Friday, December 28, 2012

Growth and Jobs? Or Taxes?

"Having complained that Romney's investment income isn't taxed enough, Nocera went on to bemoan the wealth required for admission into the Forbes 400. Though a $75 million net worth placed you among the 400 back in 1982, today it's $1.1 billion. Not surprisingly, Nocera thinks inequality of achievement is unfair, and because it bothers him, he wants politicians to do something about it.

"Of course Nocera's anti-Forbes 400 rant misses two basic points. First, he wails about the inequality that this elite billionaires' club represents, but fails to acknowledge that the team picture from the '82 edition of the 400 is almost totally different from the one that exists today. In short, most of the club's members from 30 years ago are not members now, and a major reason they're not is thanks to the willingness of people like Romney to invest in the very entrepreneurs whose success has knocked most of the initial members out of the club. In possession of the envy gene, easily one of the most impoverishing in existence, Nocera is implicitly saying that he doesn't care if tomorrow's innovators lose out on funding thanks to increased taxation on investors; just so long as the members of an ever-changing Forbes 400 aren't getting richer."

Does anyone really think a nation can tax itself to prosperity?  Or legislate itself to prosperity?  For all of Obama's so called brilliance, he dabbles in nonsense.  He seems to have no grasp at all of what drives wealth creation of why liberty created the best living conditions for everyone.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kill 'Em (Government Backed Unions) All

"Overheated rhetoric is a hallmark of every campaign season. But the GOP's and Romney's positions on labor and collective bargaining-from support for a federal union-weakening "right-to-work" law to eliminating most public-sector bargaining rights-are genuinely to the right of where they were even four years ago. With unions now accounting for less than 12 percent of the workforce (down from 36 percent in the 1950s), it is now possible to imagine a country devoid of labor power, replaced by a corporate vision of "employee empowerment and workplace flexibility," as the GOP 2012 platform puts it."

Amazing. Unions make the GOP enemy number one, and the GOP reciprocates. Imagine that. Too bad Romney wasn't more vocal with this plan, I'd have been donating from way back. There are few things more destructive to Americans and workers specifically than unions backed by a coercive Federal monopoly.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Classic Quote, Twain

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

Mark Twain
HT: @LibertarianMike

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wrong People Doing Right Thing

Milton Friedman said it well in 1975: "I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Classic Quote, Lee

"I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations; you're not in this world to live up to mine." ― Bruce Lee

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Violence, Emotion, Facts

"Most gun violence, he said, involves suicide, not homicide. And he noted that access to highly lethal weapons makes a difference, citing the school attack Friday in China in which a knife-wielding man wounded more than 20 students: "The point is, they were injured" - not killed - "because the lethality of a knife is so much less than that of a gun.""
--Statistically, knife wounds are twice as lethal as gun wounds - 30% for guns, 60% for knives.  The knife in China - was it sharp?  Large?  Used with the intent to kill?

Important quote:
"The one thing that we must not do is look for a quick fix for our grief by in any way assuming that the diagnosis is equal to the cause of this violence," said Harold J. Bursztajn, a psychiatrist and co-founder of the Program in Psychiatry and the Law at Harvard Medical School.

No Credibility

"The deficit for fiscal 2012, which ended on Sept. 30, came in at about $1.1 trillion, marking the fourth consecutive year that the nation has posted a trillion-dollar-plus spending gap. Contrary to what Dick Cheney said when he was vice president, deficits do matter.  
"Under the most recent budget plans of House Republicans and Obama, the federal government will spend from $40 trillion to $47 trillion over the next decade. Yet in the current negotiations, Boehner has called for only $800 billion in spending cuts and Obama $400 billion, most of which would be pushed off until 2022 or later -- tantamount to saying they won't happen at all. Neither side's long-term spending plans envision a balanced budget in the next 10 years."

How can anyone take these buffoons seriously?

"Politics is the art of the possible." Which is why it is so pathetic. Politics cannot accomplish anything worth accomplishing.

"Whatever you think about the decline of rates under President George W. Bush, it made the U.S. tax system more progressive by reducing the burden on middle- and lower-income people. That's one reason that singling out high-income earners for increases this time will yield such little revenue: All of us paid higher taxes then. It wasn't just the swells at the top of the income pyramid.

"Even if government could attain the revenue levels of seven years ago, it wouldn't come close to covering spending, which crossed the $3 trillion mark, in inflation-adjusted dollars, in 2009. Neither
Republicans nor Democrats are suggesting reducing total year-over-year spending.

"Both the president and members of Congress worry that rapid spending cuts would cause a new recession or slow down the recovery. Such fears are overstated.

"In the 1990s, Canada, for instance, reduced debt-to-GDP ratios through an aggressive combination of actual, year-over- year spending cuts and higher taxes. The result wasn't malaise but a burst in activity."

Coercion Doesn't Work - Even for Fertility!

