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US Convinces China to Jack Up Prices to American Consumers

From the NY Times:

Bowing to American pressure on the eve of high-level talks to reduce economic tensions, China agreed Thursday to terminate a dozen different subsidies and tax rebates that promote its own exports and discourage imports of steel, wood products, information technology and other goods.

Thanks a lot.  The Bush Administration crows that:

This outcome represents a victory for U.S. manufacturers and their workers

Um, not if they are consumers too, as they all are.  And not if their company buys any inputs from Chinese manufacturers.

Napoleon said to never interrupt an enemy when he was making a mistake.   I don't consider China an enemy, but it just flabbergasts me that the Chinese taxpayers and consumers see fit to subsidize lower prices for our consumers, and we feel the need to stop them.   More here and here.

Posted on November 30, 2007 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

So Much for Cultural Relativism

From Sudan:

Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

In response to the demonstration, teacher Gillian Gibbons was moved from the women's prison near Khartoum to a secret location for her safety, her lawyer said....

They called for Gibbons' execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

"This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad," he said.

Um, this is a woman who merely went along with a group of small children who named a stuffed animal "Muhammad", a name I would guess a large number of the kids shared.  Fortunately, the government is much more reasonable than these extremists.  They only fired her from her job, slammed her in jail, after which time they will deport her.  But it could have been worse:

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gibbons, who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.

Some cultures just suck.  Period.

Posted on November 30, 2007 at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Memo to Fact Checkers and Editors on Ethanol

Let's forget all the other issues surrounding ethanol for a moment  (we'll mention a really bad one below), and just consider one fact that is beyond dispute.  Ethanol has an energy content per gallon that is only about 65% of that of gasoline.  So, another way to put it is that it takes a bit over 1.5 gallons of ethanol to replace 1 gallon of gasoline.  There is nothing suspicious or sinister about this (ethanol is flawed for other reasons) or at all controversial. 

Therefore, when your paper prints something like this:

"The number of plants under construction is truly frightening," said Ralph Groschen, a senior marketing specialist with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture who closely watches the state's ethanol development. The country could go from 7 billion gallons of capacity now to 12 billion gallons, or about roughly 10 percent of U.S. gasoline capacity, in a few years, according to Groschen.

You need to understand that you and everyone else are failing at simple math.  In 2004 the US consumed just over 140 billion gallons of gasoline.  So, already, our media has failed the math test.  12 billion gallons would be 8.6%, but we will give them a pass on rounding that to "roughly 10 percent."  But this 8.6% only holds true if gasoline is replaced by ethanol 1:1.  Using the actual figures cited above, 12 billion gallons of ethanol is about 7.8billion gallons an a gasoline equivalent, which would make it  5.6% of US gasoline usage in 2004, and probably an even smaller percentage if we were to take the worlds "gasoline capacity" at face value, since surely capacity is higher than production.

I know it seems petty to pick on one paper, and probably would not be worth my time to bother if it was just this one article.  But this mistake is made by every MSM article I have ever seen on ethanol.  I can't remember any writer or editor ever getting it right.

By the way, if you want more on what is wrong with ethanol, check my past posts

Finally, the other day I pointed out how much of our food crop is getting diverted to fueling our cars, with negligible effect on CO2 or oil imports.  If you really want to be worried about ethanol, note this:

Biofuels need land, which means traditional food crops are being elbowed off of the field for fuel crops. Biofuel production is literally taking the food out of people’s mouths and putting into our gas tanks. Already, increased food costs sparked by increased demand are leaving populations hungry. The price of wheat has stretched to a 10-year high, while the price of maize has doubled.

Need more land? Clear cut some forest. Is there a word beyond irony to describe a plan to mitigate climate change that relies on cutting down the very trees that naturally remove carbon from the atmosphere? Stupidity, perhaps? The logic is like harvesting a sick patient’s lungs to save her heart. Huge tracks of Amazon rainforest are being raised to the biofuels alter like a sacrificial lamb, and the UN suggests that 98 percent of Indonesia’s rainforest will disappear by 2022, where heavy biofuel production is underway.

Still need land? Just take it. The human rights group Madre, which is backing the five-year moratorium, says agrofuel plantations in Brazil and Southeast Asia are displacing indigenous people. In an editorial published on CommonDreams last week, Madre Communication Director Yifat Susskind wrote, “People are being forced to give up their land, way of life, and food self-sufficiency to grow fuel crops for export.”

Posted on November 30, 2007 at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Word Definition

A web site on which I was registering said "Your password must be alpha-numeric and a minimum of 6 characters."  I had an argument about this language with the customer service agent, but I may be wrong.  I would interpret this as meaning that all the characters in the password must be from the alpha-numeric set, as opposed to, say, symbol characters.  Therefore "asdfasdf", "12345678", and "asdf1234" would all meet the stated test.  The customer service agent said that I was totally wrong, and went so far as to inform me their web designer has a PhD in English.  Her contention was that alpha-numeric clearly means "must contain both a minimum of one alphabetical character and at least one numeric character."   In my example above, only "asdf1234" would therefore qualify.   Anyone have an opinion on this, or a definitive source?

If, from this and previous posts, folks out there are drawing the conclusion that I am losing patience with customer call centers, they would be correct.

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Show a Little Backbone!

This is pretty funny:

A labor dispute which has darkened US light entertainment and chat shows claimed another victim on Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of a CBS News debate among Democratic White House hopefuls.

The debate, scheduled for Los Angeles on December 10, was nixed after candidates including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said they would refuse to cross a picket line that the Writers Guild of America Union had threatened to set up.

"CBS News regrets not being able to offer the Democratic presidential debate scheduled for Dec. 10 in Los Angeles," CBS said in a statement.

"The possibility of picket lines set up by the Writers Guild of America and the unwillingness of many candidates to cross them made it necessary to allow the candidates to make other plans."

Since the writers have nothing to do with the debate (presumably, unless Hillary's question-writing shills are part of the guild) then their picketing the debate makes no more sense than if, say, the meat packers were picketing.  Is the winning candidate going to refuse to enter the White House if any union is picketing out front?  As Ed Morrissey points out, this does not bode well for any of the candidates being able to stand up to special interests as president.

Update:  Next up, Democratic candidates to commit to not hire anyone for their administration who did not attend a government-run, NEA-unionized high school.

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

New Unified Field Theory

Albert Einstein's dream is now a reality.  We have a new unified field theory:  Global Warming causes everything bad.   Via Tom Nelson and American Thinker, comes this list by Dr. John Brignell of links to articles in the media attributing various bad things to Global Warming.  Currently, his list has over 600 items!  Some excerpts:

Agricultural land increase, Africa devastated,  African aid threatened, Africa hit hardest, air pressure changes, Alaska reshaped, allergies increase, Alps melting, Amazon a desert, American dream endamphibians breeding earlier (or not)ancient forests dramatically changed, animals head for the hills, Antarctic grass flourishes, anxiety, algal blooms, archaeological sites threatened, Arctic bogs melt, Arctic in bloom, Arctic lakes disappear, asthma, Atlantic less salty, Atlantic more salty...

itchier poison ivy, jellyfish explosion, Kew Gardens taxed, kitten boom, krill decline, lake and stream productivity decline, lake shrinking and growing, landslides, landslides of ice at 140 mph, lawsuits increase, lawsuit successful, lawyers' income increased (surprise surprise!), lightning related insurance claims, little response in the atmosphere, lush growth in rain forests, Lyme diseaseMalaria, malnutrition,  mammoth dung melt, Maple syrup shortage...

wheat yields crushed in Australia, white Christmas dream ends, wildfires, wind shift, wind reduced, wine - harm to Australian industry, wine industry damage (California), wine industry disaster (US), wine - more English, wine -German boon, wine - no more French winters in Britain colder, wolves eat more moose, wolves eat less, workers laid off, World bankruptcy, World in crisis, World in flames, Yellow fever.

All I can say is:

Dont_panic_earth_300w

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

There Goes the Killer App. for Vista

We are rapidly coming up on the first anniversary of Vista, and it has been a very rocky year for Microsoft.  New releases of an OS are always difficult, but many users have really turned up their nose on Vista.  My experience has been much the same as everyone else's:  Applications run slower in Vista (I know because I had a system set up to dual boot and A/B tested a number of applications).  Networking, particularly wireless networking, is much less stable than in XP.  Good drivers STILL don't exist for many legacy hardware devices, including may graphics cards.  I ran into any number of quirks.  The most irritating for me was that a laptop communicating with a printer via wireless network would lose connection with the printer every time the laptop was shut down in a way that could only be rectified (as confirmed by MS customer support) by reinstalling the print driver every time I wanted to use it.

Most computer NOOBs probably never noticed, not having anything to compare Vista with and only using their computers for a narrow range of functionality (ie email and internet browsing).  However, many of us who are more comfortable with computers and who rely on our computers as an important tool have either avoided buying Vista computers (Dell, for example, still sells a lot of XP computers) and/or have taken the time to roll back their Vista to a dual boot system or even XP only  (which I explain here).  Which may explain why standalone XP packages are better sellers on Amazon than Vista.

For gamers, most of whom tend to be power users, Vista has been nothing but a negative, slowing games down and requiring use of buggy graphics card drivers (Microsoft crows that they get fewer customer service calls on Vista than XP, which may be, but I can gaurantee, from browsing gaming boards, that gaming companies get swamped with Vista calls from gamers who can't get the game to run on Vista). 

Looming over all of this, though, has been one word:  Crysis.  Gamers have been lusting after this game for over a year, with its promise of knock-out graphics and game-play.  To this end, Microsoft did something clever.  It updated its DirectX graphics engine in Vista to revision 10, and included in it all kinds of new capabilities that would really make a game look fantastic.  MS decided, either for technical or marketing issues, not to ever release these features on XP.  If you wanted DirectX 10 games, you had to upgrade to Vista.  Over the last year, graphics card makers have been releasing hardware to support DirectX 10.  Crysis was set to be the first game that would really take advantage of DirectX 10, and many hardcore gamers upraded to Vista solely on the promise of running Crysis maxed out with the new DirectX 10 features.

Well, Crysis was released a few weeks ago.  You may think I am building up to say it sucked, but just the opposite is true.  It is absolutely fantastic.  Easily the most visually stunning thing I have ever seen running on my PC.  First-person shooter games are not really my favorite, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the game.  (here is a trailer, but unlike most trailers, the game really looks like this in gameplay, maybe better due to limited resolution on YouTube.)  Click below for larger screenshots:
264396_full_2 266410_full_3
But here is the interesting part.  I keep my system state of the art.  I have close to the fastest Intel multi-core processor currently made running with two of the newest Nvidia graphics cards (8800GT's) running ganged together in SLI mode (don't worry if you don't know what all that means, just take my word for it that it is about as fast as you can get with stock components and air cooling). Crysis, like most graphics games, can have its settings changed from "low", meaning there is less graphics detail but the game runs faster, through "med" to "high" and "very high".   Only in the latter modes do the new features of DirectX10 really come into play.  So I ran the calibration procedure the game provides and it told me that I needed to set the game to "medium!"  That's not an error - apparently everyone else in my position who have a large monitor with high resolutions had about this experience.  I can set the game to higher modes, but things really slow down.  By the way, it still looks unbelievably awesome on Medium.

The designers of Crysis actually did something kind of cool.   They designed with Moore's law in mind, and designed the highest game modes for computers that don't exist today, but likely will in a few years.  So the game (and more importantly the engine, since they will likely sell the engine as a platform for other game makers to build their games atop) has some built-in obsolescence-proofing.

But lets return to Vista and Crysis being billed as a killer app.  As it turns out, none of the directX10 features are really usable, because no one can turn the graphics engine up high enough with their current hardware.  Worse, in a game where users are trying to eek out any tweek they can to improve frame rates and graphics speed, Crysis runs demonstrably slower on Vista than XP.  Finally, those who have run the game in its higher modes withe DirectX 10 features (presumably at the cost of low frame rates) have found the actual visual differences in the DirectX 10 graphics to be subtle.  The game boards are a total hoot, as folks who upgraded to Vista solely for Crysis are wailing that their experience on Vista is actually worse than on XP.

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Memo to Customer Service Departments

Dear Customer Service Departments:

In my recent call to your service center, I was forced to navigate a nearly interminable set of menu options (which I listened to carefully since I had been assured that they had recently changed).  After I navigated these options, your automated system then gathered data from me.  It asked me to give my name, then my telephone number, and finally my account number, which I did.

Here is the reason for my letter, and my advice to you:  Once you have collected all my information via an automated system, it is just going to piss me off when your human operator picks up the line and proceeds to ask me for this same information again.  I know this seems to be the current industry standard, as practiced by every company from Citibank to Domino's Pizza, but I can assure you it is incredibly annoying and, perhaps worse for you, introduces me to your organization with the initial impression that you do not know what you are doing.  So, either find a way to put the information you have gathered up on the customer service agent's screen, or don't have an automated system gather it.

Thank you.

PS-  By the way, if you really, really want to start our conversation off on the wrong foot, then you should  make it nearly impossible for me to find a menu option that gets me to a real person.  You can get double extra credit for disabling "0" as an immediate route to the operator.  Oh, and make sure all menus are preceded with long-winded customer service notices that have nothing to do with my problem.

Update

Posted on November 28, 2007 at 06:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Get Your Laws off My Body

For a while now, I have been fascinated by the contrast between the Left's position on abortion and its position on universal health care. 

In the abortion debate, the Left was careful to try to establish a broader principal than just support for abortion.  Their position was (and still is) that the government should not interfere in a woman's decision-making about her own body.  Cool.  That's a general principal that any libertarian could love  (Note that there are many libertarians who accept this principal but argue that abortion is the one exception to it if one considers the fetus an independent life.)  The National Organization for Women have cleverly embodied this general principal in the T-Shirt below:
Tskyl2
So now we come to universal health care.  And most every leftish plan has the government paying all of our health care bills.  Well I can absolutely assure you now, both via common sense and observance of practices in European countries with socialized medicine, that a couple of things follow from universal coverage:

  1. The government will be the final decision maker for what care each person will or will not get, how procedures will be performed, and what drugs will be authorized.  If they did not take on these decisions, the system would simply implode financially.  The government cannot afford to pay the bills while allowing individuals to still make their own choices about their care.
  2. The government will have a strong financial incentive to change people's individual lifestyles.  What they eat, how they exercise, their sexual practices, etc. all have a great influence on future health care costs.  Already, we see countries like Britain starting to meddle in these lifestyle choices in the name of reducing health costs.  It is why I have termed the health care Trojan horse for fascism.

I don't think even universal coverage supporters would refute these two points except to say maybe "yes, the government will do those things but we promise to be gentle."   Here is Jon Edwards:

“I’m mandating healthcare for every man woman and child in America and that’s the only way to have real universal healthcare.”

“Evertime you go into contact with the helathcare system or the govenment you will be signed up.”

During a press avail following the event Edwards reiterated his mandate:

“Basically every time they come into contact with either the healthcare system or the government, whether it’s payment of taxes, school, going to the library, whatever it is they will be signed up.”

