Monday, January 31, 2011

How BBC warmists abuse the science
...The most telling moment, however, came in an interview between Nurse and a computer-modelling scientist from Nasa, presented as a general climate expert although he is only a specialist in ice studies. Asked to quantify the relative contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere by human and natural causes, his seemingly devastating reply was that 7 gigatons (billion tons) are emitted each year by human activity while only 1 gigaton comes from natural sources such as the oceans. This was so much the message they wanted that Nurse invited him to confirm that human emissions are seven times greater than those from all natural sources.

This was mind-boggling. It is generally agreed that the 7 billion tonnes of CO2 due to human activity represent just over 3 per cent of the total emitted. That given off by natural sources, such as the oceans, is vastly greater than this, more than 96 per cent of the total....

...Dr Benny Peiser and Dr David Whitehouse, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), have written to John Hirst, chief executive of the beleaguered Met Office, asking for an explanation of a press release issued by his organisation on January 20 and headed “2010 – a near record year”. This won headlines by claiming that last year was hotter than any other in the past decade.

When the two men examined the original data from which this claim was derived – compiled by the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre – it clearly showed 2010 as having been cooler than 2005 (and 1998) and equal to 2003. It emerged that, for the purposes of the press release, the data had been significantly adjusted.

Comparing the actual data for each year, from 2001 to 2010, with that given in the press release shows that for four years the original figure has been adjusted downwards. Only for 2010 was the data revised upwards, by the largest adjustment of all, allowing the Met Office to claim that 2010 was the hottest year of the decade. ...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

L.A. school officer faked shooting story, LAPD says
A Los Angeles school police officer who said he was shot by an attacker last week, prompting a manhunt that shut down a large swath of Woodland Hills, has been arrested on suspicion of concocting the story, authorities said Thursday night....

...But the source added that Stenroos' protective vest showed obvious signs of having been struck by the bullet. Stenroos suffered bruising to his chest, raising questions for detectives about whether the officer shot himself accidentally and then fabricated a story or concocted the whole scenario. The source declined to say whether additional arrests would be made in the case....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Global Warming Alarmists in Retreat. Glaciers, Not So Much.
...Researchers have discovered that contrary to popular belief half of the ice flows in the Karakoram range of the mountains are actually growing rather than shrinking.

The discovery adds a new twist to the row over whether global warming is causing the world’s highest mountain range to lose its ice cover.

It further challenges claims made in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the glaciers would be gone by 2035.

Although the head of the panel Dr Rajendra Pachauri later admitted the claim was an error gleaned from unchecked research, he maintained that global warming was melting the glaciers at “a rapid rate”, threatening floods throughout north India.

What’s more, the new study, which included almost 290 glaciers, showed that global warming isn’t the chief reason a glacier melts, but terrain and how much debris covers the glacier’s surface. That makes sense, if you take a few moments and noodle it through.

This study is just the latest scientific nail in the global warming alarmism coffin. The general population is running away from the alarmists and toward the far more reasonable position that the global climate is an enormous beast whose course we can not easily nor carelessly change but whose workings we should study more earnestly. To quote Michael Rubin Ledeen in a different context, “Faster, please”.

GOP intends to investigate Obamacare’s union waivers
Labor unions have received 40 percent of the exemptions granted by the Obama administration from certain Obamacare provisions, prompting calls from top Republicans for investigations into whether President Barack Obama’s administration has offered “special treatment” to those groups in its waiver decision process.

The waivers allow certain companies and special interests, like labor unions, to delay meeting Obamacare’s requirements for purchasing more health insurance for employees or members. The minimum amount of insurance group policyholders have to purchase is set to increase every year through 2014 as the Department of Health and Human Services is phasing out the annual coverage limits companies were previously allowed to provide for employees....

Missoula Children’s Theater: Inserting line was unprofessional
...Now, I realize you play to a mostly liberal audience in Missoula and so, I am sure, felt comfortable in your calling for the beheading of Sarah Palin. I am painfully aware that most in the audience tittered with laughter and clapped because "no one would miss her" but there were some in your audience who took great offense to this "uncivil tone" about another human being.

We are in the midst of a crisis that took place in Tucson where many started pointing fingers at that horrible right wing with all their hatred and targeting and standing for the second amendment and on and on and on. So, here we are in a lovely play with beautiful voices serenading us and we have to hear that it is okay to call for the killing of Sarah Palin because we don't like her and no one would miss her. Unbelievable....

Statistical Chicanery: Texas Budget Edition
The Paul Krugman–led chorus trying to discredit Texas’s economic model has been claiming that Texas relied more heavily than any other state on federal stimulus money to close its budget gap. And there is an element of truth to that: Stimulus funds, they point out, covered 97 percent of Texas’s shortfall. Is that because Texas is, in the words of Jason Kuznicki (who should know better), a “welfare queen?” Or is it because Texas had a fairly small gap to begin with, so the federal funds went a lot further in covering it?

That 97 percent figure got retailed all over the place — CNN, Jon Chait at The New Republic, etc. But it is basically meaningless to say that “Texas was the state that depended most” on stimulus funds without taking into account the size of the gap covered. Texas’s was just $6.6 billion. For comparison, California’s deficit in 2009 was more than $26 billion.

The fact is that Texas, at $985 per capita, received less stimulus funding than almost any other state. (Virginia and Nebraska were lower.)...

Burn, America, Burn
Via commenter Smoovev comes the latest example of well-respected former war correspondent Chris Hedges advocating political violence in America:

Here's to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

Greek rioters have killed three so far....

Burning other people’s money
...“Are people willing to pay to burn other people’s money? The short answer to this question is: yes. Our subjects gave up large amounts of their cash to hurt others in the laboratory. The extent of burning surprised us…Even at a price of 0.25 (meaning that to burn another person’s dollar cost me 25 cents), many people wished to destroy other individuals’ cash.”

–”Are People willing to Pay to Reduce Others’ Incomes?” Daniel John Zizzo & Andrew Oswald, July 2, 2001...

Sullivan: The Mortgage Deduction Heavily Favors Blue States
...The benefits of the mortgage interest deduction are not evenly distributed among the states. ... [T]he per capita tax benefit from the mortgage interest deduction for Californians is more than two and a half times that for Texans. Marylanders get nearly five times the benefit of citizens in neighboring West Virginia.

We always knew the mortgage interest deduction was unfair -- favoring those in high tax brackets with big houses over renters and low-income homeowners. But until we did the calculations -- as far as we know, the first of their kind -- we did not suspect the geographic dispersion of tax benefits would be so large. ...

