November 4th, 2013

David Cutler gets to say “I told you so”

David Cutler wrote this memo on health reform implementation in May of 2010, about six weeks after Obamacare was passed. I suggest you read the whole thing, and remember as you read it that Cutler was a supporter of the ACA.

Here’s an excerpt from Cutler’s Wiki entry to establish the basics of his resume. Note that he had served the Clinton administration, so he knows more than many professors how the executive branch of the government works—or doesn’t work, as the case may be:

David Matthew Cutler is the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard University. He holds a joint appointment in the economics department and in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard School of Public Health. He graduated from Harvard College, summa cum laude, with a degree in Economics, and then joined the Harvard faculty after receiving his Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991. He served in the administration of Bill Clinton and was the senior health care advisor to Barack Obama.

Now read the following excerpt from Cutler’s memo to fellow Harvard economics professor Larry Summers, back when Summers was an official member of the Obama administration (which Cutler never was). Remember, this was sent about six weeks after Obamacare was passed:

The second major task of reform is to set up and run insurance exchanges. I am not encouraged by what is occurring there either. Running exchanges is a collaborative process. As just one example, the person who ran the Commonwealth Connector in Massachusetts estimates that he had 500 town meetings to discuss reform, the equivalent of 17,000 meetings nationally – and this was in a state where two-thirds of people, along with insurance companies, supported reform. The person newly appointed to head the insurance oversight office has a reputation as an insurance bulldog, not a skilled facilitator. Remember that most people will get their information about reform from their doctor and their insurance agent. If you cannot find a way to work with hesitant states and insurers, reform will blow up. I have seen no indication that HHS even realizes this, let alone is acting on it.

My guess is that they’d rather blame Republicans and insurance companies for not co-operating.

Cutler continued:

Above the operational level, the process is also broken. The overall head of implementation inside HHS, Jeanne Lambrew, is known for her knowledge of Congress, her commitment to the poor, and her mistrust of insurance companies. She is not known for operational ability, knowledge of delivery systems, or facilitating widespread change. Thus, it is not surprising that delivery system reform, provider outreach, and exchange administration are receiving little attention. Further, the fact that Jeanne and people like her cannot get along with other people in the Administration means that the opportunities for collaborative engagement are limited, areas of great importance are not addressed, and valuable problem solving time is wasted on internal fights.

But it’s hard for Obama to appoint someone who might appear to know more about something than he does, although every now and then I suppose he bites the bullet and does it. Whether Obama thinks anyone actually knows more than he does about anything is another question.

Cutler went on to make a number of specific suggestions about re-organizing the effort. But the gist of it all was this:

You need to bring in people who share the President’s vision and who know how to manage health care or other complex operations. These people then need to interact with existing agency personnel to make reform happen.

That seems rather—elementary. Doesn’t it? And yet apparently it was not being done. No wonder Cutler sounds so urgent. He was seeing people trying to set up one of the most complex organizational and policy operations the government has ever undertaken, and appointing people to do it who had virtually no experience in anything of the sort.

But after all, that’s pretty much what the American people did when they elected Obama.

[NOTE: This is also a must-read. Except for the obligatory "the Republicans frightened the administration into mucking up the rollout," it's both informative and devastating. And since it's in the WaPo, some of Obama's supporters might actually read it and be alarmed.]

61 Responses to “David Cutler gets to say “I told you so””

  1. T Says:

    When I went to grad school it was not considered good form to get one’s degrees from the same institution or even from the same geographical area as one’s BA/BS.

    So, Cutler graduated from Harvard, got his Ph.D. from MIT, corresponds with Larry Summers (Harvard) and, his memo would appear to refute that of MIT Prof. Jonathan Gruber.

    It seems like the country is being inbred at Cambridge and New Haven (and being mis-managed by the same). Credentials do not bespeak competence.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    T:

    Actually, Cutler seems very competent to me, from the evidence of the memo.

    His support for Obamacare is a different story, although I’m sure he could come up with a cogent defense of how it would work if implemented ideally (if it fails, I believe he would say that it’s not working because it’s not being implemented properly). But he certainly seems to be competent at suggesting how it might have been implemented better.

  3. blert Says:

    0-care is medical totalitarianism.

  4. Oldflyer Says:

    Neo you commented, ” He was seeing people trying to set up one of the most complex organizational and policy operations the government has ever undertaken, and appointing people to do it who had virtually no experience in anything of the sort.” Because you use the caveat, “one of”, I cannot disagree; on the other hand I think of World War II, when we went from a sleepy, peace time economy to a mighty industrial war machine in the matter of months. We built a massive military organization almost from scratch, and overhauled our industrial work force to incorporate women in non-traditional roles on a massive scale with hardly a missed beat. Here the second part of your quoted sentence becomes the essential and defining difference. In the early days of WWII the government reached out and co-opted expertise in every field. Proven competence was the only criterion. There was one essential motivation; get the job done, get it done now, and let nothing stand in the way. Now, we are so ensnared in politics, ideology, cronyism, and restrictive regulations that we are barely functional. I may be charitable in my judgement.

  5. Matt_SE Says:

    This will once again beg the question of whether Obamacare was ever intended to succeed, or whether it was a victim of hubris and incompetence.

    We will probably never know. (and it doesn’t matter anyway)

  6. Mitsu Says:

    Both of these articles are quite good — and I found David’s analysis to be really incisive and illuminating. It’s really a shame that they didn’t listen to him and didn’t draw upon his expertise in managing the rollout, even though he has been an adviser to the Obama Administration in the past. In a total coincidence, David happens to have been one of my roommates at Harvard my freshman year.

    If they weren’t listening to David there was something very wrong with how the rollout proceeded. A disconnect between the sort of expertise required to handle political operations and that needed to manage something operationally.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu:

    That thing that was “very wrong” with the rollout is one of the many things that are wrong with the entire enterprise and the Obama administration as a whole.

    Have you ever read this book? You might want to someday, although I bet you’ll find a way to rationalize yourself out of accepting what it reveals.

    If you do order it, though, please use my blog to do so :-).

