs’ payroll climbed back to $120.3 million, or 13th in the league, this year.

The Ricketts family bought 95 percent of the Cubs for $845 million and in March, Forbes magazine valued the entire club at $1.8 billion, the fifth highest in the league and up 50 percent from the prior year. The New York Yankees are No. 1 with an estimated value of $3.2 billion. …




CNN Money says tickets to playoff games at Wrigley Field are becoming dear.

Fans have already paid an average of $674 for the Cubs’ first game in the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field, slated for October 20. Tickets for the second game the following night sold for an average of $729, according to SeatGeek.

For Cubs fans who haven’t bought their tickets yet, those prices look like a bargain. Tickets to the Cubs home playoff games were listed for a record average $1,325.93 as of Wednesday morning, according to TiqIQ, another tracking service. That’s nearly twice the previous record set for a league championship ticket, which was for the San Francisco Giants in 2012.

The most expensive Cubs ticket now is a first-row box seat in the infield listed for $11,700. …





According to YardBarker, the towering home run bit by Kyle Schwarber in the last game of the Cubs/Cardinals series was found on top of the right field scoreboard where the ball will stay at least through the post season where it will provide a hex on visiting teams.

The Chicago Cubs reportedly intend to leave the home run ball hit by Kyle Schwarber in the 7th inning of Tuesday’s series-clinching 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals right where the slugger deposited it: On top of the new scoreboard at Wrigley Field.

A source with the team on Wednesday confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that the team will leave the ball where it landed until the conclusion of the Cubs’ participation in the postseason.

The team did send an employee to inspect the ball so it could be confirmed that it was Schwarber’s moon shot home run ball, and an MLB postseason watermark verified its authenticity.

The Cubs also intend to place a plexiglass box around the ball to keep the ball safe from the elements and a security staffer will escort any person who travels to the top of the scoreboard until the ball is taken down.

The Cubs obviously know a thing or two about curses — to put it mildly — and the perceived toll such things can have upon an organization, whether it’s real or utter nonsense. Whatever the case, perhaps it’s not surprising the team is attempting to create some positive mojo by leaving Schwarber’s moon shot home run ball right where it landed … instead of waiting around and succumbing to the supposed curses of generations past.




Five Thirty Eight says this year is the Cubs best chance to break their curse.

Seeing the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series is a little like seeing a four-leaf clover — it’s uncommon, but nature does allow it from time to time. And after holding off the St. Louis Cardinals for a 6-4 win on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, Chicago has stumbled across the rarest of shamrocks — a legitimately dominant Cubs team on the cusp of the World Series.

Three earlier Cubs teams have breathed the crisp, autumnal NLCS air: the 1984, 1989 and 2003 teams. (The league championship series format was introduced in 1969.) Those three squads lost their respective series, but according to our Elo ratings, this year’s NLCS-bound Cubs team is the strongest of the bunch. And even though they’ll cede home-field advantage to either the New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers, the 2015 Cubs have the best chance of any of their predecessors at winning the NLCS and advancing to the World Series. Our ratings give the Cubs a 60 percent chance of reaching the World Series; it would be the team’s first appearance there since 1945. …

Norman Rockwell portrayed the hapless Cubs as the team watched a bonehead play perhaps at Ebbet’s Field in Brooklyn. You can find it at the end of the cartoons.

October 15, 2015

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Given the current gun debate, the news of a Harvard Law Journal publishing a study showing more privately owned guns would reduce crime, was bound to find its way to Pickings. However, the blog pointing out the study, Belief Net, was new to us so we did some checking. We actually found the PDF version of the study which was published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Checking further, we learned that the journal was published by Harvard law students of a libertarian bent. So, given all that, the study is a welcome addition to the gun debate. Here’s Belief Net;

According to a study in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, which cites the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Nations International Study on Firearms Regulation, the more guns a nation has, the less criminal activity.

In other words, more firearms, less crime, concludes the virtually unpublicized research report by attorney Don B. Kates and Dr. Gary Mauser. But the key is firearms in the hands of private citizens.

