Archive for November 2009

WTF?

From the Arizona Republic:

Phoenix officials said Monday they remain confident Dubai is still a good place to do business, even after the Middle East emirate's investment arm announced it would not be able to pay creditors on time for some of its nearly $60 billion in debt.

"It's just a matter of when business will pick up again," said Community and Economic Development Director Don Maxwell, who has been bullish on the Middle East and Dubai, one of seven city-states that make up the United Arab Emirates. "You just don't know what the timing will be, but it will happen."

Seriously, why are we paying Phoenix government officials to opine on stuff like this, and why is it news?

The two cities have exchanged best practices for wastewater management. Dubai imported 80,000 Palo Verde trees from a Phoenix nursery. And Charity Charms, a Phoenix-based maker of charms for nonprofit groups, received a $13,000 order from a Dubai arthritis support group shortly after the agreement was inked.

Oh, I see now.  $13,000 in charms?  Dubai was practically driving our economy.

Email Marketing

My brother-in-law's book, "The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing," is doing quite well on Amazon.   After the early spam-crazy days, email marketing has really had to rebuild itself from the ground up.  I am a big believer in it, and can highly recommend his company Constant Contact as a email service.  I have several accounts and have set most of the non-profits I work with on it.  In his book, Eric discusses email marketing in the context of both customer acquisition and loyalty.  With Google clicks going for $2 or more, email remains a great value if done right.

Probably A Bad Sign

I have crafted any number of Google adwords ads, and every time it is a challenge to get my marketing message across in the limited number of characters available.  So it is probably a bad sign that five top advertisers in one search feel the need to use some of this limited real estate to write "not hiring."

not-hiring

The Only Compelling Narrative Supporting Increases in the Power of Rulers

Via Greg Pollowitz:

Environmentalism should be regarded on the same level with religion "as the only compelling, value-based narrative available to humanity," according to a paper written two years ago to influence the future strategy of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the world's would-be environmental watchdog.

The purpose of the paper, put together after an unpublicized day-long session in Switzerland by some of the world's top environmental bureaucrats: to argue for a new and unprecedented effort to move environmental concerns to "the center of political and economic decision-making" around the world "” and perhaps not coincidentally, expand the influence and reach of UNEP at the tables of world power, as a rule-maker and potential supervisor of the New Environmental Order.

The positions argued in that paper now appear to be much closer at hand; many of them are embedded in a four-year strategy document for UNEP taking effect next year, in the immediate wake of the much-touted, 11-day Copenhagen conference on "climate change," which starts on Dec. 7, and which is intended to push environmental concerns to a new crescendo.

The major difference is that the four-year UNEP plan expresses its aims in the carefully soporific language that U.N. organizations customarily use to swaddle their objectives. The Swiss document makes its case passionately -- and more important, plainly -- than any U.N. official document ever would.

I would have said that classical liberalism and the protection of human liberty would be a competing such narrative, but its not surprising the UN wouldn't think so.

It is interesting that after years of skeptics being derided for comparing modern environmentalism to a religion, this characterization is starting to be accepted by the environmentalists themselves.

Private Policies Cheaper Under Obamacare?

Kevin Drum responding to a study by Jonathan Gruber:

There are three important things to note about this.  First, the Senate bill lowers average premiums across the board.  Second, in addition to this reduction, the Senate bill provides subsidies to low- and middle-income familes that makes health insurance even less expensive.  Third, it does this for a plan that covers about 70% of all medical expenses, compare to a non-reform plan that covers only about 60% of all expenses.  On an apples-to-apples basis, the Senate bill lowers premiums by about 20% and then subsidizes that lower price to reduce the cost of coverage even more.

I won' bother to dispute the study's finding until I have read it, though it flies in the face of experience in all the individual states who have actually tried this. However, here is a few things even without disputing the study methodology are nearly assured:

1. It is not a cost decrease for those who currently choose not to buy insurance. It is an enormous cost increase. Further, the cost decreases projected in this study are based mainly on the implicit subsidy of young healthy people being forced to purchase a policy whose price is much, much higher than its expected benefit to them, thereby subsidizing the rest of us. Further, this subsidy is enhanced by provisions in the bill that put cost caps on policies for the sick and elderly, thereby increasing the amount the young and healthy pay and therefore increasing the cross-subsidization.

