Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

18 December 2009

To Do or Not to Do

(with apologies to Will Shakespeare and encouragement to indecisive folk everywhere)

    To do or not to do, that is the question;
    Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous markups,
    Or to take arms against two thousand pages,
    And by opposing end them? To block, obstruct,
    To filibuster; and by our “nay” to say we end
    The earmarks and the thousand grievous wrongs
    That bills are heir to, ‘tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish’d. To block, obstruct,
    To kill, accomplish nothing; aye, there’s the rub:
    For if the bill should fail, what good may come
    When we have spent a hundred years disputing
    Must give us pause; there’s the respect
    That makes calamity of such poor health.

    For who could bear the world’s most dismal system,
    The claims denied, beloved who died,
    The insolence of private rationing,
    When they themselves might better ending make
    With simple passage? Who’d bear the shame
    Of thirty million left without a lifeline,
    But that the dread of unintended outcome,
    The consequence that solons can’t foresee,
    The undiscover’d error from whose blame
    No Congressman recovers, subverts the will
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than fly to others that we know not of?
    Thus caution does make cowards of us all;
    And thus the public good of legislation,
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of doubt,
    And enterprises of great pith and moment
    With this regard their currents turn awry,
    And lose the name of action.

    If Scarecrow Cheney had but half his brain,
    He would know that this is dithering.
    We are Americans, not pallid Danes!
    When things don’t work so well, we fix them later.
    Paul Krugman sees; he’s got it right.
    So pass the bill and stop the whinging!

P.S. Apologies also to the Danes, who have a decent health-care system.


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  • At Fri Dec 18, 10:53:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mr. Jay,
    Out of all your diatribes I haven't located an article that is strictly about global warming/cooling, AGW, or climate change.

    I have read several that do reflect upon climate such as coal, autos, etc. With the scientific heresy that has recently been revealed by some of the most notorious PHDs writing the script, would you have time to expand upon its implications to the future of truth, the scientific method, and the propagandization that would have effected all of mankind.

    If you care to reply I will check back somewhat frequently at your recently posted diatribe:
    "To Do or Not to Do"; or you can email me at:


    Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays


  • At Sun Dec 20, 11:18:00 PM EST, Blogger jay said…

    Dear Sam,

    I'm not aware of any “heresy” or “propagandization” related to climate science, unless you mean the denials of non-scientists like Sen. James Inhofe (R. Okla.).

    Properly educated scientists who study our climate are nearly unanimous in concluding that: (1) our climate is warming abnormally and (2) human burning of fossil fuels is responsible. The only real disputes are over details, such as: (1) how bad it will get how quickly and (2) which parts of the globe will suffer first and most.

    If you want to speak seriously about climate change, you should read two things. The first is the last of four reports by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which came out in 2007. It reviews tens of thousands of measurements by thousands of scientists, all pointing in the same direction. The second is a review article written in the leading scientific journal Science in 2004. It reviewed nearly a thousand scientific studies, representing tens of thousands of person-years of observation and study, not one of which contradicted the conclusion that our climate is getting hotter. Here's the reference:
    Naomi Oreskes, "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change," Science 306: 1686 (Dec. 3, 2004).

    As for the “heresy,” you are probably referring to the recent controversy in which a handful of British scientists wrote e-mails suggesting that they were trying to suppress others' work with which they did not agree.

    Even if (without knowing) you count the scientists whose work they may have been trying to suppress as among the climate deniers, the consensus among scientists that climate change is real and human-caused is well over 95%. If this were a political question (which it most definitely is not) that level of consensus would represent the greatest “landslide” in American or British history.

    I have not written on the subject on this blog because I consider climate-change deniers, like Holocaust deniers, to be among the lunatic fringe. I know of no credible scientist who disputes the fact of global warming and its human causation, although there is some disagreement about how bad it will get, where, and how quickly.

    Another reason I have not dealt with this subject on this blog is that I am writing a book about the general subject of how science works (and ought to work) in democratic societies. I hope that book will come out next year.

    Unless you have some background in science, it is hard to understand how solid are the consensus conclusions and how much work they are based on. They are not mere opinions. They are conclusions derived by mathematics and mathematical logic from tens of thousands of precise, numerical measurements taken over every part of the earth for several decades. Some measurements (for example, those from bubbles in ice cores) accurately reflect conditions on Earth thousands of years ago.