“The study was overlooked when it first came out in 2007,” writes Michael Snyder, “but it was recently re-discovered and while the findings may not surprise some, the place where the study was undertaken is a bit surprising. The study came from the Harvard Journal of Law, that bastion of extreme, Ivy League liberalism. Titled Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?, the report “found some surprising things.”

The popular assertion that the United States has the industrialized world’s highest murder rate, says the Harvard study, is a throwback to the Cold War when Russian murder rates were nearly four times higher than American rates. In a strategic disinformation campaign, the U.S. was painted worldwide as a gunslinging nightmare of street violence – far worse than what was going on in Russia. The line was repeated so many times that many believed it to be true. Now, many still do.

Today violence continues in Russia – far worse than in the U.S. – although the Russian people remain virtually disarmed. “Similar murder rates also characterize the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and various other now-independent European nations of the former U.S.S.R.,” note Kates and Mauser . Kates is a Yale-educated criminologist and constitutional lawyer. Dr. Mauser is a Canadian criminologist at SimonFraserUniversity with a Ph.D. from the University of California Irvine. “International evidence and comparisons have long been offered as proof of the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths. Unfortunately, such discussions are all too often been afflicted by misconceptions and factual error.” …




Kevin Williamson says there is one strengthening of gun laws he would favor – more stricter curbs on “straw purchasing” of guns. That’s were someone with no criminal record purchases a gun for someone who could not pass a background check.

This week in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County Circuit Court is hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by two police officers, both of them shot in the head by a young man named Julius Burton back in 2009. The officers are suing the former owners of the defunct gun shop that sold the pistol Burton used to a straw purchaser, Jacob Collins. Burton was at the time too young to legally purchase a handgun.

Like many other jurisdictions, Wisconsin doesn’t really take straw purchases of firearms very seriously. At the time of Collins’s crime, the offense was only a misdemeanor. (Subsequent legislation has upgraded straw purchasing to a low-level felony.) The crime was, and is, seldom prosecuted, and, before the Burton-Collins incident, offenders would “typically get probation or less than a year in prison because of their clean records and the notion they have not committed a violent crime, according to a review of five years of federal court records,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2010.

Wisconsin isn’t alone in its nonchalance. California normally treats straw purchases as misdemeanors or minor infractions. Even as the people of Baltimore suffer horrific levels of violence, Maryland classifies the crime as a misdemeanor, too. Straw buying is a felony in progressive Connecticut, albeit one in the second-least-serious order of felonies. It is classified as a serious crime in Illinois (Class 2 felony), but police rarely (meaning “almost never”) go after the nephews and girlfriends with clean records who provide Chicago’s diverse and sundry gangsters with their weapons. In Delaware, it’s a Class F felony, like forging a check. In Oregon, it’s a misdemeanor. …




Townhall columnist Susan Brown writes that the president’s response to the Oregon shooting shows he wishes to take away our guns. 

We hear you loud and clear about guns, President Obama. It’s a little odd though, that you’d make insinuations about taking our guns away after the recent college shooting in Oregon, especially now that the EU Times reports the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) listed the shooter as an “American black-Islamist terror suspect” not quite the “white Republican” some initially suggested. ISIS also allegedly claimed culpability.

According to EUTimes.net, Chris Harper Mercer “had previously been identified by electronic intelligence specialists within the Foreign Intelligence Service as being an Islamic State adherent after he had attempted to gain passage to Syria via Turkey during the first week of September 2015.” The report went on suggesting the Obama regime refused to accept this terror list from the Federation and “Mercer was able to accomplish his terror act” at UmpquaCommunity College.

We get you, Mr. Obama. If you were really angry about the right things, you’d be angry that witnesses say Mercer religiously profiled people, executing Christians. You conveniently didn’t mention that detail in your anti-gun rant October 1 in Washington. Instead you said it was time to politicize the event. Politicize. …



David Harsanyi weighs in on the gun debate.