When asked by a reporter if an individual decided they didn’t want healthcare Edwards quickly responded, “You don’t get that choice.“

So given that, how does the left hold universal coverage in their head at the same time as they argue that "a woman should make decisions for her own body"?  How can the NOW website sell "Keep your laws off my body" T-shirts while promoting universal coverage laws on their home page?  How do you reconcile "pro-choice" with Edward's "you don't get that choice."

I am really interested in someone taking a shot at this.  And don't tell me that the difference is that in universal coverage, the argument is just over what the government will and won't pay for.  I agree not having the government pay for something is not the same as banning it when there are plenty of private alternatives.  But in the systems being advocated by Democratic candidates like Edwards, there will be no "other system" -- the government will be the monopoly provider, or at least the monopoly rules-setter.  It will be what the government wants to give you or nothing.  And there won't even necessarily be another country to which one can run away to get her procedure, because America is that country today where victims of socialist medicine escape to get needed and timely care.

Posted on November 28, 2007 at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

Burning the World's Food in Our Cars

It is good that doom mongers like Paul Ehrlich have been so thoroughly discredited.  But could anyone have imagined that not only are we not facing "Population Bomb" style famines, but we are in fact spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to promote burning food in cars?

I am not sure how anyone thought this was a good idea, since

  1. Every scientific study in the world not conducted by an institution in Iowa have shown that corn-based ethanol uses more energy than it produces, does not reduce CO2, and creates new environmental problems in terms of land and water use.
  2. Sixty seconds of math would have shown that even diverting ALL of US corn production to ethanol would only replace a fraction of our transportation fuel use.

Apparently, Nebraska has reached a milestone of sorts: (HT Tom Nelson)

With three new plants added in November, annual corn demand for ethanol production in Nebraska passed the 500-million-bushel mark for the first time, using 37% of Nebraska's corn.

How much fuel has this produced?

"Today, that ambitious directive has become a reality." Sneller says "At current rates, Nebraska plants will use 514 million bushels of corn annually to produce 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol. By the end of 2008, Nebraska plants will process 860 million bushels into 2.3 billion gallons of ethanol. Distillers grain, a co-product of ethanol production, is widely accepted and marketed as a superior livestock feed."

This is enough ethanol to replace about a billion gallons of gasoline (since ethanol has less energy content than gasoline).  This represents about  0.7% of US gasoline usage.  The cost?  Well, I don't know how many billions of subsidy dollars have flowed to Nebraska, but there is also this:

Corn prices have remained virtually unchanged since World War II. Increased demand from ethanol production has raised average corn prices by 70% and is driving an economic resurgence in rural Nebraska, according to Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

So we have spent billions of taxpayer dollars, have diverted about 40% of Nebraska's corn output, and we've raised prices on corn 70% all to replace less than a percent of US gasoline usage.  If we could really do the fuel balance on the whole system, we would likely find that total fossil fuel usage actually went up rather than down through these actions.

Never have I seen an issue where so many thoughtful people on both sides of the political aisle united in agreement that a program makes no sense since... well, since farm subsidies.  Which, illustratively, have not gone away despite 80 years of trying.  As I wrote here:

Companies are currently building massive subsidy-magnets biofuel plants.  Once these investments are in place, there is going to be a huge entrenched base of investors and workers who are going to wield every bit of political power they can to retain subsidies forever to protect their jobs and their investment.  Biofuel subsidies will be as intractable as peanut and sugar subsidies and protections.

Posted on November 28, 2007 at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Libertarian Split on Non-Intervention

Megan McArdle does a pretty fair job of outlining the issues that have split libertarians over the Iraq war.  A snippet:

If you are not willing to posit that Americans should stay home even when millions are being senselessly slaughtered, then you end up in sticky pragmatic arguments about the possibilities of inherently untrustworthy state power to counteract even more noxious state power, and how much in the way of cost we can reasonably be expected to bear in order to advance liberty. I don't think there's an inherently libertarian answer to those questions. Libertarians should be inherently more suspicious of the American government's ability to make things better than other groups--but by the same token, it seems to me that they shoul

Posted on November 27, 2007 at 08:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

A Statist View of Rights

In the statist's world, your rights are whatever the state says they are.  You can really see this concept at work in this breathtakingly bad Canadian decision reported by Eugene Volokh:

Richard Warman, a lawyer who worked as an investigatory for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, often filed complaints against "hate speech" sites — complaints that were generally upheld under Canadian speech restrictions. Fromm, a defender of various anti-Semites and Holocaust denials, has been publicly condemning Warman for, among other things, being "an enemy of free speech." Warman sued, claiming that these condemnations are defamatory.

Friday, the Ontario Superior Court held for Warman — chiefly on the grounds that because Warman's claims were accepted by the legal system, they couldn't accurately be called an attack on free speech.

This case leaves one's head just spinning with ironies, not the least because it is a great example of how libel law as practiced in many western countries outside the US is itself a great enemy of free speech.  The logic chain used by the judge in this case should make every American appreciative of our Constitutional system and our view of rights as independent of (and if fact requiring protection from) the state:

[25] The implication, as well as the clear of meaning of the words ["an enemy of free speech" and "escalated the war on free speech"], is that the plaintiff is doing something wrong. The comment "Well, see your tax dollars at work" also implies that Mr. Warman misused public funds for this "war on free speech".

[26]  The plaintiff was using legal means to complain of speech that he alleged was "hate" speech.

[27]  The evidence was that Mr. Warman was successful in both the complaint and a libel action which he instituted.

[28] Freedom of expression is not a right that has no boundaries. These parameters are outlined in various legislative directives and jurisprudence. I find Mr. Fromm has exceeded these. This posting is defamatory.

The implication is that there are no fundamental individual rights.  Rights are defined instead by the state and are whatever is reflected in current law.  In this decision, but fortunately not in the US, the law by definition can't be wrong, so taking advantage of a law, in this case to silence various groups, is by definition not only OK, but beyond the ability of anyone to legally criticize.  There is much more, all depressing.  Here is one example of a statement that was ruled defamatory:

Thank you very much, Jason. So, for posting an opinion, the same sort of opinion that might have appeared in editorial pages in newspapers across this country, Jason and the Northern Alliance, his site has come under attack and people who are just ordinary Canadians find themselves in front of the courts for nothing more serious than expressing their opinion. This is being done with taxpayers' money. I find that reprehensible.

OK, so here is my opinion:  Not only is Richard Warman an enemy of free speech, but the Canadian legislature that passed this hate-speech law is an enemy of free speech and the Canadian Supreme Court is an enemy of free speech.  Good enough for you hosers?

I guess I will now have to skip my ski trip to Whistler this year, to avoid arrest at the border.

Posted on November 27, 2007 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

A Window into the Reality-Based Community

Dont_panic_earth_160w Kevin Drum links to a blog called Three-Toed Sloth in a post about why our climate future may be even worse than the absurdly cataclysmic forecasts we are getting today in the media.  Three-Toed Sloth advertises itself as "Slow Takes from the Canopy of the Reality-Based Community."  His post is an absolutely fabulous example how one can write an article where most every line is literally true, but the conclusion can still be dead wrong because one tiny assumption at the beginning of the analysis was incorrect  (In this case, "incorrect" may be generous, since the author seems well-versed in the analysis of chaotic systems.  A better word might be "purposely fudged to make a political point.")

He begins with this:

The climate system contains a lot of feedback loops.  This means that the ultimate response to any perturbation or forcing (say, pumping 20 million years of accumulated fossil fuels into the air) depends not just on the initial reaction, but also how much of that gets fed back into the system, which leads to more change, and so on.  Suppose, just for the sake of things being tractable, that the feedback is linear, and the fraction fed back is f.  Then the total impact of a perturbation I is

J + Jf + Jf2 + Jf3 + ...

The infinite series of tail-biting feedback terms is in fact a geometric series, and so can be summed up if f is less than 1:

J/(1-f)

So far, so good.  The math here is entirely correct.  He goes on to make this point, arguing that if we are uncertain about  f, in other words, if there is a distribution of possible f's, then the range of the total system gain 1/(1-f) is likely higher than our intuition might first tell us:

If we knew the value of the feedback f, we could predict the response to perturbations just by multiplying them by 1/(1-f) — call this G for "gain".  What happens, Roe and Baker ask, if we do not know the feedback exactly?  Suppose, for example, that our measurements are corrupted by noise --- or even, with something like the climate, that f is itself stochastically fluctuating.  The distribution of values for f might be symmetric and reasonably well-peaked around a typical value, but what about the distribution for G?  Well, it's nothing of the kind.  Increasing f just a little increases G by a lot, so starting with a symmetric, not-too-spread distribution of f gives us a skewed distribution for G with a heavy right tail.

Again all true, with one small unstated proviso I will come back to.  He concludes:

In short: the fact that we will probably never be able to precisely predict the response of the climate system to large forcings is so far from being a reason for complacency it's not even funny.

Actually, I can think of two unstated facts that undermine this analysis.  The first is that most catastrophic climate forecasts you see utilize gains in the 3x-5x range, or sometimes higher (but seldom lower).  This implies they are using an f of between .67 and .80.  These are already very high numbers for any natural process.  If catastrophist climate scientists are already assuming numbers at the high end of the range, then the point about uncertainties skewing the gain disproportionately higher are moot.  In fact, we might tend to actually draw the reverse conclusion, that the saw cuts both ways.  His analysis also implies that small overstatements of f when the forecasts are already skewed to the high side will lead to very large overstatements of Gain.

But here is the real elephant in the room:  For the vast, vast majority of natural processes, f is less than zero.  The author has blithely accepted the currently unproven assumption that the net feedback in the climate system is positive.  He never even hints at the possibility that that f might be a negative feedback rather than positive, despite the fact that almost all natural processes are dominated by negative rather than positive feedback.  Assuming without evidence that a random natural process one encounters is dominated by negative feedback is roughly equivalent to assuming the random person you just met on the street is a billionaire.  It is not totally out of the question, but it is very, very unlikely.

When one plugs an f in the equation above that is negative, say -0.3, then the gain actually becomes less than one, in this case about 0.77.  In a negative feedback regime, the system response is actually less than the initial perturbation because forces exist in the system to damp the initial input.

The author is trying to argue that uncertainty about the degree of feedback in the climate system and therefore the sensitivity of the system to CO2 changes does not change the likelihood of the coming "catastrophe."  Except that he fails to mention that we are so uncertain about the feedback that we don't even know its sign.  Feedback, or f, could be positive or negative as far as we know.  Values could range anywhere from -1 to 1.  We don't have good evidence as to where the exact number lies, except to observe from the relative stability of past temperatures over a long time frame that the number probably is not in the high positive end of this range.  Data from climate response over the last 120 years seems to point to a number close to zero or slightly negative, in which case the author's entire post is irrelevant.   In fact, it turns out that the climate scientists who make the news are all clustered around the least likely guesses for f, ie values greater than 0.6.

Incredibly, while refusing to even mention the Occam's Razor solution that f is negative, the author seriously entertains the notion that f might be one or greater.  For such values, the gain shoots to infinity and the system goes wildly unstable  (nuclear fission, for example, is an f>1 process).  In an f>1 world, lightly tapping the accelerator in our car would send us quickly racing up to the speed of light.  This is an ABSURD assumption for a system like climate that is long-term stable over tens of millions of years.  A positive feedback f>=1 would have sent us to a Venus-like heat or Mars-like frigidity eons ago.

A summary of why recent historical empirical data implies low or negative feedback is here.  You can learn more on these topics in my climate video and my climate book.  To save you the search, the section of my movie explaining feedbacks, with a nifty live demonstration from my kitchen, is in the first three and a half minutes of the clip below:

Posted on November 27, 2007 at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Further iPod Gen 6 Update

As readers may know, I was initially very disapointed in the new gen 6 iPod classic I test drove at Best Buy, but I was very happy with the version I tested several weeks later at the Apple Store.  I hypothesized that maybe there was an initial software issue that had been patched, but that Best Buy had not gotten its demo models up to date.  An engineer associated with Apple wrote me the following:

Regarding the iPod Classic, that sucker was rushed into production. The hardware was/is just fine.  However, the firmware was NOT ready for prime time.  Software resources are very limited at Apple, believe it or not.  If you remember, Apple introduced 3 new models of iPods in September (Nano, Touch, Classic), which stretched those resources very thin.  Too thin.  The Classic firmware is what lagged most.  The sluggishness you noticed was all software, and nothing more.  In an ideal world, the Classic's firmware would have been delayed 2-3 weeks. However, with Steve Jobs, a scheduled introduction is a scheduled introduction, so out it went.  To Apple's credit, it didn't take long for a firmware update to correct it.  One thing Apple does VERY well is to issue timely firmware updates.

You may indeed be right in pointing out that store displays are usually not properly updated, which is the reason that stores like Best Buy are bad representatives for Apple.  If possible in the future, visit an Apple store for your research.  I'm pretty sure they faithfully do their updates.  Apple stores are quite impressively up to date on everything.

I have reason to believe that this person knows what she or he is talking about, and this explanation certainly matches the facts as I know them.  The bottom line is that I can now wholeheartedly recommend the new gen 6 classic iPods. I have had mine for a week and love it, and, contrary to my earlier experience, if anything the menu responsiveness is now better than past generations.  By the way, my iPod Touch was amazing on the flight to NY.  I played movies for hours and had plenty of battery life.  I had brought along this battery pack as a backup, but did not need it.

I am always amazed by the stupid mistakes electronics stores make in demoing products.  This iPod mistake at Best Buy is really boneheaded, but even more commonly I see stores making huge mistakes in demoing TVs.  I can't tell you how many times I see TV's either 1) displaying a really low quality source on an expensive TV or 2) not adjusting the TV correctly to the source (e.g. stretching a 4:3 image to fit a widescreen TV so that everything looks bloated).

Postscript:  I visited the Apple store in Midtown Manhattan, at about 5th and 59th  (right by the FAO Schwartz for all you parents out there).  First, it was really cool.  An all glass cube on the plaza where you enter a glass elevator or glass spiral stairs down to the store itself.  Second, the store was an absolute zoo (this was Thanksgiving weekend) with lines just to demo the products.  From the looks of it, Apple will have a very nice Christmas.  Their entire iPod line is awesome, and for the first time in years they have a desktop that I really like at a nice price point.

Posted on November 25, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Over at Climate Skeptic

Ending the Human Race to fight global warming

Taking the world back to the 19th century
, very much in the same theme as this earlier post here on Coyote Blog.

The UN admits that their science has been corrupted by the desire to garner political and financial support
.

I have also be reworking the site design because nearly everyone complained that the old color scheme was brutal on the eyes.

Posted on November 23, 2007 at 10:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wow, Media Sees Dumb Lawsuit for What it Is

In the earlier days of this blog, I used to post links to a lot of insane lawsuits.  The lawsuits just keep coming, but I have lost the energy to keep posting such stupidity.  And besides, Overlawyered does such a good job and seems to have infinite patience. 