"Fertility rates are falling everywhere. The median age in many countries is already over 40, well above the prime childbearing years.
"In some places, plummeting fertility can be attributed to dictatorial coercion: To enforce its "one-child" policy, China has employed methods ranging from steep fines and loss of employment to compulsory sterilization and abortions. The results have been brutal: Hundreds of millions of births have been prevented, China's median age is at 36 and rising, and the Chinese fertility rate is now 1.54 - well below the rate of 2.1 needed to maintain a steady population.
"But, as Last points out, the fertility rate for white, college-educated American women - a proxy for the US middle class - is 1.6. "In other words, America has created its very own 'one-child' policy. It's soft and unintentional, the result of accidents of history and thousands of little choices. But it has been just as effective.""

Science or "Unscience"?

Bill Nye is a "science guy", right? So can he explain the science of AGW?

In a word, no.  If you want some of that, try this: 

He explains some facts, assumptions and some opinions about how to interpret those facts. He does not explain any of the reasons why it would be rational to doubt the prevailing conjecture about AGW. He does not explain how a conjecture might become a hypothesis, theory or law (in the language of science). He does not explain that the scientific method can only be applied to AGW through modeling, and those models have not yet accurately predicted temperature rises - thus, de facto, AGW is not proved. He does not point out that CO2 levels, supposedly rising continuously, do not correlate with observed temperatures. He does not point out that CO2 is off gassed from the oceans if they warm, and thus rising CO2 levels may simply be a trailing indicator of non-anthropogenic warming. He does not point out the problems associated with using ice core data to establish "historical norms" of CO2 concentrations. And, he fails to mention that no one really knows what will happen if the earth is warming; there are guesses, calculations and fears, but no certainty. Strong cases can be made for either net disaster or net improvement. 

Thus, Bill Nye is a fraud. He should require that he meet the standard of the scientific method, vice parroting Al Gore and the Chicken Littles. Popularized science has given us "science by consensus", which has no part of the scientific method. If it did, we could just take a vote of "scientists", and whichever side gets 51% of the vote gets to decide what is true or not.

Lastly, this case against CO2 can be boiled down to one simple fact. If AGW is real, it may only be solved by prosperity or mass murder of humans. I've seen not a single plan for reducing CO2 emissions that does not require that billions be impoverished, and thus millions will die at the hands of government fumbling.

Lesson From DC

"A year and half after the District of Columbia was granted home rule (the ability for the city to govern its own affairs, apart from Congress), it made a bold move. The city outlawed handguns.

"It was 1976, and while the legislation would prove to do little to curb gun violence in the city, it was a bold test of the reach of the Second Amendment, which was not as thoroughly adjudicated as it is now."

The Keynesian Illusion

"There are three more reasons to doubt the Keynesian view. First, the fiscal expansion has been mostly in the form of temporary tax cuts and transfer payments. Much of these were probably saved, not spent.

"Second, the zero interest rate policy has a risk not acknowledged by the Fed: the creation of another bubble. The Fed has failed to appreciate that the 2008 bubble was partly caused by its own easy liquidity policies in the preceding six years. Friedrich Hayek was prescient: a surge of excessive liquidity can misdirect investments that lead to boom followed by bust.

"Third, our real challenge was not a great depression, as the Keynesians argued, but deep structural change. Keynesians persuaded Washington it was stimulus or bust. This was questionable. There was indeed a brief depression risk in late 2008 and early 2009, but it resulted from the panic after the abrupt and maladroit closure of Lehman Brothers."
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The article goes on to point out that high income economies are shedding workers and buying either automation or offshore replacements. This is a predictable outcome of the fact that "high income economies" make it very expensive to employ the folks in their locale. Health care, FICA, OSHA compliance, mandatory training, and other expenses which make it costly to employ humans.

One note:  saving is as likely as spending to provide a stimulus.

Blue Model, Epic Fail

"Some arguments are based on theory, as when politicians say they think their ideas will work well in practice, whereas their opponents' will work out poorly. Then there are arguments based on proven and practical facts. The fact today is that what Walter Russell Mead calls the "blue social model" -- high taxes, much regulation, strong unions and a fairly high level of government services -- is in deep trouble wherever tested. The red model -- low taxes, low spending, more business-friendly policies -- is still thriving."

The author goes on to demonstrate this principle, and the distinctions are obvious. The Blue states are failing, the red states do better.

Go red young man/woman.

Dr. Williams on the Blue Model

"Detroit's social pathology is seen in other cities with large black populations such as Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore and Chicago. These are cities where blacks have for years dominated the political machinery in the forms of mayors, police chiefs, superintendents of schools and city councilmen, plus they've been Democrats. It's safe to conclude that the focus on political power doesn't do much for ordinary blacks."

It's easy to see how a minority group that suffered at the hands of the government might conclude that the secret to success to gain power over the same government that was the agent of oppression. However, the same corrupting effect that led the majority to use government to do evil has corrupted those minority leaders who seized power with the idea of helping those like them. Power corrupts.

Clear Thought On AGW

"Forget the Doha climate jamboree that ended earlier this month. The theological discussions in Qatar of the arcana of climate treaties are irrelevant. By far the most important debate about climate change is taking place among scientists, on the issue of climate sensitivity: How much warming will a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide actually produce?"