After the horrific mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, President Obama made an impassioned case that gun violence is “something we should politicize”—and why should this be any different:

This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.

Everything in that statement is wrong.  What happened in Oregon is tragic, and the nation should comfort families and look for reasonable and practical ways to stem violence, but there is only one murderer. Now, if government somehow bolstered, endorsed, or “allowed” the actions of Chris Harper-Mercer—as they might, say, the death of 10,000-plus viable babies each year or the civilian deaths that occur during an American drone action—a person could plausibly argue that we are collectively answerable as a nation. …



John Hinderaker spots Bernie’s gun foolishness. He doesn’t want to see a whole bunch of guns going to one spot. Kinda like someone getting concerned if “a whole bunch of chemical weapons are moving around . . . ”

Bernie Sanders represents Vermont, the freest state in the union where firearms are concerned. So it shouldn’t be surprising that his record on guns is not as liberal as most national Democrats’. At the same time, some have exaggerated his support for the Second Amendment. While it is true that the NRA supported Sanders in his 1990 House race, his record since entering Congress has been mixed.

But one of his pro-gun votes was in favor of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields manufacturers from civil liability when guns function properly. Now that he is running for president, Sanders is tacking to the left on the one issue where he does not already hold down his party’s port flank. Thus, on Meet the Press this morning, Sanders retreated on his 2005 support for the PLCAA:

“That was a complicated vote and I’m willing to see changes in that provision. Here’s the reason I voted the way I voted: If you are a gun shop owner in Vermont and you sell somebody a gun and that person flips out and then kills somebody, I don’t think it’s really fair to hold that person responsible, the gun shop owner.

On the other hand, where there is a problem is there is evidence that manufacturers, gun manufacturers, do know that they’re selling a whole lot of guns in an area that really should not be buying that many guns. That many of those guns are going to other areas, probably for criminal purposes. So can we take another look at that liability issue? Yes.”

What on Earth does that mean? …

October 6, 2015

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Today’s post could be titled “Becoming Putin’s Poodle.” because that is the title of the first item which is a post from National Review.

The sound you’d be hearing this morning if you live in the devastated city of Homs in Syria, would be Russian jets doing bombing runs against your neighbors rebelling against dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

And not just in Homs. The roar of those Russian jets is being heard around the world; it’s the sound of Vladimir Putin becoming the new alpha male and power broker of the Middle East.

What I dubbed in a recent NR article the Pax Putinica is rapidly taking shape. Just as the earlier Pax Americana was aimed at containing the Soviet Union, so Putin’s new world order is aimed at smashing the U.S.’s influence as a superpower, first in Europe and now in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Our president, meanwhile, is letting it all happen. If Vladimir Putin is the dominant alpha male in the new international pecking order, Barack Obama has emerged as his highly submissive partner. 

There are various reasons why we are being subjected to the humiliating spectacle of an American president, so-called leader of the free world, rolling over on the mat at Putin’s feet. …




And Charles Krauthammer has the keynote address as he reacts to the administration’s “anger” at Putin’s Syria policy. 

If it had the wit, the Obama administration would be not angered, but appropriately humiliated. President Obama has, once again, been totally outmaneuvered by Vladimir Putin. Two days earlier at the United Nations, Obama had welcomed the return, in force, of the Russian military to the Middle East — for the first time in decades — in order to help fight the Islamic State.

The ruse was transparent from the beginning. Russia is not in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The Kremlin was sending fighter planes, air-to-air missiles and SA-22 anti-aircraft batteries. Against an Islamic State that has no air force, no planes, no helicopters?

Russia then sent reconnaissance drones over Western Idlib and Hama, where there are no Islamic State fighters. Followed by bombing attacks on Homs and other opposition strongholds that had nothing to do with the Islamic State. …

… Why is Putin moving so quickly and so brazenly? Because he’s got only 16 more months to push on the open door that is Obama. He knows he’ll never again see an American president such as this — one who once told the General Assembly that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation” and told it again Monday of “believing in my core that we, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion.”