In addition to the wide disparity in benefits, the other striking feature about the mortgage interest deduction is how well the subsidy correlates with Democratic strength. ... [The fourteen] states with the highest per capita benefit were states captured by Obama in the 2008 election [Maryland, District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Delaware]. In the six states with the lowest per capita benefits [West Virginia, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma], Republican challenger John McCain won the vote. ... Obama won the popular vote in 22 out of the top 26 jurisdictions, compared with 8 out of the 25 states with the lowest per capita benefits....

Why do greens keep mentioning the war?
...In truth, as this new report demonstrates, there is no damage that could be done by climate change that would be as bad as that wrought by green policies themselves.

What did the Second World War bring to the people of Britain? Highlights in this new report include a 25 per cent cut in coal usage, an 11 per cent fall in food consumption, an 82 per cent fall in the use of electrical appliances, and a 95 per cent drop in the use of motor vehicles. Most people would see such declines in living standards as a disaster. The current recession has produced nothing like that scale of devastation. Yet The New Home Front describes these things as ‘achievements’.

‘Yes, times were hard’, writes Simms. ‘People suffered and endured for a greater good. They were all in it together.’ It must have been a great comfort to share in such misery.

Some of the public-information messages during the war sound like they could have come straight from the modern eco-catechism. ‘At this most important time, needless travel is a “crime”’, declared a railway poster, prefiguring the green demand to stop flying, driving or otherwise venturing any distance from home. ‘As part of your personal share in the Battle for Fuel’, read a wartime hotel bathroom sign, ‘you are asked NOT to exceed five inches of water in this bath. Make it a point of honour not to fill the bath above this level.’ Today, the Battle for Bathwater has become the War on the Power Shower....

...None of these ideas are new. Greens have been banging the drum for a revival of wartime poverty and the imposition of green policies by diktat for years (see Bali: no more jaw-jaw, this is climate war). Unable to convince us through modern arguments about the need to adopt their ideas, environmentalists seek to revive the spirit of the Last Time Britain Achieved Anything, which is how a lot of people see the Second World War.

Actually, those of us who have long loathed the anti-human, wealth-bashing tendencies of the green movement should warmly welcome The New Home Front - because it makes abundantly clear just what a bunch of comfort-hating nutters greens really are. If they had their way, as the report shows all too clearly, there would be ‘dark days ahead’ (probably literally, as we get forced to turn off the lights to save power)....

Mercury Players Theatre kills off right-wingers in The Last Supper
It's almost eerie that a play about extreme political rhetoric and vitriol would open just two weeks after the terrible shootings in Tucson. At the Bartell Theatre, Mercury Players Theatre presents the dark comedy The Last Supper, which Dan Rosen adapted from his screenplay of the same name. Rosen updated that 1995 movie starring Cameron Diaz and pre-Big Love Bill Paxton specifically for this production and it reflects the current political climate and players (even tossing in a reference to the Feingold campaign).

Five lefty graduate students in Iowa City gather for weekly dinners to revel in their shared (and sometimes smug) world view. The first dinner we witness ignites a surprising shared mission when one of the students invites the truck driver who offered him roadside assistance to join them. This young man, a patriotic Desert Storm vet, first startles the group when he insists on saying grace before the vegan meal and then goes on to praise Hitler, alarming and repulsing the other dinners. Threats and violence ensue, and one of the hosts stabs him.

As he lies bleeding on an area rug, the quintet, after some debate and initial hand-wringing, decide that they have done society a favor by eliminating him and silencing his dangerous words. They also decide that since participating in protests and sit-ins has been a futile way to fight the power, this new dinner party/murder method may be a more effective technique in coping with right-wing adversaries.

Soon a parade of special guests is invited to dine, and when their dinner conversation proves repellent, they are given poisoned wine and buried in the backyard. Our smarty-pants grad students toast themselves for making a difference each time and feel vindicated when they learn that their first victim, the trucker, was implicated in a heinous crime. The death toll grows, and the tomato plants seen through the patio door flourish....

Advocate of Violence
...Piven is now in the autumn of life, 78 and widowed nearly a decade. But she still dreams of revolution, as evidenced by this article in the Jan. 10 issue of the soft-core hard-left periodical The Nation:

Before people can mobilize for collective action, they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant. . . .

An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

The Birth of the Blues
...New England government was charged with the creation of a moral society. There was nothing that was not its business: how much did a master pay his apprentices? Who celebrated Christmas? Who was cheating on his or her spouse? The duty of government was to make society live right; the university, the pulpit, the newspaper — these were to be the allies of government in the struggle for good.

Even after the old alliance between church and state in New England was broken up for good (the establishment of religion at the state level lasted almost 50 years after the ratification of the Constitution in Massachusetts and Connecticut) the acolytes of New England righteousness worked to make the American government a force for the moral uplift of the American people. Many of their causes today look prescient: the abolition of slavery and voting rights for women. Others, prohibition, eugenics and various forms of food-nuttery matching the changing scientific fashions of the day, look weird.

Over the centuries, New England has changed its theology while remaining loyal to its cultural foundations. The Calvinist orthodoxy of the seventeenth century yielded increasingly to Deism and Unitarianism in the eighteenth — and Harvard officially became Unitarian in 1803, dropping its belief in the divinity of Christ. In the nineteenth century literary and intellectual New England hedged its bets, backing a range of horses from Emersonian transcendentalism to the more evangelically flavored Calvinism of the Victorian years. During the second half of the twentieth century the mind of New England became more secular than in past generations– but nothing has ever changed the deep belief in this cultural stream that, however defined, morality exists and that it is the job of the state to enforce true morals and uphold right thinking....

GOP budget cuts hit Democratic campaign cash sources hard
There are at least two ways of looking at the fact the $2.5 trillion in spending cuts proposed last week by leaders of the House Republican Study Committee will hurt one of the biggest sources of Democratic campaign cash.

Among the proposals, which you can read about here and here, is a federal pay freeze and a 15 percent reduction in the federal workforce through attrition. If the proposal becomes law, it will freeze the income of hundreds of thousands of government employee unions and significantly reduce the number of dues-paying members of those unions....

...In other words, Democrats got 82 percent of the campaign cash contributed by federal employee unions.

MAPLight points to another interesting aspect of this question, noting that contributions from defense industry firms are almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, though with a slight tilt in favor of the latter....

Where the cash goes, the Democratic policy flows
Employees and political action committees of organizations that make up the big four special interests that own the Democratic Party contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to the party's federal candidates in 2010.

The top 20 labor unions, for example, gave more than $68 million in 2010, with 94 percent of the total going to Democrats and just 4 percent to Republicans. Most of the total, 88 percent, came from PACs associated with the top 20 unions, while the remaining 12 percent came from individual union members, according to

Examiner Editorial: Time to get real about public-sector pensions
Despite the dire financial condition of his state, and the fact that it was (and still is) a sovereign deadbeat that fails to pay its bills, Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn found room to cut a sweetheart deal with its public employee unions in September. They were guaranteed two years of cost-of-living increases and no layoffs. Quinn, in turn, got the union's endorsement and won his 2010 election by less than 1 percentage point.