    And Thomas Sowell, the author, is another Harvard grad.

  8. southpaw Says:

    T – very good observation.
    Reading the WaPo article, as tedious as it is, brings to mind all the reasons government is bad at doing almost anything complicated, where cooperation among many different skills and managers is essential, where organizational leadership is indispensible, and where time, money, and results are tangible entities to manage, not theoretical abstractions.
    The academics that Obama likes to surround himself with are no doubt smart, but Obama is not able to distinguish the value of experience and skills over academic credentials. Like Obama, many of them live in a world that judges itself on writing papers and giving lectures about how things ought to be, and they’ve no regard or understanding for the people who actually manage large corporations and run businesses. In Obama’s mind, a college campus of professors can run any business for government, better and more efficiently than the people who are currently running businesses. Obama’s own quote speaks volumes, where he says “you couldn’t have designed a better person in a LAB” (to run BO-Care). An experienced leader seeks out the most experienced people. Obama’s mindset fixates on the theoretical wonks and the academics who like him, talk a lot, but haven’t ever done anything in the private sector.
    BO-Care stinks. It’s a complete and utter clusterF**K, will be for years, and will ruin a lot of lives- all for the “greater good”.
    It is instructive to see how little the world’s smartest president has learned about his choices to implement his “vision”, and equally instructive how the media detaches him from the failures. Yes they mention his mistakes and shortcomings in selecting the right people, but there is hardly a negative tone or call for explanation or to correct it. They’re still searching for ways to excuse his arrogance and foolishness, in spite of the wreck he has made of so many businesses and lives. Real people are being harmed, but for BO and the MSM, it’s still theoretical and superficial; it’s about a website that’s not functioning. When the image of BO-Care is up and running, ie. the webpage, it won’t matter whether the rates are unaffordable or that fewer are insured, or that people have worse care than before. It won’t even matter how many die waiting to sign up or to get care if they have it.
    The story will be the website works, ergo, Obamacare is working, and history will remember it all as a failure of everyone except the arrogant, clueless man who was ultimately responsible for its failures.

  9. chris Says:

    it seems to me that
    “people who share the President’s vision and who know how to manage health care or other complex operations”
    effectively describes the null set.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    chris:

    :-)

    But seriously, I think David Cutler might fit that description, at least from the evidence in the memo, which is pretty much (along with his Wiki entry) all I know about him.

    That and the fact that (at least according to Mitsu, whom I happen to believe in this case) he was Mitsu’s freshman roommate at Harvard. But I won’t hold that against Cutler :-).

  11. Mitsu Says:

    I think it’s pretty clear that whatever else this proves, it shows that Obama has leaned far too heavily on political considerations when making appointments rather than operational expertise. This probably comes from the fact that he doesn’t have much private sector experience. The LA Times wrote something about this today:

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-obama-manager-20131103,0,2282121.story#axzz2ji8Y23Bo

    Of course, I would judge the Bush Administration to be far worse than the Obama Administration has been so far in this area, as I’ve said before. But in general I’d say that this does prove the Federal Government is, institutionally, resistant to competent management, and I accept it as evidence in favor of the oft-stated criticism of government from the right.

    But, there are many of us, like my old roommate David Cutler, who are staunchly liberal in our policy views while nevertheless accepting the fact that government often screws up, can be highly inefficient, and so on. If Republicans were simply a party that argued for sensible, efficient, relatively minimal government, I could consider even voting for them from time to time. That’s not how the Republican Party appears to me — while this is clearly as debacle and I accept it’s an example of systemic dysfunction within the Obama Administration, I nevertheless agree, like my old roommate, that something LIKE the ACA is sound policy.

    I’m not the sort of person who always cheers for “my side” as I’ve said before, however. When my “side” fucks up, I say so, unequivocally. I think the areas where I think you think of me as “rationalizing” I’ve finally realized come from the fact that you have an ongoing suspicion that there’s still some significant secret support for a Stalinist or totalitarian program, something that was on its way out even in the 60′s and is completely discredited today. That difference in fears, I think, has a lot to do with our divergence in judgement, or at least it’s one major factor. If such a thing were actually still alive today, I’d be as adamantly opposed to it as you are. The fact that I know a lot of progressives and know what they think about and what they’re hoping for, however, informs my views about what their “hidden agenda” might be (though I would say I disagree in many ways with my very leftist progressive friends a lot of the time, I also know that they’ve all been opposed to USSR-style politics for either most of or their entire lives.)

  12. Matt_SE Says:

    So what? In a nation of 300+ million people, someone was bound to have expertise.
    It’s interesting THAT person isn’t a member of the administration in general, let alone head of HHS.

    The priorities of Obama appointees are:
    1) Loyalty
    2) Ability to exploit a situation for political advantage
    3) (or lower) Competence at their job

    In that order.

    The rot starts from the head.

  13. chris Says:

    i’m not so sure that Mr. Cutler knows how to manage complex operations.
    there is a huge difference between policy wonks and managers.
    and he really seems more like the former.

    Megan Mcardle has been griping for over a week about the lack of management skills at HHS. Even if he had marvelous management skills, he can’t run the whole thing by himself.
    but i’m getting fussy, so i’ll stop.

  14. Soviet of Washington Says:

    Oldflyer,

    As is typical of generational unraveling era’s, the US has been on an extended holiday from the necessity of competence in (at least) government. The coming civilization crisis war will change that equation. Of course, there will be many casualties first.

    Reader’s unfamiliar with how the US establishment snapped-to at the start of WWII might be interested in reading the later half of Tuxedo Park, a biography of Alfred Lee Loomis describing his role in the set-up of the MIT Rad Lab.

  15. T Says:

    Neo,

    My comment was less directed at Cutler’s personal competence, than meant as a generic indictment of the inbred Ivy-League fraternity/sorority that, more and more, controls this nation.

    Certainly, an Ivy league degree is not prima facie evidence of INcompetence, but, for years, it has been the unquestioned (and unwarranted) mark of competence. We should never forget that, while Cambridge and New Haven have generated many deserving luminaries, that circle also originated the concept of “the gentleman’s ‘C’.”