Aside from loving the reference to the theological beliefs of the AGW crowd - which is factually accurate - the author raises significant points:
- Nic Lewis, who found and reported errors in the 2009 IPCC consensus paper, makes the point that the effect of aerosols (such as sulfurous particles) have a much lower cooling effect than long thought, and ocean warming is milder than was expected. Thus - more accurate estimates may be made of the climate's sensitivity to CO2.
- Conclusion: a doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of ~3 degrees F.
- "Taking the IPCC scenario that assumes a doubling of CO2, plus the equivalent of another 30% rise from other greenhouse gases by 2100, we are likely to experience a further rise of no more than 1°C."
- "A cumulative change of less than 2°C by the end of this century will do no net harm. It will actually do net good-that much the IPCC scientists have already agreed upon in the last IPCC report. Rainfall will increase slightly, growing seasons will lengthen, Greenland's ice cap will melt only very slowly, and so on."
- The conjecture for AGW was always built on this model: CO2 drives slight warmings which force more significant warming feedback loops via clouds and water vapor.
- "Clouds, it turns out, do not amplify warming effects - some might be amplifiers (low level, for example), but others reflect radiant energy. When more of those clouds are produced, less energy enter the atmosphere."

Conclusion is spot on:
"The scientists at the IPCC next year have to choose whether they will admit-contrary to what complex, unverifiable computer models indicate-that the observational evidence now points toward lukewarm temperature change with no net harm. On behalf of all those poor people whose lives are being ruined by high food and energy prices caused by the diversion of corn to biofuel and the subsidizing of renewable energy driven by carboncrats and their crony-capitalist friends, one can only hope the scientists will do so."

There's no free lunch, and that's why governments should not act in offense of the rights of their citizenry until the science of AGW is mature (models for climate which actually predict).


"I'm thankful for a lot of things in life, and one of those things is your support. Thank You."

Read the article if, like me, you totally missed this series of events.

I feel lucky. I loved Hank Aaron, and Wilbur Jackson, and Sylvester Croom, and pretended to be Paul Warfield. I never had a thought about that one way or the other - I could identify in that child like way with great athletes regardless of their skin color. I was gifted to be in a household where that was not an issue in any way. I know others have paid a different price for either their color or their education about
what color means, and I know there's more healing to come. I hope it comes quickly.

To my idealistic parents, thank you.

Irrational Fears Indeed

It's fascinating - this author writes about others and seems not to realize it applies to herself.

"Irrational fears are hard to dislodge with facts. Crime rates are way down."

Later: "The US is the most heavily armed nation in the world. Fortunately, it is by no means the most trigger happy" since it is beaten out for that dubious honor by Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, South Africa, and a bunch of Caribbean countries, which boast murder rates from 10-20 times higher.

She misses the obvious conclusion - drug war anyone?

She then concludes the only problem is the US is incidents like Newton - completely horrifying but accounting for under 200 deaths from 1980 through 2010. Lightning strikes are more risky.

Unfathomable determination to ignore the facts.

Inequality Of POWER

"The other big feature of the egalitarian left is promotion of a huge inequality of power, while deploring economic inequality.
"It is no coincidence that those who are going ballistic over the economic inequality between the top one or two percent and the rest of us are promoting a far more dangerous concentration of political power in Washington-- where far less than one percent of the population increasingly tell 300 million Americans what they can and cannot do, on everything from their light bulbs and toilets to their medical care."

School Bombed

Wow.  Not exactly news but ...

"Willing To Do What It Takes, Whatever It Takes"

"President Obama says raising taxes to cut the deficit is a "balanced"

"Balanced ...

"But what's "balanced" about raising taxes after vast increases in spending? Trillions for war, Medicare, "stimulus" and solar panels. Tax receipts rose -- after tax-rate cuts -- from $1.9 billion in 2003 to $2.3 billion in 2008, the year the recession started. That increase couldn't keep up with the spending. The deficit doubled -- actually, more than doubled -- as politicians increased spending to nearly $4 trillion! Our debt, at more than $16 trillion, now exceeds our gross domestic product." 

The President says this kind of thing because he's a politician, which is why I no longer listen to politicians. You can tell what they'll say before they say it. They'll say whatever is necessary to justify doing what they want, or getting what they want (elected, for one).  "If Republicans and Democrats reach a deal, the tax increases will be real -- but spending "cuts" probably illusions. If they actually happen, they will only be reductions in already planned increases. The Wall Street Journal notes that when the two parties talk about cutting spending by $4 trillion over a decade, "those numbers have no real meaning because they are conjured in the wilderness of mirrors that is the federal budget process. Since 1974, Capitol Hill's 'baseline' has automatically increased spending every year according to Congressional Budget Office projections ... . Tax and spending changes are then measured off that inflated baseline."  How can you tell they are not serious? They are not even talking about this: "Given our growing debt, can't they even slow the growth of government to the rate of inflation? Or inflation plus 1 percent? Or even inflation plus 2 percent? That might balance the budget within a decade."

Clarity About HC

“The Affordable Care Act established a federally funded risk pool-the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan-that allows individuals with such disqualifying conditions to buy a policy for the same premium a healthy person would pay. About 82,000 people have signed up as of July 31, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's  That is not a misprint. Out of a population of more than 300 million, some 82,000 have the problem that was cited as the principal reason for spending $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years and in the process turning the entire health-care system upside down.”  

