One of my critiques of global warming alarmists is that they are trying to use a type of observation bias to leave folks with the impression that weather is becoming more severe. By hyping on every tail-of-the-distribution weather event in the media, they leave the impression that such events are becoming more frequent, when in fact they are just being reported more loudly and more frequently. I dealt with this phenomenon in depth in an older Fortune article, where I made an analogy to the famous "summer of the shark"
...let’s take a step back to 2001 and the “Summer of the Shark.” The media hysteria began in early July, when a young boy was bitten by a shark on a beach in Florida. Subsequent attacks received breathless media coverage, up to and including near-nightly footage from TV helicopters of swimming sharks. Until the 9/11 attacks, sharks were the third biggest story of the year as measured by the time dedicated to it on the three major broadcast networks’ news shows.
Through this coverage, Americans were left with a strong impression that something unusual was happening — that an unprecedented number of shark attacks were occurring in that year, and the media dedicated endless coverage to speculation by various “experts” as to the cause of this sharp increase in attacks.
Except there was one problem — there was no sharp increase in attacks. In the year 2001, five people died in 76 shark attacks. However, just a year earlier, 12 people had died in 85 attacks. The data showed that 2001 actually was a down year for shark attacks.
Yesterday I was stuck on a stationary bike in my health club with some Fox News show on the TV. Not sure I know whose show it was (O'Reilly? Hannity?) but the gist of the segment seemed to be that a recent murder by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco should be taken as proof positive of the Trump contention that such immigrants are all murderers and rapists. The show then proceeded to show a couple of other nominally parallel cases.
Yawn. It would be intriguing to flood an hour-long episode with stories of legal American citizens committing heinous crimes. One wonders if folks would walk away wondering if there was something wrong with those Americans.
One could pick any group of human beings and do a thirty-minute segment showing all the bad things members of that group had done. What this does not prove in the least is whether that group has any particular predilection towards doing bad things, or specifically in the case of Mexican immigrants, whether they commit crimes at a higher rate than any other group in this country. In fact, everything I read says that they do not, which likely explains why immigration opponents use this technique, just as climate alarmists try to flood the airwaves with bad weather stories because the actual trend data for temperatures does not tell the story they want to tell.
This is just sick, via Fox News and Bryan Preston
Consider what administration officials announcing the new exemption for medium-sized employers had to say about firms that might fire workers to get under the threshold and avoid hugely expensive new requirements of the law. Obama officials made clear in a press briefing that firms would not be allowed to lay off workers to get into the preferred class of those businesses with 50 to 99 employees. How will the feds know what employers were thinking when hiring and firing? Simple. Firms will be required to certify to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that ObamaCare was not a motivating factor in their staffing decisions. To avoid ObamaCare costs you must swear that you are not trying to avoid ObamaCare costs. You can duck the law, but only if you promise not to say so.
As I have written about before, our company closed some California operations in December and laid off all the employees. As with most business closures, we had multiple reasons for the closure. The biggest problems were the local regulatory issues in Ventura County that made it impossible to make even simple improvements to the facilities. But certainly looking ahead at costs soon to be imposed due to looming California minimum wage increases and the employer mandate contributed to the decision.
So, did I fire the workers over Obamacare? If Obamacare were, say, 10% of the cause, would I be lying if I said I did not fire workers over Obamacare? Or does it need to be 51% of the cause? Or 1%? Or 90%. Business decisions are seldom based on single variables. I am just exhausted with having my life run by people whose only experience with the real world was sitting in policy seminars at college.
Update: The actual effect of this will not likely be to change business behavior, but change how they talk about it. Worried that there will be too many stories next election about job losses due to Obamacare, the Administration is obviously cooking up ways not to limit the job losses, but to limit discussion of them.
It is interesting that the buck just never stops at this President's desk. Apparently, the reason for the delay in approval of the Keystone Pipeline is the Republicans.
The approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline has been delayed by Republicans playing “political games,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says.
Lew said that the economy is “strong” and more resilient after 40 months of growth but the economic recovery is not fast enough, which led Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” to ask whether approving the pipeline would help speed up job growth.
“If you’re so interested in creating more jobs, why not approve the Keystone pipeline, which will create tens of thousands of jobs?” Wallace asked of the pipeline under review.
“There were some political games that were played, that took it off the trail and path to completion, where Republicans put it out there as something that was put on a timetable that it could not be resolved. It caused a delay,” Lew said. “Playing political games with something like this was a mistake.”