This provides a dramatic illustration of what has for years been political business as usual for liberals in public office. To save their own jobs, they cut deals with your money, offering premium benefits and exorbitant salaries to public workers. Much of the cost is deferred until these employees retire, and so the unfunded liabilities of public pensions have become enormous, threatening states and cities with imminent insolvency. By some estimates, state and municipal governments will have to come up with $3.5 trillion in new funds just to keep the pension checks going out....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Free speech can't exist unchained. US politics needs the tonic of order
...But sometimes, as Obama said, there is a yearning "to try to impose some order on the chaos". If American politics is now going the way of wounding, not healing, it needs the tonic of order. It is the great paradox of democracy. Free speech cannot exist without chains.

China-style dictatorship of climatologists
November's election made it quite clear that the people of the United States do not want to radically change our society in the name of global warming. Pretty much every close House race went to the Republicans, while the Democrats won all the Senate squeakers. The difference? The House on June 26, 2009, passed a bill limiting carbon-dioxide emissions and getting into just about every aspect of our lives. The Senate did nothing of the sort.

The nation's most prominent publicly funded climatologist is officially angry about this, blaming democracy and citing the Chinese government as the "best hope" to save the world from global warming. He also wants an economic boycott of the U.S. sufficient to bend us to China's will.

NASA laboratory head James Hansen's anti-democracy rants were published while he was on a November junket in China, but they didn't get much attention until recently. On Jan. 12, the hyperprolific blogger Marc Morano put them on his Climate Depot site, and within hours, the post went viral. In a former life, Mr. Morano was chief global-warming researcher for Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican.

According to Mr. Hansen, compared to China, we are "the barbarians" with a "fossil-money- 'democracy' that now rules the roost," making it impossible to legislate effectively on climate change. Unlike us, the Chinese are enlightened, unfettered by pesky elections. Here's what he blogged on Nov. 24:

"I have the impression that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles. At the same time, China has the capacity to implement policy decisions rapidly. The leaders seem to seek the best technical information and do not brand as a hoax that which is inconvenient."...

Hansen: US Democracy Not Competent To Deal With Global Warming, Calls on Communist China to “Save Humanity”
The NASA scientist at the heart of the global warming fiasco seems set to stir more controversy after declaring in an op ed piece for The South China Morning Post and a personally published follow-up that American democracy is not competent to deal with global warming, and communist China now represents the world’s “best hope”.

In the op ed piece for the Chinese newspaper, which he entitled Chinese Leadership Needed to Save Humanity (published as The Price of Change) Hansen placed the blame for the vast majority of Co2 emissions supposedly causing global warming on his home country of America, and appealed to China not to follow the same path. Hansen said that China was the world’s “best hope” and called for them to “lead the world through the most dangerous crisis that humanity and nature have ever faced”.

In a follow-up article published on his website Hansen calls Americans “barbarians” and slams American democracy, calling for China to raise tariffs on American-made products until such time as America falls into line....

...What is potentially even more controversial is that Hansen goes on to condemn the current democratic system in America as “dysfunctional” as it will not enact the carbon taxes he has been calling for. All is not lost, though, as he advises the Chinese government what to do about Congress in a truly incredible passage in his letter:

However, there is a way around that, which becomes obvious with the realization that an initially modest carbon fee is in China’s own interest. After agreement with other nations, e.g., the European Union, China and these nations could impose rising internal carbon fees. Existing rules of the World Trade Organization would allow collection of a rising border duty on products from all nations that do not have an equivalent internal carbon fee or tax.

The United States then would be forced to make a choice. It could either address its fossil fuel addiction with a rising carbon fee and supportive national investment policies or it could accept continual descent into second-rate and third-rate economic well-being.

My reading of this is that Hansen is advising a foreign, communist dictatorship how to circumvent American democracy and “force” (his word) America into either kow-towing over carbon taxes, or “accepting continual descent”. It is truly breath-taking that a federal employee seems able to get away with such seemingly unpatriotic activity without any reprimand or disciplinary action....

Unequivocal Equivocation: an open letter to Dr. Trenberth
...In climate science, the AGW hypothesis states that human GHG emissions significantly affect the climate. As such, the null hypothesis is that human GHG emissions do not significantly affect the climate, that the climate variations are the result of natural processes. This null hypothesis is what Doctor T wants to reverse.

As Steve McIntyre has often commented, with these folks you really have to keep your eye on the pea under the walnut shell. These folks seem to have sub-specialties in the “three-card monte” sub-species of science. Did you notice when the pea went from under one walnut shell to another in Dr. T’s quotation above? Take another look at it.

The first part of Dr. T’s statement is true. There is general scientific agreement that the globe has been warming, in fits and starts of course, for the last three centuries or so. And since it has been thusly warming for centuries, the obvious null hypothesis would have to be that the half-degree of warming we experienced in the 20th century was a continuation of some long-term ongoing natural trend.

But that’s not what Dr. Trenberth is doing here. Keep your eye on the pea. He has smoothly segued from the IPCC saying “global warming is ‘unequivocal’”, which is true, and stitched that idea so cleverly onto another idea, ‘and thus humans affect the climate’, that you can’t even see the seam.

The pea is already under the other walnut shell. He is implying that the IPCC says that scientists have “unequivocally” shown that humans are the cause of weather ills, and if I don’t take that as an article of faith, it’s my job to prove that we are not the cause of floods in Brisbane....

Left wing climate of hate and assassination
Successful propaganda is composed of equal parts deception and suppression, and the apparatchiks in the mainstream media are much better at the latter.

They may have erred in pushing the Arizona assassination attempt beyond its ideological limits last week, but they succeeded brilliantly a few months earlier in suppressing news of a nearly lethal attempt by a genuine leftist.

In September 2010 Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was scheduled to speak at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City.

At some point, wearing black clothes and a bullet-proof vest, 22 year-old Casey Brezik bolted out of a classroom, knife in hand, and slashed the throat of a dean. As he would later admit, he confused the dean with Nixon.

The story never left Kansas City. It is not hard to understand why. Knives lack the political sex appeal of guns, and even Keith Olbermann would have had a hard time turning Brezik into a Tea Partier.

Indeed, Brezik seems to have inhaled just about every noxious vapor in the left-wing miasma: environmental extremism, radical Islam, anti-capitalism, anti-Zionism and Christophobia, among others....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

ObamaCare and the Deficit
... It's all about budget gimmicks, deceptive accounting, and implausible assumptions used to create the false impression of fiscal discipline.

For starters, that $1 trillion price is a low-ball estimate, covering only six – not ten – years of subsidies that don't begin until 2014. The uninsured were clearly less of a priority than the deception of making the law look less expensive than it really is over its first decade. Over ten years of full implementation, it's more like $2.3 trillion.