“In 2003, Congress passed a Medicare drug benefit, largely out of concern that senior citizens couldn't afford the coverage themselves. Since the new program (Medicare Part D) had no funding source, Congress created a $15.6 trillion unfunded liability for the federal government, looking indefinitely into the future-more than the unfunded liability in Social Security.”
“Yet economist Andrew Rettenmaier discovered that only 7 percent of the benefits actually bought new drugs for seniors. The other 93 percent simply transferred to government (and taxpayers) the bill for drugs the elderly or their insurers were already buying.
“Only one in every thirteen dollars represented a new drug purchase. Interestingly, the help given to the small number of people who were not otherwise getting medications actually reduced Medicare's spending, as drugs were substituted for more expensive doctor and hospital therapies.
“But this profit on the truly needy was overwhelmed by the cost of giving the benefit to those who didn't need it-a cost that has created an enormous obligation for current and future taxpayers. “

Classic Quotes, Sowell

"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics." Thomas Sowell

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Clear Thought, A Valuable Commodity

"For mass killings, the numbers are already so low that the logical question would be: is it worth doing anything to try to reduce even more the chance of mass killings? What could be the undesired side effects of implementing policies to that effect? For example, let's say that someone came up with a vaccine that guaranteed that a child who received would never be a mass killer. However, one child in 100,000 dies from an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Clearly the vaccine itself would cause more deaths than mass killings, so it's a net negative if we are trying to minimize unnecessary deaths."
Quote taken from here:

Full article here:

Politicians say stuff they think will sound good, without regards for the utility of the language. To expect otherwise if foolish, even if you happen to be favorably disposed towards the President.

Suicide Terrorists and Suicide Killers - Same?

"...we should think of many rampage shooters as nonideological suicide terrorists. In some cases, they claim to be fighting for a cause - neo-Nazism, eugenics, masculine supremacy or an antigovernment revolution - but, as with suicide terrorists, their actions usually stem from something much deeper and more personal." 

"There appears to be a triad of factors that sets these killers apart. The first is that they are generally struggling with mental health problems that have produced their desire to die.  "The second factor is a deep sense of victimization and belief that the killer's life has been ruined by someone else, who has bullied, oppressed or persecuted him.  
"The key is that the aggrieved individual feels that he has been terribly mistreated and that violent vengeance is justified. In many cases, the target for revenge becomes broader and more symbolic than a single person, so that an entire type or category of people is deemed responsible for the attacker's pain and suffering. Then, the urge to commit suicide becomes a desire for murder-suicide, which is even rarer; a recent meta-analysis of 16 studies suggests that only two to three of every one million Americans commit murder-suicide each year.  
"The third factor is the desire to acquire fame and glory through killing. More than 70 percent of murder-suicides are between spouses or romantic or sexual partners, and these crimes usually take place at home. Attackers who commit murder-suicide in public are far more brazen and unusual.  
"...rampage shooters have often been captivated by the idea that they will become posthumously famous. "Isn't it fun to get the respect that we're going to deserve?" the Columbine shooter Eric Harris remarked. He had fantasized with his fellow attacker, Dylan Klebold, that the filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino would fight over the rights to their life story."

Facts and Insight About Random Mass Killings

"Has the rate of random mass shootings in the United States increased? Over the past 30 years, the answer is definitely yes. It is also true that the total U.S. homicide rate has fallen by over half since 1980, and the gun homicide rate has fallen along with it.  Today, Americans are safer from violent crime, including gun homicide, than they have been at any time since the mid-1960s.
"Mass shootings, defined as four or more fatalities, fluctuate from year to year, but over the past 30 years there has been no long-term increase or decrease. But "random" mass shootings, such as the horrific crimes last Friday in Newtown, Conn., have increased.  
"Loren Coleman's 2004 book "The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines" shows that the copycat effect is as old as the media itself. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 1774 classic "The Sorrows of Young Werther" triggered a spate of copycat suicides all over Europe. But today the velocity and pervasiveness of the media make the problem much worse."

It is rare to find such a factually dense and relevant article, thank you Mr. Kopel.  
After the above intro, he goes on to explore the "why" questions.  
-Why more R/M killings now than in the 60, given that the first Federal gun law came in 68? -10+ round magazines are not new - but a counter point to that is that they are much more common than they used to be, even just as far back as 1986 when I was a police officer.
-What would account for why the 1980s were far worse for criminal homicides generally, but better for the R/M killings?
-Assault weapons bans started in California in 1989, and Connecticut in 1993. Federal "assault weapons" ban was enacted under Clinton in the 90s. So clearly those bans did not stop R/M killings. "Assault weapons" are better regulated now than in the 60s.  

The author suggests three explanations:
-The copy cat effect
-Fewer mentally ill folks are institutionalized
-We designate areas as "gun free", which means they are "safe zones for killers." The author calls these "pretend gun free zones."  

Observations Around Tragedy

My friend and instructor used to tell us a tale, or perhaps parable, about a day when a Chinese family celebrated the birth of a grandson. A religious leader (I don't remember the actual title) was invited for a blessing. The blessing was "first may you die Grandfather, then you (to the now father), and then you (to the new grandson)."