2. It is not a cost decrease if you are like me and have real insurance, by that I mean insurance that covers catastrophes rather than regular maintenance. Those of us with high deductible health plans, which are the smartest plans from a system perspective because it forces us to price-shop and make tradeoffs for routine procedures, will see our costs go up as our plans are banned.

3. Likewise, those of us who have policies that cover a narrower range of things (e.g. no mental care, no aromatherapy, no massage, etc) and happily live in a state that allows such narrower policies will see our prices increase as the Senate bill forces us to pay for coverage we do not want.

In other words, the Senate bill might, sort of, possibly represent somewhat of a price decrease if you currently are insured and you are not young and not healthy and desire exactly the one-size fits all policy that Congress is mandating.

Of course, this assumes that Congress will resist a parade of special interests trying to get their particular procedure or device included in the mandated coverage guidelines. So far, state governments like New York have not been able to resist the blandishments of these folks, causing premium prices to skyrocket, and I see not hope Congress will resist either.

And all this assumes that price caps and various rules Congress puts in place won't drive out the providers in the system. What good is a $100 price cut if I have to spend 20 extra hours a year of my valuable time standing in lines, filling out forms, or trying to find a doctor who will take me on.

Update: More on the numbers here.

Wow! An Article on Water That Actually Focuses on Price

For years it has aggravated me that politicians claim the need to make command and control decisions on water conservation, and they run advertisements trying to shame me for my water use, all while the state government has subsidized some of the cheapest water in the country.

This is crazy!   If we are really drawing down reservoirs like Lake Mead and Lake Powell as well as underground aquafers, then raise the price until demand matches a sustainable supply level.  Duh.

But water is one of those commodities like gasoline that politicians love to meddle with prices for populist ends.  So we continue to have cheap water, and as a result we have 1) no incentive to find new sources and 2) no incentive to conserve.  As I pointed out in the earlier post linked above, we here in the desert have water less than half the price of Seattle!.  All while the government pays farmers over $100 million a year to grow water-hungry crops in the Arizona desert, using price-subsidized water.

Well, miracle of miracles, and for the first time in my experience, the AZ Republic actually published an article focusing on the absurdity of water subsidies. The article focuses narrowly on the cross-subsidy of our municipal power and water authority, charging higher electric rates to keep water rates lower.

Unfortunately, this is only a small part of the effective subsidy, for like most of the economically ignorant the Republic focuses only on the difference between the current price and cost (which is about $33 million).  The real subsidy is the difference between the current price and the true market clearing price at a sustainable supply rate (sustainability defined here as the rate that maintains reservoir, both above and below the ground, levels constant or rising over the long term.)  This is a MUCH larger number than $33 million.

Useful Reset: What Peer Review Is and Is Not

This is from a post of mine last January, long before the Climategate scandal  (though most of us who spent a lot of time with climate issues knew of the Climategate abuses long before the smoking gun emails were found).  The one thing this article does not mention is what we know today -- that climate scientists were actively working to keep skeptical studies out of the literature, even to the point of getting editors fired.

Peer review is not a guarantee of accuracy or a good housekeeping seal of correctness.  It is a process that insures a work is worthy of publication by a scholarly magazine.  Whether a scientific question is "settled" does not end with peer review, it only begins. It becomes settled after it survives decades of criticism and replication work, a process that was stonewalled by the folks at the CRU, which is really the heart of the scandal.

Yesterday, while I was waiting for my sandwich at the deli downstairs, I was applying about 10% of my consciousness to CNN running on the TV behind the counter.  I saw some woman, presumably in the Obama team, defending some action of the administration being based on "peer reviewed" science.

This may be a legacy of the climate debate.  One of the rhetorical tools climate alarmists have latched onto is to inflate the meaning of peer review.  Often, folks, like the person I saw on TV yesterday, use "peer review" as a synonym for "proven correct and generally accepted in its findings by all right-thinking people who are not anti-scientific wackos."