Next up is the CLASS Act (for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act) providing a new long-term care insurance entitlement. CLASS hitched a ride on the ACA for one reason only: premiums are collected in the first ten years, but no benefits are provided. Voila, it creates the perception of $70 billion in deficit reduction. In fact, CLASS is a bailout waiting to happen, as it will attract mainly sick enrollees. Only in Washington could the creation of a reckless entitlement program be used as "offset" to grease the way for another entitlement.

The deepest spending cuts in the ACA are in Medicare. Let us be very clear: Medicare needs real reform that generates genuine budget savings. Sadly, the ACA's cuts are illusory. Medicare's payments to health care providers would fall below those of Medicaid. The network of hospitals and physicians willing to care for Medicaid patients is notoriously constrained. About 15 percent of the nation's hospitals would have to stop seeing Medicare patients in just a few years to stem their losses. The idea that Medicare could pay less than Medicaid is such sheer folly that Congress will rapidly reverse course. What's worse, ACA's advocates are double-counting this fictional savings, claiming it can pay both for the ACA's entitlements and Medicare solvency too. The truth is, these cuts cannot be relied upon to pay for anything.

The fantasy of deficit reduction from the ACA is also built on a $410 billion tax increase over the coming decade, and a flood of revenue in the years after built on cynically replicating the flawed AMT-style revenue creep. New Medicare taxes initially apply only to individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples with incomes above $250,000. But those income thresholds do not rise with inflation, so more and more families will pay them each year. Similarly, the new "Cadillac tax" on expensive insurance applies to premiums for family coverage above $27,500 in 2018, but that threshold will rise with general inflation, not medical costs. It's particularly noteworthy that this tax is instrumental to the claim of deficit reduction in the second decade, but it is so controversial that Barack Obama was never willing to collect it himself. Overall, CBO says the ACA's tax hikes will reach 1.2 percent of GDP in 2035, or a whopping $180 billion annually in today's terms.

So, even if CBO's analysis were flawless, the authors of the ACA guaranteed a misleading bottom line. Their legislative prescriptions were written to create deficit reduction only on paper— not in reality....

Where are All the Sick People Who Can't Get Insurance?
...We now know how many people have the problem most often cited as the reason for last years' health overhaul legislation. Answer: 8,000

No, that's not a misprint. Out of 310 million Americans, only 8,000 people have the problem given as the principal reason for spending almost $1 trillion, creating more than 150 regulatory agencies and causing perhaps 150 million or more people to change the coverage they now have.

Alert readers will remember the White House summer of 2009 invitation to all Americans to send in their horror stories describing health insurance industry abuses. Although the complaints were many, the vast majority were about pre-existing condition limitations. Then, on the eve of the ObamaCare vote, every member of Congress who appeared on television to defend the legislation was able to cite by name an individual or family in his or her state or Congressional district with a heart wrenching story.

Gone was any interest in "universal coverage" or "insuring the uninsured" or "helping poor people get health care." The case for change was focused almost exclusively on protecting the middle class from miserly insurance companies. . . .

It's been like giving a party to which no one comes. The Medicare program chief actuary predicted last spring that 375,000 would sign up for the new risk pool insurance in 2010. But by the end of November, only 8,000 had done so. As Amy Goldstein reports in The Washington Post, this includes 75 in Virginia, 80 in New Hampshire, 97 in Maryland and a whopping 700 in North Carolina.

While a lot of people are surprised by these numbers, I am not. Here is why. Don't you think it is a bit odd for the White House to send out an appeal to victims so they can identify themselves? That's not normally how the political system works.

The more usual scenario is: victims unite and form interest groups; they lobby Congress, write letters, testify, etc; and eventually the pressure become so great that Congress legislates.

When have you ever heard of that entire process in reverse? When has Congress ever before decided it wants to do something and then conducted a nationwide search to find people who will benefit?...

Obama’s Department of Labor forces unionization
Labor unions give more money to the Democratic Party than any other source, and critics have long accused President Barack Obama’s administration of doing their bidding. Now there is evidence that the White House has indeed put its thumb on the scale on behalf of unions. After saying that “union jobs are, by and large, good jobs,” the Department of Labor’s “strategic plan” for the next five years says: “many of the Department’s outcome goals are furthered by high rates of union membership.”

Don Todd, Americans for Limited Government’s head of research and a former DOL agency head under George W. Bush, told The Daily Caller that the Obama administration wants to “shame” companies into unionizing.

“In a worst-case scenario, your union organizer comes to you, offers you a deal to unionize, you say, ‘no,’ and, the next thing you know, OSHA’s [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] at your door,” Todd said in a phone interview. “Then, Wage and Hour show up, and they want to publicize it. They always find something wrong – it’s like with bed-checks in boot camp in the army.”

Todd said some companies will fight the DOL’s intimidation tactics, but many will give in to unionizing forces.

“It makes it the path of least resistance,” Todd said....

Civility is nice; nonviolence is even better
The frenzy surrounding Jared Loughner's rampage in Tucson this month has finally died down. As tempers cool, perhaps distance could turn reflection toward some bigger questions. Many Republicans and Democrats have lamented the frequency of violent rhetoric in politics. Fewer seem to have regrets about the actual use of violence itself.

I'm not referring here to death threats, terrorism, assassination attempts, and similar heinous acts. Nobody considers those violent deeds by non-state actors legitimate. But what about violence by the state? Liberals and conservatives alike often embrace it as a means to an end they desire.

Government, as Max Weber famously put it, is distinguished from other social organizations by its claim to a monopoly on the legitimate use of force....

...The debate over the size and scope of government, then, is an argument over when to use violence to change things and circumstances consensual activity cannot. Liberals (broadly speaking) find inequality odious and think the government should use force in the economic arena by redistributing wealth but leave individuals alone in matters of personal morality, such as whom they have sex with. Conservatives (broadly speaking) are less troubled by inequality and disdain the redistributive uses of government power. But social conservatives are outraged by immorality, as they define it, and therefore think the state should use the threat of violence to enforce personal moral codes by banning prostitution, homosexual sodomy, and the like....

...In the wake of the butchery in Tucson, it has been nice to hear many people say we should not speak so well of violence. It would be even nicer to hear more say we should not vote for it quite so often, either.

New paper: Cosmic rays contribute 40% to global warming
...Physicist and the former ISRO chairman, U.R. Rao, has calculated that cosmic rays — which, unlike carbon emissions, cannot be controlled by human activity — have a much larger impact on climate change than The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims.

In fact, the contribution of decreasing cosmic ray activity to climate change is almost 40 per cent, argues Dr. Rao in a paper which has been accepted for publication in Current Science, the preeminent Indian science journal. The IPCC model, on the other hand, says that the contribution of carbon emissions is over 90 per cent....