    As far as I can tell, climate-change deniers are mostly non-scientists, who have taken no measurements at all and have no training to do so. They are expressing only bald opinion. They deny climate change because they don't want it to be real. They are like seven-year-old kids who pretend they would be better pilots than the captain actually flying their 747.

    As a matter of human courtesy, they are entitled to their baseless opinions. But the proper response of serious adults, let alone scientists, is to laugh at them.

    I put Sen. Inhofe in this category. His record gives no indication that he has ever read any of the thousands of sceintific studies on the subject, let alone that he has the education or training to understand or criticize them. He's like that little boy claiming he knows better than the pilots who actually fly the planes.

    Senators are hardly experts in everything. Would you let Sen. Inhofe perform brain surgery on you?

    Yours truly,


  • At Tue Dec 22, 11:46:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Hay,

    Thank you for the response. Your most recent posting in reference to Iran had me choked up and almost in tears; good for you!

    I dropped out of 10th grade biology and had allfuture science courses rescheduled to courses that I believed would be of benefit to my life. Little did I know that I would later learn minerology and basic geology while becoming a professional gold miner in the Yukon Territory in both Alaska and Canada.

    I hope for your sake, and to your future book sales you don't seriously think consensus is science, or that science is based on consensus. Science can only be fact until another theory becomes prevalent, cuz science is simply theory. And until its hypothesis can be replicated numerous times using only HONEST figurations, it will remain propaganda in settlement of furthering an agenda.

    What I do know is fact. Those involved in the CRU scandal are a criminal cabal that will receive their wrath and scorn unfortuitously. They belong in the same fiery pit alongside Ahmadinejad and his kangaroo court of Ayatollahs!

    Naomi Oreske has been proven a disgrace as well. To your benefit, please do a little research on this not so fine lady. She's just another fudge-packer like her fellowtravelers of the CRU, Michael Mann of Hockey Stick fame, and the head-honcho of COP15 Pachauri.

    There are numerous factors that the above crew, along with the IPCC, will mot consider as contributors to climate change as those particulars would disrupt their agenda, as well as the agenda of a one world government, that being subservience and subjugation to their tyrannical whims.

    If you will permit, I shall continue after the holidays with what you might call a genuine diatribe of truth and facts.


  • At Wed Dec 23, 07:58:00 PM EST, Blogger jay said…

    Dear Sam,

    You’ve got a good vocabulary and a lot of enthusiasm.

    That makes me sorry to have to use your comment as an exemplar of what’s wrong with our country. Too many people who know nothing feel entitled to second-guess those who do.

    What’s your Ph.D. in, and where did you get it?

    Have you ever written a scientific paper? Have you ever even read one? Have you ever read just one, let alone all four, of the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

    Have you ever solved a differential equation? Do you know what one is?

    Can you explain the difference between climate and weather?

    Can you explain to a child how horrendously complex systems like the Earth’s climate can experience sudden dramatic changes (popularly known as “tipping points”)? Can you summarize even generally, let alone in specifics, the math that describes these changes?

    Unless you have a Ph.D. from an institution of higher learning recognized for climate science—and unless you can honestly answer “yes” to all of these questions—you’re simply not qualified to second guess the people who do and can and have spent their lives working hard to understand our climate.

    Your comment badly mis-characterizes science. It does operate by consensus, far more than any other human institution, let alone any other institution with such signal importance. Theory grows and evolves, but not nearly as dramatically or as often as non-scientists believe. Most “revolutions” in science are simply myths or exaggerations made by popularizers of science who are/were not scientists themselves. My forthcoming book covers these points in much greater detail, with examples.

    But the bottom line is simply a matter of expertise. When you’re flying to Alaska, you wouldn’t think of wresting the wheel and stick from the pilot, claiming you know more about flying than he or she does. You wouldn’t do your own surgery on yourself or a family member if you could afford a qualified surgeon. You probably don’t even repair your own computer or fix your own software problems.

    So what makes you think you know enough to second-guess the decades-long work of thousands of scientists the world over, all of whom have had infinitely more education, training and experience in their fields than you do?

    You’re welcome to such arrogance and such foolish mistakes in your own life, but please don’t drag the rest of us down with you. Like the rest of the people on that plane, we want pilots who know what they’re doing to be in charge.

    As for attention to detail (which is mostly what science is about), it would be nice if you could spell my name right.



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