They cannot? Has he looked at the world around him — from Homs to Kunduz, from Sanaa to Donetsk — ablaze with conflict and coercion?

Wouldn’t you take advantage of these last 16 months if you were Putin, facing a man living in a faculty-lounge fantasy world? Where was Obama when Putin began bombing Syria? Leading a U.N. meeting on countering violent extremism. …




WSJ Editors have an opinion.

… Mr. Putin is also showing that Russia is an ally to be trusted, in contrast to an America that abandoned Iraq in 2011 and won’t fight ISIS with conviction. His alliance with Iran gives him leverage throughout the Middle East, and his Syria play may even give him leverage with Europe over Ukraine sanctions. Perhaps he’ll offer to limit the barrel bombs that have sent refugees fleeing in return for Europe easing sanctions. Some quagmire.

Mr. Obama could make Mr. Putin pay a price if he reversed his Middle East policy and revived American leadership. In Syria the U.S. could set up a no-fly zone to create a haven for refugees against Islamic State and Mr. Assad’s barrel bombs. He could say U.S. planes will fly wherever they want, and if one is attacked the U.S. will respond in kind.

In Iraq the U.S. could directly arm the Kurds. And the U.S. could rev up the campaign against Islamic State from more than 11 or so strike sorties a day. This would show a new commitment that might convince the Sunni Arabs that the U.S. is finally serious about defeating the caliphate.

By now we know Mr. Obama will do none of this. He wants America out of the Middle East, so he will gradually find a way to accommodate Russia’s presence in the Middle East and Mr. Putin’s demands. U.S. allies in the region will get the message and make their accommodations with Russia and Iran. The next President will inherit a bigger terror threat and diminished U.S. influence, if not worse. …



Ralph Peters says Putin wants to humiliate the US.

The first thing to understand about Vladimir Putin is that he’s not content just to win. He has to destroy his opponents, foreign or domestic.

His deeds may be despicable and his manners far too crude for the Upper West Side, but the guy is a force of nature, a man who — by sheer strength of will — has used a broken country and its rusting military to change the world. Meanwhile, our astonished president sulks like a high school girl stood up by her boyfriend (“But Vladimir . . . you promised!”).

Now we have reached the point where a Russian general can barge into a US military office in the Middle East and order us to stop flying our aircraft over Syria. Oh, we’re still flying, for now — but you can bet that our flights are restricted and careful to the point of paralysis.

You bet President Obama’s afraid of Putin. Physically, tangibly, change-the-diaper afraid.

And as I wrote in these pages on Monday, the odds are good that Putin will order the shootdown of a US drone or even a manned aircraft, anyway. Why? Because he can.

And he enjoys it. …



Claudia Rosett says Putin’s blitz is a Middle East coup in three acts.

As the world audience contemplates this latest drama in the reshaping of the 21st Century World Order. 

In New York, the United Nations is still lumbering through its Sept. 28th – Oct. 3 general debate. But even with today’s declaration by aging potentate Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinian Authority will no longer respect the Oslo Accords (did they ever?) the headlines are elsewhere. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin not only stole the UN show, but in Syria — and beyond — is stealing a march on President Obama that makes the current world scene look ever more like the disastrous penultimate year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. That 1979 run of debacles opened with Iran’s Islamic Revolution, and rolled on to the Soviet Union’s December invasion of Afghanistan — lighting the fuel under the cauldron whence sprang, in due course, a great many horrors, including the Sept. 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

Obama’s presidency still has more than a year to run (477 days, to be precise), and after more than six years of U.S. global retreat, as we toil through this fourth quarter of “interesting stuff,” trouble is spreading even faster than it did in the Carter era. The threats now rising like a tsunami on the horizon are, arguably, worse.

But let’s focus here on Russia. This week, President Putin has delivered not only a blitz in Syria, but a grand slam on the world stage. Call it a play in three acts. …




Max Boot writes on the disaster that is left to the next president.