...The continuing increase in solar activity has caused a 9 per cent decrease in cosmic ray intensity over the last 150 years, which results in less cloud cover, which in turn results in less albedo radiation being reflected back to the space, causing an increase in the Earth’s surface temperature.

While the impact of cosmic rays on climate change has been studied before, Dr. Rao’s paper quantifies their contribution to global warming and concludes that “the future prediction of global warming presented by IPCC’s fourth report requires a relook to take into the effect due to long term changes in the galactic cosmic ray intensity.”..

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Video: ABC airs alleged death threat from Tucson town hall

Ariz. shooting victim arrested at town hall meeting for allegedly threatening Tea Partier’s life
A victim of last week’s Tucson shooting rampage allegedly made threats against Republican Ariz. Rep. Terri Proud and Tucson Tea Party spokesman Trent Humphries at a town hall meeting Saturday.

Upset about comments made by Proud and Humphries, shooting survivor J. Eric Fuller stood up from his seat, tore up a photo of Humphries, and announced, “You’re dead.”

Authorities quickly removed Fuller from the room. Pima County Sheriff’s spokesman Jason Ogan told KGUN that Fuller has been charged with threats and intimidation and will face an additional charge of disorderly conduct.

The town hall was filmed by ABC News for their Sunday show “This Week.”...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hypocrisy Unending
...Even before Bush was elected president, the kill-Bush talk and imagery started. When Governor Bush was delivering his 2000 convention speech, Craig Kilborn, a CBS talk-show host, showed him on the screen with the words “SNIPERS WANTED.” Six years later, Bill Maher, the comedian-pundit, was having a conversation with John Kerry. He asked the senator what he had gotten his wife for her birthday. Kerry answered that he had taken her to Vermont. Maher said, “You could have went to New Hampshire and killed two birds with one stone.” (New Hampshire is an early primary state, of course.) Kerry said, “Or I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.” (This is the same Kerry who joked in 1988, “Somebody told me the other day that the Secret Service has orders that if George Bush is shot, they’re to shoot Quayle.”) Also in 2006, the New York comptroller, Alan Hevesi, spoke to graduating students at Queens College. He said that his fellow Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer, would “put a bullet between the president’s eyes if he could get away with it.”

A columnist in Britain’s Guardian, Charlie Brooker, wrote, “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?” Betty Williams, the Irishwoman who won the Nobel Peace Prize, said, “I have a very hard time with this word ‘non-violence,’ because I don’t believe that I am non-violent. . . . Right now, I would love to kill George Bush.” A novelist, Nicholson Baker, was so filled with rage at Bush, he wrote a novel mulling the question of assassinating him. In Britain, there was a TV movie — a “fictional documentary” — that was a kind of fantasy: on the assassination of Bush. (It was called Death of a President.) Etc., etc. ...

The Authoritarian Media
...To describe the Tucson massacre as an act of "political violence" is, quite simply, a lie. It is as if, two days after the Columbine massacre, a conservative newspaper of the Times's stature had described that atrocious crime as an act of "educational violence" and used it as an occasion to denounce teachers unions. Such an editorial would be shameful and indecent even if the arguments it made were meritorious.

The New York Times has seized on a madman's act of wanton violence as an excuse to instigate a witch hunt against those it regards as its domestic foes. "Instigate" is not too strong a word here: As we noted yesterday, one of the first to point an accusatory finger at the Tea Party movement and Sarah Palin was the Times's star columnist, Paul Krugman. Less than two hours after the news of the shooting broke, he opined on the Times website: "We don't have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was."...

...The campaign of vilification against the right, led by the New York Times, is really about competition in the media industry--not commercial competition but competition for authority. When Bob Schieffer and Steny Hoyer were growing up, the New York Times had unrivaled authority to set the media's agenda, with the three major TV networks following its lead.

The ensuing decades have seen a proliferation of alternative media outlets, most notably talk radio and Fox News Channel, and a corresponding diminution of the so-called mainstream media's ability to set the boundaries of political debate.

Its authority dwindling, the New York Times is resorting to authoritarian tactics--slandering its competitors in the hope of tearing them down. Hoyer is right. Too many news outlets are busy "inciting people . . . to anger, to thinking the other side is less than moral." The worst offender, because it is the leader, is the New York Times. Decent people of whatever political stripe must say enough is enough.

The charlatans' response to the Tucson tragedy
...The Tucson shooter was (pick your verb) provoked, triggered, unhinged by today's (pick your noun) rhetoric, vitriol, extremism, "climate of hate."

Demystification of the world opened the way for real science, including the social sciences. And for a modern characteristic. And for charlatans.

A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment. From which flows a political doctrine: Given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected. This supposedly is the path to progress. It actually is the crux of progressivism. And it is why there is a reflex to blame conservatives first. ...

Krugman's toxic rhetoric
...Mr Loughner's obsession with language as a form of control seems rather less like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin than Max Stirner, Michel Foucault, or even left-leaning linguists such as George Lakoff and Geoffrey Nunberg. Our own Johnson discusses speculation about the possible influence of one David Wynn Miller. But nobody's going to try to smear Max Stirner, George Lakoff, or David Wynn Miller in the pages of the New York Times by recklessly associating their teachings with the tragedy in Tucson because, well, that would be completely bonkers and, more importantly, Max Stirner, George Lakoff, and David Wynn Miller didn't just recapture the House....

Jared Loughner’s Anti-War Views
...Of course, many responsible people think that the current wars are a “war crime.” Perhaps the majority of the world believes that the state owes people health care and a good standard of living. And at least a couple of the bloggers on this site are atheists (including myself). But these views are much more common on the left than on the right, as is the belief that 9/11 was an inside job.

From reading through page after page of Jared Lee Loughner’s rantings, I see no evidence that he has changed from the left winger that he was in 2007. Indeed, less than six months ago, he was calling the Iraq and Afghan Wars “war crimes” under the Geneva Convention....

The myth of an American ‘gun culture’
...But even after slavery was abolished, the experience of African-Americans should convince liberals that armed resistance is sometimes appropriate. Robert F Williams, a black civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s, debated non-violence with Martin Luther King at the 1959 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) conference. Whereas King’s non-violence tactics are widely celebrated, they were not effective in getting local ordinances changed. On the other hand, after some members of Williams’ 200-strong black militia traded shots with KKK nightriders, KKK cavalcades were promptly banned from the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, something the NAACP branch had been requesting for years.

As Williams said, guns were essential for those at the bottom of society as ‘racists consider themselves superior beings and are not willing to exchange their superior lives for our inferior ones. They are most vicious and violent when they can practice violence with impunity.’ Williams made the case for armed self-defence in a book chapter aptly titled ‘Self-Defense Prevents Bloodshed’.