Everyone was confused at first but then all agreed it was a powerful blessing.  When that sequence is inverted, we experience a near universal horror.

I attended "The Hobbit" this week. Four themes emerged for me. Our strength to excess is our weakness. Humility is a gift to oneself. There are powerful forces at work in the world and we do not control them. We all dream/wish/hope/desire to be able to call on the forces of goodness so as to make ourselves and others safe from the powerful negative forces. 

In a fantasy world, certain folks can summon goodness to fight evil.  In our world, that is often not an option.

We could pretend to have an answer for unconscionable killers, auto wrecks, plane crashes, tsunamis, home fires, abusive parents, etc (AKA orcs and goblins). We do not have an answer. Horrible things happen. We love anyway, or are as good as dead.

I am not suggesting that there is nothing to be done to prevent tragedy. I will say plainly: hijacking a moment of tragedy to suggest that empowering pompous assholes called politicians to deprive the citizenry of rights is offensive to me. It is a repulsive choice, full of pretense about what governments can or cannot do, and about how your grief means more than my rights. Government is not Gandalph. Government is Saruman, laden with the pretense of wisdom, overmuch power, hubris to spare and only one step from becoming the next cause of horrible tragedy.  In the vast tally of tragedy, government owns the balance by a wide margin over natural disaster and individual evil.

I'm not just talking Hitler, Stalin, and Hirohito.  How about Lincoln, who sent 500,000 to their deaths?  How about the government that authorized citizens to own, buy and sell human beings for the better part of 100 years, making Lincoln's choice look justified? 

I am also struck by how moments of surprising tragedy can arouse us while we remain immune to an equal but expected tragedy. How many children will die of parent abuse this year? Many more than 20. How many will die auto wrecks? Arson events? Plain old house fires? Bike accidents? Drowning? Poison?

Do we suggest that pools should be outlawed? Cars? Houses?

What accounts for the discrepancy in perception? How can we be deluded that changing a law will change human behavior when we all KNOW, know for certain, that is untrue? To wit, the drug war, which is putting millions in jail but cannot be said to have stopped one person from using "unlawful" drugs. Drug use is even higher among the youth of Iran, which has an even more draconian anti-drug government than ours. 

And if guns could be "controlled", would it be any better if we saw bombs used vice guns, as we do in countries where they have "controlled" guns? 
We live in a world in which at all times unspeakable pain is experienced by parents and children. There is no Gandalph to whom we may appeal to hold these goblins back. What then is within our circle of control?

These are the questions I find to be of  value:
How will we act to defend ourselves and our loved ones? Will we be prepared to act in the event that our actions might save another?
How will we live with joy and passion in a world that may take away all that is dear to us in an instant?
How will I do what I do with more skill, more care, more result and less effort so that I can be certain I am giving my best love to my friends and family and children?

Steyn On Target

"...government medical systems have taken hold in almost every developed  nation, but only in America does the introduction of governmentalized health care impact small-business hiring practices and religious liberty, and require 16,500 new IRS agents and federal bonuses for contributing to a national database of seat-belt wearers. Thus, Big Government American-style: Byzantine, legalistic, whimsical, coercive, heavy on the paperwork, and lacking the one consolation of statism - the great clarifying simplicity of universal mediocrity."

A bit later:
" In parts of rural America it will quickly achieve a Platonic perfection: There will be untold legions of regulators, administrators, and IRS collection agents, but not a doctor or nurse in sight."

In this case, Steyn's genius is he can tell a story better than 1000 photos.

Throw Away Line

"Yet despite its widespread use and vast financial success, and although it was derived from the work of Carl Jung, one of the most famous psychologists of the 20th century, the test is highly questioned by the scientific community. "

It's funny, in the author's throw away line intro, she highlights one of the biggest mis-understandings of the role of science.  The point of science is to "highly question" everything.  The practice of science is to identify a conjecture, and test it - IOW, try to prove that conjecture is wrong.  If sufficient testing is conducted, a conjecture may be considered a "hypothesis", then a "theory", and possibly one day a "law".  There is never a point in which something is proved true.  The scientific method only works if one uses it in this way.  IOW - saying "the test is highly questioned by the scientific community", the author is saying the equivalent of "not all scientists are asleep." 

Nevermind the implication that the opinions of scientists matter.  A scientist is a person with an opinion.  Science results when folks who have opinions subject them to the scientific method.  If 1000 scientists say "we think X is correct" and 1000 scientists say "we think X is false", that's all good and everything, but it has little or nothing to do with the practice of science.  The opinion of the "scientific community" is as relevant to the practice of science as are the opinions of football prognosticators to the outcome of football games. 

The linked article though is an interesting read, and clearly highlights the often seen divide between academia and reality.  Often, academics see little need or have little ability to work in ways that allows a translation from laboratory to life.  This has led to a widespread perception that academics are good for little amongst those that must produce a product to feed themselves.  In our culture's widespread mis-understanding of the scientific method, which leads many to treat science as an article of faith, we have come to write and speak about science and scientists as if it and they are some special class of human.  Have a read and see if you can see this thread in the following cuts:
"Academics would contend that is precisely Myers-Briggs biggest flaw: It's about belief much more than scientific evidence. And it's administered by leadership coaches who, by and large, have no formal education in the science of psychology."
--In other words, "we don't care if folks think it is useful."
""People like it because it reveals something they didn't know about themselves or others," says Wharton's Grant. "That could be true of a horoscope, too."
--In other words, "people like it, but that does not mean that the system has been shown to have scientific validity."  To which, I would say, "whatever."