Now even if President Obama wanted to take more serious steps to stop Assad — and there is no sign that he does — he would find it increasingly difficult to do so. As General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, recently noted, Russia is building an “A2/AD bubble” over Syria. That stands for anti-access/area denial — military nomenclature for defensive systems such as anti-aircraft missiles that will make it hard for U.S. or Israeli forces to operate in the area.

So, in addition to the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the ongoing killing of the Syrian civil war, the general chaos of Libya, the loss of territory to the Taliban, and the general expansion of Iranian influence, the Obama administration is leaving another legacy to its successor: Growing Russian power in the heart of the Middle East. It makes you wonder why anyone would want to be president, given the size of the mess that Obama’s successor will inherit. …


The cartoonists have a ball.



October 5, 2015

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Spiked On Line celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Simon/Ehrlich wager. We have noted this before; once last January and also four years ago. Our introduction from last January is worth repeating; “Williamson’s reference to the Simon-Ehrlich wager is cause for a detour. The dénouement of that bet was reported by John Tierney in the December 2, 1990 issue of the NY Times Magazine. The whole affair is close to becoming part of the free market canon. So, it is worth repeating. And it is also germane, because an ally of Ehrlich’s was John Holdren, who was picked by President Trainwreck to be his science advisor. Holdren had perfect creds; he is an academic who is usually wrong. Tailor made for this administration, we’d say.”


This is one of the great divides in American intellectual life. The doom-preaching liberal/left is on one side, and free marketers, marveling in human ingenuity on the other. Here’s Spiked on the wager.

… Population catastrophists, however, constantly remind us of Hegel’s alleged observation that ‘If theory and facts disagree, so much the worse for the facts’. This is especially true in current discussions of humanity’s increased consumption of coal, petroleum and natural gas over the past two centuries where alleged problems always trump real benefits. After all, no one should argue over the notion that they made possible the development of large-scale, reliable and affordable long-distance transportation, which in turn paved the way to better and more affordable nutrition by concentrating food production in the most suitable locations. Or that kerosene, heavy oil and natural gas displaced poor quality biomass fuels such as firewood and dung that filled houses with soot, particles, carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals. Or that cars, trucks and tractors removed the need for work animals (and their attending food consumption) while helping address the diseases associated with their excrement and carcasses. Or that refined petroleum products further reduced harvesting pressures on wild resources such as whales (whale oil, perfume base), trees (lumber and firewood), birds (feathers) and other wildlife (ivory, furs, skin), thus helping preserve biodiversity. …

… The fact that past natural climatic events or trends were once blamed on anthropogenic causes such as insufficient offerings to the gods, witchcraft, deforestation, the invention of the lightning rod and wireless telegraphy, cannon shots in the First World War, atomic tests, supersonic flights, nuclear testing and air pollution should also perhaps temper some of the most extreme rhetoric. Or else consider that, not too long ago, countless writers suggested, as the geographer William Dando did in his 1980 book The Geography of Famine, that most climatologists and even a ‘declassified Central Intelligence Agency’ report agreed that because of air pollution, the Earth was ‘entering a period of climatic change’ that had already resulted in ‘North African droughts, the lack of penetration of monsoonal rains in India and seasonal delay in the onset of spring rains in the Soviet Virgin Lands wheat area’. Global cooling, Dando told his readers, was ‘the greatest single challenge humans will face in coming years’ because it would soon trigger ‘mass migration and all-encompassing international famines’.

That the perspective put forward by the likes of Julian Simon or the social and environmental benefits of fossil fuels remain mind-boggling to a general audience is to be expected. That so many well-meaning academics and public intellectuals remain enthralled by scenarios of doom after two centuries of debates in which the depletionists’ projections were repeatedly crushed by human creativity is more puzzling. …




Joel Kotkin thinks 2016 will be the “energy election.”