But in fact peer review has a much narrower function, and certainly is not, either in intent or practice,  any real check or confirmation of the study in question.  The main goals of peer review are:

  • Establish that the article is worthy of publication and consistent with the scope of the publication in question.  They are looking to see if the results are non-trivial, if they are new (ie not duplicative of findings already well-understood), and in some way important.  If you think of peer-reviewers as an ad hoc editorial board for the publication, you get closest to intent
  • Reviewers will check, to the extent they can, to see if the methodology  and its presentation is logical and clear "” not necesarily right, but logical and clear.  Their most frequent comments are for clarification of certain areas of the work or questions that they don't think the authors answered.
  • Peer review is not in any way shape or form a proof that a study is correct, or even likely to be correct.  Enormous numbers of incorrect conclusions have been published in peer-reviewed journals over time.  This is demonstrably true.  For example, at any one time in medicine, for every peer-reviewed study I can usually find another peer-reviewed study with opposite or wildly different findings.
  • Studies are only accepted as likely correct a over time the community tries as hard as it can to poke holes in the findings.  Future studies will try to replicate the findings, or disprove them.  As a result of criticism of the methodology, groups will test the findings in new ways that respond to methodological criticisms.  It is the accretion of this work over time that solidifies confidence  (Ironically, this is exactly the process that climate alarmists want to short-circuit, and even more ironically, they call climate skeptics "anti-scientific" for wanting to follow this typical scientific dispute and replication process).

Further, the quality and sharpness of peer review depends a lot on the reviewers chosen.  For example, a peer review of Rush Limbaugh by the folks at LGF, Free Republic, and Powerline might not be as compelling as a peer review by Kos or Kevin Drum.

But instead of this, peer review is used by folks, particularly in poitical settings, as a shield against criticism, usually for something they don't understand and probably haven't even read themselves.  Here is an example dialog:

Politician or Activist:  "Mann's hockey stick proves humans are warming the planet"

Critic:  "But what about Mann's cherry-picking of proxy groups; or the divergence problem  in the data; or the fact that he routinely uses proxy's as a positive correlation in one period and different correlation in another; or the fact that the results are most driven by proxies that have been manually altered; or the fact that trees really make bad proxies, as they seldom actually display the assumed linear positive relationship between growth and temperature?"

Politician or Activist, who 99% of the time has not even read the study in question and understands nothing of what critic is saying:  "This is peer-reviewed science!  You can't question that."

For those interested in the science of the skeptics position please see my recent movie.

Update: Mark Steyn on Climate and Peer Review

Pretty Good Climategate Summary

From Christopher Booker at the Telegraph via Anthony Watts

There are three threads in particular in the leaked documents which have sent a shock wave through informed observers across the world. Perhaps the most obvious, as lucidly put together by Willis Eschenbach (see McIntyre's blog Climate Audit and Anthony Watt's blog Watts Up With That), is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.

They have come up with every possible excuse for concealing the background data on which their findings and temperature records were based.

This in itself has become a major scandal, not least Dr Jones's refusal to release the basic data from which the CRU derives its hugely influential temperature record, which culminated last summer in his startling claim that much of the data from all over the world had simply got "lost". Most incriminating of all are the emails in which scientists are advised to delete large chunks of data, which, when this is done after receipt of a freedom of information request, is a criminal offence.

But the question which inevitably arises from this systematic refusal to release their data is "“ what is it that these scientists seem so anxious to hide? The second and most shocking revelation of the leaked documents is how they show the scientists trying to manipulate data through their tortuous computer programmes, always to point in only the one desired direction "“ to lower past temperatures and to "adjust" recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming. This comes up so often (not least in the documents relating to computer data in the Harry Read Me file) that it becomes the most disturbing single element of the entire story. This is what Mr McIntyre caught Dr Hansen doing with his GISS temperature record last year (after which Hansen was forced to revise his record), and two further shocking examples have now come to light from Australia and New Zealand.

In each of these countries it has been possible for local scientists to compare the official temperature record with the original data on which it was supposedly based. In each case it is clear that the same trick has been played "“ to turn an essentially flat temperature chart into a graph which shows temperatures steadily rising. And in each case this manipulation was carried out under the influence of the CRU.