Some professors are arguing about online education. I will not comment on that particular topic right now, though it sounds a bit like two apatosauruses arguing about whether they should be worried about the comet they just saw.
I did, however, want to comment on this, from an SJSU professor to a Harvard professor, I assume pushing back on online course work designed by Harvard. Emphasis added.
what kind of message are we sending our students if we tell them that they should best learn what justice is by listening to the reflections of the largely white student population from a privileged institution like Harvard? Our very diverse students gain far more when their own experience is central to the course and when they are learning from our own very diverse faculty, who bring their varied perspectives to the content of courses that bear on social justice…
having our students read a variety of texts, perhaps including your own, is far superior to having them listen to your lectures. This is especially important for a digital generation that reads far too little. If we can do something as educators we would like to increase literacy, not decrease it…the thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy departments across the country is downright scary — something out of a dystopian novel…
I would have said that teaching social justice at all and requiring students to take it at many universities was something out of a dystopian novel. In fact, the whole concept of social justice, wherein it is justified that certain groups can use the coercive force of government to get whatever they may fancy merely by declaring that there is a right to it (e.g. health care), actually underlies a number of dystopian novels.
Postscript #1: If find it hilarious that the SJSU rejects Harvard-created course materials because they are the product of white privilege. I cannot speak to Harvard undergrad, but my son is at Amherst which could certainly be lumped into the same category (any college named after an early proponent of biological warfare against Native Americans has to be up there in the white privilege category). My son actually gave up his earlier plan to study history when he looked at the course catalog. It was impossible to simply study, say, the political and economic history of Western Europe. All the courses are such things as "the role of women in the development of Paraguayan aboriginal rights."
Postscript #2: I don't have the larger context for this letter but it strikes me the professor is stuck in the typical leftist technocratic top-down and centralized single mandated approach to anything. Why is it that online courses would end up with no viewpoint or content competition? The Internet has increased the access of most people to a diversity of ideas that go beyond what they got in the morning fish-wrap and from Uncle Walter on TV. Why would it have the opposite effect in education? Or perhaps that is what the professor is worried about, a loss of control of the education message by the current academic elite, to be feared in the same way the Left hates Fox News.
Via Fox News
Hostess Brands — the maker of iconic brands such as Wonder Bread and Twinkies — is shutting down and firing 18,500 workers after one of its unions refused to end a strike even after being warned it would kill the company.
The privately-held company had reached a deal with the Teamsters, but a smaller union representing bakery workers refused to agree to concessions, prompting the mass layoffs and closing down of hundreds of plants, bakeries and delivery routes. That prompted harsh words from both the company and from Teamsters officials.
"We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike," Chief Executive Gregory Rayburn said in a statement. "Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders."
I suppose Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg are celebrating
A while back I wrote:
People often use terrible, specious logic when arguing things political. I have particularly seen this over the last 6 months. The argument typically goes like this:
- I make a critique of a policy in the Obama administration, say on health care
- Sometimes as an opening response, or sometimes when [the] other person is unable to specifically counter what I have said, they respond instead, "well, your guys fill in the blank ." The latter part might be "got us into Iraq" or possibly "are pushing this birther nonsense."
- I respond that fill in the blank was not something I support(ed) and that if by "my guys" they mean Republicans, that I was not a Republican, that I do not think the Republicans have an internally consistent position, and that I disagree with many programs and policies typically advocated by Republicans. And besides, how did this have anything to do with the original conversation?
- They respond to me now as if I am somehow cheating. Confusion reigns.
Michael at Q&O has a good example today, from the White House blog reacting to criticisms that there are too many unaccountable czars running around:
But of course, it's really the hypocrisy here that is noteworthy. Just earlier today, Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and one of the leaders in calling for an investigation into the Obama Administration's use of "czars", had to admit to Fox News that he had never raised any objections to the Bush Administration's use of "czars". Many of these members who now decry the practice have called on Presidents in the past to appoint "czars" to coordinate activities within the government to address immediate challenges.
That addresses the charge, how? Unbelievably, the White House is resorting to the kindergarten playground argument "well, you started it."