Blessed by Pope Francis, the drive to wipe out fossil fuels, notes activist Bill McKibben, now has “the wind in its sails.” Setting aside the bizarre alliance of the Roman Catholic Church with secularists such as McKibben, who favor severe limits of family size as an environmental imperative, this is a potentially transformational moment. 

Simply put, the cultural and foreign policy issues that have defined U.S. politics for the past have century are increasingly subsumed by a divide over climate and energy policy. Progressive pundits increasingly envision the 2016 presidential election as a “last chance,” as one activist phrased it, to stop “climate change catastrophe.” As this agenda gets ever more radical, the prominence of climate change in the election will grow ever more obvious.

The key here is that the green left increasingly does not want to limit or change the mix of fossil fuels, but eliminate them entirely, the faster the better. The progressive website Common Dreams, for example, proposes eliminating fossil fuels within five or six years in order to assure “reasonable margin of safety for the world.”

This new militancy is a break from the recent past, when many greens embraced natural gas and nuclear power as practical, medium-term means to slow and even reverse greenhouse gas growth. But the environmental juggernaut, deeply entrenched within the federal bureaucracy and pushed by a president with seemingly limitless authority, is committed increasing to the systematic destruction of one of the country’s most important, and high-paying, industries. One goal is to demonize fossil fuel producersalong the lines of the tobacco industry.

The pope’s intervention has bolstered the tendency within the environmental movement not to allow any challenge to its own version of infallibility. This, despite discrepancies between some models of climate changeand what has actually taken place. …

… So will climate change be an effective issue for the Democrats next year? There is room for skepticism. In 2014 Steyer and his acolytes spent some $85 million on “green” candidates, only to fail impressively. Geography and class work against their efforts, driving longtime working and middle-class Democrats, driving voters in places like Appalachia, the Gulf Coast and some areas of the Great Lakes increasingly out of the Democratic Party.

It is not even certain that Millennials, faced with diminishing prospects for good jobs and home ownership, will prove reliable backers of a draconian climate agenda. One recent survey suggested that young voters are actually less likely to identify as “environmentalist” than previous generations. 

Like extreme social conservatism on the right, climate change thrills the coastal “base” of the Democratic Party, but threatens to lose support from other parts of the electorate. Despite the duet of hosannas of both the hyper-secular media and the Bishop of Rome, a policy that seeks, at base, to reduce living standards may well not prove politically sustainable.





You’ve heard of peak oil. Here’s a WSJ OpEd on “peak car.”

Many environmentalists hope, and oil producers worry, that we’re entering a post-car era spearheaded by tech-savvy, bike-path-loving, urban-dwelling, Uber-using millennials—leaving behind generations of automobile owners whose thirst for gasoline seemed limitless. …

… Now J.D. Power finds that millennials are the fastest growing class of car buyers. Edmunds reports that millennials lease luxury brands at a higher rate than average. Nielsen reports millennials are 40% more likely than average to buy a vehicle over the coming year. Tesla-inspired hype aside, overall electric-car sales are down 20% this year, with SUV sales up 15%.

Urban dwellers? The latest Census reveals a net migration of millennials from the city to the car-centric suburbs is already under way. And it’s just starting: A survey sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders finds 66% of those born since 1977 say they plan to live in a single-family suburban home. …




Five Thirty Eight posts on the difficulty forecasting our recent Atlantic hurricane. Forecasting models can’t work two days out, but greens think they can forecast decades out.

… But here’s the problem: The hurricane models don’t necessarily have a good grip on either the “blocking” (that high pressure preventing the storm from turning back to sea) or the “trough” (the low pressure drawing the storm toward the coastline). Homenuk told me that the models can “struggle with the intricate details of this blocking.” They aren’t used to seeing high pressure this strong in the Atlantic this time of year, and minor changes in blocking can make a major difference in the track of a storm. Livingston said the models that show Joaquin coming into the coast, such as the GFS, have the storm “sufficiently captured by the incoming trough.” That means they predict that the low pressure pulling it in to shore will prevail. Model outcomes such as the Euro, on the other hand, have the storm too far south for the trough to drive it back into the coastline. …

October 1, 2015

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



If you trade a five year old car for a new one, be prepared for a shock. Computer systems in cars have become ubiquitous. Last Sunday’s NY Times had a long piece on the benefits and risks. For example, VW’s code writers taught the engine’s computer to sense when an emissions test was taking place and then alter the exhaust to pass the test.