It is also worth recalling that the Black Panther Party – immensely popular among liberals in the mid-1960s to early 1970s – began by protesting proposed gun controls, marching armed into the California legislature to make their voices heard. ‘Grab a gun’, they advised, ‘before only pigs have them’.

Today’s attack on the so-called gun culture is actually an attack on the constitutional rights of American members of the public. After all, campaigners for gun control do not protest the rights of police and security officers to use deadly force when necessary. Instead, they want them to have a monopoly on guns. It brings to mind the British woman who was arrested for taking photographs in a shopping centre that was filled to the brim with surveillance cameras. ...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Violence, Government Violence, and Anti-Government Rhetoric
...That said, I long for the day that our political and media figures get as indignant about innocent Americans killed by their own government—killed in fact, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of official government policy that nearly all of those leaders support—as they are about a government official who was targeted by a clearly sick and deranged young man. What happened this weekend is not, by any means, a reason to shunt anti-government protest, even angry anti-government protest, out of the sphere of acceptable debate. The government still engages in plenty of acts and policies—including one-sided violence against its own citizens—that are well worth our anger, protest, and condemnation.

Markos Blames Palin for Giffords Shooting — But There’s Just One Problem: Kos Put a Bulls Eye on Giffords
...Naturally, putting a bulls eye on someone isn’t actually violent rhetoric. Stuff like this is just invoked by soulless ghouls to make a cheap political point. If you want actual violent rhetoric, you’d have to to go . . . well, Kos himself:

That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. [sic] They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

Now that’s violent rhetoric!...

Figures: Man who shot AZ Congresswoman in the head is a left-wing lunatic
...Perhaps most ironically, Media Matter - yes, THAT Media Matters - the political assassins of the left, call for a moratorium on scoring political points from crimes when those crimes are perpetrated by leftists: Save This Tweet For Use In Political Emergency...

The shame — and hypocrisy — of CNN
Yesterday’s horrific and senseless shooting of more than a dozen people in Tucson, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, provided a look into the biases of much of the American media — and it was not just an ugly sight, but a shamefully hypocritical peek as well, as Byron York points out. In the last public mass-murder shooting fourteen months ago at Fort Hood, the media spent the first few hours scolding anyone who suggested that it might be an act of terror or that Major Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs might be relevant before every last fact was exposed...

...And as has been repeatedly pointed out in the hours since, Democrats have also used crosshairs and bulls-eye imagery in their own political communications, including one in Arizona “targeting” J. D Hayworth of Arizona. As far as the “reload” comment, it was less than three years ago that Barack Obama himself talked about responding to political opponents with a gun analogy...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

KDMC claims harassing phone calls
...The automated calls play a pre-recorded message designed to incite the person who answers the phone against KDMC, said the complaint. The message also encourages the listener to press a number to be transferred to Jackson’s extension.

The phone calls were received through the hospital’s main phone line and the complaint stated that KDMC’s call logs identify the calls as originating from only one phone number, a Columbus number believed to be used by SEIU.

The complaint also stated that between 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 28, through 4:46 p.m. on Dec. 29, 536 calls generated by the automated system were placed to Jackson’s extension.

The complaint also stated that these calls obstructed and unlawfully interfered with KDMC’s business operation and its ability to provide medical care and related services to its patients by tying up phone lines for all numbers and extensions within KDMC, including emergency services and other medical departments, patient rooms, security and administration....

New study says CO2 rise a result of warmer temperatures, not cause
...The dramatic and threatening environmental changes announced for the next decades are the result of models whose main drive factor of climatic changes is the increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Although taken as a premise, the hypothesis does not have verifiable consistence. The comparison of temperature changes and CO2 changes in the atmosphere is made for a large diversity of conditions, with the same data used to model climate changes. Correlation of historical series of data is the main approach. CO2 changes are closely related to temperature.

Warmer seasons or triennial phases are followed by an atmosphere that is rich in CO2, reflecting the gas solving or exsolving from water, and not photosynthesis activity. Interannual correlations between the variables are good. A weak dominance of temperature changes precedence, relative to CO2 changes, indicate that the main effect is the CO2 increase in the atmosphere due to temperature rising. Decreasing temperature is not followed by CO2 decrease, which indicates a different route for the CO2 capture by the oceans, not by gas re-absorption. Monthly changes have no correspondence as would be expected if the warming was an important absorption-radiation effect of the CO2 increase.

The anthropogenic wasting of fossil fuel CO2 to the atmosphere shows no relation with the temperature changes even in an annual basis. The absence of immediate relation between CO2 and temperature is evidence that rising its mix ratio in the atmosphere will not imply more absorption and time residence of energy over the Earth surface. This is explained because band absorption is nearly all done with historic CO2 values. Unlike CO2, water vapor in the atmosphere is rising in tune with temperature changes, even in a monthly scale. The rising energy absorption of vapor is reducing the outcoming long wave radiation window and amplifying warming regionally and in a different way around the globe....

How can climate scientists spend so much money?
...The amount of money being spent on climate change research this year is astounding. I urge you to read the document yourself. Here is the question to take away: what are we getting for the billions of dollars we've spent? When 2011 is over will we look back at the published research and be satisfied with how our billions have been spent? This type of spending has occurred for some time, and what do we have to show for it? Multiple federal agencies having multi-hundred million dollar budgets in the same (controversial) field is wasteful. Let's make sure 2011 is the last year these budgets increase.

Newsweek’s Evan Thomas: ‘The health care bill is a disaster’
...Back in November 2009, Thomas admitted the health care reform bill had flaws, but still voiced his support for it. Now he has proclaimed it a failure.

“The health care bill is a disaster,” Thomas continued. “We’re sort of slowly learning – it’s not working. It’s interesting – they’re implementing it and it’s not working out at all as people anticipated. There’s all sorts of wildly wrong projections. As it’s being practiced – it’s failed.”...

New York City’s No-Show SEIU Snow Jobs
Big Labor and politicians across the United States have transferred union costs to taxpayers. For example, SEIU Local 444 (The Sanitation Officers Association, see related snow slowdown stories) has six full-time union officials who are paid full-time city benefits and salary, yet work 0.00% of the time for New York City. These Sanitation Officers are working on everything but New York City business – including political activities and golf outings – all on the taxpayers’ dime....

...In 2009, SEIU Local 444 local President Joseph Mannion was paid $108,340 plus benefits, including seniority credits, for working fulltime for the union. According to the union’s 2009 IRS report, Mannion was paid an additional $83,046 by the union. That’s over $190,000 plus benefits....

The icy grip of the politics of fear
...This isn’t to say that the entire climate-change thesis is wrong. I’m not one of those people who believes snowfall necessarily disproves every claim made by warming-obsessed climatologists. Rather the snow crisis demonstrated, in high definition, the gap between the fear-fuelled thinking of the elite and the struggles of everyday people. It illuminated the million metaphorical miles that now separate the fantasy politics of our so-called betters from the concerns of the rest of us...