What is tragically evident from the Harry Read Me file is the picture it gives of the CRU scientists hopelessly at sea with the complex computer programmes they had devised to contort their data in the approved direction, more than once expressing their own desperation at how difficult it was to get the desired results.

The third shocking revelation of these documents is the ruthless way in which these academics have been determined to silence any expert questioning of the findings they have arrived at by such dubious methods "“ not just by refusing to disclose their basic data but by discrediting and freezing out any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics' work. It seems they are prepared to stop at nothing to stifle scientific debate in this way, not least by ensuring that no dissenting research should find its way into the pages of IPCC reports.

What's Next -- Dreaming of Mussolini?

Violet at Reclusive Leftist writes in an article entitled, "Dreaming of Diocletian":

When the Roman Empire was broken, Diocletian fixed it. He completely revamped the imperial government, discarding centuries of tradition in favor of a new organizational structure designed to meet the challenges of the day. You can do stuff like that when you're an emperor. It was sort of a one-man Constitutional Convention.

I think of Diocletian whenever I contemplate the political mess in this country.

Let's make sure we understand what Diocletian did.  What she calls "fixing the Roman Empire" was in fact the imposition of a new level of autocracy.  The best modern equivalent would be if Putin were reunify the old Soviet Union through military force and repression.  Would we celebrate this? No?  Then why do we celebrate when it happened 18 centuries ago?

Certainly since Augustus, the Empire had been ruled autocratically, but there were checks on the Emperor's power, not the least of which was the fact that the Empire simply didn't have the bureaucracy or communications for real command and control governance.  Further, the Emperors had at least maintained a facade, and sometimes a reality, of being a servant of the people - calling themselves Princeps , or something like the "first man."

Diocletian changed all of that.  He demanded people call him Dominus and Deus, meaning Lord and God.  But Lord is a poor translation of Dominus - literally dominus meant master to a slave.  The Empire became a nation of slaves with one master, Diocletian.  Any who approached Diocletian for audience had to approach on hands and knees with face averted.  If Diocletian ruled in ones favor, he was allowed to crawl on hands and knees and kiss the hem of the Emporer's tunic.

Diocletian was faced with an enormous economic problem - the debasement of a currency by generations of emperors who spent more than they had (sounds familiar).  Instead of forcing the hard changes to re-establish a sound currency, Diocletian dealt with the rampant inflation from the debased currency by setting maximum prices for every good and service in the Empire, with violations punishable by death.

When the inevitable shortages occurred (as happen whenever the government enforces a price ceiling), Diocletian dealt with the shortages by forcing key businessmen (bakers, sausage makers, etc.) to remain in business (can you say directive 10-289?)  Further, he mandated that all children of these men must remain in the same profession perpetually.  If your father was a baker, by law you were to be one as well.  He also did this for a number of underpaid government jobs that no one wanted - making them hereditary so people of the future would be forced to fill them.

Diocletian also had a tax problem.  Much of his taxes came from property taxes on farm land.  The tax was attached as a fixed amount to certain pieces of land.  When those values got too high, the occupants abandoned the land and moved to the city, and no one was there to pay the tax.  Diocletian took a census and forced peasants to return to the land of their birthplace, and forced them to remain in perpetuity on certain plots of land and then pay the taxes on that land to the government  (eventually these taxes morphed into rents to the local government noble in charge).

If you see the origins of much of the worst of the middle ages in all of this -- serfs tied to the land, paying rents to the master, with hereditary professional guilds in the towns -- you are not far off.

When I dream of Diocletian, all I get is a nightmare.

PS- Which is really what the quoted author wants, some sort of fascism by females.

I Challenge Any of These Guys to Open A Business In Ventura County

Ever get that feeling like the Obama White House doesn't have a clue as to what it takes to actually run a business, make investments, hire people, sell a product, etc?  There is a reason for that:

obamacabinet

It has been fascinating to watch George McGovern change his tune about much of the regulatory state over the last 10 years as he has actually tried to run a business.