But it was worth noting a silly shareholder suit that the media actually seems to have sniffed out for what it is:  Pure garbage.  For those who are not aware, there are a group of law firms who immediately file suit against any company whose stock drops by more than a few percent.  Bill Lerach, soon to be taking up residence in jail, used to keep a whole bullpen of folks on a sort of retainer to hold shares in numerous companies, so he instantly had someone close at hand who could file suit when any stock drops.  And since stocks go up and down, often in ways that the company itself has no control over, this leads to a lot of lawsuits.

Recently, the maker of Crocs sandles apparently had an IPO, had its stock price shoot up, and then had its stock price fall back when the company could not sustain its previous torrid growth pace.  Al Lewis of the Denver Post takes it from there:  (HT Overlawyered, of course)

Anybody who purchased stock in Niwot-based Crocs Inc. between July 27 and Oct. 31 should not join the class-action shareholders lawsuit that was recently filed against the company and its stock-dumping executives.

Instead, they should look themselves in the mirror and admit two things:       

I look ridiculous in these plastic shoes.       

Anybody who would pay an average of more than $60 a share for a company that makes ugly plastic shoes deserves to take a hit in the stock market.

He continues:

Crocs and its officers also allegedly misrepresented or failed to disclose their distribution problems in Europe and their rising inventory levels, the lawsuit alleges. They also failed to disclose that sales of their hole-riddled plastic clogs were suddenly becoming more of a seasonal item. Imagine that! Sandals seasonal? Who knew?

By the way, if you really want your head to explode, take a minute a think about shareholder lawsuits.  A group of shareholders are suing the company for a fall in the stock price.  Who do you think pays?  Why, current shareholders!  Though I do not accept the "logic" of these suits, if one were to accept their logic, then the most guilty party is the stockholder who sold the plaintiffs their stock just before the drop.  But these folks are exactly who will NOT owe any money on the suit.  They are no longer owners.  The people who will pay will be the owners of the stock at whatever time the suit settles, likely many people who bought in after the plaintiffs did.  The only real winner when the shareholders pay themselves such a verdict are the lawyers, who rake off 30%.  More on this bizarre situation here.

Update:  I will have to think about this more, but it kind of reminds me of a prisoners dilemma game in which the prosecutor gets a monetary bonus that increases with longer prison terms.

Posted on November 23, 2007 at 09:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Core Problem with Social Security

I am happy to see others making the point I have tried to make for years:  That the coming financial problems with Social Security are not its biggest problem.  Megan McArdle and Clive Cook say it very well:

In this post on Paul Krugman and Social Security, Clive, as usual, targets with laser accuracy the real problem with the Social Security system: not that it is bankrupt, but that it encourages people to make extremely bad decisions about providing for their future.

It starts with childbearing:  social security systems seem to exert downward pressure on birthrates, in effect undermining their own actuarial base. Social security socializes the benefits of childbearing in providing for retirement, but no one has yet figured out how to socialize the main cost, which is turning your life choices over to a screaming pre-verbal dictator. People are thus tempted to free ride on the childbearing of others, and the more generous benefits are, the more they seem to free ride. This is one reason that Social Security, which used to have more than 30 workers for each retiree, now has only three, headed towards two.

Social Security also encourages people to leave the workforce earlier than they otherwise would. People are healthier than ever at 65, but while in 1950, almost half of all men over the age of 65 worked, that number is now less than 20%. This appears to be highly correlated with the spread of defined benefit pensions such as social security, which offer no advantage to delaying retirement. Indeed, Social Security perversely penalizes anyone who takes early benefit but continues to work, docking a third of their earnings.

Finally, Social Security discourages private savings. This is terrible for two reasons. If future fiscal problems force the government to reduce benefits, the people who didn't save enough because they relied on those promises will be made much worse off than they would otherwise have been.

The other problem is that Social Security is not a productive investment. Privately saved money is mostly lent to corporations that mostly use the money to do things that make the economy more productive, such as R&D and capital equipment upgrades. Social security "contributions" are lent to the government, where they are mostly spent on things that could not be remotely described as improving our economy's productive capacity, such as farm subsidies.

Excellent.  I ran the numbers and discussed what a bad investment return was paid by Social Security here.  I discussed Social Security as intellectual welfare here.

Posted on November 23, 2007 at 09:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Sustainability Through Poverty

In my previous post on urban planning, I mentioned the increasingly popular idea of sustainability through povertyDon Boudreaux responds to the currently hip idea that somehow we need to revert to a more local economy with local food production.  This is absolutely absurd, for any number of reasons.  I'll just list three:

  • It doesn't work.  The total energy used for transport, say of food products, is a small percentage of the total energy used in the total production process.  The energy transportation budget is generally smaller than efficiency gains from scale or from optimizing location.  For example, a wheat farm in Arizona on 50 acres is going to use a lot more energy (and water, and fertilizer, and manpower) than a wheat farm on a thousand acres in North Dakota.
  • It leads to poverty.  Our modern society, our lifestyles, our lifespans all are a result of the fantastic increases in efficiency we have reaped from the division of labor.  A push to localize all production reverses the division of labor.  Many products, such as semiconductors, become outright impossible on a local scale.
  • It leads to starvation.  It is hard for us to imagine famine in the wealthy nations of the world.  Crop failures in one part of the world are replaced with crops from other parts of the world.  But as recently as the 19th century, France, then the wealthiest nation on earth but reliant on local agriculture, experienced frequent crop failures and outright starvation.

More on the food-miles stupidity here.  And an interesting study that shows that processed foods greatly reduces waste and trash to landfills was here.

Update: More on food miles here at Reason

Posted on November 23, 2007 at 09:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

New York Inspired Thoughts on City Planning

I really can't stand to be in New York City for very long.  The crowds, the hassles and the lines all conspire to drive me crazy.  Every second I feel like I am packed around by more people, and I find it horribly claustrophobic.

If your immediate reaction to this statement is to feel like I am attacking you or your lifestyle, you are wrong.  My purpose is not to say that those who love it here in NYC are making an incorrect choice, for they are not.  If they derive energy from the people and the density and all the amenities that density can justify, great.  It is in fact an interesting (and depressing) feature of modern discourse that my saying that I don't personally choose a certain lifestyle is found as threatening to people who do.  Why should it?  My only answer is that this zero-sum statist society of activists has created the expectation that the next step of anyone who expresses a negative preference for something will be to run to the government to get it banned.

The reason I bring my preference up at all is that the vast majority of city planners get a huge hard-on for New York.  Their goal is to turn the world into Manhattan.  They wish to maximize densities and minimize personal automobile use and, well, backyards.  In other words, a bunch of folks who have the ear of the government wish to use the coercive power of the government to turn the world into something I can't live in.  Again, I have no problem with New Yorkers having New York, but why does Scottsdale have to be New York too?

By the way, on a quasi-related topic, the Anti-Planner has an interesting observation:  Supposed gains in sustainability in high-density urban areas have more to do with making everyone poor than with the density  (emphasis added):

Many planning advocates take it for granted that sprawl and auto driving are inherently unsustainable. McShane shows just how this attitude can go when he describes Halle Neustadt, which some Swedish urban planners once described as “the most sustainable city in the world.”

McShane here refers to some field work done by the Antiplanner. To make a long story short, what made Halle Neustadt “sustainable” was poverty, and as soon its residents gained some wealth, many of them moved out and most of the rest bought automobiles, turning the cities many greenspaces into parking lots.

Owen then turns to climate change, which he describes as the last gasp of smart growth. Smart growth, he notes, “has always been a policy in search of a justification, a solution in search of a problem.” Now, in climate change, smart-growth advocates hope they have found such a problem.

One difficulty, McShane notes, is that there is no guarantee that smart growth is really more greenhouse-friendly than ordinary sprawl. Depending on load factors, Diesel trains can emit more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than autos, and concrete-and-steel high-rise condos can emit more CO2 than wood homes.

McShane refers in particular to an Australian study that found that “place doesn’t matter,” that is, low densities were not particularly greenhouse unfriendly. Instead, income was much more important, meaning that the high-rollers living in million-dollar downtown condos were generating far more greenhouse gases than moderate-income suburbanites.

Which implies that the "solution" to sustainability (whatever that is) and CO2 emissions is to promote poverty.  That may seem like a tongue-in-cheek exaggeration, but in fact the latest IPCC warning on climate relies heavily on the work of Nicholas Stern, who says the solution to global warming is to make western income levels look more like those in India (emphasis added):

Mr Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, sends out a very clear message: “We need to cut down the total amount of carbon emissions by half by 2050.” At current levels, the per capita global emissions stand at 7 tonnes, or a total of 40-45 gigatonnes. At this rate, global temperatures could rise by 2.5-3 degrees by then. But to reduce the per capita emissions by half in 2050, most countries would have to be carbon neutral. For instance, the US currently has, at 20-25 tonnes, per capita emissions levels that are three times the global average.

The European Union’s emission levels stand at 10-15 tonnes per capita. China is at about 3-4 tonnes per capita and India, at 1 tonne per capita, is the only large-sized economy that is below the desired carbon emission levels of 2050. “India should keep it that way and insist that the rich countries pay their share of the burden in reducing emissions,” says Mr Stern.

Translation: India should stay poor and the West should become that way.

Posted on November 22, 2007 at 09:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Why I Love America

Today I was in Times Square and, unsurprisingly, was approached on the street by a young huckster attempting to get me to check out his establishment.  However, I was floored to see what was in the building.  In an attempt to meet a strong public need (the city of New York has been debating the lack of public restrooms for years to no effect) and to gain some marketing exposure, P&G has leased out storefront space in Times Square to open a Charmin-branded public restroom.  It is truly an odd experience, a cross between a bathroom and a Disney attraction.  There are games and entertainers and a gift shop, and, of course, twenty very nice private bathrooms that are cleaned by the staff after each use.  All my son and I could think to say when we were done was "We love America."

Here is more on the bathrooms and the promotion, open just for the holidays.

Someone has also posted a Youtube video of the entire experience:

Update:  After visiting again, I can't shake the parallel (despite the fact that these bathrooms are free) to the public restroom company in Snow Crash.  I know there are a lot of folks who rebel against the cyberpunk genre, and I have always been more of a space-opera traditionalist (Foundation, Mote in Gods Eye, Louis McMaster Bujold, Hyperion, etc.) but over time Snow Crash may well become my favorite Sci-fi book.

Posted on November 22, 2007 at 08:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Great First Ammendment Ruling

From FIRE, comes this really encouraging ruling:

Earlier this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil partially granted plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction in the San Francisco State University (SFSU) speech codes litigation. Yesterday, Judge Brazil issued his written opinion on the motion, and in so doing struck a devastating blow against speech codes at universities in California and hopefully—...

Judge Brazil enjoined the university from enforcing both the civility requirement and a related provision allowing student organizations to be punished collectively if any group members engage in behavior “inconsistent with SF State goals, principles, and policies.” Judge Brazil did not enjoin the university from enforcing its prohibition on “[c]onduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person within or related to the University community, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, or sexual misconduct.” However, he emphasized that the provision must be narrowly construed to only prohibit that “intimidation” or “harassment” which actually endangers someone’s health or safety, and explicitly directed the university that the policy “may be invoked only as it has been construed in this opinion.” This limiting construction prohibits the university from interpreting that provision broadly to punish constitutionally protected speech (since the vast majority of speech that actually endangers someone’s health or safety is not constitutionally protected).

Here are a few excepts from the Judge's decision:

It is important to emphasize here that it is controversial expression that it is the First Amendment’s highest duty to protect. By political definition, popular views need no protection. It is unpopular notions that are in the greatest peril — and it was primarily to protect their expression that the First Amendment was adopted. The Framers of our Constitution believed that a democracy could remain healthy over time only if its citizens felt free both to invent new ideas and to vent thoughts and feelings that were thoroughly out of fashion. Fashion, it was understood, is an agent of repression — and repression is an agent [of] democracy’s death....

There also is an emotional dimension to the effectiveness of communication. Speakers, especially speakers on significant or controversial issues, often want their audience to understand how passionately they feel about their subject or message. For many speakers on religious or political subjects, for example, having their audience perceive and understand their passion, their intensity of feeling, can be the single most important aspect of an expressive act. And for many people, what matters most about a particular instance of communication is whether it inspires emotions in the audience, i.e., whether it has the emotional power to move the audience to action or to a different level of interest in or commitment to an idea or cause. For such people, the effectiveness of communication is measured by its emotional impact, by the intensity of the resonance it creates.
How is all this relevant to our review of the University’s civility requirement? Civility connotes calmness, control, and deference or responsiveness to the circumstances, ideas, and feelings of others. […] Given these common understandings, a regulation that mandates civility easily could be understood as permitting only those forms of interaction that produce as little friction as possible, forms that are thoroughly lubricated by restraint, moderation, respect, social convention, and reason. The First Amendment difficulty with this kind of mandate should be obvious: the requirement “to be civil to one another” and the directive to eschew behaviors that are not consistent with “good citizenship” reasonably can be understood as prohibiting the kind of communication that it is necessary to use to convey the full emotional power with which a speaker embraces her ideas or the intensity and richness of the feelings that attach her to her cause. Similarly, mandating civility could deprive speakers of the tools they most need to connect emotionally with their audience, to move their audience to share their passion.
In sum, there is a substantial risk that the civility requirement will inhibit or deter use of the forms and means of communication that, to many speakers in circumstances of the greatest First Amendment sensitivity, will be the most valued and the most effective.

Wow!  This is fantastic, and aimed right at University speech codes that try to ban any speech that offends someone [a standard that tends to be enforced unevenly, typically entailing prosecuting only those students who offend people who are like-minded with the school's faculty and administration.

 

Posted on November 20, 2007 at 09:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Good News

Via Its Getting Better All the Time:

"The focus on this year's hunt is the humpback, which was in serious danger of extinction just a few decades ago. They are now a favorite of whale-watchers for their playful antics at sea, where the beasts — which grow as large as 40 tons — throw themselves out of the water.

Humpbacks feed, mate and give birth near shore, making them easy prey for whalers, who by some estimates depleted the global population to just 1,200 before the 1963 moratorium. The southern moratorium was followed by a worldwide ban in 1966...

...The American Cetacean Society estimates the humpback population has recovered to about 30,000-40,000 — about a third of the number before modern whaling. The species is listed as "vulnerable" by the World Conservation Union.

Posted on November 20, 2007 at 09:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Licensing Update

Awesome!  Via TJIC:

Ten minutes after finding out I passed the Bar, I changed my long-running position on licensure, which it turns out is awesome. Not only does it allow me to collect above market rents–which lawyers need because law school is so damned expensive–but it also keeps those who can’t afford law school or Barbri from practicing law. This is good because poor people make bad choices anyway, and I know that because one week in college I ate Ramen noodles for a week, and that’s the week I decided to major in music. Also your average poor person, usually cursed with some manner of hump or undeveloped siamese twin, will not fit into a decent suit…

In sum, remember when choosing a lawyer that I was the first one to finish the New York Bar exam, and though I probably didn’t get the highest score, I got the not-highest score the fastest. So if you’ve got the choice between an attorney who will show up at 7 AM sharp, with an obviously freshly dry-cleaned suit, and me, who will be jogging fifteen minutes behind him while pulling on a shirt and cleaning up some stubble with an electric razor, remember: the other guy’s smarter, of course, but I’m still competent. And a lot better rested. Plus I’m not going to judge you for running that red light and hitting that old lady–that’s what this case is about, right? Or was that my other client?–because chances are I nailed two or three myself on the way over this morning.

