Archive for November 2007

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."

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.

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.

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.

Analysis of "New" UN Climate Warming

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:

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.

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

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.

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

"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.

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.

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

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.

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

"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.

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

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

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.

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.

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 trillion 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.

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."

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.

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%.


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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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."

My Interview at All American Blogger is Up

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)

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

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):


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.