New Climate Video: Catastrophe Denied

The video from my climate lecture on November 10, 2009 is now available online. I have overlaid the slides on the video so you can see them better. If I have time, I may some day re-record the sound track over the slides in a studio setting.

The HD video is available full length via Vimeo embedded below. This is a lower resolution version -- to see it in its full high-resolution glory click here. This higher resolution version is greatly recommended - the Vimeo engine works well and I find it streams even better than low-resolution YouTube videos on most computers.

Catastrophe Denied: A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory from Warren Meyer on Vimeo.
Full Resolution Version Here

You can also view it on YouTube, though by YouTube's rules the resolution gets crushed and it has to be broken up into nine (9!) parts. The YouTube playlist is embedded below or is here.

The slides from this presentation can be downloaded here.

Dangers of a Monoculture -- Reactions to the CRU Emails

Cross-posted from Climate Skeptic:

I am disappointed to see folks like Lord Monkton calling for scientists to go to jail over what has been discovered in the Hadley CRU emails.  No one is going to jail, at least based on what we know so far.  Laws were broken, but of the type that perhaps people lose their jobs but not their freedom.  And demanding that people go to jail just paints skeptics as opportunistic, over-the-top and vindictive.   We sound like the looniest of the alarmists when we say stuff like this.

This is not to say that the emails (as well as the source code, which Steve McIntyre and his readers are starting to dig into) don't give us useful insights about the climate science process.  And what they really point to for me is the danger of a monoculture.

For years, with the media's active participation, criticism of the mainstream scientific position on global warming has been painted as somehow outside the bounds of reasonable discourse.  Skeptics are called "deniers," with the intent to equate them with those who deny the Holocaust.  At every turn, global warming activists with the help of the media, have tried to make it uncomfortable, even impossible, to criticize the science of catastrophic man-made global warming.  In the extreme, this has degenerated into outright threats.

NASA's James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for "high crimes against humanity." Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007 declaring "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors" In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies "criminal enterprises" and declared CEO's 'should be in jail"¦ for all of eternity."

In June 2009, former Clinton Administration official Joe Romm defended a comment on his Climate Progress website warning skeptics would be strangled in their beds. "An entire generation will soon be ready to strangle you and your kind while you sleep in your beds," stated the remarks, which Romm defended by calling them "not a threat, but a prediction."

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown "into jail." In 2007, The Weather Channel's climate expert called for withholding certification of skeptical meteorologists.

The examples go on ad infinitum.  Several folks have emailed me and asked why I have not joined the feeding frenzy over the "climategate."  In part, this is because I don't think there is anything in the emails that is a whole lot worse than what many of the actors have been saying publicly.  The media has played along not only because many of its members were sympathetic to the message, but because the catastrophe played well into the "if it bleeds, it leads" culture.  Even when the media was not "picking a winner" in the science, it supported the catastrophist message in its editorial decisions, choosing to cover (for example) ad nauseum a 30-year low in Arctic sea ice but failing to even mention a 30-year high in Antarctic sea ice which occurred on nearly the same day (more here).  Ditto hurricanes, tornadoes, floods droughts, etc "” only events and records in one particular tail of the normal distribution were covered.  Even when they worked to be fair,  the media were frequently criticized by alarmists for  allowing even a mention of the skeptic position in an article otherwise generally supporting the orthodoxy.  The term "false balance" was coined.

The result was a group who were effectively exempt from criticism "” and knew it.

The most amazing thing to watch has been the absolute scorn and obstructionism piled on Steve McIntyre and his readers and partners.  I  have read Steve's work for years, and find it to be incredibly fair and deeply analytical.  I took as one of my early roles at my climate site the explanation to laymen of exactly what McIntyre was talking about in his posts.  He often challenged the climate orthodoxy - which in most scientific disciplines is highly valued, but in climate science is a crime.  In the emails we even see scientists within the monoculture raising the exact same issues that they have blasted McIntyre for "” apparently it is OK to raise such issues as long as 1) you are an insider and 2) such concerns are suppressed in any public document.