    Furthermre, the corridor fraternity breeds a certain like mindset in its members—little intellectual diversity in the “I love diversity” crowd.

  16. T Says:

    Southpaw,

    Given your comments above, I think you’d appreciate this observation (H/T Instapundit):

    http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2013/10/government-is-magic.html

  17. T Says:

    If Republicans were simply a party that argued for sensible, efficient, relatively minimal government, I could consider even voting for them from time to time. That’s not how the Republican Party appears to me (Mitsu@3:58 above)

    Let’s run that through the “T”ranslator shall we:

    If Republicans met my criteria for “sensible,” i.e., if they thought like Democrats, I’d vote for them once in a while. As it is, even the consistent, continued and fundamental failure of Democrat social engineering will still not stop me from voting for a Dem.

  18. T Says:

    Matt_SE,

    I’d argue that #3 isn’t even present on the list.

    See the Sultan Knish post I cited above. Greenfield makes a point of noting that in the Progressive mind the determination is whether it’s good or not. If it’s good, by their standards, then it will work. Why? Well, . . . because we wish it so.

    It is no coincidence that such a thought echoes Mitsu’s post @3:58.

  19. T Says:

    Four posts in succession (now five). Have I been hanging around artfl too long?

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    chris:

    Well, I don’t know that much about Cutler’s skill set, but at least he knows how to critique those who aren’t competent at managing operations like this.

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    Mitsu:

    By the way, even had the rollout been perfectly managed, Obamacare itself is still a terribly designed system resting on false assumptions. But it’s been completely mismanaged as well.

  22. Stark Says:

    There is a limit to the complexity of interrelated service offerings and the number of variables that any organization can establish and manage effectively.

    Experienced and sophisticated management strives for simplicity and focus to achieve understandable and efficient/low cost execution.

    The ACA, like most other government regulation starts out overcomplicated and only gets more cumbersome overtime.

  23. blert Says:

    Neo…

    Wretchard has an interesting take on 0-care from strictly a programmer’s perspective.

    In his opinion, 0-care is inherently too rigid in its information flows and is destined to have wicked feed-back loops.

    It’s just too complicated to synch.

  24. Richard Saunders Says:

    T — thanks for that link. Greenfield is absolutely spot on. Unfortunately, Mitsu and his friends will never read it, or if they happen to stumble across it, won’t have a clue as to what Sultan Knish is talking about.

    Leadership? Management skills? Competence?
    “We ain’t got no stinkin’ competence! We don’t need no stinkin’ competence!”

    After all, who did they vote for? A man with absolutely no management skills, no leadership ability, no competence in any known field whatsoever. (To say nothing of no character.)

    “But he’s sooooo cool! He makes tingles run up my leg! I mean, like, he was born in Hawai’i, or somewhere like that. He went to a madrassah in Indonesia. He went to Oxy. Then he went to Columbia. Then he went to HARVARD LAW SCHOOL! And, man, his father was from Africa! Like, how cool is that!

    “I’d never vote for that old white guy! Just because he actually knows how to make things work? Just because he has a record of ability to manage complex organizations? No way, Jose! Like, they’d take away my hipster hat if I did, like, that!”

  25. T Says:

    Richard Saunders,

    I’ve long been of the mind that appearance for the sake of appearance has been a hallmark of the Progressive movement. It’s a variation on the old “fake it ’till you make it” syndrome. They’re doomed to always fake it because they never succeed.

    I like the fact that Greenfield connects this with “magical thinking.” We see that in so many Progressive endeavors: “Climate change”— damn the evidence, full speed ahead; failed social programs—the theory is right, they didn’t implement it properly; the stimulus—it didn’t work because a gazillion dollars wasn’t quite enough money, etc.

    They fail to see that they’re using the same kind of “magical” thinking that they would identify and condemn in religious pursuits.

  26. Richard Saunders Says:

    T — “Scientific experiments have conclusively proved that thousands of private jet trips to Global Warming — Oops! — Climate Change conferences, hundreds of millions of dollars spent on crony Green Energy projects, and billions of tons of hot air generated by Anthrogenic Global Warming experts, cause the temperature to increase, the glaciers to melt, the oceans to rise, and fake Greek columns to appear in Berlin.”

  27. southpaw Says:

    T- thx it was a really we’ll written article and certainly expresses what I tried to say.
    This administration relies on academia more than any I can remember. That academia has a place in the formation of ideas and policies isn’t the problem, it’s the inability of Obama and the people he surrounds himself with to recognize that nothing as complicated as this can be done without the people who can execute.
    In my engineering circles, we have guys we call “power point engineers” – the title speaks for itself. These are the people who don’t know much about how things work, but they’re good with a dog and pony show. Most of them are in marketing, and they sit around talking to each other about what they think the customer wants – the occasional .ppt engineer actually asks a customer what they want- but many believe they are uniquely gifted with this innate information and don’t bother. It’s a similar mindset at the White House- all the information they need is in the incestuous circle around them.
    Behind the power point engineers and salesmen are the ‘real’ engineers ( for lack of a better term) , project managers, manufacturing people, operations managers, bashing away at problems and making products and rolling up their sleeves – they live or die with schedules, and are accountable for results.
    Obama has largely surrounded himself with Power Point Engineers- they pulled off the Marketing, but they don’t bother with or know much about how the things on the slide make it from concept to a working product. But more to the point- and Greenfield’s as we’ll – the Obama marketing crew don’t value the rest of the organization, because they’re entirely ignorant of it.
    Mitt Romney was the exact opposite – a hugely capable manager, but a bad marketer. Our loss; maybe those defending this incompetent fool will acknowledge at least this one glaring shortcoming when they reflect on Obama’s legacy.

  28. Mitsu Says:

    >Obamacare itself is still a terribly designed system
    >resting on false assumptions

    I’m very open to the argument that many detailed regulations in the law are poorly conceived or written — for instance, the regulations that have nixed many insurance plans are, in my view, overly restrictive. However, the general framework, i.e., subsidies, mandate/tax penalty, exchange so individuals can get group rates, elimination of arbitrary rescission and medical underwriting — this framework is sound, and has been proven to work not only in Massachusetts but in other countries.