"Even Katharine Downing Myers concedes that "psychologists had no use for the indicator; they felt that Jung was a crazy mystic."
--"Concedes"?  Why would it need to be a concession?
"And yet the psychological community has been reticent to speak up too vocally against it. The fact is, many psychology professors do lucrative side work as organizational consultants. And as taboo as it is to praise Myers-Briggs in U.S. academia, it's equally taboo to disparage it in corporate America."
--What would they say "against it"?  "We have not tested this, therefore, it may or may not be scientifically valid."  Whatever.  Shut up or test it already.
""Some psychologists see it as a necessary evil," Grant says. They think: "I want to have influence with practitioners, so I can't poke a hole in their sacred cow."  Continuing:  "It is sacred because CPP has done such a thorough job of ingraining it in organizational culture, because company norms are hard to break, because institutions are attracted to the safety of its all-personalities-are-created-equal message, and because - despite what Myers-Briggs advocates would call the complexity and depth of the tool - it is, in the end, elegantly simple."
--Nope, it's sacred because it resonates with people. People wish to be understood, and they want to understand themselves. This tool helps them. In that way, it works, and it wouldn't work any better if a guy with a PHD said "I've tested this tool and found it to have scientific credibility." 

I don't know whether these PHDs take themselves overly seriously, or the author merely set them up to sound as thought they do.  What I know is that in 30 years of fooling around with the MBTI and the Keirsey adaptation of the same system, people love to gain the insights this system offers.  I have even seen people in tears after seeing their type described in writing - "I've always been told I shouldn't be this way".  Seeing their type decribed in writing, they realize they couldn't have been any other way, and their choice to "be who they are" is validated. 

Do you care whether the system has been tested by PHDs, or do you care that it provides you insight and a better strategy to understand others, and to be understood by others? 

It's the Unseen, Stupid

"Much of the case for big government rests on ignoring Frederic Bastiat's lesson of what is seen and what is not seen. We see what exists. We see that the government built highways, subsidized Ken Burns documentaries, bailed out Chrysler (twice), and operates schools. We don't see how all the money spent on such efforts might have been used had it been left in the hands of those who produced it. Would money in the competitive sector of the economy have been used more efficiently and effectively, to satisfy more human needs and produce more economic growth with the available resources? Economic theory suggests that it would, and empirical analysis consistently demonstrates that countries relying more fully on property rights and market exchange vastly outperform state-directed economies."

Monday, December 17, 2012

State Pensions

"The stakes here are high for both parties. San Bernardino is desperate to save money anywhere it can, and pension contributions are among its largest costs. Calpers, meanwhile, wants to avoid setting a dangerous precedent that cities in trouble can refuse payments. There are plenty of distressed cities throughout the state, and they will be watching this showdown closely. If San Bernardino can get off without making payments, other cities will expect the same treatment, leaving Calpers with a serious crisis on its hands."

What I think of when I see this is that the people who made the unsustainable promise - the politicians and union leaders of the day - are the only ones who will not suffer the consequences of their choices.

The workers, the taxpayers, and economy as a whole will pay dearly for their deal.

Oil and Dollars

"While it should be said that subsidization of any business activity should be offensive to any true capitalist, Obama's hostility to drilling (though offensive) is the norm inside the Democratic party; his views arguably moderate considering the visceral dislike of fossil fuels among so many Democrats. After that, we only care about greater access to U.S.-based oil thanks to President Bush's wrongheaded decision (ultimately mimicked by President Obama) to pursue a weak dollar right from the beginning of his presidency. Simply put, oil isn't expensive at the moment, rather the dollar in which oil is priced is cheap. If the dollar were still trading where it was when Bush took office in 2001, oil would be very cheap such that most of this drilling that we presently salivate over would be non-economic."


Classic Quotes, Adams

"I've always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic."
~ Abigail Adams

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Chicken In Every Pot, A Loophole for Every Constituency

"For that matter, how many of the ordinary Americans signing on to the Fix the Debt initiative want to sacrifice their mortgage-interest deduction or exemption for employer-provided health-care benefits? There is a constituency for every loophole. More than half the lobbying in this country is related to the tax code, which is just one of the many reasons to strip it down to its bare essentials, like a couple of flat rates.  
"Based on past efforts, and limited success, in attacking deductions and exemptions, the best we can probably hope for is something Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed: a cap on itemized deductions for high-income earners. If that's what reform looks like, the tax code will continue to encourage inefficient behavior to the detriment of the economy."

Correlation There - Causation?

"It's hard to imagine stock indexes dropping by half today, or unemployment rising past 15 percent, as they did in the "depression within the Depression." But the parallels are visible enough to be worth tracing. They have to do with the danger of big government, and can be captured in a few categories."

I hope he's wrong but wonder if the same causation is present.