Perhaps the single most abusive part of the monoculture has been its misrepresentation of peer review.  Peer review was never meant as a sort of good housekeeping seal of approval on scientific work.  It is not a guarantee of correctness.  It is really an extension of the editorial process "” bringing scientists from relevant fields to vet whether work is really new and different and worthy of publication, to make sure the actual article communicates the work and its findings clearly, and to probe for obvious errors or logical fallacies.

Climate scientists have tried to portray peer review as the end of the process"“  ie, once one of their works shows up in a peer-reviewed journal, the question addressed is "settled."  But his is never how science has worked.  Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is the beginning, not the end.  Once published, scientists attempt alternatively to tear it down or replicate its conclusions.  Only work that has survived years of such torture testing starts to become "settled."

The emails help to shed light on some aspects of peer review that skeptics have suspected for years.  It is increasingly clear that climate scientists in the monoculture have been using peer review to enforce the orthodoxy.  Peer review panels are stacked with members of the club, and authors who challenge the orthodoxy are shut out of publication, while authors within the monoculture use peer review as a shield against future criticism.  We see in the emails members of the monoculture actually working to force editors who have the temerity to publish work critical of the orthodoxy out of their jobs.  We are now learning that when alarmist scientists claim that there is little peer-reviewed science on the skeptic's side, this is like the Catholic Church enforcing a banned books list and then claiming that everything in print supports the Church's position.

History teaches us that whenever we allow a monoculture - whether is be totalitarian one-party rule or enforcing a single state religion, corruption follows.  Without scrutiny of their actions, actors in such monocultures have few checks and little accountability.  Worse, those at the center of such monocultures can become convinced of their own righteousness, such that any action they take in support of the orthodoxy is by definition ethically justified.

This, I think, is exactly what we see at work in the Hadley CRU emails.

Breakthrough

It appears that the unprecedented embargo on mocking the President is finally coming to an end after 10 long months.  Comedians may finally have decided it is OK to make fun of this President like they have all the others.  To this end, this is pretty funny from SNL.

The Narrow-Mindedness of Zero-Sum Thinking

An excellent anti-Malthusian essay by Brendan O'Neill.  It is hard to do it justice with an excerpt:

What this potted history of population scaremongering ought to demonstrate is this: Malthusians are always wrong about everything.

The extent of their wrongness cannot be overstated. They have continually claimed that too many people will lead to increased hunger and destitution, yet the precise opposite has happened: world population has risen exponentially over the past 40 years and in the same period a great many people's living standards and life expectancies have improved enormously. Even in the Third World there has been improvement "“ not nearly enough, of course, but improvement nonetheless. The lesson of history seems to be that more and more people are a good thing; more and more minds to think and hands to create have made new cities, more resources, more things, and seem to have given rise to healthier and wealthier societies.

Yet despite this evidence, the population scaremongers always draw exactly the opposite conclusion. Never has there been a political movement that has got things so spectacularly wrong time and time again yet which keeps on rearing its ugly head and saying: "˜This time it's definitely going to happen! This time overpopulation is definitely going to cause social and political breakdown!'

There is a reason Malthusians are always wrong. It isn't because they're stupid"¦ well, it might be a little bit because they're stupid. But more fundamentally it is because, while they present their views as fact-based and scientific, in reality they are driven by a deeply held misanthropy that continually overlooks mankind's ability to overcome problems and create new worlds.

The language used to justify population scaremongering has changed dramatically over the centuries. In the time of Malthus in the eighteenth century the main concern was with the fecundity of poor people. In the early twentieth century there was a racial and eugenic streak to population-reduction arguments. Today they have adopted environmentalist language to justify their demands for population reduction.

The fact that the presentational arguments can change so fundamentally over time, while the core belief in "˜too many people' remains the same, really shows that this is a prejudicial outlook in search of a social or scientific justification; it is prejudice looking around for the latest trendy ideas to clothe itself in. And that is why the population scaremongers have been wrong over and over again: because behind the new language they adopt every few decades, they are really driven by narrow-mindedness, by disdain for mankind's breakthroughs, by wilful ignorance of humanity's ability to shape its surroundings and its future.