    >magical thinking … global warming

    It’s statements like these that really make it difficult for those of us who are trying to get to some sort of rational discussion of policy (past the hyperventilating rhetoric) to take the Republican Party seriously. While there are many conservative critiques that I believe have a lot of merit, the fact that you guys still cannot accept the overwhelming scientific case that anthropogenic global warming is not only happening it is a major crisis — it’s truly depressing. This is like some sort of flat earth debate — there aren’t “two sides” to this. Global warming is happening, it’s very real, it’s almost certainly caused by human activity.

    This is the overwhelming scientific consensus.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?_r=0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VBv7q3pnAg

  29. T Says:

    Mitsu,

    “the fact that you guys still cannot accept the overwhelming scientific case that anthropogenic global warming is not only happening it is a major crisis — it’s truly depressing. . . . Global warming is happening, it’s very real, it’s almost certainly caused by human activity.”

    So it is written, so it shall become!

    Actually, the evidence that I’ve seen bespeaks precisely the opposite. Mann’s hockey stick chart has been discredited (One tree ring sample in a “scientific” model?) arctic and Antarctic ice has grown, climatologists are now discussing a cooling trend on the earth. Say what you will, but at the very least, the science is NOT settled as Al Gore (and apparently you) would magically proclaim. That climate changes is indisputable; it’s been doing so for billions of years. That it is triggered by human activity is not accurate simply because you want it to be (see the work of Lord Christopher Monckton).

    “It’s almost certainly [italics mine] caused by human activity”? You hoist yourself by your own petard. Almost certainly? Verdict first, evidence afterwards.

    Once again, through the “T”ranslator: ” You guys can’t be taken seriously because you don’t think as I do. After all, I’m the one with the Harvard degree.”

  30. blert Says:

    T

    A precious moment occurred some years ago on 60 Minutes.

    Those fools had flown to Patagonia to witness the demise of an ancient glacier that was positively melting away — because of AGW.

    Looking over their shoulders one could observe a chronically erupting volcano — in Chile — that was spewing ash all over the glacier! In fact the ash was so intense, the glacier was discolored — and where the ash was heaviest the ice was melting in a pronounced fashion.

    The clip ran a full 18 minutes. The ‘before’ video showed a pristine WHITE glacier — from the time before the volcano’s latest eruption.

    This instance skewers any esteem one might hold for the film crew. Just how dense can you get?

    =========

    Carbon dioxide is plant fertilizer. As its partial pressure rises in the atmosphere the growth rate for all plants, everywhere, takes off EXPONENTIALLY. Such a correlation is due to reaction kinetics — and is found in other chemical systems far and wide.

    NASA first studied the matter fifty-years ago, researching methods to close the food cycle in orbit. It was quickly determined that ramping up the carbon dioxide partial pressure brought astounding increases in plant growth — all other factors being held steady.

    Consequently, it’s a scientific fact that about 8% of todays crop yields are directly due to the slightly elevated levels of carbon dioxide now in the atmosphere.

    Lastly, methane, a serious greenhouse gas, is wildly unstable in our oxygenated atmosphere. It can never build up. Period, stop. It has a half-life of a few hours. UV radiation will cause it to burn — molecule by molecule.

    We are overwhelmed by a sea of ignorant know-it-alls.

  31. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Mitsu finds the fact that none of us believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) caused by CO2 to be prima facie evidence of an inability to discuss policy rationally. There you have it. Certain ideas or beliefs cannot be questioned.
    If you get your CAGW info from the MSM you would be convinced that there is overwhelming scientific consensus. I can name ten reputable climate scientists, physicists, or statisticians from memory who can make rational arguments against the case for CO2 as the cause of CAGW. Unfortunately the MSM never, I mean never, mentions anything they say.
    For more on this issue, you could read this:
    http://principia-scientific.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=352

    Or for many learned essays on the issue click onto Watts Up With That? and just keep reading:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/

    Well, I have pointed you in the right direction. But my bet is that you are resistant to looking at the other side of the argument.

  32. Mitsu Says:

    >Mann’s hockey stick chart has been discredited (One tree ring sample in a “scientific” model?)

    The hockey stick graph has been independently investigated umpteen times and has been vindicated over and over again. The National Academy of Science has investigated temperature reconstructions and shown the graph was largely correct.

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11676

    It’s obvious you didn’t even bother to click on the links I provided. The first one is to an op-ed written by Richard Muller, the same guy who originally famously criticized the hockey stick graph. Allow me to quote Muller:

    “CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

    My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

    >arctic and Antarctic ice has grown, climatologists are now discussing a cooling trend on the earth.

    No, you’re not correct. It’s really sad. You’re being swayed by authoritative-sounding nonsense from the fringe.

    Read this. The Earth is not cooling, there is no cooling trend. Last year’s arctic ice extent was the sixth lowest in recorded history.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/03/18/global_warming_denial_debunking_misleading_climate_change_claims_by_david.html

    Antarctic SEA ice extent has grown, but that’s well understood. Antarctic land ice mass is shrinking, and that’s the real danger:

    http://phys.org/news/2013-10-antarctic-sea-ice.html
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice.htm

    >Say what you will, but at the very least, the science is NOT settled as Al Gore (and apparently you) would magically proclaim.

    Hahahaha. You’re simply wrong. There’s nothing “magical” going on here — you’re reading propaganda and pronouncements from the fringe. This isn’t real science, it’s not credible, it’s been debunked over and over again.

    >That it is triggered by human activity is not accurate simply because you want it to be (see the work of Lord Christopher Monckton).

    Indeed, it’s not accurate “because I want it to be”, it’s accurate because of the overwhelming scientific evidence.

  33. T Says:

    “Hahahaha. You’re simply wrong.”

    Now there’s an intelligent response from a Harvard grad. I guess in some circles that passes for rapier wit. And he claims that I’m the one reading one-sided propaganda.