Shwetak N. Patel looked over the 2013 Mercedes C300 and saw not a sporty all-wheel-drive sedan, but a bundle of technology.

There were the obvious features, like a roadside assistance service that communicates to a satellite. But Dr. Patel, a computer science professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, flipped up the hood to show the real brains of the operation: the engine control unit, a computer attached to the side of the motor that governs performance, fuel efficiency and emissions.

To most car owners, this is an impregnable black box. But to Dr. Patel, it is the entry point for the modern car tinkerer — the gateway to the code.

“If you look at all the code in this car,” Dr. Patel said, “it’s easily as much as a smartphone if not more.”

New high-end cars are among the most sophisticated machines on the planet, containing 100 million or more lines of code. Compare that with about 60 million lines of code in all of Facebook or 50 million in the Large Hadron Collider.

“Cars these days are reaching biological levels of complexity,” said Chris Gerdes, a professor of mechanical engineering at StanfordUniversity.

The sophistication of new cars brings numerous benefits — forward-collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking that keep drivers safer are just two examples. But with new technology comes new risks — and new opportunities for malevolence.

The unfolding scandal at Volkswagen — in which 11 million vehicles were outfitted with software that gave false emissions results — showed how a carmaker could take advantage of complex systems to flout regulations. …

… And as the Volkswagen case has shown, these complexities create openings for automakers to game the system. Software in many of the German carmaker’s diesel engines was rigged to fool emissions tests. The cars equipped with the manipulated software spewed as much as 40 times the pollution allowed under the Clean Air Act during normal driving situations. Volkswagen executives admitted to officials in the United States that diesel cars sold in the country had been programmed to sense when emissions were being tested, and to turn on equipment that reduced them.

The German automaker got away with this trick for years because it was hidden in lines of code. It was only after investigations by environmental groups and independent researchers that Volkswagen’s deception came to light.

Errors in software, too, can be notoriously difficult to identify. …





The car computer piece above was technical enough to require some humor now. We have Andy Malcolm, but before that, American Spectator published the transcript of President Trumps’s first presser.

Jorge Ramos: President Trump, on your deportation plan…

President Trump: I didn’t call on you.

Jorge Ramos: I represent Univision. I have a right…

Trump: Excuse me. Wait until my lawsuit against Univision gets to the Supreme Court.

Jorge Ramos: By then you’ll have your sister on the Supreme Court.

Trump: She’s smart, very smart. And she knows I love women and I’m in favor of women’s health. Mexican women. All women. Sit down, or I’ll appoint Ann Coulter U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.

Ramos: I have a question. What about your plan to deport eleven million or more…

Trump: Sit down, or the Secret Service will remove you.

Ramos: I’m a fully credentialed American citizen.

Trump: You have an accent. And you’ve never been nice to me. Besides, Helen Thomas asks the first question. Where’s Helen? …

… Reporter: Now, about the future. You did not have a vice presidential running mate…

Trump: Because, obviously, I’m irreplaceable. The Democrats ran a candidate for vice president because they didn’t have confidence in their nominee. …




Here’s Late Night from Andy.

Meyers: Kellogg’s announced today that it will spend $450 million to expand food distribution to Africa. Though sadly, it was reported Tony the Tiger was gunned down by a Minnesota dentist.

Fallon: With Hillary Clinton on the show the other night, security was very tight. The Secret Service was here all day sweeping the halls, the offices, the hard drives. It was very tight.

Conan: Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady said he thinks it would be a great if Donald Trump was President. Which is really weird, because Brady doesn’t like things filled with too much air.