I have written about zero-sum thinking a lot, but here is one example.

Friday Funnies #2, Via the SEIU

The union whose president leads the world in visits to the White House this year has shown what is at the heart of its quest to help mankind -- a  naked power grab.

In pursuit of an Eagle Scout badge, Kevin Anderson, 17, has toiled for more than 200 hours hours over several weeks to clear a walking path in an east Allentown park.

Little did the do-gooder know that his altruistic act would put him in the cross hairs of the city's largest municipal union.

Nick Balzano, president of the local Service Employees International Union, told Allentown City Council Tuesday that the union is considering filing a grievance against the city for allowing Anderson to clear a 1,000-foot walking and biking path at Kimmets Lock Park.

"We'll be looking into the Cub Scout or Boy Scout who did the trails," Balzano told the council.

Balzano said Saturday he isn't targeting Boy Scouts. But given the city's decision in July to lay off 39 SEIU members, Balzano said "there's to be no volunteers." No one except union members may pick up a hoe or shovel, plant a flower or clear a walking path.

via Alex Tabarrok

Friday Funnies, via the UN

I just couldn't bear to post this at my climate site, which I really try to keep science-based.  Since this doesn't have even a sniff of science to it, I will post it here for your entertainment:  According to the UN, Global Warming Causes Prostitution

The effects of climate change have driven women in communities in coastal areas in poor countries like the Philippines into dangerous work, and sometimes even the flesh trade, a United Nations official said.

Suneeta Mukherjee, country representative of the United Nations Food Population Fund (UNFPA), said women in the Philippines are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the country.

"Climate change could reduce income from farming and fishing, possibly driving some women into sex work and thereby increase HIV infection," Mukherjee said during the Wednesday launch of the UNFPA annual State of World Population Report in Pasay City.

If the LHC People Had Any Sense of Humor

Apparently the LHC is back in business.  If the LHC had a sense of humor, they would announce that they are indeed going to try to create a man-made black hole and that the test is currently scheduled for December 21, 2012.

Wherein the Left is Faced with the Uncomfortable Fact that Individuals are Different

Wow, you mean different individuals actually have different preferences and value procedures in different ways?  Weird!  Who would have ever thought that everyone would not be silently satisfied at whatever one-size-fits-all solution is crafted by Congress and other people who apparently "know best."  The concept seems to throw Kevin Drum for a loop.

If we all paid for minor stuff like this out of pocket, there would not be a problem.  We'd spend or not based on our own preferences.

As a side note, my wife is a worrier.  And she has seen at least three of her friends under-50 in the last year be diagnosed with breast cancer.  No matter what the elites say, for my wife the right answer is to test.  The resulting worry she would have from not testing would dwarf, in terms of quality of life, any downsides of the test.  Which is also why we have paid to have several questionable things biopsied even when doctors said it probably was not necessary.  Know thyself.

My Problem with the KSM Trial

I have been saying for years that some sort of due process needs to be applied to Gitmo detainees.  I am not knowledgeable enough to know if this should be a civilian trial or military tribunal or what, but just the fact that they are non-citizens does not give us the right to detain them indefinitely without due process.  Yeah, I get the POW/battlefield analogy, but one also has to reasonably admit the nature of this process today is different than in, say, the defined battlefields with combatants in uniforms in WWII.    The very question of who is a combatant is unclear, so it merits more due diligence to make sure these assertions are made correctly.

Anyway, I suppose I am happy KSM is getting some sort of due process.  But I must say I absolutely hate the precedent being set here -- no, not the one the Conservatives are worried about, bringing a terrorist to trial in a civilian court.  I don't like the precedent of a trial where the government promises that there is already a pre-determined outcome.  US Attorney General Holder seems to be saying there is no possibility of acquittal, but a trial without a possibility of acquittal is not a trial.

Life Support for Government

I have warned about this before:

In fact, Hollywood's portion of the stimulus package reveals an important factor of the Recovery Act: The money is not going to areas that would more directly stimulate the economy but instead to provide ongoing life support to deficit-ridden federal, state and local agencies.