    This is where the “baiting” begins. Now, I’m supposed to run around (figuratively speaking) all over the internet to find links to facts that counter Mitsu’s links above. Then, having put time into formulating a cogent response to Mitsu’s post, he’ll respond by attempting to redirect my efforts to another topic or subtopic, all the while looking down his nose at the little mouse he keeps redirecting in the maze, thus proving to himself how so much superior he is to the knuckledraggers who frequent this site (and me in particular).

    That’s how it works. As I mentioned above, Cambridge and New Haven have produced many deserving luminaries. Those who must play these games just to convince themselves of their own supposed credentialed superiority are not among them.

  34. Mitsu Says:

    >Now, I’m supposed to run around

    I wrote “hahahaha” because I literally laughed out loud when I read what you wrote. What’s so funny about this is that your characterization of liberals as engaging in “magical thinking” is precisely what you guys are doing. It’s really sad, quite frankly, more than funny.

    The problem, again, with the internet: any crank can get on a soapbox and throw around nonsense, and it can look just as authoritative as real science. So it looks like there’s this raging “debate” among “scientists” when there isn’t. Muller was one of the few skeptics who was actually relatively rigorous in his approach — and he’s been convinced. That ought to be the end of the “debate”, but it isn’t, of course, in today’s day and age, where people can just leap on this or that blog post or crackpot and deride the “gullibility” of the “MSM” and so on.

    I find this quite sad — and it is extremely dangerous. Even after Katrina and Sandy, even after the undisputed fact that the last decade was the warmest on record… you can convince yourself of pretty much anything by reading blogs that amplify your own echo chamber. You can come up with conspiracy theories about scientists who are just trying to keep their careers going or whatever nonsense.

    This is, to me, a tragedy, really.

  35. Richard Saunders Says:

    The actual record shows that there has been no global increase in temperature for the last 17 years (about half the time we have had accurate global temperature measurements). Arctic sea ice was at a low point in the summer of 2012, but returned to normal in the summer of 2013 — there are 20 ships stuck in the Arctic ice because their owners believed the global warming nonsense, and they will stay there until the Canadian Coast Guard breaks them out or until next summer, whichever comes first.

    “In 2003, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s project to reexamine 19th century storms concluded that the 1886 hurricane season was the busiest on record for the USA, with seven hurricanes hitting the nation. This study also concluded that the decade of the 1890s was an extremely busy one for the U.S. East Coast with four major (Category 3 or stronger) storms hitting the U.S. Atlantic Coast. Only the decade of the 1950s saw more strong hurricanes hit the U.S. East Coast.”

    “And all scientists agree that a theory must be discarded, no matter how beautiful it may appear, if its predictions contradict definitive experimental data.” Gino Segre, “Faust in Copenhagen.

    But let us assume Global Warming is occurring, Mitsu. A few questions: Some low-lying islands will become uninhabitable, while huge swaths of presently unproductive sub-Arctic land will become arable. Good or bad? Some species will wax. Other species will wane. Good or bad? On what basis have you determined that today’s, or 1970′s, or whenever, is the best of all possible climates? Finally, from what religious, philosophical, or political belief system do you derive your “right” to be free of climate change?

  36. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    When I want to know whether a person talking about AGW knows what he’s talking about, I wait to see if he refers to “overwhelming scientific consensus.” When he does, I know the speaker knows nothing about the issue in question or science in general, and the rest of his me-too babble can be tuned out.

    Mitsu: science is not practiced by majority rule and its history is littered with examples of overwhelming scientific consensus that were dead wrong. There is so much we don’t know about climate that it dwarfs what we do know, not to mention what we think we know and don’t know yet that we don’t know. Climate models are guesses — educated guesses, perhaps, but nothing more than that — and no scientist who actually understands how they are created claims anything more than that. The complete failure of the models to predict or explain what’s going on in climate right now calls the “educated” nature of the guesses they were built on into question, and until the multiple questions about that failure are answered, it’s folly to gabble about how settled anything is. You’ll look so foolish in a decade or so, prattling about things you cannot know yet. Wait and see. And meanwhile, do some reading about science and plate tectonics, science and the ether, science and ice ages, science and natural selection, science and the solar system, science and germ theory and miasmas and sanitation and pretty much all aspects of medicine. Get a little information about how science, as opposed to politics and public relations, is actually practiced, and while you’re at it get some humility.

  37. T Says:

    It’s really sad, quite frankly, more than funny

    The problem, again, with the internet: any crank can get on a soapbox and throw around nonsense

    you can convince yourself of pretty much anything by reading blogs that amplify your own echo chamber.

    . . . and right on schedule, smarmy condescension.

  38. T Says:

    Richard Saunders and Mrs. Whatsit,

    Don’t fall into Mitsu’s Progressive trap. The real tell in his response is his claim that Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” chart has been vindicated; not in this or any alternate universe, only in the AGW echo chamber which is why he raises the echo chamber argument.

    Notice in his last response how the topic has changed from AGW. Now the thrust is (“T”ranslator again) “I can show you accurate information from the internet, you, however, in your feeble attempts to rebut me, are only capable of finding useless, fringe, conspiratorial evidence within your own echo chamber. My evidence is valid, yours is to be dismissed out of hand.” Projection at its finest.

    And Mitsu is reasonably good at it, too. Like Obama, in an apparently level headed way, he intellectualizes and insults by implication, rather than directly. This lends even more to his own belief in his superiority (“T”ranslator: “I’m a cool calm collected thinker who sees the only truth, unlike my excitable would-be opponents.”)

    His presence on this site is akin to an adolescent watching the activity of an ant farm kept on his desk when he pokes the colony with his occasional rhetorical stick.

  39. T Says:

    syntax error, sorry.

    ““I’m a cool calm collected thinker who sees the only truth . . . ”

    Should be: ““I’m a cool calm collected thinker who sees only the truth . . . .”

  40. Mitsu Says:

    >sea ice … returned to normal

    No, it didn’t “return to normal” — for one thing, sea ice extent is only one measure (sea ice thickness remained quite low) and for another, by September the sea ice extent was again one of the lowest in recorded history (the sixth lowest).