What's He Going For?

"As for the alleged curative effect on debt of Obama's tax-rate demand — the full rate hike on the "rich" would have reduced the 2012 deficit from $1.10 trillion to $1.02 trillion.

"That's a joke, a rounding error.

"Such nonsense abounds because Obama's objective in these negotiations is not economic but political: not to solve the debt crisis but to fracture the Republican majority in the House. Get Boehner to cave, pass the tax hike with Democratic votes provided by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and let the Republican civil war begin."

I don't think Obama's as sinister as CK paints him to be - I think he just has no idea how to make a deal and is poorly advised.

"Hero" Politicians

FROM THE OUTSET, Kennedy's people went out of their way to conceal the Jupiter concession. It started when the president's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, met Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin on Oct. 27 to present the Jupiters-for-Soviet-missiles swap. He told Dobrynin: We'll take the Jupiters out, but it's not part of the deal, and you can never talk about it. The Soviets removed their missiles, the United States removed the Jupiters, and the secret held for 16 years, until a small paragraph in an Arthur Schlesinger book upon which few remarked.

Uh, lying for our own good, I'm sure.

This One Is Different?

"When you do look at the data the results are clear. In five of the six financial crises since 1882 - the Great Depression of the 1930s was the sole exception - the strength of the recovery in real Gross National Product greatly exceeds the previous decline, by close to 6 percentage points over the eight quarters following the cyclical trough. 
"This is similar to what we see in the two severe contractions in which there are no financial crises. The recent recession and recovery are more similar to the Great Depression than the other episodes.  Cross-country comparisons tell a similar story. Unemployment actually recovered faster in countries hit by a financial crisis than in those in a recession for other reasons. Of the nine foreign countries for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has produced comparable unemployment data based on the same definition of unemployment, Reinhart and Rogoff identify four as suffering from a financial crisis (Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) and five as not (Australia, Canada, France, Italy and Sweden). From January 2009 to December 2011, the unemployment rates in the countries with financial crises actually increased less than in those that avoided such a crisis (0.66 percentage points versus 0.86 percentage points)."

Read more:

Efficiency INCREASES Consumption

Automobile manufacturers have been working for decades on improving fuel efficiency. So why aren't the cars we drive today getting dramatically better gas mileage?
A study by MIT economist Christopher Knittel in the December 2011 issue of the American Economic Review found that since 1980 the average fuel economy of American vehicles has increased only slightly, from 23 miles per gallon to 27. Yet Knittel found that fuel efficiency-the amount of power an engine produces per gallon of fuel burned-increased by 60 percent during that period. What's going on here? 
Cars and trucks have become bigger and more powerful: The average weight of passenger vehicles has increased 26 percent since 1980, while their horsepower has risen by 107 percent. Most of the gains in fuel efficiency have gone into compensating for the extra size and thrust.  Automobiles are not the only category in which greater efficiency has failed to translate into reduced energy consumption. Lighting efficiency has improved during the last three centuries by many thousand-fold, from sputtering candles to modern LEDs, as Jeff Tsao and his colleagues from the Sandia National Laboratory note in the July 2012 issue of the journal Energy Policy. But the result "has been an increase in demand for energy used for lighting that nearly exactly offsets the efficiency gains." The authors note that "when lighting becomes cheaper, economic agents become very creative in devising new ways to use it," such as illuminating office ceilings with LED virtual skies. 
In coming decades, Tsao et al. predict, increased demand for lighting probably will again swallow up any new gains in energy efficiency.  In another recent study, reported in the July 2012 issue of the journal Sustainability, Graham Palmer, technical director of an Australian heating and cooling company, looked at trends in space heating efficiency during the last 50 years in Melbourne. Modern houses are up to 10 times more energy efficient, Palmer found, yet Australians are collectively using just as much energy to heat their homes as they did a half-century ago. Why? New houses are much bigger, people heat larger areas for longer, and fewer people live in each dwelling. 
Of course, modern Australians are much more comfortable in the winter than their grandparents were.  Similarly, a 2006 study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that homes in Phoenix, Arizona, that qualify for the EPA's Energy Star designation use 12 percent more energy than homes that don't. Owners of Energy Star houses may use 16 percent less energy per square foot to keep their indoors livable, but they spend those gains on bigger houses.  
This energy "rebound effect" has important implications for efforts to restrain climate change through conservation. Various studies have suggested that improvements in efficiency could reduce energy consumption enough to cut global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 25 percent during the next four decades. 

This is why the CAFE standards are and have been nothing but wishful thinking ever since they began.  They amount to wishful coercionist thinking, which is linear and unable to conceive of 2nd and 3rd order effects.  Sadly, where this will go after they wake up and smell the economics coffee will be efforts to even further restrict the choices of the citizenry.  

Classic Quote, Jung

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." Carl Jung

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Even Will?

"And one who tilts toward the libertarian side of the Republican Party's fusion of social and laissez-faire conservatism. Most voters already favor less punitive immigration policies than the ones angrily advocated by clenched-fist Republicans unwilling to acknowledge that immigrating - risking uncertainty for personal and family betterment - is an entrepreneurial act. The speed with which civil unions and same-sex marriage have become debatable topics and even mainstream policies is astonishing. As is conservatives' failure to recognize this: They need not endorse such policies, but neither need they despise those, such as young people, who favor them. And it is strange for conservatives to turn a stony face toward any reconsideration of drug policies, particularly concerning marijuana, which confirm conservatism's warnings about government persistence in the teeth of evidence."