By the way, I had asked before if such an argument had a name. Its clearly a subset of ad hominem arguments, but I suspected that something so common must have be labeled. It has:
Tu quoque (pronounced /tuËËˆkwoÊŠkwiË/, from Latin for "You, too" or "You, also") is a Latin term that describes a kind of logical fallacy. A tu quoque argument attempts to discredit the opponent's position by asserting his failure to act consistently in accordance with that position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. It is considered an ad hominem argument, since it focuses on the party itself, rather than its positions.
It is good to see that you have found a tangible way to respond to the editorial written by the Whole Foods CEO. Your ability to pursue such a boycott is one of the great things about a free market. There are literally hundreds of food shopping choices in a large city, with a variety of value propositions from the low-cost but ambiance-challenged Wal-Mart or Target to the farmers market. Its great to see folks exercising their choice in the free market to take their business elsewhere.
Besides, if nothing else, it provides the majority of us entertainment value as we enjoy the irony of people exercising their free choice shopping in the highly competitive and diverse grocery marketplace to boycott someone who advocated maintaining choice and a diversity of options in the health care market. Hope all of you have great success boycotting the single payer medical system you long for when you don't like something it does, and I hope the single one-size-fits-all insurance option you have happens to match your individual preferences.
Anyway, I give you an A for political activism but an F for marketing if you believe Whole Foods customer base is all liberal or progressive. It may be so in downtown SF or Seattle. But most of Whole Foods stores are in places like Scottsdale, and Houston, and Dallas. For a large portion of Whole Foods customers, it is not some progressive statement, but it is simply a premium-priced grocery store selling premium quality foods. Though I suppose the Scottsdale country club mom in her new Jag gets some psychic boost from shopping there, kind of like buying a carbon offset.
Seriously -- I bet that most of Whole Food's most profitable customers just don't care about this progressive stuff. They don't go looking for fair trade coffee, or whatever. They don't care Whole Foods buys all wind power (in Texas, where the market allows this). They don't know how the employees are treated and paid. I shop there and I had no clue as to their HR policies until this week when they have been in the news.
Whole Foods does this stuff because Mackey and most of his team really believe in it. They are truly passionate about it, not like some company like Kraft who creates an organic cheese SKU because the consultants said there was a market niche for it. Really, are there 5 other corporate CEO's in the Fortune 500 whose beliefs and the way they manage more closely match what progressives would want to see? Is there even one? But this is the guy y'all are choosing to go after, this one company out of all the Fortune 500, because he disagreed with the progressive orthodoxy on a single piece of legislation? Jeez, this is like conservatives boycotting Fox News because they put a single liberal pundit on from 2-2:30AM.
This post from Kevin Drum didn't start auspiciously, repeating the leftish meme that the tax day protests were all Astroturf events. But I must admit I had a real double-take on his last paragraph, wherein he points out something about tax polls that most people seem to be missing:
With Tax Day coming up, and astroturf tea parties being organized around the country, a lot of people have been linking to polls showing that most Americans aren't, in fact, actually unhappy with the amount of income tax they have to pay. Gallup, for example, reports that 61% of Americans think the amount they're paying this year is fair. Or there's this one, also from Gallup, that asks directly whether the amount you're paying is too high or not:
Not bad! 49% think their income taxes are just fine or even a bit low. Except for one thing: this chart shows exactly the opposite of what it seems. Consider this: about 40-50% of Americans pay no federal income tax at all1. That's zero dollars. I think we can safely assume that these are the people who think that their taxes are about right. What this means, then, is that virtually every American who pays any income tax at all thinks they're paying too much. There are various reasons why this might be so (a sense of unfairness regardless of amount paid, a fuzzy sense of how much they're paying in the first place, simple bloody-mindedness, etc.) but overall it's not exactly a testament to our collective willingness to fund the machinery of state.
Outstanding. Which only leads me to wonder why, if he realizes this, does he believe that people might not spontaneously organize protests, rather than it having to be a Rove-Fox News plot. I think the answer to that is the Left just can't shake their own perception that protest marches belong to them in the same way the Right feels that AM Radio is their media to rule. (What, by the way, does that leave for libertarians, other than Rush, Ayn Rand, and Firefly reruns?)