    >about half the time we’ve had accurate

    There have been numerous temperature record reconstructions using independent software, methods, data sources, and analysis… ALL of them agree. It’s not based on “one tree ring” or whatever other canard exists out there — the data are quite consistent and show a completely clear trend.

    Here’s a graph of five superimposed temperature reconstructions, all using quite different methods:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/compare_gmst_landocean.png

    Finally, global warming hasn’t “stopped” in the last 17 years — temperatures over land still increased by about half a degree. It has flattened, but if you look at the historical record there are plenty of times when climate flattened. The last decade remains the hottest on record.

    >Good or bad

    Science is not about ideology — but you guys want to believe the fringe because you don’t like the idea of regulation. That is really crazy! First, should be a relatively evenhanded survey of the actual evidence, without a preexisting notion of what you “want” the outcome to be. Only then should you take your political views to shape the natural response.

    But what’s insane here is that politics is dictating your response to the science.

    Mrs Whatsit: Believe me, I am well aware of what happened with plate tectonics and many other scientific revolutions in the past. This is not one of those cases.

    The problem here is that since none of you guys are scientists you just have to go on what you read written by other people, and you’ve decided there’s some kind of conspiracy, so you don’t trust actual scientists. You think they’re motivated by grant money or some other such thing. I *am* trained in science (I was a physics major and I was one of the top math students in my class), but of course I can’t convince you by citing my training or capability, because that sounds like more “condescension”. All I can say is, great, be skeptical, but you might want to read the papers and analyses of people who aren’t just those who agree with your ideological predilections.

    As for whether climate change is “good” or “bad” — of course there could be some “good” effects. That’s a subject about which one can have a rational debate. At the very least, climate change will cause massive economic disruption, perhaps requiring many millions of people to migrate, and it will likely cause a huge amount of starvation and/or violence. Canada, on the other hand, might actually benefit. Etc.

  41. NeoConScum Says:

    Okay…Okay…’Kaaaay: The Important thing is that Sandy Flukey gets her coil, wubbers, whateverrrr supplied free by her catholic university.

  42. physicsguy Says:

    “The problem here is that since none of you guys are scientists you just have to go on what you read written by other people, and you’ve decided there’s some kind of conspiracy, so you don’t trust actual scientists. ”

    OK, Mitsu, want to take me on? I’m ready, if you are. My online name is not just for show. PhD in physics, and an active researcher with publications (Phys. Rev A), and have been doing supplemental work in following the climate issue for 10 years.

    BTW, many of the arguments brought up by other people concerning CAGW are valid. You are currently resorting to argument by authority, a very lame logical fallacy.

  43. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    “All I can say is, great, be skeptical, but you might want to read the papers and analyses of people who aren’t just those who agree with your ideological predilections.”

    This is exactly the sort of condescension that caused me to suggest you acquire some humility, Mitsu. Assuming that those who disagree with you are stupid or politically motivated makes no one stupid but you. What that looks like to us is projection. Your description of the way you believe skeptics think about climate change makes clear that YOU do not read the papers and analyses of those who disagree with you, or if you do, you do not understand them — as your understanding of what skeptics think and the scientific basis for skeptical thinking about AGW is entirely and completely wrong. Unlike you, I do read the papers and analyses of those who disagree with me, I approach them with as open a mind as I can, and I do my best to understand them, because I won’t know whether my disagreement is correct unless I understand.

    Switching now from science to politics, I was a liberal for years and changed to primarily-conservative views as a direct result of reading the papers and analyses of those who disagreed with me, talking respectfully with people of many persuasions, considering opposing views as objectively as I could, comparing them to the views I held, discovering deficiencies and — ultimately, after years of struggling and thinking and reading — concluding that I should change some of my views. Many commenters here have followed a similar path, as has our hostess. Thus, when you argue to such people that we hold wrong views on any subject because we refuse to consider opposing views, you are incorrect, you demonstrate your failure to understand the people you’re disagreeing with, you look silly, and we think you’re projecting.

    As for science, I do read the papers and analyses of those who disagree with me, and I do my best to understand them, because I won’t know whether my disagreement is correct unless I understand. I try to discern political bias where I can — on both sides, not just the side I tend to disagree with, as you so smugly do — and do the best I can, all the time, to remember how limited my understanding is. If there is one thing I’ve learned on any subject, it’s that proceeding from the assumption that I don’t know much and my opponents may know a few things is far more likely to result in valuable learning than proceeding from the assumption that I already know everything and my opponents are idiots. If you’ve learned differently, by all means follow a different path.

  44. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    “Believe me, I am well aware of what happened with plate tectonics and many other scientific revolutions in the past. This is not one of those cases.”

    Which is exactly what the best-informed and most capable scientific minds said about plate tectonics and all the other scientific revolutions in the past before they happened. They worked with the best data then available and were later shown to be wrong. In the case of climate, there is so much we don’t know that to pronounce with certainty that “this is not one of those cases” is a certain sign of ignorance. We do not know that yet, we can’t know that yet, and nobody but an ideologue would say that we do.

  45. T Says:

    Mrs. Whatsit,

    Notice that I have suddenly become a non-entity in Mitsu’s argument; I refuse to let him set the parameters for the discussion. Doing this puts the responder on a consistent defense because there is always some insignificant factoid which can be twisted and turned. You ask about lodging for the night, and before you know it you’re arguing about whether coconuts migrate.

    Again, it’s not about global warming, it’s about the demonstration of Progressive condescension.

    Physicsguy, don’t expect a direct response (you might actually know something) and Progressives can’t take the chance that your Ph.D. in physics from anywhere might make their Harvard BA in gender studies look insufficient. After all—Harvard!

  46. T Says:

    Mrs. Whatsit,

    (having re-read 10:46)

    By George! I think you’ve got it . . . !

  47. Lurker Says:

    According to the “trained” scientists at NOAA, the spot I am sitting at as I pen this is below the ordinary high water mark. I would think I would notice getting wet twice a day. Why do I care? Because FEMA wanted me to pay for flood insurance based on that. I had to spend $$$ on surveys and other flood mitigations that were simply not needed.