More on licensing

Posted on November 20, 2007 at 08:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Heading for New York

I have not idea how much blogging I will do this week.  I am headed for Manhattan to watch my daughter, who is in the opening act of the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Posted on November 19, 2007 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Ipod Classic Update

In a couple of posts, I warned readers that I thought there might be problems with the new 80meg and 160meg iPod classics  (generation 6).  On two occasions, I tested units at Best Buy stores (two different cities) and found the menu and scrolling performance to be terrible.  The controls were laggy and slow.

An Apple person wrote me to say that my experience was not universal.  I also noted that people were split on the message boards -- some loved their new iPod and couldn't understand the problem, and others couldn't understand how anyone could miss the scrolling problems.

From this and other evidence, I am now convinced that there were either two different batches with different performance, or there was some early software patch that fixed the problem but stores like Best Buy were not applying the patch to their demo models.  The other day I tried the new iPod Classics at the Apple store and was thrilled with the performance.  The menu scrolled beautifully, perhaps better than generation 5. 

So, I still advise folks to try before they buy, but I now am convinced that the new Classic is a great product.  I bought an 80gig over the weekend.

By the way, I have never been anything but enthusiastic (except perhaps to wish for more memory) about the iPod Touch.

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 11:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Romney-Care Already in the Red

Romney-care, which looks surprisingly like v1.0 of Hillarycare, is over-budget by $135 million (and counting*) in Massachusetts.  TJIC is stunned.

* must be pronounced in that deep eastern European voice from the early James Bond films, where in the bad guy's lair the PA system kept saying "one minute, and counting."

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Regulation is Anti-Competitive

I have frequently quote this Milton Friedman quote about regulation ostensibly being about the consumer, but in reality existing to protect one set of competitors from another:

The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber.

Here is further proof, via Scott Gustafson, right here in Arizona:

Valley tattoo-parlor owners, eager to protect and burnish the reputation of their industry, are calling for state regulation of the tattoo trade. 

Shop owners have teamed up to form the Arizona Tattoo and Piercing Association, and one of the organization's first steps was to meet this week with state legislators who say they now intend to introduce legislation to regulate the tattoo industry... 

"What we heard from the tattoo industry is that they want to be more respected, and unless there is some sort of regulation, shops can exist which will give a bad name to the whole industry," Schapira said. 

He said he intends to introduce legislation to bring regulation to the tattoo industry at the upcoming session of the Legislature. 

Burton-Cahill said she considers the matter "an issue of public health."... 

"This is becoming an increasing trend with the reputable operators," said Will Humble, assistant director of the department. "The majority of the shop owners are doing things in a sanitary way but a handful is not doing everything they can. The bigger members of the industry are trying to make sure those disreputable kinds of places don't give tattooing a bad name."

Here you see it all - ostensibly aimed at the consumer, but in reality aimed at sitting on a few competitors they want out.

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thoughts on Barry Bonds

I really don't like Barry Bonds.   I found his home run chase last summer almost painful, and was happy it was over just to stop hearing about Barry Bonds.

That being said, I am pretty non-plussed by his recent indictment on perjury charges.  I really am deeply concerned about going after high-profile people on perjury charges, particularly ones that are associated with cases where no underlying crime was even prosecuted (Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton also come to mind in this category).

The problem is that these cases get prosecuted incredibly selectively.  The vast, vast majority of people in Bonds situation never get prosecuted, much less have four year investigations.  As a result, it is pretty clear that those who do are selected on some basis having more to do with their profile (Martha Stewart), political animus (Bill Clinton) or just because the person is incredibly unsympathetic (e.g. Bonds).  As evidence for this in Bond's case, where are the similar investigations into McGwire or Giambi?

Tom Kirkendall has a great roundup of posts for those who are more concerned that titillated by Bond's indictment.  Or then there is TJIC's take, which is always, uh, not moderate:

What I find most amazing about cases like this, and the Martha Stewart thing, is that there’s some sort of unstated presupposition that the state has a right to extract information from people.

Lying to government officials on fishing expeditions isn’t just a right; it’s a duty.

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Maybe They Should Have Tried Fox After All

Though I did not pay any attention to it, apparently the Clinton camp managed to stack the CNN Las Vegas debate doubly or triply in their favor, including having most all the talking head on CNN analyzing the debate be folks who are currently or have in the past been on the Clinton payroll.

Whatever.  I don't think it is any news that the Clintons play the politics game hard and well, though its amazing to me that she is embraced by those who complain about Bush being secretive and power-hungry.

Anyway, this did make me wonder.  The Democratic candidates were up-in-arms earlier this year that a debate (I think this one) was to be hosted by Fox, presumably because Fox is seen as part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.  But given that there were no Republicans at the debate, I wonder if Obama and company now regret this decision.  Because it is almost certain that whatever problems Fox might have, Fox would certainly not have stacked a debate in Hillary's favor.

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Analysis of "New" UN Climate Warming

Under mounting pressure from climate catastrophists to ignore uncertainties in the science and to produce definitive statements that can be used as calls for government interventionism, the UN will apparently release a new "warning" this week:

Global warming is destroying species, raising sea levels and threatening millions of poor people, the United Nations' top scientific panel will say in a report today that U.N. officials hope will help mobilize the world to take tougher actions on climate change.

The report argues that only firm action, including putting a price on carbon-dioxide emissions, will avoid more catastrophic events.

Those actions will take a small part of the world's economic growth and will be substantially less than the costs of doing nothing, the report says.

For the first time, the UN is trying to argue explicitly that the cost of CO2 abatement is lower than the cost of doing nothing.  They are arguing that a cooler but poorer world is superior to a warmer and richer world.  I am glad they are finally arguing this point.  Because while we can argue about the truth of how much the world has warmed and how much is due to man, the UN is DEAD WRONG on this point.  The cost of aggressive CO2 abatement is far, far higher than the cost of doing nothing.

The report presumably will be released by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who demonstrated his stunning ignorance of climate science, geology, and geography on a recent climate-junket to Antarctica.  Let's take it line by line.

Is man destroying or threatening species?  Absolutely.  Is this threat from CO2 and warming? No, and I have read every inch of the UN IPCC report and you can find no evidence for this proposition. But saying this rallies the environmental base (the hard core environmentalists don't really care about poor people, at least when their interests conflict with animals).  Most of the evidence is that species thrive in warmer weather, and polar bears have survived several inter-glaciation periods where the north pole melted entirely in the summer.

Are sea levels rising?  Yes.  In fact, they have been rising for at least 150 years, and in fact have been rising steadily and at roughly the same rate since the last ice age.  We have seen absolutely no acceleration of the underlying sea level rise trend. Further, the UN's IPCC does have a forecast for sea level rise over the next century.  Even using temperature forecasts I consider exaggerated, the UN does not forecast more than about a foot of sea level rise over the coming century, only a bit more than what the sea level has risen over the last 150 years.  This is a great example of the disconnect between the UN political climate reports and the science underlying them.  The guys writing the summary know that their report says only a few inches of sea level rise, so they just say it is rising, and then let the crazies like Al Gore throw around numbers like 20 feet.

Here is an interesting thought:  If I say the sea levels will rise 0" over the next 100 years, the UN will call me out and say I am wrong.  However, when Al Gore said sea levels will rise 20 feet in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, no one at the UN or the IPCC called him out, despite the fact that my forecast was only a few inches off from theirs and his was 19 feet off the mark.

And of course, there are the poor.  The number one biggest losers in any effort to abate CO2 emissions will be the poor.  In wealthy countries like the US, the poor will be the hardest hit by $10 or even $20 gas prices that would be necessary to rolling CO2 production back to 1990 levels.  In the third world, nearly a billion people just starting to emerge from poverty will have no chance of doing so if their economies are hamstrung with CO2 limits.  The poor will be devastated by aggressive CO2 limits.

Weighed against this economic disaster would be, what? How would rising world temperatures hurt the poor?  Well, its not at all clear.  A foot of sea-level rise is very unlikely to hurt many poor people, though it might inconvenience a few rich owners of beach-front luxury homes.  Here is a clarifying question I often ask people -- would you rather fifteen Atlantic hurricanes each year, or sixteen hurricanes each year and Carribbean economies that are twice as rich and therefore have twice the resources to handle hurricanes.  This is the colder and poorer vs. warmer and richer choice.  We see this in Bangladesh today.  Why do orders of magnitude more people die in Bangladesh cyclones than class 5 hurricanes on the US shore?  Because they are poor, not because of anything having to do with global warming.

It is often claimed that global warming will cause droughts, but in fact warmer world temperatures will vaporize more water in the atmosphere and should net increase rain, not drought.  And many of the farmers in the northern hemisphere would enjoy longer growing seasons and thereby more food production.

Glaciers and ice caps are melting at a rapid rate; animals and plants are shifting their range to accommodate warmer air and water; and planting seasons are changing, the report said.

Yes, land-based ice is melting in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is 15% of the world's ice.  85% of the world's ice is in Antarctica, which is increasing. Seriously.  I know you don't believe this if you trust the media, but the ice that is melting in Greenland is tiny compared to the ice that is increasing at the South Pole.  In fact, the IPCC gets most of its prjected sea rise from thermal expansion of warmer oceans, not from ice melting.  And don't you love the "planting seasons are changing."  That sounds like its scary, or something, until you recognize the truth is that planting seasons are changing, becoming longer and more beneficial to food production!

On many occasions, I have discussed the bad science that goes into these apocalyptic forecasts.  But that science is of top quality compared to the economics that must have gone into the statement that:

The most stringent efforts to stabilize greenhouse gases would cost the world's economies 0.12 percent of their average annual growth to 2050, the report estimates.

This is absolute, unmitigated crap. Though I have not seen specifics in this report, the UN's position has generally been that emissions should be rolled back to 1990 levels (the target embodied in the Kyoto treaty).  Such a target implies reductions of more than 20% from where we are today and well over 50% from where we will be in 2050.  These are enormous cuts that cannot be achieved with current technology without massive reductions in economic growth. The world economy is inextricably tied to the burning of fossil fuels. And, unlike ancillary emissions like SO2, CO2 emissions cannot be limited without actually reducing carbon combustion since it is fundamental to the combustion chemistry.  Even supporters of legislation such as the Bingaman-Specter bill admit that as much as a trillion dollars will need to be spent to reduce global temperatures about 0.13C.  And that is a trillion for the first tenth of a degree -- the law of diminishing returns means that each additional tenth will cost more.

Lets look at history as our guide.  Most of the European countries and Japan signed onto the Kyoto Treaty to reduce emissions to 1990 levels.  They have taken many expensive steps to do so, implemented many more controls than in the US, and have gas prices as much as double those in the US.  During the period since 1990, most of these countries, unlike the US and China and India, have been in a deep and extended economic recession, which tends to suppress the growth of fossil fuel consumption.  Also, the CO2 numbers for countries like Russia and Germany benefit greatly from the fall of the old Communist Block, as their 1990 base year CO2 numbers include many horribly inefficient and polluting Soviet industries that have since been shut down.  And, given all this, they STILL are going to miss their numbers.  These countries have experienced reductions in economic growth orders of magnitude greater than this 0.12 percent quoted by the UN, and that still is not enough to reduce CO2 to target levels.  Only outright contraction of the world's economy is going to suffice [note: A strong commitment to replacing coal plants with nuclear might be a partial solution, but it will never happen because the people calling for CO2 controls are the same ones who shut down our nuclear programs. Also, technological change is always possible.  It would be awesome if someone found a way to roll out sheets of efficient solar cells like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia, but that has not happened yet.]

The UN has gotten to such low cost estimates for their government controls because they have convinced themselves, much like the promoters of building football stadiums for billionaire team owners, that they will get a huge return from the government CO2 controls:

"There is high agreement and much evidence that mitigation actions can result in near-term co-benefits, for example improved health due to reduced air pollution, that may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs," said the report, which summarizes research over five years of more than 2,000 of the world's top climate-change scientists...

The U.N. panel embraced the arguments of British economist Nicholas Stern, who concluded last year that the cost of taking tough measures to curb pollution will be repaid in the long run.

Nicholas Stern?  Haven't we heard that name before?  Why, yes we have.  He is the man that said that all of the world's climate problems would go away if we forced all the western economies to look just like India.

Mr Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, sends out a very clear message: “We need to cut down the total amount of carbon emissions by half by 2050.” At current levels, the per capita global emissions stand at 7 tonnes, or a total of 40-45 gigatonnes. At this rate, global temperatures could rise by 2.5-3 degrees by then. But to reduce the per capita emissions by half in 2050, most countries would have to be carbon neutral. For instance, the US currently has, at 20-25 tonnes, per capita emissions levels that are three times the global average.

The European Union’s emission levels stand at 10-15 tonnes per capita. China is at about 3-4 tonnes per capita and India, at 1 tonne per capita, is the only large-sized economy that is below the desired carbon emission levels of 2050. “India should keep it that way and insist that the rich countries pay their share of the burden in reducing emissions,” says Mr Stern.

Which, by the way, is exactly my point.  I very much hope Mr. Stern continues to make this clear in public.  One of the ways catastrophists support their cause of massive government interventionism is to try to portray the answer as little cutsie actions, like your 5-year-old helping with the recycling.  This is not what is require to meet these targets. What is required is ratchet down the US economy until we are all about as wealthy as the average Indian.  I guess that would at least take care of the outsourcing "problem."

One of the ways that the UN gets away with this is that no one has the time to read the detailed scientific report, and so reporters rely on the summaries like these.  Unfortunately, the same people who write the scientific sections are not the people who write the summaries.  Careful language about uncertainties, which are still huge, in the science are replaced by summaries written by politicians that say:

The near-final draft, approved Friday by representatives of more than 140 governments meeting in Valencia, Spain, said global warming is "unequivocal" and said man's actions are heading toward "abrupt or irreversible climate changes and impacts."...

"This will be viewed by all as a definitive report. It is the blueprint for the Bali talks," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who will be at the Indonesian U.N. meeting beginning Dec. 3 as part of a U.S. senatorial delegation.

Another technique used by the UN that we see in play here is their willingness to cherry-pick one author that follows the UN narrative to refute a whole body of science that is contrary to the narrative.  Thus, the UN latched onto Michael Mann's hockey stick to overturn a consensus that there was a Medieval warm period, and now they have latched onto Nicholas Stern to overturn the opinion of, approximately, every other economist in the world who think CO2 mitigation will be really expensive.

As always, you are encourage to view my movie What is Normal:  A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory or check out my book (free online) called A Skeptical Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming.