I've made this point myself, but David Boaz says it great:
So here's your challenge, lefty bloggers: If you don't like the
tree-chopping, Falwell-loving, cowboy president - if you want his
presidency fatally wounded for the next three years - then start
praising him. One good Paul Krugman column taking off from that USA Today story on the surge in entitlements recipients under Bush, one Daily Kos
lead on how Clinton flopped on national health care but Bush twisted
every arm in the GOP to get a multi-trillion-dollar prescription drug
benefit for the elderly, one cover story in the Nation on how Bush has
acknowledged federal responsibility for everything from floods in New
Orleans to troubled teenagers, and maybe, just maybe, National Review
and the Powerline blog and
Fox News would come to their senses. Bush is a Rockefeller Republican
in cowboy boots, and it's time conservatives stopped looking at the
boots instead of the policies.
Okay, how could you resist that title for a post. My thoughts on this subject were spurred by an article by Fox News about pirates that won election to the NC State student government:
By an overwhelming majority, the Raleigh school last week elected a candidate
called "The Pirate Captain" student body president, giving the old sea dog 58
percent of the vote.
"We're quickly goin' to bae getting our plank started, get the simple things
out of the way," The Pirate Captain (search), real name Whil
(or maybe "Will") Piavis, a junior, told supporters after election results were
unveiled Wednesday night.
Many outlets have reported this story with incredulity that such an unserious person could be elected to so lofty an office. Several student government weenies at NC State agreed:
More sober student-government types seemed appalled that a character straight
from "SpongeBob SquarePants" had crashed their party.
I was not surprised in the least, for two reasons. First, I think many Americans in general are fed up with the self-importance of most legislators. This goes double for students and the student government. In fact, I think it is nearly a law of nature that the more trivial the government post, the more self-important the occupants of that post are.
The second reason I was not surprised was that we had a similar event twenty years ago at Princeton where the student government was taken over by the Antarctic Liberation Front:
Back when I was an undergrad
at Princeton, one of my fondest memories was of a bizarre Student Body
Governing Council (USG) election. The previous USG administration,
headed by none other than fellow Princetonian Eliot Spitzer, had so
irritated the student body that, for the first time in memory, the
usually apathetic voting population who generally couldn't care less
who their class president was actually produced an energetic opposition
party. Even in his formative years, Spitzer was expert in using his
office to generate publicity, in this case frequent mentions in the
student newspaper that finally drove several students over the edge.
The result was the incredibly funny and entertaining Antarctic
Liberation Front. I wish I had saved their brochures, but their
proposals included things like imposing a dawn to dusk curfew on the
school and funding school parties by annexing the mineral rights
between the double yellow lines of the US highways. All of this was
under the banner of starting jihad to free Antarctica. The ALF swept
the USG election. This immensely annoyed Spitzer and other USG
stalwarts, who decried the trivialization of such an august body. The
pained and pompous wailing from the traditional student council weenies
(sounding actually a lot like liberals after the last presidential
election) only amused the general student population even further.
After a few student-council-meetings-as-performance-art, the ALF
resigned en mass and life went back to being just a little bit more
Yes, that Eliot Spitzer, the overreaching Aspiring Governor of New York. He is STILL mad about getting dissed in this student election, and whined about it twenty years later in print. And don't miss fellow Princetonian Virginia Postrel's reflections on the ALF and Eliot Spitzer.
Here is a scoop for a few folks out there: 6-year-olds do not have the reasoning ability or a sophisticated enough view of the world to be polical activits. However, they are, given their lack of sophistication, perfect subjects for political indoctrination and great pawns for media-savvy advocacy groups looking for a little airtime.
I saw this story on Fox News today about a group of 2nd graders manipulated by their activist public school teacher and the Rainforest Action Network to protext at Chase Manhattan in New York against logging and oil drilling. Apparently unable to get anyone with a high school education or a adult reasoning level to support their cause, the RAN turned to first and second graders:
"I celebrate the world, I celebrate the rainforest, and I care [about] the reality of what is happening with my students, which is only fair, and I let them make their own choices," said teacher Paula Healey.
Right. Six-year-olds are in the perfect position to formulate their own opinion on sophisticated issues. Even if the kids did have adult decision-making faculties, I would bet a gazillion dollars that Ms. Healey never brought any contrary opinions into the classroom, exposure to which is necesary for most of us to "make their own choices".
This is entirely inappropriate at this age in the Public Schools. In my mind, this is just another reason for school choice - if there are parents who disagree with me and consider it a good use of a first grader's time to carry a picket sign about issues s/he can't possibly comprehend at a NY bank, then they should be able to send their kids to a school that so specializes, but the rest of our kids can be left alone to learn trivial stuff like math and reading.