    The gov decided to re work the channel of one of the rivers that empty in front of us. The local guy who dug the diversion channel told them it wasn’t big enough. Gov knew better until the diversion channel overflowed. So they built a bigger one. Local guy says still not big enough. “Oh no” says gov. “We have river flow data”. “We can do math”. Second one flooded too. Third one was sized by local yokel.

    When I moved out here, I first heard the sneering comment anyone that stupid must have a college degree.

  48. T Says:

    Lurker,

    I understand the sentiment. IMO it’s not the college degree (or lack thereof), it’s the lack of “hands-on” practical knowledge. The old Yogi Berra aphorism (“In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is”) is remarkably prescient.

    Yes it’s important to understand the theory, but translating it into practice is precisely that, translation. Just as with language, it’s not enough to know the words and the syntax, one must be be conversant with idiomatic usage and shades of meaning in order to translate well.

    Anyone with any practical experience would know they are in trouble when the people building the device are, themselves, saying, “This just ain’t gonna work.” This has been precisely the case with Obamacare, just as it was 27 years ago with the Challenger Shuttle Disaster.

  49. Danny Says:

    Obama invariably ended the meeting the same way: “All of that is well and good, but if the Web site doesn’t work, nothing else matters.”

    OMG! Does anyone believe this? These people just make it up as they go…

  50. Lurker Says:

    T,
    Full disclosure. Until recently, I was a senior computer architect. I spent most of my career as a fixer, as in “go fix that eff’d up mess”. I have fix problems on everything from spacecraft to factory robots to multi-billion dollar ERP cluster****s. I worked on a health benefits rollout that went tilt 15 minutes after going on line. Most recently I worked fixing privacy problems on 3000 corporate applications and was preparing a massive evaluation of nearly 30000 applications when I decided I had enough.

    Funny you mention the Challenger. I work on both the first and last flights. They were known to me as TDRS A and TDRS B or IUS 1 and IUS 6.

  51. blert Says:

    mit…

    Study up on Lysenkoism… when and where politically correct ‘science’ overwhelmed all.

    AGW is merely a re-tread.

    Get it through your head: the Earth — in prior epochs — had carbon dioxide levels far, far, far, beyond anything projected by AGW ‘theorists’ — and the planet did not melt.

    Plant life SWEEPS up carbon dioxide — like crazy.

    It’s an EXPONENTIAL chemical trend.

    To go with your ‘informed’ theory we’d have to set aside all that we know of chemistry.

    For light reading: Laidler Chemical Kinetics — McGraw-Hill. 2nd edition.

    It was the text for Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland’s course 38 years ago. It was at that time I wrote the thesis that it was imperative that fluorine compounds be researched — imploring him to do so on the basis that he’d be “world famous” if he did so.

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1995/rowland-facts.html

    He did so. The results were so significant that he left my paper, and my oral plea entirely off his account of how events transpired.

    You can read his version above.^^^^

    The fact that I ‘bird-dogged’ him to Freons you’ll just have to accept on faith.

    (Asimov covered this more than 45-years ago. In a short story he posited competing claims from a no-body twenty-something and a world ranking scientist WRT a Nobel ranking discovery. His conclusion: ONLY the true discoverer would lock horns with a world ranking scientist… whereas virtually every world ranking scientist would steal the glory. Such is the nature of man.)

    And it was the chemist — Margaret Thatcher — who triggered the global ban on Freon production. This aspect was written up over twenty-five years ago in The Economist magazine. It got a full page spread. She used a convention of the British Commonwealth to tutor every national leader (40) on reaction kinetics. I couldn’t be more proud. She pulled the issue up from obscurity to center stage.

    Al Gore brought up the rear — Y E A R S later.

    He wouldn’t know what hit him.

    I can’t claim to be David’s room-mate.

    I can honestly claim to be the single person who triggered the eventual ban on Freons. There is no-one before me in the chain of discovery and resolution.

    In a better world I would have long since been awarded the Nobel — not Rowland. Such is life.

    BTW, he kept my paper and our conversation was entirely private. What else.

    ====

    Should you page through Laidler, you’ll find that the chemistry of ozone and such were ENTIRELY known by the 1970s. Molina would’ve been able to ‘dry lab’ the results — by reading the TEXT BOOK. op sit

    Dr. Rowland died last year, so it’s impossible to get him to revise his ‘history’ of the events.

    That’s tough, all around. I gave him my ambit because I wanted him to run with it. He didn’t disappoint.

    Why? For financial reasons — and family dynamics I had to drop out. It broke my heart.

    My mother sabotaged my college years. It was a dynamic that does not suffer rational thought. You just can’t change family, and you can’t argue with insanity.

    Read Bradshaw: On the Family.

  52. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Mitsu dismisses all the evidence contrary to CAGW – the Climategate e-mails showing conspiracy among the Warmist Hockey team, the diligent work by large numbers of climate scientists/physicists/statisticians/etc., and the MSM’s plot to create a narrative that makes CAGW the only narrative.

    Back in 2001, the editor of the Seattle Times told me in an e-mail that they henceforth would refuse to publish any information contrary to the theory of CAGW because the “science is settled.” That has been the mind set on the left since at least 2000. Talk about closed minded! If evidence is ignored, it doesn’t exist. They just do not want to debate the facts. They have reached their conclusions because, IMO, it makes such a good case for the state, as envisioned by the statists, to control industrial activity that they don’t approve of.

    Many years ago, when I first started looking at this issue, I spent many hours reading the work at Real Climate @ http://www.realclimate.org
    The most apparent weakness in their argument and in the models was the fact that CO2 is a minor trace gas in the atmosphere – only 398 parts per million. We also find that CO2 only captures 68% of the infra red heat rays that are radiated out from the Earth to the atmosphere. That makes the affect of CO2 on heat trapping by the atmosphere that much more insignificant. I raised this question with Gavin Schmidt, the main author of the blog: How can such an insignificant trace gas have these outsized affects on the heating or cooling of the atmosphere? The answer was: There is a “forcing” that magnifies the affect of CO2. The forcing is, in their opinions, water vapor in the atmosphere. That, of course brings up another issue. Since water vapor is highly variable in amounts and geographical locations, how can you arrive at an average value to use that is valid. Their answer: We have estimated it to the best of our ability. Computer modeling experts who have examined the climate computer models touted as the proof of CAGW have pointed out that the “forcings” are mainly guesses and that they have been manipulated to provide the desired results. In other words, the models are primarily propaganda.