I don't think he has any idea how to fix the GOP.  What would fix the GOP is a compelling candidate - and like the two friends running from the bear, the winner only need to be better than the opposition's candidate.  To wit, George W. Bush.

Bernardino Death Spiral

"Yet on close examination, the city's decades-long journey from prosperous, middle-class community to bankrupt, crime-ridden, foreclosure-blighted basket case is straightforward - and alarmingly similar to the path traveled by many municipalities around America's largest state. San Bernardino succumbed to a vicious circle of self-interests among city workers, local politicians and state pension overseers.

"Little by little, over many years, the salaries and retirement benefits of San Bernardino's city workers - and especially its police and firemen - grew richer and richer, even as the city lost its major employers and gradually got poorer and poorer.

"Unions poured money into city council elections, and the city council poured money into union pay and pensions. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), which manages pension plans for San Bernardino and many other cities, encouraged ever-sweeter benefits. Investment bankers sold clever bond deals to pay for them. Meanwhile, state law made it impossible to raise local property taxes and difficult to boost any other kind."

The blue state model reaching it's predictable end - patronage in the name of social justice means collapse, just as with the Soviet Union.

That Brings Us To ...

"This brings us to Al Gore.  Earlier this month the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig reported that the former vice president's wealth is today estimated at $100 million, up from less than $2 million when he left government service on a salary of $181,400. How did he make this kind of money? It wasn't his share of the Nobel Peace Prize. Nor was it the book and movie proceeds from "An Inconvenient Truth."  Instead, as Ms. Leonnig reports, "Fourteen green-tech firms in which Gore invested received or directly benefited from more than $2.5 billion in loans, grants and tax breaks, part of President Obama's historic push to seed a U.S. renewable-energy industry with public money."  That's nice work if you can get it-at least if you're on the investment-management end of the deal. But what if you're on the worker-bee end?  The Post story mentions one of the beneficiaries of Mr. Gore's investment acumen, Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls, JCI -1.34%which won a $299 million award from the federal government in 2009 to make electric-car batteries."

The BLUF: it's not working out that great for the workers.

Reforming What?

Reforming everything they ever F'ed up in the first place!

"Some of government's accomplishments cited in these books bring to mind Foundation for Economic Education president Lawrence Reed's point: "Have you ever noticed how statists are constantly 'reforming' their own handiwork? Education reform. Health-care reform. Welfare reform. Tax reform. The very fact that they're always busy 'reforming' is an implicit admission that they didn't get it right the first 50 times."  So government is hailed for ending slavery and Jim Crow, but the long government enforcement of those repressive laws is passed over. In the last chapter of To Promote the General Welfare, Paul Light of New York University identifies the federal government's greatest accomplishments from 1945 to 2000. Several actually involve lifting the burden or reducing the power of government-devolving responsibility to the states, freeing trade, limiting nuclear weapons, reforming government operations, making government more transparent, deregulating sectors of the economy, reforming welfare, cutting taxes, even restraining spending. It's hardly a triumph of big government for government to correct its longstanding errors."

Ice, Science, Politics

The latest findings show that the rate of ice loss in Greenland has increased almost fivefold since the mid-1990s, while Antarctica overall has been losing relatively small amounts of ice at a more or less constant rate.

"Antarctica is so cold that even if warming occurs it won't melt" at the rate seen in Greenland, said Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington in Seattle and a co-author of the new paper.

One tricky question is whether the overall accelerated melting of the ice sheets can be linked to man-made climate change.

The shrinkage of the permanent ice sheets can't entirely be explained by any of the decadeslong or centurylong natural shifts in climate cycles, according to Prof. Shepherd.

Scientists note that current climate-change models predict that some parts of the Antarctic ice sheet will grow while other parts will shrink, and that parts of the Greenland ice also will melt. Observations have borne out these projections so far.

The politicization of science makes it impossible not to be suspicious of science.  Is there an alternative.

"Social Justice"

Brilliant analysis of this farcical term.

Tax Your Way Out Of This?

"Nothing like that $8 trillion amount is available for the IRS to target. According to the most recent tax data, all individuals filing tax returns in America and earning more than $66,193 per year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2006, when corporate taxable income peaked before the recession, all corporations in the U.S. had total income for tax purposes of $1.6 trillion. That comes to $6.7 trillion available to tax from these individuals and corporations under existing tax laws.

"In short, if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of these American taxpayers, plus all of the corporate taxable income in the year before the recession, it wouldn't be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities. Some public officials and pundits claim we can dig our way out through tax increases on upper-income earners, or even all taxpayers. In reality, that would amount to bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon. Only by addressing these unsustainable spending commitments can the nation's debt and deficit problems be solved."

So anyone who says it has to be taxes and spending cuts is either ignorant, lying, or believes real spending cuts only come with tax increases - which is an accurate observation but not a constraint on future choices.