...That isn’t surprising when you consider that greens have been telling us for the past decade that snow will disappear from our lives. Literally. ‘Snow is starting to disappear from our lives’, reported the Independent in March 2000. It quoted an expert from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (of recent Climategate fame) who said ‘children just aren’t going to know what snow is’. In 2006, the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said winters had become ‘warmer and less snowy’ thanks to global warming.

Other climate-change campaigners told us to prepare for Saharan weather. A book published as part of Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ jamboree in 2007 - The Global Warming Survival Handbook - said there would soon be ‘searing temperatures, killer storms, drought, plague and pestilence’. Award-winning green theorists told us to prepare for life on a ‘hotter planet’ in which ‘the traditional British winter [is] probably gone for good’. Newspapers provided us with a ‘hellish vision of life on a hotter planet’ where deserts would ‘reach into the heart of Europe’ and global warming would ‘reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles’.

Dramatic stuff. And unadulterated nonsense. The thing that occupied people’s minds at the end of 2010 was not how to explain to their sweating children in the deserts of Hampshire why snow disappeared from our lives, but rather how to negotiate actual snow. Again, this isn’t to say that the snow proves there is no planetary warming at all: if it is mad to cite every change in the weather as proof that Earth is doomed, then it’s probably also unwise to dance around in the slushy white stuff in the belief that it proves that all environmental scientists are demented liars. But the world of difference between expert predictions (hot hell) and our real experiences (freezing nightmare) is a powerful symbol of the distance that now exists between the apocalypse-fantasising elites and the public.

What it really shows is the extent to which the politics of global warming is driven by an already existing culture of fear. It doesn’t matter what The Science (as greens always refer to it) does or doesn’t reveal: campaigners will still let their imaginations run riot, biblically fantasising about droughts and plagues, because theirs is a fundamentally moralistic outlook rather than a scientific one. It is their disdain for mankind’s planet-altering arrogance that fuels their global-warming fantasies - and they simply seek out The Science that best seems to back up their perverted thoughts. Those predictions of a snowless future, of a parched Earth, are better understood as elite moral porn rather than sedate risk analysis...

...‘The snow outside is what global warming looks like’, said one headline, in a newspaper which 10 years ago said that the lack of snow outside is what global warming looks like. A commentator said that anyone who says ‘what happened to global warming?’ is an ‘idiot’ because nobody ever claimed that global warming would ‘make Britain hotter in the long run’. (Er, yes they did.) Apparently the reason people don’t understand the (new) global-warming-causes-snow thesis is because they are ‘simple, earthy creatures, governed by the senses’: ‘What we see and taste and feel overrides analysis. The cold has reason in a deathly grip.’

This reveals the stinging snobbery at the heart of the politics of global warming. Because what we have here is an updated version of the elitist idea that the better classes have access to a profound and complicated truth that the rest of us cannot grasp. Where we have merely sensory reactions (experience), they have reason and analysis (knowledge). Our critical reaction to the snow actually revealed our failure to understand The Truth, as unveiled by The Science, rather than revealing their wrongheadedness in predicting an ‘end to snow’. We are ‘simple’, they are ‘reasoned’. In 2011, we should take everything that is said by this new doom-mongering expert caste with a large pinch of salt – and then spread that salt on the snow which they claimed had disappeared from our lives.

ObamaCare’s High Risk Pools: “Like giving a party to which no one comes.”
...Part of the thinking was that the pools might become deluged by a flood of individuals wanting to enroll. After all, these plans allowed individuals to sign up regardless of preexisting conditions, but at rates that weren’t substantially higher than a typical individual market plan. Foster estimated that about 375,000 individuals would sign up for the plans. Instead, so far, just 8,000 people have signed up for the plans, according to a December report in The Washington Post. A number of state plans have fewer than 100 members. Yet somehow that hasn’t entirely prevented fiscal problems:

Montana is one of a few states in which the medical bills from those who have joined are huge. New Hampshire's plan has only about 80 members, but they already have spent nearly double the $650,000 the state was allotted in federal money to help run the program, said J. Michael Degnan, its director....

... While a lot of people are surprised by these numbers, I am not. Here is why. Don’t you think it is a bit odd for the White House to send out an appeal to victims so they can identify themselves? That’s not normally how the political system works.

The more usual scenario is: victims unite and form interest groups; they lobby Congress, write letters, testify, etc; and eventually the pressure become so great that Congress legislates.

When have you ever heard of that entire process in reverse? When has Congress ever before decided it wants to do something and then conducted a nationwide search to find people who will benefit?

HSIEH: Best health care political pull can buy
...As a result of Obamacare, fewer physicians will work in the familiar two- to five-person small-group practices most Americans prefer. Instead, doctors will be increasingly driven into large, impersonal "accountable care organizations" - not to take better care of their patients, but simply to survive economically. This consolidation is not some "unintended consequence," but rather an explicit goal, as White House health adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle acknowledged when praising Obamacare for encouraging "vertical organization of providers" and "physician employment by hospitals and aggregation into larger physician groups."

According to the New York Times, many consumer advocates thus fear Obamacare will have the perverse effect of reducing competition and driving up costs.

Yet while Obamacare is suppressing genuine marketplace competition for medical services, it is also spurring a more sinister facsimile of competition - for political favors. Employers and insurers with sufficient political clout can save money by obtaining a much-coveted "waiver," exempting them from onerous new insurance regulations. The 222 current recipients of such waivers include popular employers such as McDonald's and Universal Orlando as well as the Service Employees Benefit Fund, which insures members of the Service Employees International Union (a major political supporter of the Obama administration). Because these waivers are granted at the discretion of the secretary of health and human services, they create easy opportunities for political favoritism and corruption....

Why Bank of America Must Be Thrilled to Pay a $3 Billion Penalty
Some people who aren't familiar with the mortgage market might have gasped as they read the news that Bank of America would pay $3 billion to government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. After all, $3 billion sounds like a lot of money. "Maybe BOA is finally getting what it deserves," some naive bank-haters might have exclaimed. In fact, paying this sum is an incredible win for the bank. The penalty is so small that it's effectively insignificant. ...

...This settlement has a few implications. The most significant is that Fannie and Freddie are essentially admitting that the vast majority of their losses are their fault. The cost of the bailout alone to taxpayers is expected to easily exceed $150 billion. If it obtains a measly $12 billion or so from banks, that puts its responsibility at roughly 92%.

This means one of two things. The first possibility is that Fannie and Freddie really were so screwed up that banks rarely broke any rules or tricked these companies into buying and guaranteeing their garbage mortgages. This is actually somewhat plausible, considering that there was a relatively standardized system in place for selling mortgage risk to Fannie and Freddie. Any bad behavior by banks should be relatively easily identifiable through inaccurate or missing documents. ..