    Thus, while temperatures have warmed by .6C in the last 100+ years, the exact cause remains unknown. The science is not settled. The debate continues. To dismantle a modern economy that floats on a sea of energy produced primarily by fossil fuels just because of an unproven theory, is unwise in the extreme.

  53. physicsguy Says:

    ” Computer modeling experts who have examined the climate computer models touted as the proof of CAGW …”

    And that, in essence, is the entire argument of CAGW: the models say so! The models are just step 2 in the science process, i.e. they are the predictions based on the hypothesis that CO2 (along with a positive feedback loop of water vapor) controls the planet’s temperature.

    So far, so good, as far as the science goes. They (the CAGW people) have put forth an idea, then computed the consequences of the idea. Where things went off the tracks is when people began to ascribe a reality to what are predictions that have not been compared to nature. We now have enough time and data to test those models, and they are failing at the 2 sigma level. See for example a comparison of the “spaghetti” of model runs to actual temperatures (http://www.drroyspencer.com/, scroll down the page aways) Note also the UAH temps which are satellite based and thus not subject to errors of surface based instruments like the HADCRUT data.

    Any theory whose predictions fail at the 2 sigma level to match nature is thus judged to be faulty. There are many other reasons to doubt the basic premise as others above me have pointed out, but the recent data pretty much nails the coffin shut.

    BTW, the science is NEVER settled. Such a statement is made in pure ignorance of how science works. Why do you think everyone was so excited a few years ago when they thought they found superluminal neutrinos? It would overturn Special Relativity, and everyone thought that would be “cool”. A real scientist tries to show themselves wrong…. that’s where you learn new things about nature…. that’s where the fun is!

  54. T Says:

    “A real scientist tries to show themselves wrong . . . .”

    An elegant and simple yardstick! Thank you physicsguy.

  55. Ymarsakar Says:

    Mitsu might like living on an ice planet, but I’d prefer a planet that has enough heat to grow crops and enough carbon dioxide to feed the plants.

    If the Left likes an Ice Age so badly, why don’t we all ship them to Mars?

  56. NeoConScum Says:

    Physics Guy & blert…Love it!! But, jeeez, Guys, don’tcha know that Big Al says there’s (gag) “CONSENSUS” on the global warming thingy??!! His latest is that hunnerds of the eqivalent of Hiroshima go off daily in the atmosphere cuz’a'baaaaaad made made gasses??

    CANNOT possibly make this SHIT Up!!

  57. T Says:

    One always knows when one wins a debate with a Progressive. They either start calling you names or they walk away.

    It appears that Mitsu is now conspicuously absent.

  58. Richard Saunders Says:

    Mitsu:

    I don’t know sh*t from Shinola when it comes to climatology, but I know a hell of a lot about fast talkers, highbinders, promoters, hot air men, and bullsh*t artists. And that’s what the AGW acolytes are. Did you read the programming comments in the Climategate files?

    Try telling the SEC, “Well, I was just smoothing out our profit curve.” Try telling the IRS, “We lost all our past records, but you have to believe us when we tell you these numbers are correct.”

    I can just see you, all decked out in your orange jumpsuit and shackles, in the US Marshals’ bus on the way to Lompoc or Pensacola FPC, whining, “But I was just smoothing out the curve!”

  59. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    “You ask about lodging for the night, and before you know it you’re arguing about whether coconuts migrate.” T — love this, and yes, that’s exactly what discussions with Mitsu are like.

  60. bob r Says:

    Mitsu: There have been numerous temperature record reconstructions using independent software, methods, data sources, and analysis… ALL of them agree.

    Are *any* of these publicly available for download and independent analysis?
    And by “available” I mean:
    * COMPLETE source code
    * COMPLETE temperature data sets — WITHOUT adjustment and WITH attribution
    * COMPLETE process for making any adjustments to the temperature data along with the rationale that justifies the adjustment
    * Rationale that justifies the analysis methods
    * ANYTHING else that is needed to REPLICATE the analysis.

    Given such data one could nominally replicate the published results — if they even published the results at all and not just a “conclusion” based on the results that nobody else has even seen.

    And as to the ” … ALL of them agree.” claim. Bullshit. I work with Electro-Magnetic Effects analysts and you rarely get two different analysts to arrive at the same same conclusion for *very* well defined structures and threat environments. And Maxwell’s Equations have been “settled” science for quite a while.

  61. T Says:

    One last point to mention. Keep in mind that this thread was about Obamacare. Then (11/4 @9:44pm) Mitsu writes:

    It’s statements like these that really make it difficult for those of us who are trying to get to some sort of rational discussion of policy (past the hyperventilating rhetoric) to take the Republican Party seriously. While there are many conservative critiques that I believe have a lot of merit, the fact that you guys still cannot accept the overwhelming scientific case that anthropogenic global warming is not only happening it is a major crisis — it’s truly depressing.

    Note the diversion from Obamacare to AGW (do coconuts migrate?). What does AGW have to do with Obamacare? Nothing. Mitsu here diverts the subject because even he finds Obamacare indefensible. So now we transition to a discussion of AGW, and he gets hammered here, too, by Mrs. Whatsit, Richard Saunders, blert, at; al, and ultimately by physicsguy who forcefully presents a simple challenge (“let’s talk”). That challenge goes unanswered (i.e., “Oh! Oh! A physicist wants to debate me over something I really know nothing about.”—Mitsu collapses into a quivering gelatinous mass not to be heard from in this thread again).

    As I noted, one knows when they’ve won a debate with a Progressive because the Progressive either starts name calling or disappears.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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