By the way, in the title I put "new" in quotes.  Here is why.  I just read a presentation by Dr. Richard Lindzen from 1992 that shows that catastrophists were declaring the debate "over" as early as 1989, before any real research had even been performed:

By early 1989, however, the popular media in Europe and the United States were declaring that "all scientists'' agreed that warming was real and catastrophic in its potential.
...
In the meantime, the global warming circus was in full swing. Meetings were going on nonstop. One of the more striking of those meetings was hosted in the summer of 1989 by Robert Redford at his ranch in Sundance, Utah. Redford proclaimed that it was time to stop research and begin acting. I suppose that that was a reasonable suggestion for an actor to make, but it is also indicative of the overall attitude toward science. Barbara Streisand personally undertook to support the research of Michael Oppenheimer at the Environmental Defense Fund, although he is primarily an advocate and not a climatologist. Meryl Streep made an appeal on public television to stop warming. A bill was even prepared to guarantee Americans a stable climate

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

This Could Easily Be Said About Phoenix Light Rail

Tom Kirkendall observes that this could have been written about Houston light rail.  I would add that it also could have easily been written about Phoenix light rail, which I have criticized here and here and here.  And heavy rail? Don't get me started.

Beyond these impressions, Tom Rubin observes that VTA has “the worst operating statistics fo any American transit operator.” The reason for this, he says, is that San Jose — being built mostly after World War II — is one of the most spread-out urban areas in the country. Not only are people spread out, but jobs are spread out, with no job concentrations anywhere.

This makes large buses particularly unsuitable for transit because there is no place where large numbers of people want to go. So what was VTA’s solution when its bus numbers were low relative to other transit agencies? Build light rail — in other words, use an expensive technology that requires even more job concentrations.

Now it has one of the, if not the, poorest-patronized light-rail systems in America. So what is its solution? Build heavy rail, a technology that requires even more job concentrations.

This is an interesting factoid from another Anti-Planner post:

The amazing thing to the Antiplanner is that anyone would take this proposal seriously. The average urban freeway lane costs about $10 million per mile. The average light-rail line costs about $50 million per mile and carries only a fifth as many people. Seattle’s proposed lines were going to cost $250 million per mile, making then 125 times more expensive at moving people than a freeway lane.

Posted on November 16, 2007 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Very Interesting Observation

From Tyler Cowen:

The NIH works as well as it does because the money is mostly protected from Congress. It is not a success which can easily be replicated. The more money is at stake, the more Congress wants to influence allocation. We should guard this feature of the system jealously and try to learn from it. If we can.

I had not ever thought about it this way, but this is probably a correct observation about government:  The more money in a program, the more likely it is that Congress will want to direct that money to take political credit for it and reward their cronies, and therefore the more likely the program is to fail.

Posted on November 15, 2007 at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Anyone Really Believe This?

James Pethokoukis argues that we might have spent a lot of the $1.3 trillion cost of the Iraq war on containment of Iraq had we fought the war. 

I will admit I have not seen the studies, but I declare right now that there is NO WAY.  If we really would have spent $150 billion a year containing Iraq in absence of a war, we should be spending similar magnitudes today on other similar regimes on which we have chosen not to declare war, like Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, etc.  But demonstrably we are not.  One might argue that oil prices would be lower, I guess, but one could also argue that the post-9/11 recession would not have been as deep without a war.  I am sure there is a broken window fallacy in here somewhere.  This reminds me nothing so much as the tortured economic studies that purport to show a gullible populace that it makes sense to build a billion dollar stadium for the hapless Arizona Cardinals because the city will make it all back in future revenues.  Sure.

I am not going to argue the justifications for the Iraq war here.  What I will say is that folks who have enthusiastically supported the war should understand that the war is going to have the following consequences:

  1. In 2009 we will have a Democratic Congress and President for the first time since 1994.
  2. The next President will use the deficits from the $1.3 billion in Iraq war spending to justify a lot of new taxes
  3. These new taxes, once the war spending is over, will not be used for deficit reduction but for new programs that, once established, will be nearly impossible to eliminate
  4. No matter what the next president promises to the electorate, they are not going to reverse precedents for presidential power and secrecy that GWB has established.  Politicians never give up power voluntarily.  [if the next president is Hillary, she is likely to push the envelope even further].  Republicans are not going to like these things as much when someone of the other party is using them.

Posted on November 15, 2007 at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Great View of Eminent Domain

This video, from Reason, is the kind of work I wish I had the time and resources to produce.  This particular episode is on using eminent domain for economic redevelopment.  Very well done.

Update: Watching the city council meeting around 8 minutes into the video is depressing.  Folks are trying to defend their property, but the only argument they can use is to try to convince the council there is more public good in their use than the proposed new use (luxury condos).  I am depressed that this is the argument they have to use.  I would love to see someone be able to just say "its mine, it does nobody else any good, but who cares?  You can't take it and give it to someone else, period."

Posted on November 15, 2007 at 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Improving My View of Ralph Nader

For much of my adult life, Ralph Nader was my least favorite living Princeton alum*.  But Eliot Spitzer may be challenging for the title.  Sure, I never really liked Spitzer when he was at Princeton, but I never really liked any of the student government types, as evidenced by the fact that I led a mass-mooning of one governing council meeting (yes, I know, you are shocked that this sophisticated commentator could have been so immature).  Besides, Spitzer was the butt of one of Princeton's great jokes and works of performance art, when he was defeated by the Antarctic Liberation Front.

But since his tenure as AG and now governor of New York, the guy has turned from an irritating joke to a real threat to freedom.  His abuse of the AG job for personal aggrandizement is legend, and, after having been given a free pass by the press in that job, he is finally being cornered for various ethical violations. 

So it is with great satisfaction that I read today that Spitzer was forced to back off his plan to tax out of state Internet sales, abandoning his unique view that an affiliate program created a corporate presence in-state.

Update:  A Spitzer roundup of sorts at Reason.

Posted on November 15, 2007 at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

When They Finally Do the Study the Right Way

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of arguing back and forth about income mobility.  Typically, folks, particularly on the left, look at changes in median incomes and declare that since median incomes aren't moving much, there is not income mobility.  I have criticized this approach to the problem on a number of occasions.  For example, I have argued that median income numbers are skewed downwards because tens of millions of low-skill new immigrants have entered the job market over the last several decades.  As I wrote here,

If you really want to know what the current median wage is on an apples to apples basis back to 1970, take the current reported median wage and count up about 10 million spots, and that should be the number -- and it will be much higher.

What you really have to do is take the same people, and follow their progress through tax returns or whatever data is available.  What this type study finds, time and again, is that income mobility remains high in this country.  And what happens, time and again, is the media and politicians ignore the study in favor of the more flawed approaches that support their narrative better.

Well, the study has been performed again, and the results are the same:  Income mobility remains high in this country, especially for the poorest 20%.

Incomechangesopinionjournal

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in one chart 60% of the hot air in the Democratic Presidential debates is refuted.

By the way, it is worth noting the drop in income of the top 1%, because it helps to point out a flaw in the usual income distribution numbers we see.  In 2002, I showed no income on my 1040 (because I was starting a new business).  In the income distribution numbers for 2002, my family and I showed up in the bottom 20%, living on less than a $1 a day.  Of course, that is an absurd characterization.  On the opposite end of the scale, imagine a small business owner plugging along making $80,000 or so a year, comfortably middle class, and then in one year sells his business for $1 million.  In that year's statistics, he is rich.  The next year when his capital gains go away, it looks like he has gotten poorer, when no such thing happened.

Of course, some are still struggling, though my suspicion is that this is less related to structural issues in the economy or availability of opportunity than with cultural issues.

Posted on November 15, 2007 at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Not Surprising in the Least

Via Tyler Cowen:

The Asian Development Bank presented official survey results indicating China's economy is smaller and poorer than established estimates say. The announcement cited the first authoritative measure of China's size using purchasing power parity methods. The results tell us that when the World Bank announces its expected PPP data revisions later this year, China's economy will turn out to be 40 per cent smaller than previously stated......The number of people in China living below the World Bank's dollar-a-day poverty line is 300m - three times larger than currently estimated.

Well, this is a bit sad, as I would hope everyone likes seeing people emerge from poverty**.  But it is really not surprising.  Strongly state-run economies are notoriously hard to measure from the outside, and westerners systematically overestimated the size of the economy of the old Soviet Union.

**  I make this statement because I am an optimistic guy full of confidence in the generally good intentions of mankind.  Because if I were not such a person, and actually judged people by their actions, I would come to the conclusion that a lot of people DO NOT want people in countries like China to emerge form poverty.  Trade protectionism, apologias for looting dictators like Castro or Chavez, anti-globalization riots, anti-growth initiatives, and calls for rollbacks in fossil fuel consumption all share in common a shocking disregard for people trying to emerge from poverty -- often from folks on the left who purport to be the great defenders of the poor.  I tried to explain the phenomenon before, at least among self-styled "progressives':

Progressives do not like American factories appearing in third world countries, paying locals wages progressives feel are too low, and disrupting agrarian economies with which progressives were more comfortable.  But these changes are all the sum of actions by individuals, so it is illustrative to think about what is going on in these countries at the individual level. 

One morning, a rice farmer in southeast Asia might faces a choice. He can continue a life of brutal, back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk for what is essentially subsistence earnings.  He can continue to see a large number of his children die young from malnutrition and disease. He can continue a lifestyle so static, so devoid of opportunity for advancement, that it is nearly identical to the life led by his ancestors in the same spot a thousand years ago.

Or, he can go to the local Nike factory, work long hours (but certainly no longer than he worked in the field) for low pay (but certainly more than he was making subsistence farming) and take a shot at changing his life.  And you know what, many men (and women) in his position choose the Nike factory.  And progressives hate this.  They distrust this choice.  They distrust the change.  And, at its heart, that is what the opposition to globalization is all about - a deep seated conservatism that distrusts the decision-making of individuals and fears change, change that ironically might finally pull people out of untold generations of utter poverty.

Posted on November 15, 2007 at 08:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Hot Product

Yoggie makes a Linux computer that performs 12 network security functions, including firewall and filtering. The cool part is they put the whole thing on a USB key.

Posted on November 14, 2007 at 09:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

8th Grade, 1895

I thought this was pretty interesting. It purports to be (and I have no reason to doubt that it is) an 8th grade final exam given in 1895 in Salina, KS.  I have seen it in the context of "gee, look how much worse our schools are" and to some extent that is unfair.  Sure, I think we all can get a gut feel from the test that expectations on students were a bit more unyielding and rigorous back then. One gets the sense that the Salina school district has not had to defend the test in court against charges that it discriminates against ... whatever and that they would not really understand the current public mantra that self-esteem should somehow trump learning and achievement.

But the fact that you and I can't answer a lot of the questions doesn't really mean much. Some of it would be hard to pass because it asks for frameworks we don't necessarily ascribe to today.  For example, it asks for the epochs into which US history is divided.  I have no idea what such epochs would be and in fact they are probably irrelevant given we have twice as much history as a country today as in 1895.  And it takes a minute to remember that when they say the "rebellion" they are probably talking about the Civil War.  And as to "orthography,"  I am not losing much sleep at night over not being able to "Give four substitutes for caret 'u'."

In general, the test reflects a shift in teaching from a lot of technical memorization to the more conceptual.  Kids who passed this test in 1895 could probably spell oddball words and fill out a map better than my kids, but I would be curious how well they would do on a five paragraph persuasive essay, something my eighth grader spends a lot of time on. 

Math is one area where my kid's education would blow this stuff away.  The math on this 1895 test is pretty tailored to the needs of a small farming town:

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per m?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per are, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

But by the end of eight grade my kids will have had two years of algebra, not necessarily because they are smarter than kids in 1895, but because perceived needs change.  My kids are more likely to need complex math for advanced science and technical degrees than they are going to need to be able to figure out how many bushels of grain will fit in the silo.  Further, where is the science on the test?  How about a second language? 

My kids go to a private school, so maybe public school parents have a different perspective.  There are a lot of reasons to criticize public schools today, but I don't think this test gives us much insight into them.

Posted on November 14, 2007 at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Government Trap

From the NY Times via Maggies Farm:

The rescue of the Florida Everglades, the largest and most expensive environmental restoration project on the planet, is faltering.

Seven years into what was supposed to be a four-decade, $8 billion effort to reverse generations of destruction, federal financing has slowed to a trickle. Projects are already years behind schedule. Thousands of acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat continue to disappear, paved by developers or blasted by rock miners to feed the hungry construction industry.

The idea that the federal government could summon the will and money to restore the subtle, sodden grandeur of the so-called River of Grass is disappearing, too.

If, forty years ago, individuals who cared about the Everglades had banded together with private money, they could have bought up and preserved huge tracts of land around the current National Park.  Instead, as so many activists do today, rather than trying to rally private action they lobbied the government to do something about it.  Once the ball was thrown into the Feds' court, all incentive for private action disappeared, and as is so often the case, the Feds bungled their way $8 billion to little effect.

Posted on November 14, 2007 at 08:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

I Guess Its Not Working Very Well

From my daily email from the Goldwater Institute:

In only five years, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System budget is slated to more than double.

When double-speak government agency names meet reality!

Posted on November 14, 2007 at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Due Process? Not When There Is Money in it for US

One of the worst violations of due process on the books today is law enforcement's ability to seize cash and assets from people only suspected to be drug dealers, with no due process whatsoever.  In fact, the only process involved is that, once seized, the private citizen from which the assets were taken must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the money or assets are legitimately theirs, rather than the other way around.  This was a great case in point.

Along the same lines, the city of Washington DC has decided that all that due process stuff is getting in the way of their harvesting the maximum amount of cash from drivers:

In an attempt to stem the loss of revenue from motorists contesting parking tickets, cities are effectively eliminating the traditional due process rights of motorists to defend themselves at an impartial hearing. By the end of next year, Washington, DC's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will not allow anyone who believes he unfairly received a citation to have his day in an administrative hearing.

"DMV will complete the phase-out of in-person adjudication of parking tickets in favor of mail-in and e-mail adjudication by December 2008," the Fiscal Year 2008 DMV plan states.

The move is intended to allow automated street sweeper parking ticket machines to boost the number of infractions cited well beyond the 1.6 million currently handed out by meter maids. As one-third of those who contest citations in the city are successful, the hearings cut significantly into the $100 million in revenue tickets generate each year.

Under the DMV's plan, motorists will only be able to object to a ticket by email or letter where city employees can ignore or reject letters in bulk without affected motorists having any realistic recourse.

Thanks to Radley Balko, who also found this little gem:

In Boston and other cities in Massachusetts, motorists cannot challenge a $100 parking ticket in court without first paying a $275 court fee. If found innocent, the motorist does not receive a refund of the $275.

Posted on November 14, 2007 at 08:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Is This Really The Replacement We Want?

Regular readers know that I am a critic of the Bush administration for any number of failings, perhaps most importantly its flaunting of the separation of powers and its attempts to avoid scrutiny by hiding behind the war and calls on patriotism.  In this post, aimed mostly at the drift in the Republican party, I threw in this  observation:

in response to a Republican President thought to be over-reaching, secretive, and overly fond of executive power, they seem ready to nominate Hillary Clinton, who may be one of the few people in the country more secretive and power-hungry.  Anyone remember how she conducted her infamous health care task force?  I seem to remember she pioneered many of the practices for which Democrats tried to impeach Dick Cheney this week.