Video of sanitation bosses boozing during blizzard had been erased, city investigatiors say
Surveillance video caught Sanitation Department supervisors buying six-packs of beer at a Brooklyn bodega and then heading back to their official car during last week’s blizzard chaos — but the footage has since been taped over, and officials want to know why, The Post has learned....

Infant Death One of the Casualties of Blizzard-Crippled Government-Hobbled NYC
Not that there’s anything wonderful about the tragedies that have occurred because emergency personnel were unable to reach victims on streets that should have been cleared of snow by now. The latest and so far youngest victim was a baby born last night inside the lobby of a snowbound Brooklyn apartment building. Calls to 911 by a young mother in labor went unanswered for 10 hours because the EMTs were unable to negotiate the unplowed streets. By the time help arrived, the newborn was dead.

The grieving woman’s mother told the New York Daily News:

The mayor was spouting nonsense to say Crown Heights was plowed. It wasn’t. No one could get to her … Any other day she would have gotten to a hospital....

Oceanic 'Garbage Patch' Not Nearly as Big as Portrayed in Media
There is a lot of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, but claims that the "Great Garbage Patch" between California and Japan is twice the size of Texas are grossly exaggerated, according to an analysis by an Oregon State University scientist.

Further claims that the oceans are filled with more plastic than plankton, and that the patch has been growing tenfold each decade since the 1950s are equally misleading, pointed out Angelicque "Angel" White, an assistant professor of oceanography at Oregon State.

"There is no doubt that the amount of plastic in the world's oceans is troubling, but this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists," ...

Methane from BP oil spill eaten by microbes
The huge quantities of methane gas that bubbled out of BP's broken well in the Gulf of Mexico were eaten up almost entirely by undersea microbes by the end of August, a new study reports today....

Monday, January 03, 2011

European nations begin seizing private pensions
People’s retirement savings are a convenient source of revenue for governments that don’t want to reduce spending or make privatizations. As most pension schemes in Europe are organised by the state, European ministers of finance have a facilitated access to the savings accumulated there, and it is only logical that they try to get a hold of this money for their own ends. In recent weeks I have noted five such attempts: Three situations concern private personal savings; two others refer to national funds.

The most striking example is Hungary, where last month the government made the citizens an offer they could not refuse. They could either remit their individual retirement savings to the state, or lose the right to the basic state pension (but still have an obligation to pay contributions for it). In this extortionate way, the government wants to gain control over $14bn of individual retirement savings.

The Bulgarian government has come up with a similar idea. $300m of private early retirement savings was supposed to be transferred to the state pension scheme. The government gave way after trade unions protested and finally only about 20% of the original plans were implemented.

A slightly less drastic situation is developing in Poland. The government wants to transfer of 1/3 of future contributions from individual retirement accounts to the state-run social security system. Since this system does not back its liabilities with stocks or even bonds, the money taken away from the savers will go directly to the state treasury and savers will lose about $2.3bn a year. The Polish government is more generous than the Hungarian one, but only because it wants to seize just 1/3 of the future savings and also allows the citizens to keep the money accumulated so far....

Sanit bigs boozed amid snow chaos: witnesses
Instead of plowing, they got plowed.

A group of on-duty Sanitation supervisors is under investigation for allegedly buying booze and chilling in their cozy department car for hours Monday night after the blizzard stranded a bus and three snowplows blocks away.

The city Department of Investigation is probing the incident after witnesses said four snow blowers blew off their duties to get blitzed, buying two six-packs of beer from a Brooklyn bodega. The workers then walked five blocks to their car, which was in 20 inches of snow in the middle of 18th at McDonald avenues near the F train entrance, passing the stuck bus and idle plows on 18th Avenue between Third and
The four remained in the idling sedan until morning -- then told their bosses they could do nothing about the blizzard because they had run out of gas, one witness said.

"They just sat in their car all night with the heat running," the witness said. ...

The Truth Wears Off
Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

...But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. In the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only antipsychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants: Davis has a forthcoming analysis demonstrating that the efficacy of antidepressants has gone down as much as threefold in recent decades.

For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved? Which results should we believe?...

Public Workers Face Outrage as Budget Crises Grow
...Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets, and revealed that some public pension funds dangle perilously close to bankruptcy. In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.

It is an angry conversation. Union chiefs, who sometimes persuaded members to take pension sweeteners in lieu of raises, are loath to surrender ground. Taxpayers are split between those who want cuts and those who hope that rising tax receipts might bring easier choices.

And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.

A brutal reckoning awaits, they say. ...

...Fred Siegel, a historian at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, has written of the “New Tammany Hall,” which he describes as the incestuous alliance between public officials and labor.

“Public unions have had no natural adversary; they give politicians political support and get good contracts back,” Mr. Siegel said. “It’s uniquely dysfunctional.” ...

Europe’s Young Grow Agitated Over Future Prospects
...The outrage of the young has erupted, sometimes violently, on the streets of Greece and Italy in recent weeks, as students and more radical anarchists protest not only specific austerity measures in flattened economies but a rising reality in Southern Europe: People like Ms. Esposito feel increasingly shut out of their own futures. Experts warn of volatility in state finances and the broader society as the most highly educated generation in the history of the Mediterranean hits one of its worst job markets.

Politicians are slowly beginning to take notice. Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, devoted his year-end message on Friday to “the pervasive malaise among young people,” weeks after protests against budget cuts to the university system brought the issue to the fore.

Giuliano Amato, an economist and former Italian prime minister, was even more blunt. “By now, only a few people refuse to understand that youth protests aren’t a protest against the university reform, but against a general situation in which the older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones,” he recently told Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest newspaper.

The daughter of a fireman and a high school teacher, Ms. Esposito was the first in her family to graduate from college and the first to study foreign languages. She has an Italian law degree and a master’s from Germany and was an intern at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. It has not helped.

“I have every possible certificate,” Ms. Esposito said dryly. “I have everything except a death certificate.”

Even before the economic crisis hit, Southern Europe was not an easy place to forge a career. Low growth and a corrosive lack of meritocracy have long posed challenges to finding a job in Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Today, with the added sting of austerity, more people are left fighting over fewer opportunities. It is a zero-sum game that inevitably pits younger workers struggling to enter the labor market against older ones already occupying precious slots. ...

...The contrast could not have been stronger. Indeed, experts warn of a looming demographic disaster in Southern Europe, which has among the lowest birth rates in the Western world. With pensioners living longer and young people entering the work force later — and paying less in taxes because their salaries are so low — it is only a matter of time before state coffers run dry.

“What we have is a Ponzi scheme,” said Lawrence Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University and an expert in fiscal policy. ...