Posts tagged ‘Prime Minister’

Interesting Timing

This last Sunday, September 11, on the same day Hillary Clinton's staff were struggling to erase concerns that Hilary was in poor health after her collapse in New York, PBS Masterpiece aired a nice little movie called "Churchill's Secret".  I recorded it but did not watch it last night, so only yesterday saw the connection:  the movie was about a major stroke Churchill suffered circa 1953, in the midst of his second stint as Prime Minister of the UK.   One subplot, and the reason for the title, was of Churchill's political staff working like crazy to (successfully) hide Churchill's stroke and incapacity from everyone -- media, the public, his own party.  I wonder if PBS, likely Clinton supporters to a person, regrets the timing?

The Key Disconnect in the Climate Debate

Much of the climate debate turns on a single logical fallacy.  This fallacy is clearly on display in some comments by UK Prime Minister David Cameron:

It’s worth looking at what this report this week says – that [there is a] 95 per cent certainty that human activity is altering the climate. I think I said this almost 10 years ago: if someone came to you and said there is a 95 per cent chance that your house might burn down, even if you are in the 5 per cent that doesn’t agree with it, you still take out the insurance, just in case.”

"Human activity altering climate" is not the same thing as an environmental catastrophe (or one's house burning down).  The statement that he is 95% certain that human activity is altering climate is one that most skeptics (including myself) are 100% sure is true.  There is evidence that human activity has been altering the climate since the dawn of agriculture.  Man's changing land uses have been demonstrated to alter climate, and certainly man's incremental CO2 is raising temperatures somewhat.

The key question is -- by how much?  This is a totally different question, and, as I have written before, is largely dependent on climate theories unrelated to greenhouse gas theory, specifically that the Earth's climate system is dominated by large positive feedbacks.  (Roy Spenser has a good summary of the issue here.)

The catastrophe is so uncertain that for the first time, the IPCC left estimates of climate sensitivity to CO2 out of its recently released summary for policy makers, mainly because it was not ready to (or did not want to) deal with a number of recent studies yielding sensitivity numbers well below catastrophic levels.  Further, the IPCC nearly entirely punted on the key question of how it can reconcile its past high sensitivity/ high feedback based temperature forecasts with past relative modest measured warming rates, including a 15+ year pause in warming which none of its models predicted.

The overall tone of the new IPCC report is one of declining certainty -- they are less confident of their sensitivity numbers and less confident of their models which have all been a total failure over the last 15 years. They have also backed off of other statements, for example saying they are far less confident that warming is leading to severe weather.

Most skeptics are sure mankind is affecting climate somewhat, but believe that this effect will not be catastrophic.  On both fronts, the IPCC is slowly catching up to us.

The Bankrupt as Victims

One of the amazing aspects of our new post-modern outlook on personal responsibility and obligations is that folks who are profligate and take on too much debt are increasingly considered victims to which other people owe something (generally a bailout).

We see this no only among US mortgage holders but in Greece as well

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos told lawmakers to back a deeply unpopular EU/IMF rescue in a vote on Sunday or condemn the country to a "vortex" of recession.

He spoke in a televised address to the nation, ahead of Sunday's vote on 3.3 billion euros ($4.35 billions) in wage, pension and job cuts as the price of a 130-billion-euro bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

The effort to ease Greece's huge debt burden has brought thousands into the streets in protest, and there were signs on Saturday of a small rebellion among lawmakers uneasy with the extent of the cuts.

So outsiders generously agree to pay for 130 billion Euros of past Greek spending if only the Greeks will cut their current spending by 3.3 billion Euros (at which spending level the country would still be running large deficits).  And people riot as if they have been gang-raped.  Incredible.

Let the Greeks go.  Of course, this is not actually about bailing out Greece, but about bailing out, indirectly, European banks that invested in Greek bonds.  The banks seem to run public policy in Europe, even more so than in the US.

If Only the US Been Part of the Soviet Economy...

... then it would be much easier to reduce CO2 production, because we could just shut down stupid-inefficient boneheaded and outdated Soviet-era industry, like Poland has:

Polish Prime Minister reminded that the economy of Poland, who has cut carbon emissions by about 30 percent since 1988, relies on coal for up to 90 percent of its energy needs. This, he argued, entitles Poland to encourage other countries, for whom climate protection is a hard nut to crack.

Amount of Polish CO2 reduction that would not have happened anyway in the course of modernizing their economy and is instead due to focus on CO2:  Zero.

More on how the vast majority of European progress towards Kyoto goals is due to the shutdown of Soviet industry, and how this is the primary reason the 1990 benchmark date was chosen, here.

When Work Ethic Disapears

A while back, Megan McArdle observed that Sweden's semi-socialist state performed well for a number of years, riding on residual work ethic in the system, a sort of cultural bank that eventually will be overdrawn.   According to Michael Moynihan, it appears this point has been reached:

Sweden does have the highest rate of workers on sick leave in
Europe, despite being consistently ranked by the OECD as Europe's
healthiest country. As my former colleague Johan Norberg has observed,
sick leave payments"”which, at the time of the last election, were as
high as 80 percent of a worker's salary"”accounted for a staggering 16
percent of the government budget.

Wow!  That is really staggering.  And not at all surprising.  Even in this country, I can't tell you how many people there are who consider a permanent disability to be roughly equivalent to hitting the lottery.  Income for life, without working!  I even had one woman who sued my company for actually (as the law requires) reporting her salary to the tax authorities rather than paying her under the table as she had hoped.  By creating evidence she could work, I endangered her disability application that was in the works (she kept a set of crutches in her car which she only used when on business related to this application).

The government figure of 7 percent unemployment was repeatedly mocked
by both former Prime Minister Göran Persson's detractors and allies. A
study by McKinsey Global estimated the true figure"”which included those
on sick leave, in early retirement, in jobs programs"”to be between 15
and 17 percent. Jan Edling, a researcher with the Social Democratic
trade union LO, estimated the total figure of unemployed to be 19.7
percent. (Edling's report was suppressed and he was himself offered
"early retirement.") The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise said the
figure was 16.5 percent. Other studies ranged from 12 percent to 18

The author also makes a point I have tried to make a number of times -- that the ability of the US economy to integrate and give opportunity to poor immigrants is a huge positive, in terms of assessing relative merits of different economic systems on the poor, that is never considered when evaluating European welfare states:
And the problem of unemployment in Sweden loops back around to the
difficulty Sweden has had in integrating its immigrants into the job

As Swedish economist Esra Karakaya wrote in Aftonbladet in 2006,
the unemployment rate among immigrants in Sweden is 29 percent"”another
staggering figure, in marked contrast to the joblessness rate among
immigrants in this country. This, Karakaya convincingly argues, is
"because the labor market is governed by rigid job security laws" that
are incompatible with a globalized economy. Indeed, a recent study
tracking the fortunes of Somali immigrants in Sweden and in Minneapolis
(reported here in Swedish, summarized here in English)
found that its sample group in the U.S. started approximately 800
companies. In Sweden, they managed only 38. In a recent editorial in
the newspaper Expressen, Nima Sanandaji, a Kurdish immigrant, argued that
it was "important to study how the Swedish system of benefits, taxes
and [regulated] job market leads the same group of people to be
successful on one side of the Atlantic and to social poverty and
dependence in Sweden."

By the way, when you do the analysis right, the poorest quintile in Sweden does about the same as in the US.  The difference is that in 10 years, the poorest quintile in Sweden will still be the same folks, while the poorest quintile in the US will have moved up, to be replaced with new immigrants.