Q&O links an article from the National Review which goes further on Hillary:

If grumbling about a basketball story seems excessive, it's also typical of the Clinton media machine. Reporters who have covered the hyper-vigilant campaign say that no detail or editorial spin is too minor to draw a rebuke. Even seasoned political journalists describe reporting on Hillary as a torturous experience. Though few dare offer specifics for the record--"They're too smart," one furtively confides. "They'll figure out who I am"--privately, they recount excruciating battles to secure basic facts. Innocent queries are met with deep suspicion. Only surgically precise questioning yields relevant answers. Hillary's aides don't hesitate to use access as a blunt instrument, as when they killed off a negative GQ story on the campaign by threatening to stop cooperating with a separate Bill Clinton story the magazine had in the works. Reporters' jabs and errors are long remembered, and no hour is too odd for an angry phone call. Clinton aides are especially swift to bypass reporters and complain to top editors. "They're frightening!" says one reporter who has covered Clinton. "They don't see [reporting] as a healthy part of the process. They view this as a ruthless kill-or-be-killed game."...

It's enough to make you suspect that breeding fear and paranoia within the press corps is itself part of the Clinton campaign's strategy. And, if that sounds familiar, it may be because the Clinton machine, say reporters and pro-Hillary Democrats, is emulating nothing less than the model of the Bush White House, which has treated the press with thinly veiled contempt and minimal cooperation. "The Bush administration changed the rules," as one scribe puts it--and the Clintonites like the way they look. (To be sure, no one accuses the Clinton team of outright lying to the press, as the Bushies have done, or of crossing other ethical lines. And reporters say other press shops--notably those of Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards--are also highly combative.)

The only quibble I have is the distinction that Hillary is not lying, but Bush is.  That seems, at least to this libertarian, to be a silly statement.  There is no reason to believe Hillary is any more or less mendacious than GWB.  Though I will say, with the right audience, Hillary can be surprisingly honest and open about her aims:

10/11/2007:  "I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all."

June, 2004:  "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good," she told San Franciscans in June 2004. As first lady, she said: "We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society."

Posted on November 13, 2007 at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

My Interview at All American Blogger is Up

The podcast audio of Duane Lester's interview of yours truly about climate issues is now up here.  You can decide for yourself if this is true.

Posted on November 13, 2007 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anatomy of A False Panic

I am trying to keep most of my long climate posts off this site and over at Climate Skeptic.  However, I have cross-posted this one because it is a good example for laymen of just what crap gets put forward in the media today about global warming.  It demonstrates the gullibility of the media, the gross exaggerations that exist in nearly every climate catastrophe article, and, as an added bonus, demonstrates the scientific incompetence of the man who leads the UN, the organization that has taken onto itself the role of summarizing the state of climate science. 

OK, here is a great example of the media blithely accepting panicky catsrophism where none is warranted (Link HT to Maggies Farm)

Scientists welcomed Ban Ki Moon to Antarctica with a glass of Johnny Walker Black Label served “on the rocks” with 40,000-year-old polar ice. But the researchers delivered an alarming message to the UN Secretary-General about a potential environmental catastrophe that could raise sea levels by six metres if an ice sheet covering a fifth of the continent crumbles.

The polar experts, studying the effects of global warming on the icy continent that is devoted to science, fear a repeat of the 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf. The 12,000-year-old shelf was 220 metres (720ft) thick and almost the size of Yorkshire.

“I was told by scientists that the entire Western Antarctica is now floating. That is a fifth of the continent. If it broke up, sea levels may rise as much as six metres,” Mr Ban said after being briefed at the Chilean, Uruguayan and South Korean bases during a day trip to King George Island, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. ...

Eduardo Frei Montalva Air Force Base, a year-round settlement of corrugated-iron cabins belonging to Chile, lies in one of the world’s worst “hot spots” – temperatures have been rising 0.5C (0.9F) a decade since the 1940s.

I don't even know where to start with this.  So I will just fire off some bullets:

  • Over the last 30 years, satellites have found absolutely no warming trend in Antarctica  (from UAH via Steven Milloy):

South_pole_temperatures

  • The tail is measuring the dog.  The Korean station couldn't possibly be more irrelevent to measuring Antarctic temperatures.  It is on an island labelled 26-34 north of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in the map below.  One might as well declare she is measuring temperatures in the continental US from Key West.

Antarcticastationsmap1s

  • It is well known that the Antarctic Penninsula, representing 2% of Antactica's area, is warming while the other 98% is cooling.  I discussed this more here. Al Gore took the same disingenuous step in his movie of showing only the anomolous 2%.  The Antarctic Penninsula in the first graph below shows warming.  The rest of Antarctica shows none  (click to enlarge)

Antarc35_2 Antarc34 Antarc33_2

  • The IPCC (run by the Secretary General and his organization) predicts that with global warming, the Antarctic penninsula will see net melting while the rest of Antarctica will see net increases in ice.  The penninsula is affected more by the changing temperatures of sea currents in the surrounding seas than in global climate effects.  For most of Antarctica, temperatures will never concieveably warm enough to melt the ice sheets, since it is so cold even in the summer, and ice sheets are expected to expand as warming increases precipitation on the continent.
  • Scientists studying Antarctica have been there at most a few decades.  We know almost nothing about it or its histroy.  We certainly don't know enough about "what is normal" to have any clue if activities on the Larson B ice shelf are anomolous or not.
  • The UN Sec-gen said that this ice shelf represented a fifth of the continent.  Here, in actuality, is the Larsen ice shelf.  The red box below greatly exaggerates Larsen's size, and Larsen-B is only a portion of the entire Larsen shelf.

Antarctic_map_larson_b

  • The statement that the entire Western Antarctic is floating is just absurd.  God knows what that is supposed to mean, but even if we ignore the word "floating", we can see from the map above we aren't even talking about a significant portion of the Antarctic Pennninsula, much less of Western Antarctica.  Here are actual pictures of the 2002 event.  (by the way, if ice is really "floating", presumably in sea water, then it's melting will have zero effect on ocean levels)
  • Such a feared collapse already happened 5 years ago, and sea levels did not budge.  But the next time it happens, sea levels are going to rise 20 feet??  Even the UN's IPCC does not think sea levels will rise more than 8-12 inches in the next century due to their overblown temperature forecasts.
As always, you can consult my my book and my movie (both free online) for more details on all these topics.

Posted on November 12, 2007 at 10:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

I am a Crank

As defined by Kevin Drum:

Well, since you asked, the reason I think Ron Paul is a crank is because he wants to repeal the 16th amendment, eliminate the personal income tax, abolish the minimum wage, deep six the Federal Reserve, and return the United States to some kind of weird quasi-gold standard.

Posted on November 12, 2007 at 09:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Podcast Tonight

I will be on the All American Blogger podcast tonight, live here at 10PM, or of course any time after that through miracle of MP3 here.  Never tried this format before with call-in questions and stuff, so it should be interesting.  I will be discussing climate and catastrophic man-made global warming theory.

Posted on November 12, 2007 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Trying to be a Geek, and Failing

My wife watches Dancing with the Stars, and has a bunch of old episodes she was plowing through this weekend on TIVO.  Contestant Mark Cuban, Internet billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, seems to want to cultivate a geek image.  Each dancer is given a score of 1-10 from each of three judges.  Upon getting his score of 7+7+7=21, Cuban made a comment that one would classify as fairly unusual for such a show: "I was kind of hoping for a higher prime number."

I am sure most of the viewers ooohed and aaahhhed.  What an intellectual Mark Cuban is!  Except there is a problem.  21 is not a prime number.  Yes, it's sort of seductively odd, like 51 or 87, but like those numbers it is divisible by 3.  Which makes sense since his score was computed as 3x7.  OK, so maybe he was talking about the "7" he received from each judge.  Well, the number 7 is indeed prime.  But there are no other prime numbers less than or equal to 10.  It would be impossible to get a higher prime number score than 7 unless the judges went up to a Spinal-Tap-esque 11.

I really wasn't going to publish this little insight until I saw TJIC publish this.

Update:  Fixed link.  I guess it is a bad sign of my own geek-dom if I can't get an html link right.

Posted on November 12, 2007 at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

I'm on the Front Page, But Don't Bother to Look

The Arizona Republic had a stealth hit piece on skeptics in the paper today and, unfortunately, I inadvertently helped.  My kids woke me up at 7:00 this morning (Yuk!) to tell me I was on the front page of the Arizona Republic.  I was quoted a couple of times in an article on climate change skeptics.   I have a couple of thoughts about an article that really has me depressed today.  If you want to know what I really think about climate, see my book and in my movie (both free online).

  • After interviews, I am always surprised at what the writers chose to quote, and this article is no exception. 
  • I spent most of the article trying to explain this simple data exercise, but I guess newspapers today are science-phobic and would rather write he-said-she-said articles than actually get into the numbers.  Unfortunately, the article leaves the impressions that we skeptics have problems with catastrophic global warming theory  "just because."
  • The article is not about the skeptics' position, because it is not really stated.  In fact, more space is spent on refuting skeptics than is even given to skeptics themselves.  Here is the best test:  The skeptic's position would have been better served by not publishing this mess at all.
  • Almost my entire discussion with the reporter was about the forecasts.  I said man is causing some warming, but there are simple tests to show it likely won't be catastrophic.  I even said that it was the catastrophists tactic not to argue this point, but to shift the debate to whether warming exists at all, where they have a much stronger argument. Despite this whole discussion with the reporter, the reporter allowed the catastrophists to shift the debate again.  They want to argue whether things are warmer, where they are on strong ground, and not about how much it will warming the future and whether this will justify massive government intervention, where they are on weak ground.

This article really frustrates me, and may pretty much spell the end for my ever giving an interview on the subject again (I will do a podcast on Monday, which I will link soon, but that is different because they can't edit me).  Despite it being an article about skeptics, the catastrophists are the only one that get any empirical evidence whatsoever into the article (however lame it may be).  This really ticked me off in particular:  I spent an hour giving specific empirical reasons why there were problems with forecasts and the theory.  The reporter then just printed a few quotes from me that made me look like an uninformed idiot, saying "just because."  Then they print this:

"There is clearly a group of thought that says because we're not seeing debate now, it never happened in the scientific community," Huxman said. "That is simply wrong. It did happen, and it's over. The debate now is over the idiosyncrasies, the internal workings."

Incredibly, they also credulously reprint the absurd Newsweek ad hominem attacks on skeptics

What also got my attention was the companion article on an ASU professor who is a climate skeptic.  Incredibly, in the whole article, not one sentence is dedicated to explaining why the professor is a skeptic.  What is the empirical evidence he relies on, or the analysis he finds most compelling?  We never find out.  All we get is an article on dueling motivations.  For example, the Republic writes:

Despite his notoriety as a hero of the skeptic crowd, Balling's research and lifestyle contain some surprising contradictions.

He is in charge of climate studies at the Decision Center for a Desert City, an ambitious ASU program that looks at how drought will affect the Valley.

He's a registered independent and lives a lifestyle that the hardiest environmental activist would recognize as green....

If there was a competition for living green, "put the cards on the table, and I'll beat 99 percent of the faculty here," Balling said.

He avoids driving and  doesn't own a cellphone.

He would even have liked to see Al Gore win the presidency in 2000.

So?  Why is this surprising?  Should we all naturally expect that skeptics all eat children for dinner?  And, of course, an article on a leading skeptic would not be complete without this:

Critics have assailed Balling's ties to industries.

Balling received more than $679,000 in research funding from fossil-fuel-industry organizations between 1989 and 2002, according to figures provided by ASU. He served as a scientific adviser to the Greening Earth Society, a public-relations organization founded by the Western Fuels Association to promote the benefits of global warming.

Uh, OK.  Here is a Coyote Blog challenge:  Find me one article in a mainstream newspaper or news weekly that even once checks the sources of funding for climate catastrophists.  This focus on funding and motivation and political affiliation for skeptics only is scandalously asymmetric.  But take a quick look at the article - 85% of it is related to motivation, either how good his green credentials are or how much money he gets from oil companies - and not any discussion of what he actually thinks. 

This final bit is especially funny.  Think of all the wacko professors out there that are warmly accepted by their universities and the academic community.  We're talking about folks all the way up to and including men who have gone to prison for torturing and murdering women.  But apparently having a climate skeptic on the faculty is just too much:

But his climate work has garnered the most national attention, which bothers some colleagues at ASU.

"For ASU, having Balling as such a prominent figure in the climate debate has been awkward, not so much because of his positions but because we have lacked scientists of similar stature whose work supports more widely held, opposing views," Jonathan Fink, director of ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability, wrote in an e-mail. "Hence we have been viewed as somewhat of a fringe institution in the world of climate-change research."

Wow, its terrible to see such ill-repute brought to America's #1 Party School.  And by the way, what the hell kind of strategy is this?  We want to make a name for ourselves in climate research, so to do so we think we should be just like all the other schools -- that's the way to differentiate ourselves!

I will post links to my podcast that is coming up Monday night.  After that, I am not sure.  I am pretty depressed about the state of the media on this issue.  I have a lot of interests and more than enough to do with my time that I may take a break from climate for a while.

Posted on November 11, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

The Graft Problem

Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss the problem of graft.  No, not bribery (though I do have a beef with the industry cabal that supposedly funds all skeptics for not coming through with my check).  In this case, I discuss temperature reconstructions that graft one data series onto another, and try to draw conclusions about the inflection point which, suspiciously, occurs exactly at the spot the two series are spliced.

Posted on November 10, 2007 at 08:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gun to the Head in Seattle

David Stern is putting a gun to the head of Seattle taxpayers:

NBA commissioner David Stern is putting the screws to Seattle in his attempts to get the community to provide taxpayer subsidies that are lucrative enough to keep the team from departing the "Emerald City" to even greener fields in Oklahoma.

Stern blasts city officials and the overwhelming majority of voters in the city for passing a law requiring (gasp!) that any funds used to help build an arena earn the same rate of return as a treasury bill. "That measure simply means there is no way city money would ever be used on an arena project," Stern said. Effectively, Stern has just confirmed what sports economists have known all along: taxpayer spending on sports infrastructure is unlikely to provide significant returns on the investment.

We went through the exact same thing here in Phoenix, with various outsiders and city politicians chiding the voters to voting down taxpayer funded palaces for the Cardinals and Coyotes  (eventually, they found a sucker in the local city of Glendale).  In the past, I have written about sports team and corporate relocations as a prisoners dilemma game.

To see this clearer, lets take the example of Major League Baseball (MLB).  We all know that cities and states have been massively subsidizing new baseball stadiums for billionaire team owners.  Lets for a minute say this never happened - that somehow, the mayors of the 50 largest cities got together in 1960 and made a no-stadium-subsidy pledge.  First, would MLB still exist?  Sure!  Teams like the Giants have proven that baseball can work financially in a private park, and baseball thrived for years with private parks.  OK, would baseball be in the same cities?  Well, without subsidies, baseball would be in the largest cities, like New York and LA and Chicago, which is exactly where they are now.  The odd city here or there might be different, e.g. Tampa Bay might never have gotten a team, but that would in retrospect have been a good thing.