That is the main impression I have gotten when reading the stimulus jobs data base -- the fake districts and BS accounting did not catch my eye so much as the fact that all the jobs seemed to  be saved jobs in government agencies.  I am pretty sure that had the stimulus been originally sold with its true goals -- to help stave off financial accountability in state and local governments -- it would have had more difficulty passing.

Though some of us saw this even in the bill itself (this blog, Jan 27, 2009)

So do you see my point. The reason so much of this infrastructure bill can be spent in the next two years is that there is no infrastructure in it, at least in the first two years!  42% of the deficit impact in 2009/2010 is tax cuts, another 44% is in transfer payments to individuals and state governments.  1% is defense.  At least 5% seems to be just pumping up a number of budgets with no infrastructure impact (such as at Homeland Security).  And at most 6% is infrastructure and green energy.  I say at most because it is unclear if this stuff is really incremental, and much of this budget may be for planners and government departments rather than actual facilities on the ground.

Much Needed Competition for Windows

Just what Windows needs - a bit of competition.    I don't consider the Apple real competition, because it requires proprietary hardware to run.  And Linux is way too geeky and not packaged well for the average NOOB, though some netbooks have done surprisingly well with it.  Today, however, Google announced a browser-based OS built on top of Linux and entirely open source.  Might not be my cup of Darjeeling, as I am skeptical of a browser dominated OS for anything larger than a phone, but it sure may keep Windows honest.

Google had a low-key event today to preview Chrome OS, its new operating system based on Linux and the Chrome browser. Things are still pretty early -- it's not even in beta yet, let alone on shipping products -- but that's the first official screen shot right there, and the big features are all roughed out. The entire system is web-based and runs in the Chrome browser -- right down to USB drive contents, which show up in a browser tab, and the notepad, which actually creates a Google Docs document. Web apps are launched from a persistent apps panel, which includes Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and Hulu, among others, and background apps like Google Talk can be minimized to "panels" that dock to the bottom of the screen. Local storage is just used to speed up the system -- everything actually lives in the cloud, so all it takes to swap or borrow machines is a login, and you're good to go. Google also said it's "very committed" to Flash, and that it's looking to hardware accelerate whatever code it can -- although Google didn't have a solid answer to give when asked about Silverlight. Overall, Google was upfront in saying that Chrome OS is focused on very clear use cases for people who primarily use the web, and that it's not trying to do everything: "If you're a lawyer, editing contracts back and forth, this will not be the right machine for you."

The Marginal Vote Will Be Even More Expensive

Coyote Blog, July 16, 2009

It is totally clear to me that Obama and Pelosi will spend any amount of money to pass their key legislative initiatives.  In the case of Waxman-Markey, the marginal price per vote turned out to be about $3.5 billion.  But they didn't even blink at paying this.  That is why I fear that some horrible form of health care "reform" may actually pass.  If it does, the marginal cost per vote may be higher, but I don't think our leaders care.

WSJ, Nov 19, 2009

What does it take to get a wavering senator to vote for health care reform?

Here's a case study.

On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for "certain states recovering from a major disaster."

The section spends two pages defining which "states" would qualify, saying, among other things, that it would be states that "during the preceding 7 fiscal years" have been declared a "major disaster area."

I am told the section applies to exactly one state:  Louisiana, the home of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has been playing hard to get on the health care bill.

In other words, the bill spends two pages describing would could be written with a single world:  Louisiana.  (This may also help explain why the bill is long.)

Senator Harry Reid, who drafted the bill, cannot pass it without the support of Louisiana's Mary Landrieu.

How much does it cost?  According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.

If CO2 Alarmists Have Their Way...

They will bring back this charming vista to our cities

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Hanging laundry to dry is a common prescription by environmentalists.   This picture is from 1900, the last year we were at some of the CO2 targets currently being proposed.

Run Away

General rule of thumb -- when your leaders attempt to convince you that choice and individual liberty are bad for you, run away.  They are not really interested in your well-being.

LOL

Obama specifically promises not to spend the stimulus money on dog parks  (as an example of what people would consider frivolous public investment).  Katherine Mangu-Ward brings us this picture of a stimulus funded dog park near her home:

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