The net effect in baseball is the same as it is in every other industry:  Relocation subsidies, when everyone is playing the game, do nothing to substantially affect the location of jobs and businesses, but rather just transfer taxpayer money to business owners and workers.

   

The Sports Economist writes about this move in the context of another economic game:

Indeed this is a classic example of the time inconsistency problem for which Finn Kydland and Ed Prescott (my graduate school macro professor!) won the Nobel Prize in 2004. Stern would like to threaten Seattle with the permanent loss of their NBA team in order to secure taxpayer concessions now. But should the team move, the NBA has every reason to want to back off its previous threats and relocate a team back into to the area due to the size, location, and income levels of the city. Even having lost a team, Seattle will likely remain a better candidate for a successful franchise than smaller and poorer cities such as New Orleans or Memphis. Certainly Seattle should not fall for Stern's bluster.

Posted on November 9, 2007 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

People Without a Country

I have written a number of times about the growing ranks of RVers who have completely abandoned a permanent address and spend their entire life on the road.  I know these folks because I hire about 400 of them every summer to run our campgrounds and recreational facilities.  It is a fascinating subculture, that in some ways mirrors the habits of a great nomadic tribe that roams all over the country but comes together in a few camps to meet and interact in the winter (e.g. Colorado River between Yuma and Quartzite).  The numbers are large:

The Census says more than 105,000 Americans live full-time in RVs, boats or vans, though one RV group says the number is more like half a million. Because of their nomadic ways, pinning down their number with any certainty is difficult.

The AP has an article about how difficult it is becoming for some of these folks to vote, since a number of states are beginning to require a permanent physical address  (most of these folks have PO Boxes run by companies that forward their mail).

A total of 286 people who live full-time in their recreational vehicles were dropped from the voter rolls in one Tennessee county over the past two years because they did not have a genuine home address, only a mailbox. That has left them unable to vote in national or local elections....

But some elections officials say that voters should have a real connection to the place where they are casting ballots, and that RVers are registering in certain states simply to avoid taxes. Some of them rarely, if ever, set foot in those states.

I guess they need a real connection to their state, kind of like, say, Hillary Clinton had to New York when she ran for the Senate there.  I know that the immediate reaction from many of you may be that this is somehow weird and, being weird, it is OK to lock them out of voting. But I can attest these folks are all quite normal people who are seduced by the ability to live anywhere they want, on the spur of the moment, and who revel in being able to simplify their life enough to fit all their worldly goods into an RV and hit the road.

This part is total BS:

David Ellis, the former Bradley County Election Commission director who started removing full-time RVers, said they have no connection to the area and are simply "dodging their responsibility to pay their fair share" of taxes.

RVers pay taxes in the states in which they work, not in their home state  (just like everyone else, by the way).  RVers, who rent their living site, pay the same property taxes (ie zero) that any other renter pays.

For the record, none of my folks have reported a problem.  However, these problems are just going to get worse.  Crackdowns both on illegal immigration and hypothesized terrorism are making more difficult to complete any number of basic tasks, like banking, without a permanent physical address.

Posted on November 8, 2007 at 09:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

This Job Is Half Empty

I again heard someone on NPR today lamenting the loss of manufacturing jobs in the US.  It got me thinking about a couple of things:

  1. When I had my political awakening in high school debate in the 1970s, all of the complaints from the left were about how horrible blue collar workers had it in manufacturing jobs.  At that time, manufacturing jobs were labeled by leftish critics as dirty and dangerous, and, most common, as repetitious and boring (in the Fredrick Taylor legacy).  OK, so now that they all have nice clean service jobs, we are unhappy that they don't have those old manufacturing jobs?  These are folks whose agenda has nothing to do with the words they are actually speaking, and everything to do with creating dissatisfaction to facilitate government takeover of economic functions
  2. While I am sure the service sector is overtaking manufacturing (in the same way manufacturing overtook agriculture), to some extent the statistics are misleading.

    Let's take an automobile assembly plant circa 1955.  Typically, a large manufacturing plant would have a staff to do everything the factory needed.  They had people on staff to clean the bathrooms, to paint the walls, and to perform equipment maintenance.  The people who did these jobs were all classified as manufacturing workers, because they worked in a manufacturing plant.  Since 1955, this plant has likely changed the way it staffs these type jobs.  It still cleans the bathrooms, but it has a contract with an outside janitorial firm who comes in each night to do so.  It still paints the walls, but has a contract with a painting contractor to do so.  And it still needs the equipment to be maintained, but probably has contracts with many of the equipment suppliers to do the maintenance.

    So, today, there might be the exact same number of people in the factory cleaning bathrooms and maintaining equipment, but now the government classifies them as "service workers" because they work for a service company, rather than manufacturing workers.  Nothing has really changed in the work that people do, but government stats will show a large shift from manufacturing to service employment.

  3. I am tired of the whole McJobs meme.  Have you been in a McDonalds?  How many middle age auto worker types do you see working there?  None?  What you see are young people and recent entrants to the job market, including new immigrants.  What these people need more than anything is real experience with the basics of holding a job, including showing up reliably, working in a structured environment, following a process, and providing customer service.  Sure, they would prefer that to happen at $60 an hour, what they really need, and are getting, is a credible work experience they can use to go get higher paying jobs in the future.

Posted on November 8, 2007 at 09:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Most Pathetic Interview Ever

I don't know if this has made the blog rounds yet (I have been out of touch and have not gotten through me feed reader today) but this is perhaps one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.  It's a 40 second interview with a woman named Geri Punteney in Iowa about Barrack Obama on the left of this page  (ironically, NPR makes you listen to a brief commercial before you hear the clip).

You really, really need to take the time to listen.  I will include an excerpt below, but you won't get the full effect of the woman absolutely in tears through the statement, crying because she had gotten to touch someone she had seen on TV.

A few weeks ago, at the home in Oelwein, Iowa, she shares with her mother, Punteney said she'd been inspired to see Obama when he came to the area.                        

"I'd seen the commercials," she said. "And he just seemed sincere, like he's for people like my mom, my brother and me."                        

Many people feel politicians may not be the first place to turn when in dire need of help. But Punteney said she was confident Obama could do something to make her feel better.                     
"I never had anyone pay attention to me and my needs — and he held my hand," she said.

He can do something to make me feel better?  Barf.  Can it really be that my future freedom and prosperity depend on how this woman votes?  Have we really given this woman so much power over the rest of us?  Have we really throttled back the most productive in society so this woman can feel like she is keeping up?  Have I really become the sacrificial lamb to this woman's need to feel better?

And, oh by the way, in case I have not gone off on this rant in the last five minutes or so, Obama can care because he can promise you whatever you desire, and then he can force me to pay for it.  Unlike people in private life who really do care, politicians don't actually pay for their promises because they can force other people to do it for them.  Worse, politicians like Obama reap the praises of women like this for being caring, while vilifying people like me who are productive and make his caring possible.  It just makes me sick.

Oh, and how much did Obama really care?  Not much, it seems:

I brought a tape recorder to Punteney's house and played her moment with Obama back for her — and his suggestion that he'd write her brother a note. He never did.                        

"He didn't have time, I guess," she said. "I understand. You know, he was bombarded by so many people. But just knowing he knows — that's more important than a note."

So here it is:  Cares enough to spend Coyote's money:  Yes.  Cares enough to actually expend some effort himself:  No way.

Indeed, Punteney seemed to get just what she wanted from Obama. She got noticed.

How about a trade, Ms. Punteney?  If I promise to get you to an Oprah show, will you promise not to ever vote?

Update: Yeah, I know, her brother has leukemia, which is sad.  The lack of portability of his health insurance is also pain, a result of WWII wage control policy and subsequent tax policy that encouraged the practice.    Sorry, but this need to be touched and noticed by a second or third term Congressman is pathetic. 

Posted on November 8, 2007 at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Don't Panic!

Over at Climate Skeptic, I post my single best argument why you shouldn't be panicked about anthropogenic global warming.

Posted on November 7, 2007 at 11:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Observation About Republican Presidential Candidates

I almost never ever post on politics and political races, but I had an interesting conversation the other day.  As a secular libertarian, I find no one (beyond Ron Paul) among the Republican candidates even the least bit interesting.  I trust none of them to pursue free market and small government principals, and several, including McCain, Giuliani, and Huckabee, have track records of large government intrusiveness.

What I found interesting was a conversation with a friend of mine who self-identifies as a Christian conservative  (yes, I know it is out of vogue, but it is perfectly possible to have quality friendships with people of different political stripes, particularly considering that I am married to a New England liberal Democrat).  My Christian conservative friend said he found no Republican he was really interested in voting for.

I find it interesting that the Republicans (again with the exception of Ron Paul, who I think they would like to disavow) unable to field a candidate that appeals to either of its traditional constituencies.  It strikes me the party is heading back to its roots in the 1970s in the Nixon-Rockefeller days.  Yuk.

Update:  Which isn't to necessarily say the Democrats have everything figured out.  For example, in response to a Republican President thought to be over-reaching, secretive, and overly fond of executive power, they seem ready to nominate Hillary Clinton, who may be one of the few people in the country more secretive and power-hungry.  Anyone remember how she conducted her infamous health care task force?  I seem to remember she pioneered many of the practices for which Democrats tried to impeach Dick Cheney this week.

Posted on November 7, 2007 at 05:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Prepare to Waste Some Time

Via Hit and Run, this is an incredible site for stat-geeks to fool around.  Top 101 city lists.

#1 Average Sunshine!  I have also lived in the 4th least sunny city.  Sunnier is better.   Seattle is not among the rainiest in terms of total inches, because it never rains very hard.  If you could measure rainy as "number of hours per month that rain is falling", Seattle would be right up there.  In places like Houston, you get a lot more volume of rain, but you get a whole years worth in just a couple of hours.


Other interesting ones:

I just wish they had a better explanation of the metric and the data source for each

Posted on November 7, 2007 at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Oops

Bummer:

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) today announced it will record a net noncash charge of $39 billion for the third quarter of 2007 related to establishing a valuation allowance against its deferred tax assets (DTAs) in the U.S., Canada and Germany.

Not everyday you can restate your balance sheet by $39 billion.  Apparently, if you lose money long enough, then FASB rules assume that there is a good chance you may never use your tax-loss carry-forwards, so they have to be written down.

Posted on November 6, 2007 at 05:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Few Observations About Apple

  1. I really like my new iPod touch as a movie player for trips.  With an add-on double-A battery for extra life, it beats the hell out of portable DVD players.  It is a decent Internet surfer over WiFi though I am still looking for something a bit larger.
  2. Anyone who fetishizes Apple's design capability has never tried to sync two iPods from one computer.  It can be done, with a klugey shift-click open to iTunes that brings up a "pick library" menu, but it really blows.  Also, they obviously have not had to endure QuickTime popups 415 times a day that say "Some of your Quick Time software is out of date.  You can fix this problem by updating the the latest version."  When one clicks "Do it now," one invariably gets the error message that the servers are busy (if the system does not crash entirely.
  3. The new iPod classics still suck.  I tried them again at Best Buy.  The menu is laggy as hell and very hard to make selections or browse.  It is no accident that new-in-box generation 5.5 iPods are selling for more on eBay than new generation 6 iPods with the same or more memory.

Posted on November 5, 2007 at 10:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Creepy Big Brother Education at University of Delaware

You have probably seen the stories about the creepy, mandatory reeducation program for University of Delaware students.  If you have missed the story, or want more, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is all over it -- here is a roundup.

However, if you don't have time to go through it all, here is a couple of examples I took right from their curricula.  Note that the following goals for the program are set in the context of, as the university puts it, "treatment" for students incorrect beliefs and worldviews.   This is from the Central Complex residence hall:

Delaware

Look at 2B and C for example!  Its coincident timing, but look at stuff above in the context of this post, which I wrote before I even saw this.  Could there be a more resounding confirmation of this:

I have to lay a lot of this failure on universities like my own. Having made students jump through unbelievable hoops just to get admitted, and then having charged them $60,000 a year for tuition, universities feel like they need to make students feel better about this investment.   Universities have convinced their graduates that public pursuits are morally superior to grubby old corporate jobs (that actually require, you know, real work), and then have further convinced them that they are ready to change to world and be leaders at 22.  Each and every one of them graduate convinced they have something important to say and that the world is kneeling at their feet to hear it.  But who the f*ck cares what a 22-year-old with an Ivy League politics degree has to say?  Who in heavens name listened to Lincoln or Churchill in their early twenties?  It's a false expectation.  The Ivy League is training young people for, and in fact encouraging them to pursue, a job (ie 22-year-old to whom we all happily defer to tell us what to do) that simply does not exist.  A few NGO's and similar organizations offer a few positions that pretend to be this job, but these are more in the nature of charitable make-work positions to help Harvard Kennedy School graduates with their self-esteem, kind of like basket-weaving for mental patients.

If you read through the whole document, which is nearly impossible because it is a classic example of academic mental masturbation, you will see the curriculum is dominated by this sustainability notion

Delaware2

Somehow none of the residence halls chose "the role of capitalism and individual entrepreneurship in creating wealth."  Remember that these are all areas that the university has declared that students require "treatment" if their views do not conform with the university orthodoxy.  They are expecting that all students must share all of these beliefs.  For real creepiness, read about the student that the RA conducting this curriculum actually felt the need to report to university officials because her attitudes were so "out of whack".  She was reported for saying obviously horrendous things like this answer:

1) When were you first made aware of your race?

“That is irrelevant to everything. My race is human being.”

Fortunately, the University of Delaware killed the program after a firestorm of national outrage.  If you have read the FIRE blog long enough, you will suspect that Delaware will find some way in the future to sneak it back in.

My post of the vacuousness of student activists, written before I even saw this, is here.

Update:  How did I miss this great quote, from the university’s Office of Residence Life Diversity Education Training documents:

“A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. ‘The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities, or acts of discrimination….’”

Posted on November 5, 2007 at 09:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Let's Emulate India!

Over at Climate Skeptic, we can see Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, argue that the only way to really abate CO2 is for all the world's countries to be just like India.  I kid you not.  And, in fact I agree with him that if we really wanted to eliminate CO2 emissions with current technology, exactly this kind of poverty promotion program would be required.  I just don't think it's necessary that we adopt such a goal. 

As a postscript, I take on Mr. Stern's temperature forecasts of 2.5-3 degree C rise by 2050 and show why they make absolutely no sense in light of the last 100 years of empirical data.

Posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Comic Book / Graphic Novel Site

One of my favorite bloggers, TJIC, has opened a cool-looking web-site selling comics and graphic novels for 20% off with free shipping.  The site is called HeavyInk.com and is worth a look if you are interested in that genre.  I know TJIC's other online business SmartFlix.com gets very good reviews for service from its customers.

Posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Grammar Bleg

An exception to the general use of "a" and "an" is before a word like "used."  For example, we say "a used car" rather than "an used car" despite the fact that "used" starts with a vowel.  Is there a name or general rule for this exception?  My guess it is because "used" begins with the "y" consonant sound, so we treat "used" like we would "Yugo".

Posted on November 5, 2007 at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Taking Krugman to the Woodshed

My friend Brink Lindsey is usually pretty measured in his writing.  So it was entertaining to see him take Paul Krugman out to the woodshed:

How can someone as intelligent and informed as Krugman concoct an interpretation of the post-World War II era that does such violence to the facts? How can someone so familiar with the intricate complexities of social processes convince himself that history is a simple matter of good guys versus bad guys? Because, for whatever reason, he has swapped disinterested analysis and scholarship for ideological partisanship. Here, in a revealing choice of phrase, he paraphrases Barry Goldwater’s notorious line: “Partisanship in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

To be a partisan is, by definition, to see the world partially rather than objectively: to identify wholeheartedly with the perspectives of one particular group and, at the extreme, to discount all rival perspectives as symptoms of intellectual or moral corruption. And the perspective Krugman has chosen to identify with is the philosophically incoherent, historically contingent grab bag of intellectual, interest group, and regional perspectives known as postwar American liberalism.

Of course, over the period that Krugman is addressing, the contents of that grab bag have changed fairly dramatically: from internationalist hawkishness in World War II and the early Cold War to a profound discomfort with American power in the ’70s and ’80s to a jumble of rival views today; from cynical acquiescence in Jim Crow to heroic embrace of the civil rights movement to the excesses of identity group politics to a more centrist line today; from sympathy for working-class economic hardship to hostility to working-class culture and back again. Yet with a naive zeal that leaves even Cuomo visibly nonplussed at several points in the interview, Krugman embraces the shifting contents of this grab bag as the one true path of virtue.

Posted on November 4, 2007 at 07:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

1975 Sears Catalog

I missed this two-year-old post from Don Boudreax at Cafe Hayek, but it is an excellent two part look at the 1975 Sears catalog aimed at answering the question, "Are we wealthier today?"  Part 1 just browses the catalog; part 2 is really interesting in that he compares the hours of work required today vs. 1975.  One interesting conclusion is that the comparison can be difficult because even some of the best items in 1975 are not as good as the economy models today.  And he does not mention things like reliability.  How often did the TV repair guy come to your house in the early 70's, with his big box of tubes.  My Sony in my bedroom has been operating flawlessly since 1995.  For example:

Sears lowest-priced garage-door opener: 20.1 hours of work required in 1975 (to buy a ¼-horsepower opener); 8.57 hours of work required in 2006 (to buy a ½-horsepower opener; Sears no longer sells garage-door openers with less than ½-horsepower.)

Posted on November 4, 2007 at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Why Campaign Spending Will Continue to Rise

Because the government has put itself in the job of redistributor-in-chief, and there is just too high of a financial return from influencing who are to be the beneficiaries, and who are to be the sacrificial lambs.  This is particularly the case when Congress can aim dollars at a small group who will give back generously in return, and where the costs are dispersed across large numbers of people, generally consumers or taxpayers or both:

Dan Morgan has another excellent Washington Post report on our tangled web of farm subsidies, tariffs, government purchases, and so on. This time he examines the sugar industry’s political contributions–”more than 900 separate contributions totaling nearly $1.5 million to candidates, parties and political funds” in 2007 alone. Most of the money went to Democrats, apparently, which might explain why Democrats opposed more strongly than Republicans an amendment to strike the sugar subsidy provisions from the bill. Morgan delights in pointing out members of Congress such as Rep. Carolyn Maloney of Queens and Manhattan and Rep. Steven Rothman of bucolic Hackensack and Fort Lee, New Jersey, who received funds from the sugar magnates and voted to protect their subsidies despite the fact that they would seem to have more sugar consumers than sugar growers in their districts....

So $1.5 million is a lot of money, and it seems to have done the trick. But . . . is it really so much money? According to Morgan, the sugar provisions in the farm bill are worth $1 billion over 10 years. That’s a huge return on investment. In what other way could a business invest $1.5 million to reap $1 billion?

The real campaign finance reform that is needed is to get the government out of the business of naming winners and losers.

Update:  More on the sugar fiasco here.

Under the current system, the government guarantees a price floor for sugar and limits the sugar supply — placing quotas on domestic production and quotas and tariffs to limit imports. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, sugar supports cost American consumers — who pay double the average world price — more than $1.5 billion a year. The system also bars farmers in some of the poorest countries of the world from selling their sugar here.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is about to topple this cozy arrangement. Next year, Mexican sugar will be allowed to enter the United States free of any quotas or duties, threatening a flood of imports. Rather than taking the opportunity to untangle the sugar program in this year’s farm bill, Congress has decided to bolster the old system.

Both the House bill, which was passed in July, and the Senate version, which could be voted on as early as this week, guarantee that the government will buy from American farmers an amount of sugar equivalent to 85 percent of domestic consumption — regardless of how much comes in from abroad. To add insult to injury, both also increase the longstanding price guarantee for sugar.

The bills encourage the government to operate the program at no cost to the budget, by selling the surplus sugar to the ethanol industry. That’s not likely. Ethanol makers will never accept paying anywhere near sugar’s guaranteed price. According to rough estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, supports for sugar in the House bill could cost taxpayers from $750 million to $850 million over the next five years.

Posted on November 4, 2007 at 06:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Forgot a Key Music Recommendation

In my roundup of music recommendations that have been given me by readers, I somehow forgot probably the most important one.

Posted on November 3, 2007 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Only in Congress

The House version of the bill spends $14 billion.  The Senate version spends $15 billion.  So what is the compromise between the two.  14.5?  No, spend $23.2 billion!

Posted on November 3, 2007 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Definition of an Activist

Activist:  A person who believes so strongly that a problem needs to be remedied that she dedicates substantial time to ... getting other people to fix the problem.   It used to be that activists sought voluntary help for their pet problem, and thus retained some semblance of honor.  However, our self-styled elite became frustrated at some point in the past that despite their Ivy League masters degrees in sociology, other people did not seem to respect their ideas nor were they particularly interested in the activist's pet issues.  So activists sought out the double shortcut of spending their time not solving the problem themselves, and not convincing other people to help, but convincing the government it should compel others to fix the supposed problem.  This fascism of good intentions usually consists of government taking money from the populace to throw at the activist's issue, but can also take the form of government-compelled labor and/or government limitations on choice.

I began this post yesterday, with the introduction above, ready to take on this barf-inducing article in the Washington Post titled " Fulfillment Elusive for Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest."  Gee, who would have thought it difficult for a twenty-something with no real job experience to get someone like me to pay you to lobby the government to force me to pay for your personal goals for the world?

Fortunately, since it is a drop-dead gorgeous day outside, TJIC has already done the detail work of ripping this article apart.  Here is one snippet, you should read the whole thing:

So the best they can imagine doing is “advocating”.

Here’s a hint: maybe the reason that your “sense of adulthood” is “sapped” is because you haven’t been doing anything at all adult.

Adults accomplish things.

They do not bounce around a meaningless series of do-nothing graduate programs, NGOs, and the sophisticated social scene in DC.

If you want to help the poor in Africa, go over there, find some product they make that could sell here, and start importing it. Create a market. Drive up the demand for their output.

Or find a bank that’s doing micro-finance.

Or become a travel writer, to increase the demand for photography safaris, which would pump more dollars into the region.

Or design a better propane refrigerator, to make the lives of the African poor better....

One thing that disgusts me about “wannabe world changers” is that mortaring together a few bricks almost always is beneath them - they’re more interested in writing a document about how to lobby the government to fund a new appropriate-technology brick factory.

Special mutual admiration bonus-points are herein scored by my quoting TJIC's article that quotes me quoting TJIC.

I will add one thing:  I have to lay a lot of this failure on universities like my own.  Having made students jump through unbelievable hoops just to get admitted, and then having charged them $60,000 a year for tuition, universities feel like they need to make students feel better about this investment.   Universities have convinced their graduates that public pursuits are morally superior to grubby old corporate jobs (that actually require, you know, real work), and then have further convinced them that they are ready to change to world and be leaders at 22.  Each and every one of them graduate convinced they have something important to say and that the world is kneeling at their feet to hear it.  But who the f*ck cares what a 22-year-old with an Ivy League politics degree has to say?  Who in heavens name listened to Lincoln or Churchill in their early twenties?  It's a false expectation.  The Ivy League is training young people for, and in fact encouraging them to pursue, a job (ie 22-year-old to whom we all happily defer to tell us what to do) that simply does not exist.  A few NGO's and similar organizations offer a few positions that pretend to be this job, but these are more in the nature of charitable make-work positions to help Harvard Kennedy School graduates with their self-esteem, kind of like basket-weaving for mental patients.

So what is being done to provide more pretend-you-are-making-an-impact-while-drawing-a-salary-and-not-doing-any-real-work jobs for over-educated twenty-something Ivy League international affairs majors?  Not enough:

Chief executives for NGOs, Wallace said, have told her: "Well, yeah, if we had the money, we'd be doing more. We can never hire as many as we want to hire." Wallace said her organization drew more than 100 applicants for a policy associate position. "The industry really needs to look at how to provide more avenues for young, educated people," she said.

Excuses, excuses.  We are not doing enough for these young adults.  I think the government should do something about it!

Update:  Oh my God, a fabulous example illustrating exactly what universities are doing to promote this mindset is being provided by the University of Delaware.  See the details here.

Posted on November 3, 2007 at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

My Wish Fulfilled

I remember a while back there was a TV show where people told the producers what kind of cool demonstrations they would like to see and the TV show delivered.  The one I remember was the guy that wanted to see a whole case of fluorescent light tubes dropped off a five-story roof onto a parking lot.

If I were asked, my fantasy would be to see 20,000 pounds of metallic sodium dropped in a lake.  Wish Fulfilled!  HT Maggies Farm.

Posted on November 3, 2007 at 12:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

2007 Weblog Awards

I am a bit blog-awarded out, but having been nominated again, it would be embarrassing to get no votes at all.  Coyote Blog is in that Oh-so-prestigious category, "top 501-1000 blogs,"  the winning of which has always struck me as roughly equivalent to winning the NIT Men's Basketball Tournament ("We're number 66! Yeah!").

Anyway, drop me a vote so we don't get entirely embarrassed.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Freaking Finally

We have a strict no-console-game policy in the household.  Generally, when I see how other people's kids spend their time, I am pretty happy that we have stuck to this.  However, it has meant no Guitar Hero in the house. 

Well, finally, Guitar Hero III is out and is available in a PC version, though of course Amazon is back-ordered right now.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Music Recommendations

A while back, I solicited input on what bands a lover of classic rock should be listening to from the last 10 years.  I got about 40 responses.  Here are some of the more popular recommendations:

First, several people suggested Pandora.com, an internet radio station that will play music based on songs or bands you like.  I have used Pandora for a while and really like it.  I have found a number of albums I really love from this source.  For example:  Frank Zappa's "Shut up and play yer guitar" series of live guitar solos.   RadioParadise.com also had a number of supporters, and I am running it right now as I type.  It streams a fairly eclectic mix of old and new music.

Several bands / albums got multiple votes.  Those included:

White Stripes
Clutch
Corrosion of Conformity
Dream Theater
Queens of the Stone Age
Tool

I will try a selection and let folks know. 

Lot's of support for the most recent Rush efforts, which I already own and enjoy.  Ditto Stone Temple Pilots and the Black Crowes, though I am not sure their best work quite clears the 10-year-old hurdle.  Someone suggested Days of the New -- I own their first album and really enjoy it (acoustic grunge?).  I also own and enjoy both "Burning for Buddy" CDs that several folks recommended, if you are looking for something jazzier.

Lots more recommendations I will check out over time in the comments here.

Update: I asked my college roommate and CATO-ite Brink Lindsey the same question, because I know from several years of living in a confined space that he shared many of my musical tastes.  He writes:

From the mid 90s to the present, my favorite albums are:

Soundgarden, Superunknown
Garbage, Garbage
Kula Shaker, K
The Offspring, Smash
Beck, Odelay
Audioslave, Audioslave (this one's actually from after 2000!)
Kid Rock, Devil Without a Cause (yeh, it's rap but it rocks)
Green Day, Dookie
Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory (from 2000!)

Going back to the early 90s, Metallica's black album, Blind Melon's
self-titled album, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, U2's
Achtung Baby, Nirvana's Nevermind and Unplugged, and Pearljam's 10 and
Vs. are all favorites.

None of this will allow you to claim you have current musical tastes.

Among current rock bands that I know of, I like the White Stripes.  But
that's about all I know.

Soundgarden / Metallica / Nirvana / Pearl Jam sort of represent the new end of my music collection, beyond which I am attempting to fill in the white space.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Email of the Day

Email I received with subject line "Climate Skeptic"

"How stupid are you"

Outstanding.  I love scientific discourse.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Worst Ever

One of the recurring themes in my climate video "What is Normal?" is that despite the fact that we have only observed climate for about 100 years, and have only studied it with modern tools like satellites for about 30 years, we want to insist on calling some condition "unusual."  My favorite example of late was when a number of news sources claimed "Arctic Ice at All-Time Low."  Really?  The lowest in the 6 billion year history of Earth?  Well, no, "all-time" means since satellite measurement began ... 28 years ago.  (By the way, the simultaneous story that Antarctic ice hit an "all-time" high on the exact same date failed to be mentioned in the press for some reason).

TJIC
has a great post (mercifully unrelated to climate, for all of you with climate fatigue):

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/…

As the price of crude oil approaches $100 a barrel, New Englanders are bracing for their most expensive winter ever.

May I suggest that the average family expended more hours of labor to procure their firewood in 1650, and more hours of labor to procure their coal in 1750, and more hours to procure their gas in 1850 than they are spending, today, to heat their (much larger, much better furnished) homes today?

I swear, whenever a journalist says the word “ever” I hear “since I was in high school, or since 1990, whichever was more recent…and I was drunk at the time, so I honestly can’t tell you which one that was”.

LOL

Posted on November 1, 2007 at 09:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

More Ways to Watch My Climate Video

There has been a lot of interest in my new climate video.  Already we have nearly 450 1500 views at Google video and over 200 700 downloads of the video.  I am now releasing the video through YouTube.

YouTube requires that all videos be under 10 minutes, so I have broken the film into six parts.  If you want to just preview a portion, the second half of the fourth film and the first half of the fifth are probably the most critical.

A Youtube Playlist for the film is here.  This is a cool feature I have not used before, but will effectively let you run the parts end to end, making the 50-minute video more or less seamless. 

The individual parts are:

Climate Video Part 1:  Introduction; how greenhouse gases work; historical climate reconstructions
Climate Video Part 2:  Historical reconstructions; problems with proxies
Climate Video part 3:  How much warming is due to man; measurement biases; natural cycles in climate
Climate Video Part 4:  Role of the sun; aerosols and cooling; climate sensitivity; checking forecasts against history
Climate Video Part 5:  Positive and negative feedback;  hurricanes.
Climate Video Part 6:  Melting ice and rising oceans; costs of CO2 abatement; conclusions.

You may still stream the entire climate film from Google Video here. (the video will stutter between the 12 and 17 second marks, and then should run fine)

You may download a 258MB full resolution Windows Media version of the film by right-clicking here.

You may download a 144MB full resolution Quicktime version of the film by right-clicking here.

Posted on November 1, 2007 at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)